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 that 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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
In 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.
Web 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
Everyone 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.
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
- 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
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.
As 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.
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.
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
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.
Smartphones 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.
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
I am involved in several groups and non-profit organisations and because of my involvement in the I.T. Industry, I’m often asked key questions about what are the right online tools to benefit non-profit organisations and small businesses. So here’s some insight and advice I'm passing on which I hope will be of some benefit to your group.
It’s certainly a challenge for small organisations to find the time to choose the the right online tools from the large selection available, and sometimes a bigger challenge to find the right motivated and dedicated people to manage them!
The right promotional tool for business and non-profits usually comes down to – What is the easiest solution? What is the most popular? Whatever you decide my most valuable advice is this - have a website. A website offers you control of your content, assurance of no hidden costs or changing rules, and a reliable place for members and the public alike to find you. Your website should be something that is straightforward and easy to edit, to avoid further costs for any small changes and updates as required.
With so many social media options available, it’s hard to know where to start, so here’s an introduction into what online tools would benefit non-profit organisations and small businesses, and how to tie them all together to make online social media easier…
YouTube can be a great tool for non-profit organisations, as video is such a powerful tool for sharing and teaching skills and crafts in a huge range of topics; from woodworking to knitting, jewellery making to book-binding and more.
You can make YouTube work for you by showing what you do, and from there directing people back to you website to contact you, and/or view more information about what you can offer, including membership opportunities.
All groups and individuals need to be aware that large amounts of emails being sent from one email address can raise warning flags. This may result in your email address being marked as a spam source and becoming blacklisted.
Emailing all your members is fine, and it can work well but - it can also backfire. Be aware of the danger of sending bulk emails to large list of contacts, especially as your member list is constantly increasing. Sending bulk emails can be risky.
Twitter is an online networking service that enables individuals to send and read short messages of only 140 characters max. Using Twitter (or 'tweeting') is commonly known as “microblogging”.
For small groups this is a good way to get known, invite new members, as keep up with what’s going on in similar organisations. Ask us about having your tweets run through your website, or linking your Facebook posts to your Twitter account.
I recommend to many groups to look at using a Newsletter System instead of bulk emailing. Rather than emailing all of your members, look at the option of using a newsletter system like ActiveMail. There are some really good, simple-to-use email systems available, that can complement your group identity and brand with a custom email template design. Click here for ActiveMail newsletter pricing.
For more information on sending beautifully designed email newsletters to your non-profit group members or small business customers, take a look at the ActiveMail Email Marketing System. This is a very easy to use and straightforward system with a variety of helpful tools available, including real-time statistics on who has viewed your email, what links they have clicked on, what interests them, and more.
I’m often asked; “It okay that I only have a Facebook page for my organisation?” Let’s just say, it’s not ideal.
Having a Facebook page can certainly be a good thing; it’s a great way for other Facebook users to find you and to send you messages, but it's not a reliable home-base.
The challenge with Facebook is that the rules are constantly changing. Where once you could post to all your follows, now it’s just not the case as Facebook continues to move away from supporting groups and businesses and focuses more on user-pays. My advice, use your posts to simply keep referring people to your website.
A blog is a great tool for sending updates, but how do you get it out to members? Usually people email it, and run across the same issues as above, with Blacklisting and email ending up in spam folders. At Activate Design we integrate blogs into our websites so that members can simply check your website for updates and view all of your recent and historical blog posts.
These days a website is simply a must, and if you don't have one you're missing out on wider audience and the ease of connecting to group member or new customers.
Contact us today to discuss how you can have a clean, modern and professional website for your business or organisation, and what social media and additional functionality would benefit your unique group.
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Posted in Website Design
Many businesses today have discovered the value of a Blog as a way to offer information on what their business is doing. A blog can provide interesting news, free business information and free business tips on a variety of topics. You may wish to blog about what you offer, announce an upcoming event, report on a recent event, showcase a new product or service or let people know about any benefits or knowledge that can be gained by your niche business.
A blog is something people find when they are looking for it, or are directed to it, which means your online audience actually want to know more about you!
If you look at it this way, you will see that when blogging, the value of the information you offer is greatly increased.
You can let people know about your blogs to boost your website audience, for example, a brief Facebook post stating that you've just blogged about an amazing new product will bring people to your blog page, and thus your website, to find out more.
A blog that runs through your website is also kept indefinitely, so you can keep referring people back to old posts that may be useful in an ongoing manner, such as instructions or explanations on a topic, or freebies like games or recipes.
A blog can be beneficial to business for many reasons, including:
You have the option to Blog to the public or exclusively to members only. A Blog can be for your whole website audience, or it can be only for members of your organisation. We can run a dual blog on your website which means you can decide which entries are provided to a group that must first log in to view them, and which are visible to the public. Managing control of your blog in our CMS (content management system) is very simple and straightforward, making your regular blogging experience an enjoyable one. An example of a recent dual blog we created was for www.christchurchrsa.og.nz. This organisation wanted to provide information to the public as well as information that was relevant only to members, which was achieved through a "member's login area".
Quick Q&A: What is a website members login area?
In our website CMS (content management system) we can create a members login area, an area where members of your group can access exclusive information such as a blog, forum, recent news feed, and perhaps your groups constitution and rules. Members would be able to post on the forum, and the forum itself can contain several different sections - for example: buy and sell, and events section, and perhaps a projects/examples or instructions section. We can tailor your website group forum to suit your organisation.
A blog can increase website search engine rankings. One of the ways that search engines connect your website to your audience through keywords so using your blog to write about your business, incorporating keywords relevant to you, is smart marketing.
Get people talking about you with a blog. If you are offering concise and relevant information to your audience, they will have a reason to tell others to visit your website to discover your expertise for themselves, thus increasing your online audience and potentially your customer base.
Encouraging interaction through blog conversations. Send out a welcome for people to contact you regarding your blogs. Ask them to send their project examples, questions, comments and issues so you can provide feedback and begin correspondence. Your correspondence may earn you respect as a knowledgable and helpful professional in your industry.
Use your blog to tell your story. People don't want to just hear your sales spiel. They want to know how you got to where you are. They want to know you are real by knowing your story. Use your blog as a platform to be real and honest, telling your story and proving the legitimacy of your status as an industry expert.
Inspire others through blogging. A website is a place that people often skim for information rather than reading in depth. A blog can be a place to summarise the different products and services that you offer, promoting them individually and with more information. A single topic outlined in a blog may inspire a potential customer to try that particular product or service and inspire them to take a new direction in their own business or personal project.
Have fun with your blog! Blogging can become addictive. Some businesses start off viewing a blog as a chore, but it can quickly become an opportunity to share what you are doing, further motivating businesses to put their boundaries. This may be with a new product, new project, sharing a recent event, or in response to correspondence with your website visitors and customers.
Get more attention and earn more respect for your business by making the most of a business blog on your website. Bring in a wider audience by writing about relevant topics to your industry, and it's even worth doing a bit of online research to find out what people are looking for and what solutions your products and services can provide to an online audience. The wording is most important so ensure you include lots of keywords that resonate with your business, but including images of what you do will greatly enhance your blog - keeping in mind that an online audience by nature, are skim readers so any imagery will generate further interest and keep them reading for longer.
If your blogs are genuine and provide a benefit to readers, you may earn the attention of the media - another great benefit of having your own business blog!
One more tip would be - ensure your blog posts do offer something of value, rather than being a sales spiel. Offering a "how to" or a bit of history on a product or service and how it came to be, is far more interesting than a simple "buy now because..!" I know of a company that includes recipes on their blog, which wisely enough, has their audience coming back again and again to see what's new. What can you offer your online audience to keep them coming back, and to tempt them into looking further into your business and industry expertise?
Quick Q&A: Should I use Facebook and Twitter and Blog?
I would compare these strains of social media thus - if Twitter is like a calling card, then Facebook is like a phone call, and Blogging is more like a conversation. It's not there to shout out a quick fire message, nor is it there to provide a blurb with accompanying image. A Blog is well intentioned and (hopefully) useful information.
You can use Twitter and Facebook to let people know about your latest blog topics. By adding a quick note to your other social media sites, you welcome an audience back to your blog page, and cleverly enough - to your website and the rest of your business information, product and services. Alternatively have a little faith in the quality of your blog posts, that through them your audience will find you.
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Posted in Website Design
This year is turning out to be a very interesting and exciting one in terms of web development. We’re shifting toward an Internet experience that’s embracing the popularity of mobile and tablet browsing, as well as making use of high-definition displays.
Combined with a growing interest in more creative non-fiction style writing and a move to using the webpage almost as an artistic medium, 2014 is about innovation while focusing on a streamlined visual identity that thrives on a minimalistic and unified experience through the use of flat design, easy navigation and focused colour schemes. Developing a site with these top trends in mind will ensure the best possible reception of a site’s content and overall function.
Fixed Navigation Bars
To start, if there’s one fact to make clear about web design trends in 2014, it’s that users should be able to easily navigate the content of the site. The days of clunky user interfaces in an attempt to showcase complex code are over. Fortunately, there’s no secret amount of internet wizardry to master here; it boils down to a straightforward design with the use of a fixed navigational bar.
Nova Crystallis, a site covering a popular video game franchise, demonstrates this design technique very well; everything is easy to navigate and find here. Regardless of where you are on the site, you can quickly access other areas.
Additionally, the animations in the menus aren’t terribly distracting and flow quite naturally; they allow ease of access to different portions of the site while still keeping everything in one central location that the user can find. Here’s what to take away:
Fixed navigation facilitates ease of transition through the site
Animations should work in a simplistic nature that’s unobtrusive and aids the user.
Slide Structure and Arrangement
Another growing trend is the use of slides to make up the look of a site. These are commonly orchestrated in a grid-like fashion. Sites like WNYC’s homepage use this to good effect, and the influence of this design has extended into apps like Flipbook or Windows 8’s new user interface.
Organizing slides into a grid-like style helps to lay out content in a way that’s visually appealing, works with contemporary trends, and also makes for easier browsing on tablet computers.
Speaking of tablets, 2014 is also looking to become the year of endless scrolling. Skittles’ own website is a good example of this. While it slightly departs from the fixed navigation mentioned earlier, it still allows for information to be accessed quite easily.
How well this works on a desktop environment is debatable, but one fact is certain: The endless scrolling trend is clearly an extension of the growing numbers of tablet and smartphone users, and this is not something to be ignored. All recent reports have indicated that 2014 ought to be seen as the complete embracing of a more mobile accessed Internet, and endless scrolling fits best here. It’s also an opportunity to make something creative with the technique.
Endless scrolling sites like Skittles follow the nature of tablet and smartphone browsing
They allow for a unique and creative presentation of content.
Scrolling has also paved the way for inventive forms of web design in 2014 through the use of parallax design: positioning two-dimensional images in such a way that through simple animation or scrolling, they move and create the illusion of three-dimensions. The question of how long this is going to remain popular is certainly worth asking; it’s easy to think that this might just be another craze similar to the overuse of Flash sites in the 2000’s. Right now, however, it’s certainly one of the top trends and helps to offer an interesting aesthetic to work with the nature of endless scrolling.
Parallax design offers a way to achieve an animated look that can work right alongside sites that utilize large amounts of scrolling.
Responsive Web Design
Given that smartphones and tablets are becoming the new standard of web browsing in 2014, it goes without saying that responsive web design is worth understanding. Offering a duplicate version of a website that redirects mobile browsers has proven to be a clunky and more difficult solution to this, and will most likely see a steep decline in its use throughout the course of 2014 and beyond. This will be much to the benefit of the user, who can access the same content regardless of the device used, and to the developer who can focus on one main site.
There are very few reasons, if any, to offer a sub-domain mobile version of a website in 2014. Responsive design achieves unity across different devices and gives developers a more focused task.
Websites in 2014 are less interested in skeumorphic design (the simulating of real world, tactile objects, like those seen in earlier versions of iOS software) and are trending toward flat design. Again, Apple’s iOS shows a very good example of this aesthetic preference after their update to iOS 7; the same can be said for Windows 8.
There’s no need to try and make websites simulate real-world objects like physical paper notebooks or actual buttons for your links and items on the navigation bar. The average Internet user in 2014 expects and prefers a flat design that they’re already seeing in their computer, mobile and tablet operating systems. Working with this trend facilitates a seamlessly integrated nature with other sites and the devices being used to browse them.
Flat design is hugely popular across websites and operating systems. There’s a general desire to work with the nature of computer screens and not to try and make it look like anything it’s not. It’s honest design. User interfaces across web sites, software and operating systems are all moving in this direction.
Focused, Simple and Monochromatic Colour Schemes
Colour is another hot area in 2014 with the goal being to create a uniform or thematic look to a site and its content. This is where monochromatic trends and the use of very simple colour motifs come into play. This can be summed up into a few basic ideas and points:
Colour schemes are about simplicity, unity and can help to foster brand identity.
Try to make the most creative use of a limited colour palette. Again, this creates a unity to your content that is very appealing in today’s world.
Correct use of colours helps to create an association between the colour and your site’s content and/or products. This is a classic rule of advertising and can be taken advantage of with the trends of monochromatic themes in web design. Think Facebook’s heavy use of blue, Forbes’ gray theme, the BBC’s red banners, or the video game website Kotaku’s use of pink and yellow over a white background.
Large Images and Photojournalistic Approaches
Large images are another popular and welcomed trend in 2014. The best way to think of this is perhaps by creating a very similar feeling to a large magazine spread with excellent photojournalism - but taking advantage of the flat seamless design that can be achieved on a computer or tablet screen.
A wonderful example can be found over at ESPN’s Grantland feature on the Iditarod race trail. Again, the first image seen is a beautiful vista that nearly fills the whole screen and scrolls on to the content below; this is perfect for tablets, looks great on large, crisp high-definition displays and feels like the layout for a magazine enhanced in a digital environment. This example also ties into a lot of what’s mentioned above: endless scrolling, flat design, uniform colour schemes, and even some very slight and tasteful use of parallax scrolling. The videos mixed in are also a nice and very popular trend we’re seeing across the Internet.
Filling the screen with gorgeous images not only takes advantage of high-definition screens but also looks wonderful and helps to create a strong ambiance on a page that ties into your content.
Fonts and Typography
One last thing in terms of the visual imagery of top web sites in 2014 is the use of different fonts and typography. We’ve shifted away from a central focus on ‘web-safe fonts’ and have begun to embrace the advantages that playing with different lettering styles can offer; this is largely to do with an increase in compatibility. This is something that’s still very much coming into its own form and will continue to evolve throughout the year; essentially, it’s a great opportunity to get visually creative with text.
The old restraints on fonts and typographies have been broken. Playing with different lettering can and should be encouraged. Finding ways to make text work in unison with the rest of the content and visual aesthetics of a site makes a site stand out.
Content in 2014
Content is also undergoing some massive shifts. One of the top web design trends currently is a move toward rich storytelling in an almost creative non-fiction style. This of course will always depend on the content focused on, but the more you can focus on narrative, the better; it’s a beautiful opportunity to invest in some creative talent that can help to create stimulating and engaging content.
Again, the ESPN example above really highlights this. What could’ve been a straightforward fact-reporting news story was turned into an entertaining narrative about sled dog racing.
Another excellent example of this that’s worth taking a look at is the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning feature, Snow Fall. Again, something that could’ve been ‘just the facts’ was used to create an engaging piece of creative non-fiction that also utilizes some great scrolling, large images and video throughout the piece. The same passion for creating engaging content can be used for something as simple as a description of a consumer electronic product, as is the case with Polygon’s review of the PlayStation 4 video game system.
Content that tells a story and does so with good narrative structure is emerging as one of the top trends in 2014. Investing in creative non-fiction style content makes the experience of reading the content worthwhile.
Even simple subjects like product overviews are being done with creative flair. This approach flourishes alongside scrolling, parallax design, large images and video content.
Following with making web pages that have some more creative substance, 2014 is also about the use of portrait pictures that identify with the focus of the site. Taking a look at Andrea Mann’s or Steve Vai’s website, the focus on a large portrait on the home page really gives a sense of what the content is about and both personalizes and humanizes the page. The same basic idea works even if the website isn’t about a particular person. Wizards of the Coast has a great example of featuring large portrait-style images on their site that give a good sense of the types of products, services, or content they offer.
Top websites are focusing on showing what they’re about through the use of large portraits that help to grab the attention of the user.
Portrait methods can be used to stylize content that might not even involve actual people.
The trend towards rich, creative style storytelling experiences on webpages by no means suggests that you need to fill pages with as much text as possible. In fact, there has been a general direction toward less text on web pages in 2014. If a site can always be described with less text, making more use of images and video, as is the case with a site like Phonebloks or even Apple, it should.
Top web trends show that if there’s no need for the text, a site can be received very well through the use of simple, to-the-point text that utilizes images and video to help carry the content.
We’re seeing a lot of freedom spread throughout the Internet in terms of design. The trending nature of flat user interfaces, an emphasis on scrolling, photojournalistic techniques and storytelling styled narratives are proving to be the best designs and are really shaping websites into something more intuitive, human and artistic. These trends are in many ways extensions from user tendencies in terms of web browsing, a sort of bottom up influence and can really help a site fit what’s already expected from the user end.
For more information on top web design techniques, call Activate Design at (03) 409 203, or find out more about us by checking out http://www.activatedesign.co.nz/
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Posted in Website Design
Developing an app inevitably starts with decisions needing to be made between both Android and iOS operating systems; this involves weighing their inherent pros and cons in terms of development, distribution and intended use. Whenever looking at the options for developing apps, the best course of action is one that’s taken in steps that factor in a variety of decisions ranging from what operating systems are popular amongst your user audience, what development tools are available to you and what your long-term goals are.
Is it more beneficial to focus on a single operating system at first?
There’s no shame in choosing to focus time and money on getting an app working right the first time on one operating system; it allows for a single area of focus as opposed to trying to work out the details over two very different operating systems at once. The benefits of having an app built natively on a specific SDK should never be underestimated; you want your app to run flawlessly.
If you find that, based on what your options and budget are, starting with a single operating system is the best course of action, there are three questions you’ll need to answer:
- Which operating system is easier for you to have your app developed on?
- Which platform is more popular with your target audience?
- What are your plans, if any, for offering your app on tablet computers?
Going with what’s immediately available to you in terms of development should provide a good idea as to which app will make the most sense to start with. Analysing mobile traffic on your sites and then choosing the most popular operating system can also tell you which version will be in greater demand.
If you wish to have your app exist either at the same time of launch or sometime soon after on tablet computers, then there’s a clearer answer: iOS is a much more attractive and serious option as the iPad has not only become the go-to device for tablet computers, but developing apps for both it and the iPhone is virtually the same thing. But this isn’t necessarily true for Android.
A major benefit from choosing one operating system first is that it gives you the opportunity to view not only the app with a fresh perspective when developing a build for the alternate operating system, but you can make sure that the app runs natively in its respective environment; this is true for both form and function.
Making sure an app looks and performs like it was made for the operating system should be a priority regardless of your development plans. Users don’t want to feel like they’re using a port that was made with something else in mind. The key facts to focus on are:
- Which operating system is most popular with the users who’ll be interested in your app.
- Quality over quantity: Make sure apps run well in their respective environments by focusing development on each system individually. Users will appreciate this in the long run.
- If tablets play a heavy role in what your app will do, iOS is more than likely going to be most logical place to start.
- Starting with one operating system can sharpen your focus and allow the same potential for future versions of the app.
Developing Cross Platform Apps
Tools like Xamarin take a very different approach to cross-platform development. Instead of creating an app that works above the native build of an operating system via a different language, Xamarin’s tools divide your work equally between both Android and iOS SDKs, creating apps that work fully with native code. This is a plus; but to really take advantage of these tools it’s a good to have a working knowledge of both operating systems to get a sense for what’s going on ‘under the hood’ with Xamarin.
Thoughtful and Purposeful Development Decisions
The key to achieving success on both Android and iOS lies in thoughtful planning and decision making based on the preferences of your users, what development options are available to you and what your long term goals are. Thinking from the perspective of how the user will want to see your app and how that harmonises with your development capabilities is a valuable strategy.
For more information about app development, design and deployment visit our webpage here or call us at (03) 409 2031.
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Posted in Branding
The design of a business card says a lot about a company - and the cardholder. Cheap materials and a careless artwork won’t do much for your image, but with the right design elements, your business card can do a lot more than provide your contact information; it can subtly yet intentionally convey the principal qualities of your business, whether it is reliability, quality workmanship or another underlying trait.
Fortunately, the process of designing a business card can be both fun and informative. It’s a time to reflect on the values of your business and the qualities that will drive its success. With the right design, your business card will serve as a lasting reminder of your professionalism and attention to detail.
You shouldn’t rush through developing your business cards. Some steps, such as choosing the right business card dimensions, might be a bit more involved than you think. This article will introduce some key design tips that can take your business cards to the next level.
1. Choose the Right Standard Business Card Size
It may sound redundant to choose the “right standard” size, but the “standard” size of business cards varies from region to region. And imagine if you were handed a business card that was way larger or smaller than you expected. Wouldn’t that seem a bit faux pas?
In most countries, the standard card size is 3.5 inches by 2 inches. There are, of course, plenty of nonstandard designs that aim to attract attention, but these dimensions are always a safe bet.
To compare the standard sizes of different countries, check out this article on DesignersToolbox.com.
2. Use the Right File Type
Some business owners aren’t as tech-savvy as others, so they may not understand the difference between a vectored and an un-vectored image, but customers will notice the difference as soon as they see your business card.
Saving your card as a JPEG, for example, can cause fuzziness on the edges of images and text. The same is true for PNGs. The text, therefore, should be outlined or embedded. Also, remember to remove colour scheme blogs and guidelines from the card. Forgetting to do so will look careless to customers.
The best designs are PDF-based vectors, which leave crisper lines and a more sleek appearance overall.
3. Choose the Right Colour Scheme
It’s recommended that designs feature complementary colours. Of course, a simple black and white can be powerful, but complementary colours can add some life to your cards without compromising artistic quality.
These colours are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. Some examples include green and red or orange and blue. Be sure to avoid a disorganised mesh of bold and bright colours, and focus on keeping your colour scheme consistent—not only on your business cards but also on your logo, website and social media accounts.
To learn more about choosing business card colours, visit Hongkiat.com.
4. Use the Back for Un-Critical Information, or Keep It Blank
What info do you really need customers to remember? Your company’s name, phone number and email address are often vital. But as for that other info, like your list of services, consider printing it on the back or eliminating it entirely.
A simple, clean layout almost always trumps a complex design. Keeping it simple can help you get the most out of business cards. For more tips on designing your business card layout, check out this article on Entrepreneur.com.
No two businesses are exactly alike. Even those within the same industry may have different values or advantages. That said, your business card should be unique to your company; it should convey your values and professionalism in a clean, organised design.
Contact the team at Activate Design to start designing your business cards now!
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