Website Design Principles To Have And To Hold

If you want your website to succeed, there are certain website design principles you should adhere to. They are not necessarily hard-and-fast rules, but if you stick to these principles, then you have a chance of designing a fabulous website that closes sales.

  • Seamless navigation – You want your site visitors to be able to find what they are looking for quickly. If your website is difficult to navigate, they’ll leave and won’t come back.
  • Eye-catching elements above the fold – You want people to see something interesting the moment they land on your website. You have just three seconds to capture their attention and five seconds to keep it.
  • Accessible – In Scotland, it’s against the law to build a website that is non-accessible. Keep your disabled visitors in mind.
  • W3C compliant – There’s nothing that says that your website has to be W3C compliant, but if it is compliant, then you’ve met the highest standard of coding excellence there is.
  • Browser agnostic – You want visitors using any browser to be able to access your website.
  • Secure shopping cart – Truly, if visitors get so much as a hint that your shopping cart is not secure and that their private information is in danger, then you are dead in the water. Make every effort possible to ensure that your e-commerce system is secure and protect your customers.

This is just the beginning of website development. Make your website the best it can be. Your customers will thank you.

June 8th, 2012 / Web Design & Development

Tablets Are Good For Web Traffic

There’s a war brewing that few people know about. It’s the war between smartphones and tablets. Tablets may be winning.

While smartphones are good for a few things, bear in mind that most web sites today still are not optimized for mobile traffic. It’s a sad truth. Nevertheless, iPhone apps are good and can deliver great traffic if handled the right way.

On the other hand, tablets don’t require special browsers. Most tablets come with browsers that are more adaptable to regular Web use. Therefore, fewer people have difficulty accessing the web sites they want to access on their tablets. And I think that could be a major factor in who gets the traffic in the future.

According to WebProNews, traffic from tablets grew 10 times faster than traffic from smartphones this past year. How that will play out in the long run is anyone’s guess, but it looks pretty good in the short term.

Two other interesting tidbits we’ve gleaned from the WebProNews article are:

  • 80% of the traffic is coming from iPad devices (go Apple!)
  • and, the share of web traffic coming from tablets is expected to be 10% of total web traffic by next year, which will shoot it up over the traffic expected for smartphones

So here’s the big question for web site developers and brand marketers, Should you start focusing on obtaining tablet traffic? My position is absolutely! Not that you should give up on your iPhone app development, but be cognizant of this new development in web traffic – the tablet.

May 15th, 2012 / Web Design & Development

What A Sitemap Does For Your Website

Your website can benefit tremendously from having a sitemap. But what exactly does a sitemap do?

A sitemap is an XML file that you create for your website and that contains information about each of your site’s web pages that the search engines use to crawl and index your site effectively. One of the major benefits of the sitemap is that it tells the search engines which pages on your site you want crawled. It also establishes a priority for those pages so that the search engines know which pages are more important for crawling.

A sitemap is necessary for any website with 10 or more web pages. I’ve seen smaller sites with sitemaps and I’ve seen them without sitemaps. Sites with sitemaps generally do better in the search engines, however, some smaller sites have done just fine without them. It’s safer just to create one anyway.

To generate a sitemap, visit one of the many sitemap generator websites online. They all pretty much do the same thing. I recommend XML-Sitemaps.com.

After generating your sitemap, upload it to your server. You should put it in the root folder of your website and then link to it from your website’s footer. Then, submit it to the search engines so that they can get a look at the pages on your website and determine which ones to crawl and in what order.

You can also create a separate video sitemap if you have a lot of videos on your site. If you have a particularly large website, then you might include a separate sitemap for each section. If you do, create a master sitemap that lists each of your sitemaps. This will make your website more crawlable.

April 23rd, 2012 / Web Design & Development

Market Segmenting Your Content Online

Marketers have been segmenting markets for centuries. In the 20th century that process became much more sophisticated as the tools and technology to define parameters allowed for better analyzing of the data. Today, not only do we have better tools for analyzing, but we have better methods of distributing content.

How can we take the content that we create online and market it better for individual market segments within our own niche?

One simple way to do this is with a separate website for each market segmentation, but it all begins with benefits. You have to define the benefits of your product or service. If you target several markets for your products and services, then you should define the benefits for each market segment that you target.

When it comes time to start positioning your brand online, do you see any parallels between your benefits and the various segments of your market? If so, those are the areas you need to capitalise on.

In other words, if one market is male and one is female but each market segment seeks different benefits, then you should segment your efforts to reach each market. That requires a separate website to serve each market.

Beyond the website, you can also promote your online content through various social networks that are appropriate for each market you serve. Chances are, each market segment has its own preferences for online social hangouts. You should join them in those hangouts and tailor your messages to your audience.

Market segmentation occurs online like it did off line in the print and TV era. The only difference is in the rollout.

April 17th, 2012 / Web Design & Development

Get Published, Get A Website

There are few things in life as fulfilling as being a published author. Thanks to services like Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords, it’s never been easier to make that achievement. For most writers, it can be done in record time and done on one’s own. Who needs a traditional publisher?

It’s true that you can publish your own book using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords. Your book would then be available in 10 different reading formats including the Kindle and e-Pub, the two most popular reading formats. But then what?

If you desire to be a published author I’d encourage you to pursue it, but you’ll need a website to promote your books.

Pay careful attention to your author website. You want it to be attractive, but without a lot of bells and whistles. You want the focus to be on your books. And rather than offer your Kindle and other e-books for direct download on your site, drive traffic to your books at Amazon and Smashwords. There are three reasons for this.

  1. It builds credibility. When you have two companies like these backing you, then you will be more credible as an author. Both Amazon and Smashwords have become respected repositories for independently published e-books.
  2. Building your own website helps you promote and market your books with more control. But you should send your traffic to Amazon and Smashwords for the payment and downloads because those sites have built in security. So think of your customers’ protection of private data.
  3. Even though Amazon pays you 70% royalties on the sale of your books and Smashwords pays you 80%, you can make additional income by joining their affiliate programs and getting a commission on the sale.

But it all starts with a published book and a website.

April 5th, 2012 / Web Design & Development

When Should You Move To A New Domain?

There may be times during your website’s life cycle that you want to move it to a new domain. Are there times when you should do that and times when you shouldn’t?

Of course.

In general, if you want to make your domain more relevant to what you do or to re-brand it, then that’s a good time to move it to a new domain. If you’re not currently using your country’s TLD and you want to, then you might move your website to a new domain. Or if you want to move from a non-attractive TLD to a more attractive one, then you should move to a new domain.

Some examples:

  1. If your website domain is yellowwidgets.com and you’ve started manufacturing blue and red widgets, then you could move your site to colorfulwidgets.com. Or, an alternative is to secure bluewidgets.com and redwidgets.com and operate off of three websites. You could do both.
  2. If your company website is at yourcompany.com and you want to move to yourcompany.co.uk, then you could move your website to a new domain name.
  3. If your website is located at yourcompany.net and you want to move it to yourcompany.com or yourcompany.co.uk, then that’s a good time to move.

So when should you not move your website to a new domain? If you are moving it for any of the following reasons, I’d say leave it alone.

There are times when it is prudent to seriously consider moving your site to a new domain name, but don’t take that decision likely. It’s a big move.

March 11th, 2012 / Web Design & Development

5 Web Design Principles For 2012

Ever wonder what website visitors really want? Well, we know. Here are 5 web design principles you should keep in mind right now as you build your next website.

  1. Make it graphic - Text content is important, but so are graphics. People like pictures. Don’t overdo it, but don’t leave off important graphics either.
  2. Include social sharing icons – People today love to share stuff online. They’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and now Pinterest. Make it easy for your site visitors to share your information and photos.
  3. Don’t talk down – One sure way to drive visitors away from your website and ensure they never come back is to talk down to them. Write content that is informational and empowering. Show your visitors respect and they will love you.
  4. Make navigation easy – Give your website visitors great links to other content on your website. Make your website easy to navigate and people will visit your website often. They’ll also stay longer when they do visit.
  5. Employ solid SEO elements – Do everything you can to ensure that your website gets crawled and indexed by the search engines. You want your pages to rank and to rank well, so learn about SEO and employ sound SEO principles.

In 2012, visitors want something different than they wanted in 1995. Make your visitors happy and they’ll turn into happy customers. Design your website with the most important principles for audiences today and watch your visitor counts and conversions climb.

February 26th, 2012 / Web Design & Development

Is Your Website Accessible?

In the UK, if you build a website that is not accessible to disabled persons, then you could face criminal charges. That’s a good argument for allowing a professional webdesign company to build your website for you.

Even Google has met the accessibility standard for UK websites. If you go to Google’s classic search page, you’ll see a little microphone in the search box. Click that microphone and tell Google your search phrase. Speak it.

Google’s voice-to-text feature allows disabled persons to use their search feature even if they can’t use a keyboard. You don’t have to go to that extent, but you should make every effort to make your website accessible to disabled persons. And that’s where a professional web design company can make your website shine.

Besides making your website accessible to disabled persons, it helps to make it W3C compliant.

Website design has more than one element for measuring success. When you hire a web design firm for your UK business, don’t settle for second best. Hire a company that understands accessibility, W3C compliance, search engine optimization, and solid web design principles.

Here are a few more things to ensure when you build your professional UK business website:

  • Best coding practices
  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Easy navigation
  • E-commerce implementation
  • Shopping cart optimization
  • Excellent content implementation
  • Seamless blog and newsletter integration
  • Local geotargeting
  • Analytics incorporation

Website design is not easy. You want a company with experience, testimonials, and a solid track record for meeting all the necessary standards including UK legal standards for accessibility and W3C compliance.

February 21st, 2012 / Web Design & Development

What Is Code Bloat?

Is your website suffering from code bloat? This is a dreadful disease that can kill a website or erase its memory from the search engines. What it really boils down to is how much code you have in your website’s design language versus actual on-page content.

So what causes code bloat?

In essence, code bloat occurs when your web designer adds too many elements to a page that are heavy in code and that code overshadows your content. Many elements can cause this code bloat. One or two used on your website may not be a problem, but often we see that websites that suffer from code bloat have a lot of these issues all at once.

  • Flash headers – Flash headers aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they do carry a lot of code. And it’s right at the top of the page where the search engines will see it clearly. They could get stuck on your top-heavy code and not ever move to the content.
  • Forms – Subscriber opt-in forms are necessary and you want them visible so that you increase your visitor opt-ins, but you have to get visitors to your website or you won’t see any opt-ins. Forms can be code heavy.
  • JavaScript – Sell advertising on your website? Use widgets? These are often code-heavy elements that might look attractive, but they could be hurting your website in the search engines.
  • Embeds – Multimedia embeds are cool. I’ll grant you that. But embed code usually helps the website from which you borrow the media. It doesn’t help yours in the search engines. A lot of embeds can work against you.
  • CSS elements – Almost every website these days uses CSS, but putting it directly into your page can kill your website in the search engines. Use CSS, but keep it in a separate file.

Many of these issues are not issues in and of themselves, but a combination of these issues can ruin your chances of ranking well for your keywords and kill your website’s traffic. For an honest evaluation of your website design, contact ASM Development.

February 17th, 2012 / Web Design & Development

Why Flat Navigation Is Bad For Large Sites

Have you ever noticed that user/website visitor needs change as a website grows? It’s true. You should test this for yourself.

Imagine building a website with 10 pages. Only 10. No more. How many of those pages do you think you need to feature on your main navigation menu? Maybe all 10, right? It could be less if some of those pages are terms of service and privacy policy. Then you might only feature 8 of your pages. 8 items on a navigation menu is plenty. But what if your website had 100 pages?

You wouldn’t put 100 pages on a navigation menu, would you? Do you think your website visitors would appreciate showing up on your website and seeing 100 links sprawled across the top of your page? How many could you fit on one row? 10? 8? 12? How many rows of navigation would you then require?

The best way to set up a navigation menu for a large site is to organize your website into a hierarchy. You MUST determine the relationship each of your pages have to other pages on your website.

So let’s take that 100 page website again. What if you had 10 categorical parents in your hierarchy. And what if each of those categories had a list of other pages that fell in under. Some might have 5, some 10, and others 15. But all of them would have sub-pages within the category.

Here’s what you do. You set up a Tier-1 navigational structure on your nav menu. Your 10 level one categories are featured there. Let your visitor mouse-over each of those categories and see a drop down menu that features each of the sub-pages within that category.

That’s how you set up a navigation menu for a large site. It doesn’t hurt your SEO. It helps it. And it helps your visitor too.

February 7th, 2012 / Web Design & Development