• Don’t Let Bloated Graphics Hijack Your Web Site

    The images on your company’s website have a big impact on visitors and are often their first impression of your business. So they need to be professional, up-to-date and fast. You want vibrant images and rich graphics, but if you have too many they can slow the site’s performance. I think we can all agree that no one likes to wait for a page to load, much less an image.

    Below are my six top tips for making sure your images aren’t bigger than your bandwidth.

    1. Compress, compress, compress. Digital pictures can take up an enormous amount of bandwidth if not properly compressed and that, in turn, can turn your website into a frustratingly slow experience. To keep images to a reasonable size, use a program such as Photoshop or Pixelmator and use the Save for Web and image export, respectively, to cut the size down. If you would like to make the image file size even smaller, you could also run the file through an image optimizer software like ImageOptim for the Mac. This application uses several compression algorithms to decrease the file size, yet keeps the image looking the same. ImageOptim can reduce PNG file sizes by 30-40%. The smaller the file size, the faster your site will load. Alternatively, you can reduce the physical dimensions of the image– for example, reducing a 3264 by 2448 jpg image from an iPhone 6 plus, down to 700 by 525, takes the file size down from 2 MB to 295KB. If you go a step further in Photoshop and save it for web, the file size drops to 71KB.
    2. Know your image formats. Different image formats have different uses. The older GIF format produces small files, but the images aren’t as sharp, and limited to 256 colors. GIFs are best for images with text and flat colors, as well as cute videos of cats. JPG images, on the other hand, are great for photographs or graphics with thousands of colors. However, be prepared for large, files of 3 to 5 MB’s on average. JPGs can, and should be, reduced through resizing and compression (see above) but that could possibly sacrifice some image clarity and colors. For images with large blocks of solid colors, you have a need for transparency and PNG graphics are best. PNG files compress well, but they will have an overall larger size than GIF and JPG images.



    3. Beware of large galleries. LightCMS (as well as other CMS applications) have an image “gallery” feature which allows web designers to put a number of small thumbnail-sized images on a single screen so the viewer can see them all at once. The viewer can then click on a small image and a larger version of it will load. However, you should keep in mind that galleries can load both the small and the large versions of each image causing the image files to compete for bandwidth.
    4. Use 3rd party video services. In the old days of Flash players, websites would host their own .flv’s and visitors with free Flash players could view them. Now, however, hosting Flash videos on a site is pretty much history. Today’s answer is to post your company videos to sites such as YouTube or Vimeo and embed the link on your site instead. The video plays on YouTube, saving you the storage space and bandwidth.
    5. Anticipate new technologies and how they may affect your site. Mobile devices created a need for more cleanly organized sites and fewer, smaller images. Now retina displays are moving things in the opposite direction with displays showing your site in a much higher resolution. To take advantage of the sharper capabilities of a retina display you can have two versions of each image, one for a retina-capable device and one for normal displays. The browser will look to see if the higher quality image is available and serve that image. If not, it will load the regular image.
    6. Make sure images are your own. Finally, make sure all of your images are your property. Designers are often tempted to “borrow” good images from other people’s sites. Don’t. The odds that someone will notice are higher than you think, and in the era of social media, your theft of someone else’s intellectual property could become a trending topic. Don’t you want to showcase your own high quality content for visitors to admire?
  • LightCMS Super Charges Steadfast Creative's Growth From One-Person Startup To A Thriving Digital Agency

    Cloud-Based Content Management System Enables Growth for Designers and Design Agencies

    OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.—December 3, 2014—LightCMS, a NetSuite (NYSE: N) company that provides a powerful, yet easy-to-use cloud-based content management system (CMS), today announced that Steadfast Creative, one of LightCMS’s strategic partner agencies, has used LightCMS to build more than 60 unique websites for small and medium-sized businesses. LightCMS provided the technology platform that helped launch the one-person startup based outside of Fort Worth, Texas, and has fueled its rapid growth over the past three years into a thriving eight-person digital marketing, branding and website development agency. LightCMS has helped Steadfast Creative ignite its business success with easy-to-use features and the creative flexibility to design rich, elegant websites that distinctively mirror a client’s brand.

    “LightCMS definitely gave us a solid backbone and enabled us to really leverage our creative skills to build the business,” said Steadfast Creative founder Brad Parnell, who founded the agency in 2011 and began using LightCMS as a freelancer several years earlier. “I’m a huge advocate of the platform and attribute a lot of our success to LightCMS. If we didn’t have it, I’m not sure we’d have as big a client base or be as successful as we have been.”

    Watch the video about Steadfast Creative’s partnership with LightCMS here.

    Steadfast Creative and its clients have benefited from the simple, intuitive site design and controls in LightCMS.

    These benefits include:

    • Using LightCMS has meant Steadfast Creative can focus on using their design expertise to deliver stunning sites that help the company’s clients attract and engage site visitors instead of spending time mastering specialized programming languages.
    • LightCMS’s support for responsive web design ensures that every LightCMS site displays optimally for the device being used to access that site, whether desktop, smartphone or tablet.
    • LightCMS’s simplicity makes it easy for non-technical users at client organizations to update and manage their sites themselves resulting in fewer support inquiries and more satisfied clients for Steadfast Creative.

    Parnell added, “With LightCMS, I was finally able to offer clients a user-friendly platform for blogging, editing content, uploading images and managing pages—and it’s all hosted. We work with a lot of very busy small business owners who don’t have the time to learn the software. Giving them a beautiful site and showing them how easy LightCMS is to use makes their lives so much easier.”

    Steadfast Creative recently joined the LightCMS Partner Platform program, designed to make it easier than ever for creative designers and resellers, like Steadfast Creative, to focus on what they do best—creating leading-edge websites with a standards-based platform. By taking advantage of the LightCMS Partner Platform, Steadfast Creative has introduced a new and simplified pricing model that provides its clients with websites that have unlimited pages, unlimited products and online store capabilities for a flat fee. For further information, please visit www.lightcms.com/partners.

    “It’s fantastic to see Steadfast Creative and other LightCMS partners unleash their creative talents and realize great business success with the platform,” said Justin Cowan, Director of Content Management for LightCMS. “We’re gratified to be able to collaborate with agencies and designers through the LightCMS Partner Platform to make it easier than ever for them to reach new levels and delight more clients.”

    About LightCMS

    LightCMS is a NetSuite company that provides a powerful, yet easy-to-use cloud-based platform for creating beautiful websites and online stores. Guided by its philosophy of sophisticated simplicity, LightCMS offers an ideal set of tools for individuals, non-profits, and small to medium-sized businesses who want to communicate, conduct business, and sell products online. LightCMS is also a leading platform of choice for web designers and creative agencies. With industry-leading design flexibility, LightCMS offers designers and developers the opportunity to create custom websites their clients can easily manage themselves. More than 175,000 users from around the world leverage the simplicity and flexibility LightCMS offers to build standout websites and online stores quickly.

    For more information about LightCMS, please visit www.lightcms.com.

    Follow LightCMS's blog, LightCMS's Facebook page and the @LightCMS Twitter handle for real-time updates.

    NOTE: NetSuite, the NetSuite logo, LightCMS, and the LightCMS logo are registered service marks of NetSuite Inc. or its affiliates.



  • New Features: Responsive Checkout, New Templates, and More

    This release of LightCMS brings exciting new changes to Checkout and the Form Builder as well as two new fully responsive designs. Keep reading to learn more about what you'll find in this release.

    Responsive Checkout

    For quite some time you've enjoyed responsive design on your website pages and in your web store. Now, just in time for your holiday shoppers, this release also brings responsive design to the Checkout page. Your web store visitors will now experience a seamless and fully responsive shopping experience, regardless of the devices they use for making purchases from your online store. 

    Click one of the images below for an expanded view.

    Desktop/Notebook Tablet Mobile
         

     

    Two New Responsive Designs

    This release includes two new responsive designs. As always, these designs are available for use on any LightCMS website at no extra charge. You can use the designs exactly as they are or make your own "tweaks" to the design by using our built-in design editor. If you're an advanced user, you can even download the design source code to use as a starting point for your own design.

    These two new designs are Civet and Liberty.

     Civet Liberty
       

    To see these designs in action for yourself, click one of the images above or  log in to LightCMS and go to the Designs section on the toolbar at the top of the page. Choose the Gallery, and look for our Featured Designs. You'll be able to apply them to your site or download their source files. You can also see these designs in the LightCMS Design Viewer.

    Updated Form Builder

    This release gives the Form Builder an updated look, bringing its appearance inline with the rest of LightCMS elements. The form builder functions exactly as it always has, providing you with a simple-to-use and sophisticated tool for creating forms on your site.

    Enhanced Form Builder Security

    To promote increased security of LightCMS and your business, we have made a change to the Form Builder element on trial sites. This update is only for the sites created when a user signs up on the LightCMS.com website. Users on these trial sites can still create forms and see the forms on the page, just as they always have. Now, however, the user must be logged to submit the form. This limitation is lifted when the user upgrades to a paid site. By making this change, we will help keep the integrity of the IP and of all LightCMS sites.

    Releasing November 25th

    Look for these changes on the morning of November 25th, just in time for Thanksgiving! For a look at what else is contained in this release, take a look at the 2014.12 release notes below.


     

    2014.12 Release Notes

    New Features

    • The Check Out page now has a responsive design, making for a friendlier, easier-to-use check out experience.
    • Two new responsive designs, Civet and Liberty are now available in the Featured Designs section of the Design Gallery.

    Enhancements

    • The Form Builder element has an updated new look that brings its appearance inline with other LightCMS elements.
    • Increased Form Builder security now means that a user on a trial site must be logged in to submit a form. This limitation is lifted when a site is upgraded to a paid site. Trial sites created by a reseller are not subject to this limitation.

    Resolved Issues

    • The system now provides descriptive error message instead of a generic message when reporting errors for the Stripe payment gateway.
    • RSS feeds now account for blog post times.
    • The LightCMS.com signup process now excludes special characters.
    • Store currency selection is no longer limited when the Stripe payment gateway is in use.
    • iCal imports from iCloud are working again.
    • Leading and trailing spaces have been removed from the blog post title HTML when viewing a blog post.

       

     

  • So You’re On the LightCMS Partner Platform…Now What?

    You love designing websites, not dealing with invoices and conducting server maintenance. That is why you became a LightCMS partner in the first place, right? The LightCMS cloud-based content management and web design platform was set up to make it easier for designers to focus on the creative aspects of their business rather than getting bogged down in the operational details. But to develop a strong presence as a web design firm, you should first learn about and how to take advantage of the LightCMS partner tools. Here are some of the resources and advice to get you on the right track.

    How-to videos and documentation. On the LightCMS partner help site, you’ll find a lot of helpful articles, videos and documentation on using the LightCMS tools, as well as tips showing how to customize sites for different clients.

    Free demo sites. LightCMS provides each partner with one free site. You can choose to use that as your actual business website, or turn it into a demo site to showcase your capabilities and the LightCMS platform. With the help of LightCMS’s free design templates, you don’t need to be an expert designer to quickly create a working demo. In fact, it’s possible to develop a demo site of two to four pages in less than an hour using a template, some of your own photos, corporate logo and web copy. In addition, you can leverage the LightCMS 14-day trial period that each new customer gets to create a custom demo for each hot prospect, then activate it when they’re ready to go forward.

    Responsive design templates. Today’s websites have to be accessible by all types of devices, from cell phones and tablets to large desktop monitors. That requires responsive web design, an approach for creating sites that can automatically adapt to the screen sizes of a wide range of devices. To ensure your clients’ sites can support their customers’ diverse needs, LightCMS provides multiple responsive design templates, free to its partners. You can also develop and implement your own custom templates. Once you’re happy with your template, just drop in a tiny snippet of code wherever you want your users to be able to add or edit content. The LightCMS system takes care of the rest.

    Flexible packaging options. LightCMS charges $19 per month per site. However, partners have a variety of different ways they can charge their customers. You can add 10, 20, 50 percent or more to the monthly price and bill customers the fees that you choose. Or you can have LightCMS bill you directly for the $19 while you bill your customers separately for hosting, design services, or other extras. Or you can bundle your services with LightCMS and create different packages to target different customer needs. For example, you might offer a one-time website and logo redesign package for a new business which wants to then take over management of its own site, while offering another package for long-term customers as part of a new customer web redesign package. Another bundle might provide long-term web site consulting, design and management services to a client who wants to outsource the oversight of it. You have the flexibility to create the packages and price structure best suited to your company.

    Marketing assistance. LightCMS offers advice on how to market and grow your business. If you’re new to the business, think about what types of organizations you want to focus on, and what services to sell. If you’ve already designed a few websites, consider targeting other businesses in those niches. Local churches, nonprofits, legal firms, schools, fitness centers, medical clinics, hair salons . . . they all need help designing web sites just for their businesses. There are dozens of potential markets, but it’s best to start with two or three and expand as you get more reference clients. Your LightCMS account manager can provide feedback and advice, and you’ll also find articles and blog posts on the LightCMS web site.

    Whether you're designing a single site or building a web design business, the LightCMS Partner Platform has the tools to help you do it well.

    To find out what other services LightCMS can provide to get your business growing, visit http://www.lightcms.com/partners.



  • Six Tips for Treating Your Website's Content and Audience with Care

    There is a lot you may want to share with your website visitors. But not all of it can, or should, be shared equally. Here are some basic, but critical, tips on web content organization and management.

    Don't cram content "above the fold." This is an old term from newspapers, which used to be folded in half, with the banner headline on top. Any story that ran above the fold of the newspaper was considered breaking news. However, websites don't have folds and the screen resolution of today's monitors is much better than it used to be -- they can display an entire page at once. Also, with the wide range of monitors, laptops, tablets and cell phones it's impossible to know where the fold will be for every display. So instead, arrange your content thoughtfully to draw people into your site and guide them through the page. Then let them use the scroll bar as needed.

    Don't overpopulate the homepage. Likewise, don't treat your homepage as your only page. It's common for web managers, especially in small or nonprofit organizations, to gradually overbook the homepage as new and “important” content comes in, while the older content never gets removed. That can result in the endlessly scrolling home page. While people are used to some scrolling, they don't expect to navigate three-foot long webpages (as they might have in the early days of the web). Today people get bored quickly, so keep your homepage content fresh, interesting, and short. Provide links and navigation buttons for visitors to reach other content not located on the homepage.

    Be consistent with typefaces, fonts and colors. The classic new designer's mistake is to fall in love with fonts and typefaces -- lots of them. But going overboard with multiple typefaces (the style, such as Garamond) and fonts (size and weight) makes it hard on readers. It winds up making a webpage look confusing and unprofessional. Instead, select two fonts, one for titles and one for content text. Usually, one will be a serif typeface (e.g. Caslon) and the other sans serif (Proxima Nova). Also avoid too much bolding, highlighting, underlining, colors, etc. Be bold with your design, but conservative with your font treatments. If you have a professionally designed template you can use, like the included designs in LightCMS, stick to it and avoid going outside its styles.

    Update regularly. Once you start a blog, or a news area, or a series of articles -- keep it updated. Nothing says "out of business" like a blog that was updated a year ago or a press release from six months past. If you can't commit to updates, then keep the site simple with just contact information, an overview of your organization's purpose, and other static content.

    Use SEO keywords carefully. It is often tempting to get as many keywords into your content as possible, to help it turn up in searches. However, too much repetition of keywords and phrases is a turn-off to would-be consumers who can quickly sense a ploy for hits vs. quality content. So select those four or five keywords that really represent your business. Use them whenever it makes sense, but not multiple times in one short article.

    Most of all, know your audience and what content they want to see. Then give it to them in as clear and concise a manner as possible. They'll appreciate it.

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