6 New Design Trends to Consider on Your New Website

This was posted on August 31st, 2015

new-design-trends

Keeping up with new design trends is an important way to show your users and potential customers that you’re a forward-thinking company who puts their users first.

That last bit is especially important, as new technologies need to be adopted sparingly and carefully in order to ensure that new users aren’t put off. Here are 6 new design trends which have become mainstream enough that most web users will be comfortable using.

1. Ghost buttons and line icons

Minimalistic iconography is big business at the moment, and has been largely spearheaded by Apple’s launch of iOS7. It uses line-based icons and graphics, usually transparent buttons and thin lines to keep things simple, lighter and with a focus on supporting additional photography and illustration. It provides a ‘flat’ interface which keeps things simple in the eyes of the end user.

2. Reduced imagery in headers and backgrounds

It used to be pretty standard for a company’s website to have a title banner across the top with a background image, on which their company name and slogan was superimposed. This is starting to die out now, with more simple design and web-based technologies taking place of these old print-based styles. Bright colour and bold typography is the way forward when it comes to focusing the eye.

3. Material design

Flat, modular design is definitely back in on the web. Clean, minimalistic layouts which use bright colours, ergonomic shapes and simple typography keep things simple for the user, allowing them to navigate your site and find information easily. This style was originally developed by Google, who describe it as being ‘grounded in tactile reality’. Engaging simplicity to enhance the user experience is the name of the game, and it’s been very successful.

4. Microinteractions

It used to be that clicking a link or button would take you to a totally different page. That’s no longer the case. Subtle interactions are the new player in town, with small animations and interactions such as those found when you accept or reject a friend request on Facebook or LinkedIn. The old request disappears and new ones replace it without you leaving the page or anything having to reload. Amazon also uses these effectively, enabling you to Subscribe & Save quickly without having to veer off on a tangent.

5. Interactive infographics

Infographics aren’t really new any more, but interactive ones certainly are. Users can engage with the information displayed and navigate their way through the ‘story’ of the infographic. This enables you to show information in a very effective way which enhances the user experience and keeps them engaged.

6. Full screen videos

This seems remarkably counterintuitive, seeing as web usability is usually focused around not forcing things on users — especially not videos, and especially not full-screen elements. But when this is done carefully, using looping images in HTML5, for example, the effect is far more sophisticated — especially if it’s integrated in a more usable way, as Apple did with their Apple Watch page. It’s not intrusive and it actually enhances the user experience.

And that’s the crux of the whole usability/technology argument: it’s not about new technologies being bad, but about using them effectively to enhance the user experience rather than interrupting it.

If you’d like to speak to us about integrating new design elements into your website in order to enhance the experience for your end users — and potential customers — give us a call to see what we could do for you.

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5 Outdated Web Trends to Steer Clear of

This was posted on August 24th, 2015

outdated-web-trends

Web technologies are moving quicker than ever, but it’s still relatively easy to keep up to speed — especially if you’re working with a web design company whose job it is to keep abreast of the latest developments.

It’s not just about embracing new technologies, either; it’s about dropping old ones which could make users disappear from your website quicker than you can say ‘animated GIF’. Here are 5 seriously outdated web trends you should not be using on your site.

1. Videos and music which autoplay

This is one of the best ways to ensure a user disappears from your website and never comes back. It’s annoying, frustrating and almost everyone switches it straight off or closes their browser. Even music-less videos or animations are confusing and annoying. Statistics show that people disappear very quickly and don’t come back, so it’s certainly not a great idea.

2. Separate ‘mobile only’ websites

When it became obvious how important mobile internet was, web designers and business owners everywhere started launching new ‘mobile only’ websites — sites which would detect you were on a mobile phone and redirect you to a different page, designed purely for mobile. The problem then is that you have two websites to maintain and update, and usually with duplicated content. This’ll get you into all sorts of trouble with the search engines and is best avoided, to say the least. Responsive design is the way forward, keeping all of your content in one place and allowing the design to respond to the user’s device.

3. Using (or overusing) Flash

Flash is certainly still around, but it’s not recommended. Apple phones and tablets, for example, can’t play it so you’ll be losing a large number of your potential visitors straightaway. Also, even desktop users often have Flash turned off (or not updated). In short, it’s a minefield and should be best avoided if possible. There are, after all, plenty of alternative (and better) technologies available.

4. Overusing image sliders

Image sliders are great in their own way, but often get ignored and can distract users. They certainly have their uses, but when they’re overused they can prove off-putting for visitors. If you’re using image sliders, leave them for your website design company to integrate rather than attempting to create your own as it’s important that accessibility is put at the forefront.

5. Showing off your new technologies

Some website owners are keen to have all the latest technologies integrated into their websites to show their users how modern they are. All this will do is confuse people, put them off and make your website bloated and take a long time to load. The result is that people will disappear very quickly and not come back. Give the user what they want, not what you want.

If you’d like to talk to us about ridding your website of dead technologies and making your website more accessible to users, give us a call.

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6 Usability Mistakes That Could Kill Your Website

This was posted on August 17th, 2015

usability-mistakes

Usability is actually a very simple concept, but it’s one that people often get so, so wrong. When people who aren’t professional web designers put a site together, the focus is far too often on the visual aesthetics rather than the underlying functionality of the site. For this reason, you can often end up with a site that looks nice enough but is actually unusable for great numbers of people.

The thing to remember is that all people are different. Just because you can use the website, or your designer or your friends can find their way around it, not everyone will be able to. Simply looking at your bounce rate in your web stats will indicate whether or not people are finding it easy to navigate your website.

It’s all about the user experience, and you need to put far, far more effort into this aspect of your website than most others. Here are some ways not to make your website accessible.

1. Confusing or dysfunctional navigation

It’s important that your site follows a hierarchical navigation structure, divided into logical sections which can be easily navigated by users. It’s all about limiting the number of things the user has to do, including mouse clicks. If a user can’t find what they’re looking for in under a minute, they’re likely to disappear off elsewhere. Orphan pages, masses of white space and a lack of search functionality will all turn off huge swathes of visitors who’ll probably never come back.

2. Setting links to open in a new window

The common view is that opening an external link in a new window will ensure that users stay on your site, at least in one browser tab. This is actually counterintuitive. If the user wants to leave the site by clicking an external link, let them. It’s all about enabling the user to find the information they want. If they don’t find it on the external link, they’ll probably hit the Back button anyway. You should never assume that your website’s so great that you shouldn’t let people away from it.

3. Clutter

There’s a fine line between limiting white space and user clicks and over-cluttering a web page to the point where the user is overwhelmed and can’t find anything anyway. White space is a good thing in moderation and should be embraced. It creates order in your page; the contrast which allows your important content to actually be seen. You know the old saying about not being able to see the wood for the trees? That applies here.

4. Use infinite scrolling sparingly

Infinite scrolling is a great way of putting all your content in one place without having to worry about loading times and clutter. After all, the extra scrolled content will only load if the user explicitly scrolls down and loads it. Brilliant, right? Not exactly. First time users won’t always know about infinite scrolling and key content certainly shouldn’t be placed ‘below the fold’ in this sense. Crowding the top half of your site, though, isn’t great either and can put first-time users off (remember that bounce rate?). For users on slower connections, too, infinite scrolling is not much fun. Use it sparingly.

5. No on-site support

You should never assume that users know how to navigate your website — or any website, for that matter. Make sure you include a help desk system, tech support or even just a simple set of FAQs. These should address problems the user may encounter on the website and should be advertised prominently, especially if you’re using some form of groundbreaking design which could confuse some users. Even just knowing the help and support is there if they need it can be enough to encourage some users to explore more fully rather than panicking.

6. Trying to move towards click-free design

This is an interesting trend, but not one which is without its problems, to say the least. Having a website respond every time you move (or stop moving) your mouse can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re just there to read an article or find some information. Most users don’t mind having to click (after all, they’re used to it) to confirm where they want to go. It’s far less frustrating than being taken somewhere they don’t want to go and haven’t clicked on, anyway.

As you can see, usability can be a minefield. Embracing new technologies is an exciting way of beefing up your website and keeping one step ahead of the game, but the end user should always be the one you try to please. Not everyone will be amazed by new technologies. In fact, most will just be confused. Keeping things simple is usually the best way to approach usability. Very few people surf the web to look at cool designs or funky new web technologies; most just want to find the information they’re looking for, and quickly. Give them what they want.

If you want to ensure your website is fully accessible from a usability point of view, why not give us a call? We can analyse your current design and let you know where you might be able to make some improvements, increasing your ROI and reducing your bounce rate at the same time.

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Mobile Search Overtakes Desktop Search

This was posted on August 10th, 2015

mobile-searchIt’s been mooted for some time that mobile search would soon overtake desktop search, but it has recently been confirmed that in many markets there are more Google searches being carried out on mobile devices than on desktop computers or laptops.

This might sound like just an interesting snippet of information at best, but the truth is that it has huge implications on anyone who runs a business or anyone who has a website. If more Google searches are being carried out on mobiles than on computers, more people will be finding your website on their mobile device than on their computer, which means that your website needs to display properly on these devices.

Research has shown time and time again that if your website doesn’t have a responsive design which adapts for mobile, you’re likely to be losing potential customers who won’t much like the idea of zooming in and out to find their way around a site which doesn’t adapt for their device. A growing number of sites do, and customers will tend to go to those instead — and they could be your competitors.

Web searches overall were up 5% between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014, but this rise — and more — is attributable entirely to mobile search. In fact, desktop searches dropped by over 200 million, with tablet searches up by a huge 1.3 billion and smartphone searches by a stratospheric 1.8 billon. It’s clear to see that considering mobile devices is no longer something to ‘also consider’, but should now be the main consideration.

These principles apply across the board, through to SEO and search marketing but the first step has to come with ensuring that your website has a mobile responsive design which can readily display across a range of mobile devices and tablets. If it doesn’t, you’re now potentially alienating more than 50% of your visitors and potential customers, and that number is growing every day you don’t do something about it.

We specialise in creating websites which are mobile responsive and designed to display across a range of smartphones and tablets, ensuring that your visitors and potential customers will be able to view your content and see your business as one which is at the forefront of technology, enabling them to get in contact with you and potentially become a customer. If you don’t take measures now, your potential losses will only get bigger.

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Website Themes — Why You Should Avoid Them at All Costs

This was posted on August 3rd, 2015

website-themesWhen you need a new website built, it can be very tempting to go for the option which will save you time and money. Many people simply choose to install WordPress and select a pre-existing theme, perhaps customising it to their own preferences. This can have its advantages, but there are a number of reasons why you should avoid using themes at all costs.

Code bloat and page loading time
Many themes are made to look glitzy and glamorous with no thought for page loading times. They’re updated every few weeks with extra features, but this tends to mean extra code — and often bloated code. This means that your site will become slower and slower to load, and with recent studies showing that the vast majority of website users won’t wait more than 2 seconds for a website to load, this could remove huge swathes of potential customers.

Negative impacts on SEO
Themes can be disastrous for SEO, too. There are rumblings that Google will recognise large amounts of the code and see that you’re using a pre-designed theme, which will send signals that you’re not all that serious about your business. In Google’s eyes, if you were a serious player you’d be paying a web design company to create a proper site. The code bloat mentioned above can also have negative effects on your search rankings, which could spell disaster for your online marketing plans.

Inconsistency in design
A design needs to be balanced to suit your brand and style, as well as your content and the function your website is meant to serve. Simply using a template or theme means that you’re using a design which hasn’t been created for you or your business, which will result in confusion amongst customers and a sense that somehow your website doesn’t quite fit your business. Anything which makes a potential customer feel uneasy when on your website is a very bad idea; you want your customers to feel safe and that they can trust you and your company, else they’ll go to a competitor instead.

Third party reliance
If you’re using a theme created by a third party and simply customising it for your own purposes, you run a number of risks. Firstly, you don’t know who’s created the code and there’s a chance there could be security flaws which could put your business and your customers at risk. Then there’s the reliance you have on the original theme designer (who’ll you’ll likely never have met or spoken to) to update the design around new developments. Only a direct working relationship with a proper web design company will allow you to have that safety with regards to security and future support.

Things to ask your web design company
You might be tempted to think that using a professional web design company will automatically mean that you’ll have a website designed from the ground up and that there won’t be any themes or templates anywhere near your site. Unfortunately, you’d often be wrong.

There are a number of web design companies who try to save time and money by simply taking themes and templates and customising them (sometimes so much that you wouldn’t know at first glance) rather than building you a custom website design. Needless to say, this can have negative impacts on your business and you’d often be just as well off installing a template yourself and saving even more money. Of course, saving money isn’t always the best way to go about things.

A custom website design is the only way to ensure good loading times, adherence to SEO best practice and a truly unique design which will serve you and your business well for years to come.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Online Marketing

This was posted on July 27th, 2015

improve-online-marketing

 

Online marketing is the biggest generator of business for the vast majority of sectors. Most people these days go straight to Google or another online resource to find a product or service. Gone are the days of the Yellow Pages, so what can you do to boost your chances of generating new business through the web? Here are 5 ways in which you can improve your online marketing efforts.

1. Social Media Marketing

With more than 2 billion people using social media around the world, this is one of the biggest arenas in which you can advertise your business. Facebook alone has nearly 1.4 billion users and advertising revenues have risen enormously on the site, with mobile advertising being a particularly heavily growing sector.

2. Backlinks

Ever since Google first launched, backlinks have been at the core of its algorithm. This is still the case — and arguably even more so since recent algorithm updates — but in a slightly different way to the past. Quality links (as opposed to quantity) are vital, as well as guest blogging efforts, diverse anchor text and tying in your linkbuilding with social media efforts. Keeping it natural and steady is always the best way.

3. Response, Mobile-Ready Design

Responsive design is vital in the modern marketplace. A staggering 1.9 billion searches will be carried out on smartphones in 2015, which means it will overtake desktop PC and laptop searches for the first time. In fact, 4 out of 5 consumers currently shop regularly on their smartphones, so mobile responsiveness is absolutely vital if you’re going to take advantage of the way the online world is changing.

Most people won’t buy from a site which doesn’t respond and adapt to mobile usage — that’s a fact and stat which becomes more and more prevalent all the time, with mobile users wanting a faster, more streamlined experience. Mobile ready websites convert much better than other sites, too, meaning the result will be a huge increase in business. It’ll also help boost your SEO, with Google loving mobile-ready sites.

4. Marketing Your Content

The web is all about content. You need to ensure your website contains quality content which can be readily shared. Keeping content regular and enticing will ensure people are more likely to share it and effectively do the job of marketing for you. Content doesn’t just cover text, either, but images, events, video, infographics, reports, eBooks and more.

5. Plan Ahead, Create a Strategy

A lot of people treat their SEO efforts as something they can do every now and again, perhaps building a few links or putting a video on YouTube. The fact is that you need a plan, a strategy, to enable you to structure your online marketing efforts and tracking your success. That way, you’ll know what works for you and can tailor your strategy to ensure that you’re able to build on your success as you move forward and continue to get bigger and bigger gains from online marketing.

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The Google Algorithm and How to Make the Most of It

This was posted on July 20th, 2015

google-algorithm
One of the biggest topics in online business is how to make the most of Google. Google is the starting point for most online browsing, and the potential rewards on offer are enormous if you can harness the power of Google to drive potential customers to your website.

Google’s whole intention is to give users the most relevant answers to their search queries, and becoming that relevant answer is the key to success.

Understanding Google’s algorithm changes is key to understanding the whole ethos behind what they’re doing and what their aims are for users. If you know what Google wants (and that’s ultimately based on what Google users want) then you’re one step ahead of the game in providing that and being able to take advantage of the benefits of increased traffic and business.

Believe it or not, Google updates its algorithms between 500 and 600 times a year — most of them only small tweaks, but still crucial to your online success. The first public announcement of an algorithm update was in September 2002, but Google had been ‘dancing’ for years before that.

The first named algorithm change was Boston, with updates since focusing on prioritising local results, combating link spam and dodgy SEO practices and emphasising fresh and useful content. Here are some of the more recent Google algorithm updates and the ways in which they’ve changed the way search results are displayed.

The Panda update

The Panda update hit in early 2011, and was focused on rewarding sites which provided good-quality content over huge amounts of links and low-quality content. This helped to eliminate spammy websites from the results.

Websites which added nothing to the internet were weeded out and even pages filled with advertising were penalised and saw a significant drop in their rankings.

The Penguin update

This rolled out in early 2012, and focused on relevance of search results. It was intended to penalise websites which violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and quality guides, as well as sites which used dodgy linking practices.

Sites with over-optimised link anchor text were penalised, as were sites linked with gambling, pharmaceuticals and adult sites. Sites found to be buying links were penalised heavily

Penguin has been rolled out incrementally in six versions, with the most recent hitting in late 2014.

The Hummingbird Update

This rolled out in late 2013 and focused on providing quick, precise results which understood the user’s intent in their search. This was a true algorithm change which completely amended the way Google chose its results.

The focus was on semantic or conversational search, enabling Google to work out the end user’s intent and display results which would help them more directly, rather than users having to refine their own searches later on.

The Pigeon Update

Pigeon rolled out in the summer of 2014 and focused largely on local search, with Google then providing more relevant and useful search results based on a local perspective. Geographical locations and distances were all taken into consideration and results were skewed to give greater relevance to local businesses and websites.

All of these Google updates affect the way in which your website ranks when people search for products or services online. Understanding the aims of Google and their reasons for implementing these algorithm updates is key to enabling you to make the most of them and to tailor your website and online marketing strategy to fit.

As has always been the case, trying to game Google never works. Google is always one step ahead and you’ll only ever be one algorithm change away from being kicked out altogether. Keeping on top of the game with quality content, giving users what they really want and ensuring that your website is a great resource on the internet will ensure that you always rank well in Google’s eyes.

If you’d like to make the most of the online marketplace and increase your online visibility and conversions, we can help you. We’re a specialist design company who can create your website to fit around not only current design trends, but also web usability standards and search engine optimisation practices, which will make sure that your website looks great, performs brilliantly and brings you new business.

To speak to us about how we might be able to help you, call us today and we’d be delighted to talk through the options with you.

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Mobile Web Usage — Quick Stats

This was posted on July 13th, 2015

quick-stats

 

Mobile web usage is growing all the time, and it’s often difficult to comprehend its importance. Here are some quick stats on mobile web and how it could affect your website.
  • 47% of mobile web users explore other companies if they can’t call you directly from your mobile website at the touch of a button.
  • 35% of the above feel ‘disappointed’ in your company. 47% feel ‘frustrated’ or ‘annoyed’.
  • 61% of customers want to speak to you on the phone before they buy.
  • 65% of customers who start browsing your site on their phone browse again on their desktop or laptop computer afterwards.
  • Putting the call to action above the fold on mobile sites can improve call conversion rates by 200%.
  • Making your phone number clickable on smartphones will increase call conversion rates hugely.

It’s tempting for us to think that people want to browse online purely to avoid speaking to people and want to browse in private. The truth is far from that.

The stats above show the importance of linking your website to your phone lines. Why’s that? Because smartphone browsers are already on their phones. Someone browsing on a desktop computer has to go and get their phone, key in your number and call you. On a smartphone, they just need to tap the clickable link to your phone number and it’ll automatically call you.

Yet again, it’s ease of use and taking out the intermediate steps which boosts conversion rates and brings you new business. People want a simple life. They want what they want and they want it now. If you make life easier from them, it’s ultimately you who will profit.

If your site doesn’t have a mobile optimised version, you’re likely to be missing out on an enormous amount of potential business. If you’d like to see what we could do to boost your conversion rates and help your business profit from the mobile internet, contact us today.

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