Window shopping on websites

For a customer, website shopping is like going to a store. They will browse for a bit, skim the first bit of written information available, and grab whatever catches their eye - perhaps dashing into a changing room for a quick try.

This is much like browsing websites in that your potential customer will skim your page, flick over your text for the highlights of information they find relevant, and perhaps click on any links that catch their eye and perhaps dash through to your linked pages for more information.

This means you need a clear main website page with easily accessible information, clear readily available information - or highlights of your information where a person can glean the more important factors and sale points of how you can benefit them. Next you need graphics to portray the quality of what you provide, with clearly labelled links to show easy access through to more detailed information and perhaps further imagery - keeping all information clear and concise on your website.

At Activate Design we live and breathe the principals of good website design. We have a fantastic mix of experts in our web development team ; with graphic designers, web developers, printing experts and iPad and iPhone App developers, we can create a website for you that you’ll be proud of. We also can handle your printed stationary in the form of business cards, business stationary and any other printing needs. It's what we do. It's what we love. Contact us today!

You might also like:

Posted in Website Design

What Do You Mean You Don't Have a Website?

If you own a business in today’s modern, technology-driven world, people expect you to have a website. Simple fact.

A business without a website is the exception and in our techno-conscious society we can be put-out by not having instant access to a companies’ information, quickly and efficiently, from their website. I’ll tell you that it frustrates me when I am stopped in my tracks while internet surfing to compare product prices, by a company that either has no website to speak of, or does not have relevant, up-to-date information on their products and services. Those companies are simply missing out as consumers bypass them on their way to find companies with open and instant information.

It can seem a major challenge to have a website created, for those who are unfamiliar with the process, and that’s where we rise to the challenge of assisting the move into creating an online presence for businesses and individuals alike. We can work with you to create a website; an internet catalog or e-commerce site. An e-commerce site being, by definition, a website developed to allow businesses to sell products over the internet to customers, whereas an internet catalogue could simply be an online portfolio to advertise what you have to offer.

At Activate Design we specialise in Website Design and Website Development, working alongside you, the client, to create something both visually attention-grabbing and functional. We can turn our skills to logo design or a re-creation of your existing logo, to give your company a spring-board start in 2012 with a fresh look and a tighter focus on how you wish to be perceived by your customers and industry competitors alike. We don't just do websites! Come and see us for your printing needs as we are a versatile company that can arrange both Offset and Digital printing, can assist with finding the right solution for your business stationary needs – from business cards to letterheads, compliments slips, and promotional material. We can take you through the process right from design and creation, to printing and finishing.

Speaking of which, this is a great time of year to get your promotional printing and products out there and start promoting yourself! Think about creating a calendar that will advertise your business for you all year, or greeting cards to say thank you for business in 2011 and to generate new business that will launch you toward more sales and get you known!

The possibilities are endless once the creative minds at Activate Design get a chance to do what we do best – we are the idea factory for promoting your skills, products and services, so contact us today – this week – NOW! And get your business on the right track for 2012.

You might also like:

Posted in Website Design

Writing Effective Website Content

A website works in three simple steps. Visual, context, and contact. That’s generally the order it goes in as well, so you need to ensure your website has these three things, and that these things are loud and clear.

Visual. This is the look of your website, the feel you want to convey about who you are and what you do. At Activate Design, this is what we do best. We develop the look and feel of your website to best portray what you have to offer.  Through both visual images and the graphic design and layout of the site, we aim to show your potential or existing clients the products and services they can benefit from by choosing to do business with you.

Context. Once you’ve got their attention through the look of the site, the ease-of-use and the images portrayed, you need to give them the information – right then, quick and clear so they will stay on your website to find out more.

Contact. People have seen your site, liked it enough to read your context, and now they will contact you. Three easy steps, but not easy to get right. The way in which you portray your website will mean the difference between having a website working for you, or being a drain on your time and energy.

What is important for you when having a website created, is passing on the information that will become context on your website. This is the challenge because, though our designers here at Activate can create a graphically stunning site, we don’t know your business the way you do, and we never could. Your knowledge of your own business and the industry you work in is the way to sell yourself, and you are the best person for the job. So as follows we have given some notes for you on how to get that information onto paper so we can put it out there for the world to see how valuable your knowledge, time and effort truly is.

Context – the trick of it.

Headings need to be clear and meaningful. Most people browsing your website will only read the headings. Make headings the highlight of the products/services you offer.

Paragraphs must be clear and informative. Web information is less about concentrated reading and more about scanning for the kind of information that is required. Don’t worry about not giving enough information; it’s more about giving the right information in short bursts. With the right style, your future client will contact you personally for extended information and you will then have a chance to show your full knowledge and capability in your industry. Short to medium length sentences work best. Lists work well and are a good way to start noting down your information. List the benefits of choosing your products and/or services. Use highlighted or bold text to pinpoint your important features.

Keywords are essential. These are the words people will type into a search engine to find your type of business. Note down these important words and include them in your context.

Be The Client. When writing, think of the client and what they may need to know. They are looking for proof that you know the industry you work in, that they can trust in your knowledge and capability enough to do business with you. They are looking for the variety you offer, the level of quality and service, and in most cases the time frames you can work within. Any of this information you are not prepared to layout online you can simply mention, so they client knows you have the foresight to work it out with them if a business relationship commences.

Website Layout – building the labyrinth

Homepage is your first and best chance of catching attention. Shout out what you do – scream it! But clearly and informatively please. The homepage of your site should be straightforward and punchy, with links to other pages easily located, and written information consisting of cleverly chosen headings and clear ‘skimmable’ text.

The website visitor wants to know in about 3 seconds whether they should be on your site or not. A few glimpses at your images and headings should tease them to read more, or will send them on their way.

Products. These may need to be broken up into categories or pages for easy understanding.

Any pictures included will benefit from having captions for brief explanations - the visitor doesn’t want to be left to guess what it is you’re trying to convey.

Services. Your first goal  is to state the benefit of your service to your visitor. Your potential client wants brief information, then more detail, information and options. If they only want the basics they will skim your headings and that will be the decider. The best way to show your services is to list them clearly, rather than have longer sentences. Bullet points or lists for the keyword points are a good idea, with more detailed information underneath or through a link to a more in-depth page.

Company Information. This is a trust-gaining page. You are proving your own credibility. The visitor may wish to know when the business started, what achievements or awards your company has gained, and how many staff your team consists of. They may wish to know your business goals such as a “mission statement”. It may be of benefit to briefly state any evolution your business has undertaken to show growth in your industry. Any photos you choose to include in this section may assist the client in feeling they know you, such as images of friendly staff, or a photo of your location from the road so they can find you better. A map is a great idea.  Your contact information must be easy to spot, as this is of greatest importance on the page.

Testimonials - again about credibility. Prove you’ve done it before and can do it again. But more than that – prove you’ve outdone yourself so well that previous clients have wanted to tell the world how wonderful you are. Websites with testimonials will facilitate trust far more than those without.

Gallery. This is an essential attention-grabbing tool for websites in any industry. Even if it’s a photo of your staff at work or your tools of the trade, go to the effort of having some images available to assist in portraying what you offer. If you can have a lot of photos even better, your website visitors may wish to skim through your images rather than read your context so ensure you display a range of quality photos highlighting what you have to offer. Again, having a caption under photos will add emphasis and clarity to what you are portraying.

Summary

Have a home page that is inviting and clear, with links and pages which are simple to traverse.

Establish credibility for yourself by portraying your knowledge, backed up by testimonials and photographs.

Put yourself in the shoes of your potential client and try to fulfill their immediate knowledge requirements about your company, products and services. Include clear contact information.

Include a call to action such as “contact us now!” - something that pushes them to act immediately rather than continue searching online. You are selling yourself as the best in the biz.

Have headings that are main points of your products/services, and context that is informative, ‘skimmable’ and simple enough to convey what is special about what you offer.

Make your information valuable and keep it up to date.

Let the visitor gain familiarity with your company and/or brand.

Most of all, allow your enthusiasm for what you do come through in your website, which is your most accessible and versatile medium. State why you should be the first choice, and your unique angle in the products and services that you offer.

You might also like:

Posted in Website Design

Websites for Staying Connected

We live in a fast-paced, busy world. People always have somewhere to be, something to do, or someone to see. So how is your business maintaining its connection with your customers and clients? With so many things competing for their attention, you need to make sure that they realise you’re still there, that you care about them, and that you appreciate their loyalty.

One great way to stay connected in this online-focused age is through your website. It’s easy to think that once you have had your site built and it’s live online, that’s all there is to it – but please don’t just forget about your website! In order for it to generate you continual business and new clients, your site needs to be current, up to date, and full of interesting information and resources for your clients.

Perhaps your website needs a bit of a makeover?  If you’ve had the same graphic design and layout for the last 8 years, then it’s likely to be less than attention grabbing. Just as fashion trends are constantly changing, so is the world of online design. People will notice if your website is still wearing last season’s look. You might be surprised at how a few simple changes can make a huge difference!

Using your website to stay connected is about more than just design though. You want your site to ‘talk’ with your customers, to let them know what’s new and happening in your neck of the woods. Adding regular updates on your home page can make a big difference, and if you want to venture into the world of blogging and social media (which we will cover more in a future post) then that offers plentiful opportunities to stay in touch with your target market, and gather valuable feedback on what they really want.

Make sure that the people out there know all the services and products you have to offer! If you have recently launched a new aspect of your business, then your website should reflect this. Another effective way to keep you customers in the loop is by sending out a regular, monthly or bi-monthly email newsletter. This needs to be interesting and informative, so that it doesn’t end up in the trash box but is instead considered a valuable resource.

In summary, these three key points will help you stay connected in today’s world:

  • Your Website Design needs to be current.
  • Keep up a Conversation with your customers – be it through blogging, newsletters, social media, or regular website updates.
  • Reflect your products and services on your website!

If you’d like some more pointers, or just a friendly chat, we love staying connected at Activate Design.

Give us a buzz, or pop in and see us.

 

You might also like:

Posted in Website Design

How to Avoid Big Mistakes in Web Design

It’s easy to say what a good website is made of, but what are the most common mistakes that result in badly designed websites? There are many culprits to consider when discussing bad web design. At the top of this list, as you will see from my previous blog post, are web building sites that claim web design is easy. Let’s have a look at what exactly constitutes good web design before we consider its pitfalls. If you take the time to browse the multitude of websites on the internet, you’ll come across some pretty inventive web design. But for every properly constructed, engaging and innovative website, there are hundreds of poorly designed ones.

Let’s Take a Ride

shaggybonesbakeryGood web design is about transmitting information in an effective way. How a website is able to effectively guide the eyes of the viewers is paramount. It’s the designer’s job to lead users around the screen. Different parts of your design act as road markings for the user. A well designed website doesn’t just take you to a store and leave you there. It helps you navigate around visual sign posts such as logo and brand to positioning statements and main body text. One of the most frustrating experiences for me, as a designer, occurs when I enter a site and get lost immediately. I can tell you right now, I don’t stick around very long in a website with bad layout. Mastering navigation is a crucial skill involved in good web design.

It takes a lot of skill to create a website that acts as a map for the user. You have to consider the position of information and you need to know how to use colour in a way that will influence the user. Good web designers know the importance of contrast in making something important stand out. Not only is skill important, but you have to have a strong sense of design sense and taste.

Entering Space

It’s tempting, when faced with a blank screen, to fill up the space with text and images. But there needs to be a certain amount of blank space to give a good website a sense of flow. You don’t want to inundate the user with too much information all at once. It can be off-putting and overwhelming. Using space is an art. Proper spacing can make content appear clearer. You need to consider how you space out your images, but more importantly, how you space your text. Keeping the user’s eyes engaged can be difficult. Eyes can easily get lost with too much space in between lines. If there is too little space, the text can be confusing to read. It’s truly a fine balance.

Good web designers understand the importance of padding and white space. Remember the golden rule: text should never touch other elements. There needs to be a good amount of white space around images and text. It makes your content easier and more pleasurable to read this way. Keep in mind that less is often more: white space gives balance and proportion, creating a more elegant vibe. A cluttered website is the sign of a dodgy business.

May the Font be with You

Have you ever tried to read something created with a terrible font? It’s nearly impossible. The internet is awash in bad font design. Text is the most integral element of good design, so it's surprising to come across so many websites who put so little thought into it. When designing a great website you have to consider which fonts to use and the statements they make. Bauhaus 93 and Times New Roman will not transmit the same information.

And Remember: size does matter! If your font is too small it’s going to be really hard to read which defeats the point of your website in the first place! Your font choice is crucial in transmitting the information you have to your user. Subscribe to consistency, readability and proportion when designing a site that works effectively and efficiently.

Sweet Dreams are Made of These…

When building your dream website, don’t let your imagination run too wild. If you spend all that time picking a font that isn’t a standard HTML font or you start playing around with tricky vertical alignment, you may end up with a beautiful website that isn’t user friendly. Designing a site and building one are two entirely separate realms. When in doubt, keep it simple. Good web design isn’t just about superficial good looks. As with most things, beauty is found on the inside! A well thought out website is a user friendly one. If your site is friendly, it’s going to be popular and you’ll see the proof in your pudding, er, traffic!

When you design a website, you have to think like a user. Consider the different tasks people might do while they’re there. Make it easy for them to get what they’re after. There’s no law against having a look at what your competitor sites are doing.  While you may be a complicated artist with a grand vision, good web design is essentially a tool for people to find what they’re looking for. And considering the amount of competition out there, you can’t afford to make your site too complex. Here are my top five worst mistakes being made in web design currently.

1. Absence of Contact Page     This mistake is particularly puzzling. Why design a site in the first place if you’re going to make yourself unavailable to your customers? Time is money and not a lot of people want to waste it by filling out lengthy contact forms. Ensure your physical address is available, along with your landlines, mobile numbers and email addresses. The lack of a contact page gives the impression that you’re unreachable which isn’t going to help your business.

2. Absence of Social Network Links All smart businesses have their own Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and even Pinterest presence. IF you’re not linking your social media network to your web page, you’re simply missing the point. This means you’re also missing the traffic. When handled properly, social media networking can generate a lot of buzz for your business. They help to form a relationship with your customers and they are an excellent source of free advertising.

3. Underwhelming Content Let me make myself very clear: the success of your site is incredibly dependant on the quality of your content. Consider your content to be like the freeway to your website. Bad content is like a dead end: no one is going to travel to you. Your writing has to be good, engaging, and interesting; however, the structure is equally as important. Use headings, sub-headings, and for god’s sake embrace the paragraph. Oh, and brush up on your grammar people!  If you’re not a strong writer there are plenty of capable SEO companies who can do the work for you at a reasonable rate. They’ll also help direct more traffic to your site as it’s what they do best. It’s also imperative to keep the content up to date. Grammatical errors and old content give the impression that you don’t care. This website is the face of your business so make sure it looks good. You can’t afford to lose the customers or the credibility, can you?

4. Broken Links lead to Broken Hearts Can I just say: ARGH! Broken links and bad links are the worst thing that can happen to a website. Make sure you take the time to test out the links on your site and do this weekly, if not daily. Broken links on your website are sure indications that you don’t care enough about your business. They make you look incompetent and amateur. It’s almost as bad as having automatic music playing the background. Don’t get me started on that…

5. Nasty Navigation This guy is the worst. Look, competition is fierce out there. If you build a website that people can’t figure out, they’re going to move on to your competitors. These days, no one has time to waste, especially you. Make sure there’s a navigation bar on every page that guides visitors to other areas of your site. It has to be visible at all times. Make sure your back buttons are in working order. You want your website to be an enjoyable experience for users. Try to make it as less frustrating as possible.

Clean, clear and simple are rules that you should follow when considering web development. All it takes is a little common sense and intuition. Create an easy navigation system with intuitive navigation bars, search boxes, and don’t clutter them up with too many images and sound effects. You’re not George Lucas, you’re not.

I guess the best advice I can give you when it comes to creating good web design is to put your business in the hands of the experts. Come in and talk to one of our helpful experts today!

Posted in Website Design