How to increase your online presence with a great web design

How to increase your online presence with a great web design

Almost every organization has a website these days. Schools, churches, hospitals and even restaurants, all have a website. Certainly, the creation of social media marketing tools like twitter and facebook provide ample platforms that can help you promote your business online. These platforms are best utilized with a link to credible websites for your business, event or individual.
There are web designers capable of doing almost anything with respect to your site. Capabilities are almost endless. In some cases, you can consider having a web designer when complex graphics are involved.
Today, almost everyone can design their own website. You can get a domain as well as a template that can help you build a near custom website. If you are new to web design, you can choose from a wide array of graphics, clip art and functionality depending on the specific needs of your website. You can customize fonts, add photos as well as include chart and ecommerce elements.
You need to research a variety of web design services in order to purchase a domain at a modest cost, and monthly fee. There is usually a one time fee at start up. However, your website can cost from very little to start up to a high monthly maintenance fee.
When designing your own website, ensure that you have a clear vision of the accurate purpose of your website as well as the target audience that you are trying to reach out to. Keeping your website updated and fresh is equally very important if you want your visitors to return to your site repeatedly for new and informative content. Your business can greatly benefit from website marketing as it is easy to change and update your site as much as you wish with events, prices, new products, new locations and employee photos.
Consider taking advantage of the services and capabilities available at a very modest cost out there. Also remember that this is your website and you are free to do have fun and be creative with it. You can also get help from the support staff of the web design company you are working with.
If you are yet to have a business website then consider building one now, whether you choose to do it yourself or get the services of an expert designer. Your website will give a great avenue to hook up with your clients. With your online presence, you will realize an increase in enquiries and awareness which are very key marketing aspects.

Web Design Inspiration?

Web Design Inspiration?

We all get the design flavor of writers block occasionally it is unfortunately part of life. What you do when that happens makes the difference between a designer, and a good designer. Some will call it a day and go home, others will go to the nearest bar or coffee shop and forget about everything for a while. Others will go and do something completely different like go fishing, skating or to the gym.
When you do lost inspiration, it is certainly time to step away from the project for a while but it doesn’t necessarily mean the time is wasted. There are plenty of ways to spend time away from the desk but not be productive. Every city has plenty of places you can go to take your mind off things while still being productive.
Here are some of my favorites.
An art gallery is an obvious choice I guess, but one that shouldn’t be ignored because of that. Here you can spend time looking at other people’s ideas and work. You will be relaxing away from the office, but still not wasting time. While your conscious mind might be taking in great works and admiring the skill of the artist, your subconscious will be storing it all up for another time.
A modern art gallery is a variation of a theme but still worthy of an honorable mention. Here your mind can take in the latest in contemporary design. These places are often great for exploring color and how different ones can work together, or not. Not everything in a modern art gallery appeals to me, but there is often enough in there to get my mind ticking over.
A Museum is another great place to get inspiration. While it won’t have cutting edge, modern exhibits, there are a lot of retro ideas that can come from somewhere like this. Old engines, architecture, jewelry, even clothing from days gone by. New designs often use influences from the past and the museum is a great place to get them. It could be just the use of colors, or the lines of a specific exhibit. It’s all subjective so you will take what you will from it.
Going shopping is another great pastime when you have designers block. Especially a department store that sells high fashion. A slow browse around taking in the colors, shapes, lines and anything else that takes your fancy. You don’t even have to buy anything if you don’t want to, just look and absorb what you see. Your imagination will do the rest.
These are just a few of the places I use to visit when my creativity takes a break. Which one and where depends entirely on my mood at the time, but by the end of the day my mind is brim full of ideas ready to go the next day. It might not seem as productive as slaving away at your desk, but it is, just in a different way.

Why Good Web Design is Important for Your E-Commerce Site

Why Good Web Design is Important for Your E-Commerce Site

Not so long ago, web design was not at then top of the list on the minds of online business owners. This was because despite having amazingly ugly websites, these folks were still able to make money! However, the internet is undergoing a revolution thanks to the ever growing competition and search engines getting more concerned about the user experience.
So, what does this mean to you as a website owner?
i. Significance of branding
With the maturity of the internet, online shoppers are getting choosier on whom to buy from. They are looking for credible product vendors to buy from. They want to buy from the best experts. This makes branding very critical. People are more likely to stay loyal to a brand and make repeated purchases from it if they trust it. Loyalty is an important business strategy. Earning your customers loyalty is capable of making you a market leader. Professional web design will help you achieve this. You will certainly command respect from your online visitors with a professionally looking website. Your website will help you send out a message that you are committed to providing the best products and services to your customers.
ii. The importance of exceptional user experience
Search engines have a lot to do with this. The first task of search engines is to provide web users with the most relevant content as quickly as possible. The importance of relevance is second to none when it comes to search engines. Who would want to use search engines that yield results filled with ugly and irrelevant pages?
For an e-commerce website, it is highly recommended that you keep the design simple, precise and clean. Fast loading pages will help you avoid the impatience of your visitors. Search engines will also give you a reward of high rankings. You should still be able to acknowledge the importance of having a user friendly website even without search engines. These two reasons will make your clients want to return to your website; professionalism and quality information that meets their needs.
iii. The importance of standing out
The internet is getting increasingly crowded with stiff competition. This is reason enough for your business to stand out from the crowd. Failing to pay attention when designing your website will make it no different from thousands of amateur websites out there. To be honest, you do not want your business to be associated with millions of poorly designed websites littering the internet! If it is, then your visitors will find it really hard remembering your business. A logo that is easy to remember can help your business stand out. Consider selecting a harmonious color blend that is comfortable on the eyes. Avoid using black backgrounds with red or white text as this will keep your visitors off.
Using simple but professionally looking graphics can go along way in heightening your website presentation.

7 Mistakes Web Designers Make

7 Mistakes Web Designers Make

As web designers it’s fairly standard for us to critique every site we see, especially as design is more than just a job to us. Most of the time it’s unconscious, when we surf a site and see poor design, bad navigation or other element that we don’t like it leaps out at us.

The first problem we should highlight are browser inconsistencies. If a particular site doesn’t know how to handle different browsers the average user isn’t going to know to try another. A website that doesn’t play well with all the main browsers is just poorly done as far as we’re concerned. Even more so because in these days of the CMS, it can take care of all that for you. All you have to do is provide the different templates and the system can choose which to display.

Another mistake is not communicating the message effectively. This can either be through bad copy or poor design. A good design makes an instant impression on the visitor and leaves them with no doubt what it’s about. Poorly constructed copy or convoluted design can both contribute to poor communication. If a visitor has to work out what’s going on they are going to leave. The use of a tag line or clear banner message at or near the top of the screen is the best way to achieve clarity, unless the site is for a well known brand or product.

Connected to an unclear message is the mistake of not being clear about what the client, and their user base needs in their site. Taking the time at the very beginning of the process to get to know exactly what the client wants, and ideally their vision for their company or brand will ensure you’re both on the same page.

I know we have said this before, but we design sites for the users first, then the client and then ourselves, in that order. The skill in our craft is to manage all three so they match or at least complement each other. The most important people in this equation are the users. If the client brief isn’t going to work for their user base it’s our job to tell them, and negotiate to a position where we’re all going to be happy.

While we are the least important element in that triumvirate, we still have to believe in what we’re doing.

So the fourth mistake is using Flash when you really shouldn’t. Flash is a great tool when used well but still has more negatives than positives. It still slows down browsers, uses too much CPU and crashes all too often. It should be used sparingly, and only by experts. The more Flash on a site, the less accessible it is. It pains us when we see Flash navigation on a site, a simple jQuery would do a much better job, and use less resources.

Check out the next post for the other three main mistakes web designers make.
7 Mistakes Web Designers Make Cont.

7 Mistakes Web Designers Make. pt2

7 Mistakes Web Designers Make. pt2

Continuing on from the previous post about frequent mistakes we as designers spot on websites when surfing. We don’t spot them on purpose, we don’t set out to pick holes in other people’s work, it just happens. Just like a car salesman checking out the traffic when he is stuck at the lights, it’s in our blood.
So in the last post we covered four of the seven. They were browser inconsistencies, confusing messages, not having a clear idea of the client’s needs and designs that use Flash when they shouldn’t.
So the fifth mistake, and one of my pet peeves is a search function that doesn’t work properly. If you want to include a search function on a website, make sure it works properly. The more barriers there are between the user and the information they want, the less likely they are to stick around to find it. Poor search results are a classic example of this. If you code your own, make sure you test it thoroughly, otherwise use something like Google’s Custom Search Engine. Nothing is more familiar to users than the big G.
Number six, and an all too familiar one is the use of poor quality images. There really is no excuse for this one. Graphics and images are so prevalent on the internet now that you should be able to find something suitable. There is a plethora of free stock photo sites, graphics repositories and other sources of images for a design. Or, if you really want to, you can make your own. If you have a graphic artist on staff, or know of one then you should always leverage the original.
Using original images is the ideal way to make the design stand out from the crowd. The same with photographs. Stock photos are all very well, but they have the potential to have been used thousands of times. If you can source your own, original pictures the site stands a much higher chance of making an impact.
When you have an image, make sure that it’s formatted and resized properly. There are way too many poorly manipulated images around, and there are plenty of free tools if you don’t have Photoshop.
The last web design annoyance as far as we’re concerned is URLs that make no sense. This is becoming an increasingly popular problem with the advent of CMS like WordPress who default to a dynamic URL structure. They do however have the option to be reconfigured to make sense.
A URL should always be meaningful, especially if you have even half an eye on SEO. Including a keyword in the URL is worth a lot of points in an SEO campaign. It adds quite a bit to the optimization as a whole, if not on its own.
Seven is something of an odd number, but a nice word. I’m sure there are plenty of other web design faux pas that we could think of, but nothing else springs to mind at the moment. These should be enough food for thought for now.

7 Tips for Good Web Design

7 Tips for Good Web Design

I like the number 7, which is why I keep choosing it for my posts. It’s an odd number, small enough to be remembered easily but not too many that it becomes tiresome to read.

While most of you will already know these basic but important tips for good web design, I believe them important enough to mention for those new designers amongst you, or those thinking of taking up web design as a career or hobby.

Learn CSS and HTML. This is a pretty basic requirement but it’s important enough to re-iterate for those of you who think you can get by without it. You can’t, simple as that. Having a grasp of how your designs are rendered keeps you grounded and only producing designs that work online. Both techniques are being continually improved and new ways of using them are appearing all the time, take HTML5 for example. With every improvement comes more tricks you can use in your designs. Keeping on top of them means you’ll always be able to use the latest techniques and be at the forefront of design and usability.

Proper image use. Images are a pivotal part of most web designs. There are plenty out there that don’t use any, but for any page that uses them, using good quality images is a must. A picture paints a thousand words, or so the saying goes. Any image used on a web page must be the best it can be. As bright, as vibrant and as detailed as the design can cope with to really sell the site, and the product or service it might be promoting. See my earlier post about the many sources of free stock photos, or how to acquire original photography or images to use in websites.

Proper Color use is another essential ingredient in any design. It is also one of the easiest aspects of a page to get wrong. While there is a definite movement for minimalist designs, and white is a very effective color for websites, the appropriate and clever use of color can make all the difference. It can be as simple as using standard link colors and a different used link color to using bold or rich colors for the site background or page elements. Using color is a great way to make a page interesting or highlight a specific part of it, it can even be used as navigation. Dark backgrounds will need contrasting light text, and navigation, where light backgrounds will need dark. Getting the contrast right between colors takes skill and practice, in that order. Once you get it right, the world is a colorful one.

We shall continue the 7 Tips for Good Web Design in the next post where we’ll cover the Footer, Navigation, White Space and Detail.

7 Tips for Good Web Design Cont.

7 Tips for Good Web Design Cont.

Continuing from the previous post about the basics of good design techniques. This is predominantly aimed at new designers, or those wanting to take up design as a hobby or career. Welcome to our world!

Footers are so often overlooked that I simply must mention them here. Many designers don’t put any value on a footer in a design. They are there merely to carry the copyright information and other company or site info. They can be much more than that, as many newer designs can testify. They can include links to other site resources, external links and carry other information designs to keep a visitor on the site. The creative use of a footer can intrigue a user when they have scrolled to the bottom of a page and are about to leave. Having something there to catch their eye or attention is a great way of redirecting them within the site.

Navigation is the second most important part of any site after the content. If visitors can’t find their way around then they aren’t going to venture further than the home page, which makes the site a very expensive landing page. Navigation is the only way people get around, and if it isn’t clear it will either baffle or confuse users, which is the best way to lose them. Proper navigation reduces the frustration visitors might feel when moving around and removes a barrier between them and the content or product.

White Space is essential for any page that has content, be it written or graphic. Not only does it add contrast between the background and the content, it also give the eyes space to move around the page. There is nothing worse than visiting a page that has tight copy packed between other page elements in order to squeeze as much onto it as possible. It might inflate the page count a bit, but the effective use of whitespace is a major contributor to whether a design works or fails. Good use of whitespace gives the whole page room to breathe and making visiting it a much more pleasurable experience.

Detail is what you add when a design is almost finished, but needs a little more punch. It can be anything from adding shading, gradients or shadows to graphic elements to little touches that add so much to the overall appeal of the page. Be careful not to overdo it though as it’s all too easy to go overboard with finishing touches. Learn when to say enough is enough.

These 7 tips are what I regard as essential basic training for would-be web designers. You need to get each one exactly right in order to get the most out of every design. The most important ones to get right are Navigation and White Space, as without them no design is going to work. It won’t matter how much detail is on the page, or how clever your CSS is, if the content can’t be read or accessed by the users it’s a fail.

Custom web design: Seven mistakes you need to avoid

Custom web design: Seven mistakes you need to avoid

There are tons of websites out there offering “to teach you good web design by showing you a bad one”. However, things are not always as crystal clear as these sites portray them when you get down to your own web design exercise.
Here are some mistakes that you need to look out for and avoid when developing your custom web design.
i. The wall text
Avoid putting up one big chunk of text on your pages. Instead break down your information. You can achieve this by use of:
• Main headings
• Sub headings
• Bullets points
• Bold and italized terms
• Paragraph breaks
• A few graphics
If you are copywriting for your site, you need to objectively considering whether such piece of information is relevant to your site. If you already have a site, examine your analytics for pages that are not visited by your users and consider deleting them.
ii. Being unique vs. Being out-rightly weird
Your custom website design should no doubt be unique. However, in your quest for a unique website, do not challenge these conventions:
• Having the menu at the top or left of the page
• Labeling search buttons “search” and submit buttons “submit”
• Keeping navigation constant
While your website should be unique, let it function just in the same way as its peers do.
iii. Use of PDFs
Only have crucial information in PDF format if you have to. This is because PDF files take pretty long to load, are difficult to navigate to read as well as save or print.
iv. Failing to list prices
The greatest advantage of the web is the wide array of choice together with the speed with which you can access information. A custom website that lacks price list is certainly minus these benefits as it forces customers to wait for communication from you before making their decision to buy. While there are exceptions, try as much as possible to provide guidelines on your rates and prices.
v. Poor search facility
Having a search box is great; however, it will frustrate your visitors if it returns only “exact” matches. Never settle for a “cheap” search box when building your custom website. Put quality first when it comes to this aspect of your web design.
vi. Lack of keywords
You need to know the keywords that are relevant to your business and use them in your website and content. This is important for both the search engines and your visitors as they will help the search engines and users know that they have landed on the right pages.
vii. Custom web design or advertisements?
It is a terribly bad idea having a custom web design that looks like an advertisement. People will quickly leave your site without even looking at its meaning if it is looking like an ad.
Make sure you do not make these mistakes with your web design in order to give your business the best chance of success online

Designing your website with Search Engine Optimization in mind

Designing your website with Search Engine Optimization in mind

Is search engine optimization really worth your precious time and hard earned money? If it does, which stage of your website creation should you implement it?
To get started, it is important that you understand the full meaning of search engine optimization. This is the process of preparing and promoting a site on a cautiously selected set of keywords in popular search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The primary objective of this process is to get your web page a high ranking in the search results pages and have it right at the top. Being placed high in the rankings increases the number of potential customers that you can reach. Good optimization of your site helps your customers find and buy your products. You need to take this action under some serious considerations when you decide to take your business online. Choosing the right keywords that you will be optimizing your page for should be your top priority. Creating your content and designing your page based on such specified keywords will make it easier for search engines to rank your pages high on top. This will make you visible to more internet users and possibly translate into more sales.
Many factors determine your website’s position in the search engine results. Intelligent web page design is one of them. Committing your time on this can result into a page compliant with the standards hence increasing your chances of ranking high. Standards here refer to a clear page structure, a tidy source code and its cooperation with the search wizards. Page loading time is another very important factor. Have your pages loading on the visitors screen as fast as possible by optimizing on the code and investing in a fast and reliable web host.
More than 90 percent of internet surfers use the internet to find information on their products of interest. SEO is no doubt the cheapest and most effective way of tapping in to this incredible source of potential clients. Most SEO service companies calculate the price per individual customer. Depending on the popularity of the keywords you are working on ranking, you may have to part with anything from as little as $20 all the way to the big four and five figure sums.

Getting the best layout for your web design

Getting the best layout for your web design

Designing a website goes beyond having classy graphics, decorations and the like. Your website is more than graphics, the themes and concepts, the backgrounds, the color and the final graphics you choose for the many things you have on your website. There are other features of your site too that make up important elements of your final website. After settling on the theme of your website, the next step you need to look into is the layout of your website.
So what makes up the layout of your website?
You probably know the important role a layout plays in publications like magazines and newspapers. It is the layout that determines what goes where and the overall look of the final product. Hence when it comes to layout, you need to decide how to arrange the various parts of your site. When coming up with your website’s layout, you need to determine the items that you will have on your homepage as well as the content of the subsequent pages and how you decide on them.
You first step in deciding the layout of your website involves determining what the site is all about. Having made this decision, you need to figure out the overall purpose of your site. Whether your site is meant for personal or business use, this is very important when making your design decisions, whether it’s about your site’s graphics, how you place your elements on the site as well as all the other design aspects of your site.
Next, you need to define the most applicable layout for your site. These days, the most common kind of layout in use has navigation bars on either side as well as on top and bottom. These navigation bars contain tabs and lists of the main web pages on the site. This makes it easy for visitors to browse their way in and out of your site. The lists on the navigation areas are those of the main items on your site or topics that would capture the attention of the visitors as they browse your site. With these lists and navigation tabs, your visitors can easily come in and out of your site. They can also easily locate what they are looking for.
Point to remember
A good web design requires that you put all the important and relevant details right in front- have this information in front and center in order to enable your visitors to find it with ease. The layout of your site is very important. Make a wise choice when it comes to it! Be sure to double check every single important piece of your website, be it the graphics, layout or content, you have to get everything right with your website