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Analyzing the Impact and Effectiveness of Card-Based Web DesignIf you’re thinking about designing a new website, or redesigning an existing one, most businesses land somewhere on the spectrum between clueless and confused. There are so many different styles, techniques, and trends, that it’s pretty challenging to know what you ought to do … especially if you don’t have a background in web design.

Regardless of the industry you’re in, though, you probably can’t go wrong with a card-based design.

What is Card-Based Design?

Pinterest and Microsoft are generally acknowledged as the pioneers of card-based web design. They took the traditional use of actual cards — such as Post-it notes, playing cards, or business cards — and reimagined them in a digital format.

“Physical cards were used to place relevant information about a single topic and today, card-based design maintains that same concept, making a comfortable experience for users by promoting content that is engaging and tailored for the user,” user experience expert Nicholas Tenhue explains.

In essence, card-based design organizes content in a visually pleasing format wherein each container represents an idea or element. These containers (or cards) are then combined in a systematic manner for easy display and consumption.

The PinnacleART blog is one good example. When you pull up the page, the cards shuffle into place and provide a nice systematic overview of the different topics. It’s a much more effective approach than the simple list of headlines most company blogs feature.

The Dribble homepage is another good example worth taking a look at. With so much information to include on its site, the card-based design approach allows the company to present an array of content without overwhelming visitors. The result is a clean appearance that honors the Dribble brand.

5 Benefits of Card-Based Design

Card-based design doesn’t appear to be just a brief fad. It’s been a mainstream web design style for close to a decade — and remarkably popular in just the past three years. But this shouldn’t be surprising: a multitude of benefits are associated with card-based design, including:

1. Aesthetically Pleasing

Let’s start with the most obvious benefit. Card-based design is based on visuals and it’s highly effective on this point. When a visitor looks at cards, his or her brain is stimulated and responds much faster than when it is exposed to only text-based content.

Research suggests the brain responds 60,000 times faster to visual content.

2. Digestible

The human brain always looks for ways to organize the information it’s exposed to systematically. One of the greatest benefits of card-based design is that it’s built on the fundamental principle of categorizing information.

Everything fits into a neat box (almost literally) and visitors may choose to interact with as many (or as few) of the boxes as he or she pleases.

3. Highly Responsive

Obviously, you need to have a responsive website to reach today’s Internet user. The most valuable consumer groups have multiple devices and expect a seamless experience when they transition from mobile to desktop (and vice versa).

The readily responsive nature of card-based design makes it perfect for shifting from device to device. This is due largely to the way frameworks and card grids can be structured to fit any breakpoint or screen size.

As designer Jerry Cao explains, “Designers can be quite flexible with the card’s aspect ratio (plus how groups of cards fit together). For example, you can set a fixed-width with variable height, using consistent spacing between cards.”

4. Easy to Personalize

Today, web users expect personalization when they interact with a brand. A wonderful aspect of card-based design is that it’s fairly easy to customize each individual’s experienced based on the information you collect. This enables you to deliver a consistent, yet customized experience for each user.

5. Ideal for Thumbs

For owners of mobile devices, nothing is more frustrating than having to click a small link on a screen. From the practical point of view, card-based web design is easy on the thumbs. You can click anywhere at all on the card and you’re in.

Putting it All Together

Card-based web design is still just one option that businesses and web designers have at their disposal, but it’s an effective and popular one. If you’re looking for a web design format that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing, why bother going any further?

5 Tips for Building an Email List That Generates LeadsUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past five years, you know all about the importance of building an email list for your business. However, if you’re like thousands of other business owners, you still haven’t fully invested in list-building. Is now the time?

Practical Tips for List Building

Building an email list for your brand isn’t just something you do to occupy your time and flex your muscles. It’s a very practical investment that will yield tremendous results when utilized in the proper manner. In fact, research shows:

  • 81 percent of online shoppers are more likely to make additional purchases online or in-store as the result of emails they received based on previous shopping behaviors.
  • S. marketing executives believe email drives the same amount of revenue as their website, social media, and display ad efforts combined.

If you aren’t actively building your list – or don’t give it the attention it deserves – then now’s a good time to straighten out your priorities and invest in growth. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not as hard as you think.

Implement some of these strategies and expect to see your list explode.

1. Contests and Giveaways

If you’ve never leveraged the power of gamification in your list-building efforts, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Contests and giveaways work extremely well on social media and can serve multiple purposes at once (like building your email list and increasing social engagement). KickoffLabs has an awesome guide on how to get started.

2. Free Quotes and Analyses

If you sell some sort of service with pricing that scales based on need or qualifications, a free quote or analysis is always a good way to collect email addresses. This is something Houston wedding band The Grooves uses to build its list and grow its brand. (This page is a great example.) They ask for an email address and then provide a quote via email in return. It makes both parties happy and gives The Grooves the opportunity to build a large list of interested leads.

3. Coupons and Deals

Do you know what online shoppers love more than anything? Saving money. They’ll go out of their way just to save a few bucks. And while there’s nothing wrong with just handing out coupon codes and deals, shouldn’t you maximize your return? One strategy is to offer a percent-off deal in exchange for an email address.

4. Premium Content

In a world where free content is the norm, there’s something exclusive and magnetizing about premium content (also known as gated content). People want what they can’t have and perceive gated content as more valuable. As a result, you can ask for something in exchange for access (like an email address). This is something CopyBlogger does really well. Here’s one example of a piece of gated content they use to drive registration and email list-building.

5. Good, Quality Email Content

At the end of the day, list-building doesn’t matter if you have a bunch of people unsubscribing or tossing your emails into the trash. The best thing you can do is create good, quality email content. Not only will this satisfy your subscribers, but it’ll also lead to positive word of mouth and organic opt-ins.

Learn to Use Your Email List

Having an email list is nice, but it’s useless if you don’t have a plan for how you’ll use it. Once you see some early list-building results, shift your attention to how you can begin utilizing it. Chances are, there’s a lot of untapped value hiding inside.

Making Sense Of Fred: Google’s Algorithm Update And Your WebsiteGoogle is great at keeping us on our toes as site designers. With regularly released major algorithm updates, we’re forced to keep tweaking our sites and learning new rules to ensure we’re not hit by penalties. That’s why Fred, the most recent Google algorithm update, still has designers reeling several months later.

What’s the right way to respond in light of Fred – or any update? The most basic rule, as SEO columnist and influencer Ryan Shelley explains, is not to panic. Sites with good SEO practices are unlikely to take a serious hit from an algorithm update and may even experience an uptick in their standings.

So take a deep breath, check your site stats, and stay focused. Here’s what you need to know about Fred.

Ongoing Edits

Though Google’s Fred update dropped in March 2017, we all know that the initial phase of any tech update, from a new Apple iOS to a new device, is always a little glitchy. With that in mind, don’t get too flustered if your rankings bounce around during the early days of a new algorithm, as it’s likely that Google is still working out the kinks.

Additionally, there tends to be a lot of misinformation online about new updates that can send you on a wild goose chase in terms of making updates to your site. When Google first announced Fred, they offered no specs, but online commentators went wild, guessing at what the update would require. Those who followed them down that trail likely did more harm than good to their sites.

High-Speed Advantages

Speed has always been a selling point for Google; in its early days, we all marveled over how many results it could generate in a fraction of a second. Today, that may not be as impressive, but the emphasis on speed still applies. As Aaron Rains explains, AMP pages make up about 17% of top results. Therefore, adding this feature to your site can give you a real edge in the rankings. Though Google has previously suggested that AMP status doesn’t actually give sites an edge, this doesn’t seem to be the whole truth.

In a similar vein, make sure you’re checking your site load speed and making necessary updates to keep things speeding along. Bounce rates increase for pages that take more than 3 seconds to load and this can really harm your site’s status.

Focus On Quality

Another reason Fred has shaken things up among designers is that it’s part of a new generation of algorithms that are able to effectively gauge site quality. The hardest hit sites under Fred are those that are revenue-driven.

That means ad-heavy, low content pages are more likely to get downgraded over those that provide useful information to readers. It makes sense, but this shift is certainly hard on sites that have been trying to turn content into dollars.

Not only does quality matter under the Fred update, but concision has gained further importance. That means if your site could answer a question in two paragraphs but chooses to write 15, you’ll find yourself further down the results list. Content should be unique, efficient, and engaging, not stuffed with keywords or exclusively commercial in nature.

Ultimately, like most things about Google’s updates, Fred is focused on user experience. Positive UX has dominated Google’s search orientation since the 2012 update that punished sites for excessive “above fold” ad placement, and has continued with the interstitial penalty, mobile readiness, and other ranking modifications.

The simple fact is that great UX should already be your priority. Google is just making sure you stay committed to your audience.

Remove These 2 Barriers To Close More Sales Through Your WebsiteHurdles are for track teams, not websites. Unfortunately, many websites are filled with hurdles that prevent businesses from closing the sale. These hurdles arise from a complicated user experience and unclear navigation.

A successful website has little to no barriers standing between the user experience and the completion of a sale. There are countless strategies for removing barriers, but unless they improve the user experience, implementing them won’t increase your sales.

1. Give coupon codes freely – don’t use them as lead magnets

Offering a discount can increase sales; however, forcing people to sign up for your email list in order to receive a coupon code doesn’t always work. Despite what you may have heard, a coupon code is not always a good lead magnet.

Use your coupon code as an incentive for visitors to make a purchase, not as a lead magnet. Put the code in large print at the top of the page where everyone can see. This page from Fabness is a good example of what your coupon code should look like to influence the maximum number of sales.

Lead magnets work by providing value in exchange for a visitor’s email address. You could argue that a coupon code is valuable, but that depends on what the offer is. For instance, it’s unlikely that someone will sign up to save 20% off their purchase or get free shipping. You’re more likely to get leads by offering a BOGO deal, $25 off, or a free gift.

Sometimes customers make a purchase just for the discount

According to data from SmartInsights, 57% of consumers said they wouldn’t have made their purchase if they didn’t receive a discount. Although this data suggests a visitor can be swayed to buy anything with a simple discount, the data doesn’t specify what those purchases were. If you sell high-ticket items or services, this data might not apply to your business.

SmartInsights data also revealed that 92.6% of consumers said visuals are the top influential factor affecting their purchase decisions. “Products are assessed within 90 seconds and a quick initial judgment is made whether to make a purchase or not.”

This data points to making your coupon code visible so customers will consider your offer during those vital 90 seconds.

Sometimes customers need to be ready to buy

Keep in mind that your visitors may not be ready to make a purchase the moment they land on your website, no matter what discount you offer. While it’s certainly possible, don’t expect to close the sale with a coupon code. An emailed coupon code holds potential value but if they’re not ready to buy, they’ll have no incentive to sign up and get it.

2. Release incorrect ideas of what mobile-friendly means

The first internet browser for cellphones was novel, but impractical. As phones evolved, the term “mobile-friendly web design” popped up. Back then, a mobile-friendly website was a plain, simplified version of the original website. Navigation and graphics were limited, and content was truncated to prevent horizontal scrolling.

Today, a mobile-friendly website doesn’t need to be “cut down to size” in the same way. Smartphones and tablets are capable of displaying websites in full, as long as they’re responsive. Users expect to experience the full website when browsing on their mobile devices.

If you’re spending too much time building a special, limited version of your website to make it mobile-friendly, you’re probably creating a difficult user experience instead.

Based on their research, and contrary to popular opinion, UsabilityGeek explains what users expect from a mobile site:

  • “You have got a mobile optimized version of your site, but no link to the full site. Sometimes users really want the features and content of the full site – especially where they have already visited it on their fixed web device.”
  • Businesses believe they need to adapt the content of their site for responsive web design, but they don’t. “You need to ensure it’s presented in a way that makes sense to users and allows for scanning and ‘delving’ into the detail.”
  • Businesses believe mobile users browse and won’t use the search function on a mobile site, but this isn’t true. Users expect to be able to use the search function on mobile sites, and often use it more than the site’s navigation.

Removing barriers that are blocking your sales is simple: understand customer behavior and adapt your website to create the user experience they expect. Instead of listening to marketing trends, use factual data to make it easy for visitors to make a purchase.

Job Security Is A Myth: Be Your Own Boss And Live A Fulfilling LifeJob security is somewhat of a myth; no job is truly secure. The concept of job security sounds wonderful but is heavily misleading.

Although definitions vary, Collins Dictionary defines job security as “assurance that you will be able to work in your job as long as you please and will not become unemployed.”

Under this definition, at-will employment where an employer can terminate you for no reason doesn’t count as job security. Laws exist to prevent unlawful termination, but such laws become irrelevant when your boss can fire you without reason.

Technically speaking, there’s no such thing as job security because nothing is guaranteed – not even self-employment. However, the freedom of self-employment creates the space for you to be more fulfilled in your life.

If fulfillment is what you’re looking for, here are 4 ways self-employment can help:

1. You get to be the expert in your industry

Working for someone else means doing your work according to someone else’s terms and conditions. You might be an expert in your industry, but that doesn’t guarantee anyone wants your input.

When you have a job, you get paid to do grunt work for someone else’s business; work that often defies best practices, common sense, and reason.

Getting a regular paycheck looks like “job security” but it’s not. In fact, working for a paycheck until you retire might turn you into a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode in frustration or anger.

For instance, if your background is data security and you get hired to install a VPN for every staff member, that’s where your job ends. Your boss won’t want your opinion on the VPN they’ve chosen. If they didn’t hire you to be the expert, they probably don’t want an expert.

Being self-employed means you’re the boss. You determine how you’ll perform the work for your clients. If they want something that doesn’t make sense, you can be straight with them and offer a better, expert solution.

If you’re a web developer, you can design pages that maintain a good user experience and bypass the latest trends. If you’re a social media marketing expert, you can explain to your client that paying for likes and shares isn’t an effective strategy. Whatever you do, you can do it with full expression.

2. You’ll have more time to yourself

Statistics show that 143 million Americans aged 16 years and older commute an average of 25.4 minutes to work each day. That’s 45% of the population! Such a quick commute sounds like a dream for the 10.8 million people whose commute lasts an hour (or more).

Being self-employed automatically increases the time available to you. Without a commute, you can add more joyful activities to your day like yoga, a home workout program, and a morning routine. Without a commute, you’re also less likely to become involved in an automobile accident and have to deal with expensive car repairs.

3. There’s no guilt for taking time to learn new skills

It’s awkward when your boss asks you to perform a task you don’t know how to do. Sometimes you can’t be sure if they’ll understand that you don’t know how to do everything. When this happens, the only way to get that task done is to learn it on your own.

If the task is urgent, you’ll need to use company time to figure it out. It’s easy to feel guilty for wasting time learning something you believe you should already know. You don’t get paid to troubleshoot – you get paid to work!

Although your boss might be great and understand, it’s hard to shake the guilt. When you’re self-employed, you can take all the time you want to learn anything you need to know. You get to earn your paycheck doing what you love to do, and it’s always on your terms.

4. You’re free to refuse unreasonable requests

We’ve all had bosses that made unreasonable or impossible requests. The stress that comes from having to become Superman overnight is damaging. When you’re getting a paycheck in exchange for performing tasks, you can’t refuse without consequences. When you’re self-employed, you can.

Unlike your boss, when a client makes an unreasonable request, you can be honest with them about what doesn’t work, and create a better solution together. You’re not stuck engineering a creative workaround that won’t work anyway.