How many are you?
I am independant. Thats the unique aspect of my services. By focusing on individuals and smaller businesses, you are gratified with a personalized relationship where all the development steps are covered by the same person who keeps a broad view of each processes of the project. You can be confident that, in the future, you will be dealing with the same person for continuous support or newer projects, with relevant experience regarding your endeveours and yourself.
How many years of experience do you have in the field?
My first professional web site was done in 1998, so approximatively 6 years. Long enough to have observed many hyped technologies, with the only redeeming qualitiy of being new, come and go and waste many companies' money. I acquired a critical eye in that field and the confidence to recognize the important elements of a successful web site and the little details that make all the differences.
What is your career path?
I worked for the same company (Logo Computer Systems Inc.) for 8 years as a webmaster, computer graphic designer and web programmer. During that time, I also participated with various projects related to the web, such as the financial magazine Tigerinvestor.com (now offline), which I was the co-founder, and I realised many contracts as an independant that you can browse in my Portfolio section. After acquiring the necessary experience and a critical number of clients, I went on my own.
What are the most important qualities for a successful web site?
Here are in descending order of importance the qualities that I consider crucial:
It is important that your site be a tool of information and education for the topic that you are covering. A simple pamphlet with some images and contact information would not exploit the true nature of the web medium to its fullest and all its advantages. It won't also satisfy visitors who come usually for the purpose of getting more information on your products and services, but also the particular field they belong to, whether you are an artist, a professional or a company. Make sure to inform on the nature of your services while you are selling them. You aren't as limited as with most other mediums. Give your visitors a reason to stay, and come back. As the saying goes: "content is king".
User friendliness of the experience
The usability of a web site is a lot more important than many people tend to admit, especially those coming from the graphical side of the printing industry who tends to favor originality or eye candy to clarity and functionality. A web site is as much an interactive application, such as softwares, as a magazine, so it is important to apply the rules that made the success for popular softwares and other multimedia products. These tested out rules even have their own field of study called "usability", another word for user friendliness. The navigation for the site must be intuitive, clear, and the presentation, ergonomical. If a visitor do no feel like he knows where he is, or if loses too much time finding his way around, he will simply quit for greener pastures. Everything must be structured logically, easy to understand and accessible. Outside of a few exceptions, visitors do not expect to learn the "how", but rather, expect to reach easily the "what".
The look of site always has an undeniable emotional impact on what people will think of your company and your products. A web site with a professional design increase your commercial credibility and makes the experience of browsing appealing to visitors, which will help keeping them and have them back. A first impression is strategically profitable, but appearance must not come before functionnality and content.
Compliance with the HTML standard and search engines
The clarity and the standard compliance of the HTML code is important if you want an easy to update web site that will be compatible with a maximum of browsers and other derivative web softwares. A site that uses the structural aspect of HTML also has the benefit of being better ranked with search engines, which can greatly increase your popularity and the chances that potential customers find your services and products.
This is a simple point, but still very important: a web page has to be downloaded in a few seconds for a pleasant experience, otherwise you may frustrate your users, where half of them are still on dialup modems. Make sure to organise your content in many small sized pages that are logically structured.
In July (2004), there were an estimated 63 million broadband users, or 51% of all home Internet users, compared with 61.3 million dial-up users, 49% of the total.
What is a SEO expert? What does "White Hat" et "Black Hat" mean?
The field of search engine optimizers (also called SEO) is divided in two camps that are called "white hats" and "black hats".
The first one is composed of individuals, like me, that optimizes a web site to its maximal potential for ranking well with search engines in regards with popular keywords where they truly offer relevant information for users, while respecting ethical guidelines, submitted by the search engines themselves, that list illegitimate practices. Here are the Google guidelines and the Yahoo! guidelines. In other words, we do not use methods that manipulate results while deceiving users in order to get a maximum of traffic. We create pages primarely for users, not engines robots.
The "black hats" camps will do everything that it technically can to exploit search engine algorithms in order to attract traffic while not providing valuable content to the users, or at least, content that would deserve high rankings. They create pages for search engine first, users second. They can use "cloaking", which consists of providing different textual content between users and search engines, where the latter is obviously highly optimized for certain keywords, to the point of making no sense for a human reader. They will repeat certain keywords in hidden parts of a page. They can create hundreds of similar pages in order to capture all the possible variations of key phrases. And more. These people are in it for short term and easy gains. However, search engine companies frequently ban those sites from their results (often tipped by a competitor), because they pollute results and frustrate searchers with useless sites.
If you are looking for SEOs, make sure to know in which side of the industry they really are, as they could indeed give you a popularity boost in the short term, but search engines will in time ban your site, your traffic will disappear completely and your domain name will be greatly devalued.