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Old 01-05-2013, 02:41 PM
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tonygreek tonygreek is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Lancaster, PA
Posts: 3,283
Hi, Rich. From the look of your site, you've been grinding away and kudos on the domain name. Congrats on taking the jump. I start reviewing from the first impression and wind my way through, tending to take a circuitous approach as I review a site, so hopefully I don't jump around on you too much.

It looks like you're using a site builder from 1&1? If so, I think Greg is our resident expert on that one, so hopefully he'll weigh in with any suggestions. I'm not sure what their builder's SEO and design restraints are like.

Starting with the visual, the background image really pulls my focus away from trying to read the content. Since you're site is primarily green and white, the background, to my eye, really detracts from the message. White text can be tricky to pull off, and while a green background can work with it, the fibers and droplets of water on the leaves create some visual static. The other issue is that the images is too small, so it's tiling on my "typical resolution" screen.

Font-wise, I would mix it up a bit. You've got a little bit of Verdana going on for the navigation and then it's a sea of white, unbroken Georgia. I do like the content line spacing, but maybe kick the <p> font up a pixel or two. When I do so, via Chrome's right click/inspect element developer tools**, it really makes it much easier to read. If you're target demo features people who have less than youthful eyesight, these are things you might want to consider tweaking.

**This is a great way to make quick visual changes to your site without having to go through your site builder. Change background or other colors, font size/color/face, turn on and off background images, etc.

Continuing with the fonts, I see two different colors of green used, both for links and the "call us at". With those being two distinctly different intended uses, I wouldn't have them so similar. Also, be aware that, in Chrome, your phone number turns into a blue link for calling via Google Voice. This is a difficult read with the background image.

The banner isn't working for me, mostly because it looks like a scan from a brochure. If you have the original logo art, I'd suggest rebuilding the look of the banner with higher-quality, separated components. As it is, the entire banner is one image, but the bulk of that is flat color that shouldn't be in a .jpg format, which is why it looks degraded and grainy. Due to some spacing issue of the logo and white space, the gradient at the base of it probably shouldn't be overlapping the logo.

Hit Counters: I would drop this from your site. It's one of those elements that used to be used quite a bit many years ago, but is now viewed as a kitschy throw-in. To me, they're like the meta keywords tag in that it's nothing more than a tip to your competition. With the addition of the counter, I can now easily track what you're targeting and how well it's working for you.

Location & Contact Info: I have to hunt to find where you service and how to contact you. Also, does it behoove the visitor and/or search engines to know what the "tri-cities" are? I see three counties listed and a list of cities.

Simplify Your Home Page: There's a lot going on there, and with the similar fonts, it takes effort to process what my ADD-addled brain is looking at and where I should go next. You might be better served to lead a visitor through the site, but again, this could probably be refined with fonts and better defined content sections (white, horizontal rules seem to be the go-to method for defining sections, but maybe the left column could have further delineation?).

Reiterate contact/service area in the footer.

Gallery Pages: The Project Gallery content fonts seem to be a roller coaster, deviating from what you set out with on the home page.

While "pictures --may be-- worth more than a thousand words", potential customers and search engines like descriptions to set context for what they're looking at. Same goes for the other Gallery pages. I also think the photos are lost in the green bacground pic. There's another thread going re: color selection where I allude to the lack of contrast between green design elements and pictures that feature green in them. There's just a general lack of pop and increased washout.

Really awesome catalog of pics, with some needing a bit of color/contrast retouching, but the only big thing I would say is to keyword caption them for the previously mentioned reasons.

On the Hardscapes Gallery page, the "plants, sod, mulch" link is opening a new browser window. Seems it has an extraneous bit of code you'll want to drop to get rid of that. Look for "target="_blank" and get rid of it via the builder's link properties or in the code.

Sub-Navigation Menu (upper left): it looks too similar to the content, and with not defining link characteristics, it takes the user rolling over it to find that it's a link.

Scaled Design: I'm guessing this is an in-process page, but if not, what is "scaled design"? If I'm a customer, and don't know, give me a reason this is something I should pay attention to. Customer Education = Upselling (I'd also enhance the photos a bit so that they look a bit more professional - higher contrast, more white, will help get away from the "took picture, uploaded picture" look.

By now, you're probably ready to punch me in the face... but, really, you've got the bones, it's just mostly visual tweaks for usability's sake.

About Us: "we develop unique solutions for you" could be more beneficially descriptive with a keyword after "unique", ie "we develop unique landscape solutions for you". First paragraph has a break in the 4th line.

Contact Page: The form is a bit daunting looking, but it's probably due to the single row, vertical layout of it. Also, due to the Chrome blue phone number, I can't read the phone number on this page at all.

Here's a pic that shows what I'm looking at. The two green fonts and the blue phone link...

General Content Writing: Be descriptive and educational. You can tell me waaaay more about Waterscapes than "we know how to do 'em". Assuming that one's a work in progress, it still helps to remember that as you mention any service.

SEO: Minimal on-page SEO. You could stand to rewrite the TITLE tag, as well as employ the use of H tags, Image Alts, and linking to other pages/sections of your site from the content itself. Linking from the content, and not relying on navigation menus, is a great way to lead customers and search engines through your site.

Check out these for SEO help:
Google SEO Guide
seoMoz's Beginner's Guide to SEO

Any questions, just yell.
I know lawn & landscape marketing, branding, and web strategy. I'm not anonymous, I just don't self-promote.
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