More and more people around the world are using the Internet, and the numbers are increasing everyday. The Internet has become the primary source of information for many, and because of that, web sites have to constantly improve the content and image of their web pages in order to keep users interested in accessing their sites.
What are the measures that should be implemented by web designers in order to make their sites more appealing to users around the world? Here is a list of issues that can be encountered in web design and the necessary action to be considered:
1. Availability of basic features
First, the design of a web site should be compatible to any browser. It should be able to pass HTML and CSS validation tests. Second, web sites should be able to cater to disabled users. This won’t be a problem as long as designers adhere to web standards. Third, the process of navigating a web site should be simple enough for all users. No user likes to encounter a new site, and then he or she has to figure out how to navigate around it. Fourth, status bars should be available. It shows the destination of links as the cursor is being moved. The status of the current page is also displayed as it loads.
2. Appearance of the pages
There are four elements that make up the appearance of a web site. They are the fonts, color, graphics, and writing.
Fonts are not just a matter of personal preference of the user and the designer. The primary importance of font choice is that it affects how fast the users can read the information being presented. Arial fonts are usually recommended over the Times New Roman and the Verdana.
When applying color, it is important that there is enough contrast between background and foreground in order for the content to be readable. To achieve maximum contrast, black text against a white background should be used. Link colors should be established at standard settings.
When it comes to graphics, bear in mind that some pages get too overloaded because of the use of too much images. As much as possible, use graphics only to support the content being presented to users. A lot of people actually have the tendency to shut off the images when browsing for information.
Web designers should remember the distinction between writing for the web and writing for print. Web content should be short and straight to the point.
3. Site performance
There are three factors that determine the overall performance of a web site. These are speed, tables, and connections.
Since everyone is hankering for more bandwidth, the best that designers can do is to avoid the usage of design that will take up too much bandwidth, because not every user has access to fast Internet connections.
To avoid making the site appear like it takes forever to download, avoid loading putting a whole page inside a table. Instead, divide the page into several tables.
Web designers should not cloud a page with too much items for the simple reason that each item requires a separate browser for the whole page to be downloaded.
4. The occurrence of bugs
Of course, no one wants to have bugs in his system. To avoid this, body text should be set up with relative font sizes. One has to consider that there are users out there who have poor eyesight, and they would like to adjust the font sizes through their individual settings in order to read the text more clearly. The relative value recommended for this would be:
In case of URLs, it should be simple and short, containing no punctuation or spaces. Users should be able to copy a URL and paste it into an email message without it being wrapped in multiple lines. To avoid dead links, redirects should be established, in order to avoid the breaking of bookmarks and links.
Web designers should make sure that navigation features will be present at all times, whatever the size of the window the user is using. Browser windows should be maximized when applying design, because not every user will be surfing the Internet in a maximized window.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive design is a web design and development technique that creates a site or system that reacts to the size of a user’s screen. Responsive design will optimise a user’s browsing experience by creating a flexible and responsive web page, optimised for the device that is accessing it.
There has been a distinct audience shift towards mobile browsing and responsive design represents the simplest way to reach users across multiple devices and ensures a seamless user experience. 2013 has been hailed as the ‘Year of Responsive Design’, and with increasing preference of readers to read news online across multiple devices (i.e. tablets and smartphones), responsive design is becoming increasingly important
Time Magazine has a good example of how responsive design changes to fit the screen:
Time web site
Increasing your reach to tablet and mobile audiences
Increasing use of the internet and proliferation of web applications on tablet and mobile devices has been the driving force behind this development. Traditionally users would be re-directed to a device specific site (e.g. mobile), but responsive design means one site can be implemented across devices.
Tablet sales are expected to exceed 100 million this year, meaning that responsive design has never been so important for those looking to optimise their online content. Indeed, some Byte9 sites are already experiencing up to 40% traffic from tablet and mobile devices, a strong commercial imperative to accommodate the smaller screen size in a unified design.
Increase sales and conversion rates
Another benefit of responsive design is that the user has an improved site experience as there is no need for redirection, use of standardised Style Sheets (CSS) across devices and unified design approach will also create a consistent look and feel. Consistent user experience will have a positive impact on your conversion rates as people are familiar with navigation and site or system use across devices. Responsive design removes some of the barriers that having multiple sites can present, i.e. in functionality, performance and consistent look and feel.
Consolidate your analytics and reporting
A single responsive site means that you no longer have to track user journeys, conversion paths, funnels and redirections between your sites. Site analytics tools like Google Analytics are now optimised to handle multiple devices and responsive reporting. All of your tracking and analytics will continue to function and be condensed into a single report, allowing for easier monitoring and analysis.
Increase your visibility in search engines
Responsive Design means you can manage one website with a single set of hypertext links; therefore reducing the time spent maintaining your site. This allows you to focus on link outreach with a consolidated Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy. SEO campaigns can be time consuming and costly, but by creating a responsive site, all of your efforts can be focussed on a single site, with unified strategy and tactics across devices.
Content is vital in SEO, good quality content which is regularly released improves your search engine ranking page positioning, therefore a further advantage of responsive design is that fewer resources can be wasted in low-level duplication of content across sites, the content need only be applied to a single site, increasing your chances or a higher search engine ranking.
Additionally Google suggest (which Byte9 analytics can confirm) that mobile optimised, responsive sites are featuring prominently in localised search results. This is obviously of huge significance to high street and online retailers, amongst other burgeoning mobile use cases.
Save time and cost on mobile development
A primary benefit of adopting a responsive design is that it takes less time than creating an additional stand-alone mobile site, which has been the traditional approach. Testing across a number of websites also increases your development, support and maintenance overhead. As styles are re-used and optimised by device standardised testing methodologies can also be used.
Save time and cost on site management
Clients will also find it much easier and less time consuming to manage and maintain a single site, with much less content to manage. Additionally a single administrative interface can easily be optimised, using layout and workflow tools to manage the correct content, or site templates that are being used for different devices. Business logic can be applied such that the overall multi-device experience can be significantly enhanced within a single administration, like Blaze CMS.
Within Blaze CMS, for example, editorial users are marshalled to produce the requisite content, appropriate for each device screen size, therefore maximising the benefit and minimising what can be a huge editorial administrative overhead with separate sites for mobile.
Enhance user’s offline browsing experience
Responsive design allows site owners to deliver quality content to audiences across devices, the offline browsing capabilities of HTML5 mean that sites can be easily accessed ‘on the go’. As HTML5 enabled tablets and smart phones proliferate this will become increasingly important. Email newsletters, and content contained in hybrid HTML5 web applications will increasingly be consumed on the move and in the absence of an internet connection.
Responsive design allows you to stay ahead of the trend. As the demand for media rich mobile internet and apps is burgeoning, several important implications must be addressed; development and maintenance costs, visibility in search engines and better conversion rates. It is these factors combined with a unified approach to design that will be beneficial for all stakeholders.
With the increase in Tablet sales and smartphone device use exploding, responsive design is key to keeping up ahead of your competitors and establishing market share; content consumption on mobile devices will only continue to balloon as 2013 progresses.
No business website can afford to stay static for very long. As technology and market conditions change, a company’s website must follow. Customers’ evolving needs demand that periodic redesigns take place. So it’s best to know what’s involved in the process and what you can do to produce an effective website redesign.
Identify your objectives. Many businesses are moved to redesign their websites in an effort to (a) increase lead conversion rates, (b) promote greater user engagement and (c) make the site more user-friendly. Whatever your goals, they should be clearly defined at the start so that both you and your website design team know precisely what you’re looking for. Every decision that’s made during the process should grow organically out of your original stated goals.
Build your design team. Long gone are the days where the same person designs the website, writes the copy and codes it. Your website is a foundational element in your marketing communications mix, so it’s critical all aspects of a redesign are considered. Here’s a list of critical members on a design team:
- Creative Director / Marketing Director – ensure your strategic marketing objectives are met and that your brand is presented in the best light possible.
- Project Manager – your day-to-day contact to manage and schedule all the moving parts of a website redesign process.
- Web Designer – determine the look and feel and functionality of the website to ensure it’s user-friendly.
- Web Developer – build, code and test the website so the design is translated perfectly and functionality requirements are met. The web developer can also recommend appropriate hosting for the new website.
- SEO Strategist – conducts keyword research to optimize the site.
- Copywriter – creates and/or edits content along with integrating SEO keywords.
Understand the redesign process. Each design team works differently, but in general, the basic process includes these steps:
- Discovery (Determining Objectives, Keyword Wishlists and Research)
- Planning (Site Maps, Content Strategy, Keyword Recommendations)
- Design (Wire frames, homepage and subpage designs)
- Development (Coding, testing and content entry)
- Launch (Setting up any page redirects and submitting site map to search engines)
Your input in several critical areas is absolutely necessary for the design team to achieve your stated goals. This includes providing a list of “must-haves” for the site, a list of pages, branding and style requirements, and providing the necessary content (more on this below). As part of the process, the designer will do the following:
- Present various page template designs for your review
- Gain consensus on site map, content strategy and keywords
- Program necessary functions and applications
- Add content (text and images) to working website
- Test the website for use in various browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE, etc.)
Deliver the best content possible. An effective website redesign is only as good as the content the design team has to work with. Work on generating content that compels visitors to read further—from the home page or landing page all the way to clicking on “Buy.” Most design teams can assist with optimizing the content with keywords best suited for your business which will help boost your standing in various search engines. Content for forms and calls-to-action are also needed, however you can rely on your design team to present these in the most effective way possible.
Assist in the testing phase. Once the new website is set up and approved, designers will want to test it before the official live-date. During this quality assurance phase, you can help by checking off the following items:
- All pages look and function as demonstrated in the mock-up
- Identify any glitches
- Testing all forms and making sure they are going to the correct email addresses and/or CRM
- Ensure content is accurate
It’s a good idea to launch the new site during times of the least traffic – for B2B companies this means after normal business hours. This gives you and the design team the opportunity to pinpoint any kinks and make needed repairs when the fewest visitors will notice.
Use Google Analytics to measure user engagement. It’s not enough to unveil a flashy new website. You need to know whether your original goals are being met and how visitors are responding to the changes—in terms of increased traffic, reduced bounce rates and the degree of social media sharing that’s taking place.
Google Analytics is especially helpful in measuring customer engagement for B2B companies. Here are some key metrics covered by Google Analytics:
- Visits: How many times users visit your website
- Unique visits: The number of unduplicated visits to your site (different from one user’s multiple visits to the same page or site)
- Pageviews: The total number of pages your visitors view
- Pages/Visit: How many pages, on average, each visitor goes to (the higher the number, the more visitors are interacting with the site)
- Average visit duration: The number of pages a user clicks on during a visit
- Bounce rate: A bounce rate measures how many people visit one page of your site and then leave. Here’s where a compelling call-to-action leads visitors elsewhere on your site.
- Percentage of new visits: The percentage of visitors who have not previously been to your website
If you’re in business today, a website is as important as an ad in the Yellow Pages. With a Web presence, you’ve got access to millions of potential customers around the world–it’s like rolling out a major advertising supplement, marketing brochure and mail order catalog in one easily updated package. And all without printing, postage or phone costs! The problem is that for most people, designing a website is on a par with building your own TV set–a major mystery best left unexplored. But if you can unlock the secrets of HTML and you’ve got a flair for graphics and copywriting, then Website design could be the business for you. The advantages to this business are that it’s creative, you can start part-time on a minimal budget, and even if you don’t already know HTML, it’s not difficult to learn once you set your mind to it. And you can deal with clients in any geographic region without leaving your computer. You should have a good rapport with your computer and have mastered the basic skills to get around in cyberspace. You’ll also need a talent for graphics and copywriting because your goal for each client will be not only to get the website up and running but to design one that’s easy to navigate through, visually appealing, and clearly yet cleverly worded. Get started by designing a few sample sites to showcase your talents, and be sure to mix up your sample work to include e-commerce, information portal, and so on.
Your clients will be businesses–you can target everything from SOHOs to nonprofit organizations to professional associations to government agencies. Choose a geographic or specialty area to start with–say, small businesses in your community or real estate agencies–then send direct-mail pieces explaining the values of a website and your services. Put up your own website both to attract business and to serve as a sample of your work, and establish links with other internet sites so potential clients can find you through as many paths as possible.
As a Website designer, your most important tool will be, of course, your computer; make sure yours has a fast internet connection. You’ll also need a scanner (inexpensive is OK), Web page creation software, and a graphic design package. If your Web page software doesn’t have the oomph to upload files to the internet service provider, you’ll want a program to carry out this task.