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Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

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.

Why you need a tablet-friendly website

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

modern digital tablet with mobile smartphoneDesigning a website that looks great on handheld devices is often way down on the list of business priorities. If you already have a website that looks fine on a PC, why do you need to worry about how it looks on a smartphone or tablet?

The short answer is money.

Mobile marketing statistics published by Smart Insights shows that over 20% of all web traffic now comes from handheld devices. But although mobile devices only comprise one in five visitors to your website, tablet users are actually more likely to buy something than those using a laptop or desktop computer. Sales conversion rates are now higher for tablet users than for PC users.

Another survey by Nielsen late last year found that 38% of tablet users and 24% of smartphone owners had made at least one purchase on their devices. Surfing the Internet from a tablet continues to increase in popularity, with traffic more than doubling in volume between January 2012 and January 2013.

Responsive design is the best way to create a website that looks great on any device. By using technology that adapts the site to fit whatever device is being used to access it, you can save a lot of money on creating an entirely new mobile website.

You will also have a site that provides a competitive advantage, because visitors are actively choosing to use sites that reduce zooming and scrolling and provide a pleasant user experience.

Enabling customer contact via your ecommerce site

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Customer operatorWith a website in place, your business is ready to operate 24x7x365, selling goods and services to customers across the world. But what happens when they run into problems or need to return something?

As part of the distance trading regulations, your business is already required to publish your registered trading address somewhere on your website. It also makes good sense to put your business telephone on your site along with explicit details of your trading hours so people know when they can expect their calls to be answered.

However, electronic shoppers often prefer electronic methods to get in touch, particularly if they live in another time zone. You should try and make it as easy as possible for customers to get in contact by using as many channels as you can manage. As well as a ‘helpline’ type email address and contact form, you could offer:

Social media contacts

Connect with customers and resolve their problems using your company Facebook page or Twitter feed. Be warned however – social media users will expect a response from your brand in no more than a few hours.

Customer forums

Your business could also try and create its own customer community built around a forum. Forums allow your customers to discuss their purchases and raise issues with your team directly. By creating the right culture, you can also encourage loyal customers to try and resolve issues for other users, helping to reduce your own support workload.

The importance of fonts for your new website

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Alphabet letters representing website fontsWhen designing a new company website, every aspect of the appearance plays a part in its success. Therefore it’s unsurprising that your choice of font will play a large part in defining your users’ experience. Here are a few questions to ask when you’re choosing fonts for your new website:

Is it legible?

Some fonts, particularly cursive lettering, can be quite difficult to read at the best of times. Because it takes more effort to read a ‘joined up’ font, your website visitors will have to work harder to extract the information they need. Many may be tempted to give up however, and click off to visit one of your competitor’s sites instead.

Is it big enough?

The text on your webpage needs to be large enough so that letters are distinct, and can be read easily. Just as the wrong choice of font face could affect site success, so too could fonts that are too small to be read comfortably. Remember that your site is likely to be accessed on a variety of devices, from smartphones to tablets to PCs. Consider using responsive design so your content displays well on each of these devices.

Is it appropriate?

Believe it or not, there are ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ font faces which affect the way that readers react to text. If your business sells men’s fashion for instance, choosing a flowery script may send out mixed messages to website visitors. Carefully consider your target audience, and factor website design around their demands.

No matter how many graphics your website uses, text comprises up to 95% of the visual content. The choice of font used is therefore much more important than many people realise.

Diary of a Modern Apprentice (one month in..)

Friday, February 7th, 2014

jonny2So it’s been around month since I started as a modern apprentice with NSDesign. So much has happened: I have dealt with multiple issues that customers have experienced, received my first wage from Gary’s pocket, had my first meeting with the guys at QA Apprenticeships and I have listened to Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 Pop Quiz every day. Religiously. I have really enjoyed listening to the quiz every day my time here so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. I’ve learned a lot – Kenny will vouch for me. From learning about DNS records, to hearing Kenny’s reviews on the “24” box set….and even hearing about Colin’s trips to Subway.

I’ve even got some dates in my diary for the next few months: Going to my first ever social media master class with Gary and Colin, and starting my first C#.Net course at the QA Apprenticeships training building in Glasgow. So far, it feels like school was a place I left years ago! I’m finding the work that I’m doing very interesting and it’s always something different – you’d be surprised at how many different issues one can have with a website.

At the moment, I’m currently working with the domains and hosting side of things. However, the plan is to move onto the Design side of things later in the year. In saying this, the team have been very welcoming – I’m helping to add content to websites etc. so I’ve been included in some projects.

Although the internet has been something I’ve been interested in for some time, I feel like I am getting a more in-depth view into websites as a whole – hosting and domains, and the design. Sometimes I’ll sit and watch Paul – one of the designers sat next to me – designing a website or a logo and my mind is just blown (I may as well apologise here too – sorry for watching you like a hawk Paul – I can imagine its off-putting!). I’ve seen websites come to life from start to finish. Seeing the end product, after witnessing every stage of the process, fills you with, only what I can imagine to be as pride and a sense of achievement. The possibilities with the internet are endless. Online booking systems, contact forms, e-commerce sites…the list is endless. This month alone, the internet has expanded – with new domain extensions released including .guru, .bike, .clothing (to name a few) with some fun ones like .pizza and .coffee coming soon!  The digital market is something that is definitely a brilliant market to be a part of. Throughout all of this Gary even managed to wangle a place on STV’s Scotland Tonight with John McKay talking about the .SCOT domain.

I think students today who are leaving school are very anxious in terms of progression. Many students today are going to college/university and after completing their course, find themselves in a position where they are working in a “gap” job as the industry which they have their degree in is dead. They simply can’t get a job with the degree they have. The digital market is one of a kind in my opinion – it is very much alive and wealthy! There hasn’t been a day where I haven’t registered a domain, or set up hosting, or phoned a client. To summarise really, I’m just honoured to be in this industry and I definitely have no regrets.

I’m very much looking forward to the months to come with NSDesign – whether that is learning new things, meeting new people, travelling to new places or just listening to Kenny answering the Pop Quiz questions on BBC Radio 2 and always scoring higher than the contestant…or so he says!

How to go global with an ecommerce website

Friday, January 31st, 2014

A laptop computer with the word e-Commerce on the screenThe Internet has completely changed the face of international business. Gone are the days of remote offices and local employees, saving businesses many of the start-up costs associated with international trade. Now all your business needs is a good ecommerce website and access to international postal services.

Because the barrier to international trade is so low, UK-based companies will find themselves under increasing pressure from foreign firms looking to “steal” their customer base. However the same low entry requirements are available to any internet connected business, there is no reason you too cannot compete on the world stage.

UK businesses have an added advantage over their international competition; English remains the language of choice for international trade (at the moment anyway). This helps your business avoid costly translation services that foreign businesses must employ to reach the British market.

With an initial website in place, your business can then assess international strategy. Are there particular markets where your products or services may be in greater demand? Does the site get more visitors from a particular region than others?

But the first step to international trade (and beating foreign competition) is to make sure your business has its corner staked in the marketplace. And the best way to do that is with a well-designed, well-structured e-commerce website.

Why an online store beats a physical shop

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Internet Online ShoppingThe average working day is getting longer, leaving British consumers less free time for other activities like shopping. This also means your customers are less likely to be trying to shop in your store during normal trading hours.

Obviously you could try opening your trading premises around the clock and employing additional staff to support your new regime. However this approach is expensive, eats into company profits and is unlikely to be as successful as you hope.

Easier, and much more cost effective, is to implement a proper ecommerce website, with good design and functionality. Using this approach your business allows customers to order goods directly from your website at whatever time of the day or night is convenient to them.

Better still, aside from the investment in an ecommerce website that hooks into your stock database, there is little additional outlay required. You will not require any additional staff to keep the online store open as almost everything is automated – the worst that may happen is you will need new employees to help pick and pack online orders! (Although even this can be outsourced if you choose.)

The online store approach will also help deal with other issues like international time zones – your shop is always open whether there is anyone behind the counter or not. Your business really is open all hours.

Diary of a Modern Apprentice (my first week)

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Jonny - web design apprenticeSo here I am. I’ve just completed my first week of my new job – the new kid on the block.  After leaving school the week before, who said it was hard to get a job?

Of course I am being sarcastic – I left school for my job. I had been searching for apprenticeships in IT for several months – completing various application forms, attending lengthy interviews and meeting many interesting, and some not so interesting, people along the way.

I remember the first time I came to Hillington Innovation centre to meet Gary and Kenny: here I was walking in suited and booted, ready for action. After the old handshake and hellos we sat down to talk business. We discussed all the usual topics such as experience, hobbies etc… The list goes on. However, one question threw me. After twenty minutes, we had found ourselves chatting about daft interview questions such as “If you were to be a biscuit, what biscuit would you be”.

So after laughing it off, Gary asks the question: “Jonathan, if you were to be a biscuit, what biscuit would you be? I briefly paused and thought to myself, “Is he for real? Is this a legit question? Do I respond naively or do I laugh it off? So improvising (I’m good at that), I piped up with “A Tunnocks Teacake. Hard on the outside but soft on the inside”.

From that moment on I think Gary and Kenny knew there was a place for me at NSDesign. All joking aside, the interview process was great – to the point. I then went away and was called for a second interview to finalise arrangements and shortly after, I was offered the position. It’s something that I had waited for, for a long time. I was absolutely ecstatic! This opened up so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had going to college/university from school. I could gain on-the-job experience whilst learning valuable skills and let’s not forget the decent wage! It suited me down to a T! So after some consideration, I accepted the offer and was given my start date.

Suffice to say that I enjoyed the break over Christmas and New Year because unlike my class mates in 6th year at Trinity High School in Renfrew, I didn’t need to study for prelims in January/February and I had an extended holiday as I started on the 13th of January.

Before I knew it, it was Monday 13th of January and I found myself walking into the building for the first time as an NSDesign employee. I settled in quickly and got to know my colleagues in the office. I know every single one of them and their names. Maybe because there is only 8 of us in total? In my first week I have been learning about the products and services we offer, setting up hosting accounts for clients and shadowing some of the designers here. I thought the days would be long as I am use to short and easy days at school where some days I finished at noon and others 3/4pm.

I was surprised how fast every day has gone – I’ve been kept busy and I can’t believe the first week is already over. I have been interested in websites ever since I bought my first domain. I’ve never done anything “big” with a website, just messed about and added and removed content, played about with designs etc. Coming here however, has opened my eyes to the possibilities that you can have with websites. The Internet is, and has been, a major player in business for the past few years and with new websites and applications entering the market every year, the industry just keeps growing.

I feel privileged to be in this industry and who ever thought I  could get a job that allows me to explore social media such as Facebook and Twitter for business use. Sometimes apprenticeships are not the “done” thing. Most people either go on to further education or take a gap year etc. I’d urge more and more young people to seek apprenticeships because they are invaluable.

So now you know a little bit about me and my journey so far – stay tuned for my monthly blog entry to see what I’ve learned, the highs, lows and the laughs!

Website artwork – mobile considerations

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Mobile websiteThanks to the roll out of high speed ADSL broadband to most of the country, concerns about site loading speeds have diminished somewhat in recent years. In the past, using complex graphics, videos or other “large” files made websites slow to load – even more so on a mobile phone. With an increasingly mobile population reliant on smartphones and tablets to access the web, site owners need to ensure their design is user-friendly whilst keeping up with the latest developments in mobile technology.

The mobile conundrum

The next generation of mobile phone network technology is beginning to roll out across the country. Known as 4G, the new network will provide much faster access to the Internet from mobile devices, allowing for faster transfer of larger files. There are still two major problems for businesses moving hoping to attract mobile shoppers:

1. 4G Penetration

Currently 4G is only available in a few major UK cities, with national roll-out expected to be completed by the end of this year. As such, much of the population is still unable to take advantage of the increased network speeds required to enjoy large images.

2. Mobile handsets

Despite more 4G-enabled handsets becoming available, most UK users are still tied to 3G phones. These devices are not only incapable of drawing large images from the Internet quickly, they also tend to be relatively slow at displaying it.

With these limitations in mind, catering for mobile web users means carefully choosing pictures and site designs that can be delivered efficiently through slower connection to low-powered devices. A mobile-optimised site is the only proper solution to these problems until 4G connectivity becomes more prevalent.