Play mp3s on any web page with Google Gadgets players

Got .mp3s?

Say you’re stashing your .mp3 files on box.net Dropbox, or Google Drive, or on your own web host.

And you want a quick way to allow visitors to play these files on your website. You just want to copy and paste a few lines of code – no plugins, no software, no fuss.

What you want is to embed an mp3 player. Something you can use like Google’s embeddable movie player (YouTube).

Turns out, Google offers a page full of embeddable mp3 players. Visit the Google Gadgets page and search for mp3 player, or just go here for the mp3 player list.

Hints andtips for using Google’s mp3 Gadget

As a quick demo, I scrolled down the list and chose the gadget listed at:
Use Google Audio Player to play mp3 file. Advance by step of 5 secondes” [their typo, not mine :) ].

There’s a button under that entry: add to your webpage

You fill in the form. NOTE: Replace their title with your own, or you’ll have to live with the typo in the demo title. It’s supposed to show you a preview, but that didn’t work for me. Try it anyway: fill in the form and click the button to get your code. I’ve copied and pasted my code for the player above.

Despite the preview glitch it works.

Yep. (This is a recording of “Steve’s Groove” written by a wonderful guitarist Tom Liddle, and featuring Steve Olson of the Bob Schwartz Quartet on drums, and yours truly on the keyboard).

Ready to try one? Post your link in comments.

10 Dos and Don’ts for Naming Your Local Business

When you start a local business, nothing is more important than being easy to find in your area.

When it comes to your website, the name you choose has an important job in making you more visible on the street and online.

Your Name Matters for Your Visibility

Google and other search engines, look at the domain name — or web address — of your site when ranking results for searchers.  It’s not the only factor in how visible you are online, but it’s important to how relevant you look to people searching in your area.

Your city or town name is almost always part of a search term when people are looking for nearby services.  So search engine and people both tend to rate businesses matching the town name higher, all other things being equal.

10 Tips for Choosing a Local Business Domain Name

Here are 10 tips for choosing a domain name to help position you well in front of people looking for what you do locally:

  1. Do include the name of your location in your domain name
  2. Do make your name distinctive
    • Don’t settle for using hyphens to make yours different from a close competitor. Avoid hyphens in general. Be altogether different.
    • Choose something easy to remember by sound or with simple easy words
    • Consider acronyms or abbreviations – they can work: for example, FaifaxVADentistry.com uses the 2-letter state abbreviation.
    •  Consider using numbers in your name. While experts disagree, a street number, a number with special meaning can work. There are millions of design businesses, for example, yet this name sticks out in my mind: 1LoudRoar.com.
  3. Come up with several options.  If you have trouble coming up with ideas, brainstorm with friends.
  4. Keep trying – don’t believe that there’s only one good name. There are simply good ideas that take longer than others. Some excellent names will come in time. Give it a few days, even a week or two.
  5. Run your best ideas by someone who knows marketing and is not a friend. Friends really can’t be objective. Get feedback from trusted business colleagues, an online forum like Startup Nation, a closed membership group or a local business networking group
  6. Don’t try to include every concept in your business name. Focus on your location and your business area, result or promise you deliver.
  7. Keep it short. A name not longer than 15 characters (before the .com) is ideal.  If you have to go longer, try to minimize the length of your name. You can’t register a name over 67 characters – and I hope you don’t come close.
  8. Make it easy to say and hear correctly.
  9. Use a .com extension – don’t use .net or .co. According to MOZ (the search engine experts formerly known as SEOMOZ), extensions like .co or or .info often indicate spammers
  10. Once you have a domain name for your blog – use it for email as well, for instance,  yourname@ [yourbusiness.com] That way people learn your business name. Don’t give out your gmail.com or aol.com or yahoo.com address for business.  It’s not professional.

It may require some effort to come up with a business name that’s an asset to your business. But it’s time well spent – using a name you have to change later is a whole new set of issues. And you’d rather be growing your business.

Where to Get High-Quality, Free Images for Websites

One Designer’s Top List of Free Images for Websites

Where to get free images for websitesA friend and colleague just asked me: “Can you tell me where I can get free (truly free) photos to use on website or graphic design project?”

Yes I can! But why stop with photos? When you’re designing a business website, photos are just one resource you need.  You also need social media icons, buttons, form elements, textures, and inspiration!

Here are my #1 sources of free images for web design in each category:

Photos and Theme-Setting Images

From the moment I discovered Stock-Exchange, I knew I found my go-to resource for inspiration to express a main idea. It was originally set up as a community for photographers to exchange images for free.  Some artists require name credit and a link – others offer their work with no attribution required.   You can choose from hundreds of thousands of high quality images, even for commercial projects, as long as you abide by the Standard Restrictions for use.

See:
Stock Exchange
Stock Exchange Links for additional free photo resources

Buttons, Background Textures, User Interface Elements

Premium Pixels is the wildly generous gift of insanely talented designer Orman Clark.  It began as a way for him to share design tools and images, and resources that took a lot of thought and time to make, just because others might find them attractive and useful.  They are!  Now it includes hand-selected contributions from other stellar designers. Browse the ever-growing collections of eye-popping, high quality icons, entire site layouts, device representations (smartphones to big screens), textures, buttons, and more.  Subscribe for a weekly freebie in your inbox.

See: Premium Pixels

Social Icons

My favorite set of social icons is from Pixden.  They’re so well designed; they enhance every site I’ve used them on, like inlaid gems.  I use the dark icon set.  Take a few minutes to explore the layers in Photoshop.  Each icon comes in a uniformly dark version, for the inactive state, and a colored version for the hover and active states.  Implement them however you like.  All Pixden’s resources are royalty free for personal and commercial projects, without a link or attribution required: Just follow the Terms of Service

See:
Dark Social Icons Set by Pixden

AWeber Signup Forms

Don’t like the Aweber form templates? Personally I often find I need custom styling for clients websites, Derek Halpern’s post on DIYThemes is a quick lesson in creating custom styles for your Aweber forms.  He even had a designer create 7 styles you can download, with instructions.  You can use them as-is or as a starting off point for customizing your own AWeber signup forms:

See: 7 Custom AWeber Email Signup Forms, by Derek Halpern on DIYThemes.com

Inspiration

My favorite resource for design inspiration and an update on trends isn’t a website.  It’s a book: The Web Designer’s IDea Book.  Now in Voluem 3, it’s Patrick Neil’s obsssion-driven collection of screenshots of the best websites all over the planet, across industries, applications and agencies.  It’s an outgrowth of his ever-evolving blog, Design Meltdown.  Between print volumes, you can see what catches Patric’s Eye in the Monster Meltdown collections.

See:

The Web Designers Idea Book  published master collection of inspiring designs
DesignMeltdown blog of resources
Monster Meltdown inspiration organized into focused topics
– all by Patrick McNeil

Free is Nice, but Don’t Skimp on Quality

I admit, I love free images for websites, but the quality must be high. If you can’t find something you like for no cost, consider browsing some stock photography sites.  These sources of free images are great, but they won’t supply all your needs forever, especially as you grow.  Whether your new or a seasoned designer, they’re a great place to start when planning your next project.

Helpful to you? Let your friends know by sharing this to your world:

3 Questions for a Simpler, Better Website

Steps for a simpler websiteWeb designer and blogger Paul Boag is a big advocate of making things simple to be usable. It’s not just to help your visitors — simpler sites help your website work better for your business.  (His own company’s newly streamlined site saw more requests for quotes afterward.)

I couldn’t agree more: a business-boosting website presents everything as simply as possible. That includes functions, features, design, navigation and content.

How to Streamline Your Website Instead of Butcher It

It’s ironic that Paul uses old content to raise the battlecry for simplicity. The very first step he offers to encourage simplicity is: Remove elements. Obviously it matters a great deal what you cut. Some of your older content may be clutter – or it may be the most valuable material you’ve published. So before running off for the scissors let’s have a good close look at Paul’s recommendations for pursuing simplicity.

Before he gets to the 3 ways to simplify – he asks us to think through 3 questions to prepare –

  • How many people are asking for it [a given functionality]
  • Who is asking for it
  • How will it effect others?

These 3 questions make up such a small part in his post. But they deserve their own discussion. They point to the most important part of simplifying: Knowing what to remove.

The difference between butchering your website and streamining it is in knowing what to change.

That’s why I’d like to revisit the short but critical step of asking yourself 3 questions to encourage simplicity.

Let’s dive into

3 Questions to Ask to Simplify Your Website

1) How much is this page, function or feature used? To answer this question, you need good analytics. That is, you need good data about what parts of your site people are clicking, downloading, or spending time using. If you don’t know how to read your visitor statistics — or even if you’re collecting them — stop now and get a handle on gathering visitor info. You need hard feedback if you want to run a successful website – or else you’re driving blindfolded.

2) What is the target reader using? Is the intended audience using the stuff that’s getting the most activity? You might get the most visits for a blog post on a topic of past concern to you – but it keeps bringing in a notable stream of visitors. If you don’t plan to build your business around that old topic — you can take the bold step of removing that post. What are you losing if the traffic from it wasn’t good for your business. You’ve cleared the way to make the stuff intended for your target audience more visible.

3) When adding something, what happens to the content that’s already there? When you add on, is there room for it to fit with your current items, or are you squeezing it in? If your navigation bar is full, for example, you’ll need to re-work some of your menu items before you insert something new. If you’ve set up your site to show just the latest update on a category – you’ve got a system for showcasing new content. Take the time to plan for growth in your content — resist the temptation to try to make everything of top level importance. Take advantage of your publishing tools, which can often post the latest feature, and link to previous features — automatically.

To help you know true simplicity when you see it, I recommend the very popular and easy to read web usability book, Steven Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.  (Paul recommends it too.)

It’s tempting to jump into Paul’s 3 tactics for simplifying.  But the first step is to plan what to reduce.  Once you know that, you can follow his steps, which I think of as Cut, Collapse or Carve off to a new page.

Love simplicity too?  Share your thoughts with other readers -

 

Consultant Websites: 5 Parts to a Powerful Welcome Video

If you’re a consultant, teacher or coach, you may wonder what’s the best message for your website home page.  Should you introduce yourself, your specialty and how you help? Should you just greet and welcome people? Should you give a quick overview of your programs and offers? What about converting your visitor right away into a subscriber or buyer?

To Start: Say Who You Are and What Makes a Good Fit

Your overall goal is to lead the right visitors to become clients.  The job of the home page is to help your future client see instantly what’s most beneficial to them, and how to explore it. The first thought visitors have is whether there’s a good fit between their needs and your resources. You want to inspire your target clients to think: “This is for me.”

Give the Visitor Something of Value

A well-made home page video is one of the most powerful ways to introduce yourself, and build a frame of reference that instantly helps your target visitors feel included – like this is where they belong. It’s also a great place to offer needed tips, something of value, or your expertise.  You do this by explaining where to find free guidance and get instant help now.  After offering, ask for your visitor’s email address so you can send a free guide and lead visitors to explore more.

Use This Chance to Start an Interaction

Because your visitor should have to click to play it (no auto-plays on your home page please!), your home page video is a great way to spark interaction while building a good sense of what you offer.

5 Parts to a Welcome Video that Engages Good Prospects

Many consultants offer a video welcome, but some are more effective than others. By looking at good examples from professionals who are well regarded and successful, some common elements emerge.  The most effective videos have these 5 elements:

  1. Create a feeling of personal encounter; help the visitor feel welcome.
  2. Identify the ‘fit’: Define who the business intends to help. Your words, personal style and the setting work together to signal who is best suited to benefit.
  3. Address the visitor’s primary concern. Say what change your work makes possible.
  4. Enable your visitor to get useful help immediately.
  5. Promote conversion or action: Make clear what to do next.

Consultant Home Page Videos: 3 Great Examples

Here are 3 great examples of consultant welcome videos.  While the style or the industry may not apply to you, each one of these sets a great example of content that builds the target visitor’s interest and offers a pathway to explore working together.

1) Tad Hargrave’s Marketing for Hippies: Marketingforhippies.com

From Tad Hargrave's Welcome at Marketing For Hippies
From Tad Hargrave’s Welcome at Marketing For Hippies

This marketing consultant wants to attract ethically minded business owners who may well have mixed feelings about marketing. As you can tell by the domain name, Tad Hargrave is especially skilled at helping his clients identify themselves and see a good match with his services.   His video takes deliberate steps to help his target client feel included, appreciated, welcomed and helped – in the first 15 seconds. He does this by:

  1. Offering a friendly greeting and introducing himself by name
  2. Saying thanks to appreciate the visitor’s time and attention
  3. Drawing a quick frame of reference around the audience and top concerns: “Chances are you are a green local independent holistic community minded kind of entrepreneur who’s struggling with your marketing and not attracting enough clients.”
  4. Showing where to get immediate free marketing help: He introduces content a tab, the blog, and a free 195-page ebook with a quick summary of the content you get.
  5. Leading the visitor to explore the 3 places, emphasizing the opt-in form, saying the ebook is the most valuable freebie.

Here’s a direct link to the YouTube version of the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hPBS8nWIOBY

2) Fashion Stylist Elsa Isaac’s blog StyleSense

From Fashion Consultant Elsa Isaac's welcome video
From Fashion Consultant Elsa Isaac’s welcome video

Elsa Isaac’s informal video helps us see her as a positive, competent and helpful image consultant.  She delivers value immediately to relieve your fashion frustrations with a key insight and a free tool to equip you with a needed self-evaluation. Her presentation:

  1. Introduces herself by name with a friendly welcome
  2. Greets visitors with warmth and excitement: saying she’s “So so so thrilled that you’re here and checking me out.”
  3. Defines her identity and audience: she’s a professional NYC fashion stylist, on a mission to “help each and every one of you discover your true sense of style… “  She lays out her frame of reference to embrace an audience of women “frustrated with clothes frustrated with shopping frustrated with the idea of having to get up in the morning and put a good outfit together.”
  4. Offers an instant solution with her unique insight. The foundation to dressing with style, she says, is knowing your body shape, what works best for your shape, and what to avoid.
  5. Leads the visitor to the opt-in feature – a quick tool (4 short blanks) to help you determine your body shape. To get your analysis and recommended style, you submit your email address (you opt in).  Her video and home page gets us learning, interacting and joining at the same time.

Here’s a direct link to the Vimeo version of the video: http://vimeo.com/16067025#at=0

3)  Business Writing Consultant Ken O’Quinn, Writing with Clarity

Welcome video from Ken O'Quinn at Writing With Clarity
Welcome video from Ken O’Quinn at Writing With Clarity

This is a very effective demonstration style video.  Unlike the previous two examples, this defines the intended audience and main concerns by giving a free sample of the consultant at work, rather than a prepared welcome.

  1. This excerpt from a workshop shows us who fits as an audience by example – we see a group of employees in a more traditional business setting, clearly focused on Ken’s presentation.
  2. It first zeros in on the main concern – effective business communication – with a clear working definition
  3. We gain several insights we can use to check how well the next message we send is going to connect as we wish.  He empowers us with instant tips to improve our credibility and raise our chances at successful persuasion.
  4. The video is edited to give us concrete evidence of the speaker’s expertise, without wasted words.  We can see we will benefit with actionable advice gained with an economy of effort.
  5. The final frame ends on Ken’s name, contact information and website address.  He leads us to call or explore – with a prominent opt-in offer for more help below the video.

The YouTube link to this video is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=StEY8GU8jcA#!

How to Resist the Common Mistake of Self-Focus

You may be tempted to jump right in and start helping before you’ve made clear who you’re talking to, and to what end.  If you want your website to do its best to help you grow, you need to excite your visitor’s self-interest before you start talking about your offer.

A home page video is a powerful tool to do this, especially if you can reflect your client’s world with these 5 points: 1) Who you intend to help; 2) What problem you address; 3) What change you make possible 4) What ideas can give instant help now; 5) What to do next.

Match Your Message to Your Visitor’s Frame of Reference (Instead of Your Own)

It’s important to remember, your viewer’s state of mind is completely different from yours when it comes to your website.  You don’t need to remind yourself what problem you solve or which people and situations you’re designed to help.  But your home page isn’t intended to help you.  It’s for your visitors – people who need to know quickly if you can meaningfully address their most pressing problem.

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