5 Reasons Why You Should Not Skip Creating Wireframes For Your New Website

What are Wireframes?  It is a simple layout that outlines the specific size and placement of  site features, page elements, call-to-action areas (CTAs), and navigation of your site.  They are devoid of colour, font choices, logos, graphics, or any real design elements that can take away from focusing on the site’s structure and functionality.

Wireframe Examples

5 Reasons Why Wireframes are so Important to the Web Design Process:

  1. Wireframes Display Site Architecture Visually
    Wireframes take the sitemap and converts it into a visual framework that ensures all parties are on the same page before design and development begin.
  2. Wireframes Focus on Functionality and Priority of Content
    Creating wireframes forces everyone to look objectively at a website’s functionality, behaviour and priority of content. Wireframes will point out flaws in the site architecture and navigation.
  3. Wireframes Allow for Clarification of Features 
    Clients may not understand your jargon (ie/ Hero Image / CTAs / User     Experience…) so wireframing provides a clear communication to a client about how these features will function and where they will live on any specific page. Often prototyping or showing live examples of features allows the client to make an educated decision on whether that feature is the right experience for their customers.
  4. Wireframes Help Identify How Content Growth will Affect the Design
    Your website needs to accommodate growth of your business without impacting design, architecture or functionality. Wireframing lets you plan out how additional products and services will affect the layout and behaviour.
  5. Wireframes Save Time and Money 
    Wireframes avoid misunderstanding with the design team, and the development team. They allow clients (and other team members) to provide feedback earlier in the process, so that changes are not being made to full design mock-ups or after programming has been done, saving on additional costs to the entire project.

Once the wireframes are signed off on by all parties, they are then used as the base for the graphic design team as they take the content and creatively build out the brand experience.

Related Blog Posts:
Why a Responsive Website?


What is a Key Performance Indicator?

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) definition:  A business metric used to evaluate factors to determine the success of the key objectives of a marketing plan, event, or campaign.

Analytics - Metrics

For KPI’s to be useful, they need to be monitored, reported on and analyzed on a regular basis.

Best Practices:
1. Aligned with the business goals of your entire organization.
2. Well defined and quantifiable
3. Insights from the KPi’s should be actionable.
4. The measurements you choose should be easy to obtain.

What should you be tracking?
Sales Revenue from Inbound Marketing Campaign
Customer Acquisition Cost (Cost per lead)
Web Traffic Conversion Rate
Campaign Landing Page Conversion Rate
Social Media Conversion

I often get the question though, “What KPIs can we put in place if we are attending an event, and our main objective is brand awareness?”.  No matter how small the campaign or business, there is always a KPI that can be put in place to judge whether it was the most effective use of your time and money. You have to have goals in place BEFORE the event. Just looking at the stats afterwards is meaningless, as you won’t know if you reached the performance you needed to make it worthwhile.

Here are some examples:
# of overall attendees at event
# of attendees to come into your booth
# of participants in your activation (ie/ photobooth / contest)
# of email signups
# of app downloads
# of uses of your event hashtag
# of promo codes used
% Increase of traffic to your website and even more specifically Increase in UNIQUE visitors to your site
% Increase in followers of your social profiles during and immediately after the event
$s generated at event or immediately following the event
Cost per lead

Marketing Action Plan Worksheets – Download Toolkit


Visualize Your Target Audience

Target Audience

Visualize Your Audience.
To help your team relate to your target audience, create a BUYER PERSONA that includes demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, and more. Add images, and give names to your buyer profiles. Assigning a name to the persona helps everyone on the team think of the buyer as a real person rather than just prospective business.

Hubspot’s definition of a Buyer Persona: A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

Create a Day In The Life.
One of our clients has done this to perfection.  They have created a full fictional life for two profiles – one for each gender. A full visual essay that shows where they live and why, their occupation and ambitions, what they do in their spare time, their favourite restaurants, their go-to clothing brands, their favourite TV shows, where they like to spend their vacations, and more.

This does not mean that all of their customers will like the same brand of coffee and live in the same city. What this allows their internal team to do is visualize and relate to their audience. They can ask, “What would Alex do in this situation?” or “Would Katie share this content?”.

Start with the basics.
A consumer profile will be different from a B2B profile but the information template is relatively the same.

          Age Range:
          Education Level / Income Level:
          Title / Position: (Busy Mom vs National Sales Director)
          Key Responsibilities:
          Daily Tasks:
          Pain Points / Concerns:
          Purchase Drivers / Buying Motivation:
          Role in Purchase Process:
          Place (s) They Most Likely Find Information:
          Preferred Content Medium:
          Days / Times Most Likely to Consume Content:

If your business services other businesses, you will most likely have several distinct personas that you will need to lay out.

       – Gatekeeper
       – Influencer
       – End User
       – Decision Maker

Once you have the basics you can build out the fictional story that you can share with your sales and marketing teams and help them connect the dots from the brand to the end user.

Small businesses can not afford big Market Research projects to help them build out their consumer profiles, so Buffer Social has compiled a list of Market Research Tools that will help you gain insights on your current and potential audience.

Why a Responsive Website?

Definition: A responsive website responds to the needs of the user and the devices they are using. The layout changes based on the size and capabilities of the device.

We used our own HT Designs website as a test to prove why a responsive website is so important for business.   HT Designs Responsive Website

In the year, leading up to the launch of the new website, our Bounce Rate was averaging 60.7% and we had very minimal mobile visitors.  This means that over half of our site’s visitors immediately exited our site after viewing the page they landed on.

Increase in Mobile Visitors in the first 6 weeks

We designed and developed a new responsive website that gave us some astounding results within just 6 weeks of launching.

Not only did our bounce rate drop to 8.04%, but we have seen a 68% increase in visitors per week, and there has been a 28% increase in mobile users. Wow! If that does not answer the question of “Why Responsive?”, then I don’t know what will.

We know, the site is not perfect, but as we monitor and analyze the site, we will continue to work on creating a better experience for our customers. We will continue to update this post with new and revised stats.

Please visit our site as your feedback is always appreciated!

Updated on December 2, 2016 with revised stats.


TIP SERIES FOR INDEPENDENT RETAILERS: Increase Your Seasonal Margins With One Simple Tip

TIP:  Build anticipation for a product or collection through release dates

Illustration for Release Dates

The most common reaction to receiving new inventory is to place product out on the sales floor as soon as it arrives in your stock room. Many retailers have the idea that you must catch every sale as soon as possible. This does not create excitement for your customer, and does not drive traffic through your door.

Having weekly, monthly, or seasonal release dates gets your customers excited about coming through the door on a regular basis instead of just when they need a particular item. This also instills a sense of worth around a product or collection instead of a customer waiting for the item to go on sale at the end of the season. This strategy will maintain the margin for longer into the season and possibly even sell out of inventory before you need to lose margin with a seasonal sale.

Team up with suppliers so that your release dates align with their marketing campaigns and get double the bang. Partner with brands using co-op allowance to help build the buzz around special releases.

Nike has created lineups for their core retailers world-wide for years, by creating release date buzz around highly anticipated pro models and limited edition products.

Online businesses have a history of success, such as Canadian brand Frank and Oak or even discount retailers such as Gilt, releasing new collections monthly or at specific times of day creating a virtual line-up with customers clicking refresh on the anticipated hour to be the first to get the new collection or deal.

Connect the Dots Barkbox

Subscription based businesses have done this extremely well.  A good example of this is the “BARKBOX”.  Not only does the dog owner anticipate the arrival, but the excitement the dog shows upon seeing the box of goodies makes the monthly expense worthwhile.  Once the owner sees what toy or treat the dog loves the best, they can go online to the BARKSHOP and buy more.    This business model drives traffic to the e-commerce site that it would not otherwise have.

Do You Have a Brand Manual or Style Guide?

If you have answered this question with a “no” but deal with vendors, suppliers and media on a regular basis, then you need to consider working with your designer to create one.

One key way to build brand equity is to create a set of “design rules” that tie together the look and feel of all your marketing materials. We pull this together into something called a “Brand Style Guide” that can be shared with internal departments, marketing and design agencies, suppliers and media.

Style Guide and Brand Manual

At the very least, it is important to have a style guide to keep your look consistent across all consumer touch-points. Having on hand a quick guide to your corporate fonts and colours is a time saver that ensures that your logo and/or wordmark will be seen accurately on everything from websites to t-shirts.

Build your visual STYLE GUIDE around these 4 key areas:

  1. Logo: The consistent use of your logo is the most important piece to your brand. A style guide outlines how the logo should look on different materials and backgrounds. It will outline the placement and size that should be used for different communication and marketing collateral.
  2. Colour: Colour is the second most important component to your brand identity. Colour makes an immediate impression and impacts perception of your brand. Colour has different meanings in different industries and different cultures so a lot of research is needed before final selection. A style guide will show how a colour can be used and how your logo will look in Black and White scenarios. A style guide will define the colour model depending on where it will be used – ie/ RGB for digital / CMYK for Print / Pantone for solid colour use. (Basic Colour Theory)
  3. Fonts: A brand style guide will outline the font families that are associated with your brand materials. This is usually limited to one or two fonts along with different weights and sizes for Headlines, Body Text, and Info-Graphics.
  4. Visuals – Graphics / Illustrations / Photography: Every brand needs to consider what type of visuals they want to represent their brand. Graphics such as symbols and shapes should be used the same way across all materials from environmental signage to annual reports to digital assets. The style of illustration or photography should be consistent across all corporate materials. Seasonal advertising campaigns would have their own specific style sheet that would fit into the overall guidelines.

If you do a lot of packaging, advertising or media events, a brand manual will include everything from your mission statement to your brand voice to how your taglines should be used to what photo filters to use on your custom photography.

Being in control of your brand across all touch-points is a very important step in helping you keep all your dots connected.

Check out a post by Mary Stribley that showcases  50 great examples of Style Guides

Trade Shows Are An Investment You Make In Your Business

5 Ways to Make Your Investment Count

Trade show investment Checklist

  1.  Measurable Goals
    What is your goal? What do you want to achieve? If you don’t have a measurable goal in place you will never be able to accurately determine if the trade show was worth attending. Be greedy and have more than one goal. Have a goal for the show itself, and also have a goal for the revenue that comes immediately afterwards.
    # of Warm/Hot Leads picked up at the show
    # of conversions after the show

  2. Storytelling
    No matter the size of the your trade show booth, there needs to be focus! What story do you want to tell? What do you want every person to leave knowing about your brand / product / service?
    Allerion Trade Show Booth
    Booth Example:
    This Allerion booth is only a 10 x 10 space but it checks all the boxes. It is simple with a clear message. You know immediately the industry that they are servicing. You know the positioning that they are taking. You know the product that they are showcasing. You can easily find the contact information without having to search for it.

  3. Engagement
    Even if you are a B2B business who works with corporate clients, every person who visits your booth should leave with a great brand experience.  This does not mean you need to hire dancing monkeys and give neck massages unless of course your business is a travelling circus or a spa. This means that every person who passes through your booth should feel that they are important, whether or not they are a likely candidate to partner with your business.

    The simplicity of a smile, a greeting, a demo, a coffee or something that is unique to your business will go a long ways in establishing your brand as a true leader in your industry. Adding interactive touch points such as touchscreen kiosks or video demos, can keep visitors in your booth longer giving your sales team more time to build relationships.

    Maison Orphée Trade Show MarketingPersonal Example:
    I was at a consumer trade show this past weekend, and one brand really stood out to me as having checked all the boxes. Maison Orphée, from Quebec, engaged with each and every person who stopped by their 10 x 10 booth. Before getting a hands-on demonstration and creating your own vinaigrette seasoning to take home, you were requested to download their app.  From a marketing perspective, this was a brilliant move as they now have the ability to track future activity through their app, plus can determine if they met their more immediate goals of # of downloads and purchases.

  4. Sales Tools – Be Digitally Savvy
    Have your sales tools in both digital and hard copy formats. Have an ipad in the booth, where people can sign up for more information to be emailed to them. This gives you a reason to reach out to a potential lead after the show is over, and the information overload has settled down.

    As per the example above, creating an app with real value, gives you a continued connection to your fans and customers long after the trade show is over. The Maison Orphée App, gives searchable recipes for Marinades and Vinaigrettes, as well as easy to use functionality that allows you to change up the recipes depending on the # of people you want to serve.

  5. Preparation = Rewards
    Don’t believe the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” Be prepared. Don’t wait for walk by traffic. Invite people and have set appointments. I can’t stress this enough. Get people excited about the event weeks in advance. This could be by social channels or by a fun personalized invitation sent out to your database.

    Personal Example:
    I was at a show recently where a few sales reps from various booths commented that “Tradeshows are dying” and as I looked around, I noticed that their booths were slow and reps were just chatting with each other. Yet, as I rounded the corner to go visit the booth of the brand I was working with, I noticed a drastic difference. This booth was humming with activity. Every rep was busy with a customer. At the end of the show, I asked them what they thought made the difference. They said it came down to the fact that they had sent out invitations and set up appointments weeks in advance.

Make sure your investment nets you the outcome you want by taking the time to plan ahead.