Monthly Archives: May 2017

Choosing a Web Designer

Here are some tips in finding the right people for the job and some considerations to be taken into account.

1. Introduction

Many businesses look for a web designer as though they were shopping for a general commodity item such as a light bulb – i.e. All websites are equal and paying the 16 year old student on a computer course to build the site will reap exactly the same dividend as paying a specialist web development agency. Other businesses often feel they have to spend thousands upon thousands of pounds on a website for it to be successful.

Let us dispel these myths

Contrary to what many believe, web design is only one component in the production of your website. Some web designers can talk day and night about how pretty your web site can be, but if it isn’t functional, user-friendly, or capable of helping you meet your online goals, then all the superficial beauty in the world isn’t going to help it serve it’s purpose. The design theme of a website is only one component of building a successful online presence.

2. Defining Your Requirements

If you have no idea why you want a website or what you want the website to achieve, it is as well to sit down and think it through, rather than rushing to put up a “White elephant” that doesn’t serve a purpose. Every website must serve a purpose, and that’s usually where many websites falls short. They serve no purpose because the website owner never gave much thought to it. It’s not the website’s fault. A website is inanimate. It is only what you make it. The only life a website has is the one given to it by its designer and owner. If the human element doesn’t do a good job of defining the building blocks, the website will serve no purpose and eventually die a digital death. Every website should have a distinct purpose With that in mind, we’d suggest the first stage would be to define the “Goals” of the website in relation to the requirements and aspirations of the business or organisation involved.

Defining the Goal

Every website should have a distinct goal or number of goals that are measurable. A goal can be anything from communicating with friends and associates through to making profits by selling products or services online. Your goal in the first instance may even be to have a web presence so potential clients don’t regard your organisation as being backward! Once you have defined a goal, it’s equally important to define:

  • The target audience. i.e. Who you want/expect to visit your website.
  • The actions you want to result from their visit. i.e. Making an online sale, getting them to make an inquiry etc.
  • What benefits you are giving and receiving from having the website.

Defining the Key Functions (The actions)

Once the goals of the website have been established, it’s important to define the actions required by site visitors to meet the goals. An action is any traceable sequence of events carried out by the end user.

Examples might include:

  • Getting in touch – either by phone, email or via an online form.
  • Disseminating Information.
  • Signing up for a newsletter.
  • Completing a questionnaire
  • Commenting on a Blog
  • Downloading or buying products
  • Using an online tool

Establishing Your Design & Development Preferences

Once you have formulated the goals and functional requirements for the website, it’s time to start building a picture of how you anticipate the site coming together – with regard to structure and design theme. This doesn’t need to be a definitive exercise – Your web designer should be able to add a lot of input and suggestions at a later stage, but it helps to have some ideas to feed into the requirements you approach the designer with in the first instance.

As follows are a few that we feel should be mandatory:

  • The website should adhere to recognised standards. The site should be written to conform and validate to the standards defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – this will in turn, mean your site should be cross-browser friendly.
  • The website should be accessible. In web terms, this means that it conforms to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
  • The website should be clean, crisp and fast loading.
  • The website should be easy to use and inoffensive.

Creative Web Design

Many years ago, around the year 2000, many graphic design companies started to see an emergence in the marketplace for web services. Many of these companies had employees with a little web experience, enough to get by, and as such they began offering web services. What they didn’t understand was functionality, valid mark-up, cross-browser compatibility, or SEO – all things which a more traditional web design company would take into account. While this would be classed as a creative web design company, often their creative web design’s wouldn’t be successfully converted from a design into code, and having mis-alignments in a design became commonplace. Without experienced developers on-hand, many of these problems became overlooked, and many substandard creatively designed websites are still around today, with more and more being sent live on the world wide web every day.

For this reason, when looking to hire a creative web design company, you should always be sure to look into their operation, most reputable companies won’t mind you asking a few questions. In a creative web design company, the people building your site should be working as a team. The days of all-rounders are over, and when creativity is to be combined with functionality, it is essential to have a ‘designer’ as well as a ‘developer’ work on your project. A designer is generally artistically minded, and may have worked as a graphic designer in the print world at some capacity. Thei r goal is to create a visually appealing design for your approval. This will be a static image of what your website is going to look like, as it is much faster to edit a graphic than to edit a coded website. Most creative web design agencies work in a similar fashion, as this allows for the complete artistic talent of the designer to be used, and complete use of the imagination of not only the designer, but also the client.

Once a design is approved, a developer steps in to convert this to a web format in standards compliant code. This may include implementation of a Content Management System (CMS), and generally involves some mild Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well as cross-browser compatibility. Once this is done, your brand new creative web design is all ready for the World Wide Web. You need to choose a creative web design company that can fulfil all of your needs from creating a website which suits your brand image and captivates the user, to something which will navigate easily, rank well on search engines, function the same across your entire user-base, and ultimately lead to more conversions in your market. The main things to keep in mind when choosing a creative web design company are their design to implementation process, their cost, their portfolio, and ultimately the level of service you can expect. I am an online consultant, and can help you shoul d you have trouble finding an agency, or even if you would like me to help in assessing another agencies ability to meet your needs to come up with a creative web design that will fit your needs and help in squashing your competition.

Tips for Choosing a Web Designer

Creating your web site can be a tricky process. Choosing the best web design firm for your business web site is a very important decision. And if your company is like most small businesses, you probably do not have web design experience. Building your web site will take time and work. And working with a web designer is no easy task. So choose the right web design company from the start and avoid do-over’s, which can be costly and time consuming.

1. What kind of web experience do you have?

For starters, find out what kind of design experience your potential design firm has. Do they have experience with content management systems such as Joomla or Drupal, do they have experience working with “raw” HTML? Has the web design company created web sites similar to yours? Do they have relevant industry experience? If you want to sell products through your web site and accept credit card payments, does the web design company you are considering have experience with ecommerce hosting?

2. Do you have a portfolio that I can review?

An experienced web design company will have a solid portfolio of web sites that they have created for other clients. Ask for links to other site the design company has created and review each one. Do you like what you see? Do the sites have a style that appeals to you?

3. Do you have any references?

In addition to reviewing web sites, ask for customer references. Contact their clients and ask them about their experience with the web design company. Were they happy with the results? Did they get what they paid for? How much did they pay? Would they recommend them? How long did it take? What didn’t they like about the company? How responsive was the company when they had questions?

4. What are your prices?

The most important step in pricing is to make sure the potential design company outline all of the prices associated with the work and puts it all in writing. Never enter into a deal unless all of the costs are well understood up front.

Ask them a bit about how they manage payments. If they respond in a very business-like and professional manner, this is a good sign. If they throw out answers like – “Don’t worry, we’ll manage” or “Whatever you are comfortable with”, don’t be fooled. This is trouble waiting to happen. Get the price in writing before you begin the project.

5. Do you have experience with search engine optimization?

Most small business owners do not have it in their budget to hire a separate marketing firm to work on search engine optimization (SEO), so it imperative that your web designer have experience in SEO. A good designer will know that design and SEO go hand-in-hand. Designing a web site for search engines with “clean” code that utilizes cascading style sheets is essential to getting your content indexed in the leading search engines, such as Google and Bing.

6. Do you have experience with social media marketing?

Many marketing firms do know the first thing about social media marketing. These firms are stuck in the past and are not as effective as they pretend to be. Be sure that you work with a designer that knows how to setup a Facebook fan page for your business and design a customized Twitter profile. This is important because you will want your social media properties to mesh with the design of your web site. The web site and social media pages should complement one-another.

7. What is your process for designing or building a web site?

Make sure you ask your potential web design company about the process that they use? Do they design a web site or do they build a web site? An experienced Internet professional should understand the difference between these two concepts. If they don’t, they’re probably not as experienced as they claim to be. Building a web site is a highly technical process, while designing a web site is a highly creative process. Many advertising firms specialize in web site design which does not necessarily require any web development skills whatsoever. At the same time, many firms design web sites, yet out-source the creative portion of the project. Find out from the beginning what the process if for the firm that you are considering.

Web Design and Development Information

Web design usually involves many varied disciplines and skills in the maintenance and production of websites. The different parts that encompasses web designing include interface design, graphic design, authoring which includes proprietary software and standardized code, search engine optimization and user experience design. Although some designers may specialize in all the aspects of web design, most designers usually work in groups each individual tackling a different aspect of the process.

  • HTML and CSS in Web design

HyperText Markup Language commonly known as HTML, plays a big role in web design since it gives the content in the website, it’s meaning and structure by defining what the content is, for instance, paragraphs, images, headings and so on. Cascading Style Sheets or what is commonly referred to as CSS, is a display language used to enhance the appearance of the content in the site for example use of colors and fonts.

Both the languages CSS and HTML are used independently of each other and that should be maintained when dealing with web design. For instance in all your web related activities such as “Web Design and development, appearance, website, homepage, HTML” HTML should not be written in a CSS document vice versa. The general rule is that HTML should always be representing content while CSS should always represent how that content appears. For those who are the beginners of HTML, in some cases you might encounter strange and often-new terms but with time you are likely to become more conversant with all of them. However, the commonly used terms in HTML you should begin with include attributes, tags and elements.

New standards in HTML and CSS

To enhance “Web Design and development, appearance, website, homepage, HTML” the W3C recently released new standards of CSS the CSS3 and HTML the HTML5. Additionally the W3C released new JavaScript API’s. Although they are all new but they are all individual standards. While the new term HTML 5 solely refers to the latest version of the HTML and a number of the JavaScript API’s it is common to hear most people use it to refer to the whole lot of the new standard both the CSS3,the HTML 5 and JavaScript.

  • Homepage design

Most Usability professionals and experts such as Kyle Soucy and Jakob Nielsen have on a number of times insisted on homepage design for any website success since the homepage is the most essential part of a website. However, in the early 2000’s it was discovered that a surging number of web traffic was inconsiderate to the homepage and was directly going to the contents of the pages via e-newsletters, RSS feeds and search engines.

Due to this, it is evident that homepages play a lesser important role in the success of any website. In the years 2012 and 2013 rotating banners and sliders, also known as carousels became a very popular component of web design on homepages. The carousels are used to display recent content in a specific space. However, while undertaking “Web Design and development, appearance, website, homepage, HTML” it should be noted that carousels often damage site’s usability and search engine optimization.

  • Web site appearance

The feel and look of your site is more essential than just displaying the information you want, but doing it in a way that it appeals and creates attention from your target audience information. Multiple factors should be taken into account when scaling out the appearance of your website. One of the major considerations is your intended audience. Look at their nationality, gender, age bracket, animations, colors, animations and graphics.

In summary, the idea here is to assist you develop a site that appeals and gets attention from the largest possible audience in all your work including web design and development.