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Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

How to get your SEO in order: Part 1 – Design

Friday, July 18th, 2014

SEOSearch Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of making your website attractive to search engines like Google. The optimisation process is intended to help your website appear higher in the rankings, thereby increasing the chances of customers clicking through and making a purchase.

But before your website even goes live, the SEO process has started. According to Google:

“Poor coding interrupts user experience, design, site speed and the ability for search engines to crawl your site.”

So the initial design and development of your site could have a major impact on how easily found it is. Webpages that are full of coding errors are slow to load, and hard for search engines to crawl and index. And the harder you make Google’s job, the lower it appears in search results.

When commissioning your new website, ensure that your web designer has a stringent testing process in place to identify and fix coding errors prior to go live. You should also ask them about the inclusion of ‘schema’, a special markup language that helps search engines identify the kind of content being displayed on your webpages.

Finally, make sure your web developer also implements a user testing strategy. This will help you check that people can find the information they need quickly and easily. Because if they can’t, they will visit one of your competitors who can. Their departure then contributes to the site’s bounce rate – the number of people who leave without interacting – which in turn negatively affects your search engine ranking.

Customer reviews – are they any good for your website?

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

customer reviewsWhen designing a new website, choosing what to exclude is just as important as what to include. So should you include customer reviews and testimonials?

The risks

The greatest risk of soliciting customer reviews is that people may actually say negative things about your company. Big companies spend thousands of pounds every year trying to combat negative sentiment on social media and public forums. Where your business continues to gather negative reviews, you may find that there are some serious operational failings that need to be corrected.

The benefits

However exposing yourself in this way also carries benefits: 54% of people read ratings and reviews before making a purchase. Word of mouth advertising is still the most powerful advertising method, even on the Internet. People are more trusting of businesses that are willing to expose their weaknesses as well as their strengths – particularly if they make efforts in public to try and make amends. Reviews on third party websites provide valuable links back to your websites, helping to boost your search engine listings.

Ultimately customer reviews are no longer optional. With more than half of all web users seeking out reviews by previous customers, if your company does not list feedback, you are potentially missing out. Obviously there are several different ways to implement customer review collection and display. However it is essential to consider which is best for your site, rather than whether you should implement reviews at all.

Comic Sans: The Marmite of web design?

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Comic sans fontIn the world of web design, there are few issues as contentious as the use of the Comic Sans font. The world is seemingly divided into two distinct camps – those who love the font and those who loathe it.

The idea that a particular design of letters can be so divisive is surprising, but it also reveals an important dilemma about web design – it’s definitely worth thinking long and hard about using Comic Sans on your website.

The ‘casual’ typeface may have the unintended consequence of making your website (and therefore your business) look casual. Although it is important to appear approachable to customers, an overly casual approach may lead people to question your professionalism.

There is also the question of alienation. Using a font that stirs up such depth of emotion means that you will immediately lose the interest (and money) of visitors who hate Comic Sans, regardless of how good your products are, or how keen your pricing may be. They may simply disengage on sight, losing you a proportion of your potential sales on design alone.

Ultimately it is for you to determine what font best reflects your brand: only use Comic Sans if you are confident you will gain more customers than you will lose.

Comic Sans celebrates its 20th birthday this year – the perfect opportunity to re-visit its origins. The font was designed by Vincent Connare for Microsoft to use in the Windows 95 operating system. Based on the lettering used in comic books, Connare never intended for the font to be used in business documents – a fact web designers and site owners may do well to remember.

Reducing your website bounce rate

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Bounce rateKeeping website visitors on your site for as long as possible is not only important for increasing sales, but it also help improve your search engine rankings. ‘Bounce rates’, the percentage of users who leave your website shortly after arriving, are now used by search engines to ascertain how useful your content is, and therefore how relevant your site will be to new visitors.

So to keep your website bounce rate low:

Create top quality content

Publish articles and content that your visitors will value. Better still, publish content that they cannot get anywhere else. In this way people will not only stick around to read more, but they are also much more likely to come back in future.

Think about navigation

How do people get around your website to find the information they need? Is the journey as simple and intuitive as possible? If not, your visitors will end up frustrated and go elsewhere – almost certainly to one of your competitors. Make sure your navigation works well and you will see your bounce rate reduce accordingly.

Don’t forget mobile users

More and more people are browsing the web from mobile devices, and they naturally prefer sites optimised for their small screens. If your site doesn’t display properly in a mobile web browser, they are not going to waste their time pinching and zooming to read text.

Diary of a Modern Apprentice (Now a Media Sensation!)

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

So…. 5 months have flown by here at NSDesign! Where has the time actually gone! So much has happened in this time! I’ve passed my driving test (first time may I add), I’ve visited QA Apprenticeship’s training building, had some professional photos taken, held my first solo client meeting, written an article for Scottish Apprenticeship Week in association with Skills Development Scotland, been featured in the Paisley Gazette and Paisley Daily Express, ran my first ever 10K as part of the NSDesign’s fundraising campaign for Funding Neuro: “The NSDesign BIG Run” and so much more… Where do I even start?

As the time goes on, I’m beginning to believe the phrase that “Time flies when you’re having fun”. It’s true…  As much as I loved school, the time seemed to pass very slowly. First to third year was a breeze but from fourth year onwards, each day felt like watching a season of 24 in one day… long and boring. Sorry Kenny! Working with the guys here however is very much different! Each day flies in. Whether that is because my caffeine intake has upped due to the various cups of coffee that are made throughout the day or the fact that I enjoy my days here – I’ll never know! In all seriousness however, I love how things are going and to be quite honest … I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve had a motto for years that “Things always sort themselves out” – and I’ve always said it, through the hardest times. For me, whether its truth or fate… It’s never let me down. I’ve been lucky to secure an excellent job with a bunch of wonderful people! I’ve picked up some good habits – I’ve started training for the 10K’s as have “most” of the other guys! I’ve pushed myself to run for miles! In January I could hardly run for ten minutes let alone an hour! On Saturday (17th May), I completed my first ever 10K within 58mins and 24secs – so that was something to smile about!

10325314_10152224548104775_832011172548761436_nBy the way, if you fancy supporting us in our bid to raise funds for the wonderful charity that is Funding Neuro, you can read more about our campaign and donate at:


So in that respect, it’s not all about what I’ve picked up in terms of technical knowledge – I can now run for miles!

Speaking of miles, I’m now a holder of a driving license so if you see a black Vauxhall Corsa coming towards you, drive the opposite way for your own safety! I’m joking of course! I managed to pass my driving test in March from my 1st attempt – I couldn’t help but mention it! Up there with the proud moments of my life so far!

Back to the script however, I have been brushing up on my technical skills – I’ve been playing about with JavaScript and bits and bobs of HTML and CSS. I’ve been looking at media queries recently as part of Responsive Design. Before I know it, It’ll be August and I’ll be off to QA for my “Databases and MySQL” course – which I am very much looking forward to!

This week however, is Scottish Apprenticeships week, so I thought it would be appropriate to highlight the article that I wrote for Skills Development Scotland. I was initially given a brief that required a piece of writing of my choice which was to be around 400 words – suffice to say I smashed that with 1000 words and the end product had to be cut down. Oops! However, it’s finally here and you can check it out here:



Here’s a snippet of what’s coming up for me in the next wee while:

30th May – Embrace the Space -  To secure YOUR place, visit www.embracethespace.co.uk

15th June – Team NSDesign run the Men’s Health 10K - www.Justgiving.com/nsdesignbigrun

18th August – Database and SQL Course - My next 2 week course as part of the Modern Apprenticeship

So lots happening in the busy life of an apprentice! No complaints and no regrets. 

Here’s to the future!

A picture paints a thousand words … but you still need text

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Web design and imagesA well-designed website carefully balances images and text to convey the intended meaning. There are two main factors to consider when designing the site – how text will affect the layout, and how the site appears to visually impaired users.

Text and wireframes

Web designers love to create wireframes that show how a completed website will look. As part of these wireframes they often include placeholders for the text. But to maintain the overall appearance of the site, the placeholder is constrained – you have to fit the text to the box, risking important details being left out of the finished design.

Try and get involved with your web designer from the start of the design process to ensure that designs accommodate everything you need to say.

Text and the visually impaired

Blind and visually impaired customers can surf the web with the assistance of ‘screen reading’ browsers. These browsers read aloud the contents of webpages so that the user understands what is written on screen.

Consequently, screen readers struggle with image-heavy websites, so that the user does not understand what they are being told. Where a website fails to deliver the information they need, the user will simply click-off to visit a competitor with a site that better balances images and text.

Online graphics and videos are on the rise, and rightly so, but it is extremely important to consider your text at every stage of the design process.

How are small businesses using the web?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Small business owner with laptopUnderstanding how to leverage the power of the internet is essential to the success of the modern small business. Here are four surprising statistics about how small businesses are using (or not using) the web:

1. A quarter of small businesses still do not have websites

In 2011, less than 50% of SMEs had a website; three years later and that figure is down to 26.6%. Despite the rapid rate of uptake, some SMEs are still being left behind in the digital revolution.

2. YouTube is massive

Only 2% of internet users have never watched a YouTube video. This matters because YouTube (and online video in general) presents an opportunity for SMEs to connect with customers, better explain products and services and to compete with their larger rivals in a forum where customers are already looking for information.

3. Businesses miss “offline” promotional opportunities

Lectures, workshops and presentations are all great ways to demonstrate skills and experience, and to drive visitors to websites. However just 36% of small business owners take the opportunity, meaning two-thirds of small businesses are missing the opportunity to raise their profile and increase website traffic through word of mouth.

4. Social media is confusing

When asked what was the biggest hurdle to using social media effectively, 48% of small business owners claimed it was simply knowing where to start. Other issues included generating an ROI, or knowing which social networks to target. But with so many businesses confused as to how they should begin, these other problems could be directly related.

Why should you pay for a responsive website?

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Responsive websiteMuch is being made of mobile-friendly websites these days, not least because of the rise in mobile device usage. Responsive websites, which automatically adjust what you see on screen to accommodate screens of any size, are thought by many to be the ideal solution to making websites accessible on smartphones and tablets.

But for the cash-strapped SME, why should you spend the extra cash, rather than sticking with your standard website aimed at desktop PC users?

Because smartphone users surf the web!

It may sound obvious, but smartphone owners use their devices to surf the web regularly. In fact 95% of smartphone owners do so, favouring sites that display well on their smaller screens.

More importantly however, 9 out of 10 searches conducted on a smartphone lead to action and, according to a SearchEngineLand study, more than half lead to a sale! Clearly, smartphone users are keen to engage in your sales and marketing process.Therefore, anything you can do to make their lives easier as they surf the web from their phones will have a direct benefit for your business.

To give some context to these figures, it is worth remembering that 4 billion people now use online mobile devices and that number is sure to keep on rising.

When faced with these kinds of statistics, the question shifts from “can we afford to have a responsive website?”, to “can we afford not to have a responsive website?”

Diary of a Modern Apprentice (Settling in – Three months in the Job!)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

IMG_2950Almost three months have passed me by here at NSDesign! Where has the time gone? It seems like only last week I started with the company! This month however has been a little different to previous months here:

1) I’ve met with my “QA tutor” – Greg Parker.
2) I’ve been more involved with the design guys – helping to fix and upload content to client websites.
3) I’ve attended my first ever Social Media Master Class – Embrace The Space

Embrace The Space probably has to be my favourite out off all these events that have taken place because Gary and Colin have told me to write this it’s something I love! Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram –are platforms I use every single day of my life – Imagine getting paid to not only use these, but to explore them and research into the ever-changing features. Aside from the personal uses of these platforms – having an insight into business use through Hoot Suite is something that really amazed me! It’s amazing how social media can ‘drum-up’ business! The day really flew in and before I knew it 9am had turned into 5pm and it was the weekend – that was a great ending to last week! Not only did I come, but my mum also came along – being a business owner. We both came home that night feeling very inspired! We even sat down at the computer and spent the evening exploring new opportunities for her business through social media.

On a whole, the day really was excellent – it was great to network with the other business owners there – the atmosphere was relaxed and fun and the content was second to none! Great job Gary and Colin!

I’m keen to learn more about social media and just hope Gary and Colin will let me in to eavesdrop on their upcoming training workshops!

One thing I never imagined I’d do after starting my apprenticeship is going to the Glasgow Rocks Basketball games! Since NSDesign sponsor The Glasgow Rocks, The Braehead Clan and Morton Football Club – we have sponsor tickets that we can use. I had only been to see The Rocks a few times in the past but now that the tickets are there for me to use, I’ve been going to every home game since January and I have really got hooked! I’m not quite at the “Shouting furiously from the sidelines” stage like Gary but I am pretty close to it! I guess it’s just one of the perks of the job! #GOROCKS

Next month I am starting my first, 2 week long, C#.net coding course at QA Apprenticeships in Glasgow! – It will be strange not coming into the office for 2 weeks, or seeing any of my colleagues (though maybe they’ll enjoy the peace and quiet!). In saying this however, I can’t wait to get started!  Another wee chapter in my apprenticeship journey!

(also – I’ve been perfecting my LinkedIn profile – one of the things I was taught at the masterclass!  Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn)

Can your website visitors find what they’re looking for?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Searching through a Magnifying GlassThe most successful websites make it very easy for visitors to find the information they need. When designing a new website, this should be one of the most important considerations you make.

Pages and categories

Although people like to have plenty of information available, they also need it to be easy to find. If you have a content-heavy site, try to split your pages into logical groups to form the basis of your menu structure.

Always remember that there is such a thing as too much information – the visitor doesn’t need to know every last detail about your company; they just need enough information to inspire them to make a purchase or an enquiry.

Search tool

As people have come to rely on Google to ‘find’ everything they need, the same expectation of being able to make a search query can often be applied to other websites, possibly including yours. You may wish to consider including a search tool within your web design.

Your web developer will be able to assist with choosing the best search tool to incorporate into your site, but it is important that such a tool a) returns accurate search results and (b) is relatively quick in operation.

If at any time you’re unsure what information or tools to include or exclude from your website, just ask yourself what would help you to come to a purchase decision if you were a customer browsing the website.