Top Trending Website Design Inspirations

As professional web designers and developers, you’re visiting probably well over a thousand websites a month in order to stay up to date with trendy design and to generate ideas for your own projects. With the design landscape changing so frequently and fast, how do we stay current, and more importantly, how do we stay motivated to create the best websites possible? Better yet, how do we find the time?!

Web design is the so hot right now and the web is constantly expanding, growing and flourishing. This is due to the fact that people are genuinely interested in getting involved with the development of the web. And this makes us…happy. That’s right, we’re happy that the web is growing and evolving at a rapid rate because it means that we’re Responsive Designconstantly seeing new design trends. We’re hoping that this will eventually result in a web that is based solely on excellent design rather than just function or purpose. The revolution may not happen yet, but we believe it’s in the works…

We’re been trawling the web looking for the most inspiring design trends so you won’t have to! Have a look, take some notes and get ready to revamp your web design style!

  1. Keep on Scrolling: When you combine storytelling with user experience it often gets you a long page narrative. Websites will keep on experimenting with this more and more in the future. Clicking is so early 2000. This new scrolling is called long scrolling and it means is that all of your website’s pages can be viewed by vertically scrolling up or down. Boom. Easy. People have less and less time these days and getting lost navigating your pages is the last thing they want to do. One page websites are the new things. Keep an eye out for parallax scrolling too, which is a special scrolling technique where the background images move by the camera slower than foreground images, thus creating an illusion of depth and adding to the immersion experience.
  2. Make it Personal: People don’t want their only reactions to be with machines. Writing personal content is the best way to make your customers trust you. Good content is the only way for you to connect with your online audience, so write it like a human would, not a Cyborg. It’s no big secret that people perceive and process information easier when it’s delivered with graphic aids. Big content blocks are also great both for responsive web design and storytelling. The blocks focus readers’ attention on one statement at a time and become even more powerful when combined with bold web fonts, lots of whitespace, separated with colours, and matched with strong images.
  3. Responsive Design!: This web design approach is aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience for customers. The easy reading, navigation, panning, and scrolling across a wide range of devices like mobile phones to desktop computer monitors is quickly becoming the standard for business, and if you don’t comply, your Google ranking is going to suffer. Responsive design makes set website design look archaic.  Get on board if you want to stay up to date.
  4. Simple Design!: Simple design is a misnomer. It’s not implying that it’s easy to do, but rather it refers to the use of the best practices so site visitors get what they need without complication. Simple design embraces powerful images and meaningful content. It showcases purposeful navigation. Remember that ol’ saying: Keep It Simple, Stupid. This applies to the following:
  • Simple Animations: The one other trend that has taken off after the release of iOS7 is the use of simple animations. These are subtle animations that give affordance and personality to the design that you see on websites and apps. You can see it in gestures, for example when you move up and down the chat bubbles in Messages where the bubbles bump against one another.
  • Simple Colours: Over the last year, bold and bright colours have been making a name for themselves but light and subtle colour combinations are on trend now.

Psst…Pantone colours to watch out for:

Placid Blue: This is the ultimate light blue pastel shade. Associated with peace and serenity, this dreamy blue goes well with any pastel shades and classic bolds.

Violet Tulip: If you haven’t guessed by the name, this is a lavender shade. It’s a very romantic and vintage hue that pairs well with bolds.

Hemlock: This is a light green, almost pistachio, with a hint of the orient. It differs much from the trendy mint and emerald hues with its tenderness. All three of these shades perfectly combine with each other and with brighter colours.

  1. Tell Me a Story: Storytelling Design is similar to writing good content but I want to take it further. Storytelling design tells a story through concise, compelling copy coupled with strong imagery as users scroll down the page. It’s the best way companies can get their customers to connect with them. You’re telling a brand story now! You’re not just creating a website that brags how great your services are. The marketplace is saturated with businesses just like yours. But your story can make you stand out. So tell it well.
  2. Hey Flatty: Flat UI is a mix of fun and smooth colours, combined with complete and total simplicity, which brings websites and web applications to life. Giants like Apple and Microsoft are getting on board, so it’s time for you to embrace it too. Flat design focuses on simplicity and clarity and helps websites get rid of their excess clutter. Users can then focus on the content and overall the user experience becomes more enjoyable. Flat UI just going to keep growing so take the time to study it.
  3. Video Killed the Radio Star: There are only so many great copy writers out there and you don’t want your customers reading all day. Change things up by creating videos that get your message across. You can get creative and even cheeky with video. The right videos can go viral, so it’s worth considering if you’re looking for potential word of mouth advertising. Video content is becoming easier and cheaper to produce and crisp HD photos can easily make your website look professional, attractive while getting your message across. We’re social animals and there’s no better tool than a good video for storytelling. Videos can stir our emotions and create a closer connection better than just well written text. Watching a video can entice your users to linger longer on your page, thus allowing them to get to know your brand better.
  4. Don’t Believe the Type: Make a name for your brand with personalised fonts. Fonts have evolved in the last few years, with services like Google Fonts offering hundreds of free fonts to choose from. There is a definite potential to create something more memorable with branded fonts to get your message across. The websites using these fonts say that they’re independent, trailblazing and downright sassy.  It’s a strong message that works. In addition to this, big chunky font is trending.
  5. Take a Ride: Fixed Navigation is the new way to go. Websites that integrate social media, search and even purchase options within their fixed ‘navbars’ make the user experience more accessible and continuous. We’ll be seeing plenty of changes in this area in the years to come. The main purpose of the fixed technique is to keep the navigation bar constantly visible for the users as they scroll down which makes it easier for them and makes the experience more enjoyable.  Stripped-down navigation is a trend that looks set to grow in popularity and we’re going to see a lot more focus on icons, roll-downs, and navigation that shrinks as you start to scroll down the page.
  6. Blurred Lines: Since the release of iOS 7 last summer, designers have been using blurred backgrounds as a source of inspiration like crazy. You essentially overlay interfaces, creating a “shower door” type look with these multiple blurred backgrounds. It actually creates pretty attractive nonlinear gradients which can make your website stand out.

And there you have it, some of the best trends coming your way in 2014. Just remember that a decent design should serve both practical and aesthetic purposes. The best design comes from designing for the user’s needs by applying best practices. Don’t follow trends for the sake of it – if you don’t like a certain trend then use a different technique that suits your style.

Now, if we could just a drumroll so we can say a proper goodbye to the following trends that have assaulted our eyes for too long…

  • Overused stock photos
  • Auto-play videos and music
  • Automated popups
  • Advertising sidebars
  • Inane blog posts
  • Loading and Reloading pages
  • Modal windows with hidden or tiny close commands
  • Small, impossible to read font sizes
  • Long shadows: why?! WHY?!!
  • Hipster icons and logos

Goodbye and good riddance!

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Posted in Trending Design

What are the Advantages and Disdavantages of Using Flat Design

How many times have you come across websites touting the benefits of Flat Design lately? While the flat web design trend has been emerging in recent years, its popularity has exploded thanks to large companies and organizations changing their design aesthetic and embracing flat design.

So, where the heck did flat design come from? And why are we seeing it everywhere on the Web? As with anything and everything, knowing where a style or technique’s origins can help you make more educated decisions when it comes to the use of that particular design aesthetic.

Let’s take a thorough look at what flat design is and why it’s so popular today.

FLAT DESIGN 101

Flat Design: What It Is and What It Ain’t

FLATDESIGNFor those of you who have been living under a rock and haven’t heard of the term, “flat design” is the term given to a style of design where elements lose any type of stylistic characters that make them appear as though they lift off the page. What?! This means stylistic characters like drop shadows, gradients and textures are removed so that they lose the three-dimensional element. Modern designers gravitate toward flat design because it feels clean and crisp, it’s easy to use and it allows designers to focus on the most important aspects of good web design: the content and the message they’re trying to put across.

By removing design styles that can easily date these savvy designers are essentially future-proofing their designs so that they stay relevant for longer periods of time. To put it simply: flat design seems to be taking out the trash. It’s a more efficient and effective way to design and you should probably stop what you’re doing right now and get on board.

Perhaps I should first school on design that isn’t flat design. In web terms, the opposite of flat design is rich design. Rich design is like your tacky grandmother from your father’s side. She comes with all the ornaments such as bevels, reflections, drop shadows and gradients. These tropes are often employed to make elements seem more tactile but often the only effect they generate is one of out-dated, gaudy design.

Flat web design favours clean edges, solid colours, engaging palettes, flat/two-dimensional images and multi-browser compatible icons and fonts. In essence, if a design element serves no functional purpose, it’s considered detrimental to the user experience, hence the minimalistic nature of flat design.

Creation Myth: Where Did Flat Design Come From?

Most of what we see on the web has origins from fine art. While it may be difficult to determine the exact start of flat design or where it came from exactly, we can look at a few periods of design and art that flat design takes inspiration from.

Swiss Style of Design

The Swiss style of design, also known as the International Typographic Style, is the main period of design that comes to mind when considering the history of flat design. This minimalist style was the dominant throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s and mainly focused on the use of grids, sans-serif typography, and the clean hierarchy of content and layout.

Typography was a major element in Swiss design and soon our much loved Helvetica typeface was created in Switzerland in 1957. Thank you Switzerland!

Minimalist Design

Flat design has also been influenced by Minimalism. The term “minimalism” is sometimes used interchangeably with today’s flat design, but minimalism was a popular art technique decades before the web was developed. Minimalism has history in architecture, visual art, whereas flat design takes its influence from the design and visual art expressions of minimalism. Minimalism embraces efficiency. When you employ a minimalist aesthetic, you leave just the necessary elements. Geometric shapes, bright colours, and clean lines dominate both old and modern minimalism style design.

Who’s Your Daddy?

Microsoft and Apple have had the most impact on making flat design popular in the last decade. While Microsoft was working on its flat design style, Apple was working on something similar. Apple started hinting at moving away from its use of skeuomorphism, and then completely abandoned it in favour of a flat design with the release of iOS 7 in the summer of 2013. The design of iOS 7 seemed to have made flat design even more popular than it was before practically overnight.

Apple carries a lot of clout when it comes to trendsetting styles and people tend to follow its design aesthetic because it feels more modern and on trend. So when Apple switched to flat design everything else seemed outdated and people began to redesign with this new, flatter design. This is most evident in the different apps that have been updated to work well with iOS 7.

Ring! Ring! Hello Responsive Design!

It’s important to note that the main reason flat design has become so popular in recent years is because of  the development of responsive design. As more and more devices are connecting to the web, with various screen sizes and browser restrictions, designers are finding that their tried-and-true design styles don’t translate as well when you have to shrink those designs into smaller viewports.

Flat design allows for efficient web. Without the extra design elements in the way, clutter up the space, websites can load much faster and are easier to resize to smartphones and tablets. It’s much easier to display crisp boxes and typography than it is to make several different images to accommodate all the various devices and features out there.

Back to The Future… of Flat Design

Considering how fast the web changes these days, it’s easy to say that flat design will eventually run its course in due time. It’s not the perfect design and there are obvious flaws but as designers experiment, test, and learn, flat design will evolve and eventually a new style will emerge in its wake. Perhaps it’s just a matter of being able to incorporate it with other styles the way Google does. They take the best of both worlds…hmmm!

While flat design may seem new and exciting, and is a popular trend, it isn’t revolutionising the web. Flat website design creates a dividing line between technology and tactile objects encouraging a user-friendly and functional approach to ‘design’, with an emphasis on ease of operation. It makes surfing the web via your smartphone and tablet easier, but it’s nothing ground breaking, is it?! Well, its user centric foundations have seen it replace the old-school skeumorphic design with a more simplified, universally recognised aesthetic.

Flat design empowers the UI of all modern Apple, Android and Windows devices. To adopt its approaches is to inherit its reach. It’s a style consumers expect and trust these days, and its introduction within the framework of your website could be the difference between online success & failure.

Flat UI designs, using brighter colours and flat visual effects with negligible or even nil gradients and graphical illustration, became popular because of the outrageous demand of something new and minimalistic. They follow a minimalist, responsive approach that is user friendly, eye- catching, and works on any kind of website that exists.

Lost and Found

Have I lost you yet? This is a lot of information, but I’m going to give you some links to some more. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you better understand flat design and can advise you on how to use it on your own personal and professional projects.

There are literally hundreds of other websites that will offer you all kinds of flat design UI kits. If flat design isn’t your aesthetic, then don’t adopt it as your design mantra. There are ways for you to stay true to your natural style and incorporate elements of flat design in order to stay up to date and contemporary.

The beauty of flat design is that it’s clear-cut and clean. The sharpness and varied features result in a design that’s modern and tidy. If it’s too simple it may be unable to put across a complex visual communication. Some experts feel that this simplicity may be a disadvantage, but who can say for sure? At the end of the day, good design is all about usability and functionality. No one design can fit all web sites and it’s up to you what kind of style you want to embrace. Right now, flat design is in fashion, so we feel it’s best to stay current and keep up with the trend.

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Posted in Flat Design

.NZ DOMAIN NAMES NOW AVAILABLE

It's the first time that 'second level' domain names are going to be available, and it's happening NOW. CONTACT US TO PRE-REGISTER YOUR .NZ DOMAIN NAME TODAY, at the same annual domain registration cost as your .co.nz domain.

Several reasons why .NZ domain names are now available:

  1. The first reason is simply that there will be more choice with .nz domain names!
  2. Another reason is a more representative domain name for you as an individual. A lot of people have .co.nz domain names and they're not businesses, so having just the .nz domain could be a better option for many. However, I would recommend registering the .co.nz as well, to avoid confusion for people trying to find your website, at least initially.
  3. A .NZ domain name also offers you a shorter option for your website address. This is also handy if you want to use your domain name for your email address, for example you could email me at: info@activatedesign.nz, rather than the longer info@activatedesign.co.nz.
  4. With the launch of available .NZ domain names New Zealand also align ourselves with other countries that have already have made this change. Other second level domains have already become available, such as .co and .org, where you can register, for example: activatedesign.co and activatedesign.co.nz.

stake_your_claim_856Pre-register your .NZ domain on a first-come first-served basis!

All domains will have a status level, that will let you know whether the domain name is available, conflicted, or if you have PRR status. Click here to do a Domain Status Check.

  • Available to register!
  • Conflicted : meaning that it has likely been registered in at least two second levels - e.g. someone holds (domainnames.co.nz) and someone else holds (domainnames.org.nz). There is a simple online conflict process that you can undertake to try to get your .NZ domain name.
  • PRR Status : "Preferential Registration or Reservation status". If your domain has PRR status you have until 1pm, 30th of March to register, or your .NZ domain will become publicly available.

DON'T MISS OUT ON YOUR CLAIM FOR YOUR .NZ DOMAIN

4th September 2014 - Pre-Register your domain. From the 4th of this month you can pre-register available and eligible PRR (Preferential Registration or Reservation) domain names. CONTACT US to pre-register your .nz domain name today!

30th September 2014 - Register your domain. From the 30th you can register available .nz domains on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have a PRR domain name (ie. you already own the .co.nz or similar) you'll be able to register it, or reserve it for free for up to two years.

30th March 2015 - PRR Domains Available for General Registration If, before 30th March 2015, you have not registered your company's domain name (ie. you own domainnames.co.nz, but have not registered domainnames.nz) then your .nz domain will become available for general registration to the public.

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Posted in Graphic Design

How To Build a Great Web Design Team

Solving jigsaw puzzleBuilding The A Team: The Top Attributes of a Great Web Team

The other day I found myself sitting with my workmates over morning tea and I thought to myself that we’re pretty lucky to have a strong team of clever and creative people that get along with each other. Some other teams might not be so lucky and so I got to thinking about what key characteristics make for a valuable in-house web design team. What makes some web design teams better than others? We all know that the best web design teams are based on a strong creative and strategic foundation. But on top of the creativity there needs to be an understanding of a greater, common goal. Good teams have a strong understanding of their client’s needs and the ability to transform good concepts into reality.

I guess for us at Activate Design, constructing our solid web design team is based on how we identify talent in an individual and whether or not they can fit in with our style. With so many new graduates eager for a job, how do you identify who is worth considering?

The number one thing I consider is what I’m looking for. But in terms of tangible requirements, I look at the following:

  1. Portfolio: For me, a web designer’s portfolio should not only look great but it should be informative. I want to know exactly the role the person played in the project. I want to see a high level of creativity but a diverse level of skill is also paramount.
  1. Blog: So many people underestimate the power of the blog to showcase their work. When a designer has a blog that is frequently updated, this shows me that they’re passionate about their craft so much so that they’re willing to spend unpaid time writing about it. A blog is also an excellent way to view a person’s communication skills.
  1. Presence: I look for someone who has done a bit of high profile work, who has perhaps published articles, or has even written books. These are all good signs of a talented and dedicated professional, but they’re not the most important aspect. This kind of work shows me that this person is driven and ambitious which are traits that I admire.

After someone has passed these first tests, I need to figure out whether they’re going to be a good fit in our already established team.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to determine whether or not someone is going to fit in your team on the first or second meeting. Often, you can only get a full read on these things until you actually work together, but there are some things to consider in your first few conversations.

  1. Professionalism. This is simply mindboggling. Some people have shown up late for meetings or have failed to turn up at all. Calls go missed and unreturned or cell phones go off during the interview. You’d be surprised how far a little bit of professionalism can take you when you’re looking for a job.
  1. Eager to Learn. I take notes of the questions the web designer asks me during an interview. If they don’t have any questions at all, this raises a red flag for me. When someone asks me how we do things it shows me that they want to understand and collaborate. It shows me that they want to learn, too. I like someone with confidence but when you come in pretending to know everything about web design, it just makes me cringe.
  1. Logistics. I tend to ask future collaborators about their working hours and availability. I’m very open to working with people from all over the world, but I’m aware of time zone restrictions. We’ll look at “Fluid Teams” a little later on.

Eyes Wide Open

At Activate Design, we’ve established a strong team with a clear vision and core values. Doing so establishes a high-performing in-house team with a focus. It also gives any internal and external team contributors good insight into how we manage our team. Developing this particular characteristic takes much more work than just writing down a statement and some bullet points. This kind of dedication takes focused planning and collaboration from all members of the team so don’t expect to have a clear vision for your team overnight.

We believe there should be a team leader that sets the vision and core values and helps to implement them in the work space. This leader must also train and mentor team members whose poor performance could possibly affect the overall health of the entire team. The best place to start is by developing a keen understanding of your agency’s purpose and strategic business goals. The vision and values you develop should be something that everyone on your team contributes to so that each individual feels like they are a part of the decision, instead of just following along.

Talent Quest

In order to create the best team you’ve got to hire talented contributors with defined roles and accountabilities. We know that finding people who are creative, versatile, passionate and strategic is like looking for the Holy Grail sometimes. We find that the best people possess an entrepreneurial spirit where they own their role and they hold themselves accountable for the work they produce. Acquiring top talent can be tough and even the best firms make mistakes hiring people who look great on paper but are terrible in a team environment. All I can advise you to do is careful research on your candidates and be honest about the level of work you expect and the level of quality you expect the person to maintain, before you hire them.

It’s not Lip Service but…

It is vital that you communicate each member’s value. Create an environment where each member of your team feels like they’re included and that their opinions matter to the business. Not only will this breed shared trust, passion and loyalty, but you’re more likely to hold onto valuable team members by showing them some appreciation. Implementing performance appraisals is a great way to offer constructive feedback and to receive some yourself!

Talk to Me

I’d say that no matter how much talent a web designer has, if they don’t have the ability to communicate, that talent is worth much to me. Every in-house team is going to encounter speed bumps that require individual contributors to work together in working past them. With creative people, there will be times when your team face major roadblocks, but knowing how to effectively communicate through these issues will help make your team stronger.

These bumps and blocks are simply little miscommunications and conflicts that occur within corporate environments and creative groups the world over. It’s completely natural to experience them. Some conflicts can be good! Trust me! Good conflicts are resolutions from bad conflicts that help grow a team and get them thinking in new, innovative ways.

A lot of communication within a team is either unheard or misinterpreted. These types of miscommunications arise when people don’t have clearly defined roles, so we recommend instilling a soft hierarchy within your team so people know where they stand.

Water, Water, Everywhere…

As I mentioned before, with the globalisation of business, more and more design firms are turning to Fluid Teams. Basically, fluid teams are groups of experts that reshuffle regularly. These groups assemble and disintegrate with ease, and the individuals involved can either be in the same country or dispersed across the globe. These teams are also known as ‘distributed teams’ which are teams that don’t share a physical workspace.

Whether or not you have a Fluid Team or an in-house team, all of the factors I’ve described above apply to both. We believe that the best thing you can do to create the best team for your business is to assign the right people to the right role. This is what’s known as the “One Thing Concept”. You want to be able to get to your team members’ core competencies. Most designers see themselves as good at a variety of jobs; it’s true, to be a good designer you must be a bit of a Jack of All Trades. But you need to find the one thing that they excel at. The one task that they kick ass at. Once you determine the magic power of every single member of your team you’ll have a greater idea of what you can accomplish.

Do As I Say and As I Do

I think the ultimate way to design the best web design team you’re after is to lead by example. If your team members or employees see you working hard and putting all of your effort into your projects, they’re going to the same. When people are surrounded by others who are dedicated and passionate they tend to subscribe to the same mentality. So give it your all and your team will too!

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Posted in Branding

How Do Recent Graduates Of Web Design Actually Get A Job In The Industry

Mo’ Money: How do Graduates of Web Design Actually Get Paid?

Hey smarty pants, you’ve just graduated college and you’re ready to enter the real world and start earning some even ‘realer’ cash. How will you find a job? Some methods are better than others, especially when in the design industry. Conducting proper research isHow do recent graduates of web design actually get a job in the industry essential when it comes to job hunting for designers, as is the knowledge of how to create a good resume and portfolio. Here are some handy hints to help you secure a job quickly and hopefully with as little stress as possible.

You’re lacking in experience, but don’t let this hold you back. These days, all your skills are transferable: you just need to be able to communicate this effectively. What skills did you learn at that café that can be carried over to your new design career? If you’ve had any leadership or team-driven positions, it can look great on your resume, even if you were just a team leader at your local Mitre 10.

If you still have gaping holes in your resume, go into more detail about the particular courses you took at school. Be sure to highlight your academic successes, projects you completed, awards you won, and any travel you’ve done. Potential employers want to engage with your human side, so showcase your personality, not just your work experience and education.

You Are the Brand

In order to land your creative design dream-job, you’ve got to have a solid portfolio that demonstrates the high quality of design creativity you possess. Your resume and portfolio are essentially advertisements for your brand, which is YOU.

You can’t just send out mass emails with the same resume to every potential employer. You should tailor your resume and portfolio to each prospective employer, studying their design work and tailoring your content to reflect what it is they may be looking for. You’re clever, you’re talented and you need to prove it.

It’s the Little Things that Count

Reading full job descriptions and following the instructions exactly is imperative when applying for your first web design job. Employers do this to weed out the people who don’t follow instructions properly. Don’t wait for them to ask for a link to your portfolio, supply it immediately. If you don’t follow these precise instructions, you’re running the risk of being auto-deleted. Keep in mind that there may be hundreds of other designers vying for the same job, designers who may be more qualified than you. Give yourself at least a chance to be considered by not makings silly, avoidable, and embarrassing mistakes.

Web design job descriptions can be very vague and some terms can be misinterpreted for a completely different position. Front-end development, HTML, and CSS are all very different things and you may not know them all inside-out. Understanding what skills are appropriate for the job you’re applying for is very important. Time is money and you don’t want to waste it. That said, even if you don’t have all of the proper qualification, there’s no harm in taking a leap and applying for a position that is beyond your skill set. If your personality is spot-on and you’ve got the right attitude, a company just may take you on board with the intention of training you up properly and reaping the rewards with years of commitment.

Trade Me Jobs vs. Everything Else

The only place to start looking for a job is Trade Me Jobs, right? While it’s convenient to have Trade Me at your fingertips on your mobile or laptop, make sure you’re thinking out of the box. Yes, most businesses advertise on Trade Me first, but while there are oodles of jobs available, there are also hundreds of applicants pursuing the same position. Be sure to check out SEEK and be so bold as to check out the websites of the design firms and companies that you admire. Sometimes they may post listings on their sites. Check frequently. Even if you don’t hear a response back right away, some agencies will keep your information on file and contact you later on when they’re looking for someone. It’s an excellent idea to make yourself known to the agencies in your city, even if they don’t seem to be actively looking for a designer.

It’s a Popularity Contest

Using social media platforms as a medium to connect with others is a great way to create and develop professional relationships. Many designers hear about jobs through friends before a position has even been advertised publicly. Keep your mind and options open by seeing potential in everyone that you meet online and offline. New Zealand is small and you never know who you might meet and what opportunities they can provide for you. Start building up your personal network and don’t be afraid to ask if your fellow designers know of any jobs available. Your best chance of landing a design position may be through the personal connections you make.

Use Your Brains

Finding the right job after graduating may take several weeks to several months and that’s why you’ve got to keep track of the agencies you’ve already contacted and who you should follow up with. Create a simple Google Doc with a chart of the company name and a brief description, the name of your primary contact for the job and the date that you applied. This will help you see your job hunting progress all in one place, instead of your e-mail inbox.

If you’re not hearing back from any of the companies you’ve applied to, it may be time to try a different approach with your resume and portfolio and see if you get any better results. If you haven’t heard back from a company within a week, sending a polite follow-up note to remind them about your application is good way to proceed. But, don’t be too aggressive as they might just be overwhelmed with too many applications.

If you haven’t heard back in a month’s time, don’t barrage them with e-mails. Instead, put that lead on hold for now and pursue some others. Certain companies are too busy to let you know whether or not you’ve made it to the next round in the application process. Don’t take it personally and don’t get discouraged. You need to be pro-active. You make your own opportunities!

Let’s Break It Down:

  1. When it comes to your resume and portfolio, create something that will get a Creative Director to really notice you. It’s all about impact. You’re a brand and you need to be remembered. Create a portfolio that defines what you stand for. Create a talking point about you. Don’t let the fact that you stay less than a year at any given job be the only talking point. If you’ve moved around too much, be ready to answer some tough questions about reliability and commitment.

  1. So, you’re a brand and not the Ultimate God of Design. Let your work speak for you.  Don’t tell your potential employers how amazing you are. Remember, you just graduated, so while you’re fresh, you’ve also inexperienced and you don’t want to come off looking arrogant and deluded. The design firm that hires you is doing it because you’re cheap, you work hard, and you’re showcasing your potential.

  1. With so many books the same, your portfolio needs to be different. A lot of design schools churn out factory farmed students with the same work. It takes Creative Directors less than 15 seconds to determine whether a portfolio warrants further inspection. Great agencies look for a certain amount of professionalism and depth. If you really want to stand out, your portfolio needs to be stunning.

  1. Be ready to work hard. Studying graphic design is a luxury and while you’ve been doing work and learning over the last few years, there hasn’t been much pressure. You’re entering the real world now and you need to work harder, faster, and all-hours. You need an excellent sense of time management and you need to have a good sense of process. How do you approach your work? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you know when an idea is good?

  1. At the heart of it all, people are the most important assets in any design firm. You need to be able to engage future employees with your kindness, your attention and your eagerness to learn. Don’t go into an interview cocky and arrogant: you need them more than they need you. Employers are scrutinising your portfolio, resume AND your personality. Are you easy to get along with? Can you work efficiently with others and independently? You don’t need to be the best of friends with your work colleagues, but you need to be able to maintain an open and healthy dialogue. Good web designers are thoughtful, considerate, and not overly wrapped up in their own egos. Our designers at Activate Design embody all of this and more.

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Posted in development graphic design

Effective SEO Techniques to Boost Your Ranking

The FYI of SEO in Web Design

SEO is everywhere on the internet and there are a lot of “experts” giving plenty of advice on how to do it right, but how do web designers use it effectively? It’s a subject thatHow to use SEO effectively in web design https designers think they understand, but opinions and facts can easily get entangled, making itconfusing the business owners who need to understand it the most. I’m going to tell you what you all you need to know about SEO.

With SEO Everything IS Black and White…

But the only techniques worth using are White-hat SEO.

These are the safe and long term result producing techniques that the major league search engines recommend as part of good web design. Here are a few of what we think are the main White-hat SEO techniques:

  1. Content is KING

There’s no point in having a website with bad content. A search engine is like a nightmare editor: it will catch you out on poorly written work. The best way to optimise your site for search engines is to produce excellent writing. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft endorse websites that are the most appropriate for any given search.

  1. Mark Up Matters

Semantically structure your mark up to help search engines understand the content of your webpage. Make it simple, stupid! Search engines like proper heading and titles. Use CSS to separate design elements from your content to make it easier for the search engines to find what they’re looking for. If your titles are declaring certain content, make sure you deliver.

  1. Keyword is Key

You’ve got to create your website with well researched keywords and phrases in mind that you think your customers may use to find your particular site. Keep in mind that single words are not the most effective. Instead, try multi-word phrases that are much more specific to your product/service and use them effectively throughout your website.

  1. Make the Link

The rule here is Quality over Quantity. You want links from other web pages that are regarded highly by search engines and relevant to the content of your page. The amount of quality inbound links to your site has an effect on how high up the search engine your site is placed.

White-hat SEO’s evil twin, Black-hat SEO, uses techniques that are disliked by search engines. Unfortunately, websites that employ these techniques can suffer a number of punishments ranging from ranking penalties to complete removal from the index. Some websites can be banned. For the love of Google, do not do the following:

  1. Hide-and-go-Seek

Hidden content is the sneaky, underhanded content hiding within the code for a site that is stuffed with keywords. It can also be hidden from users by using CSS, ridiculously small text or coloured text on the same colour background. If search engines catch a whiff of this, your website will be penalised or banned altogether. You’ve been warned.

  1. Stuffing is for Turkeys

There are two main Meta tags that are used to inform search engines of the content on the page and when they’re used incorrectly they serve as an alarm to search engines that you’re using spam techniques to improve your ranking. Don’t stuff your site with Meta keywords. Google is smart, don’t take the risk trying to fool it.

  1. Doorway to Destruction

Doorway pages are designed for search engines and not for your customers. These fake pages are stuffed with content and highly optimised for 1 or 2 keywords that link to a target or landing page. Search engine spiders/crawlers are able to detect these pages, alerting the powers that be, and this can result in being flagged and banned.

  1. Farming Saga

The temptation to link all kinds of crazy things to your website to increase traffic is understandable. But, it has the opposite effect. Link farms or free for all (FFA) pages list links of unrelated websites. This is unhelpful! Trust me when I say they won’t provide your sire with any increase in traffic. The only thing you can be sure of is the risk of having your site banned for participating in this scam.

The Internet is a Beast

SEO is important because it’s all about ranking. Obviously, a higher ranking is going to result in more customers, which is imperative for companies who make most of their money online. Good SEO can help these companies improve their organic traffic significantly. As you’ve seen, it’s not about the stuffing. You need an excellent game plan when it comes to SEO, and this is where we can help. We know a lot about how search engines work.

The internet is unfathomably large. Without search engines to help us navigate through the approximately 50 billion indexed web pages, we’d be lost in all the disorder. Search engines help find order amongst the chaos by creating an index that directs you to the most relevant website for your search query. Life is moving fast and this index changes with it. Every day new websites are added, existing pages are redesigned and new content is uploaded. The internet is fluid, dynamic. And search engines need to stay up to date. Enter the crawlers.

Creepy Crawlers

Search engines uses crawlers to create search engine result pages by finding your website via a link from another website or via the Add URL page. Google only follows href and src links. The crawlers then process this information and index it. When a person enters a query, the search engine analyses their index and generates results of the most relevant websites. In order to do this effectively, search engines use a ranking system. There are numerous factors that are taken into consideration and your SEO success depends on your understanding.

Ranking Factors

So, relevancy is determined by over 200 elements. And I’m going to list them all right here. No, no I’m not. Because it’s literally impossible to discuss them all with you right now. We can, however, look at a few of the main ones.

  • Links: When I’m talking about links, I’m referring to PageRank which is the link analysis algorithm used by Google. It takes the quantities of links into account and essentially translates every link to a website as a vote for that particular website. Essentially, the more links you get, the higher you will rank, which is why some people lean towards farm linking. Remember when I told you that quality comes before quantity? Well, not all links are created the same. Links from authoritative websites will have more influence than links from less prevalent websites. Keep your links relevant, or suffer the consequences…

  • Keywords: The keyword distribution on your page is extremely important as Google checks how often the search query can be found on it. If the search query appears in your domain, url, and content for example, your page will be considered more relevant and will thus rank higher. Just don’t over-do it.

  • Site Age: Is it just Google who honours the knowledge that comes with age?! Google perceives older websites to be more authoritative than new websites. Take that you young whippersnappers.

  • Fresh is Best: Frequently updating your website is a good idea. It keeps you on Google’s mind. Adding new pages and deleting old ones indicates that your website is still alive and kicking.

  • Algorithm Updates: Beware the Penguin and the Panda. Google is pretty damn smart and over the last few years they have made a number of algorithm updates. These updates increase the quality of search results and help to fish out the phonies. Their two most recent updates, Panda and Penguin, have made the biggest impact. The Panda update went into effect in February 2011 and it affected almost 12 % of all search results. The Penguin update was announced in April 2012 and affected approximately 3.1% of search queries. When I say affected I mean that a sudden drop in traffic has been caused by a change in the ranking algorithm. Penguins and Pandas are super cute animals, but in the land of SEO, they are vicious and you need to be aware of them.

If you want your website to achieve greater success on search engines, you’ve got to get your SEO just right. Doing it the wrong way can seriously mess with your reputation and your business. At Activate Design, we can help. Get in touch.

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Posted in Graphic Design

The Price is Right: Why You Can’t Afford to Waste Money on DIY Web Design

The internet is saturated with badly designed cheaply constructed websites. Some of these websites are so bad that it’s easy to assume you can do one on your own that could be a hundred times better.  This misconception is amplified with the increasing number of companies promising good web design for an unbeatable price. It’s easy to understand why these web builder services are attractive to businesses looking for an easy answer to website design and development. Let’s take a closer look at web builder services versus professional website development and see which one is right for you.

Build it and They Will Come: The Internet is Your Field of Dreams

noble-website-design-christchurchIn life, there are no easy answers except maybe when it comes to web design, apparently. At least that’s what the web builder service sites want you to think. Website design is much more complicated than it seems but there are some rather simple rules that accompany it. For instance, if your web site looks professional, potential clients will think you’re professional and then engage your services. A properly constructed website indicates a business that has enough clients and enough income to have invested in a smart site. Imagine how potential clients will perceive you after visiting your poorly made hand-crafted website. Let’s leave arts and crafts up to the kids.

Professional web developers, be my guest and build your own sites to your hearts’ content. IF you’ve got the know-how (and multitudes of time), then by all means, use them. But if you’re not a pro then I feel the best option for you is to invest your money in a solid company that can do a great job building your web site wisely in order to maximise the potential traffic.

It doesn’t matter what your business is. In this day and age, it is essential to have an engaging website that will eventually result in extra local and possible global business. Nowadays, local clientele often perform online searches to find what they’re looking for.  It is YOUR website that is going to encourage them to walk into YOUR business. If your future customers chance upon your many competitors and they happen to look more reputable or professional than you, you’re going to lose out. It’s an ever increasing competitive market out there and your website is the portal to potential.

Consider this. If a journalist is looking for an expert in your field to feature in her article or on her blog, they’re going to choose the business whose web site looks professional over someone who looks like they don’t know what they’re doing. Word of mouth is some of the best free advertising available to your business, but…you must build it before they come.

It's simple really: invest wisely in getting professionals to create your website and watch the traffic roll in.

Hocus Pocus

7018858411_b25b975841_oWeb builder services offer seductive promises like the ability to create a professional website in just a few hours. They tout web design as being as easy as choosing a few templates and complimentary colour schemes. There’s no denying that these promises are tantalising to business owners who are already under a lot of pressure with day to day work and perhaps dwindling bank balances. If you look past these guarantees what you’ll find is that they end up delivering websites with clunky editors, cluttered back-ends and virtually no traffic. There is no support available to you once you get your DIY website up and running and often implementing change is difficult. Have a look at their customer feedback sections and you’ll see that these promises aren’t what they seem at all: they’re cheap tricks.

People think that they’ll save time and money if they do their own web design because that’s how web builder pages advertise themselves. How hard can it be? With all the available software for creating your own web page, there is clearly a market. However, in the long run, what exactly are you saving? How is it advantageous to avoid spending time and money at the beginning resulting in an ineffective web page? Web development on the cheap might get you started but you’ll have to continue to get it redeveloped in order to compete with your competitors who did it properly from the get-go.

When you choose to have a website created for your business, you’re not just looking for a basic online platform for goods and services. It’s critical that your website services your needs in multiple ways: it has to be able to load quickly, it has to be linked up properly and effectively to various social media and most importantly, it needs to be visible in the major search engines. Not one web builder service guarantees any of these vital aspects. They’re predominantly concerned with saving you money.

Let’s Get Philosophical 

The problem is and has always been: money. Most people don’t know how much good web design costs or how much it should cost. The best way to look at it is subjectively. The website design we produce for your business is not only a product, it is a service. Building a high quality website involves a complex level of planning. High attention to detail is imperative during the early development stages and this greatly affects cost. The cost depends on what you want to offer your clients and how much of a presence you want your business to have on the web. At the end of the day, web design is like any other service and what you’re willing to pay defines the quality of the service you receive. Perhaps a better question to be asking yourself is How much is my time worth?

Let me take the art analogy even further: can there really be a price placed on a work of art? All good art is a compromise of expert technique and creativity. To most people, good web design is akin to black magic: websites are intangible entities making it difficult for people to fully understand just how much work and planning goes into creating them properly. The creative process is and isn’t a mystery. Perhaps the raw talent that an individual web designer possesses is a bit mysterious as talent is inherent, but there is a lot of practicality and technicality behind impressive web design.

At Activate Design we have an entire staff of talented artisans who design websites starting, basically, with a clever idea. However, it’s the application of expertise and knowledge that really makes our website design stand out. When choosing a company to help you with web design, you shouldn’t just be looking at creative and technical track records. A good web design company must also push themselves beyond their own creative desires to produce something that includes the client’s vision. The math is easy: your idea plus our expertise equals excellent web design.

Easy Does It

I’ve never trusted the idea of ‘easy’. If web design was that easy to do, wouldn’t there be a higher level of design apparent on the Internet? Problems with hosting, issues with fake domain renewals and sketchy security protocols are not what you think you’re signing up for when you choose to go with web builder services but they are essentially part of the package.

As Kiwis, we are an innovative and hand-on breed. We apply our Number 8 Wire mentality to all that we do and we usually pull it off with aplomb. But when it comes to website development, we’ve got to know when to leave things in the hands of the experts otherwise the expenses could add up. A smart business owner recognises the value of having the right people in place. They don’t waste their valuable time and resources on trying to learn HTML because they are focused on growing their business.

I’ve received a lot of emails and calls from people who ventured down the DIY path only to find themselves going astray without anyone to turn to for advice.  It is only once they’re in the middle of their project, at a virtual point of no return, that they realise the whole design process is considerably more challenging than it seems. A good quality website is more than just a logo, colour scheme and content. It’s so easy! Point and click! Web builder sites claim to be “non-technical user friendly” but how will a non-technical website be customer-friendly?

Do the Right Thing

There’s nothing easier than finding the right web team that you can work with closely and build not only an excellent website, but a solid working relationship constructed on the foundations of trust and respect. These teams can serve as your media advisors and can guide you in the right direction. Just because you’re hiring a team of professionals to help you with design doesn’t mean that your input won’t factor into the decisions made. We will work with you every step of the way and everything we develop will be signed off by YOU.

At Activate Design we see effective web design as a collaboration process. We want you to come to us with your amazing, internet-altering, ground breaking dreams. But we want you to let us help make those dreams come true. After all, it’s what we do best.

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Posted in Website Design

9 Web Design UI Mistakes You Should Avoid

Internet1Everyone makes mistakes—even web designers. However, some mistakes can be disastrous, such as those that affect traffic. You never want users to click away because the site’s interface is too complicated to navigate. According to akamai.com, 79% of shoppers who are not happy with a website will probably not return a second time. Decrease your bounce rate instead by avoiding these common web design mistakes.

 

1. Slow-loading web pages

The time it takes for a page to load plays an important role in a visitor’s experience. Most people do not have the patience to wait, even if it means loading web design ‘extras’. In addition, page loading time affects your search engine rankings. A study by gomez.com found that more customers abandon a website the longer it takes to load. In fact, another study on the tagman.com blog found a one-second delay can result in a 7 percent loss in customer conversions.

So how can you prevent slow loading pages?

One way is to watch out for large images. They look great, but can slow things down considerably, taking as much as 10 times as long to load than normal-sized images. There are other ways to prevent large images from becoming a problem, including compressing large images, browser caching, and combining images into CSS sprites. And never use images just for filler - they should always enhance the user experience.

2. Unclear links

Links are important, but can easily get in the way of navigation.

  • They should always be easy to identify. Unfortunately, some web designers insert links in the same colour as the rest of the text on the page, making it impossible to tell the difference.
  • The link area should also be large enough to click on. If the area is too small, users can become frustrated. There has to be some type of emphasis made to the links so that they stand out.

The same is true of visited links. If they revert to the default colour, users won’t know if they already clicked on them. Users need to understand where they have been to be able to figure out where to go next. You don’t want them to click on the same links over and over again just to end up on the same pages.

3. Confusing external links

There are two schools of thought when it comes to how to open external links. Some designers believe external links should always open in a separate window so that you don’t risk losing your visitor to another site. Other designers think it’s better to give the user an option. Their argument is that opening extra windows can be confusing because it disables the Back button. A user with a small screen can also get inundated with multiple open windows. Although it is a personal web designing decision, it is probably best to have links open in a separate window so that you reduce lost traffic.

4. Missing search functions

Most users have some idea what they are looking for when they go to a web page. If a website is more than a single page, a search bar is essential. Even though there are users who prefer to search Google regardless of the search bar on your website, leaving it out will alienate many users. According to user testing by Nielsen Norman Group, web users expect a website to have a search box with a button labeled “search” that provides a search engine results page (SERP). Including a search function is easy. There is no need to code your own. Either use the built-in search functionality of a WordPress platform or install a Google search bar on your site so users don’t have to leave.

5. Registration rules

There are few things more frustrating on the Internet than finding a website that has what you think you need, only to be required to register before you can actually see it. It is a waste of time, especially if it turns out not to be what you were really looking for. Don’t alienate your visitors. At least give users try out the site so they can make an educated decision about whether or not to register. If you believe in your product, you don’t need to trick users into registering. Instead, they will like what they see and immediately want more.

6. Small mistakes

If you want to decrease your bounce rates and increase your conversation rates, the little things can make a big difference:

Don’t autoplay auto and video. Visitors find it annoying when they land on a website that starts blaring content immediately. They usually click right out of there, never to return. Let them control their own experience by giving them the option of pressing play on their own terms.

Include contact info. When visitors go to your site to find out how to reach someone, they don’t want to be disappointed. Clicking around a website to find contact information is just plain annoying. It is good customer service to display your contact info clearly on your landing page. It doesn’t have to be your personal information - calls don’t have to go to your mobile. But at least post an email or contact form that bots don’t scan. You can even direct them to your Twitter or Facebook page.

Store the important stuff. The one thing worse than having to enter information on a website is having to do it twice. Don’t ask visitors for information they just gave you. If the data is important enough that you need it, save it automatically the first time.

Communicate. Things happen. No matter how well you stay on top of your site, sometimes visitors are going to end up with an Error Message. Don’t leave them hanging. Briefly explain what happened on the Error Page. And while you’re at it, why not add a link back to the homepage so they can get back on track. Adding a search bar is a bonus.

7. Design inconsistency

Although an attractive website is important, readability is the key to an effective website. Gear your site toward your target audience, because it has a direct impact on how they see the quality of your business and services.  The site should behave the way a user expects it to so that they always feel in control of the experience.

For example:

Text needs to be scannable. What’s the best way to achieve that?

  • Small chunks of text
  • Bulleted lists
  • Highlighted key words
  • Larger font size
  • Appropriate font
  • Line height
  • Contrast
  • Simple writing

Don’t add distractions like confusing background colours, strange links colours, etc. Your design principles need to remain fluid.

8. Alienating your visitors

Incorporate graceful degradation or progressive enhancement, complicated sounding terms for very simple concepts.

Graceful degradation is the process of building functionality while keeping in mind the needs of all of your visitors - even those with lower level browsers. You can design your site for modern browsers, but still make it usable for people who never update their browsers. You don’t want to lose those visitors.

Progressive enhancement is the reverse. Design your site for lower level browsers but have it increase functionality automatically for visitors with more advanced browsers. You can’t control what type of browser your visitor is using, so be proactive.

While you are at it, test your layout in several browsers, or at least Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer. It should work in all three.

9. Off-putting carousels

Anyone with access to the Internet knows that if a promo box looks like an advertisement, people are going to ignore it - especially if it is located on the right side of the page. (Studies show that people look to the left first when reading a web page.) Carousels are just as useless. They look like ads. Auto-rotating carousels - those that show a new panel every 5 seconds or so - are the worst. Most people don’t’ have time to read the text before it disappears and won’t want to wait around for it to come back. Auto-rotating carousels are particularly frustrating for people for whom English is not their first language and slow readers.

Remember…keep it simple.

….And three last mistakes to avoid:

  • Never design a full Flash website. A large number of mobile devices don’t support Flash, making it a bad idea to put important content in it. When the dreaded blank box appears on a screen, you’ve just lost another visitor. Switch to HTML5 for your videos.
  • Stay away from animated GIFs. They are so distracting that your visitor doesn’t know where to look first. As are too many widgets. There are some you need to include for social media purposes, but many of them are just a waste of space.
  • No horizontal scrolling. Ever.

Check out your website - have you made any of these mistakes? Fortunately most of them are quick fixes and the team at Activate Design is happy to help out. And next time you design a website, keep these ideas in mind so you can build traffic, keep visitors coming back and boost those conversions.

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Posted in ui mistakes

Websites That Exceed Expectations

To exceed the expectations of your audience, you must first provide what they expect.

Every person who browses online, journeying from website to website, expects to see certain things common to every site. These expectations are so ingrained in us now that when they are present we don't even think about them. However, when they are not there, it can be both surprising and frustrating.

When we visit a website we don't want to think. For example, we expect to be able to see the website navigation in certain areas - along the top or down the left-hand side. If a website designer has tried to be innovative by only putting the navigation along the bottom, the pause that visitors to the site must take to think about finding the navigation bar can and will cause some frustration. And there are so many of these little expectations that website designers and developers must keep in mind to meet, before we begin to exceed the expectations of an online audience. Confused? Don't worry, as experienced website designers and developers - we've got it covered.

As follows is an example where we have worked with a client to find out the needs of their target audience. We were then able to effectively tailor the website content, layout and functionality to cater to and exceed the expectations of their customers.

wigram-brewing400As follows are some of the reasons why this website - which is not one of our newest - continues to work so well because of what it offers to meet and exceed customer expectations:
THE HOME PAGE provides instant legitimacy for the business. It does this with dates the company was established and a clear, concise description of what they do. It works because it’s short. One or two paragraphs is all most people will read on a website to judge if this is where they want to be.
IMAGES of good quality and representative of your business, brand, and products. Images such as those on the Wigram Brewing website that show your products, awards, the people who work in the business and the business process in action, as well as recongnisable logos and branding, all give a visual impression that is delivered more effectively than written content.
NEWS of the latest company events, updates and information. Want to know what a business is up to? When their next event is or what the latest product will be released? On the Wigram Brewing website it's right there on the home page under "Latest News". As with all of the websites we create in our in-house developed content management system, this website is simple and straightforward for our client to edit, enabling them to easily keep this news section up to date with text and images at their own convenience.   wigram_beers200
PRODUCT selection, quality and range availability. The Wigram Website home page has small images of all the products. These images can also be click on to take a visitor through to more information. This small feature specifically targets those who know what they’re looking for, enabling them to recongnise the label they're after and find it immediately without having to read through the site. The result is instant access to information with as few a clicks as possible.
NAVIGATION that is simple, straightforward and predictable.
 Do the customers want information about specific products? Do they want to purchase online? Will they view the awards section to help them with their product selection? Do they want to find stockists in their area? Will they want historical company information or customer testimonials or to contact this company direct? Whatever the customers may want, Wigram Brewing has anticipated the expectations of their target market and provided for their needs in a way that is clear and professional to exceed expectations. Another good point to remember with websites is "the less clicks the better". Meaning that the less clicks your viewers have to make to find what they want, the easier it is for them and the happier with your brand they will be.   Wigram_news_signup
NEWSLETTER signup form. Visitors to a website may or may not find what they want from a website, however this website still offers them something for nothing through a Newsletter Signup Form. By collecting this information Wigram Brewing Co. can provide more of the information their customers want, and they themselves have a chance to reach out to existing and potential customers with news, new products, events, information and more. It's also important to note that the newsletter signup is very simple, asking only for name and email address. This is not as off-putting as would be a request for more personal details. Also, there’s also no push to subscribe, no message of “you must signup now!”, which can also be off-putting. Wigram Brewing are simply saying – do you want this? If so, here it is.   Providing features that meet your customers expectations in a way that is professional, stylish and modern, while enhancing your brand, is the best impression that you can make as a business.

At Activate Design we take the time in the planning, design and development of your website to show your customers that you care enough to make your website appealing, professional and simple to use, putting them first. We can also work with you to create effective, website audience-targeted content with our Content Writing Service.

A website in our content management system is easy to use, and our customers have the ability to add an unlimited amount of new pages as required. This means if there is more information or imagery that you find would benefit your target audience, you are not limited to your current pages. You can create website pages to suit your growing needs and satisfy your customer base.

Give us a call today on 0800 30 8996 to discuss ideas for exceeding the expectations of your online audience, making use of our experience and expertise toward enhancing your most valuable online presence.  

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Posted in Branding

Making Websites Accessible on Smartphones

In recent months there have been some exciting yet curiously slow-moving technological ventures into smartphones as watches, smart glass and other creative replacement devices for our highly valued and versatile pocket technology - our iphones and android phones. I say 'slow-moving' only because these alternative devices haven't become the 'must-haves' to the extent that smartphones continue to be. However, these ventures into new devices have highlighted the fact that it's our smartphones that we most assuredly rely on, and despite the possibilities for a trendy new device to eclipse them, it's our smartphones that we are sure to be carrying with us for many, many years to come.

smart_phones400pxSmartphones have evolved to become much more than just our personal communication devices - they are internet browsers, social networking platforms, music players, personal assistants and personal development tracking. They are the link to our online presence, our access to business and personal data, and the way that we both map and navigate through our lives.

Desktop computers still look to have a place in our lives for years to come, but it's our mobile devices that accompany us wherever we go. These small devices have become something that many would freely admit they couldn't do without - enabling us to connect with family, friends and the local, national and international businesses that are part of our everyday lives.

If you have an online presence for your business you need to ask yourself - can my website can be accessed on a mobile device so my current and potential customers can find me? A smartphone is fast becoming the most common device used for internet browsing today, so if your business is not visible online via a mobile device, you're missing out.

Is your website simple to view on a mobile device? It may be accessible, but is it simple? If it's too hard to navigate your website on a smartphone, or other mobile device such as ipad, then your online audience will simply give up and try the next website and business in your industry. The scary fact is, once you lose the interest of those potential customers then you've usually lost them for good. First impressions count, and this simple truth certainly applies to the impression that your online presence makes on your viewers.

Making your website smartphone savvy

For an accessible, professional online presence for your business, let's look at these two simple options:

A Mobile Website

This is a separate website to your existing business website. A mobile site is designed and built to be as efficient as possible, with a layout that puts your most important business aspects at the forefront of the user experience for simple access to your most important information, including bookings, purchases, image galleries, events, current projects, contact information, location and more.

For simplicity of user experience, often a mobile website does not include ALL of the information that your original website does. This fact can become an issue and is something you will need to factor in when deciding between a mobile site vs responsive website for your business.

Housemart_responsive400px

A Responsive Website

Making your existing website responsive is something our experienced programmers can do. We utilise a responsive framework when building our new websites, and we can also make programming alterations to existing websites to ensure they too can function as a responsive sites.

To have a 'responsive website' simply means that when your website is accessed on a mobile device (iphone, android phone or ipad), your website will automatically restructure its layout and text size based on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. Very clever. This means that regardless of the device that the viewer is browsing on, they will have the best possible experience on your site.

If you look at these two examples of a mobile site versus a responsive site, you can clearly see the difference. Our responsive website is visible on the screen, but is going to require a bit of scrolling around and zooming in and out to find what you want. However, as a bonus - because it is your actual website all of your information is available.

The mobile site, however, is a lot simpler to use and view and can be designed to promote exactly the products, services or highlights of your business that you wish to project. It looks cleaner and simpler on screen, but generally a mobile site would not contain all of the information that is on your main website. Also, because it is a separate site keep in mind that it may incur additional website hosting fees.

So there's a brief look into the options for making sure your online audience has the best possible chance of finding you and staying on your website to view what you have to offer.

You're very welcome to contact us for more information or advice on the right online solution for your business, and remember that whether or not our iphones, android phones or ipads evolve as glasses, watches or some other yet undiscovered medium such a rings, caps or fobwatches, our smartphones will remain the first choice for online browsing for some time to come. To be competitive, all businesses need to ensure that their internet savvy audience can access their websites on any device, simply and easily.

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Posted in Website Design