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Developing a mobile strategy for your business

Published on August 17, 2012
Tags: Web Design London, Mobile Application Development

The mobile web is not just one of the biggest issues facing the web design industry at the moment; it’s also an issue that affects businesses everywhere. It used to be that a business could simply ask a web designer to create them a desktop site and the issue of a company website would be taken care of. Now, with so many different devices available and a huge increase in the number of consumers making use of smartphones to access the internet, it’s important for companies to develop a good mobile strategy.

The specific strategy that they choose will naturally depend on what they want out of their mobile web presence – for instance, one company might want to present key information to mobile web users in a simple and straightforward manner, while another might want to make use of their mobile presence to try and tap into the e-retail market, which could make their solution a little more complicated.

Whatever a company decides to do with their mobile web presence, there are quite a few strategy options that they could consider in terms of adapting or re-doing their web design for these new mediums. One option, of course, would be to do nothing and simply let mobile web users take their chances with a business’s desktop site on their smartphones. However, for any company serious about developing their mobile presence, this is unlikely to be the best solution, if only because desktop sites tend not to display properly and are tricky to navigate on mobile devices.

Another option might be to adapt your current site so that it works better on mobile devices; this is something a web designer skilled in mobile websites should be able to assist with. For instance, it is likely that the navigation of the site would need to be altered to take account of the fact it’s a person’s finger and not a mouse pointer that will be doing the navigating and clicking. Steps might also need to be taken to ensure the content on the site can be read easily on a range of mobile devices.

For many businesses though, this option might not be enough, particularly if your current site is quite complex and so perhaps not that well suited to use on a mobile device. This is one of the reasons many companies are starting to look at getting specifically designed mobile sites that are tailored for their needs and the purpose they are looking to achieve. For example, a site might have a focus on e-retail or it might be a streamlined version of the desktop site, displaying key information that is easy to search and navigate, but that isn’t as extensive or complex as that on the company’s ‘main’ site.

Also, as responsive website design becomes more well-known and an increasingly popular option, this is something else that businesses looking to develop a mobile strategy might be interested in. This is where a website is created that will display properly no matter what device is being used, so the same web address and content can be used for the desktop site as for the mobile site and any other versions that there might be. This is a solution that might suit some businesses, so it is definitely worth looking into.

However, we also cannot ignore the popularity of apps, particularly for smartphones such as Apple and Android devices. This is a slightly different issue to that of mobile web design, but depending on the business and what it wants to achieve, it could be a useful solution. For example, an e-retail app could be developed as a streamlined, convenient way for users to search for and purchase products without needing to access their mobile web browser. One of the issues with apps is that they tend to need to be developed for each specific device, and they also tend to need a specific purpose to give them a focus and a clear use – they are not just an extension or replication of a website.

Overall, a mobile strategy is becoming increasingly important for businesses, and there are plenty of options available for them to choose from if they are looking to take their mobile presence further. As more and more people make use of the mobile web, this is an issue that businesses and web designers alike certainly need to be aware of.

By Chelsey Evans

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Typography in web design

Published on August 10, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

Typography is a discipline that has been around for as long as there have been words to read. It is all about creating and displaying the written word so that it is readable and can be understood by those who see it. Typography has developed a lot throughout the centuries, but arguably one of its biggest developments came with the advent of the internet.

Screens offer a special challenge to typography, because something that looks great on printed paper might not necessarily work so well when displayed on a screen. This means that web designers have to be very careful when choosing font and setting out written content on the internet, as to get it wrong could render a webpage unreadable.

We’ve probably all been onto websites where we have questioned the choice of font – it’s too curly, it’s too blocky, too light, too dark. As well as issues of aesthetics, which we will come onto shortly, there are very clear practical issues relating to typography. It needs to be right, not least because the majority of the internet is based around written content. When we talk of web design, the focus is often on graphics and imagery, but we can’t forget that the look of the words – as well as their content – matter too.

The main issue here is communication: webpages are there to communicate a message to us, and how successfully that is achieved has a significant impact on the overall success of the page. This means that if we’re unable to properly read what has been written, it almost doesn’t matter how good the content actually is because the aim of communication will have failed. It can sometimes seem as though typography is a largely aesthetic issue, but this helps to illustrate the fact that its importance goes deeper than that.

Another of the important typography issues we have to consider in web design is, as mentioned above, the fact that screens are very different to print. Because it is a different medium, it very often requires a different approach. For instance, the layout of the screen has requirements that you don’t have to deal with if you were, as an example, creating a promotional leaflet that you were planning to print. There are different segments of the screen to take into account, as well as the issue of display – the typography a web designer chooses has to display as it is intended to no matter what browser someone is using or what device they are using to access the internet.

The different resolutions of computer screens can also have an impact on the choice of typography; the last thing you want is for your text to appear too pixelated. We also have to consider the fact that typography is related to the issue of layout – as well as making sure everything is readable so that the content can be communicated to the web user, the typography can also have an effect on how a site is actually laid out and can influence how information is put to the web user.

For instance, the choice of a particular font might help to convey the importance of one section of a webpage, while another font might be used to put the web user in a particular frame of mind. This means that even though the selection of font has clear aesthetic links, its purpose can also be much deeper.

Staying with this idea, font can be very important for mood. Often websites are trying to portray a particular image or idea, and the typography can help with this. A professional, serious law firm for instance, might decide to use a crisp, formal font to help put their image across. A site targeted at young people might go for something a little funkier, and a site with a slight romantic angle, such as a florist or wedding-related site, might be tempted by the more flowing fonts.

As well as the look of the font, the aesthetics also incorporate the colour: does the content of the text and the overall web design demand a strong, bold colour for the text or something a little more subtle? Of course, black is a very popular choice for content that is part of a body of text, but there is still plenty of scope for creativity in choices.

Overall, typography in web design is certainly an important issue, one that has aesthetic and more practical implications. The choice of font and how it is displayed says a lot about a website, and getting the selection right is definitely worth our while.

By Chelsey Evans

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Making your website more trustworthy

Published on August 10, 2012
Tags: Web Design London, Internet Security

You may have seen in the news recently details of a survey carried out by the company Mancx, which discovered that 98% of Americans ‘distrust information on the internet.’ The study also found that 93% of people could be more satisfied by the information they find online. These figures raise an interesting point: why is it that so many people don’t necessarily trust the information they find on the internet? This is an issue that should concern anyone who works in the industry, so this seems like a good time to look at ways we can make our website designs more trustworthy – and hopefully start to address the concerns of the ordinary web user.

After all, almost 60% of the people in the survey discussed above said that one improvement they’d like to see was for the information they view on the web to be trustworthy. The content of our websites is one obvious issue to address when making sure they are trustworthy. One of the most important things we can do is to make sure everything we put on our websites is high quality; we have looked at this issue many times before, often in relation to SEO, but we should never forget that it is just as important – if not more so – in relation to gaining the trust of the people who use our sites.

For example, we probably all have websites that we visit on a regular basis for information because we know them and we trust what they have to say. The quality of the content undoubtedly plays an important part in that, and it’s definitely something we should bear in mind for our own websites.

There are also a few practical, simple content issues we can look at to make our sites more trustworthy. For instance:

  • Go over all of the content on your web design and check for spelling and grammar errors – and fix them. Ideally, we shouldn’t put any content online in the first place if it has errors, but it’s human nature to miss things from time to time and so a review can be helpful.
  • Make it clear who you are. Make sure there is contact information on your website so that people can get in touch if they need to – and ideally ensure the email contact on your site goes to an address related to your domain name, rather than a free service.
  • Allow users to post comments on your site, whether it’s in the form of customer feedback or comments on blogs.
  • Keep the content fresh, so your website remains relevant and useful for the people who visit the site looking for information.

A slightly more complex content issue but an important one when we’re talking about issues of trust is the idea of authority. Setting up your website as an authority on a particular subject (for example, web design, or whatever your own personal speciality might be) is something that can take time, but if you are consistently reliable and informative on a particular topic, it helps to build up trust for your site.

However, it isn’t just the written content of websites that we need to be careful with when it comes to ensuring they’re trustworthy. The design of the site can also have an impact. Imagine landing on an unprofessional-looking website, for instance. No matter how good the content was, it would still be likely to leave you feeling a little wary. Good web design is certainly a worthwhile investment that helps to give your website credibility.

Also consider issues such as adverts – the survey discussed at the start of this article found that 59% of people said there were too many ads online, so avoid utilising too many on your website. Even issues such as the speed at which your website loads could potentially affect its perception of trustworthiness – a site that takes a long time to load could appear to be suspicious to some web users.

Overall, trustworthiness is a complicated issue on the internet, taking into account web design, content and linked factors such as brand and reputation. There will probably always be sites on the internet that are untrustworthy, but we have the tools at our disposal to make sure our own websites are great places to visit that inspire faith and trust in web users. Ensuring our sites are trustworthy is good business sense, and it is something we should consider in every new design we create.

By Chelsey Evans

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Flash versus HTML5

Published on August 6, 2012
Tags: Usability

There has already been a lot written about HTML5 and the opportunities with which it presents web design, but there has perhaps been even more written about how it impacts on Flash. It is common knowledge that when HTML was first introduced, its capabilities in terms of interactivity were very limited; for clever graphics and animations, web designers needed to make use of Flash.

The release of HTML5 has helped to change that. It has more capabilities and, importantly, one of its core aims is to make sure websites display properly no matter what operating system a web user happens to be making use of at the time. It now also has built-in support for video and audio elements, which saves web developers the need to make use of plugins to do the job for them.

It is that last point that seems to have caused much of the debate over Flash. After all, that is what Flash does. 99% of laptops and desktop browsers are able to make use of Flash, and it is well-known for its ability to offer high quality, interactive web content. Where HTML5 arguably beats it, however, is on the fact that Flash is not supported by systems like Apple’s iOS, but HTML5 is.

Despite this, much of the talk about HTML5 replacing Flash or making it redundant is somewhat misguided. Yes, there are things that HTML5 can do that Flash can’t, in particular allowing web designers to use the same coding for all mobile operating systems rather than creating a separate one for each, but this goes two ways. There are still things that Flash can do that HTML5 either cannot do or that are still easier to do using Flash, no matter how much HTML5 has improved the situation elsewhere.

For example, there are still some limitations on the interactivity HTML5 is able to offer in terms of supporting audio and video. There are limited file extensions available, for instance, that mean Flash would still be necessary to support audio and visual files on some browsers. As browsers are updated to take account of HTML5, this should become less of an issue over time, but as we already know, just because updated browsers are released, it doesn’t mean that people will start to use them straight away.

Another issue to consider is that the audio and visual files in HTML5 are played within the browser and, depending on the specific browser a person is using, they might be using one of several versions of the built-in plugins. This means there is still a wide range of possibilities to cater to and adaptations that may need to be made, just as Flash can require adaptation in other areas.

Also, let’s say that a web designer was asked to convert a Flash-based website into an HTML5 site. If the website is currently Flash-based, it is likely to have a lot of interactive elements, such as animations. Even though HTML5 is better than previous versions of HTML at handling this sort of thing, its capacity is still somewhat limited and this can take up a lot of memory. This means that in many cases, converting a Flash-heavy website into HTML5 is not necessarily the most appropriate option.

All of this means that while HTML5 is certainly a welcome development and it has a lot to offer, the need for Flash is still there as it offers better capabilities in many areas. However, one of the triumphs of HTML5 is that it is useful for helping developers create sites that work on a range of different devices – something that fans of responsive web design are sure to appreciate.

The ability to make use of audio and visual without external plugins is also welcome, although we definitely need to acknowledge the limitations here, as the process of this in HTML5 is not quite as simple as we would like to think. Flash is arguably also still ahead in areas such as zoom features and scale options.

So perhaps we should avoid casting the debate as HTML5 versus Flash wherever possible. Both are useful, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. HTML5 helps us to be more creative and opens up new options for web designers, but we can’t write off Flash just yet. We still need it, and we probably will for quite some time yet.

By Chelsey Evans

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Ecommerce Website; Is it Working for Your Business?

Published on August 3, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

We have known for quite a while now that ecommerce websites can potentially be a very big business indeed, not least because the UK is said to be the e-retail capital of Europe with 2011 online sales figures of £68.2bn, according to IMRG. This helps to highlight the fact that there is a lot of opportunity out there for businesses looking to find revenue online, and ecommerce web design is undoubtedly a big part of making the most of that opportunity.

Despite this wealth of opportunity and very impressive sales figures, however, we cannot deny that the world of e-retail is more competitive than it has ever been, with several big players dominating many online retail markets. This means that businesses need to be making the most of their ecommerce website design to help them stay competitive and make the most of their potential.

There are quite a few different issues that could have an impact on how well your website is working for your business, and this article won’t touch on all of them, but here are some of the issues to consider when trying to get the most out of your ecommerce website.

Developing a promotions strategy
With so many different ecommerce websites out there all trying to make a living, promoting your site properly has never been more important. A vital part of this relates to search engine optimisation (SEO) and how people actually find your website.

More than 90% of all UK internet searches are now conducted through Google, so making sure your site is properly optimised is extremely sensible. However, using SEO to try and boost your site’s ranking in relevant search results is not just about optimising keywords and undertaking link-building campaigns.

Recent Google algorithm updates have put a greater focus on quality, so even though factors such as keywords are still important for getting your site noticed, creating a high quality site filled with interesting content is even more important. Other updates, such as Google Venice, have placed more of an emphasis on local search, so this is something that you will need to consider in your ecommerce SEO strategy.

Can your site be used on mobiles?
No matter how well your ecommerce web design works on a desktop computer or a laptop, if it fails to perform properly on a tablet or smartphone, your business could well be losing out. The e-retail market for smartphones is growing fast. According to one survey from Econsultancy, 13% of UK consumers have made a purchase through their mobiles and almost a fifth use their phones to research prices or reviews of products while they are shopping.

Plus, according to figures from the US, if a mobile ecommerce site doesn’t load within 3 seconds, 40% of people will abandon that site. This helps to illustrate the growing importance of mobile device compliance for ecommerce websites, and the growing market that businesses could potentially tap into. However, with many companies not yet creating a mobile internet strategy, many are missing out. Making sure your ecommerce site is fully operational on mobile internet devices is increasingly important.

How does the site work?
As well as specific, practical issues such as SEO and the mobile internet, there are also some more general issues to consider when deciding whether you are getting as much as possible out of your ecommerce website design.

For example, how does the site actually work? Navigation is one of the crucial issues here, as is speed – not least because many ecommerce sites are image-heavy by nature, which can slow down the speed of a site. Product images are important, but businesses should also ensure that all of the images on their site are relevant and properly optimised to help avoid any problems that might otherwise occur when the website is trying to load.

Of course, the checkout procedure is another of the crucial elements for businesses looking to make more of their ecommerce sites: is this as smooth and efficient as it could possibly be? How many steps does it take from a consumer deciding to make a purchase to actually hitting the order button? Slow or confusing ecommerce sites are not popular, so making sure the experience is seamless from start to finish should be high on the priority list of any site looking to increase its share of the e-retail boom.

By Chelsey Evans

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