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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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Web design and photography

Published on August 24, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

Imagery doesn’t always need to be complicated in web design and in fact, it is often the simplest images that work the best, either because they blend in well with the rest of the design or because they are striking, bold and memorable. Of course, imagery in web design doesn’t always need to be simple – there is plenty of room for complexity too – but the point is that whatever imagery you use, it needs to be right. It needs to fit.

This is as true for photography in web design as it is for all other types of graphics. Photography can play an important role on websites; it isn’t just professional photographers who need to worry about it. However, just as with anything else in website design, there are a few considerations we need to make to ensure our chosen photography has the impact we want.

What is the picture saying?
It has become something of a much overused cliché to say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it is true that web users can often get a good sense or a message from a website thanks to a single image. However, that image needs to be right, otherwise it won’t tell them anything at all or could send the wrong message.

It has been found that users are more likely to engage when the images used on a website are relevant; stock images can have the opposite effect. It might not always be feasible to get original photography done for your website, but this does show that putting careful thought into your choice of picture can have an impact on how likely people are to stick around.

Is it good quality?
It doesn’t really need to be said, but any photography used in web design needs to be of a good quality. Many websites display photographs of their own products on their site; one piece of advice for this is that it’s certainly worth paying for a professional service in this instance.

You will naturally want to show your products in the best light, and while it might be tempting to cut costs and take the pictures yourself, professional assistance can work wonders. Photographers know how to create high quality images that portray things in a certain way, and they can help you ensure that your products are displayed to the best of their ability on the site.

Have you thought about copyright?
When it comes to photography in web design, copyright is an important issue to look at. If you are using other people’s work on your site, such as for a header, background or picture to accompany a blog post, you need to make sure it is OK to use it. In some cases, this might mean buying a license and/or making sure you get express permission to use the work (and crediting the original photographer on the site).

Of course, if you use your own photography, you shouldn’t have to worry about issues of licensing, but you might still want to look into how copyright affects you so you can make sure your work is protected.

How does it fit with the site?
As mentioned above, when you’re using photographs on a website, they need to fit in with the rest of the site. A lot of this is obvious, such as making sure the subject of the photograph is relevant to the rest of the content. However, there are other, more subtle issues it is also worth considering.

For example, you might like to develop a certain style of photography for your site, such as always putting the same finish on the pictures. You might decide to use the same photographer every time you get new product photos taken to ensure there is consistency across the site. Positioning your photos is something else to consider; for instance, if you take a look at the pictures bloggers use to accompany their posts, you will often find that their pictures are always aligned in the same way from post to post.

This relates to issues of branding, and making sure that any photography in your web design adds to and enhances your brand rather than detracting from it. Pictures might only be one example of content on your site, but they can have a huge impact, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

By Chelsey Evans

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The importance of web design layout

Published on August 20, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

The question of layout is one that matters in all website designs. The layout contributes to the overall success of the website – it helps to determine what it looks like, how easy the content is to read and the kind of experience that users have when they pay a visit to the site. The fact that its purposes are both aesthetic and practical means that this is certainly an issue web designers need to engage with.

One of the key concepts that is often talked about with regards to the layout of website designs is ‘the fold’ – how much of the site users are able to see without needing to scroll down and, in particular, how much useful content (as opposed to ads or graphics, for example) they are able to see without scrolling.

This is a particularly interesting concept because earlier this year, Google released an algorithm update aimed at pages that don’t have a huge amount of quality content above the fold. This update was prompted by complaints from people about, for instance, clicking on a search result and being directed to a webpage where it was hard to tell whether or not it was actually relevant because the ‘above the fold’ section was so full of ads.

The issue is not getting rid of above the fold ads altogether, but more about making sure they are not so excessive that it impacts on the user experience – something that most web designers are probably more than aware of anyway but a point that’s worth reiterating. It isn’t just to do with excessive ad placements, either. We’ve probably all been on websites where all we’ve initially been able to see is a title, and perhaps some graphics or navigation options – all useful components of a webpage, but not necessarily what people are looking for when they’re after quality, relevant content.

The lesson here is surely that web designers need to make sure they have a good amount of high quality content above the fold of their websites, to make sure they are instantly relevant to users and so they don’t have to go looking for that content. However, one of the issues that arise with this is the fact that ‘the fold’ on websites can be quite a different thing depending on how people are choosing to view a particular site.

When we talk about ‘the fold’ in relation to newspapers, we always know how big the newspaper is going to be. We know how it needs to be laid out and we know how people are going to look at it, so making sure the most important information is above the fold isn’t too difficult. However, when it comes to websites, a person could be viewing a site on anything from a desktop PC to a small smartphone screen to a tablet or even a television. Browser size tools can be used to help designers work out the content that is likely to appear above the fold for most users, but it is unlikely to be an exact science.

In many ways, this brings us back to those topics we have discussed many times before – creating a good user experience and utilising high quality content on every single website we design. It also has a lot to do with common sense; we want web users to find the sites we create useful, and we want them to come back for more, so it makes sense to ensure the sites flow properly and aren’t cluttered with ads and that the content is easy to find.

It’s also interesting that if you do a Google search for, say, ‘web design’, the results don’t actually display that much content above the fold. Most of the space is taken up by ads and navigation tools, and a test search found only two natural search results appeared above the fold – despite the algorithm update released by Google focusing on this issue, it seems they may not have taken their own advice.

Overall, we cannot deny the importance of layout in web design. The algorithm update and ‘the fold’ aside, it has a significant impact on how a web user views a site, and so making sure our layouts are perfect every time we create a new page is something that should certainly be at the top of every designer’s mind.

By Chelsey Evans

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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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