Zoho Sites is now free, and it was an easy decision to make!

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The internet is a promise for value. For both the surfer and the creator, the internet promises value. Website builders try to show the creators a way to create without issue.  Despite the hundreds of options in the market there is, sadly, an absence of a complete builder that is accessible to the ones without a big paycheck. We are changing that. With Zoho Sites, you can now create, edit and host beautiful websites, for free!

Unsustainable Advertising 

Let’s think about why do website builders ask you to pay. Of the numerous website builders in the market, the most prominent distinction among the ‘best’ seems to be their marketing budget. Focusing primarily on visibility, these companies have been spending increasing amounts to catch eyeballs. One even spent millions for its 30 seconds of fame! Despite the excessive spending, these companies are barely reaching break-even. They are getting their visibility, but low-conversion rates were hurting their ability to generate revenue enough to justify expenses. The model had proven to be unsustainable and unstable. Read more

The importance of great branding for small businesses

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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizWinningTips. 

To most small business owners, branding seems more fit for multi-national corporations. Yet many don’t realize that branding, in some ways, is even more important for small businesses which are constantly trying to one-up the competition.

Even if you own, for example, a local corner convenience store that doesn’t seem to inspire any kind of grand marketing gesture, there are ways of branding that will entice customers to spend in your store versus the convenience store down the street.

Branding is more than having a business with a unique name or a restaurant that serves your grandmother’s favorite recipes. Branding encompasses everything in your business, from the way your employees treat your customers, to the bags that hold the purchased products.

5 Branding Tips for Small Businesses

  1. Prepare a one-page Mission Statement: This is an important document that will set the stage for how you do business. Make sure it highlights the elements that sets your business apart from your competitors and how that will engage your customers.
  2. Create Company Identity Standards: Expensive logos are not considered an important element to the small business brand. Yet it’s important to create a visual theme that includes how the company name is graphically configured (fonts, color scheme, images). These “standards” should be used as a base structure for all branding/marketing material that is to follow (i.e. brochures, promotional materials, etc.).
  3. Slogans/Themes: “Expect more, pay less” is Target’s slogan. In a few words, it communicates the company’s position versus their competitors. Yes, K-Mart could have said the same thing. But Target did it first and best. So differentiating your business also includes how you want to “position” it in the minds of the consumer against your competitors. Slogans/themes can be a great asset in branding, as long as your business “delivers” the promise, each and every time. Consider adding a slogan or theme to your company identity standards. Then include it in everything from the way the phones are answered to the close of the sale.
  4. Websites: While logos are no longer the all-important differentiating factor of a brand, websites are the future.  Even if your business is not an online e-commerce site, design a website that encompasses your company standards. If you are afraid that developing a website is too expensive, think again. There are software programs, online developers and outsourcing companies that can create your website for less than $500, and that includes web hosting.
  5. Say-do: This is something small businesses tend to forget and is a key point in branding. What your slogan, promotion or sales people tell your customers must come true. Consumers are reluctant to work with small businesses that say one thing and do another. It creates frustration, negative feelings and bad word-of-mouth. There is nothing worse than inconsistency and failure to deliver on the promise.

Evaluate your branding strategy every few months. Your customers are the ones who will test its efficacy. Alter as needed, but don’t start from scratch unless you have the budget to revise everything.

These 5 easy steps can make a world of difference in how your business is viewed. You can turn your “Mom and Pop Shop” into a growing contender for having the top brand and a growing piece of the market share with little effort and a great deal of forethought.

Rethinking On Typography With Google Web Fonts

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“Big type, even huge type, can be beautiful and useful. But poise is usually far more important than size — and poise consists primarily of emptiness.” – Robert Bringhurst

Picked that up when researching web fonts, and realized how very true it is with typography, just as it is with anything else. Typography is the easiest decision you can make towards achieving a dramatic difference in website experience.

We experimented with web fonts on our own websites and blog, and found that the outcome was indeed much better than what we had been shackled to. As a measure of passing on the goodness, we integrated select fonts into Zoho Sites, and plan to expand. Every website created on Zoho Sites will now have the web fonts edge.

Another good thing about it is that, unlike most other font libraries, it is open source. And, they can be downloaded for use locally as well. Google’s deep library of web fonts are reported to be used in well over than 100M web pages already, and is well on its way to becoming the new standard. We believe this is a refreshingly new way to rethink on overused conventional fonts.

Just in: Zoho CRM Web Forms and Button Element for Zoho Sites

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Website is the face of every business while CRM is the backbone. As a measure to link them both, we now have Zoho CRM web forms integrated with Zoho Sites.

All the customization is done in one place where the data is stored. With such integrated Website-CRM system, you will have streamlined and up-to-date information of Contacts, Cases and Leads at your disposal. You will be better prepared to make decisions for successful negotiations with customers. Here’s all the help you need.

Another significant feature that we are announcing today is the button element. The button element enables you to create call-to-action buttons that link to any other page, thereby making the links prominent.

Try them right away!

Merry-go-round of Pictures: Introducing Carousel Of Banner Images

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Images are the fanciest of all elements in a website. Today, we’re announcing a great new way to make the most of your images. Banner of a website gets the most exposure, and when it has animation, it adds to the attraction. This can be extremely useful when you advertise some event you are hosting, raise funds for a cause or to highlight your unique selling points.

Another advantage we are introducing, is page-specific banners. You can have different banner settings for each page, so that every page looks unique.

We have close to 20 effects to give you a wide choice of transitions. It eliminates the need for JavaScript and other technology involved in implementing these animations. Not everyone speaks JavaScript. All the proof of a pudding is in the eating. Experience it now.

Launching, 8 huesome themes

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A combination of technology and art is essential in the making of a great website. It is also important that theme speaks the soul of your business, and reflects the mood of what you want to convey. Launching, 8 new themes, mostly inspired by color combinations.

Measured:

To add a subtle touch to your business with a dash of measured hues.

Aristocrat: 

As aristocratic as Blue. A stylish but formal touch to your website. A poised one.

Timeless: 

The dull vintage lanterns glowing in gray adds to the classic feel. Preciously timeless..!

Teak:

A blended theme of solid wood with communication and technology. For a sturdy business design.

Compact:

Compact and self-sufficient design that gives a neat outlook. A humble design.

Twilight:

A theme that is explorable in all senses. The alternating Orange stripes are refreshingly fresh.

Destiny: 

A hazy white-toned palette, named “Destiny”, gives a very sophisticated look to your website with the tints underplayed.

Surreal:

A theme that is most suited to showcase your artistic works. With a mellow background, your project would be the highlight.

You can also use the visual editor on these new themes to come up with your own color combinations. Check them out.

Introducing a Visual Editor for Customizing Website Themes

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Website is one place where people judge by the cover, and are mostly right. That is why a good looking business website has a significant effect on the business. Zoho Sites had already made it easy for anyone to build such business websites easily. Today, we are making it even more friendlier on the design front.

Introducing, a visual editor to customize themes.

Till now, theme-customization could only be done with a bit of CSS. But not anymore. You can now customize visual properties of a theme, such as background image, menu, color, size and font face of text. Without a speck of HTML/CSS, of course. You can preview the changes as and when you make them.

What’s exciting about this visual editor is, using this, you can create umpteen different versions of the same theme. The themes in our gallery are ready-to-use, but you can re-paint them, so that they look just how you want, in every way. The customization of themes, together with flexible layouts and drag-drop builder, makes Zoho Sites the easiest way to create a business website, all by yourself. Try it out.