- 69% Of Responsive Websites Take An
- Benefits Of Responsive Websites
- How Important Is User Experience For Businesses?
- Mistakes To Look Out For When Adopting Responsive Web Design
- Why Responsive Design Matters
When you have a website, one of the things you may need to think about is search engine optimisation (SEO). There are quite a few different things that make up SEO, but arguably one of the most important components of it is keywords. For those not in the know, keywords are words or phrases that you choose to target on your website in order to boost your ranking in search engine results for those terms.
On the face of it, choosing keywords is a fairly simple task. For instance, Ampheon is a web design firm, and so one of the keywords related to that will naturally be ‘Web Design London’. However, when you type ‘Web Design London’ into Google AdWords, it comes back telling you that there are approximately 74,000 local monthly searches for that term. If you type ‘Web Design London’ into the Google search engine, it gleefully informs you that there are about 50,000,000 results in total.
This means that getting to the top of the rankings for a term like that is extremely difficult, but when you consider that research has shown that 40% of people don’t look past the first three search results that come up and that 99% of people never look past the first page of results, you can’t just rely on a single keyword or phrase – especially one that so many other websites are targeting, too.
Let’s take ‘shoe shop’ as an example. With 550,000 local monthly searches for the term ‘shoe shop’, it suggests that it’s going to be quite hard for a website to stand out using this search term. This means that it’s a good idea to look for other, relevant search terms that are useful for your site’s SEO but that perhaps aren’t quite so competitive. Helpfully, tools such as Google AdWords and Wordtracker offer you lists of alternative keywords as well as some helpful data to let you know details such as how many people search for those terms each month.
For instance, terms such as ‘shoe shops’, ‘shoe shopping’, ‘shoe shops online’ and ‘womens shoe shops’ are still popular but probably much easier to tackle in terms of SEO. Another trick is to add a geographical marker to your keyword terms. So, if your shoe shop was based in London, one of your key phrases could be ‘shoe shop London’, making the term more specific and hopefully appealing to an audience that is more likely to buy from you.
But does this mean you should ignore those popular terms such as ‘shoe shop’ and ‘web design’ entirely? Not at all. If those terms are relevant to your business, of course you should target them as keywords. After all, people will expect to see them on your site as that’s what your company is about – it would be really hard to write anything about Ampheon, for example, without using the words ‘web design’.
Also, SEO is not always about the quick fix. A good SEO strategy will have a long term plan, so while it’s unlikely a website will immediately break into the top results for a massively popular term, that’s no reason to assume that it never will. The search engines will still scan your site for those terms and, the more high-quality content you add to it, the higher your rankings should (hopefully rise).
This means that a combination of keywords is generally an effective strategy. Use popular terms, but also add other words to make them more specific. As mentioned above, adding the location of your business is one good option. Being more specific about what your company does is also a good idea. For instance, is your shoe shop just a general shoe shop, or does it specialise in certain types of shoes? Does it have a focus on children’s shoes or women’s shoes or extra wide shoes? All of these things would provide good qualifiers that can help you target more specific terms.
Finally, it’s important to do your research on keyword tools such as AdWords or Wordtracker. These can provide you with valuable information that can sometimes really pay off. There might be some keywords and terms that are specific to your business and are popular search terms, but they are still relatively niche and don’t yet have much competition among other websites. If you could target those words, you could be well on your way to success.
Overall, choosing the right keywords for your website is not an exact science. Some will be easier for you to choose than others, but as long as you keep in mind the fact that you’re playing the long game, there’s no reason to assume you won’t be successful. A combination of the right keywords, good content and a good web design really can make a difference. Some of it is going to involve trial and error, but in the longer term, if done properly, your business could thrive as a result.
Published on September 2, 2011
Tags: Web Design London
Working in web design, the team at Ampheon often spend time looking through websites to see what’s out there, find out what’s new and research different options for our clients. Many of these websites are great, but sometimes we come across pages or even whole websites that leave something to be desired. So, in the spirit of sharing and promoting the benefits of top quality web design, read on to find out about 10 common web design mistakes that all web designers – amateur and professional – should avoid.
Of course, graphics are an important part of any website and web designers spend a long time making sure they are exactly right. There is, however, a need to get the balance of graphics on a website right. Too few and the website might look boring, but too many and it can look cluttered and become distracting to the visitor. Lots of graphics – especially big ones such as banners – can also slow the website down as well, leading to a reduction in the quality of the user experience.
Too Many Adverts
Adverts on a website can be a good way of promoting different causes and generating revenue, depending on the kind of campaign you’re running. If the site is just packed full with ads, though, it can be a little disconcerting. What’s more, if you overdo it you can actually lose positions on Google. So, before adding adverts, ask yourself what exactly are you trying to promote, the website itself or the companies whose ads you’re displaying? And, how important are Google positions to your site’s success?
Lots of websites make use of templates that have been pre-made (although, we’ll add here that we don’t ever use templates for client web sites!). This can be useful for lots of companies, especially those who perhaps don’t have the budget to have an entire site custom-made. However, templates can often be easily recognised, especially when they haven’t been customised at all. If you want your site to stand out, it needs to be tailored to your business. This is why web design is so important; Internet users these days are savvy and will judge you on your site; if it looks like a template and a site that’s not been properly invested in, your site visitor will probably pick that up and head elsewhere.
Sometimes, you go onto a website and you think ‘wow, this looks good. I want to know more’. As soon as you try to find out more, though, you get stuck. Websites with hard to find or confusing navigation are hugely off-putting to web users, and those visitors won’t hang around to find out more, they’ll just click off to another site. What’s more, Google and Bing will penalise you for visitors that click off your site too quickly. This is one of those issues that sound quite obvious, but it happens quite a lot. Navigation is something that web designers should be thinking about from the very beginning to make sure that the visitor is drawn in and stays on your site.
Odd Colour Palette
If you’re going to have a website, people need to be able to read it. Websites that have a colour scheme with little contrast can sometimes appear to be bland and also hard to read, especially if the text is a similar colour to the background. Alternatively, sites that are full of bright, zingy colours might look exciting, but it doesn’t mean they’re any easier to use. Finding the right colour palette for your market is important, and worth researching; don’t go with a colour set simply because you like it.
Broken or Missing Links
This is arguably more of a content issue than a web design one, but it definitely still counts as a website no-no. Links are great on websites: they can help people find more information and they can be good for your SEO – as long as they work. Links that don’t work or that appear to be there when they actually aren’t don’t sit well with anyone (such as a ‘click here’ instruction that doesn’t give you anywhere to click). Links that take you to the wrong place can also lead to a visitor’s immediate exit from your site.
Lack of Focus
All websites need a focus and this applies to both the web design and the content. Who is your website for? What is your core message? Your website needs to be tailored to the people who are going to be using it, so your aims and message need to be very clear. Good web design can help with this, directing people’s attention to the right place and giving them exactly what they’re looking for. In additional, Google likes well-focussed web sites with lots of unique content; so staying on message with your own uniquely written text will win you business and search engine positions.
You’ve probably visited sites that have a site counter somewhere displaying the number of visitors to the site. Circa 1995 this was great – decent statistics packages were in short supply, and finding out how many people visited your site was important. But, these days things have moved on; displaying your visitor numbers openly can actually make your site appeared unused or amateurish. There are free tools out there that will integrate with your site and give you loads more information than a simple counter – Google Analytics being the most well-known.
Buy Me! …But Where and Who From?
E-commerce sites are great and, if done well, can often boost sales. However, if you are going to have an e-commerce site, it needs to be easy to use, easy to buy and most of all appear trustworthy and genuine. If you want people to buy something from your website, the process needs to be as simple as possible. They shouldn’t have to go hunting for the ‘buy now’ button, or else they might end up going elsewhere. Similarly, making sure you’re on top of the site’s security, and that you clearly display contact details for your company and your terms and conditions of business can also instil trust (aside from being required by law in the UK).
Contact Us! … But How?
Ties in with the above, websites need to make it easy for people to get in touch. They need to be able to tell you if they have a question or give you feedback for things they might have bought from you or services they want to find. Making it difficult to contact them or writing at the bottom of the page ‘don’t hesitate to contact us today’ but then failing to provide a ‘contact us’ link can be off-putting. Cover your bases by making getting in touch as easy as possible, in a visible, understandable way.
As an example, we recently took over marketing and design for a client who displayed on their existing site their phone number in the top right of the page along with their email address underneath (we’ll add here we didn’t design the site!). The phone number wasn’t structured in the usual London format 0207 000 0000 but as 02 070 000 000 and the email address font was considerably smaller and exremely close to the phone number making it hard to see. The moment we restructured the phone number and separated and enlarged the email address to make it more visible the phone started ringing and emails enquiries started arriving. This simply points to demonstrate that adding things to a page isn’t enough; thought is needed to make sure that physiologically the site visitor can actually see and recognise them quickly and easily.
When the world of the web designer moves so fast, it can be somewhat odd to think that the profession is not actually that long out of its infancy. Like so many other areas of technology, though – and particularly areas that relate to the online world – web design is a industry that is constantly evolving as time goes by.
Arguably, it is also becoming increasingly important as time goes by. In a challenging market where the vast majority of businesses today all have their own websites, the task of the web designer in creating eye-catching, exciting websites that combine style with functionality and that stand out from the crowd can be a hard to get exactly right. Whether involved in corporate web design, designing sites for individuals or another related aspect of the job, hardly a day goes by when there isn’t something new to take into account.
Despite the regular changes, however, there are a few current trends that jump out in the world of web design. These are trends that are having a big impact on the way we work, as well as on the experience of web users who view the websites created by designers. Read on to find out more about five important trends in web design.
Web Design for Smartphones and Other Devices
A few years ago, websites were designed almost exclusively for personal computers and laptops, and Internet Explorer was by far the dominant web browser. This may have created some limitations in terms of design as it meant there were only certain technologies that could be utilised, but it also meant that web designers could largely guarantee that a site they created would display and run as it was supposed to on the vast majority of computers.
Now, however, the landscape has changed. As well as a massive proliferation in the use of smartphones, tablet computers and other devices when accessing the web, there is also an increasing array of web browsers out there, and the market is much more diverse than it was. One the one hand, this is great for web designers who want to make the most of the latest technology and utilise exciting opportunities that simply weren’t practical before. But, this also raises certain challenges, such as the need to tweak sites and apps for different devices and browsers so they run properly and the user experience remains seamless, no matter how a person chooses to view the web.
Web Design for Touchscreens
I’m sure if you regularly commute or have sat in a coffee bar people-watching that it won’t have escaped your notice how five years ago everyone was all thumbs, whereas now they’ll all fingers. The proliferation of people swiping, pressing and tapping away at their touch-sensitive screens has changed the way we interact with the outside world.
Although it may seem like a relatively minor shift, this has important consequences for web design. For instance, when a person is viewing a website on a computer that uses a mouse or track-pad, the on-screen buttons can appear small. However, fingers are somewhat less accurate than a mouse pointer, so allowances need to be made when it comes to the usability and design of websites. Bigger buttons with larger spacing, making links clearer, and alterations on how scrolling works are just a hanful of the issues this raises.
Move Away from Flash
There are several reasons web designers and others are moving away from using Flash. iHate Flash from Apple being the predominant driver with so may iDevices now in use and the usability issues created when Flash just won’t run. Another reason is that search engines don’t really like Flash either, and so if a site is created using it, it can have a detrimental effect on the website’s search engine positions.
Quick Response Barcodes
Over the past few months, you might have noticed a growing trend for square barcodes to be used on TV shows, in magazines and even on business cards. The idea is that you download an app onto your smartphone and then use it to take a picture of the barcode, although known as a QR (or Quick Response) code. That picture then translates into a website, contact information, or other details which will open up on your phone.
For instance, if you were to put one of these barcodes on your regular website, it could act as a gateway to your mobile site or to a special mobile offer that could be used in-store. This might in turn help to broaden how people viewed your site, making accessing the information easier than ever before. This links into the trend for web design to increasingly focus on mobile sites; as more and more people use smartphones to access the web, and access sites through increasing numbers of ways (such as these quick response barcodes), mobile sites are becoming every bit as important as ‘regular’ sites.
If you use Google, and you probably do, you will no doubt have noticed that there have been some additions to their site of late. One of these is the ability to see previews of websites before you click onto them. When you type in your search term and the results come up, you can now hover your mouse (assuming you’re using a computer and not a touchscreen device – otherwise touch with your finger) over the link and it will show you a thumbnail image of the website. This creates a new challenge for web designers: making sure the thumbnail preview looks as good as the full site, as people increasingly use the function to decide whether to click through onto the site.
In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago that the personal computer made its revolutionary entrance in the world of technology. After all, it was only in 1981 that the first PC was launched. The computer in question was the IBM 5150 and, at the time, it was at the cutting edge of technology.
The PC managed to stay at the leading edge for some time afterwards and is still massively popular today. For instance, based on Microsoft’s sales of the Windows 7 software, sales figures for the second quarter of 2011 stood at around 75 million – an impressive figure.
However, when you look a little beneath the surface, it is possible to see that the strong sales figures aren’t quite as sturdy as they first seem. In the second quarter of 2010, PC sales figures stood at around 80 million, meaning that there was a significant decline between last year and this year.
It is possible to give several reasons for this. One is that the recent global recession and resulting stuttering recovery, coupled with higher inflation and less disposable incomes for the people who previously might have bought PCs, have led to people tightening their belts rather than splashing out new technology.
This, though, is not the only explanation. Changes have been occurring in the market for a few years now, as new innovations come through and people start to acquire new and innovative devices that fill the space the PC once used to occupy. For instance, millions of people now own smartphones that have internet access, as well as other internet-capable devices, such as laptops, games consoles and tablet computers.
The tablet computer is an interesting one, especially as it leads us onto one of the technology giants of the moment: Apple. It was recently reported that Apple has got more money than the US government and, when you look at how well their sales are going – as well as the growing breadth of products that they have on offer – it isn’t hard to see why they are doing well.
For instance, even while the PC market was down 17.5% in Europe at the start of 2011, the market for Apple Macs was up by 10%. In Asia, Mac sales were up by 69.4%. This happened largely because more businesses and governments, as well as home users, are starting to use Macs in place of the traditional PC.
Apple is also the dominant force in the tablet market. If you combine all of the Android tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, EEE Pad and the Motorla Xoom, the Apple iPad is still outselling them by a ratio of 24:1. This certainly suggests that things are starting to shift away from the traditional ‘big players’ in home computing and moving in Apple’s favour.
There are several things that can help to explain Apple’s increasing dominance of the computing market. One is that it has a fairly impressive brand image that means its product launches are guaranteed to attract a large amount of attention. Another reason is that it has many more developers at its disposal than most other companies, meaning that Apple users are much more likely to benefit from state of the art apps ad other developments.
All of this shows that even though changes are clearly afoot, the world of personal computing is still massive – and growing. 400 million personal computers are expected to be sold in 2011. Growing markets in developing countries are contributing to this, as is increased take-up of internet use.
Naturally, this raises several challenges for web designers and computer programmers, among others. For example, an increasing array of devices means there is an increasing array of factors to take into account when working in web design or coding. While this is undoubtedly a challenge, it also arguably provides more scope for the innovation we have heard so much about over the past few years, with increasing diversity in the type of devices that people are using to access the internet even as certain firms (Apple, Google) remain dominant.
It also raises interesting questions for consumers – the people who buy these products and are gradually moving away from PCs in favour of laptops and tablet computers. In particular, it raises the question of cost versus value: Apple products, for instance, aren’t necessarily the cheapest to buy and in some cases other manufacturers might offer better products (depending on your view, of course) and yet it seems that expense isn’t as big an issue for people as you might expect.
With the market still evolving, it is hard to predict exactly what will become of the PC over the next few years, but it’s sure to be very interesting to watch. The impact of Windows 8, whenever it is released, might offer some indication of what’s going on – or at least Microsoft’s response to what’s going on – but for now it seems as though rather than simply sticking to the trust old PC, people are increasingly looking for diversity, innovation, image and quality in the products they buy. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to change any time soon.
There has long been tension between the need to protect consumers’ privacy on the web and businesses’ desire to grow their online operations in any way they can. One of the things that have led to some of the most heated debates is internet cookies. There has been growing concern among some consumers, for instance, that they are effectively being stalked on the internet. This can be seen in the way a product you might have looked at on one website suddenly appears in adverts on subsequent websites that you visit.
This is the result of internet cookies and, while some cookies are relatively harmless and can in fact be useful (such as by remembering your preferences and log in details), some are not so welcome. As a result, the European Union introduced a new regulation called the Privacy and Communications Directive. The aim of the Directive was to put more guidance in place so that websites know how much information they can collect on their visitors without having to ask their permission.
The Directive is also sometimes known as the ‘cookie law’ and it was due to be implemented by governments by May 2011. At the time of writing, hardly any of them had done so. Only the governments of the UK, Denmark and Estonia had taken any steps to bring the Privacy and Communications Directive into law, and Denmark has since put its draft laws on the back burner.
In the UK, things are quite a bit better, with fairly comprehensive guidelines being given out – but firms still have a year to comply with the new ruling. This means that the ‘third party cookies’, which are thought to be causing a lot of the problems faced by consumers, can still often be found and tailored advertising online still abounds.
Here’s how it works. Say, for instance, that you look on a website for a new power tool. You don’t buy it, but the internet cookies register that you have looked at the product and were interested in it. You leave the website and spend some more time browsing, when you suddenly notice that something keeps happening: adverts for the power tool you were looking at earlier – and perhaps similar products - keep popping up on websites. The aim of businesses, of course, is to try and persuade you to click on one of those adverts and then make a purchase. The concern for web users, naturally, is the extent of the information companies are apparently able to collect on them.
This is what the EU Directive is supposed to help solve, by dividing internet cookies into two groups: those cookies that are ‘strictly necessary’ for services to operate and those that aren’t, which would require users to give their consent before they could be used. As you might expect, many people working in the European marketing industry do not like the Directive as it confuses what they are and aren’t allowed to do.
One thing that has caused confusion is over what the Directive actually requires websites and businesses to do: are they supposed to actively alert users whenever a cookie is placed on their machine, or is it enough to simply make them aware of their security options within their browser, thus leaving it up to the user to alter their security settings if they so wish? Part of this issue arises because the EU’s definition of ‘strictly necessary’ is very narrow, to the point where a cookie that remembers what language you typically view websites in would be likely to fall outside the ‘strictly necessary’ category.
This makes it harder to comply with the law. If you were to assume that the requirement of the directive was that notification had to be given of all cookies outside the ‘strictly necessary’ group, this could potentially lead to a high volume of pop up alerts asking for users to give their permission to continue. This leads to another problem: a lot of browsers block pop ups as a matter of course, and even if they don’t, the vast majority of web users loath them.
However, there is still the problem of users being concerned about their online privacy. There’s also the issue of how the Directive, if fully implemented, would affect businesses: many rely on cookies to work out the extent of their return on investments and believe that tailored advertising actually enhances the user experience. All of this means that companies are now faced with trying to explain to customers the value of using third party cookies.
Even more confusing is the fact that different EU governments are determining the Directive in different ways, so while some countries propose that web users should actively give their consent to individual cookies, others are much more general. Perhaps then, once thing is clear: while a stab at a coordinated effort has been made in order to reassure web users that their privacy is protected, more action and more coordination is still needed to make sure there is a workable policy and that it won’t harm ecommerce in the process. With 27 countries in the EU that all need to be working together, it seems as this could be one that’s set to continue for a good while yet.
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