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Thread: Web Design Thoughts

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    Web Design Thoughts

    Good evening everyone.

    Let me start with the fact that I am an IT guy more on the infrastructure side of things, and not web design/development. I have been working with a small local company for the past few months, and built a new website for them. I recently switched to a VPS and got it running very efficiently with Nginx and Varnish, and the functionality of the site is about where I want it (with some changes planed). However, the design isn't the greatest and I am looking for help and/or advice on how I can make it better. Currently, I am getting about 700 hits per day, and I am aiming to make that 1,000+ within the next 30 days. SEO is pretty good, and I have plans to make it better.

    What can I do on the design site to make it look better? yes, I am using WooCommerece (WordPress eCommerce plugin) but not for an eCommerce site. It's being used for product listings currently, and will gradually go to inventory management, then later to full on online order (when my client is ready for it).

    the website is:
    [EDIT: moved to the URL box by TheGAME1264]

    I appreciate any help or input I can get!
    Last edited by TheGAME1264; Aug 11th, 2013 at 06:37 AM.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Fireproofgfx's Avatar
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    Your BG image loads to slowly. The website is too dark and is hard on the eyes. Your fonts are different on almost every page and is a mess. What would help this is having a universal external CSS styles sheet, it would help keep things unified better than span style here and span style there. You need to add padding around your Staff photos so the words aren't so close.

    And to be truthful, I have a hard time believing you are actually getting 700 hits a day, that is just crazy. I maintained a political campaign site analytics and on a good day when our candidate was on the news or in the news papers we would reach the high 600's but that was a good day most of the time it was around 150-200 per day which I felt was still a good number especially if they were new visitors. So I don't want to burst your bubble I am just skeptical and curious where you got that number?

    Keep on working at it. The gentleman that actually ran for office is also an I.T. guy who received his degree from Notre Dame. When it came time to make a site he did not want any part of it lol. So props to you man.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fireproofgfx View Post
    Your BG image loads to slowly. The website is too dark and is hard on the eyes. Your fonts are different on almost every page and is a mess. What would help this is having a universal external CSS styles sheet, it would help keep things unified better than span style here and span style there. You need to add padding around your Staff photos so the words aren't so close.

    And to be truthful, I have a hard time believing you are actually getting 700 hits a day, that is just crazy. I maintained a political campaign site analytics and on a good day when our candidate was on the news or in the news papers we would reach the high 600's but that was a good day most of the time it was around 150-200 per day which I felt was still a good number especially if they were new visitors. So I don't want to burst your bubble I am just skeptical and curious where you got that number?

    Keep on working at it. The gentleman that actually ran for office is also an I.T. guy who received his degree from Notre Dame. When it came time to make a site he did not want any part of it lol. So props to you man.
    Thank you for your feedback.
    The darkness of the site was decided by the business owner, and that's the best I could come up with. I bluntly told him that I am not a web designer, but am an IT guy who knows how to set up a web server. Yes the BG is slow on the initial load, but it is set to cache locally in your browser for the max amount of time Nginx could set it for in the header. Now the fonts are something I agree I can take care of. My client is in control of managing the content of the site, but I can definitely go behind him and clean it up. Several pictures need to be optimized so I can take the time and resize them while I'm at it, and fix the padding. How can I do an external CSS with WordPress? I have limited knowledge of CSS, but am always willing to learn. I just need to figure out where I need to focus my learning to be more efficient for this site.

    Regarding my statistics, I meant to say 700 views and not hits (it's my understanding that hits is the number of objects that are requested, where views are the number of pages that have loaded -- leaving visitors to the number of people who visit the site). To be more specific, our best day was July 26 with 724 views, with 134 visitors. I am wrong in saying that the site averages 700 views a day, but is averaging more like 450-600 views a day, with 75-100 visitors.
    These statistics are coming from the JetPack plugin in WordPress, which is supposed to be one of the most reliable. Here is a screenshot of the graph:
    http://i.imgur.com/rSSr4kn.png

    Google Analytics is also being used, and here are some screenshots of that show similar views and visitors:
    http://i.imgur.com/b88ZkQn.png
    http://i.imgur.com/iiRTOqx.png

    Anyway, I have a great understanding of every aspect of about how to build this website, except for the design. I built the site back in May (originally in March, but May was when I rebuilt it on a VPS and migrated content) and my focus has been performance. Google PageSpeed Insights is currently rating the site pretty good with a mobile score of 77/100, but a desktop score of 89/100 (which will increase when I get around to optimize a few more images). GTMetrix is also rating my site in the mid-upper 90% area (94-97%). Also, this is a side project for me and not my day time job (thank god, right?).

    So yeah, I have pretty well accomplished what I want, now I want to make the site visually more appealing.

    Thanks again for your input; it's greatly appreciated.

  5. #4
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    That is pretty good for PageSpeed insights, especially since you're running a W*rdPr*ss site...you've even managed to address a lot of the scripts and other BS that make W*rdPr*ss ridiculously slow out of the chute. So good job on that.

    Fireproof covered the visual end. Now I'm going to cover the logical end. First of all, you obviously ship to at least the continental US. That means the site should have an 800 line...even with the rising popularity of VoIP, a 502 number will still incur long distance charges for a lot of people, and there are 800 lines you can get for around $50 or so a month...so the outlay isn't outrageous.

    Second, and this is going to be an absolute living nightmare to solve (especially with WP)...you can't actually order online. People are going to want to do that, and they're not always going to care whether or not shipping is difficult to calculate or that WP isn't really built for online ordering. They care about whether they can order, and that's as far as they're going to think it through. Everything that goes into the technical end of it is your problem.

    This may also be where the company name limits you. Louisville Cichlids may imply to some people that you're a Kentucky-only breeder.

    Other than that, I don't have a whole lot to say about this, because FP already covered most of what I would have. It's an interesting site, and at least it's different...someone's actually taken the time to write original content for once, and I like original content. You just need to take care of all the minor little piddling crap, that's all.
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  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGAME1264 View Post
    That is pretty good for PageSpeed insights, especially since you're running a W*rdPr*ss site...you've even managed to address a lot of the scripts and other BS that make W*rdPr*ss ridiculously slow out of the chute. So good job on that.

    Fireproof covered the visual end. Now I'm going to cover the logical end. First of all, you obviously ship to at least the continental US. That means the site should have an 800 line...even with the rising popularity of VoIP, a 502 number will still incur long distance charges for a lot of people, and there are 800 lines you can get for around $50 or so a month...so the outlay isn't outrageous.

    Second, and this is going to be an absolute living nightmare to solve (especially with WP)...you can't actually order online. People are going to want to do that, and they're not always going to care whether or not shipping is difficult to calculate or that WP isn't really built for online ordering. They care about whether they can order, and that's as far as they're going to think it through. Everything that goes into the technical end of it is your problem.

    This may also be where the company name limits you. Louisville Cichlids may imply to some people that you're a Kentucky-only breeder.

    Other than that, I don't have a whole lot to say about this, because FP already covered most of what I would have. It's an interesting site, and at least it's different...someone's actually taken the time to write original content for once, and I like original content. You just need to take care of all the minor little piddling crap, that's all.
    Thanks for the reply. Like I said, I'm an IT guy so the server and backend side of things I'm good with. I've been working with them since March, and have seen substantial growth. 50 Facebook likes to over 1000, 50 views a day to 600+ a day. They are generating over $750-1000 in sales per day already. It's a great company and I have high hopes for them.

    I have not put any thought into an 800 number, so thanks for that. Currently, I have them set up using Google Apps for Business (which is around $20/mo for 4 emails) along with using Google Voice. I can definitely mention the 800 number, but I know it won't happen. The business owner is very personal with his clients, and loves the communication. With Google Voice the texting is the biggest feature he loves about it, not to mention the no cost aspect.
    Regarding your comments of online ordering, yes that is something that will change in the future. I have a full eCommerce system in place already with integration with PayPal, but we aren't using it all the way yet. The biggest hassle is going to be maintaining inventory on the website. So a little background on how things work...
    The owner is a career scientist working with MIT and NOAA previously, and this is his new venture. Him and another guy are the owners (partners) and they have me at their number three. They have a "Breeders and Keepers Program" which allows for local hobbyist to breed and grow out fish, which the company then buys from them pretty keep. A fish can have 20+ fry at a time, with a gestation of 30 days or so. A typical group is 1 male/4 females, so that's 80+ per month, from one group. At under an inch, the company buys for dirt cheap, but grow for several months and sell for 500-1000% more than they paid. Very profitable with the quantity they are pushing out right now. The company did start here in Louisville, as a regional operation (Louisville, Cincy, Nashville, Lexington, and everywhere in between) but grew as the partners decided to split roles. The owner spearheads national online sales, while the other partner spearheads local sales. Each fish they sale can vary in price based on a number of factors such as sex, size, and quantity. There are two factors that make a full online store difficult to implement; Pricing structure, since price varies on so many variable, and maintaining inventory, since there are a good 6 people with the inventory, in different physical locations.
    Then there is the ethical side; if you tell them you have a new tank and you want fishA, fishB, and fishC but those fish aren't compatible, they won't sell you those. They will work with you to figure out a good stock for you. Ontop of just sales, they also provide services such as disease and diagnostics, and a few other things. An eCommerce store is a different ballgame when dealing with live inventory, which is something I didn't really think of at first.
    So I have the technical ability to get to that full store, but am trying to find the best way to do so. I actually have other things that I am wanting to do for them such as an Inventory tracking system outside of the website, as well as a CRM system, but I want to find ways to integrate that into the website. Basically have a backend database with inventory tracking, customer management, order history, etc but have the inventory data flow into the backend database of wordpress into the WooCommerce tables. Then take away the "order form" we currently have and build one in HTML using PHP to insert those requests directly into the CRM system. That is my vision on that front, but will take several months to get there.

    I do agree that the name can be misleading, but that is something I am going to have to fight through because changing the name isn't going to happen. SEO seems to be pretty good, and I also have a budget of $250/mo for AdWords, and I currently have that split between three campaigns.

    I appreciate the comments on the original content, which is something I pushed and pushed on the business owner to do. The blog area talking about nerdy science stuff that some hobbyist and enthusiast enjoy reading. There is also a YouTube channel in the works which will showcase original videos of each species that is bred/stored in house, which I think will also give a strong boost.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is I need help figuring out all the little peddling crap that keeps this site from being the best, and how to fix it. I agree the font and formatting is the first thing to do, and I am looking into a universal CSS solution, which will make things easy. From a layout perspective, can anything be done better? What about my Widgets on the side; informative or wasted space? Is the banner too tall?

    Thanks!

    EDIT:
    Also, I fixed the padding around the staff pictures. Such an easy fix, thanks for pointing that out.
    Last edited by tycoonbob; Aug 11th, 2013 at 08:47 AM.

  7. #6
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    As far as the phone cost goes, I'd look at Grasshopper. Yeah, there's a cost, but it's not crippling. And depending on what his profit per order is, it's probably worthwhile. Looking at these fishes, I'd make a very crude estimate of between $25-$50 an order (since you mentioned between 500-1000% markup...that's friggin' sweet, by the way!). That means if the phone line generates between 2-3 orders a month (taking into account the cost of the employee that has to answer the line), it's worth it. If you're shipping nationwide, then I think you'd get that with ease. That'd be how I'd approach the question with the owners...not as a cost question, but as an ROI one.

    As far as the cart goes, you're right in that the variables involved are difficult to deal with, but it's not impossible either. The key to your cart is that you'd want to ask the user certain questions before (s)he orders I can think of tank size, water type (saltwater vs. freshwater), and...well, that's all I've got. That would be your ultimate goal as the developer in this case...get the site to do as much of the heavy lifting as is reasonably possible. If not selling someone something incompatible is an issue, you can always put an authorization on the card on order and then capture it when shipping...the difference is that an authorization doesn't charge the card, but rather puts a hold on the fund. The card isn't actually charged until the capture. I'm not sure, but I don't think you can do this with WP, though...and I wouldn't anyway, if for no other reason that I suspect that PCI compliance won't even have been a consideration with WooCommerce or anything else WP uses for eCommerce.

    Like I said, Fireproof commented on the layout and what can be done better. I'm not a WP guy, so I wouldn't know how to implement any of that. I primarily work with ASP/ASP.net, and I'm a PHP hack.

    By the way, this is why I think you'll do well, and I genuinely wish you well as a result...you're taking the time and putting some real thought into this as opposed to just "evaluate my design". You understand that there's more to it, and that's way more than a lot of people who ask for reviews on here do. Ultimately, though, I think you're going to want to peel away from WP and go to something custom, just because of the nature of the "product" being sold.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGAME1264 View Post
    As far as the phone cost goes, I'd look at Grasshopper. Yeah, there's a cost, but it's not crippling. And depending on what his profit per order is, it's probably worthwhile. Looking at these fishes, I'd make a very crude estimate of between $25-$50 an order (since you mentioned between 500-1000% markup...that's friggin' sweet, by the way!). That means if the phone line generates between 2-3 orders a month (taking into account the cost of the employee that has to answer the line), it's worth it. If you're shipping nationwide, then I think you'd get that with ease. That'd be how I'd approach the question with the owners...not as a cost question, but as an ROI one.

    As far as the cart goes, you're right in that the variables involved are difficult to deal with, but it's not impossible either. The key to your cart is that you'd want to ask the user certain questions before (s)he orders I can think of tank size, water type (saltwater vs. freshwater), and...well, that's all I've got. That would be your ultimate goal as the developer in this case...get the site to do as much of the heavy lifting as is reasonably possible. If not selling someone something incompatible is an issue, you can always put an authorization on the card on order and then capture it when shipping...the difference is that an authorization doesn't charge the card, but rather puts a hold on the fund. The card isn't actually charged until the capture. I'm not sure, but I don't think you can do this with WP, though...and I wouldn't anyway, if for no other reason that I suspect that PCI compliance won't even have been a consideration with WooCommerce or anything else WP uses for eCommerce.

    Like I said, Fireproof commented on the layout and what can be done better. I'm not a WP guy, so I wouldn't know how to implement any of that. I primarily work with ASP/ASP.net, and I'm a PHP hack.

    By the way, this is why I think you'll do well, and I genuinely wish you well as a result...you're taking the time and putting some real thought into this as opposed to just "evaluate my design". You understand that there's more to it, and that's way more than a lot of people who ask for reviews on here do. Ultimately, though, I think you're going to want to peel away from WP and go to something custom, just because of the nature of the "product" being sold.
    Again, thanks for your response. WooCommerce, while isn't PCI complete compatible, was designed with PCI compliance in mind. The big thing that I required of the eCommerce platform I wanted, was the ability to enforce SSL on checkout, and WooCommerce can. To be PCI compliant, I would have to buy the SSL cert, harden my VPS (firewall, SSH access, etc), set up policies, and all that jazz...but it can be done. I think I can make WP work for what I need, but I agree it may not be the most efficient. The WordPress platform is about all I know when it comes to web development, so changing from that would be huge for me.

    At first glance, Grasshopper is $12/mo so that's definitely attractive. I am going to look into this more. Average orders are about double what you estimated, which makes more sense when you realize that all these orders have to be shipped overnight. Shipping alone can cost $20-50. Anyway, they have a pretty high profit margin, and my budget for what I do is more than I need.

    My plan was to make it functional, then make it pretty. What good is a pretty site if it doesn't do what is needed?

  9. #8
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    Amen to that.

    Let me know if you need any help on the PCI end. I've basically spent half of the past month making clients' sites PCI compliant. The big problem is dealing with all of the false positives a PCI scanner comes up with.
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    Cichlids are awesome. There are a breeding pair of wolf cichlids at my LFS that are huge. When you put your hand up close to the glass it will try to eat your hand. Eventually when I get a 30g plus tank I'm looking to get some kind of cichlid( my wife really likes the venustus)

    Any way, one thing you might consider is putting your content in a DIV that has a lighter background and using a dark text. Just about every where I've looked I've seen people saying that dark text is easier on the eyes. It might also help bring everything together. As it is right now everything just has a feel like its just floating there. I think it might help it look more "structured" but thats just my opinion.

  11. #10
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    One thing I forgot to mention on the Grasshopper thing...I'd look at the $50 a month plan. The $12 a month plan doesn't include minutes, whereas the $50 a month plan gives you 2000 minutes a month. If you're on your 800 an hour a day, then it's paying off...assuming the thing actually works as advertised (again, I haven't tried it).
    If I've helped you out in any way, please pay it forward. My wife and I are walking for Autism Speaks. Please donate, and thanks.

    If someone helped you out, be sure to "Like" their post and/or help them in kind. The "Like" link is on the bottom right of each post, beside the "Share" link.

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