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How Healthcare.gov Team “Prevented” Another MediCare.gov

How Healthcare.gov  Team “Prevented” Another MediCare.govIn 2005, then President George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D suffered a disastrous launch because of issues with the program’s website.

…Remember that?

The program was created so that the costs of prescription medication and prescription drug insurance premiums would be subsidized for Medicare beneficiaries, but sadly people had trouble accessing the website when it went online. Fast forward to October 1, 2013, President Barack Obama’s HealthCare.gov seemed to have suffered the same thing. As nice as the web and graphic design was, the site just wasn’t built with enough bandwidth. Makes you wonder who were the developers behind the scenes and what their skill sets were.

Days before the launch of HealthCare.gov, it was identified that the website was unable to handle the 500 users that were logged on all at the same time, as well as the 2,000 users that logged on during the three-day testing period. The information was released through a series of internal emails from Republican lawmaker’s from the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the messed up rollout. But Chao is addressing the issue, telling his team and contractors at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMs) that he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened to Medicare.gov.

The results of the performance tests, however, were rather embarrassing for President Obama since he had sworn that the website would enable people to easily shop for health insurance, much like how one would shop for insurance at a local agency. And it is also making people wonder whether the mismanaged rollout is a sign of how his healthcare reform program is currently run. Here’s a look at Obama’s intro to the site:

While the CMS did admit that they underestimated the number of users who would want to log on to the website simultaneously and that they wouldn’t have launched the site if they were fully aware that there was a high possibility of things going terribly wrong, only that the e-mails were inconsistent with their statement. There were a lot of concerns from information technology officials, and so they worked hard.

The plan was that they would initially aim to handle 10,000 users and then eventually reach for 50,000. Hemant Sharma, a contractor with CGI Federal who is helping build the site, suggested that they add more servers despite director for the office of enterprise management David Nelson reported “We have not been successful in moving beyond 500 concurrent users filling applications. We must give ourselves the ability to work through these tuning issues.”  During the launch, however, there were as much as 250,000 users that logged on all at once, which was way more than what they had expected.

1460256_441042499335380_2000927380_nThe e-mails also showed the president’s top technology adviser, Todd Park, asking Chao if the system was ready, but a reply was not included. But White House spokesperson Eric Shultz says that “To the extent that CMS had identified capacity issues, we of course sought assurances that they were getting addressed” and that the e-mails were “cherry-picked” to make the whole thing look bad. And as for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Fred Upton remains steadfast on their claims that “the administration went out of its way to hide the chaos behind the scenes.”

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Starting a Bakery? Here’s How to Create the Perfect Website

Starting a Bakery Here's How to Create the Perfect WebsiteBakery owners all want to grow a successful business. One way to do that, besides the freshly baked bread and other delectable goodies, is coming up with a good marketing strategy. And because the people of today are pretty much glued to the Internet, the web would be the best place to reach out to consumers. And so, creating a website for your bakery makes perfect sense.

A lot of bakery owners acknowledge the hugely powerful benefits a website can have when first starting a bakery. So to make sure your online services would stand out from all the rest, here are a few tips to designing the ideal website for your bakery.

Provide picture perfect photos

cronut-delicious-sweet-croissant-donut-1So long as you have good photos, even the simplest website will look incredible, such as that of Sprinkles Cupcakes. Photos are the best way to lure in visitors and customers. Besides location and pricing, visitors will want to know what you’re offering, and photos of your products can give you that. Make sure you work with a good food photographer though, so that people are left wanting.

Offer information about your products

Another thing that would help is to give information about each of the products you offer, such as name, price and a brief description. Visitors will be pleased when they know what they’re looking at, and they will also be more inclined to orderi your products or come to your storefront. Sweet Crumbles introduces you to their different flavors, and makes your mouth water with their carefully thought of descriptions.

Take advantage of responsive web design.

iPhoneBakery.jpgConsumers will be accessing your website from their phones or tablets, not just their laptops and desktops. Using responsive web design will be quite useful for business because it maintains your website’s user-friendliness regardless of the device people are using. Visitors wouldn’t have to zoom in or out just to get a good resolution, which can be quite annoying. One bakery site that I know uses responsive web design is that of Tartine Bakery.

Steer clear of excessive styling

One other thing that’s annoying about websites is their excessive styling. I prefer sites that are user-friendly because it doesn’t confuse visitors. Just focus on displaying your products as enticingly as you can, and make sure your contact information and/or order forms are easy to access. One website that has been able to achieve this is Dots Cupcakes – simple yet straightforward.

Choose colors wisely

I personally like looking at websites that are careful about the colors and themes they use, such as the one of Crème Cakeshop and Bakery. When visiting their site, it feels as if you’re at the actual storefront.

But however good-looking your website may be, it is important that you back it up with excellent service. Make sure that you regularly check on your website, especially when you allow people to contact you, give feedback or place orders online. Also see to it that you are able to update your website whenever there are any changes with regards to your products, pricing, location and contact information. In the end, good service will be what makes your bakery’s website truly impressive.

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Short Contact Form Design Provides More Leads

Short Contact FormCompanies who are trying to increase leads will often include a contact form on their website to make it easier for potential clients to contact them for more information. The key is to make the form simple and easy to use without adding unnecessary spaces that will only waste the customers’ time.

What Boxes Should Be Included

A contact form needs certain fields to serve its purpose. The main fields should include a place for the following information:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Contact information (phone or email or both)
  • Message box

Customers want to be made to feel as if their time is valuable. Turning the contact form into a miniature survey does nothing but waste their time and click out of the section. If too many fields are added, it may discourage them from taking the time to even complete the most basic information. As an agency trying to get leads from your website, this can deprive you of a possible chance at gaining a new client and eliminating your chance of getting them back at a later time.

The information provided on the website should be informative enough to spark a customer’s curiosity. Give them enough information so they want to learn more and then keep them going with a simple contact box that takes a minimal amount of time to complete. Within a few minutes, the company will have the contact information they need to reach out and finalize the transaction.

Once the customer has been contacted and a sale has been made, then a company can move forward and begin to ask additional questions pertaining to customer service and satisfaction. Asking those questions to soon or trying to obtain information about a customer’s objectives before they even have a chance to look over the product can be detrimental.

contact formMake contact form easy to find or just attach it to the bottom of the first page of the website. Hiding it on a second or third page may discourage the potential customer from taking the time needed to find it, let alone respond to it. Customers are more likely to fill out a contact form spontaneously, if there are few distractions to take their attention away from it.

It is also a good idea to put a link to the contact form, somewhere in close proximity to the logo of the company. This will increase the effectiveness of the brand and help customers remember the company. When using a contact form it is also a good idea to let customers know their message has been received. An automatic email can be sent as soon as a form is received by the company letting the customer know their contact has been appreciated and that someone will respond to them shortly.

This type of interaction can create a rapport between the company and potential customer that will continue to increase once the return email has been sent. A person is more likely to use a company that acknowledges their attempt at communication. This allows shows the customer that the company has a keen interest in satisfying their needs.

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Don’t Forget About Customer Product Reviews!

Don't Forget About Customer Product ReviewsBuilding customer loyalty is the backbone of most marketing strategies. The ability to bring customers back again and again is the key to a successful future. One of the most important resources a marketing strategist can use is product reviews and other forms of customer feedback.

Company websites are the ideal place to showcase positive forms of feedback from their customers. Product reviews can be positive or negative and will give the company ideas on ways they can improve their product they carry and the services they offer.

Product Reviews

Web pages that have a section strictly for product reviews offers new customers a chance to see how others rated a specific product. Not only does this give them much needed insight, it also helps them choose whether or not a product will do what they need to have done. A positive product review lets the company just how well a product works in different types of situations. A negative review shows them the product’s shortcomings and allows them to make adjustments to the product, or discontinue it altogether. Either way, the customer is the key to helping the company provide the best possible product.

In the long run, when a customer knows their opinion is valued, they will return again and again. Companies who respect their customers’ opinions build a working relationship that benefits both parties. The customer receives exactly what they need and are satisfied with the outcome, while the company is able to continually provide for the customer and offer high quality products and services.

Customer Feedback

customer-feedbackCustomer feedback is important to building a successful business. It also works well when it comes to word of mouth advertising. Nothing can compare in value to a satisfied customer telling everyone they know how satisfied they are with a particular product or service. A future customer is more likely to buy a new product if they have been told about it by a friend. If customer feedback is included in a company’s webpage, a new customer only has to read through the comments and reviews to discover which products got the highest ratings and most positive reviews.

Webpages are created to provide as much information as possible in ways that will grab the viewer’s attention and hold it. Whether a marketer uses a rating system, a testimonial page or a section designated for product reviews, the information a new customer garners from the section will help them make an informed decision. Positive product reviews can increase the sales of a product or service.

Negative reviews can be beneficial as well, depending on the situation. While the product may go excellent in what it is designed to do, it may not work well in a specific situation. In instances, where the product is not living up to expectations, the company can choose to discontinue it and replace it with a more effective product. When a company makes it known that they truly do listen to the opinions of their customers, discontinuing an unreliable product helps them to solidify that cohesive relationship.

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Why Landing Page Design Is So Important to Conversion Rates

Why Landing Page Design Is So Important to Conversion RatesLanding pages are the foundation of a company’s website. They are the first glimpse a customer has of what the company is all about and what it is that makes them stand out above their competitors. The design and layout will either draw people in and encourage them to look further, or cause them to lose interest and go elsewhere.

What Makes a High Quality Landing Page

What makes a landing page valuable? The goal of a landing page is to catch the attention of the customer and then convert that into a possible lead for lawyers, insurance agents and other professional service businesses with high lead values. If they are interested in what the landing page offers, they will respond to the call to action or at least investigate further into the links and tabs on the page. To accomplish this a landing page has several facets, including:

  • engaging content
  • attractive design
  • easy to follow layout
  • neat, clean and organized
  • eye catching headline

A high quality landing page snags the viewers attention and makes them want to learn more. A bland page acts more like a brick wall. A customer views it, loses interests and bounces off of it like a rubber ball, moving on to the next site.

Pages that are designed to be easily viewed give the reader a chance to absorb the information and think about what message is being sent. A page that is cluttered with useless information, slogans and a collage of pictures can be overwhelming and confusing, causing a customer to leave the page before they ever get a clue about the underlying message.

landing page

Conversion Rates and Why They Are Important

Conversion rates are based on the number of viewers that actually click on the call to action or other links in the page that eventually end up as a viable, working lead. While the landing page is the first page visited, its sole purpose is to introduce the company to the viewer and encourage them to become a customer.

Web designers use tools like Google analytics and AdWords to track how many people click on the company’s call to action or other embedded links. Tracking tools give them feedback on what links are used and where they will eventually lead the customer. Conversion rates are the key to determining what works and what doesn’t when it comes to turning spectators into active participants.

Effective landing pages have high conversion rates based not only on the number of people who proceed to the call to action, but those who actually use it. Once a person has reached that point, they will more than likely become a paying customer. Conversion rates are used to monitor the effectiveness of the website as well as the brand and other key elements of a company’s advertising and marketing program.

The connection between a company’s website and the successful conversion of viewers to customers is a well-built, quality landing page that provides accurate information, easy to use features and above all gives the customers something they want.

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Real Estate App Let’s Buyers “Like” Homes For Sale

Real Estate App Let's Buyers Like Homes For SaleEveryone’s time is important. When a person is house hunting, they may look several weeks or months before finding one they like. In the past, home buyers had to wait on their realtors to find out what homes were available. Now, instead of waiting on the realtor, home buyers can look on the internet for homes that have been listed for sale. Mobile apps are now being used by realtors to aid them in showing homes to new buyers.

The app is perfect for real estate agent training and development.  It allows managers to perform mock “likes” to train the agents how to follow-up and set appointments.

One real estate agent developed a mobile app that allows a person to “like” a home they see when they are out driving. When they click on the button, an email is sent to their agent stating they have an interest in seeing the home. The agent can then reserve a time for the person to visit the home and take a tour. They can also use the app to communicate important information, such as sale price, square feet and a list of amenities.

Advantages of Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are used to enable people to use their cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices to easily interact with customers, clients, friends and family members. Using mobile apps offers house hunters several benefits, such as:

  • Saves time
  • Convenient
  • Updates information in real time
  • Allows a person to interact with their realtor with texts and emails.

The mobile app that allows people to “like” homes, allows them to house hunt whenever it is convenient for them. They don’t have to make an appointment or wait on the realtor to create a list of possible properties that meet their criteria. The app makes it possible for them to create their own list of prospective properties they would like to see.

House-hunting-on-the-internet1When it was up to the realtor to create the list, they would often choose properties outside the criteria specified by the buyer. This not only wasted the buyers’ time, but also that of the realtor. The app allows the buyer to choose only the homes they have seen and are interested in. The app can be used any time, day or night, and maintains a running list of each home chosen. This helps home buyers keep track of the homes they have seen. Some apps offer a rating system that allows the buyer to give the home a rating. The buyer can then choose which ones they would like to bid on and discard the rest.

Apps are available for android devices, ipads and iphones. Most apps are developed to function on any type of device, no matter what type of software they use. There are a few apps on the market that are free, while others charge a nominal fee to install. Using an app to show realtors just what properties a person is interested in, can actually save the buyer money. Even if the app costs a few dollars to install, the amount of time saved by looking at only the houses they choose, prevents the buyer from wasting time that could be spent doing other things.

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The Significance of Responsive Web Design in Businesses

Responsive Web Design in Businesses

Though a lot of businesses have learned that they may be able to keep up with large enterprises by simply using technological advances, many still haven’t realized the importance of responsive web design. But according to one article by Joshua Steimle in Forbes.com, you are at risk of going out of business if you fail to do so. This is especially true to those companies who depend so much on their websites as their main source of revenue.

What is responsive web design?

For the benefit of those who have no clue what responsive web design is, it refers to the structure of a website that is correctly displayed regardless of whatever device you use. This means that a site’s content can move freely to fit different screen sizes. You won’t have to resize your screen just to make those minute tabs large enough to tap on. Our design firm here at Choose Brilliant recently transformed one of our client’s law firm website into a responsive design. We found that more and more of their target audience were searching for their legal services on a mobile device so we needed a responsive design.

Why should I care?

Responsive websites are quite useful for people who are on the go and are in constant need of Internet connection. They don’t have to look for a desktop computer or open up a laptop just to access their favorite websites. Another advantage of responsive web design is that you don’t have to create separate devices for desktops and mobile devices, which costs double and is more of a hassle to maintain.

google-analytics-mobile-visitsIf you find this hard to believe, take a look at your Google Analytics stats (that is if you do use the program). There you will be able to see the traffic generated by visitors. In the example given by Steimle, 40% of the traffic comes from people using mobile devices. The stats were taken from a non-responsive website which doesn’t even have a mobile version. 40% is a pretty big number, and that’s how many people are struggling with a less than favorable website. What’s more is 60% of mobile phones users in the US own a smartphone, and that is likely to increase in the years ahead.

Here’s a bit more information of how to setup your google analytics to properly track mobile users:

The best solution for owner of non-responsive websites – take advantage of responsive web design as soon as possible. It will save you thousands. While transforming your site using responsive web design will cost you a few hundred dollars, it is far less than what you will be spending a few years from now where website are taken to even greater heights. If you haven’t changed your business’s website by that time, you’ll most definitely need a complete overhaul. It’ll cost you so much more, and that is if your business survives several more years without a responsive website.

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Designing Better Websites for Food Establishments

Designing Better Websites for Food EstablishmentsWhy you need a website

A good restaurant will need a good website, not to mention user friendly. It’s not just for advertising purposes, but it’s also a way of offering better services to customers. For instance, people would want to book a reservation or take avail of your catering services. You can allow them to do so through your website instead of having to call your establishment (and wait for someone to pick up) or go through the hassle of stopping by the restaurant. Customers will appreciate the added service. To create a good website for your restaurant, you’ll need to know the steps involved, as well as some important things you need to consider.

Things to consider

  • Make sure you hire a professional designer to create your website. Sure there are a lot of those designers who would happily do it for a lesser price, but most of them use templates that, even though produce responsive designs, become outdated in the long run. In two years time you might need to redo your whole site.
  • MG_83441-660x404Aside from professional web designers, you will also need the help of professional photographers, someone who really knows how to capture food and turn them into enticing photographs that will surely make people curious to try out the food you serve in your establishment.
  • When it comes to food establishments, people only want to know the following: the food you serve, your restaurant’s location, contact information and other services you offer. They’re not really interested in the history of your establishment or your chef’s bio, so keep thing’s straighforward and avoid excessive text.
  • Be sure you provide professionally-written content on your site. There’s nothing worse than a potential customer coming to your site for sub-par content. Be sure your content caters to all customers including vegetarians, gluten-free, and other food allergies such as peanuts. If you’re listing your menu on the site, be sure to read up and comply with any special food labeling requirements that the FDA may require.
  • Excessive styling can also be a problem. People think music and animation are cool features for a website, but like the word “cool,” these elements are already passe. And they can sometimes be pretty annoying. Just focus on having a website that’s attractive yet still easy to navigate.
  • restaurant-mobile-website-menuAlways consider mobile users when creating a website for your restaurant. These days, people access the Internet from different gadgets, so it is important to make use of responsive design, meaning that your website has the ability to alter its resolution no matter the device.
  • Another thing you ought to take advantage of is website analytics. This gives you an idea of how your website is doing and can help you determine whether or not you should make improvements to your website. Google Analytics and Google 6 Pack is a good program to use. The latter helps you rank higher in Google searches, which can benefit your establishment a whole lot.

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How a Well Designed Logo Can Improve Visitor Retention

principles-of-effective-logo-designThe key to an effective website is creating one that people will remember and want to visit again and again. This is called visitor retention. One thing websites with a high rate of visitor return have in common is a well designed logo and creative slogan. A well thought out logo and slogan (like this one) will be one that is remembered, both for the products that are associated with it as well as the reputation of the company.

Logos that are effectively designed are said to “brand” the company. People who see it tend to associate the logo, its colors and characters with a specific level of quality. A company’s logo or “brand” should make a statement about the products or services being offered. Branding a company’s products make them stand out. The more well known a company becomes, the more often the brand or logo will be recognized and associated with quality and professional service.

When building a website, showcasing the company logo and accentuating it with an appropriate slogan can help bring visitors back to the site repeatedly. Visitors will often remember a logo they associate with a specific service or product. A slogan that is unique and easy to remember will also help to build visitor retention. Slogans and logos that are easily associated with one another is also a key to improving visitor retention.

how-to-design-logosA well designed logo for a website has a few distinct characteristics. First, they must represent the company. Secondly, they must be enticing to look at and have significant characteristics a visitor will remember. A slogan that is presented along with the branded logo and used simultaneously as part of the presentation on the website will solidify both in the minds of the customer. When a customer is in need of a specific part or service the company offers, if the logo and slogan have done their jobs, the first place the customer will look is the company website.

With the introduction of the internet, most people use search engines instead of phone books to find a specific company. Because keywords and phrases are used to establish page rankings on sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing, incorporating them into a well designed logo will also improve visitor retention numbers. Logos normally include a company’s name, as well as at least a portion of the company’s slogan. Using SEO keywords in the logo and slogan will result in instant hits if visitors type the name of the company in the search bar.

Learning how to use logos effectively is also important in driving up visitor retention numbers. Incorporating the logo into the background is a key way to imprint the image on the visitors mind without calling direct attention to it. Placing a bright, colorful version of the logo in places where it is easily seen will allow the visitor to recognize it easily. A website with logos placed on each page will offer continual reminders to the visitor as to what company they are looking at. The more often they see the logo and slogan, the more likely they will remember it and return frequently.

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The Grass Is Always Greener When The Right Tools Are Used

landscape_companyFor a landscaping company, looking for effective ways to get its name out to the public without draining the advertising budget is important. Paying to reach hundreds of people who have no need for its services is pointless. The main target is to reach homeowners who are in the market to re-seed their lawn and otherwise, improve its look and texture.

Advertising in the local newspaper and radio stations can cost hundreds of dollars a year. By doing so, the company reach thousands of people at one time. The problem with this is that for the cost, the number of people who respond are minimal compared to the amount of money being spent on the advertising. It needed a way to make direct contact with only the individuals who were truly interested in landscaping services.

Instead of spending extra money on ineffective advertising, the company decided to invest its money in a website. It hired a web design company to revamp the existing website to include SEO keywords and phrases. The content was rewritten and enhanced to reach out to individuals who visited the company’s page. The professionals who helped to re-write our content assured members of management that SEO was the key to increasing traffic and boosting the site’s rankings.

The more the SEO keywords and phrases were used, the higher the rank would be. This led to more people seeing the page and a direct increase in the number of hits in the first two or three days of the website being displayed. Hits continued to increase as the days passed, improving the website’s ranking and steadily increasing the number of visitors. With the use of SEO, the company’s advertising dollars were effectively targeting only the individuals who were searching for services the company offered.

Photographs and videos were added to capture the visitor’s interest and keep them on the page. Before and after photographs were included to showcase how well re-seeding techniques can improve a lawn in just a few days time. An interactive feature was added where the customer could chat with a trained representatives in real time. The video and live chat features helped to increase traffic by over 50 percent in just a few weeks.

web-design-2014

Improving the quality of the website not only boosted the number of hits it received, the design also enhanced the company’s reputation as one of the most customer-friendly landscaping companies. The website provided lawn care tips, professional online chat and an extensive guide to the types of grasses that grow well in the area. Customers began visiting the site, not only for the wealth of information, but also because it offered accurate answers to their questions.

The business has been taken to an entirely new level due to the number of people who have seen the link in the search rankings. As the website’s ranking increased, so has the number of satisfied customers. The business is rolling in the green and is showing every indication of continued growth and prosperity.