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Published on November 25, 2011
Tags: Web Design London
As we come to the end of 2011, now can be quite a good time to think about what you’d like the New Year to bring. This is especially important if you’ve got a business, as a brand new year can often mark a turning point and provide a new focus for your company. It can also be a good time to think about the issue of website design – or more specifically, website redesign.
No matter how great your current web design is, if you have had it for quite a long time then you might well be able to benefit from a site reboot to reflect the changes your company has gone through recently. You don’t necessarily have to have a complete site makeover, although this is an option, but an upgrade and assessment of where things stand can make a big difference. To give you a helping hand, read on for six things to consider when contemplating website redesign - all courtesy of Ampheon Web Design London.
The current site – where it stands
It helps to have an idea of where your website currently stands, as this can give you a better idea of where you want to go. For instance, look at issues such as how much traffic you get to your current site, how well you do in the search engine rankings and whether the content on the site still matches your purpose as a business. Do you have an ecommerce website? If so, how well has this been performing in terms of sales?
The current site – what needs improving
Once you know where things stand, you can start to think about what needs improving. This is something it can be a good idea to chat to your web designer about to make sure you’re on the same page and to pick up any technical issues you may have missed. However, even without any technical know-how, you’re more than likely to be able to highlight the issues you’d like to address through your new web design. This could be something as simple as adding a couple of new pages or updating your graphics.
Your business – how it’s changed
It’s also worth reviewing your business before altering your website design. For instance, have you started running any projects or services that perhaps aren’t on your website yet? Have you changed your focus to a different target market? Have you expanded your outlook? These are all things you might like to take account of in your website design, so jotting down a few thoughts will definitely help the process.
Your new site – what you want to achieve
Now we’re getting to the fun bit: what you’re actually looking for in your revamped web design. Think about what you’d like to achieve through your website in the coming New Year. This could be goals such as getting to the top of the search rankings for a particular key term, or getting more traffic through to the site or making more sales through your ecommerce site. It could also be goals related to the look of your site, such as the colour scheme or how the content is laid out.
Your new site – content
Before you get your web designer onto the task of updating your site design, it helps if you have a think about what you’d like to do in terms of content. It can really boost the look of the site if we know beforehand how much content there is likely to be and how you’d like to set it out. So, just as you probably did when the site was designed in the first place, sit down and go through all the content you need to have on the site, making sure it’s all relevant and there for a particular purpose.
Your new site – SEO and marketing
Finally, as well as issues relating to content and design, you also need to consider the issues of SEO and marketing. After all, if you’re going to the effort of upgrading your website design for the New Year, you want people to be able to find it. If you’ve already got an SEO strategy, you might like to review it to make sure it still reflects the purpose and goals of your business. This is something else you could talk to your web designer about to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
Overall, there’s no hard and fast rule to tell you what to do with your site when it comes to redesigning it. However, businesses do change over time and the New Year provides a perfect opportunity to start thinking about how you might like to reflect this in other areas of your operations – including your website. A website redesign could well be what you need to get your company off to a great start in 2012.
Published on November 18, 2011
Google Plus, the social networking offering from Google, has been up and running for a few months now and recently, it has launched its own business pages. This is a concept that has already had some success on Facebook, with more than700,000 businesses said to have set up their own page with the networking giant. So, it makes sense that Google+ would launch its own version - but are Google’s business pages any good?
It’s still early days for these business pages – and for Google+ itself - but they do show some potential that companies are sure to want to make use of. For instance, the pages are due to be ranked in search results, which is sure to be appreciated by businesses looking to boost their Google rankings. Google has also developed a new feature, which is called Direct Connect.
The idea behind this is that it allows web users to connect directly to companies’ Google business pages through search. You do this through the Google site – type ‘+’ followed by the business name (such as +Google). This then takes you to the relevant Google+ page. This feature is still being rolled out and so it’s not yet entirely operational, but you can read more about it here.
All of this is very positive and it suggests that these new Google business pages have the potential to be very good, especially as Google+ continues to grow and more users start to adopt it. However, there has been some concern that they’re not quite up to standard yet.
In a way, this mirrors some concerns that were raised when the network itself first launched – it was thought by some that it wasn’t quite ready, and there was some controversy over issues such as whether it was okay to use internet pseudonyms rather than real names on the site, as well as the fact you need to sign up using a Gmail address (adding to our increasing number of email addresses).
One of the issues with the new Google+ business pages is that only one person can currently administer the page. This means that if you have two people in your company who typically manage social media, they’ll probably have to set up a specific company Google+ account and manage the business page through that, rather than doing it through their own accounts. Some companies may appreciate this approach, but when you consider that you are able to have multiple administrators on Facebook’s equivalent pages, it does suggest that not everyone will be entirely happy with this.
Also, one of the selling points of Facebook’s business pages is that they can be used to run competitions and promotions. This can be a good way of drawing more people to the page and encouraging interaction between brands and users. Currently, under Google+ policies, this isn’t possible on the Google business pages, which is likely to be seen as a negative point by many. Of course, this doesn’t stop the possibility of a policy change in the future (nor does it stop businesses linking to competitions elsewhere from their Google+ page), but for now it is something to consider.
Another – potentially more significant – issue faced by Google+ business pages (and the site as a whole) is that it simply doesn’t get as much traffic as other networking sites such as Facebook. For instance, Facebook reaches over 60% of US web users. By contrast, Google+ currently reaches less than 1%. It seems safe to say that Google+ will grow over time, but currently, for online marketers and website designers, if you are going to have a business page it seems as though Facebook or LinkedIn would be the safer bet.
In all fairness to the Google Plus business pages, they are still new and so it stands to reason that functionality will be added over time and they’ll continue to grow in capability and capacity. The idea of Direct Connect is also an interesting one and raises more search opportunities for businesses – and including the pages in search results is a good move.
Therefore, we can probably put many of the current issues down to teething trouble and on-going development. However, until Google+ starts to become more popular and reaches more users (particularly active users who use the site every day as so many do with Facebook), it seems that no matter how good the business pages are, they’ll still struggle to make much of an impact. That isn’t to say companies shouldn’t bother with them – they have many good points and are more than likely to become more influential over time – but perhaps don’t abandon your other social media platforms just yet.
All that said, and whilst Google+ for Business is still a work in progress, it is still worthwhile getting your business in there early. As an early-adopter of Google+ for Business, you never know how Google might reward you in the natural search results later down the line – perhaps it will be similar to how they use your domain name registration date as a ranking signal. It could be that the longer your business is in Google+ for Business, the better the search placements you get.
Published on November 11, 2011
You may remember a few months ago, when Google released the Panda/Farmer update and a significant percentage of search results were affected because of it. That update had a big impact on quite a lot of websites – and it seems Google has once again made some changes that are going to affect lots of people.
This time, the change involves their encrypted search feature. This is something that Google has had running for a while, but now it has altered its systems so that if a user is logged-in (to Gmail, iGoogle, Google+ or another Google platform), they are automatically redirected to encrypted search. Unlike in the past, they are no longer told that they are using this feature; the ‘http’ in the address bar simply changes to ‘https’. That is; https://www.google.com
The impact of this is that the search queries made by those users will be kept secure. The argument made by Google in its favour is that encrypted search is especially useful when using unsecured Wi-Fi networks and that it helps to protect ‘personalised search results’.
Arguably, this is a smart move on Google’s part as it shows a concern for security and protects users’ data – something that is naturally of concern to many people. However, on the other side of the issue are webmasters, web designers and developers who rely on search information to analyse which of their campaigns are the most successful, who is clicking onto their sites and the terms people search for when they find their websites.
With Google encrypting logged-in users’ data, it’s thought that around 10% of previous information will no longer be available to the people who typically analyse it. It isn’t hard to see how this might have an impact on online marketing and analysis: with 10% less data, there’ll be less information to utilise and so campaigns won’t be targeted quite so successfully and their impact will be harder to measure. Around 10% harder to measure, to be precise.
This essentially means that when you log in to Analytics or another keyword tool, you’re likely to see a ‘not provided’ entry fairly high up in your keyword traffic list, where that 10% of data would normally be.
Luckily, Google has put in place some measures that mean you will still be able to access some information: if you use Webmaster Tools, it will show you the top 100 search terms for your site. Granted, this doesn’t give you the complete picture or go into much detail about search traffic, but it at least provides something to work from.
The good news, really, is that your traffic shouldn’t be affected by the changes that have recently taken effect, as the alterations don’t have an impact on search rankings in the same way that Panda/Farmer did. However, one aspect of the changes that has caused some controversy is the fact that paid-for results are unaffected. This means that if you’re paying for Google’s services (such as for PPC campaigns), you’ll still be able to see which search terms bring in the best conversion rates.
This suggests that Google has put a price on information: if you use its free analytics services, logged-in users’ privacy takes precedence, but if you pay then their privacy is overlooked. It might sound a bit sceptical, but it does seem like there is now a choice to be made between favouring privacy and making money – and, when you consider that Google is selling this change as being in favour of users’ privacy, the sceptic starts to grow.
Of course, Google is designed to be a business. That’s its purpose, so we probably shouldn’t be too surprised when it makes changes that make things easier for itself but not necessarily for everyone else. The CEO of Google recently said of the company: ‘we understand what you want and can deliver it instantly’. Arguably, that ‘we’ is telling. Google knows what you want, but by implementing changes such as this, it makes it harder for webmasters and others to know exactly what people want.
This has a knock-on effect for keyword campaigns and other types of online marketing – and unless you are willing to pay Google for the information, it will continue to be difficult.
Google does a lot of good things, we can’t deny that. Its search engine services are excellent, its other services are mostly very good and it still provides good analysis tools for web designers and others to make use of. Plus, the balance between user privacy and the business of the web is always a hard one to get right. Perhaps these changes will work out for the best. However, in the short term at least, it does seem like things are going to be a little trickier for many webmasters.
One of the things that web designers often come under fire for is advertising. Many (probably most) sites these days feature advertising in some form: it can be a good source of revenue for businesses – including both the website on which the ad is displayed and the company displaying the ad, if it is done properly. However, web designers are sometimes criticised for the way these ads make the sites look – there’s an argument that ads make a site look messy and so detract from the overall design, no matter how well the website performs in other areas.
There is something in this argument, and any good web designer will tell you that there’s a fine line between advertising on a website being okay and it becoming overwhelming to the point where something needs to be done about it. But is it really the web designers fault at all?
After all, the counter argument would run that when a web design company creates a website, they are simply following the brief given to them by a client. If a client asks them to include space for advertising then this needs to be incorporated into the web design. Of course, the way it looks is still important as ads that look out of place or having too many of them can reduce their power and render them useless when compared with one or two well-placed, relevant ads on a page. But if a site relies heavily on advertising revenue and asks for this to be built into the design, there’s not always a huge amount of room to manoeuvre.
This is one of those debates where both sides have a point: some websites do look bad because they have so many ads on them, but many others are actually good examples of web design that successfully integrate valuable and useful ads into the site. It’s also a debate that is gradually becoming more prominent as the way we view the web changes.
We have discussed before about how smartphones, tablet computers and other devices are slowly starting to creep up on traditional web platforms such as PCs and laptops. This is changing lots of aspects of web design, from how you navigate sites (touchscreens versus mouse pointers, for instance) to the content you include on mobile websites (is it practical to simply copy the ‘regular’ website into mobile form?). Another aspect of web design it has an impact on is advertising.
Displaying ads on mobile sites doesn’t work in the same way as for laptops and desktops. Essentially, the screens are too small and so they can’t take the same amount of style or advertising. However, as more and more people start to use mobile web devices, the need to address this issue is growing as it seems unlikely the desire to generate revenue through online advertising is going to disappear.
Arguably, mobile websites provide interesting web design opportunities both in terms of their overall design and how they incorporate advertising. The specific challenges provided by the range of different operating systems and varying screen sizes means designers and developers have to be more inventive – and it’s possible to argue that this is working. For instance, take a look at some of the most popular apps, or tablet editions of newspapers. They’re changing the way they display information and making it appealing to the people who use these devices.
Developing specific and better mobile websites has the potential to make web designers, advertisers and companies think more carefully about the issue of advertising. It isn’t that hard to see why people find it so frustrating on traditional web platforms such as desktop computers; even now pop-ups have mostly disappeared, there is still a high concentration of ads on many sites.
Smaller screens and improving technology, though, means that mobile sites tend to include fewer ads overall – but the ones they do include are better targeted and, hopefully, of greater value to all concerned. It’s a development borne of necessity but one that’s sure to be welcomed as it continues. One good ad could potentially be worth a lot more than one hundred ill-placed ones. Decreasing need for multiple ads can also help to free up web design, leaving more room for innovation in design and bringing the focus back to content.
Overall, the issue of online advertising is one that’s set to stay. However, it seems that recent developments and the growing awareness of web users means that changes are coming – and with any luck, they’ll be changes for the better.
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