Since 1994, Cool Site of the Day has featured the best of the web — a unique, random site every day!

See Today's Site!

Click Here!

3 Software Companies That Get Web Design RightWeb design trends come and go, but the most successful software companies seem to prosper regardless of evolving stylistic trends. That’s because they understand what makes their customers tick and how they can best serve their needs.

3 Good Examples From Other Software Companies

Software websites are often unique in the sense that they have to convey a lot of information – clearly explaining what their product does and how it’s unique when compared to other options – but they still have to take into account the need for simplicity and minimalism.

Here are three good examples of what this looks like when executed to perfection.

1. Billdu.com

The first thing you’ll notice when you land on this invoice making website is that it’s clean. Not only is there a lot of negative space, but the images are crisp, the typeface stands out, and everything seems to fuse together for a cohesive look. On the homepage, in particular, the web design strategy does a fine job of incorporating lots of information without being overwhelming.

2. Evernote.com

The Evernote website is a prime example of how valuable it is to cut out the fluff and emphasize the key points of the software. The page is predominantly made up of white space, while the limited text and visuals effectively convey the key value points. The sign-up form on the homepage is particularly well placed and makes it easy for anyone to sign up without risk or delay.

3. Lithium.com

The Lithium website is another website worth studying – particularly if you have software that’s challenging to understand. The above-the-fold design on the homepage is simple and eye-popping, while the below-the-fold design is very practical and informative. Once again, whitespace plays a key role in eliminating unnecessary distractions and allowing the critically important elements to stand out.

Software Web Design: Tips, Tricks, and Takeaways

As you can see in the three examples, it’s possible to design a software website that’s both aesthetically pleasing and informative. As you look for ways to improve your own site design, here are some helpful tips, tricks, and takeaways to consider.

  • Show proof. Regardless of what type of software you’re selling, your audience has choices. If they don’t like what you’re offering, there’s almost always an alternative. In order to gain the trust of your site visitors and encourage them to choose you, integrate as much social proof into your website as possible.
  • Explain features. Instead of going into detail about every single feature your software has, pick a few of the most attractive ones and focus on them. It’s better to provide in-depth analysis of three features than surface-level information on seven or eight.
  • Design for multiple devices. Remember that your visitors access your website from a variety of browser types and devices. In order to deliver a seamless experience that’s visually pleasing and highly functional, be sure the site is responsive.
  • Always test and change. Finally, web design isn’t something you check off on a list and forget about. Consumer preferences change, styles evolve, and best practices come and go. To maximize conversions, you should continually test your site and adjust accordingly. You’ll be amazed by how tiny tweaks can make such a big difference to the bottom line.

Web design is always challenging, no matter the industry, but it’s particularly difficult when you’re selling an intangible product like software. The demand for minimalism means you can’t say everything you want to say, while the consumer’s desire for information requires that you’re thorough. With the tips and examples highlighted in this article, you should be able to give it your best shot.

How to Boost the “Curb Appeal” of Your ContentIf you’ve ever sold a house — or, for that matter, bought one — then you know how essential curb appeal is. The moment someone drives up to a home, what he or she sees from the street tells the person a lot about the property.

The interior may be better or worse than the potential buyer’s expectations, but the first impression formed by the home’s curb appeal creates a significant obstacle to overcome.

In a way, it could be argued that “curb appeal” matters just as much in web design and content marketing. From the moment a visitor glimpses a piece of content — whether it’s a landing page, blog post, infographic, or whatever else your brand presents to the world online — the person is automatically forming opinions about the brand behind that content.

Of course, it’s vital that your content is substantive, but a failure to observe the significance of curb appeal (in other words, visual presentation) will inevitably damage your conversion goals. In order to be successful, you have to give this facet of your content marketing strategy serious thought.

Four Tips for Creating More Appealing Content

Just as we are told to spruce up the landscaping, pressure wash the siding, and stage the entryway of a house before putting it on the market, you should pay attention to how your content might appear to your audience and do everything within your power to make it enticing. Here are four practical tips.

1. Go Easy on the Eyes

When you compare websites in the late 90s to websites today, there are so many distinctions, they’re almost impossible to count. But one of the more significant has been the shift away from bright colors and distracting design elements toward minimalism or greater simplicity.

When you develop content or design a webpage, ask yourself this question: Is it easy on the eyes? You can make any page more aesthetically pleasing by incorporating more white space, relying on images instead of text, and using a simple color scheme.

The Rotate website is a good example of design that’s easy on the eyes.

2. Break Up the Text

One of the biggest mistakes you can make — especially in the current trend toward bite-sized content — is to overwhelm users with large chunks of text. As soon as most people see dense paragraphs and a steady stream of text, they’re going to disengage and hit the back button.

There’s nothing wrong with putting lots of information on a page in the form of text (long-form content is honestly pretty popular right now), but you should try to find ways to break it up and provide visual relief. The Salvi, Schostok, & Pritchard website is a good example. The firm uses a variety of visual elements to inform without overwhelming.

3. Limit the Sales Pitch

People are tired of being pitched all the time. They don’t appreciate being sold over and over again.

It’s all right to include a call to action and/or an opt-in form within a piece of content, but limit the sales pitch and focus on adding value. Not only does this build trust with the audience, but it usually results in a greater visual symmetry.

4. Focus on Above-the-Fold Design

Every individual element matters, but if you’re going to put more focus and energy into one portion of a web page, make sure you prioritize above-the-fold design. This is what people see first, so it’s what will have the most long-lasting impact.

Create a Positive First Impression

Whether you’re shopping for a house or reading a blog post, first impressions have considerable influence over the judgments of the human brain and, for better or worse, often dictate the attitudes an individual develops toward the subject.

Make sure you’re doing your content marketing a favor by placing an emphasis on visual appeal.

Dream Of Creating A Mega Authority Site? Here’s HowThere’s a lot of talk about creating website authority, but most advice falls short of the truth. You can’t just go learn about a subject, become an expert overnight, and expect your website to compete.

You can achieve some level of success without being a true expert, but you’ll never compete.

If creating a successful blog isn’t enough and you want to completely dominate your niche, here’s how to do it:

1. Become a real expert

To dominate your niche, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes, even if it requires time.

To become a genuine expert, pursue your subject matter as if you were aiming to be the world’s leading authority. Don’t just gather information from the internet and memorize data. Put yourself in the middle of your niche, in all possible positions, to learn from first-hand experience.

For instance, if your niche is coffee and espresso, it’s not enough to read about the World Barista Championships and learn various ways to grind and brew coffee. If you’ve never been behind an espresso machine serving customers, you don’t know the coffee industry.

Being able to brew a perfect pour over according to your preferences isn’t enough. Only an expert knows the craft well enough to personalize the brewing process for a variety of customer preferences. Only then can you claim expert status.

Being an expert in your niche often requires on-the-job interaction in a customer-facing environment in order to bring your understanding full circle. Don’t be afraid to take on a part-time job to expand your understanding.

2. Be genuinely passionate about your niche

First, ask yourself if the niche you’ve chosen is something you can be passionate about. Be careful not to confuse your passion for domination with a passion for the actual subject matter. Would you be interested in your niche if it didn’t hold the potential to make you money? If not, you’ve chosen the wrong niche.

If you don’t have a driven passion for your subject matter, you’ll never dominate your niche because you’ll give up when things get tough. Passion will drive you forward in tough times.

3. Maintain a distraction-free workplace

On the road to domination, every second counts. You hired people to free up your time, but are you paying them to be distracted?

When your team is distracted or performing unnecessary tasks, you’re paying them to waste time (and money).

Your team may not even know they’re distracted if the systems they’re using aren’t efficient. Maintaining a distraction-free workplace requires refining the processes and systems used by your entire team.

For instance:

  • Your accountant should be using expense tracking software that integrates easily with payroll software to avoid extra work. You could hire a programmer to hack a connection, but that costs time and money.
  • Your network administrator should be that puts the data they need right on their monitor. They shouldn’t be wasting time manually retrieving log files from the server. They’ll do their best work with a live performance monitor to help them catch and resolve issues quickly.

4. Don’t curate content – create it

According to EContentmag.com, content curation is “the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter.”

In other words, curating content is gathering and presenting someone else’s content. This works for creating a successful website, but it won’t help you dominate.

To dominate, you need to create authentic, original content with a unique perspective. In order to have a unique perspective to present, you need to be an expert in your niche.

5. Hire a professional copywriter

Everyone thinks they can write their own copy – but the truth is that you need a professional. Copywriters aren’t the same as content writers. A copywriter constructs copy from a marketing perspective and knows how to tell a good story that motivates people to action.

A-list copywriter John Carlton explains how to hire a freelance copywriter the right way. Carlton isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, “… this is gonna be one of the most time-and-money intensive relationships you have in your business. Copy is the MAIN ELEMENT in your ability to attract prospects and close them as customers. (Yes, the quality of what you offer matters… but never forget that the Marketing Graveyard is crammed with superior products that died horrible and fast deaths because no one figured out how to sell them.)”

Master your niche first

At the end of the day, your success depends on mastering your niche with a thorough understanding before attempting to dominate it on the web.

How Content Marketing Is Reshaping Video AdvertisementsFor the past decade or so, digital marketers have thought of content marketing and video advertising as separate realms; video ads are meant to sell customers on a product, while content is meant to naturally attract them with the information they actually want. As illustrative examples of the differences between “inbound” and “outbound” marketing, both content marketing and video advertising have been effective in their respective realms.

Now, video advertisers are learning from content marketing strategies, and are evolving their art in response.

How Video Ads Take Cues From Content Marketing

These are just some of the ways video ads are transforming to incorporate and benefit from key content marketing insights:

  • Authenticity. One of the most important factors for a content campaign’s success is its authenticity. Content marketing emerged as a popular marketing strategy, in part, as a response to the insincerity of traditional advertising; ads were seen as insincere and unbelievable because they were clearly developed with the intention to sell a product. When consumers feel like they’re being manipulated or pressured, they stop paying attention. Video producers have learned this lesson, and have since strived for more authentic, personal content.
  • Brevity. Though some content marketers do focus on volume, making sure their newsfeeds are constantly full of new content to peruse, conciseness has always been a predictor of success. Short articles do perfectly well so long as they have a central point, and longer articles need to be trimmed down to their most basic components if they’re going to maintain readers’ attentions. Accordingly, video ads have gotten progressively shorter, with some running for just a few seconds before YouTube videos.
  • Targeting. With rare exceptions, you can’t write a generalized article and make it appealing to the masses. Instead, you need to thoroughly research your target audience, draft content specifically relevant to them, and make sure to promote it in a place where that audience will find it. Though audience targeting has always been a part of video advertising, today’s video ads are even more specific; if you want to convert an ad viewer into a customer, you need to understand who that viewer is, what their needs are, and where they’ll be most likely to view your ad.
  • Value. Content marketing doesn’t sell products. Content marketing provides value to readers, whether that’s in the form of information or entertainment; the sale always comes as an afterthought. Video ads are evolving to favor this approach, and are using similar means to attract more viewers. Today’s ads are funny, insightful, or practically valuable (such as offering immediate discount codes or assistance). A simple request for customers to purchase something isn’t going to stand out.
  • Sales avoidance. Again, consumers stop paying attention to provided content when they feel like they’re being manipulated or “sold” on something. Accordingly, video ads have stepped back from using overly aggressive sales language, or dramatic voiceovers to persuade viewers. Instead, they’re using softer, less obvious approaches, and they’re using more direct, transparent methods. They’re showing products in action in such a way to appear unbiased, and take care not to make audiences feel pressured.

Have you noticed these qualities emerging in video ads? Have you noticed the departures from the gimmicky sales tactics of older video ads? It’s no coincidence. Consumers are gravitating toward businesses employing traditional “inbound” tactics like providing value and avoiding pushy sales language; this creates a network of positive reinforcement that encourages more brands to take part.

Blurring the Lines

As these content marketing tactics become more popular on the “advertising” end of the spectrum, we may bear witness to the gradual erasure of the line between inbound and outbound marketing. Tactics like native advertising have started blurring the line in the other direction, allowing content creators to artificially place their content higher in more visible publications.

In any case, the best marketing strategy is the one that incorporates lessons from each area and each tactic, rather than allowing tunnel vision to produce singular—and unimpressive—results. Take lessons from content marketing and apply them to all your marketing and advertising efforts, just as modern video advertisers have done.

Geo-Modifiers: Not Just an SEO ToolSince the inception of search engines and SEO, businesses have used local keywords to improve their ranking and attract online customers. Though search algorithms have been regularly updated, and new best practices evolved over the years, the value of local keywords has never changed.

But have are you aware of the fact that the value of geo-modifiers isn’t exclusive to SEO?

What are Geo-Modifiers?

A geo-modifier is simply a specific keyword that communicates to search engines the local intent of a search query. So when someone searches Google for an auto repair shop, the search engine notes the user’s location and provides relevant results within the immediate neighborhood and region.

Thus, an auto repair shop in Austin, Texas would want to include the following geo-modifier in its content: “Auto repair shop in Austin.” That’s the keyword + geo-modifier.

Moving Past the SEO Benefits

Most businesses assume that geo-modifiers and local keywords have value only in the sense of optimizing content for search engines. But common sense and a little knowledge of human psychology indicate there’s an additional benefit.

Have you ever considered how much inherent appeal lies in calling someone by his or her name and having that person refer to you by your particular name? As writer Luke Davis explains, “When you say someone’s name the next time you greet them you have told that person they were important enough to remember, they were special enough for you to take note of them.”

The same principle holds true for areas that people regard special, such as the town in which they live. As health and psychology writer Julie Beck puts it, “The first thing we ask someone when we meet them, after their name, is where they are from, or the much more interestingly-phrased ‘where’s home for you?’ We ask, not just to place a pushpin for them in our mental map of acquaintances, but because we recognize that the answer tells us something important about them.”

But what might this have to do with SEO? Well, it indicates that there’s more to geo-modifiers than simply getting a higher ranking on Google.

Every time a business uses a local keyword, that name or phrase resonates with most of the other people who call the town, city, or state their home. It turns a general topic into a personal topic that instills an instant sense of connection — of identification.

The law firm of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker provides an excellent real-life example. For most people, the word “Surprise” refers to an emotion or unsuspected event, but for the residents of Surprise, Arizona, the word resonates with a sense of home.

That’s where they’ve raised their kids, accumulated memories, and forged business and personal relationships. So in addition to using the geo-modifier “Surprise” for SEO purposes, Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker integrates the word throughout its onsite content — such as this page — in order to raise familiarity and build trust with the target audience.

Can you see the dual benefit of using geo-modifiers? Yes, there’s a substantial amount of SEO benefit, but a human psychology component goes along with it. When people see the name of a geographical location that means a lot to them, their interest level automatically rises.

Account for Human Readers, Too

Coming from a digital branding perspective, it’s easy to fall for the idea that SEO is only about keying into search engine crawlers and algorithmic equations. That’s an undeniable part of it, but you can’t overlook the human visitors who will also be exposed to the content.

A failure to develop content with the human readers in mind will never result in anything more than technically sound material that delivers minimal (if any) value to your target audience. Geo-modifiers are great because they empower you to satisfy the search engines yet simultaneously engage your audience.

Are you utilizing local keywords to your best advantage?