Jazzing up your website for Halloween

This was posted on September 23rd, 2014

It might seem like a long way away, especially with the warm weather we’re still having across many parts of the country, but Halloween is only five weeks away. Oh, you don’t celebrate it? Well a good number of your customers and website visitors no doubt will do, so you’ll want to mark it in some way.


haloween-web-design
What not to do

We all remember how we used to know Christmas was coming a few years ago: You’d log on to your favourite website and the logo would have a Santa hat and there’d be animated snowflakes falling down the screen. Thankfully, the days are long gone, and these days the jazzing up of websites for Christmas is far more tasteful and done in the spirit in which it is intended. There are, though, a number of other methods which you should not be tempted to use…

Firstly, don’t let your developers or ‘tech guys’ do the design. Back-end coding and design are completely different things. Your customer won’t see the perfectly-formed PHP code or well-organised SQL tables. They’ll see a terrible design.

The same goes for for copy — if you’re writing pages for Halloween itself, don’t be tempted to do this in-house. Writing copy for the web is a very specific art. It’s your shopfront. You wouldn’t do your own sign-writing or write your own TV advert, so why chance losing sales through your website?

Any changes you make to your design must reflect on your mobile design. Before that, even, they must work on your mobile design. Don’t go over the top with fancy graphics if a decent percentage of your customers won’t be able to access your site as a result.

Engage social media

Social media is a fantastic way to get your customers engaged in a holiday or seasonal event. Why not hold a Twitter costume contest, asking your followers to send you pictures of their Halloween costume with a prize for the winner? Pet halloween costumes are very popular, too!

Why not ask users to tweet a 140-character spooky story? You could even hold a pumpkin-carving contest on your Facebook page or ask users to submit their spookiest photo or drawing with a prize for the best one.

As always, you’ll need to use your social media platform to engage with your users rather than talking to them. People don’t like being sold to, and that’s even truer online where everyone’s trying to do it. Build a relationship and a platform through fun events such as the ones listed above and you’ll find that people’s views of your company increase and you’ll be far more likely to stick in their minds and pick up their business in the future.

Use it as a marketing tool

If you sell anything that’s even remotely related to Halloween or horror/scary stuff, you can capitalise on it, even if it’s only a couple of products. Even if you sell something as seemingly unrelated as personalised car number plates, there are some fantastic Halloween combinations which could be used for your Halloween marketing campaign.

Keep it light-hearted

This ties into the social media points above: Keep it fun and light-hearted and use Halloween as an opportunity to show the world your company’s personal side. Show everyone you’re just people like they are and that you’re one of them, celebrating and marking the festival of Halloween.

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How does the iPhone 6 affect web design?

This was posted on September 16th, 2014

 

iphone6-affect-web-design

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you’ll probably be well aware that Apple have announced the launch of the new iPhone 6. Any new technology can have web designers biting their fingernails and quaking in their boots as they rush to find out what effect it’ll have on web design practices. After all, the iPhone is one of the most popular browsing devices in the modern age, so ensuring your website is viewable on it is vital.

The current iPhone 5 model has a 4-inch screen, displaying a 1136x640px resolution at 326ppi. The iPhone 6 base model, however, has a 4.7-inch screen, displaying 1334x750px at 326ppi. The larger iPhone 6 model, however, will have a 5.5-inch screen, with a whopping 1920x1080px display at 401ppi. So not only is the new screen larger, but there’s an even larger model available as well.

A lot of websites will have problems — that’s no secret. But if your website has been properly designed to have a responsive layout, it should cause no problems at all. Responsive design is meant to be flexible, meaning it can respond to any resolution, screen width and pixel density. There are a number of advantages, though.

For example, the iPhone 6 offers web designers far more screen real estate, meaning more information can be shown without cluttering the screen and making the content difficult to read. The increased resolution and pixel density on the larger iPhone 6 will make images seem crisper and sharper, too, meaning you can make the most of your graphic designers and really show off the visual aspects of your website without worrying about text becoming unreadable. The new larger screen sizes are key.

Once again, though, it all comes back to responsive design. If your website has been designed to respond to different screen sizes and adapt to keep the site visible and readable no matter what the resolution or pixel density, you’ll find that it adapts to the iPhone 6 just as well as it does to other models, effectively future-proofing your website from a device point of view by ensuring a responsive design is in place.

So the basic message is not to worry, particularly if you’ve got a responsive website design. If anything, the new iPhones could bring about a range of advantages and new opportunities for website designers and business owners.

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Top website mistakes you must avoid

This was posted on August 1st, 2014

website-mistakes

 

The web is often the first place people will find out about a company, or it will be where people go to ‘check out’ a business. The trouble is, it is also a crowded place and is very easy to leave and find someone else. All business owners know how important their website is, but so many websites suffer from mistakes that can easily be avoided. Here are some of the most common.
Walls of text. With so much to look at online speed is of the essence and visitors are not prepared to read large block of text. They want headlines, pictures and video so it is easy

Poor quality images. It’s easy to spot stock images but they are used time and time again. They do not give a website any personality or demonstrate who you actually are. A few good quality ‘real images give a true and quality appearance.

Lack of or a bad ‘call-to-action. The main thing you want from your website is for people to contact you. So this needs to be made clear and easy. Do not just rely on one page with your contact details.

Filling all the space on the page. White space is one of the best ways to make the important things stand out. We want to be able to see and understand the page quickly. This is not possible with a crowded webpage.

Confusing navigation. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for. Keep it simple and logical. Keep menu titles short, concise and in a logical order.

Pop-up windows. Apart from being annoying and old fashioned it can become very confusing to have multiple windows open at once.

Not answering visitors’ questions. People go to a website for information so it is important to tell them what they want to know.

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Big changes for UK website addresses

This was posted on May 16th, 2014

ukFrom the 10th of June 2014, new .uk domain names become available for the first time. This is one of the most significant changes to UK web addresses ever bringing the UK into line with countries such as France (.fr) and Germany (.de) and is almost certain to eventually replace .co.uk as the extension of choice for British companies.

So is it worth registering a .uk and what are the implications for businesses?

The shorter domain will give businesses a simpler and more memorable web address, and is the clearest indication yet that you are a business based in the UK. It will also mark your company out as right on top of technological developments.

The introduction of the .uk domain is not simply a matter of national pride – it has been created to benefit businesses in the UK. One significant factor of registering a .uk domain will be a requirement for registrants to prove that their companies are based in the UK – giving visitors the confidence that the domain is owned by a real British company.

.co.uk is still staying though, along with .org.uk, .me.uk and all the other domains ending in .uk that currently exist. Businesses with these domain names are being offered a five-year free reservation period in which they can take up the .uk version of their name. After this time the domain will become available to be registered by anyone.

Essentially, if you already have a web address ending in .uk, there is no need to rush, and as long as no conflict exists with another .uk business with the same name.

So if you are a British business or organisation and you want to reinforce your online presence then registering your .uk  domain name should be high on your ‘must do’ list.

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Is too Much Time focused on ‘New Trends’ in Web Design?

This was posted on April 25th, 2014

 

new-trends

Many web designers fall into the trap of spending too much time on the ‘coolest designs’ and the ‘latest trends’. We all know the world of web design is competitive and it is a great achievement to win the various awards for design within the industry. Every designer wants to be proactive with the ever evolving web design trends but sometimes this action can be alienating to the customers. Concentrating too hard on the cutting edge design could result in losing site of your targeted audience. Considering your targeted audience should always be the ultimate goal and this should determine the style and usability of your site.

The web design community is global enabling access to share and research web designer information from across the planet. This is a massive advantage for people entering the industry, regardless of their skill levels. For web designers just entering the field, there are a couple of factors that are really crucial to the conversion rates and the user response. One of them is loading time – even the skilled veterans can make the mistake of losing focus of the loading time. Just a couple of seconds can induce consumers to abandon the website and the reason could be the ‘cutting edge’ design. In fact reports show that 30% of consumers will click away after only 5 seconds of loading time. The speed of your site pages can be determined by a site speed test and there are many to choose from on the internet. Once you have this information there are a number of tactics you can implement to speed up the loading time and it usually involves simplifying the ‘cutting edge’ design.

Many web designers tend to forget there are still many of our more senior users that get confused when it comes to using the internet. If the site is designed mainly to be appreciated by other designers, profits could be lost. Designers need to be aware that conventions are essential for the novice user. A search bar staying at the top right hand side of the screen, clear and easy to follow navigation and a consistent UI system that is easily identified.  To create a good working website you should start with a structure that will attract your audience and have the usability for them.

New trends in web design will always be important to the web designer, and so they should be, but just be cautious not to get to ‘caught up’ with the latest trends, which may distract your focus from the audience.

 

 

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Digital colour mixing for website design

This was posted on April 8th, 2014

 

colour-mixing

Most of us were taught during our school years how to mix two colours together to make another colour like blue and yellow made green and red and blue made purple. Then mixing three primary colours such as blue, red and yellow in varying amounts can create a wide range of shades of colour. Mixing colours is a skill that all artists and designers practice, but there is a difference when mixing colours in traditional media and digital colours. Creating digital colours is much more challenging because you have to learn how a computer can produce digital art and all the many different colours, and what was taught at school has no relevance what so ever. Making your own colour wheel is the best way to experience the effects created by the different combinations of colour.

 

Our computer screens use an additive colour model, not the same as the primary colours we learnt at school, and they are red, green and blue. It sounds quite simple just mixing red, green and blue to achieve various shades and tints, but it takes a lot of practice before you begin to understand what colours you can create.

 

Colour is a very important aspect of the website design and where some people love a particular set of colours others will hate it. However, there are many colour mixing tools available on the Web that can help you to understanding the principles of digital colour mixing in the additive colour model. Choosing the colour theme effectively for your website is highly relevant to the success of the design. Using psychology and symbolism is still much argued about whether it is really any use when the designer is choosing the colour scheme, (red for danger and green for safety, and so on ) However there is no denying it we still do associate certain colours with different feelings, genders, opulence, youthfulness etc….Choosing your colour theme should maybe start with your targeted audience bearing in mind the cultural environment making different colour perceptions and the demographics of your targeted audience.

 

Using three primary colours tends to result in a more satisfactory outcome although using more than three colours can work but ‘less is more’ as the saying goes, and colour like most things is best used in moderation. A popular approach to an effective colour scheme is when a single anchor colour is chosen and any other colours are all shades or tints of that single colour. The different shades and tints of the base colour will provide different tones to the design colour.

 

 

 

 

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Emotional design: moving from left to right

This was posted on March 25th, 2014

emotional-designLeft or right… which one works best? It’s an age old question in the world of web design and one which often goes unanswered.

Historically, we’ve all been trained to focus on the left-hand side of websites. Think about it. When you reach a web page, what do you  look for? Likely, it’ll be a menu on the left-hand side, followed by what appears across the top of the page. It’s for that reason that many designs follow the ‘F’ pattern, following the perceived flight path of our eyes.

But are we missing a trick here?

By focussing too much on the left-hand side of the screen, are we simply bowing to what is perceived to be correct? Possibly. And that could mean that users aren’t fully engaging with our content.

Web designers now strive for something called ’emotional design’. This essentially means creating a connection between the user and the website itself, and it’s not easy. However, focussing more so on the right-hand side of the screen can help build such a relationship.

It is believed 90% of the population is right-handed and, owing to that, it is safe to assume that most people trust information placed to the right of a web page. It’s hardwired. Although it is equally true that the 10% of us who are left-handed will trust the opposite side of the page, focussing on the majority by pushing the most important content to the right and gradually pulling back as you head to the left isn’t an exercise in discrimination – you’re simply catering for the wider user base. Don’t feel bad about it!

This isn’t a new concept. In fact, and like so many things in web design, the idea of designing to the right comes from the age of newspaper and print design. The ‘Gutenberg Diagram’ is essentially a 2×2 grid with each cell labeled 1-4, horizontally. The top-left is known as the primary optical area – this is where the intro copy should reside. The bottom right is the ‘terminal’ area. The top-right is the strong fallow area, the bottom-left the weak fallow area. It is suggested that information within the latter two is most often disregarded. The terminal area, on the other hand, is where you want to put information in order to gain the best result. In web design, that’s likely to be your call-to-action (CTA).

When you design your next website or single webpage, bear in mind the Gutenberg Diagram. Place things where they feel naturally right – don’t be led by common consensus!

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The basics of web typography

This was posted on March 18th, 2014

 

web-typography

They say imagery is key to good web design. But what about the often forgotten art of typography?

First of all – what is typography? Well, put simply, it is the arrangement of letters in order to aid communication. It’s been around for centuries but there’s no doubting its web form is still very much in its infancy.

Unlike print typography, the web-based variant doesn’t benefit from quite the same level of control, therefore what you do with letters and numbers on the web is largely defined by the limitations at hand. It’s all about getting the basics right.

Serif or sans-serif?

We don’t read individual letters. As you’re reading this blog post, your brain is recognising word shapes. For that reason, if you jumble up the letters within a word, they can usually still be read, without noticing the misspelling. This brings us onto serif and sans-serif fonts. The former places lines at the end points of letters to further define them – the latter doesn’t. People will tell you sans-serif works better on the web because, once you start cranking down the font size, detail gets lost. That’s a flawed argument, however, because now we know that we don’t read individual letters. Thus both types of typography work just as well. Georgia and Sabon are great web fonts and are both serifs.

What about the typographical scale?

The scale was developed in the 16th century and runs as so: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72. It is still used in modern-day design applications and refers, basically, to a standardised sizing of fonts.

However, there can be variances in the sizes with different fonts (you’ve probably noticed this when using word processing applications), therefore it isn’t a rule you should live by.

By-and-large, if it looks right, it probably is. Don’t worry too much about the numbers.

Testing with multiple fonts

We’d always advise against this. The time to get your font right is at the start of the design process. Pick one and stick with it. Build your site around it. If you find yourself changing fonts throughout the process or once the site is fully-designed, you’ll likely have to start all over again.

Should I use free fonts?

An easy answer, this. If it looks right – use it! Don’t worry about whether or not the font was free or paid for. What matters is how it communicates your central message. If it does the job, then the price you pay is irrelevant (and all the better if it’s £0!).

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