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5 Trends in Web Design for 2011

Published on January 25, 2011
Tags: Web Design London

As with any rapidly expanding industry that’s reliant on technology, the world of web design is fast-changing and constantly evolving. Whether you're a designer, developer, or responsible for the rebuild of your personal or company web site, we take a look at some of the key issues and changes that will be affecting web designs over the coming months and years.

Tablet Computers

Since the release of Apple’s iPad, the popularity and demand for the tablet computer is continuing to grow. As more people use these computers, they’ll also be using them to browse on the internet, posing a challenge for web designers. This is something of an urgent issue, considering the predictions from Forrester Research that tablet computers such as the iPad will occupy around a quarter of the market within five years. This growth is predicted to come largely at the expense of desktop PCs rather than portable devices, suggesting that web designers are going to have to act to create websites that work on an increasing range of portable items.

One issue to be considered is the versatility of portable devices. For example, the ability to use the tablet computer either horizontally or vertically not only gives consumers more options but also means that website designers may have to incorporate two different designs for websites so they can easily be viewed however consumers use their computers. This means there is a need for more versatile web design templates that can be utilised on a growing range of screen types, from tablet computers to new laptops, netbooks and smartphones.


Related to this is the massive growth of touchscreen devices. This means that new features have to be built into websites to be able to accommodate the different methods of operation. For example, while traditional website design has to be suitable for a mouse clicking links and moving around the screen, touchscreen technology means that allowances have to be made to make up for the fact it’s people’s fingers doing the pointing and clicking, rather than the mouse. The impact here is that links and buttons need to be bigger and more spaced out to accommodate for the larger finger over the traditional mouse cursor.

For a while, this has been an issue confined to smartphones, but with the growth of tablet computers and other touchscreen technology, it is an issue that’s becoming more mainstream. This in turn throws up questions for web designers relating to design and aesthetics; after all, it isn’t just a case of incorporating larger buttons - for websites to remain attractive as well as functional, there is going to have to be a shift in design so that none of their visual impact is lost.

Web TV

Relatively new on the block is WebTV (Internet via your TV set). Again, this introduces some interesting challenges as screens will typically be viewed from a distance (around 10ft) and need larger fonts and graphics on effectively a smaller screen resolution. Google has produced an excellent primer on web designing for WebTV.


There are also changes happening in the world of web fonts. One challenge that web designers have faced for a while now is the restriction over the different fonts they can use as they can’t always guarantee that they’ll be supported by different operating systems. This can often affect the viewing experience of web users or often prevent particular fonts from showing up at all. The reason for this is simple: the most widely used and accessible fonts are those that are saved or available on the greatest number of machines. If a designer uses a font that is somewhat obscure, the chances of it being supported are lower.

The growth of cloud computing and the emergence of CSS3, though, means that more fonts with attractive designs are becoming more commonly supported through web-based hosts such as Google. One recent development here is Google Web Fonts) which allows web designers to access Google’s massive database of fonts for free under an open agreement. This works through the Google Font API, which works on the vast majority of browsers and is easy to use, thus opening up the options available for internet typography. This presents web designers with more options and means they can be more creative in their designs and the fonts used in them.

Smart Phones

One final challenge for web designers is the growth of mobile internet and the need to develop websites that can be viewed on much smaller screens such as those featured on mobile smartphones. This is another phenomenon that needs urgent attention: Morgan Stanley recently released some research that suggests there will be 1 billion heavy mobile data users by 2013 and that smartphones are fast on their way to outselling PCs globally. While many companies are not yet focused on adapting their websites for mobile devices, it is a growing trend and we can expect to see web designers spending more time on this in the future. When you consider that 100million Facebook users currently access the site through their mobiles, it becomes clear that the growth of the mobile internet is not a trend that can be ignored.

Mobile internet has also opened up a whole new area of web design, not just through the need to develop sites to fit a range of (often small) screen sizes, but through the growth of apps. The iPhone is probably the best example of the growth of apps, but there is increasingly a market for BlackBerry, Android and other styles of app that have to be tailored to individual operating systems, creating a major challenge for web designers to adapt to a new style of design and programming that many will not be familiar with. And tied in closely with this is the small matter of the search engines, as creating a mobile version of a main site can cause duplicate content issues if not handled properly, though thankfully with a web developer or search engine optimisation on board that understands these issues, any problems can be negated.

This is just a sample of the emerging challenges for web designers in 2011 and beyond. If you’ve thought of others whilst reading this article, why not complete the comments box below, tell us about them and we’ll publish them here!

By Chelsey Evans

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Can you be sure your web designer is doing a good job?

Published on October 4, 2010
Tags: Web Design London

Time and again, we've seen clients who have had a bad experience with their web designer. Sometimes it’s obvious; the web design is broken, the functionality doesn't work properly, there are massive delays on the project, or the website designer just disappears.

Other times, though, things may not be so easy to spot but could have equally serious implications for your web site and for your business.

You run a business though, and you shouldn’t have to concern yourself with what goes on behind the scenes.  So what is it that you need to look out for and more importantly, why?

  1. Poorly written, insecure code. This is the most common problem we find when we’re reviewing code written by other web designers. It you have any kind of database on your site (such as a content management system or ecommerce web site), or any kind of customer login facility, this can be the most serious issue you need to concern yourself with.  Poorly written code can make your site vulnerable to SQL injection and HTML injection attacks which can lead to situations such as hacked, virus-infected web pages being displayed on your site through to far more serious issues such as the theft of customer data – which can also put you at risk of prosecution under the Data Protection Act.

  2. Business logic mixed up with controller code. Code should be written in a structured, layered format with a layer for the database, a layer for the business logic (the rules and functions about how data gets in and out of a database), and a layer for the presentation (what actually gets displayed on visitor’s web browser). Actually, there’s a bit more too it than that, but that’s the core of it in simple terms. Very often, poor programming will mix the layers together which can make management of the code extremely difficult, can make the code unreliable, and can make it difficult to provide fixes and updates to.

  3. Bad coding practices. Code can be written in a number of ways and it depends on the developer’s training and preference as to how they might write individual functions and pieces of code. A developer with a strong background in coding methodology and who keeps their skills regularly up-to-date will generally write code better than someone that may have learnt in a more ad-hoc way and doesn’t continue with any ongoing training. Poor coding practices can lead to the situations mentioned above, as well as poor-performing code that can affect, for example, the speed of page loads (which affect Google positions) or the speed of on-site searching.

  4. Lack of commented code. Generally, good practice dictates that when code is written, each function within the code should be commented. This helps any other developer who updates the code to better understand what the code is intended to do, and how changing it will affect other parts of the website. Lack of comments indicate a lazy approach to coding, and can make it almost impossible for another developer to pick up the code and successfully make changes without having some other documentation (such as a technical specification) to work with.

Sadly, unless you are familiar with code you’re not likely to be able to spot the above four issues so how can you tell whether your code is well written or not:

  1. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t forget the old adage that if it’s too good to be true then it probably is. In web design, this is certainly the case. Whilst you may be working to a budget, don’t pick the lowest quote if all of the others are considerably more expensive. If you are going to outsource overseas then do be aware that the majority of poor code reviews that we conduct are from well known overseas outsourcing countries. That’s not to say that every company in an overseas location is incapable – there are good ones out there – but the prevalence of poor coding habits, driven perhaps by the educational process for developers, is higher.

  2. If your project has had problems, get your code reviewed. If you project has been troublesome, running late, or your developers have had problems fixing bugs when you raise them then consider having the source code reviewed by a third party. Very often, there are obvious warning signs such as these that things are not going to be ideal behind the scenes. The sooner in the development process you are able to do this, the better.

  3. Don’t pay everything upfront! It sounds obvious, but it does happen. Typically, you may be asked to pay 30% on project commission, 40% when the beta site is delivered and 30% on project conclusion. Most developers won’t release the full code until you’ve paid in full, which is fair, but you should be able to ask for a portion of the code at beta which can be reviewed by a third party. Then, if problems are found with the code quality you can either ask your developer to rectify them or reach an agreement to close the project off at a discounted total fee and move to another developer who can conclude your project.  It’s worth noting though, that a reputable developer may review your original developer’s code and tell you that you need to start again. This is the worst news to receive, but it is sometimes a necessity to go back to the beginning to get it absolutely right.

If you are currently looking for a web developer to complete your web site because you’re experiencing difficulties with your existing supplier, contact us today for a free assessment and no-obligation discussion.

By Chelsey Evans

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Is your website ready for the UK VAT change from 17.5% to 20%?

Published on October 1, 2010
Tags: Web Design London

As you’ll no doubt know, on 1 January 2011 the UK VAT rate will change from 17.5% to 20%. Many businesses now run websites where VAT is an integral part of their web site, and we have already started planning to update clients’ web sites where necessary. In fact, we’ve even started receiving new requests from companies that aren’t our clients!

Most of our clients have the ability to change the VAT rate on their web site design themselves, which is of course by design! But, that’s not always the case on some static sites, or even if self-management is possible some clients may not feel confident with making the change themselves.

This is where we come in. If you know your site needs updating to support the 20% valued added tax rate, and either your site doesn’t allow you to do it or you don’t feel confident in doing it, contact us today. We’ll review your site and advise you if we can add you to our schedule and if a charge will need to be levied or if we can make the change for free.

Do hurry though, because our VAT change to web sites list is filling up fast!

By Chelsey Evans

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10 Secrets to Writing Web Site Copy that Sells

Published on March 25, 2008
Tags: Web Design London

It doesn't matter whether you are selling a product or a service, writing the copy for your web site is probably the most important thing you can do. It must communicate. It must persuade. It must sell! The average web visitor doesn't hang around long on a site. So, creating an impact in a few seconds is the key to persuading them to stay longer, investigate your products, and BUY!

  1. "What's in it for me"?

    Many web sites provide lots of detailed information about the company, their products, how excellent they are, and so on. But, why should the visitor buy? Let's take a hypothetical example:

    "The speedy hoover is 50% more powerful and cleans in half the time".

    This is a great feature but what can it do for the customer? For every product and service you sell, first sit down and figure out the benefits to your potential customers. Will it change their lifestyle? Will it save them money? Will it make them the most stylish person in the neighbourhood? Two quick answers for the example above might be more free time to do other things, and floors so clean they are the envy of the neighbours. Use phrases like "which means that you" or "so that you" to help link the features of your product or service to the benefits.

  2. Use a powerful heading

    Start your page with a powerful heading - draw the visitor into the page of information. Make sure, though, that the heading is a benefit not a feature. So, for example, using the example above a heading might read:

    "FREE to Every Busy Homeworker
    4 Hours A Week To Enjoy Yourself"

    Notice that every word in the heading is in capitals. This help to make sure that it is emphasized from the main part of the page.

  3. Draw them in with a sub-heading

    So you've written a powerful heading, now back it up with a sub-heading because the next logical question will be "Why? or How?".

    So, following with our theme:

    "Because When You Own a Speedy Hoover,
    You Will Hardly Ever Use It!"

    Then, you are ready to complete the main body of the page. But remember, always back your product features up with benefits. It is these that will sell!

  4. Write as you speak!

    Don't try to "formalise" your web site if that is not how you speak to your customers. Be conversational. Write as you would speak to them. Use small, easy-to-read words as there is less opportunity for confusion and misunderstandings.

  5. Avoid jargon

    Write at a level your audience will understand. For example, we sell web hosting. But, if we stated "You can use PHP, ASP, SQL", many of our potential customers would walk away - and who could blame them! Use language that is graded to your readers, that will make sense to them, and in which they can see the benefits to them of your product or service.

  6. Watch your width

    Why do newspapers have columns? It is not purely for aesthetic reasons, it is to do with readability. Reading a very long line of text is visually unappealing. Very often, the reader will get bored before the end of the line, and skip the message altogether. As a rule of thumb, keep your line length to less than 65 characters. It's true that with bigger monitors you have all that extra space, but that doesn't mean you have to use it!

    Go and have a look at a newspaper, magazine, or book and count the number of characters in a line and the importance will become apparent!

  7. Keep it clean

    Keep your copy short, and sharp. Don't waffle. If you can say it in one word, don't say it in ten. For example, why say "At this point in time" when you can say "Today"? Less words means an easier time for your reader - your potential customer. Start the page with your biggest benefit and work down from there. Split text with bullets, paragraphs, and subheadings to encourage readability.

  8. Let your clients speak

    Your existing clients can be your best salespeople - so use them. If they have been happy with your product or service, don't be afraid to ask them for a testimonial. Never make them up though!

    Don't place all your testimonials on one page where the potential client might miss them, but intersperse them into your pages so that they become part of your sales message.

  9. What do you want?

    OK, so your potential customer has got to the end of the page. They're excited by what you are offering. Now what? What should they do? Tell them - don't let them guess. Would you like them to order now? To book a no obligation discussion? To telephone your free phone number? Don't be afraid to ask!

  10. Proofread!

    Obvious, but so often missed. Once you have proofread your site give it to a friend or colleague to do. If you can, give it to several people. Ask them for feedback and don't be afraid to take some criticism. Before releasing your pages, sounding it against some trusted friends can make all the difference. Maybe they'll spot a typo you missed, or maybe they think the copy could be improved in one or two places. Their help could be invaluable before you launch your pages on the global community!

By Chelsey Evans

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Where's the Flash?

Published on June 15, 2006
Tags: Web Design London

By the time you reach this web site it is likely that you have already visited a significant number of other web design sites. On many of them, you have probably been met with a beautiful and enticing Flash presentation that enriches the site, but Ampheon don't have one - why? It is because we can't do Flash perhaps, or do we have a valid reason for omitting it? Read on to find out...

Think of this real world analogy - you want to go shopping, you know exactly what you want to buy, and now simply want to go to various stores to get the best deal and the best service. In some stores you walk right in and find the product you want, sometimes a friendly shop assistant helps you too. In others, when you walk in you are told to watch a 30-second television advertisement about what the store can offer you - only then will you be allowed to locate and purchase your product. In this scenario, which store are you more likely to buy from?

This analogy paints a very real picture as to how many web designers feel Flash should be used. It also gives a real indication as to how the majority of Internet surfers feel. It has been demonstrated that the average Internet surfer will wait no more than 15-20 seconds for a site to load - if their Internet connection is costing them money, the last thing they want to do is spend unnecessary time locating the information or products they need. So, by adding a 30-second Flash presentation to the front of a web site, you are likely to lose many potential customers before the Flash clip has even finished - would you really want to do that? Would you want to stop customers as they walk into your store and say "hang on, before you can buy, you must watch this video". How many people will walk right out again?

Flash is currently being used very much like television advertising - to promote a brand, a product, or the company. But where do you watch television advertising - on TV of course, and at the cinema. You don't watch it as you walk into you local store prior to buying something because by that time you already know what you want! Unfortunately, the medium of television advertising and the medium of the Internet advertising have become a little confused in this respect.

This is not to say that Flash does not have its place on the web - it does. It is just not the best medium to promote a web site if you are aiming to sell something on your site. Flash is great if you have a strong brand (such as Vodafone or Coca Cola), where you are able to use Flash to promote that brand. It is also good where you already hold a large market share and want to highlight your product (such as motor manufacturers). On education, gaming, and some business-to-business sites, it can be used to great effect to enhance the visitor experience. But, if you are in a competitive market where time is truly paramount, don't build a brick wall in front of your potential customers that they must first navigate, because more than likely they will leave and go to the next web site - your competitor!

In a real-life example, one of our clients asked for a 20 second Flash presentation to be integrated into the main front page of the site. It was to load alongside the menu bar and the page graphics. We informed them that this would slow down the site load time, but they asked to proceed. A few months later they came back and asked us to remove it - why? Because their potential customers had e-mailed the client complaining that the Flash was slowing down the site and they couldn't be bothered to wait (moreover, the visitors were so irritated, they actually wrote to tell the client!). We removed the Flash - instantly the amount of time each visitor spent on the web site increased dramatically - the visitor experience actually became better when we removed the very thing that the client thought would improve it!

The final concern is the search engines. If you build a beautiful site in Flash, with all your site links in Flash, remember that none of the search engines can read Flash files. As such, they will be unable to navigate through your site, and therefore your site will not be indexed. What does this mean? It means that the chances of you being able to obtain a top-listed site on the search engines, and that is able to attract large amounts of visitors are significantly reduced.

So, when choosing your web design company to prepare your web site, think carefully if they recommend using Flash on the site. Are they offering you just a beautiful site that will live on the Internet, but that nobody will actually want to visit, or are they offering you a site that people will also be able to find and will want to buy from.

By Chelsey Evans

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Disclaimer: The contents of these articles are provided for information only and do not constitute advice. We are not liable for any actions that you might take as a result of reading this information, and always recommend that you speak to a qualified professional if in doubt.

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