Category Archives: Improve Your Content

What Information is Your Website Missing?

People always have a reason to go to a website. More often than not, that reason is they are seeking specific information. If they can’t easily find it on your website, they will give their business to someone else.

What Do People Want?

One of the most important rules in business is knowing your customers and what they want. This includes the information they are seeking when they visit your website.

If you own a retail business, they may want to know what products you carry. If you offer professional services, they may need to know what your office hours are. If you run a restaurant, they may want to know what’s on the menu.

This all may seem obvious, but I can’t count the number of times, I’ve looked up a restaurant’s website on a Monday and wondered if they were open for lunch. Some restaurants aren’t open on Mondays. Some aren’t open for lunch. I don’t want to show up and find the doors locked, so I go somewhere else.

Don’t Assume. Do Your Research.

You might already know what your potential customers are looking for when they pull up your website. But there may be some important elements that you haven’t considered. So you can’t rely on your own assumptions.

Ask existing customers for a list of information they look for on a site in your business. If you can’t ask existing customers, ask potential customers or even business associates.

Make the Information Easy to Find

So where should you put information like business hours? On the home page? In the header or footer of every page? On your About page or your Contact page? There is no single right answer. Just make it intuitive and easy to find.

Use Navigation Menus that Make Sense

I’ve seen websites with a home page and a separate welcome page. What’s up with that?

Or how about websites that have a main Services page, but then list one of their services as its own page. That will confuse visitors because they don’t know how one page relates to the others.

If you have a lot of pages, consider if some of them are perhaps redundant or can be combined with other pages (like a combined About page and Contact page). And make sure that there is a clear hierarchy to the structure of your pages. Similar pages usually need to be grouped together under a parent page.

Visitors don’t want to work hard to find this information, especially if they are viewing your website on a cellphone or tablet. The harder it is to find crucial information, the less business your website will generate.

Need More Help?

If you liked this article, be sure to sign up for your FREE subscription to the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice newsletter where we send helpful articles every Tuesday and Friday. You can either fill out the form on the right side of this page or visit the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice signup page.

We're also happy to provide assistance directly. Just send an email to dharma@zenpunkwebworks.com.

Six Resources to Improve Your Grammar!

People who visit your website will only do business with you if they feel you are trustworthy and competent. That includes the correct use of grammar in your web copy (text). Poor grammar usage sends the message that you don’t care about the details.

The perception is that if you are careless about your website, you are probably just as careless with the work that you do. People would rather do business with people who care about the quality of their work.

So what do you do if you weren’t the editor of your high school newspaper? Here are six great resources for improving your grammar skills.

1. Grammar Girl

Mignon Fogerty (a.k.a. Grammar Girl) hosts an entertaining audio podcast pointing out the often confusing, even contradictory intricacies of grammar. The episodes are short but extremely helpful.

2. Daily Grammar

Daily Grammar offers a number of resources to help you improve your grammar including a blog, a glossary and a workbook.

3. Chicago Manual of Style

There are many style manuals, but the Chicago Manual of Style is the one most publishers and editors consider the go-to resource. When in doubt, this is the text to consult. Copies of the actual book can be purchased online or in bookstores.

4. Writing Forward

Not only does Writing Forward provide guidance on grammar, but on writing in general. Be sure to check them out.

5. Dr. Grammar

The University of Northern Iowa provides this free resource for their students and the general public. It features a list of writing resources, information on plagiarism and a section on word origins.

6. Grammar Book

Grammarbook.com is the site for the Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by the late Jane Straus. The site also offers a number of resources to help you write correctly.

We hope this list will give you a good start to communicating more clearly and effectively while avoiding embarrassing and costly grammar mistakes.

Need More Help?

If you liked this article, be sure to sign up for your FREE subscription to the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice newsletter where we send helpful articles every Tuesday and Friday. You can either fill out the form on the right side of this page or visit the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice signup page.

We're also happy to provide assistance directly. Just send an email to dharma@zenpunkwebworks.com.

Fer Gawd’s Saik, Lern To Spel!

With few exceptions, we all make spelling mistakes. Nevertheless, misspelled words on web pages and blog posts can hurt your website’s ability to generate business.

We All Do It

Let me start by saying that despite having a knack for writing and a bachelor’s degree in journalism, I still misspell words. Also, I sometimes use words which, while spelled correctly, are not the words I should be using.

Homophones, words which sound like other words, often plague my unproofread writing. For example, I will use “there” or “they’re” when I mean “their”. My brain knows the difference, but my fingers sometimes forget. And that’s when using a laptop.

Writing content like tweets and Facebook posts on a smartphone, with its tiny virtual keyboard and predictive auto-correct, makes misspelled words all the more likely.

So What’s the Big Deal?

It is one thing when your friend misspells words on her personal tweets. Her goal isn’t to sell you a product, much less to impress you with her English proficiency.

But when people come to your website or your business’ Facebook page, people have a different standard. When you represent your business, people expect competence in all areas, including spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Using misspelled words can make you look careless. Carelessness translates into untrustworthiness, because who wants to buy products or services from someone who’s careless? If they are giving you their money, they want to be sure you pay attention to all of the details, no excuses.

Steps To Achieve Spelling Perfection (or Close To It)

1. Read a LOT!

English is a mishmash of several root languages, including Greek, Latin, German, and Hebrew. With such diverse origins, spelling rules are very hit and miss. The “i before e” rule has many exceptions like weird, neighbor, their and feisty.

To improve your natural spelling ability, read a lot. The more your read, the more your brain recognizes and memorizes proper spelling.

2. Focus on Your Troublesome Words

We all have words that we struggle to spell correctly. One of my is the word privilege. I want to substitute an ‘e’ for one of the ‘i’s, and it looks like it needs a ‘d’ before the ‘g’. So I have had to take extra time to learn to spell it correctly.

3. Pay attention to Spell-Check, But Don’t Rely On It

The ability for text editors to find misspelled words and misused words has improved greatly over the past couple of decades. But it still isn’t perfect. It can still fail to locate misused words (like homophones) and sometimes marks correct words as wrong. Auto-correct features also sometimes substitute incorrect words for correct ones. Use these features as a guide, but don’t rely on them.

4. Re-read Your Content Before You Post

Before you post your content, whether a tweet or a blog post or even an email, take a moment to proofread it. It only takes a moment, but if it avoids embarrassing mistakes, it’s worth it.

5. Read Your Content Aloud

Our brains have an auto-editor that can ignore mistakes we’ve made because we know what we were trying to say.¬† But when we say the words out loud, it engages a different part of our brains and makes it less likely to ignore mistakes. It’s just one of those idiosyncrasies of our human brains.

6. Use Text-to-Speech Features

With the increased support for people who are visually impaired, many apps and devices offer text-to-speech features. That means the devices read the text out loud. Sure they sound robotic and pronunciation is sometimes amusingly inaccurate, but I have caught countless errors using text-to-speech.

7. Use Another Pair of Eyes

Having someone else proofread your content is very powerful, because they don’t already know what you meant to say. This is why professional writers hire professional editors. A fresh pair of eyes catches what we don’t.

You might not need to hire a freelance editor to proof your web content, but it’s not a bad idea to ask a friend or family member with a good eye for spelling and grammar to read through your content.

Need More Help?

If you liked this article, be sure to sign up for your FREE subscription to the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice newsletter where we send helpful articles every Tuesday and Friday. You can either fill out the form on the right side of this page or visit the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice signup page.

We're also happy to provide assistance directly. Just send an email to dharma@zenpunkwebworks.com.

Justify Your Actions But Not Your Web Content

You may have grown up reading a newspaper that used fully justified alignment on its pages. What that means is that each column of text was perfectly aligned on both the right and left side. Kind of like the following:

This is random text from http://saganipsum.com. Muse about extraplanetary, star stuff harvesting star light shores of the cosmic ocean Sea of Tranquility extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence rings of Uranus take root and flourish white dwarf Sea of Tranquility Apollonius of Perga.

Now you may be wondering how this is accomplished. Is it magic? Did I someone choose exactly the right words in order for both sides to align? No, the computer just makes tiny adjustments between letters and words to create the fully justified effect.

Back before the days of computers, typesetters would have to do this manually with thin pieces of lead between the type. Very tedious. And if the column is wide enough, it can look pretty snazzy. After all, aligned text is easier for the eye to read. Visitors like that.

And Then Came Mobile

However, you may have seen some fully justified columns that were so narrow that the justification process left ugly gaps between words or letters. Not so snazzy, huh?

More fabulous filler text from http://saganipsum.com. The only home we’ve ever known Cambrian explosion corpus callosum inconspicuous motes of rock and gas, shores of the cosmic ocean hydrogen atoms great turbulent clouds, stirred by starlight, Rig Veda!

Now you may be thinking, hey, it’s cool. I have nice wide columns. But what about when people view your site on a smartphone. What happens to your fully justified text then. It turns fugly!

Left or Right, But Not Both

So when it comes to aligning your web content, choose either left-aligned (sometimes called ragged right) or right-aligned (you guessed it, also called ragged left). Don’t fully justify your text. Avoid those unsightly gaps. Speaking of unsightly gaps, I should really stop wearing button down shirts.

And if you’re thinking about centered text, well, I’ll talk about that on another post.

Need More Help?

If you liked this article, be sure to sign up for your FREE subscription to the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice newsletter where we send helpful articles every Tuesday and Friday. You can either fill out the form on the right side of this page or visit the Nickel's Worth of Free Advice signup page.

We're also happy to provide assistance directly. Just send an email to dharma@zenpunkwebworks.com.