Choosing the Right Web Designer

So, you’ve finally decided that you need a website for your business? Well, there are a few key points to remember BEFORE you make one of the most crucial decisions for your business.

Web Design

Choosing the right designer for your new business website:

When it comes to choosing the right web designer for your website, you should always shop around first to check out all of the available options. There are many web design companies out there to choose from. And most of them are pretty good at what they do.

Always ask to see samples of a web designer’s previous work and examine their portfolio. This will help you get a better feel for the style of sites any particular web designer is capable of doing. Most of the time, web designers have their own unique style and you can easily spot which designs they’ve done in the past. I mean, it’s similar to any other artist’s style; you can definitely spot their previous works based on the general layout, color scheme, and overall visual appearance of the sites.

Experience is also a key factor here. Just like any other craft, web designers get better with experience. So naturally, you’ll be better off by choosing a web designer who has more experience under his or her belt.

Another key point you should define is whether or not the web designer can make you a 100% custom website. Or will it be just a basic template web design that 100’s or even 1,000’s of people already have the Internet? Pretty much, anybody, these days can create a basic HTML web page in Microsoft Word or Publisher and change the title of it to reflect their Branson business. But you must ask yourself: “is this really what I’m looking for”?

Web sites that are truly custom built will stand out more the rest of the basic template web designs that so many people are using these days. A custom web design will catch the eye of your potential customers and show them that you have a really professional web presence and you mean business.

A lot of web designers these days choose to do the template websites for one of 2 reasons:

It’s cheaper to use a basic template web design. They might be lacking the necessary skills needed to develop a fully custom website. Whatever the case may be, make sure you go with a designer who is capable of creating a custom web design for you. It will inevitably cost you more for a custom site. But it is totally worth the extra money spent. Trust me, in the end, you will be much happier with your website if it is a site that’s unique and created for just your business and not everybody else’s.

Communication with a potential web designer is also critical in the development of your website. You need to be perfectly clear and define your goals up-front before you actually sign a web design service contract with a designer. Make sure you know what you are getting for your money and make sure you get it in writing! I have a 9-page website design contract that I use every single time I design a new website. Included in this contract is an itemized list of all work that is to be performed during the development of the website. Things like the exact number of pages, the exact number of graphics to be designed, whether or not I need to create a logo, the estimated time before completion, whether or not routine site maintenance will be performed after the site is 6 months or 1 year old, etc.

Defining these things will help you in the long run and will also make sure you and the web designer are on the same page.

I also use what I call my “web design planning worksheet”. This worksheet gives “milestones” or deadlines for each phase of the web design project. Things like “In 2 weeks the general layout will be done” and “2 weeks after that, the site will be coded and launched” and then “In one month after the website is launched, we will evaluate it to see what needs to be adjusted”, etc. (these are just examples, by the way. the details included in one of my actual worksheets gives exact dates and more specific milestones).

And what about the web hosting for your new website? Usually, a web designer will provide some kind of insight as to which hosting company they recommend. Web designers, in general, have a preference for a hosting company that they know will be a good choice for your website and they should assist you in making this selection.

Fortunately, we have our own web server here at Digital Spiral Web Design so we can do all of the hosting ourselves. This is very beneficial because we can make sure the web server stays up and running and if there is any maintenance that needs to be performed on the server, we can do it ourselves in a timely manner. Plus, we will always cut a deal for our website hosting services to any new business who chooses us to do their web design.

Will your new website require any specialized web programming? Well, the answer to that question is based solely on the needs of your Branson website. What kind of site will it be? Does it need a shopping cart for e-commerce? Will you be implementing any special web applications or online forms for your viewers to fill out? Will it be a website that requires your viewers to fill out registrations and sign up so they can log in? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then chances are you’ll need a web designer who can also program.

Web developers and designers must be skilled in the art of web PROGRAMMING (something that is very different from regular web DESIGN). Web programming involves the implementation of different web programming languages like JAVA, PHP, Flash, SQL, or.NET. All of these web programming languages need highly skilled individuals to code them and develop web programs with them.

I personally love PHP! I use it for pretty much everything. I won’t go into the details of PHP in this article (I would have to write an entire book about it to cover all of it). But with PHP, I can create pretty much any web application that is logically possible.

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So, make sure you choose a web designer who is also capable of coding any special functions that your new website needs. This decision needs to be discussed and gone over by any potential web designer you might use to create your Branson website.

And finally, you should always check with the potential web designer’s previous clients to make sure they give him or her a good reference. Remember it just like any other service. You need to verify a web designer’s references and make sure they can do what they say they can do.

So, just to summarize all of the tips I’ve mentioned:

Ask questions, questions, and more questions before you choose a web designer. Clearly, define your goals from the beginning. Ask to see the web designer’s portfolio and samples of their previous work. Make sure they can help you with choosing a web hosting provider. Get documentation to show exactly how many pages will be included in the project and the estimated time before completion. If your Branson website requires special web programming, make sure the designer can handle it. I hope this article helps anybody who is getting ready to have a new website designed. A good website can really do wonders for your business!

How to Create Good Web Design

There are many different types of web design, from those built using website templates and ‘build your own’ site building applications to complex content managed and e-commerce web designs such as those used by big brand names like Amazon, eBay, and Tesco. Some companies, even some big name companies, have unprofessional looking and badly designed websites. Some have amazing looking websites but because of their high graphical content and minimal text content can take an age to load, are not user-friendly and do not provide what the visitor wants.

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Good Website Design

Though many aspects of website design differ from site to site, many things remain the same throughout the majority of websites on the internet. Most notably is the navigation or menu. The way in which a website’s menu works and looks is very important, as ultimately, visitors to a website are looking for certain criteria that will make them either stay and interact or leave. This ability for a website to keep visitors interested is sometimes referred to as stickiness. Visitors want an attractive visually exciting experience, but perhaps more importantly, they want ‘ease of use’. Website usability is a key factor for websites that want their visitors to stick around, make an inquiry and ultimately complete a transaction and order a product or service.

Easy to Use Web Design

Internet users tend to prefer easy to use websites because they do not want to have to learn how to use a website every time they find a new one. They should be able to use a website after only a few seconds of looking at a homepage, any more and they will leave and browse elsewhere. The need for fast user interaction is vital and therefore having a fast loading website is also important for a website to succeed. Even with faster internet connections such as broadband, internet users don’t want to wait around.

Just imagine, if you go to a shop on the high street and are totally ignored by shop assistants at the counter for 5 minutes, even after you have made it clear you want help. There is a correlation here to how an internet user may feel when they arrive at a website that has been poorly designed, is difficult to use, unfriendly and slow to load. Making sure that a website has been well thought out and designed with the user in mind, displays a company’s unique selling points within easily recognizable eye-catching calls for action and has a clear, easy to use menu is key to its success.

Flash Web Design

With recent web design advancements, such as the introduction of Flash animation and high-definition video content, impressive websites have been produced to take advantage of much higher levels of visual effects and interaction. However with this ‘high end’ web design, comes a price, more often than not, web designs which rely heavily upon Flash content are often ridiculously slow to load. They often have a progress bar, which slowly goes across the web browser to signify when the website will finish loading.

This is much like the progress bars that you may be familiar with if you use video editing or 3D rendering software, or if you use games consoles where they are displayed whilst you wait for games to load. Internet users, on the whole, do not want to wait for 3 – 5 minutes for a web page to load even if it does feature high-resolution images, animation or video. They want fast informative content rich websites. If they wanted to watch an animation or video they would watch TV.

Good Flash Web Design

This is not to say that Flash animation is all bad news and shouldn’t be used in web design. If used subtly and in small amounts, it can make a website more visually appealing without slowing the load time down too much. Suitable uses for Flash animation in web design are things such as; Flash banner advertisements, Flash video and interactive Flash forms for online questionnaires or business presentations.

Using Flash for a whole website design, however, is not such a good idea. It slows the user’s experience down because they have to wait for elements of it to load. Also, sites totally developed in Flash tend to use unfamiliar menu structures and features. This can confuse visitors who just want to quickly interact with the website and not be amazed by the way the menu animates. Just because you can do these things in Flash, it doesn’t mean they have any real working value in the real world. They may look pretty, but if they are not functional and only irritate the visitor then they have no real value.

Flash Web Design & SEO

Another argument against using Flash to create a whole website is that it dramatically reduces the effectiveness of your websites’ Search Engine Optimisation. Flash web designs are made up of one main file within a web page which search engines find difficult to index. This is because the text within them is usually graphical text and therefore is not usually accessible by search engines. Some recent developments allow some text to be displayed for search engines in Flash websites, but this is nowhere near as effective as text content within traditional HTML based websites.

Don’t Write Off Flash in Web Design

Although Flash does have its limitations it also has its good points if used correctly. For instance; Flash animation is usually smaller in file size than traditional gif animation and because of the way it is made the animation flows smoother than gif animation too. Having said this, I would recommend only using Flash in small areas within a site to compliment other imagery that makes up the overall design. Finding a balance between minimal graphical elements, imagery, Flash and good quality informative text is the key to a successful user-friendly website. This isn’t to say that web design needs be boring. By working with quality web design companies there’s no reason why you couldn’t have a visually exciting, well designed, easy to use and successful website.

Visually Stimulating Web Design

When visitors first arrive at a website, they want to be impressed and engaged with what the website has to offer. This will be determined by the ways in which the web designer has laid out the website’s content text, images, and features. Arranging elements such as imagery, text, graphics, flash, and video in such a way as to keep the visitor interested in the website is the key to good web design. If a website has poor design and doesn’t grab the attention of the visitor in the first few seconds, then it may well be dismissed as just another average website. This ultimately means the visitor will go elsewhere to spend their time and, more importantly, money.\

Web Design Beverly Hills

Good Web Design Layout

A lot of time and money is spent making sure that the right elements of websites are positioned in the right places. Companies spend large amounts of money conducting research into how internet users use their websites. This type of research shows where their visitors’ eyes concentrate the most, which elements of the website they click on first and generally how they interact and use their websites. Most internet users will look primarily from the top left either across the page or down the left-hand side of the webpage through an Internet browser via a computer, mobile phone or TV set.

I would hazard a guess, that they are looking for the company’s name or logo, their main selling points or slogans and then what the website has to offer in terms of what is featured on the menu. After which their eyes are probably drawn to the page content and over to the right-hand side. Successful web design usually takes this into consideration and will ultimately affect the way a website looks.

Good Web Design

What is Web Design?
A Web site is the final output of a Web design. The Web site sits on a Web server where electronic files are stored. The Web site presents the contents and interactive features or interfaces to the end user in the form of Web pages. How the information requested is displayed to the user is par of the Web design process. Additional controls are embedded in order to display more complex media like animations, sounds, and other forms.

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What’s New? The Clouds of Course!
Everybody wants something new from time to time and yet some need a fix of something totally different. In the realm of the internet, that is quite a common occurrence with the many innovations that are always popping up and with all of them, none can be as exciting as the move into the clouds.

The Open Design Community: Free CSS Templates!
If you’re most people out there who don’t know CSS and have no time or care, about how to do one for your blog, then the next action for you would be to find a place where you can download one for free. Thank goodness that there are a lot of sites out there that give them away for free. The only problem is, that since you were not the one who created it, you will be subject to their designs and whims.

One of the sites that give free CSS of cool web designs is The Open Design Community (TODC). The Open Design Community is a hub for open source website designers from around the world providing thousands of XHTML and CSS based free web design templates available for download. So, please feel free to take a minute or two and browse through the designs that our fabulous designers have submitted and see if one might work for you! And remember they are free!

Bad Web Design
Here are some features that can really mar the over all concept of your web design. It is important to take notice of the most common mistakes web designers commit. You might be able to use some insights into creating an effective web design which might be simple but can invoke your projected image. Backgrounds that are gray in color by default presents so many problems most especially with the pages readability. Avoid color combinations that can render the characters unreadable. Backgrounds are mostly effective when it is left simple and does not interfere with reading. Texts must be readable. Avoid small characters. Keep the links colored blue as much as possible because common users are already used with the color.

DIY Web Design
Do it yourself design projects are proliferating on the internet these days. There are a number of web sites that practically teaches you what to do without hiring a web designer. A do it yourself web site design applies perfectly for young professionals who are just starting to learn stuff in business or trying to reformat the existing business that they are running. DIY web site design offers you total control over the project and over the site that is why its simply gaining popularity. It takes the work out of dealing with consultants, designer, contractor landscaper and the likes. In DIY design, your ideas are sure to be heard and taken careful attention to. You get to express your style and personality. because at the end of the day, it still will be your website, selling your products. This has solved constant problems with web designers who are truly passionate in their work who sometime can get overly sensitive to a small correction or observation of his work. Do it yourself web designing surely saves you money and time and energy.

Benefits of Web 2.0 Applications
Web 2.0 applications are the latest trend in website design. Many Internet companies and users are turning to web 2.0 for its added features. It has also increased functionality. It has brought about a new wave in how sites are to be built, designed and applied hands-on. It makes the users enjoy blogging, download, RSS feeds etc. These developments give added excitement to online experience. It is said that Web 2.0 companies sites get higher ranking in search engines, like Google, Yahoo and countless others. Web 2.0 benefits are countless. You can post photos, albums, help guides and maps for planning your travel abroad.

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It has radically changed the quality of social interaction worldwide. Blogs proliferate. marketing online costs much less. And it has created networking success stories. Web 2.0 gives you full control over your business while adding smaller but very useful features to it.

Website design is of course not giving the visitors with another plain piece of text. Go as per the old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Here the beholder is the visitor of the website that you are going to design. So as a skilled website designer you should have mastered all the skills needed to create classy and attractive graphics, colors and shapes placed in perfect balance to catch the eye of the visitor together with drawing his focus to the most important sections of your website. Your job as a website designer is to make use of colors, text and graphics and translate into a visually appealing layout, logo, banner, and button system.

As a professional website designer, you need to chalk out a well-devised approach for creating the website. First, you need to understand the specific business necessities of your client and lay out the basic structure of the website. In order to minimize the cost of the set up, the website designer should be equipped with predefined web templates. Having this feature in your armory, you don’t need to go hog-wild with the designs for the reason that you are not designing a website by tinkering.

How Do You Become a Web Designer? Do You Have What It Takes?

Web design can be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. It’s a trade that combines technical skills with creative ability. If you feel comfortable with computer technology and you enjoy creating documents, web design can be a great way to combine the two interests.

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That being said, it’s always overwhelming to consider learning a new skill. Before learning how to become a web designer, you should ask yourself, “Should I become a web designer?”

I’ve been learning web design since I was ten years old, in 1994. I now do a lot of web design for myself and for some small business clients. There have been plenty of pleasures, but also plenty of frustrations. If you’re considering becoming a web designer, there are some things you should keep in mind.

If you have a lot of time to devote to learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Photoshop, it’s possible to learn the basics in a couple of months. Be ready to spend some money on manuals, books, and applications.

No matter how you decide to learn web design and how you decide to enter the field, some people have better potential to become web designers than others.
When you’re programming, even if you’re using a simple language like HTML and using a helpful application like Dreamweaver, you’re going to encounter some frustrations. Sometimes, when I create an HTML document, I spend a lot more time making corrections and problem solving than doing fun stuff. Are you prepared to spend a lot of time testing and making little changes? No matter how you approach web design, medium can’t be completely avoided. If you’re easily frustrated and discouraged, web design might not be for you.

Unless web design is going to be just a hobby for you, you will have clients you have to work with. Sometimes clients have a lot of specific expectations. Some clients have experience with web design themselves, but others may demand things without knowing the technical limitations involved. Before you start any project for clients, it’s best to have a thorough conversation with them about what they want and what they need. That can save you a lot of time. How would you like to spend weeks developing a website, only to discover that your client wants completely different fonts, colors, graphics, site organization, and content? If you’re going to get into designing web pages for other people, you’re going to have to be ready to make a lot of compromises and take a lot of criticism. Are you ready for that?

Finally, ask yourself if you have the time and energy to promote yourself. If you want to be hired by a web design firm, in addition to learning skills and possibly obtaining certifications, you’ve also got to be ready to pound the pavement with your resume and portfolio. It might take you over a year to find a job. Be ready to attend a lot of job interviews, and possibly get a lot of rejections.

If you’re going to become a freelancer, like I am, you’ve really got to devote a lot of energy to self-promotion. Set up a website, preferably with your own domain. Be ready to spend some money on advertising. Spend a lot of time promoting your services with social media – Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, and so on. Scan classified ads, particularly online classifieds. Print business cards and distribute them wherever you can. Use your connections and word-of-mouth to your advantage. Tell everyone you know that you’re a web designer, and maybe someone knows someone who could be your first client. Sometimes I spend more time promoting myself than I do actually doing the work itself.

If you’re ready to spend a little bit of money, do a lot of tedious work, take some criticism, and do a lot of self-promotion, then web design may be the field for you.

First, you’ve got to start the learning process. If you enjoy classroom instruction and having teachers, sign up for some web design and graphic design courses through your local community college. If you’d rather start learning on your own, buy some good books, look at the source codes of the web pages you visit, and go through some online tutorials. Even if you’re going to start learning web design in a school setting, be prepared to do a lot of learning in your free time, as well.

It’s important to learn HTML, especially HTML5. Learn Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), up to CSS3. JavaScript, possibly some server side scripting languages, and Flash are very useful, too. Don’t forget to learn how to use Photoshop. If you don’t have the money to buy Photoshop right away, start by downloading some free graphic design programs like Paint.Net and GIMP. You can learn some of the basics of graphic design that way, and possibly be better prepared when you finally buy the most recent version of Photoshop.

These days, people access the web in more ways than were ever possible before. When you’re web designing, you not only want to make your web pages work in multiple browsers but also on multiple devices. Even basic cell phones can access the web today, not just smartphones such as BlackBerrys and iPhones. Even some video game playing devices like the Sony PSP and Nintendo DSi have web browsers. Web surfers could be using tiny screens or enormous screens. They could be using a variety of different browsers and versions of browsers. Users may have completely different plug-ins and fonts; Adobe Flash is a browser plug-in, for instance. When you’re learning web design, try surfing the web in as many ways as you can.

There are many helpful resources for learning web design online, and there are many helpful online tools for web designers, many of which I use.

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The W3C is an excellent place to start. They’re the non-profit organization founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who started the World Wide Web. The W3C sets standards for HTML, XML and CSS. In addition to information about coding languages and standards, they have handy tools to validate your code.

HTML Goodies has a lot of excellent tutorials and articles.

I’ve learned a lot so far, but I’m always learning more, and I’ll always be a student of web design and media technology. As technology advances, things change. There’ll always be new programming languages and applications. Learning is a constant process.

Web design has been an engaging experience for me, and if you decide to get into it yourself, I hope you take it seriously and have a lot of fun.

How to Choose a Cheap Web Designer – Top 7 Questions to Ask

Choosing a web designer can be like choosing a tradesman. Who do you trust? Which ones are genuine and which ones will leave you feeling out of pocket? I have compiled a list of questions that we feel you should always ask before commissioning a website. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re going for an expensive site that is all singing and dancing or a simple site – you should still expect and receive a great service.

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So here are the top questions that we think you should ask your web designer or check on their website. Please don’t be put off! There are thousands of honest, fantastic companies out there who want nothing more than to make their customers happy. However, as I search on Google, some companies aren’t perhaps quite what they appear…

1. Do the examples of their work click through to a website?

I have noticed that on some web designer’s sites, examples of work are displayed, but it is not possible to click through and actually view the site they are claiming to have created. I cannot think of any reason for this, other than:

a) They haven’t actually created the site – they have simply taken a screen shot of any website and added it to their “portfolio”.

b) They have created the site, but it isn’t very good and so don’t want you to see it.

c) They have created a site with a fantastic looking homepage, so that they can add the screenshot to their “portfolio”, but they can’t show the rest of the site, as it doesn’t exist!

If you can click through to the site, I recommend the first thing you do is scroll down to the bottom of the page. Most web designers stipulate in their terms and conditions that the website will have a “Created by… ” link at the bottom of the customer’s website. This is the norm in the industry. If then, you scroll down to the bottom and you don’t see this, I would be suspicious that the company who claim to have designed the site, possibly haven’t.

Also, if you can click through to examples sites, double check that they are genuine! I have seen “portfolio examples” that are clearly fabricated. Perhaps the telephone number of the web designer’s “customer” is 01234 5678910, or the domain name is a sub domain, rather than a real domain name. Be vigilant – it will be worth it!

2. Do they offer testimonials that can be verified?

As with tradesmen, often the best way to gauge a web designer is on testimonials from previous clients. I care about the work I do and I want to ensure that my customers are satisfied. On completion of their site, all my customers are sent a short questionnaire about the quality of my work, service, price etc and I am proud to display these on my site. Your web designer should be happy for you to contact previous clients, as this is truly the only way that the testimonials can be verified.

3. How much do they charge for hosting?

When you get a web design quote, you will often find that hosting is included free of charge for the first year. You must ensure that you know exactly how much your hosting is going to cost after this time. For example, I had a customer who had a great website that had cost GBP50, but they were being charged GBP30 per month for hosting! This is far too much (and in my opinion unethical). Their cheap web design ended up costing them a fortune.

You should expect to pay anything from GBP30-GBP60 per year for your hosting for an average site. More than this and I would walk away. Conversely, if you are told that hosting is “free forever”, then I would also be suspicious. Perhaps you will be charged a high fee to renew your domain name instead…

4. Will they accept payment from you, without having discussed your needs first?

I have seen some websites that send you directly to a payment page. I would never recommend making a payment for a website without having first discussed exactly what you want – either via telephone or email.

Before parting with any money you need to ensure that your web designer understands what you want from your website, how many pages it will be (you need to know what constitutes a “page”), what you need to supply and what they will source, what would be the best domain name etc etc etc. There’s a whole list of factors that should be decided before parting with your money. If a company is happy to receive payment before this, be wary.

5. Do they have Terms and Conditions?

You are entering into a contract with your web designer and as such, you should first ensure that they have T & Cs and secondly read them! They are there to protect both you as the customer and also the web designer themselves (yes, sadly sometimes the customer tries to rip the web designer off also). If they don’t have T & Cs and say not to worry, it is all based on trust, then be wary.

6. Whose name will the domain name be in?

This is really important. The domain name should always be registered in your name, not the web designer’s name. This means that you own the domain name. For example, an unethical designer may register the domain in their own name. If your business is successful (which hopefully it is!) and the time comes to renew your domain name if the domain name is not registered in your own name, the web designer can charge you whatever they like to use the domain name. This is not a situation you want to find yourself in.

Luckily, I think this practice is fading out but I still have the occasional customer who doesn’t own their domain name – their previous designer does. How do you check this? If the company’s portfolio is genuine, you can visit the website http://www.who.is, type in the domain name and it will tell you who the owner of the domain name is. The owner of the domain should not be the web design company (although they are often listed as the administrators, which is fine)

7. How much will you be charged to makes changes to your site in future?

This is a tricky one. Having your website designed is usually just the first step in. Once your site is up and running, you often want to make changes to it, add special offers, new pictures etc. Obviously it would be unfair to expect your web designer to carry out this work for you for nothing (although some customers do think that web designers should do updates for free!). On the other hand, you want to know that you’re not going to be ripped off every time you want to change your site.

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You can expect to pay around GBP25 per hour for updates and this is around the norm for most ethical web designers. It’s possible get a lot done in an hour, so it generally works out pretty well for customers. Some companies will charge GBP25 per change however, so watch out for this. For example, a designer might alter some text for a customer, add 2 photos and an extra PayPal button. It could usually do this in approximately half an hour let’s say, so it would cost GBP12.50. If you were being charged per change, this would be GBP100! Again, just be aware of all the costs before committing.

Something else you may want to look at is whether or not you have the option to be able to update your own site in the future. This means that you can log into your website and make changes to your own site as and when you like, without worrying about the cost each time. As technology becomes more user-friendly, this type of service is becoming increasingly popular.

Why Your Business Should Upgrade to a Responsive Web Design Sooner Rather Than Later

Why should my business have a responsive web design?

Responsive web design has become the go-to solution for businesses who want a user-friendly interface and higher customer retention. If your company has come this far without taking advantage of all the benefits it has to offer, you may have already begun to see lower visitor numbers and a disappointing conversion rate.Web Design

As a responsible business owner, you’ll probably need convincing before paying to upgrade your web presence to one that includes responsive design. However, by opting in you’ll soon see a return on investment that will make it worthwhile. In a nutshell, responsive design is just better than what has gone before and in order to keep up with the competition, you’ll need it too.

Responsive web design is crucial for the majority of businesses because it allows your users to achieve their goals quickly and smoothly. The important elements of your website can be pulled up on a smart phone and appear as a fully functional version of the original, complete with all the utility you’d offer to customers on a laptop or desktop computer. If you fail to provide a mobile-friendly experience like this for your visitors they won’t hang around, they’ll simply click away and complete the action or purchase on a rival site.

Unhappy customers are not good for business and neither is going up against a major search engine. Google have recently confirmed what many insiders have suspected for some time – sites that are not optimised for multiple users will slip down their search rankings. Google bases their rankings on how useful a page is for the query a user has entered, plus the utility of the site – for example, can a user complete the action they would like to?

Your page may be completely relevant to their search, but if visitors cannot access the content easily across a number of devices, your site may receive a less than positive review and be placed lower in the search results. If your company is reduced to a second or third page entry you’ll lose a considerable amount of traffic, as people naturally select links from the first page.

Google has also pointed out that companies which have a single responsive website – rather than one standard and one mobile version – are far easier for their bots to discover because there is just one URL.

If your site is responsive and ready to service mobile customers, you can take advantage of many tools and helpful apps like the click-to-call button, this enables a web user to make a voice call to your company immediately. Potential customers can also read reviews about your business or even find you in a busy place using Google Maps, both keenly relevant to the needs of mobile users.

Branding is one of the ways in which we build a relationship of trust with a customer and keep them coming back for more of the same. This is pertinent to responsive design for two reasons, firstly, people do not feel confident in a site they cannot easily navigate and second, in order to create a uniform brand you’ll need responsive design to produce a consistent web appearance; however your clients reach you.

In today’s market there are only a handful of reasons why a company may choose to stick with static design on their web page. Those who do not rely in any significant way on web traffic to drive sales, or those who have few competitors, or those who have already looked into responsive design and found it was not right for them. For everyone else, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, responsive design is the only way forward for your website.

Responsive web design features

Until recently web designers created different pages depending on where they would be viewed, a tablet, for example, has a different screen resolution to a laptop, and so the content would be optimized for viewing on that particular device.

However, responsive web design has revolutionized the way in which users look at the internet, it has created an across the board experience allowing us to view pages on a PC, smart phone or notebook in exactly the same way. When they build a site, designers use the same coding on any number of resolutions, giving every device the same degree of functionality.

Responsive web designers believe that their clients’ web pages should be accessible to every visitor, giving them an optimal experience, regardless of the device they use. This kind of intelligent response to a web user’s actions keeps your company relevant in an ever changing online market place; it boosts your e-commerce figures and makes visiting your site an enjoyable experience.

In technical terms there are three key features of responsive web design, the secret ingredient is generally considered to be media queries. These are filters added on to the CSS or Cascading Style Sheets, affecting the look and feel of any individual page. CSS is a highly useful tool for web designers, but by tagging on a media queries adaption, the process of resizing, rendering and orienting a page becomes far easier.

Another linchpin of responsive design is the flexible layout, this is based on a grid formation, ideal for formatting margins, positioning the key elements of a page and getting the spacing just right. This means a designer is not limited to a certain number of columns, they can choose as many or as few as is appropriate for the page. A flexible layout also removes the need to work out the layouts and text size based on pixels.

Instead, designers use percentages which enable them to adopt a far more fluid approach to producing each page. Pixels work well in photographic images, but are a clumsy tool to use over a number of devices. One pixel may be expressed as three dots on a phone, but ten dots on a desktop, changing the quality of an image considerably between devices.

The third component of responsive design involves the use of CSS or a dynamic resizing function to create flexible images, videos and other content. Text can flow relatively easily as the containing area resizes, but in order to spread this across more complex segments, web designers need to use different techniques. Dynamic resizing gives a web designer greater control over how a page behaves and enables them to add or remove components as needed.

Taken a whole, these multiple technologies mean visitors can enjoy the feeling of familiarity, regardless of what device they happen to be using, or will be using in the future.

When a mobile user changes from landscape to portrait mode, the intuitive design will ensure the page gets bigger or smaller. Furthermore, each element, be it an image, textbox or video will also resize itself to correspond with the different dimensions.

If you have ever tried to access a website and discovered that it was almost impossible to navigate around without shrinking and enlarging the text or buttons, you’ll understand why responsive design is considered good practice for the majority of website owners.

Responsive web design Vs Mobile web design

Until quite recently, mobile web design was considered far more relevant to modern consumers than it’s responsive counterpart, this approach sees designers using smart phones as a starting point and upgrading the technology progressively, through to notepads, desktop computers and beyond. This method meant that companies needed two websites, one for their mobile pages and one for PC users.

In the early golden years of mobile web design, there were a number of reasons why experts thought that web applications should always be designed first for use on a mobile device. Most important of these was the prevalence of smart phones and the fact that their popularity was continuing to skyrocket. By creating a platform that favoured these millions of users, companies could promote their service or product to what was seen as the next generation of computing consumers.

Secondly, mobile design was said to foster a cleaner concept without room for extraneous elements or unnecessary page clutter. In a screen the size of that on a mobile phone, there simply is not enough room to crowbar in extra buttons and widgets – instead, a design team had to focus on what was actually needed. By giving users a clear route to what they want, it was assumed that their experience would be better, faster, leave them more inclined to return or convert them into a paying customer.

Mobile applications were thought to have far more utility than PC-based software, what users expected from their laptop paled in comparison to the capabilities offered on smart phones. From a digital compass, to gyroscopic effects, touch screen inputs and voice control, designers hoped to build on these tools to produce modern web design that was not limited by the constraints of a PC.

Although there are pros and cons for the adoption of a mobile site to run parallel to a main site, responsively designed pages are ideal for retailers who want a robust, homogenous website with plenty of utility for every user. A single site also simplifies marketing campaigns; there is only a need to manage one site and one SEO strategy. Therefore, a website which features responsive design can save companies time and money, but also provide a seamless, convenient way for customers to shop.

Responsive web design statistics

When a team of designers builds you a responsive website you know it will adapt intuitively to whatever device it is accessed from, but where is the evidence that proves this is a factor in commercial success?

The content marketing company, Brand Point, found that over 90% of consumers buying decisions are affected by visual elements. In other words, if people land on your site and like the look of the place, they are more likely to stay and buy.

Screen resolutions are changing all the time as new devices reach the market, web developers Spiderweb found that in 2010 there were just 97 unique screen resolution sizes, but by 2013 that figure had leapt to 232. The only way of tackling this increase is to have a responsive website that is optimised for every customer, whatever device they favour.

Customers are driven away by high wait times and pages that take too long to appear; even way back in 2009, 47% of people expected a load time of just two seconds on a webpage. In a study carried out by cloud service providers, Akamai, it was also found that 40% of web users clicked away if they had not gained access to a page within 3 seconds. That is a pretty slim window of opportunity, and it’s fair to assume that people’s expectations have increased since this study was compiled.

Although external factors like a lack of Wi-Fi or 4G can also affect wait times, the importance of speed for business sites cannot be underestimated. Wed designers can write code for your responsive site that makes it selectively load the elements needed, or even bring in graphics at a later stage.

Web Design

Design matters because it can have a huge impact on the number of new visitors to your pages, these are people who have reached you through typing in specific search criteria and decided to click on the link to your site. Web designers, Domain7, have reported that in the case of their client Regent College, there was a leap of 99% in unique visitors after a revamp of their responsive web design.

If your mobile pages leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth of your visitors, they are far less likely to view your entire organization favourably, and they’ll tell their friends. Industry experts at the Search Engine Journal discovered that 57% of people would never recommend a company that had poorly designed pages, strengthening the case for a consistent web strategy that performs the way your customers want it to – wherever they happen to be.

Creating an Author Web Site – How to Find the Best Web Designer to Sell Your Book Online

Why Are Web Designers Such Flakes? A Reality Check.

Design

Circling the drain of unresponsive or missing in action web designers is a common dilemma. The Question is this: As a self-respecting author with a plan and a purpose, how do you choose a designer you can afford and rely on?

As a small publisher, or self-published author, you are faced with the high-cost of publishing a book. Your ever-growing budget includes editors, book cover and interior design, maybe a book coach or advisor, printing costs, fulfillment needs, marketing … my goodness, where does it end? When does the author start making money? Well, this is a question for another article all together. The point here is, how much should you allocate to the added expense of hiring a web designer? Can you hire someone who can do it all and is affordable to boot?

Ah, herein lies the problem. The one-man show dilemma-freelance artists. A newly graduated artist (or even an established one-person show) can be a very enticing option for someone with a small budget, especially when they are often a third of the price you would pay with a full-service design house. They are typically hungry, excited, talented, reasonably priced, and they can do it all. Yeah!!! So what goes wrong? Burnout. A freelance artist often over promises and eventually under delivers. They over commit because of the opportunity to build their portfolio; they chock it up to needed experience, and maybe even their desire to help another artist. But at the end of the day this is the perfect recipe for disaster. Why? Because it’s truly hard to do it all yourself and when you finally reach that wall, you shut down and walk away, close the door, stop returning calls-you move on.

This does not mean that because someone is reasonably priced that they are a bad choice for your needs. The question we seek to answer is: How do you protect yourself?

As you search for a reliable, talented designer consider the fallout. As you become overwhelmed with the production of your book, you tend to need a leaning post. That is, someone you can consider a partner, someone who cares as much as you do and will be there till the bitter end, or God willing the glorious payout. But let’s talk reality folks. Few people care about your project as much as you do. At the end of the day, people will do what is best for “me.” If you lay something precious in someone else’s hands you have to know that they will cherish that precious thing and treat it with the same care that you would. In the business world, this means you pay them to care-you appreciate them, you praise them, you create an environment that is rewarding, you pay them hard-earned cash.

What you are looking for is a long-lasting relationship, someone who delivers, who knows their stuff and someone who isn’t going to close up shop and leave you holding the bag.

A Sad Tale of Trust and Where it Went Wrong:

The Spark: You have just written a book! You are ready to meet your public. You are told you need a web site. You look around, you ask a few people for references, you weight the costs, you’re not quite sure how it will benefit you, you’re just about out of money, or worse your sinking further into debt. And then you meet Bob at a community function. Bob is great! He is dynamic, he loves your book, he has great ideas, he is excited, talented, and he can help you build a site for a fraction of the cost-this you can afford.

The Honeymoon: You get started on the project and Bob really seems to listen, he’s working quickly, he answers your calls, he has something for you to see right away, and it’s pretty good, you like it, OK maybe it’s not great, but hey it was practically free and it’s something, it’s better than nothing.

The Fallout: You have a big signing at the local bookstore, you’re excited, but your site needs to be updated and there’s that issue of those few spelling errors you haven’t gotten around to fixing. You know you need to talk to Bob. But Bob is out of town until next week. You call some friends to see if they know of anyone who can help, yes, but do you have access to the web files? Hmm, no Bob has that. Bob doesn’t seem to be returning your calls, or emails-Bob is MIA.

The Reality: So what if you do find someone who is so excited and hungry that they are willing to do it for very little, or even better, for free. What happens when your designer needs a leaning post and you are pushing for more-you’ve started with this person, you need them to finish the job, your marketing success depends on it…they stop returning calls, they are less and less responsive…you go crazy with frustration, the process of getting a simple update to your site is maddening, you throw your hands up in exasperation, the love affair is over and you are left to pick up the pieces.

You face the facts, you know you must find another web master, you search for people in your area, you are horrified by the high-prices, your benchmark, what you had come to rely on was so much less expensive. How can this be? OK fine, you find someone you think you can trust and they tell you your previous web designer didn’t know what they were doing. Salt. Wound. Pain. They tell you have to start over and it’s going to cost you. Yikes.

The Idiot: Was your last designer really an idiot? Maybe, but probably not. First of all, it’s important to know that designing and programming are two very different art forms and it makes sense to leave each task to the expert. I once saw a very talented illustrator design the interior layout of a book one page at a time, as opposed to flowing all of the text into one document (which certainly makes things easier when it comes time to make future changes). Was this guy an idiot? No, he just didn’t know what he was doing, but he sure was confident that he could get the job done. And boy did he. Now the second edition needs changes….

With web programmers, another thing to consider is that there are numerous ways to build a web site. Building a site is much like organizing your files, because in fact it is; web coders are a unique brand of person and each has his or her own naming conventions and ways of organizing files, which could be near impossible for someone else to decipher. Plus, there are numerous ways to code, programs to use, platforms, etc. Just like you might be baffled by my filing system, I would likely be baffled by yours. So for a programmer to look at your site, it can take a lot of maddening hours and cursing-clearly the last person didn’t know what he or she was doing. No, they just did it differently. But, why would I want to tackle that frustrating beast? Hmm, this is gonna be pricey.

Synergy, Longevity and Web Designers; The Answer:

Finding the right Web designer is sometimes like trying to find a needle in a haystack. So what’s a savvy author to do? First, get referrals. Qualified referrals will save you a lot of time, especially if they are from fellow authors. For this reason, consider joining your local authors’ guild and attending authors’ conferences where you can connect with other people in your industry.

Be sure to choose a designer who is familiar with your industry. A successful Web site goes way beyond the nuts and bolts of programming and coding. Your designer should have a firm understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and a definitive plan to reach that end. For instance, your navigation should lead your visitor in the direction of a sale-think of it like a funnel. You should implement an effective call-to-action that will guide your readers through the funnel and convert them into sales.

A successful home page will appeal to varying personalities in different ways. Use both imagery and text to say the same thing. This will reach the analytical and the visual; no matter how you say it, both will lead to the same place-a sale. A marketing-savvy firm will understand the importance of this element and provide valuable insight.

Ask for testimonials. Does he or she complete projects on deadline? A typical site should take from two to five weeks to design and build. Also, ask to see samples-including live sites. Test them for ease of use and loading time, as well as the general feeling you get from the sites you view. Chances are, if you dislike everything someone has done, you will be unhappy with what they produce for you as well.

Design

Does he or she listen to your needs? A good way to tell if company designs for the client or for themselves is to view their samples. If all of their samples are similar, this could be a red flag-unless, of course, that is exactly the style you want in your design. A good designer should be able to listen to your needs and translate them into a workable site that exceeds your expectations. Ultimately, your site should reflect your personality-not theirs.
Make sure your design team is easy to communicate with. Do they speak your language? Remember: this should be your vision, not theirs. Ego can often get in the way of your goals. When it comes down to it, they work for you. They should be able to set their artistry ego aside and follow your line of thinking, providing you with valuable insight and ideas that you hadn’t considered.

Ask Questions-Expect Answers

Ensure that your designer and the person coding your site are two different people. They are very different jobs and require different skills, just as your architect and your contractor are two different people. That’s not to say that you should hire two different firms-quite the opposite: a well-trained team works smoothly together and should be able to handle anything you throw their way.

A good firm will provide you with at least three “comps” or design samples. This is the part of the project where you will have the most involvement. That’s not to say that you should be able to stare over their shoulders as they create for you-but you should be given ample opportunity to verbalize your needs. You should approve the design before it goes to the programmer. Also, find out what their policy is on additional changes once you have approved the final design; you do not want to get stuck with hidden costs halfway through the project.

Always get a contract. Know exactly what to expect. A contract protects you as much as the design house. Read your contract thoroughly. Be sure that you own the rights to your site, the design, all the images, and your copy. When it’s all said and done, your designer should provide you with a disc that contains all your design files and your Web files; keep this disc and all your passwords in a safe place-in fact, make backups. Should something happen to your design house, or they go out of business, you should be able to seamlessly transfer everything to a new firm. And remember: this is a relationship, if you are not happy with your team, or you are not getting the results you expected, then don’t be afraid to find someone else.

Don’t rush it. Costly mistakes are made when people rush. Once your site is up and running, you can decide to change it, but it will likely mean starting all over and costing you twice what it should. Often, this can be the straw that breaks the marketing camel’s back. It is easy to get discouraged when you have invested so much of your heart and soul into a project only to find out you are back at square one. From the perspective of a coder, it is less costly to start over than to give your site a facelift-changing colors, navigation, and the overall look and feel of your site isn’t as easy as it may seem. Avoid costly mistakes in the beginning, even if it means stalling your project just a little longer.

How Much Should a Web Site Cost?

While industry standards are typically followed, prices vary widely. The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is a sufficient reference guide for industry pricing standards when it comes to illustration and design; this will give you a firm place to start.

It’s possible to pay anywhere from $200 to $44,000 on a Web site; all of this depends on the size of your site and your programming needs (and who you hire). What you want to concentrate on is the relationship you have with your designer. Meet with this person, and see if you like him or her; after all, you will likely be working very closely with this person. You should be developing a relationship that will help make you and your book shine.

Keep in mind, just because your site looks great doesn’t mean it’s effective. Discuss these elements and see what kind of ideas your potential designer may have that can bring your project to a higher level. Use someone who understands books and the publishing industry. While one firm may be able to design and build an incredible site for real estate agents, they may not know the first thing about selling books.

All of these things are crucial elements that you must consider before signing that contract. Always ask for a contract; no matter how much you trust this person, business is business-be professional. It’s okay and even necessary to build relationships and even friendships in this business, but never forget your end goal: You are an author with your own business, and only you will look out for you in the end.

Make a List-Check it Twice

Before you start shopping for a design house, jot down a list of your expectations; that way if it comes down to one or two firms/designers, you will make an educated decision based on all your needs.

Lastly, follow your gut feeling; listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t mesh, move on.

Finding a design team can be an emotionally overwhelming process. The following checklist will help you find the right team for your needs. And remember: just because the price is right doesn’t mean the fit is, and vice versa; an expensive team may be just that-expensive. You want to choose the best designer for you and your book. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

1. Do they listen?
2. Are they responsive?
3. Do they explain things in a way you can understand?
4. Do you like the other sites they have designed?
5. Are all of their design samples the same? Do they have the feel you are looking for?
6. Are their sites easy to navigate?
7. Do they have experience in your industry?
8. Do their sample sites load quickly?
9. Will they give you recent testimonials and references? Do they have happy clients?
10. What is their timeline?
11. Do they provide more than one design sample for you to choose from?
12. Are the designer and the programmer different people? Does the design firm have a specialized team?
13. Do they offer hosting services?
14. Do they offer E-commerce solutions?
15. Do they understand Internet marketing?
16. Do they have a company Web site?
17. Do they provide a contract that outlines your rights?
18. Do you get to keep the rights to every element of your site, including design and images?
19. How much do they charge for Web site maintenance?
20. Do they employ a solid back-up system? If so, do they keep back-ups offsite for added security?
21. Upon completion, will they provide you with all your files and passwords?

Top 10 Tips for Choosing a Web Designer for Your Business Web Site

How to Choose a Web Design Firm

Simple. You do your homework on them. Then, you start asking questions and taking notes. There are plenty of web designers available. You want to go with the best because, in fact, your web designer is, in essence, your partner. You want to choose a designer that takes YOUR business seriously.

Design

What questions do you ask?

There are several important questions to ask when choosing a web designer for your business website.

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

1. What kind of web experience do you have?

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

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

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

3. Do you have any references?

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

4. What are your prices?

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

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

5. Do you have experience with search engine optimization?

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

6. Do you have experience with social media marketing?

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

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

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

8. How long will it take?

Perfectionism can be a huge stumbling block in the fast-paced world of the Internet. Some designers are unable to compromise between quality and time to market needs. Test: See how long it takes until you receive a proposal.

9. What type of support is offered after website launch?

If your design firm does not offer website maintenance, you might want to continue looking. Most reputable design firms will offer “post-launch” maintenance for companies that do not have an in-house webmaster.

10. Which web hosting providers do you work with?

If your design firm does not know the first names of the contact at their favorite web design firm, then this should raise a red flag. Most reputable web designers know not to choose a web host simply because they are the most popular or because they offer the cheapest web hosting. A reputable web design firm should know who to call and how to get results! Does your web designer work with a green hosting company? Environmentally-friendly web hosting is becoming more and more popular for business websites looking to implement an eco-policy.

Web Design

 

Getting a little recognition on the W3 is hard, even in a niche market (especially in a niche market). You have less than 10 seconds to convince a site visitor to stick around long enough to learn about the quality of your services, your products or your message. Web surfers are jagged out on information overload. If they don’t see what they want to see on your home page or a landing page, they bounce. So, making a statement about your corporate culture and your business’ core values has to happen in the blink of an eye. Visitors will never even see the “About Us” page if you don’t create a good impression – in 10 seconds. So, go green! An emblem or banner proclaiming that you employ green hosting makes an immediate statement about your on-line business. It says you care about the environment.

Do your homework when choosing a web design firm.

Good designers are creative people that need to think out of the box. Finding a good web designer is getting harder and harder. The good designers are being snatched by agencies and large projects. They are overloaded with work and often, you won’t know about them because they don’t have time (or need) to market themselves. Doing your homework and asking the right questions is important to decide if they are right for the job.

Best Web Designer

1. Introduction

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

Web Design

Let us dispel these myths

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

Choosing a Web Designer is not an easy task! – Here are some tips…

There is so much more to web design than just making a few web pages look pretty if you want to succeed. You need to consider your target audience, underlying message, content, desired responses, visitor impact, online goals, how you are going to measure the success of the site and more. There is so much more to web design than just making a few web pages look pretty

2. Defining Your Requirements

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

Defining the Goal

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

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

Defining the Key Functions (The actions)

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

Examples might include:

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

Of course, there are other intangible benefits that your website might provide to an end user that don’t result in direct “actions”… i.e. simply providing “peace of mind” to an existing or prospective customer would be considered as such. If you haven’t already done so, then it’s also useful to check out the competition, for ideas, likes and dislikes.

Establishing Your Design & Development Preferences

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

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

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

Our Tip: Easy to use and Inoffensive – The WOW factor

Webbies often get asked to produce a website with the “WOW factor”. The “WOW Factor” is a term that means different things to different people. Often, the person or business commissioning the website have grandiose plans for extensive animation, splash screens, cartoons, garish designs… This isn’t the WOW factor – A bold garish design with “off the wall” color schemes may seem bold and innovative to some people, but may really put off other site users – Find the happy medium.

If a person wants to buy a pair of shoes online then their mission is basically to find the desirable pair of shoes at the right price in the quickest possible time. They don’t visit an e-commerce site to watch an animation of shoes tap dancing across the screen. Leave cartoons and needless animation that add zero value to those experts in their own field. People watch the Simpsons for that type of entertainment. They likely won’t be visiting your website for (or be impressed by) to be “dazzled” by irrelevant attempts to stand out.

Our own interpretation of the “WOW factor” is a site that is very simple to use, clean, crisp, user-friendly, fast loading with great content. Basically, the site that delivers it’s underlying message quickly and concisely is the most effective. Google has the WOW Factor and you don’t see slow loading animation on that website. The WOW factor should mean Winning on the Web and nothing else.

Ok, so you’ve mapped out some goals and requirements… time to start looking for the right guys to go ahead and implement the solution for you.

3. Selecting a Web Designer / Developer

Initially, the best place to begin is by putting together a shortlist of designers. You may choose to do this in any number of ways but here are some suggestions that you may wish to factor in:

  • The location of the prospective designer. This may or may not be a factor for you. Some people are happy to work remotely and others prefer some face to face interaction. If the latter is essential to you, then you will need to focus on designers in your local area.
  • The designer’s portfolio. This is usually a key factor in any shortlisting process. You may choose to favor designers who have worked specifically in the sector you are targeting, or you may simply like other unrelated websites they have developed.
  • Independent Word of mouth recommendation. You may have received glowing reports on particular designers and their after-sales service. Don’t overlook this.
  • The size of the company. Generally speaking, the size of the company provides you with the little idea to the quality or work they can produce or the services they can provide. Some SMEs prefer to work on a more personal level with smaller providers or freelance designers with larger corporates preferring the opposite.
  • The cost – Most professional web designers tend to produce work on a bespoke basis, tailored uniquely for each client – and the vast majority do not publish prices. (We do). However, an initial discussion should be able to provide you with a “ballpark” figure at least based on your requirements outline. Some designers are also able to provide cost-effective “out of the box” solutions at a fixed price.Web Design

Tip: Get a fixed price quote rather than an hourly rate. Let’s face it… an hourly or daily rate is meaningless as a measuring stick when you consider it may take one designer twice as long as another to complete the same job.

Web designers will typically showcase previous work on their own websites, but be sure to consider that they are gearing a site’s design and structure to requirements presented by another party that likely won’t match your own. It’s more important that you are confident that they can implement your solution than perhaps reading too much into other design work that you might not necessarily like.

Another consideration you may take into account is the attitude a designer shows when you first make contact. You can often gauge whether they are genuinely interested in the project and whether they are going to be proactive – and if they can offer a high level of support. Designers not providing a landline phone number or a business address may be harder to contact when you need them the most. Trust your instincts and exercise common sense.

Tip: Don’t base everything on price and make sure you compare “like” with “like”. Also, don’t be afraid to share your budget with the designers during initial discussions and then see what they can deliver within it. Time is often wasted if you are discussing the project over days or weeks and then end up being miles apart on pricing expectations.

The more information you give furnish the designer with, relating to your goals, requirements and design preferences, the better. Also, make sure that you discuss timescales and payment schedules (most designers will ask for a deposit upfront and a final balance payment when the project is completed. There may also be interim payment milestones for larger projects). Additionally, enquire about any recurring charges for support, future amends, web hosting, domains etc. Neither party will want hidden surprises.

4. Questions You will be Asked

It’s always better to be prepared when you approach web designers… they will also have their own queries to establish the requirements, gauge the work involved and furnish you with a quote.

Typical questions you might be asked include the following:

  • What does your company do?
  • What are the Unique Selling Points that your company has to offer?
  • What is the purpose of the website?
  • How do you see the website evolving in the future?
  • Do you have any existing branding? i.e. Logo, color schemes or other marketing materials?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Do you require e-commerce or an online payment mechanism?
  • Can you provide links to other websites that you like from a design perspective?
  • Can you provide links to other websites that you like from a functionality perspective? (i.e. How they work)
  • What is your budget? Don’t be afraid to disclose a budget figure – it can help a lot.

If you aren’t able to get an immediate quote, request that the designer gets back to you and establish a timescale for this to happen. As you can probably tell, choosing a web designer isn’t necessarily a straightforward process if you are seeking the right fit for your project. The more detailed research and preparation that you carry out, the better.

5. Going ahead

When you make a decision on proceeding with a designer, make sure to get the quote in writing and make sure it’s clear that the copyright of the website is yours once completed. Ensure all charges (including any future and/or recurring charges) are spelled out to avoid any ambiguity and problems further down the line.

Choosing a Web Designer

Many small business owners struggle with deciding on how to make the right choice for designing their website. They search the web for help with their website and find that the choice is harder than they thought. Currently, there are (literally) millions of websites who claim to be professional web designers. However, one must be careful in choosing the right person or people in which to trust their company image. In this article, I will attempt to categorize web designers into manageable groups, and teach the reader the difference between the types.

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Web designers fall into four general categories: freelance amateur, freelance professional, Web Design Company, Web Development Firm.

Freelance Amateur

The majority of web designers you will come across, especially searching the Internet, are freelancers. That is individuals who do web design but are not employed by a web design company. Some are self-employed professionals but most of these freelancers are amateur-hobbyist types. They find a copy of FrontPage™ came with their MS Office™ Suite. They discovered how fun it could be to make web pages so they started telling their friends that they could “design” web pages.

The “pros” of using an amateur is that they are very cheap. The “cons” are too numerous to mention, but I’ll point out a few. They have no training; they have little knowledge of what makes a good website work; they do not understand HTML code or CSS but only FrontPage point and click; they do not understand general design and layout concepts and they have little real experience. The biggest reason they should be avoided for the serious businessperson is that their work looks amateurish, which makes your company look amateurish. Who wants that?

Freelance Professional

A professional is often defined by simply being paid. People think that if you are paid for something, then you are professional. Maybe that’s true in the Olympics, but for the business services world, you are not a professional until you are established and respected as one by your clients and peers. Freelancer professional web designers are a giant leap from the amateur in that they have established a portfolio of respectable work. They have some sort of qualified training and experience and they have credentials that can be verified by contacting references. They have a good reputation with their clients and other professionals. In general, a good freelance professional web designer can be good person to have doing your site. But they are hard to distinguish from the amateur when you are just searching the web.

The upside is if you find a good one they are significantly cheaper than a web design company. But that is usually the only upside. If the budget limits you, then a freelancer will do for a small project. But anything seriously important should be left to a professional company.

Some downsides to using a freelance pro are that they are usually part-time, meaning they are limited in how much time they can devote to your project. They are also limited in what they can do for you. Most freelancers are specialists in one area and generalists in everything else. Some have no skills in anything except their one specialty and often you will have to find others to fill roles. In addition, freelancers are not always cheap although many of them are aspiring to create their own company; some are highly sought after and charge $100 per hour or more for their work. My advice here is, if you have that much to spend, go with a company that has a team of professionals to get the job done in a timelier manner.

Web Design Company

This is the next step beyond a freelance professional. The web design company offers the “whole show”. They provide real project management and have pulled together a team of web experts to get a wider range of jobs done. A company can provide a much higher level of expertise in web design, programming, content development and more.

Such a company is usually very small, yet large enough to handle larger scale projects. Compared to the most highly qualified freelancer, a company has a diversity of talent and collaboration working for them. The end-result is usually a much higher quality product.

The only real drawbacks are, on the one hand, the web design company is more expensive than a freelancer because there are much more people on the job. However, you get what you pay for rings true. On the other hand, for very large projects or long-term development, web design companies may be too small and usually do not have the human recourses to accommodate that $500,000 contract. In the end, for serious business people looking for quality and professionalism and who can’t afford the big firm, this is the way to go.

Web Development Firm

As the title implies, a web development firm is like any traditional company. They have a staff of office workers, they have owners and officers, and they have a team of talented professionals who are paid a good salary for their work. They often have a sales force that do inside and outside sales. The quality of their work goes without saying, as you could not be so well-established by doing shoddy work. These firms offer teams of very talented professionals who work on your project and get the job done in a timely and extremely efficient manner. Additionally, they usually cover all aspects of website development including marketing and advertising. They may have teams of specialists that they can deploy to your location and work in-house under a temporary contract. The possibilities are endless.

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If the price is not an issue and the highest quality work is necessary, then this is who you want to do the job. For smaller budget businesses, a quote from an established web development firm might knock you off your chair but know that companies who have project requirements that reach hundreds of thousands of dollars know the score. Thus, the only real drawback for a web development firm is that they are usually very expensive. Then again, a cost is relative and bigger companies like to work with bigger companies.

In summary, the choice is yours. I would recommend for the serious businessperson, that you budget a decent amount of dollars to properly design and execute a professional website. I would avoid the amateur and outsource to an individual or company with good experience and reasonable rates to create my web presence. If money were no object, then I would only deal with established firms and pay the big bucks to get the job done right and done well.