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Balance your website’s design with search engine optimisation in mind

Published on September 12, 2012
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

When having a new website designed for your company, organisation or business you will have to make that crucial decision: do you opt for prioritising design or SEO? In practice, it need not be quite so black and white, as there are a number of ways in which you can balance the design aspects of your new website with the search engine optimisation considerations you will want to take into account.

Put simply, there are two major aspects to a successful website. Of course, your website needs to be attractive, easy to navigate and enticing for your potential customers. However, have you ever considered that that might all be completely futile if your potential customers cannot actually find your website? It is a little like setting up a wonderful shop full of every product every customer could ever want, then putting it up a long-forgotten back street with absolutely no advertising. You might have the best shop in the world, but who is going to know it is there?

That is where search engine optimisation comes in. Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is the online equivalent of moving your back street shop to the high street, potentially allowing all passers-by to know your shop is there, thereby increasing footfall, trade and profit. Losing the allegory, search engine optimisation consists of optimising your website for a number of popular key phrases which your potential customers will be using to search on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.

A well carried out search engine optimisation strategy will ensure that your website ranks higher in search engines for these terms, meaning that more of your potential customers will find your website, thereby visiting it any buying from you rather than your competitors. The result is increased profit and business. With the vast majority of internet users using search engines to find the products and services they are looking for, it is absolutely vital that you are on the first page of Google for your related key words and products. If you are not, those internet users will find your competitors instead.

Of course, it is pretty useless being top of Google for all of your key terms if your potential customers do not like the look and feel of your website or do not feel comfortable buying from you. That is why it is vital to be able to balance search engine optimisation factors with design considerations in order to ensure that your increased footfall equates to increased business. An attractive, well designed website can help to convert those additional visitors into customers, ensuring that your competitors do not take advantage of the extra business.

It is perfectly possible to have a well-balanced website which takes both design and search engine optimisation considerations into account. A simple, elegant design which complements and leads the content will actually help your search engine optimisation efforts, allowing you to concentrate on your website’s content - one of the major considerations of SEO and increased rankings. If your website is well-designed and easy to navigate for your users, it will also be easy to navigate for search engine spiders, which will increase your chances of being ranked in the associated search engine.

Search engines do not tend to view colour as a factor, so you are free to choose your own colour scheme - but make sure it is one which your visitors will find visually appealing. If the colours you use tend to give off the wrong signals, you could put off a lot of visitors and fail to make the most of your website’s increased footfall. Using colours which match the message you are trying to put across, and instilling trust in your potential customers is vital in order to make the most of your new visitors and try to convert them into paying customers.

So, you need not think you have to struggle to make the decision between a good-looking website and one which is well optimised for search engines. In fact, you can have your cake and eat it. A good web development company will be able to ensure that your website is appealing to both search engines and potential customers.

By Chelsey Evans

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How colour can make a difference to your website

Published on September 6, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

When designing a website the focus is often on logos, layout and content but how much thought is put into the colours you use? Many of us will often choose our favourite colour or one which simply seems to 'appeal' at the time. The fact of the matter is that colour is absolutely vital to your website. Would you believe that whilst one colour can convey trust and reliability, another can signify cowardice and evil? Which would you want to convey and do you know which colour conveys which feeling? If not, you may want to read on...

You may be familiar with colours being arranged as a colour wheel, and there's a very good reason for this. Colours are split into three groups: primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Primary colours number only three: red, yellow and blue. These colours are used to make up every single other colour on the colour wheel. If you mix two primary colours together, the result is a secondary colour: orange (red and yellow), green (yellow and blue) and purple (blue and red). Add another primary colour to a secondary colour and the result is a tertiary colour, which tends to be a 'middle' colour or blend.

Colours which compliment each other nicely are called complimentary colours, and these tend to sit on opposite ends of the colour wheel. Blue and orange compliment each other, as do red and green and purple and yellow. The heavy contrast tends to be surprisingly easy on the eye. Analogous colours, on the other hand, tend to be right next to each other on the colour wheel and although the contrast is far less striking than with complimentary colours, they tend to match fairly well.

Colours can also be split by their warmth: either warm, cold or neutral colours. Reds, yellows and oranges tend to be warm colours whereas blues, greens and purples tend to be cold colours. Other colours, such as greys and browns tend to be neutral.

In terms of feelings and emotions, red tends to symbolise power and passion whilst also helping to build excitement and energy. However, red does have many negative connotations including anger, aggression and emergency situations. Orange, on the other hand, is not as aggressive as its neighbour but it does symbolise happiness and cheerfulness. It can also stand for deceit, though, so not ideal for your eCommerce website!

Whilst yellow represents joy, energy and intelligence, it can also signify caution and laziness. Green, on the other hand, is a natural colour symbolising growth and safety. There aren't many negative connotations for green, although it does symbolise money which can lead to thoughts of greed or jealousy. Blue, similarly, is a calming and stable colour which is often used on websites as it builds feelings of trust. However, as a cold colour it can turn off some potential customers.

Purples tend to convey feelings of wealth, luxury and royalty and is a highly creative colour. However, if you use a darker shade of purple it can give feelings of sadness and even depression. Blacks and whites are very interesting colours as they are not actually part of the colour wheel at all. Black is linked with power and elegance, but is also associated with death and sorrow so go easy on the black! White, although pure and innocent also gives feelings of being cold and distant due to its connections with winter.

Incredibly, you can design three identical websites using exactly the same design and wording but with only the colours changed between them and elicit entirely different responses from visitors to each of the sites. For this reason alone, colour should be your main consideration when looking at the design of your website or even your company's corporate colours. You should think about your company's values and try to select colours which convey the thoughts and feelings that you're trying to put across. Are you powerful and emotional? Use red. Do you want to convey trust and reliability? Opt for blues and greens. Something cutting edge and creative? Try purples. You can even pair colours, such as blue and orange which are complimentary colours and can convey a mixture of calmness and joyfulness.

Whatever look and feel you're trying to put across, you should always bear your choice of colours very strongly in mind.

By Chelsey Evans

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How a database-driven system can help your website

Published on September 6, 2012
Tags: Web Development London

The vast majority of businesses now have their own website, but many are flat-file websites consisting purely of text and images. However, have you ever considered a database-driven website designed to store large amounts of data with ease and security?

Most people will at least be familiar with the concept of a database; a system of linked tables in which data is stored in a logical format, ensuring that it can be easily managed and retrieved. Databases need not be desktop-based, though – there are many uses for databases in websites which can lead to your site being far more powerful than it currently is.

Updating and maintaining a flat-file website can be quite tedious. Having to go in and edit the text directly on each page can take a long time and be quite expensive if you are paying a company to do this for you. Having to change the styling and coding on each individual page is cumbersome, at best. Having an incorporated database on your website will help do away with this hassle, making maintaing and updating your website far simpler. Not only does it make things easier, but it can make your website far more powerful than it currently is.

Databases give you far more power in design, even allowing you to customise your design and content for individual visitors. A database ensures that only a handful of static web pages need to be designed and maintained, with the database itself generating thousands or more individual, dynamic pages. These pages are also fully searchable, due to the content being stored in a logical database. The inherent organisational capabilities of a database-driven website are hard to beat, with static pages vastly limiting what your website can do for you.

If you run an eCommerce website, for example, a database-driven website is absolutely essential in order to be able to handle large numbers of products. A content management system – a blog, for example – would also be another good example of a website which requires a database system in order for it to run effectively. In essence, any form of web system which requires large amounts of data to be stored, retrieved and manipulated will need a database behind it in order to run as it should do.

There are, of course, some disadvantages to using databases, but these are few and far between. Having a database-driven website designed does require a programmer with a reasonable level of skill and experience and the costs of having a website such as this designed are usually more expensive than a flat-file website. In terms of ongoing costs, however, these tend to be much lower. You will also need to consider the technological requirements which will need to be addressed by your hosting company. The vast majority of hosting packages will offer some form of database administration capabilities, but you may need to look at moving to a new hosting company if the support isn't adequate.

There are a couple of different options to choose from in terms of what type of technology will drive your database. Two of the more popular options are Microsoft SQL Server and mySQL. Choosing one of these types of database will ensure that you are able to find support in terms of programming much more easily than if you use a more esoteric database system.

To conclude the matter, if you want your website to be dynamically driven and to be able to cope with processing, retrieving and storing large amounts of data and information, a database system is absolutely vital. Although the costs may be greater in the first instance, this is due to the complexity of the system and the specific skills and programming knowledge required in order to set up this sort of arrangement. However, ongoing costs will tend to be much lower as the database will tend to maintain itself. You will not have to keep contacting your web design company or developer in order to get them to make changes to the website as the dynamic aspect of the system will allow you to make changes simply and easily and with minimal effort. Whether you're looking for ease of use, simple updates or simply to store large amounts of data in a more complex website, it is well worth looking at database-driven technology in order to drive your website.

By Chelsey Evans

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