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Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

Is your website ready for 2015?

Friday, October 17th, 2014

website wireframe sketch on blackboardIf there’s one thing that you can be certain about when it comes to your website – it’s change. Your website will never truly be ‘finished’ because web design and the way we browse the web is constantly changing.

If you think back to how websites used to look only 5 to 10 years ago, it’s amazing how much things have changed. As we get ever closer to the end of 2014, it’s time to start planning for 2015 – is your website ready?

Ready for any device

The days of logging onto the desktop to browse the internet are over – we’re now constantly connected through a huge variety of devices from smart phones to smart TVs.

A recent report by Ofcom found that UK smartphone take up is now nearly on a par with laptop ownership, and as a result mobile web browsing continues to increase, with 30.2 million unique viewers in Q1 of 2014.

Tablet usage also continues to grow at a rapid rate, with Ofcom finding household tablet ownership almost doubled over the last year. In addition more and more households are also starting to access the web on other devices, including games consoles, e-readers and smart TVs.

All of this means your website needs to adapt and be functional on as many different devices as possible – in other words, you need a responsive design. Websites that are designed to be responsive respond to their environment – so whether you’re viewing on a 22 inch desktop screen or a smartphone, the website will adjust itself to suit. This can be achieved in a number of ways depending on the website and the type of content.

Being responsive isn’t all you need to consider though – in order to be truly ready for multiple devices you also need to take into account different browsers, and your website also needs to load quickly over mobile internet.

Integrated with social media

Social media has been around for over a decade now and isn’t going anywhere – 74% of adults are now on social media. Social media has become completely integrated into our lives and web users are increasingly expecting social media to be integrated into websites too.

It’s no longer enough to add a link to your social channels on your homepage – you need other features too, such as easy social sharing, the ability to tweet any part of your content, integrated ‘cards’ and social logins. Prepare for 2015 and beyond by making sure your social media profiles are completely embedded into your website from the ground up.

Ready to adapt

As things are always changing online, a key way to prepare for 2015 is to be ready to adapt. We don’t know exactly how we will start browsing the web next – is the future browsing on your Google Glass or Oculus Rift, for example? But by being prepared for change and ready to update your website to change with the times, you have the best chance of staying ahead of the curve.

The ins and outs of infographics

Friday, October 10th, 2014

iStock_000001308126XSmall (2)When creating a new business website you face a dilemma. Search engine visibility relies on having plenty of interesting copy on your website, but at the same time visitors are put off by huge chunks of complex text.

So what do you do if your business operates in a particularly complex industry and needs to communicate lots of information quickly and easily?

Introducing the infographic

The use of graphics can be a powerful tool for sharing information on your website – they’re also very well suited to social media campaigns, because visual content tends to be more engaging than text-only content.

An infographic is a type of visual media that combines powerful imagery with useful text to communicate key concepts or data in such a way that your website visitors can absorb it all within seconds.

A well-designed infographic, just like a blog post or article, tells a story. By guiding your visitor through the image, you can deliver the information they are looking for and prompt them to make the next stage – hopefully a sales enquiry.

The secondary value of infographics

The visual appeal of a well-designed infographic also makes it highly shareable. If the information contained in the image is particularly useful, your website visitors will want to share it with their contacts.

This sharing helps to spread your brand name and establishes your position as an authority within your industry. This sort of positive PR will, in the long term, more than repay your investment in researching and designing a high quality infographic for your website.

Does a picture paint a thousand words?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Web design and imagesIn the early days of the Internet, there was a heavy emphasis on text because Internet access speeds were much slower than are today. Poorer quality graphics were tolerated because they loaded much more quickly over dial-up connections.

The all-pervading nature of broadband connectivity has changed perceptions however. With Internet connection speeds increasing, so too has the ability to access higher quality images. As a result web users are much less forgiving when it comes to low-quality artwork.

Instead businesses must now use the best quality product images they can to maintain the impression of professionalism. Poor pictures subtly suggest that other aspects of your business may also be of lower quality, including your customer service. Any such concerns will have customers clicking off to one of your competitors in no time.

Is there ever a justification for using lower quality images? Yes, but only in limited use circumstances. If your business deals with countries where broadband penetration rates are low (like many regions of Africa and South America), you will need a website that is optimised for dial-up connections. And this will necessarily include lower quality artwork.

In the main though, the better your images, the more attractive your site is to shoppers. If you do need to create a low-bandwidth friendly site, consider creating a completely different, localised version in addition to your existing one so that you can better serve all of your online customers.

Typography and website design

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Words representing typographyEven though there has been an explosion in online multimedia, such as videos and interactive graphics, it is still the copy on your website that matters most from a search engine optimisation point of view.

Search technology is not yet sophisticated enough to study graphics and video in the way that it can currently understand text. That’s probably why around 95% of the information on the web is still written in words.

The text on your site plays an important part in ensuring people find your website through search engines. It is also crucial to the user experience.

More than words

As well as having the “right” words appearing within your copy, you also need to use the best font to present them. Some fonts are naturally easier to read than others – an important consideration when trying to communicate information quickly. Historically designers chose “sans serif” fonts like Arial because they display more clearly on screen. This is doubly important when considering how your site may be used and read by partially sighted users.

Your choice of font also plays an important part in establishing your brand image. Research suggests that web users infer different messages and meanings to the fonts used – a powerful tool when trying to establish credibility for your business. By the same token, some fonts carry negative connotations, like Comic Sans.

Whatever font you choose, make sure your message is enticing and you provide a clear call to action for your potential customers.

What does the iPhone 6 mean for your website?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Photoshoot of young girl sitting on a wayFor years Apple has held solidly to the 4” smartphone screen format claiming that this size was best suited to one-handed use and, more importantly, was what their customers demanded. But all that changed with the release of the iPhone 6 on Monday.

Now Apple users have two choices of handset – the iPhone 6 with a larger 4.7” screen and the gargantuan iPhone 6 Plus that marks Apple’s entry into the phablet market. So what does this mean for your website?

More screen real estate

The larger screens mean that more information can be displayed on screen at one, particularly on the 6 Plus. This means that your website designer has a lot more screen real estate they can call upon to show relevant and useful data to their mobile website users. An improved pixel count also means that higher quality graphics can in theory be employed on mobile websites.

Stop! There may be a problem

Before you start arranging to have your website redesigned and scaled, however, there are some factors to consider. Firstly, no matter how good the first day of iPhone 6 sales are, those handsets will still be in the minority among the Apple-using public. Perhaps even more importantly, Apple remains a small (but very profitable) sub-sector of the mobile using public in general.

You should instead look at building a responsive website that detects the smartphone dimensions and scales to fit accordingly. In this way you can cater to iPhone 6 users and the rest of the world for maximum exposure.

 

Diary of a Modern Apprentice – 9 months in!

Monday, September 1st, 2014

So I’ve now been on the job for nine months! Which kind of scares me? It genuinely doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for so long! I guess time flies when you’re having fun right? It’s even been fourth months since my last blog post! As I sit and type this blog post, I’m flicking back the pages of my diary to keep up with what I’ve actually been doing in the past fourth months – so much has happened:

jonnyRadio Interview on Heart FM
I somehow managed to scoop a radio interview with the wonderful people Heart FM! The subject of the interview was all about careers and different paths into a career. Some spoke about further education – University and College, whilst others spoke about jobs. Five points if you can guess what I spoke about! Yes… I spoke about being a modern apprentice. I really enjoyed my little trip to the studios in Glasgow that day! I was made to feel very welcome by everyone there and even got a little tour of the studios!  I even managed to get a picture on Ewan’s seat haha!

You can listen to my audio here!

The Recruit: Finale
Last month I also attended the finale of this year’s ‘The Recruit’. The program, run by Renfrewshire Council, is a summer program for young people across Renfrewshire to participate in. With a range of tasks and challenges from local companies, the recruits gain skills in team working, leadership and business – and I hear it’s a lot of fun! At the end of the program, a large number of them are even offered jobs! I attended the finale this year as the representative for NSDesign and thoroughly enjoyed the night! We got to see what the Recruits had been up to this year – and even heard some success stories from previous winners! Big congratulations to all those who participated in this year’s program and I wish you the best of luck with your new careers!

SQL & Databases Course
This month I also attended a 2 week long course at QA Apprenticeships – one of four courses that I’ll be attending throughout my apprenticeship period.  I attended the SQL & Databases Course up in Glasgow.  The two weeks I spent up there were really interesting – learning to create, update and query databases through the use of the SQL language. Whilst I was there, it was great to meet some other apprentices from across Glasgow; some even travelled through from Edinburgh and stayed in Glasgow for the 2 weeks! I’ve just finished the course and have come back to the office this morning – and I’m genuinely glad to be back! Apparently they’ve been lost without me haha! However, I’ll only be sticking around for a week, then I’m off again to QA for my Java Fundamentals course! So I’ll be there for the next two weeks!

WD-LOGO-14Finally… Working Digital!
Shortly after I finish my next course at QA Apprenticeships, Working Digital will be well underway! Working Digital, if you don’t already know, is a three day conference which will be held down in Kilmarnock! It’s free to attend and promises to be the best three days of your life! Seriously though – why not come along, be inspired and meet with other local businesses! You can’t argue with some networking and even a free buffet? If you fancy joining myself and the rest of the team, along with the 200+ people that have already signed up and have secured their tickets, visit the Working Digital website and grab your tickets today!

You can grab your tickets here and see the full Speaker line-up over on the site here.
Keep up to date with all the news by following Working Digital on Twitter! @Working_Digital

PS. If I didn’t already mention… they’re FREE!

So.. it’s safe to say that lots of things have been going on recently. My media stunts seems to have calmed down a little bit now – I am now available again for media requests haha! It’s over and out for now – hope to see you all at Working Digital! Oh and if you see me – come and say hello! Or if you’re feeling very much inspired from the talks, and are now really digitally minded – tweet me.

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.