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Typography in web design

Published on August 10, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

Typography is a discipline that has been around for as long as there have been words to read. It is all about creating and displaying the written word so that it is readable and can be understood by those who see it. Typography has developed a lot throughout the centuries, but arguably one of its biggest developments came with the advent of the internet.

Screens offer a special challenge to typography, because something that looks great on printed paper might not necessarily work so well when displayed on a screen. This means that web designers have to be very careful when choosing font and setting out written content on the internet, as to get it wrong could render a webpage unreadable.

We’ve probably all been onto websites where we have questioned the choice of font – it’s too curly, it’s too blocky, too light, too dark. As well as issues of aesthetics, which we will come onto shortly, there are very clear practical issues relating to typography. It needs to be right, not least because the majority of the internet is based around written content. When we talk of web design, the focus is often on graphics and imagery, but we can’t forget that the look of the words – as well as their content – matter too.

The main issue here is communication: webpages are there to communicate a message to us, and how successfully that is achieved has a significant impact on the overall success of the page. This means that if we’re unable to properly read what has been written, it almost doesn’t matter how good the content actually is because the aim of communication will have failed. It can sometimes seem as though typography is a largely aesthetic issue, but this helps to illustrate the fact that its importance goes deeper than that.

Another of the important typography issues we have to consider in web design is, as mentioned above, the fact that screens are very different to print. Because it is a different medium, it very often requires a different approach. For instance, the layout of the screen has requirements that you don’t have to deal with if you were, as an example, creating a promotional leaflet that you were planning to print. There are different segments of the screen to take into account, as well as the issue of display – the typography a web designer chooses has to display as it is intended to no matter what browser someone is using or what device they are using to access the internet.

The different resolutions of computer screens can also have an impact on the choice of typography; the last thing you want is for your text to appear too pixelated. We also have to consider the fact that typography is related to the issue of layout – as well as making sure everything is readable so that the content can be communicated to the web user, the typography can also have an effect on how a site is actually laid out and can influence how information is put to the web user.

For instance, the choice of a particular font might help to convey the importance of one section of a webpage, while another font might be used to put the web user in a particular frame of mind. This means that even though the selection of font has clear aesthetic links, its purpose can also be much deeper.

Staying with this idea, font can be very important for mood. Often websites are trying to portray a particular image or idea, and the typography can help with this. A professional, serious law firm for instance, might decide to use a crisp, formal font to help put their image across. A site targeted at young people might go for something a little funkier, and a site with a slight romantic angle, such as a florist or wedding-related site, might be tempted by the more flowing fonts.

As well as the look of the font, the aesthetics also incorporate the colour: does the content of the text and the overall web design demand a strong, bold colour for the text or something a little more subtle? Of course, black is a very popular choice for content that is part of a body of text, but there is still plenty of scope for creativity in choices.

Overall, typography in web design is certainly an important issue, one that has aesthetic and more practical implications. The choice of font and how it is displayed says a lot about a website, and getting the selection right is definitely worth our while.

By Chelsey Evans

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Making your website more trustworthy

Published on August 10, 2012
Tags: Web Design London, Internet Security

You may have seen in the news recently details of a survey carried out by the company Mancx, which discovered that 98% of Americans ‘distrust information on the internet.’ The study also found that 93% of people could be more satisfied by the information they find online. These figures raise an interesting point: why is it that so many people don’t necessarily trust the information they find on the internet? This is an issue that should concern anyone who works in the industry, so this seems like a good time to look at ways we can make our website designs more trustworthy – and hopefully start to address the concerns of the ordinary web user.

After all, almost 60% of the people in the survey discussed above said that one improvement they’d like to see was for the information they view on the web to be trustworthy. The content of our websites is one obvious issue to address when making sure they are trustworthy. One of the most important things we can do is to make sure everything we put on our websites is high quality; we have looked at this issue many times before, often in relation to SEO, but we should never forget that it is just as important – if not more so – in relation to gaining the trust of the people who use our sites.

For example, we probably all have websites that we visit on a regular basis for information because we know them and we trust what they have to say. The quality of the content undoubtedly plays an important part in that, and it’s definitely something we should bear in mind for our own websites.

There are also a few practical, simple content issues we can look at to make our sites more trustworthy. For instance:

  • Go over all of the content on your web design and check for spelling and grammar errors – and fix them. Ideally, we shouldn’t put any content online in the first place if it has errors, but it’s human nature to miss things from time to time and so a review can be helpful.
  • Make it clear who you are. Make sure there is contact information on your website so that people can get in touch if they need to – and ideally ensure the email contact on your site goes to an address related to your domain name, rather than a free service.
  • Allow users to post comments on your site, whether it’s in the form of customer feedback or comments on blogs.
  • Keep the content fresh, so your website remains relevant and useful for the people who visit the site looking for information.

A slightly more complex content issue but an important one when we’re talking about issues of trust is the idea of authority. Setting up your website as an authority on a particular subject (for example, web design, or whatever your own personal speciality might be) is something that can take time, but if you are consistently reliable and informative on a particular topic, it helps to build up trust for your site.

However, it isn’t just the written content of websites that we need to be careful with when it comes to ensuring they’re trustworthy. The design of the site can also have an impact. Imagine landing on an unprofessional-looking website, for instance. No matter how good the content was, it would still be likely to leave you feeling a little wary. Good web design is certainly a worthwhile investment that helps to give your website credibility.

Also consider issues such as adverts – the survey discussed at the start of this article found that 59% of people said there were too many ads online, so avoid utilising too many on your website. Even issues such as the speed at which your website loads could potentially affect its perception of trustworthiness – a site that takes a long time to load could appear to be suspicious to some web users.

Overall, trustworthiness is a complicated issue on the internet, taking into account web design, content and linked factors such as brand and reputation. There will probably always be sites on the internet that are untrustworthy, but we have the tools at our disposal to make sure our own websites are great places to visit that inspire faith and trust in web users. Ensuring our sites are trustworthy is good business sense, and it is something we should consider in every new design we create.

By Chelsey Evans

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Ecommerce Website; Is it Working for Your Business?

Published on August 3, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

We have known for quite a while now that ecommerce websites can potentially be a very big business indeed, not least because the UK is said to be the e-retail capital of Europe with 2011 online sales figures of £68.2bn, according to IMRG. This helps to highlight the fact that there is a lot of opportunity out there for businesses looking to find revenue online, and ecommerce web design is undoubtedly a big part of making the most of that opportunity.

Despite this wealth of opportunity and very impressive sales figures, however, we cannot deny that the world of e-retail is more competitive than it has ever been, with several big players dominating many online retail markets. This means that businesses need to be making the most of their ecommerce website design to help them stay competitive and make the most of their potential.

There are quite a few different issues that could have an impact on how well your website is working for your business, and this article won’t touch on all of them, but here are some of the issues to consider when trying to get the most out of your ecommerce website.

Developing a promotions strategy
With so many different ecommerce websites out there all trying to make a living, promoting your site properly has never been more important. A vital part of this relates to search engine optimisation (SEO) and how people actually find your website.

More than 90% of all UK internet searches are now conducted through Google, so making sure your site is properly optimised is extremely sensible. However, using SEO to try and boost your site’s ranking in relevant search results is not just about optimising keywords and undertaking link-building campaigns.

Recent Google algorithm updates have put a greater focus on quality, so even though factors such as keywords are still important for getting your site noticed, creating a high quality site filled with interesting content is even more important. Other updates, such as Google Venice, have placed more of an emphasis on local search, so this is something that you will need to consider in your ecommerce SEO strategy.

Can your site be used on mobiles?
No matter how well your ecommerce web design works on a desktop computer or a laptop, if it fails to perform properly on a tablet or smartphone, your business could well be losing out. The e-retail market for smartphones is growing fast. According to one survey from Econsultancy, 13% of UK consumers have made a purchase through their mobiles and almost a fifth use their phones to research prices or reviews of products while they are shopping.

Plus, according to figures from the US, if a mobile ecommerce site doesn’t load within 3 seconds, 40% of people will abandon that site. This helps to illustrate the growing importance of mobile device compliance for ecommerce websites, and the growing market that businesses could potentially tap into. However, with many companies not yet creating a mobile internet strategy, many are missing out. Making sure your ecommerce site is fully operational on mobile internet devices is increasingly important.

How does the site work?
As well as specific, practical issues such as SEO and the mobile internet, there are also some more general issues to consider when deciding whether you are getting as much as possible out of your ecommerce website design.

For example, how does the site actually work? Navigation is one of the crucial issues here, as is speed – not least because many ecommerce sites are image-heavy by nature, which can slow down the speed of a site. Product images are important, but businesses should also ensure that all of the images on their site are relevant and properly optimised to help avoid any problems that might otherwise occur when the website is trying to load.

Of course, the checkout procedure is another of the crucial elements for businesses looking to make more of their ecommerce sites: is this as smooth and efficient as it could possibly be? How many steps does it take from a consumer deciding to make a purchase to actually hitting the order button? Slow or confusing ecommerce sites are not popular, so making sure the experience is seamless from start to finish should be high on the priority list of any site looking to increase its share of the e-retail boom.

By Chelsey Evans

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Do short attention spans affect web design?

Published on July 13, 2012
Tags: Usability, Web Design London

We can identify any number of factors that might affect web design, from the brief developed by the company in need of a website to their chosen web designer and the designer’s own preferences and ways of working. However, we can never underestimate the power of the web user when it comes to the design of websites. There is a lot of talk about how modern attention spans are shorter than they used to be, and that our expectations have risen at the same time. 
Regardless of whether or not we believe that people’s attention spans are shorter than they were before (one counter-argument runs that there is simply more to do now than there used to be, so it’s easier to get distracted), does this have an impact on web design?
In some ways, it probably does. After all, we have all read about how web users are likely to click away from a page that doesn’t load quickly, and how we need to tailor all of our web content so that users can find it as quickly as possible. This means that web designers always need to be aware of issues such as the size of graphics, which could take a long time to load, and how text is laid out in order to make sure it is as readable as possible.
Some statistics suggest that if a webpage takes more than 4 seconds to load, a quarter of people will abandon it (these are figures from America, so they might be slightly different in the UK, but they still provide an interesting insight). Also, if a mobile webpage doesn’t load within 10 seconds, it’s thought that 50% of people will abandon the page, and many of them won’t go back to it again.
We can also identify alleged attention span issues in the world of online search. According to statistics from the United States, more than 3 billion Google searches are done every day. However, Google discovered that if the search results were slowed down by just four tenths of a second, there would be 8 million fewer searches a day.
All of this suggests that short attention spans are definitely having an impact on the online world, including on web design. However, in the case of web design at least, could it not also be that rather than being solely about attention spans, designs are adapted and altered simply because it’s good practice? 
Best practice would suggest that webpages should load as quickly as possible, after all. Many websites are there for ecommerce or are otherwise linked to business, and so it is in their own best interests that they load quickly and efficiently, as well as being convenient for web users who don’t want to wait a long time for them to load. 
It’s also good sense for websites to be easy to read, and there is unlikely to be a web designer alive today who would deliberately create a website that was confusing and with hard-to-read content. We all know the importance of good quality text that is relevant and interesting; it helps our websites to rank well in the search engine results as well as being beneficial for web users.
Clear layouts are another web design element that simply makes good sense as well as being a good option just in case any users happen to have short attention spans. So, given deeper thought, one explanation could be that web users simply recognise good design when they see it.
After all, if the best websites are laid out very clearly, are interesting and engaging and it’s easy to find things on them, it makes websites that don’t fulfil that brief stand out for the wrong reasons. The quality of designs has improved dramatically in just a few short years: the bar has been raised and new standards have been set. It isn’t that difficult to see why some web users abandon certain websites after just a few seconds when there are other websites that will load straight away and give them what they want.
So perhaps there is something in the attention span theory, but it isn’t the whole story. We also need to look at the increasing quality of web design and the growing capabilities of internet devices in order to give us a clearer picture of just how design is affected today.

By Chelsey Evans

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How can you build a brand through web design?

Published on July 13, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

There are plenty of different factors to think about when decided on your company’s web design – but don’t forget that you need to keep your brand in mind. For example, if your company is quite well-known, it makes sense to ensure your website is designed in such a way that your brand will be familiar to the people who use your website. Here are a few things you might like to think about when looking to build your brand through web design.

This is another way of saying the ‘feel’ of your website. What kind of company are you? Are you known for your professional image or is your image slightly more fun and funky? This can affect how your website is designed, so even though it might sound like quite an objective thing, it’s useful to think about it and know what kind of signal you want to send.
The colours
The colours you use on your website are one of the most obvious ways you can build a brand through web design. For instance, most companies have their ‘company colours’, which are associated with them and which appear on all of their marketing material. These are often the colours you have used on your company logo, which can be used as a good base for deciding the scheme for the rest of the website.
Don’t forget that colours can also add to the feel of the site and can help you evoke a sense of what your brand is, even without the use of specific graphics. As an example, colours such as cool blue and green can appear to be quite calming, while silvers and greys could help to evoke a professional air for your website.
Consistent message
If your website is too eclectic, it could end up harming your brand. It makes sense to be consistent in your web design so that people feel reassured whenever they use your website. It also makes good design sense, as a website that is consistent throughout is more likely to look good and be easy for web users to understand than one that utilises a completely different design for each page. 
That’s not to say you can’t have any variation, but that every page on your website needs to fit into the overall scheme of the design. For instance, you might have different graphics on each page, but they might all have a similar theme to help bring them together under your brand. Utilising the same background colours for graphics, or having a focus on curved, flowing lines are a couple of examples of how you could tie together different graphics.
Another benefit of consistency (such as by using the same page layout for different parts of the site) is that the same stylesheets can be used multiple times. One of the benefits of this is that it can help your website to load faster as there won’t be quite as much unique coding for the site to download.
Of course, your choice of content also plays a crucial role in building your brand through your web design. For example, you might like to think about the tone of the content and the kind of language you use. It can be useful to look at the websites of your competitors to see the kind of content they utilise, and determine how you can create content that will stand out for your own site. You might also think about the words that can be associated with your business, and work out how they could be built into your content. It isn’t unusual to find statements of business missions on websites, so that’s something else to consider.
Don’t forget social media, either. That can be an important part of a company’s brand, and so including social media links on your site can be a good option to choose. Your web design company can even design bespoke links back to your social media pages to make sure they’re in keeping with the rest of the website.
Overall, there are no hard and fast rules to building your brand through web design, not least because every brand is different. However, it is an issue that definitely requires some thought as it can have a significant impact on the trust people have for your site – and your business overall. Making sure you’ve got your branding right is certainly a worthwhile task.

By Chelsey Evans

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