How to Get the Most Out of Your Website

When presented with a sparkling, brand-new website that looks great and functions perfectly, it’s easy to assume that you’ve done all you can for the online side of your business. Your customers can find you, they can buy your products from the comfort of their own homes or even on the go using their smartphones - what more is there to be done?

But setting up your company's site is really just phase one! Now that it's live, you need to come up with a plan of action that centres on how to get the most out of your website.

Falling into a rut with your website is not only damaging for the website, it could potentially impact your business on a larger scale. In order to guide you past this pitfall, we’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your website.

Update Your Blog Frequently with Engaging Content

If your website includes a blog, you should ensure that it is updated frequently with engaging content. If your blog is left stagnant or updated less than, say, once a month, it will not drive traffic like it ought to and it may even end up harming rather than helping your online success.

Blog Posts

By creating new and engaging content on a regular basis, you will be able to draw in new customers and rank for new keywords.

Stay Active on Social Media

Similar to your blog section, if you have links on your website to company social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), make sure these accounts are updated frequently. Social media is a vastly important tool for any online business, so by neglecting it, not only will you certainly not get the most out of your website, you may also damage people's perception of your brand in the process. Just think about it - if someone spots that your last tweet went out nearly a year ago, they may worry that you've gone out of business and cease to feel confident enough to buy from you!

Social Media

If you want to learn more about why social media marketing is so important for modern businesses, you can read all about it in our recent blog post on the topic. 

Use 301 Redirects Intelligently

Updating your pages and products frequently is a great way to keep customers/visitors interested and your business running smoothly. However, if you decide to delete a page, you should consider adding a 301 redirect to ensure that anyone trying to access that page in future is redirected to a relevant page that still exists (rather than seeing a 'page not found' 404 error notice).

404 - Page Not Found

All you need to do is get in touch with the people who built your website and ask them to redirect the old URL to a different, still-live one. However, you shouldn't just use 301 redirects to ensure that nobody ever sees a 404 'not found' page - here are some good rules of thumb:

  • If you have moved a piece of content from one URL to another, use a 301 redirect so that anyone who enters the old URL will automatically arrive on the new one.

  • If you have deleted a piece of content outright, but you have another page that meets the user's needs equally well, you can redirect the old URL to that page - although, technically speaking, a 404 'not found' notice is the correct response when someone tries to access a piece of content that no longer exists. That being said, if you delete an old product that you no longer sell but you have a newer version/model of that product in stock, it's a good idea to redirect to the new version as this will improve user experience on your website.

  • You should never redirect to a page that isn't relevant to the piece of content the user is trying to reach - it makes for a poor user experience (more so than if you just showed a 404 page) and may put you in line for a rankings penalty on Google.

Use High-Quality Photos

Whether you're selling products or promoting your company's services, it's important to use good-quality images - and continue to use good-quality images when you upload new products or content. Nothing will put a potential customer off more quickly than a blurry, cheap-looking image. Producing your own good-quality photos is easy to do, and the best part is that you can be certain your images are 100% royalty free.

If you want to get more from your website (whether through blog posts, search engine optimisation, or a whole-site redesign), get in touch with Designer Websites today to find out how we can help.

You may have heard about movie Easter Eggs or video game Easter Eggs before, but have you ever heard about Website Easter Eggs? The internet is filled with copious amounts of weird and wonderful things, so it makes sense that there may be a few surprising features hidden in the depths of numerous different websites. If you're prepared to go on a different kind of Easter Egg hunt this holiday, you will find that websites all over the world incorporate these hidden gems and they are just waiting to be discovered. 

To give you a brief history of where website Easter Eggs came from, it all started back in the late 70's with a game designer. Feeling slightly bitter about the fact that back then game designers were not provided with any credit for their work, this particular game designer decided to hide his credit in the game Adventure, which was made for the 2600 Atari. He designed the game so that when a player performed a specific action at precisely the right moment, the screen would briefly flash the designer's credit

This came to be known as an Easter Egg because Atari then had to go on a type of Easter Egg 'hunt' to find the secret message hidden in the depths of the game. From this point onwards, you will be able to find multiple examples of Easter Eggs hidden in games, movies, and websites - mainly to amuse those who are now 'in the know'. Just think of Stan Lee's famous cameos in all of the Marvel movies. The Marvel follower base now awaits these cameos and rejoice whenever Stan Lee's couple of seconds appear on the screen. Website Easter Eggs offer the same effect. They outwardly show that the company has a sense of humour and are willing to go above and beyond to entertain their followers

And so, with the Easter holiday upon us, we went on our own website Easter Egg hunt and put together our top 8 favourite website easter eggs hidden on the internet:

Konami Code on Digg.com

If you know a bit about gaming, you may have heard of the Konami Code before. This code was created by Kazuhusa Hashimoto when developing the notoriously difficult arcade game Gradius. To have enough time to test the game, Hashimoto created a code which would provide power-ups whenever needed. That code was up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. This code was allegedly designed only for Hashimoto, but he happened to 'forget' to remove the code when the game went live. Once players got wind of this cheat code, the age of the Konami Code began.

This is why Digg's website easter egg has great comedy value. They understand that the Konami Code is designed as a cheat code, but have managed to turned that on its head by Rick Rolling users whenever they attempt it. We recommend having your sound right up when you enter the Konami code on the Digg website!

Google Search: Do A Barrel Roll

For our second website Easter Egg, simply type 'do a barrel roll' into google and watch as it follows your directions. This is one of our favourite google Easter Eggs, and google has quite a few. It should come as no surprise that Google has the monopoly when it comes to website Easter Eggs. Google is featured a couple of times on this list, but for a fully comprehensive list of all the google Easter Eggs, you can find hidden in the search engine here

Youtube Search: Use the Force Luke

Although the Star Wars hype may have died down, YouTube still has a nifty website easter egg stashed up its sleeve. Simply type 'use the force luke' into the youtube search bar and watch as everything on the page becomes controlled by 'the force'. By moving your mouse you can attempt to control the force, too. Another quirky website easter egg happens when you type in 'do the Harlem shake' in the search bar. We recommend headphones for this one too! 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on Google Maps

Hold on to your hats Harry Potter fans, for Google Maps can now take you back in time with their website Easter Egg. Google maps have partnered up with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to provide you with an inside tour of the 1926 wizarding world. All you have to do is type in 'Fantastic Beasts, New York City' and google maps will take you to all the focal points of the movie. You will be able to explore and have an inside look at MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), New York in 1926, The Blind Pig and Tina and Queenies home. It's pretty fantastic if we do say so ourselves.

Wistia's Dancing Team Page

Wistia Team Page

A great example of a company using a hidden website easter egg to display company personality is Wistia. On the Wistia 'about' section, you will find the 'Wistia Class Photos'. On this page, type 'DANCE' and click enter then watch as the team proceeds to dance to some classic jazz music.

Google Search: I'm Feeling Curious

 

If you're ever feeling bored, just remember that google has this clever little website Easter Egg just waiting to provide you with entertainment. All you have to type into google is 'I'm feeling curious' and google has a widget installed to provide you with a multitude of interesting trivia, ready for you to whip out at all the parties you're invited too. Find out what a heard of unicorns is called or the book the statue of liberty is holding with this useful website Easter egg.

Inspect Source on Coca-Cola Website

Inspect Source Code Coca-Cola

Some companies also have website Easter Eggs embedded into the very code of the website. This is because they are aware that many website developers will look at a website's source code to see how specific features were done. With this knowledge, coca-cola has inserted a little nod to anyone who may be looking at their code by inserting the coca-cola logo directly into the source code. To see this, just go onto the coca-cola home page, left click and click 'view page source'. 

Konami Code On BuzzFeed

Konami Code on Buzzfeed

As you can see, most of the biggest websites have got in on this website easter egg craze. Even Buzzfeed have incorporated the Konami code into their own website. Just press up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A and enter on the homepage and all of the text will change to 'Wilkie!' with a picture of BuzzFeed's chief of technology officer, Mark Wilkie, eating Cheetos with chopsticks. We think this one may be more of an in-joke, but it still shows the great company culture BuzzFeed have.

So, we hope you enjoyed our website Easter Egg hunt. If you know of any others or want to let us know your favourites, either tweet us or leave us a comment on any of our social media platforms. Have a great Easter!

Featured Snippets

Google's featured snippets have been around for a little while now, and they're appearing in SERPs more often than ever before. For site owners, they represent a significant organic exposure opportunity; however, many people right now are unaware of the value of ranking as a featured snippet and unsure of how to do so.

In today's blog, we're going to show you how you can obtain a featured snippet for your site - before that, though, let's take a quick look at what exactly a featured snippet is.

What are featured snippets?

When you type a query into Google, a featured snippet is the short answer (or summary of an answer) that sometimes appears at the top of the results page. A snippet's content is extracted directly from the source website, and each snippet includes the page title and URL of the web page it's drawn from.

What are featured snippets?

Why should I care about featured snippets?

Because they will get your website seen and drive lots more traffic to their source pages! Featured snippets tend to appear above all other organic results, meaning that even if your website isn't rank #1 for a specific keyword, you can still show up ahead of your competitors by securing a featured snippet ranking for that search term.

In addition to ranking as a featured snippet, a particular URL can also still appear within the standard organic results. This means that a single URL can rank twice on the first page, in two separate positions, for the same query. (Take another look at the Obama example above - see how Wikipedia appears as both the featured snippet source AND the #1 organic result?)

Because Google is extracting the important part of your content and displaying it right there in the SERP, you might expect your click-through rate to drop when your content is used for a featured snippet. However, featured snippets have actually been shown to boost CTR, even when the source URL already held the #1 organic position.

How to gain a featured snippet

Now that you know how valuable a featured snippet can be for your website, you're probably wondering how to get your pages ranking in this way. Featured snippets come in a whole range of different styles, and your content must provide the right answer in the right format to be able to rank as a snippet for that particular query. Snippets occur in a number of different forms, including:
  • Text
  • Lists
  • Tables
The first thing you'll need to do is perform some keyword research and identify some questions that are a) commonly typed into Google, and b) relevant to your website. These questions can be implicit or explicit, but they need to be too complex for Google to answer using simple public-domain data from their Knowledge Graph. For example, Googling 'how old is Theresa May' won't produce a featured snippet because Google can answer that one by itself; however, Googling 'who is Theresa May' forces Google to pull a more in-depth answer from a third-party source, resulting in a featured snippet.

Featured Snippets Example
You may want to look for queries that already have a featured snippet in the SERP; if the current snippet is poorly-written or doesn't really answer the question properly, its spot should be fairly easy to steal. If a question is not currently showing a featured snippet result, this may be a sign that Google does not consider a featured snippet necessary for that query.

Once you know which queries you wish to feature as a snippet for, it's time to re-format your content in order to optimise it for...um, snipping. The format and language of your content is very important - when trying to achieve a featured snippet, you need to make sure that you use phrases and terms a little more strategically than you might in other pieces of writing. This is because Google is far more literal with these types of queries than usual; for example, if you were to Google 'how to make scrambled eggs', you will likely be shown an article whose title closely mirrors that specific query, and not something like 'scrambled eggs for dummies'.

You also need to make sure that the format of your answer matches the format of the snippet you wish to rank for. There's no point writing a regular ol' paragraph of text if the featured snippet you're trying to replace is a table of information or a bullet-point list of ingredients. It doesn't really matter where on the page your answer appears as long as your content is structured correctly and you're providing a clear and concise answer to the query that Google can easily lift out and display in the SERPs.

Here's an example. Let's say you want a featured snippet for the query 'what is the difference between a cake and a biscuit' - you can write an in-depth, thousand-word exposé on the exact distinction between cakes and biscuits, but you won't achieve your goal unless you also provide Google with a concise, easily-snippable answer like this:

"There are many ways to tell a cake from a biscuit, but the most important difference is that cakes get harder as they go stale, whereas biscuits become softer."

Once you've written the page that will hopefully rank as a featured snippet, read through it and try to identify the key sentence(s) that Google will be able to provide as a quick answer. If that portion of the article doesn't exist, you won't get the snippet. Don't forget to check the existing snippet for the keyphrase you've got your eye on - if the current snippet is a table or bullet-point list, you probably won't be able to usurp its throne with plain text.

You'll also want to use keywords judiciously throughout the rest of the page - for instance, including the phrase 'what is the difference between a cake and a biscuit' in your page title tag and H1 heading will greatly improve your chances of getting that featured snippet (and indeed of ranking for that term at all).

How to keep your featured snippets

You've been working hard and you've finally gained a featured snippet - well done! Now you can relax and take it easy, right? Wrong - the battle is still on! The websites below yours will probably attempt to steal that coveted spot from you, so how can you stay on top of the heap and ensure that your featured snippet keeps showing up?

The answer is that you need to get people actually engaging with your snippet. The organic ranking and format of your content aren't the only factors to think about; engagement and click-through rates also play a role in snippet selection. By ensuring that users are engaging with your snippet - that is, reading it and clicking through to your actual website for more information - you should be able to hang on to your featured spot indefinitely.

Need help driving organic traffic to your website? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today - our SEO experts will be more than happy to assist you!

In amidst the recent climate change politics, it’s easy to feel disheartened about the steps being taken to combat one of humanities biggest issues. However, it is empowering to know that even as an individual, you can help the world by making small changes to your lifestyle. Even considering changing your search engine is one small step towards an eco-friendly world. 

Throughout the world, people are continuously searching for a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to live. There are more people recycling now than ever before, more people cutting back on their electricity usage, more cars that do not require fossil fuels and more people changing their diet to become eco-friendlier. A survey conducted by survey monkey also found that 35% of people are more likely to buy an eco-friendly product, even if it means spending more than a non-eco-friendly alternative. 

It only makes sense that with the constant use of the internet, people are beginning to wonder if there is a way to help the environment while they surf the net. Here’s where eco-friendly search engines step in. So, to help you in your quest to help the world, here are two of the best eco-friendly search engines you can use to help the environment one search at a time. 

Ecosia

Launched in 2009, Ecosia pride themselves on being an eco-friendly search engine who work to combat deforestation one search at a time. By searching the internet with Ecosia, every search you make contributes to planting new trees around the globe. You even get a little tree counter at the top of your page while you search to show how many trees you have contributed towards planting. Amazingly, they have already managed plant over 7 million new trees and that number is rising every 6 seconds.
Ecosia Eco-Friendly Search Engine

Ecosia manage to do this through contributing 80% of their profit from search adverts revenue towards tree planting programs. The tree planting programs they currently support are in Madagascar, Indonesia, Burkina Faso and Peru but Ecosia is always looking for more tree planting programs to support and encourages the public to submit ideas about which new projects they can support. 

You can read more about the Ecosia search engine and their projects by clicking here.

Blackle

If you’re not prepared to stop using google yet, Blackle is powered by Google Custom Search and vouches to save energy every time you search. With a black background and a dimmed-out-white font, this search engine ensures a much smaller amount of energy is used whenever you browse the internet. At this present moment, Blackle claims to have saved 6,137,418.533 watt hours since its launch date back in 2007. Their key mantra is that ‘every little bit counts’, which is true when it comes to using eco-friendly search engines. 

Blackle Eco-Friendly Search Engine

However, the efficiency of Blackle has long been debated, with some studies claiming that white backgrounds on certain computer screens are actually more energy saving than a black background. Nonetheless, supporting a search engine that is trying its best to be eco-friendly is a step in the right direction. 

To read more about Blackle and to try out the search engine, just click here. 

If you're interested in launching a campaign on one of these eco-friendly search engines, get in touch with our SEO experts today to find out how they can help. 



This month, Facebook rolled out its newest feature named Messenger Day - the newest way to share online video. This feature allows Facebook users to upload video or photos, decorate them with stickers and filters, share it with all of their friends, and then watch as it disappears after 24 hours. Although it is perhaps a not-very-subtle copy of the also incredibly popular Snapchat, it is clear that this feature is sure to be used by at least a healthy portion of Facebook's 1.23 billion monthly active users. This can almost be guaranteed, as nearly all of those users have been prepped for this moment by their frequent use of online video through other apps and platforms. Due to Snapchat's popularity and the introduction of Instagram Stories, the use of online video is rapidly growing.

facebook messenger day
Image Source: newsroom.fb.com

Over the past year, users have watched as Instagram absorbed Snapchat's quick online video format and made it their newest feature on the platform. Admittedly, users were not so happy about the update at first, but as time has passed, the Instagram Stories feature is being used more and more. The same will likely happen with Facebook Messenger Day, which will be being used by a community of people who are very much accustomed to online video nowadays. Since one of the leading social media giants has now implemented an easy method of making online videos, it seems apparent that, if your content strategy did not utilise online video before, it certainly should do so now.

For those feeling a bit sceptical about using online video as part of their content marketing strategy, here are five reasons that should change your mind: 

1. Online videos used in content marketing capture your consumer’s attention more effectively. 

If you think about the last purchase you made, how did you find out about that product? Were you convinced by a video advert or an article you read? There's a good chance that your answer will be the video because, as humans, we tend to react better to visual stimulation than to words on a page. If we witness other consumers enjoying a product, it is much more likely to convince us to buy it than if we simply read the specs. 

social media logos

2. The use of online videos for content marketing improves your SEO.

One of the most important aspects of online marketing is improving your SEO, and according to Martech, adding online video to your website can multiply your chance of achieving a page 1 Google result by 53! Even more impressively, videos on retail sites keep visitors there for 2 minutes longer and convert 30% more of them into paying customers. It's hard to argue with such impressive statistics.

SEO

3. Online video is one of the most powerful ways to tap into your consumer’s emotions. 

It is well known amongst marketers that appealing to human emotion is one of the best ways to attract attention. Just think about how ingrained in our lives emotional adverts become - the John Lewis advert, for example, is eagerly awaited every Christmas time. Online video is a quick and easy way to appeal to your consumer’s emotions while staying within a relatively tight budget. 

Companies no longer have to spend thousands on a polished advert for the television, as they can now be made in seconds with the use of online video. The beauty of this is that companies do not need to get it perfect the first time around; multiple videos can be sent to your client base in a matter of a few days. 

4. Using online video provides you with clear feedback on what you’re doing well.

Incorporating online video into your content marketing strategy makes it easier to gain information on how well your content is received by your target market. Most online video platforms will provide you with feedback on how many times the video was watched, the click-through rate, and the drop off points. All of this information is incredibly useful when it comes to taking the next step with your content marketing. If you have a clear understanding of what your target market is looking for, you can create your content marketing strategy with this at its core. 

Digital Marketing

5. Most importantly, video converts more customers.

71% of marketers say that video conversion rates outperform other marketing content. A study conducted by Vidyard revealed that over one-third of large companies produce more than 100 marketing videos annually, with over 70% of respondents claiming that video performs better than other content for producing conversions.

Furthermore - according to Hubspot - 64% of users are far more likely to buy a product after watching a video, and including a video on a landing page can increase conversions by as much as 80%. Pretty impressive, right? 

Considering online video is a cheap, quick and easy method of content marketing, the fact that it seems to bring in so many sales is a welcome surprise. Taking 20 minutes out of your day to post some online videos about the company and your products could generate more sales than you ever thought possible. It certainly seems that online video is a trick you do not want to miss in 2017!

If you want to add online video to your content marketing strategy, our SEO experts here at Designer Websites will be more than happy to help with this. Simply get in touch today!

Online Booking Systems

Here at Designer Websites, we've created online booking systems for a wide variety of clients. Examples of the solutions we've developed include:

💊 Appointment booking systems for health clinics 
🔧 Boiler installation booking systems for plumbers / heating engineers 
😊 Visitor booking systems for leisure centres
⛷️ Equipment booking systems for ski holiday providers
⚖️ Consultation booking systems for legal practitioners

With all of these projects and more under our belt, we have a very strong understanding of what makes a good online booking system. Here are the five things that we consider to be most important:

A smooth, speedy user interface

Like any online application, an e-booking system should make the user's experience as pleasant and as painless as possible by loading quickly and functioning flawlessly. Your customers don't want to sit around twiddling their thumbs as they wait for a list of available timeslots to appear; nor will they enjoy trying to work out what to do next when your date selector doesn't load properly and the day they want to book isn't visible. Aim to get both your booking system and your website as a whole operating smoothly, with no glitches, no hiccups, and minimal load times.

A user-friendly date selection system

Make it as easy as possible for users to identify and select their preferred date and time. Many online booking systems utilise a month-by-month calendar layout, which is great because it's a format with which most people are familiar. However, whether you use the calendar style or not, you need to ensure that your customers can easily specify:
  • Their preferred date (or date range if, for instance, they're booking a holiday)

  • Their preferred time (if applicable)

  • The duration of their appointment

  • The type of appointment they're booking (if you offer a range of different services)
If users find it difficult to make these selections, they may well abandon your website and take their business elsewhere.

A clear breakdown of charges

Before asking for any payment details, you should provide each user with a cost summary that clarifies:
  • How much is owed
  • When this amount must be paid
In some cases, the full amount will need to be paid up front in order to confirm the booking; in other cases, the user may have to put down a deposit or booking fee to reserve their timeslot, with the remainder of the cost to be paid in person on the day of the appointment. Some hotels take credit card details upon reservation, but do not collect any money at all until check-in. However you have chosen to do it, it's important to make things crystal-clear to each customer before asking them to enter their payment information.

A simple and secure payment system

When your booking system includes an online payment step, the rules are just the same as on an ecommerce website: make the payment process as straightforward and as secure as possible. Consider using a popular online payment system like PayPal, as this will allow many of your customers to simply enter an email address and password instead of typing in their entire credit card number. Don't demand any personal information that you don't actually need - the longer the form, the more likely that a customer will give up before completing it. And, most importantly of all, make ABSOLUTELY sure that all payments are processed securely (under HTTPS rather than HTTP).

A detailed confirmation email

Once a customer has completed a booking on your website, you should immediately dispatch a confirmation email containing all the key details of their appointment (e.g. date, time, location, outstanding costs that you're expecting them to settle on the day). You should also endeavour to make it nice and easy to change appointment details in the event of an error; for example, if somebody requested a 2pm appointment when they actually wanted a 4pm appointment, you now need to give them an easy way of correcting their booking, whether by contacting a member of your team or by manually editing their appointment details online.

So, what makes a good online booking system? In short: clarity, simplicity, efficiency, and ease of use. If your business needs a new website with a fully-integrated online booking system, get in touch with Designer Websites now to request a quotation!

Our SEO team at Jump Factory Basingstoke

This week, some of the SEO team at Designer Websites took a trip down to Jump Factory in Basingstoke, for a bit of fun, and to see how the company is getting on since we’re now helping them with their online marketing efforts.

We’ve worked with Jump Factory on their website since before the indoor trampoline park opened its doors, so going to visit the park in person was something we've wanted to do for a while now. So, the team travelled down from Penarth to Basingstoke on Wednesday, and found that jumping about on a trampoline was actually a great way to stretch their legs after a two-hour journey in a car.

jump factory indoor trampoline park
The indoor trampoline park even celebrated their 100,000th jumper just last week! 

Since Designer Websites joined forces with Jump Factory, we have worked to create a user friendly, dynamic and fully optimised website ensuring the company stays at the forefront of their target market. We officially started working on their “Jump Online” campaign back in January and since this time, we’ve witnessed the indoor trampoline park’s traffic make a big jump online, and watched as their customer base has significantly increased over the past couple of months. 

Due to their high-ranking website and active social media presence, Jump Factory have been able to really jump online, travelling up the SERPS and progressing with increasing success each month. Since we began our SEO work, Jump Factory is now gaining double the visitors on their website and has had a huge boost in bookings. To find out more about the work we do with Jump Factory, you can read all about it here in our case study

At the indoor trampoline park, the team took part in basketball tournaments and dodgeball tournaments to make full use of all the parks activities. The girls won in basketball due to Laura’s skillful shots, but the boys stole back the crown in the dodgeball tournament. It was clear that you can be fully grown and still have fun on the trampolines!
jump factory basketball lanes
The team even took on the famous ‘Walk the Wall’ section, which is frequented by parkour experts and gymnasts. It’s safe to say that the team did not realise quite how big the wall was and sadly, realised they were not quite up to the parkour standard. At least they’re better at helping companies jump online than they are at jumping on trampolines!

walk the wall at jump factory

This trip was a great team building activity and it was wonderful to see the parks popularity since they have managed to jump online.

If you’re interested in helping your own business jump online, then our SEO experts are here to help – get in touch today!
Beer Pong Shop Website

Invented in America sometime in the mid-20th century, beer pong is a drinking game that has achieved international popularity in recent years - it's become a staple fixture of student house parties, and it's not hard to see why! While avid players have come up with countless different variants, the basic rules of beer pong are very simple and incredibly easy to pick up: all you have to do is throw a ping-pong ball at your opponent's formation of cups, and if the ball goes in, they have to drink that cup's contents (usually beer). Empty cups are removed from the game, and play continues until one player runs out of cups.

This deceptively straightforward premise has spawned a whole industry: you can now compete in beer pong tournaments, hang out with your friend at beer pong bars, and purchase all kinds of beer pong products and accessories to help you play. All of which brings us to Designer Websites' latest project: www.beer-pong.co.uk, an ecommerce website dedicated entirely to beer pong!

The Beer Pong UK website has a fun, modern design and a layout that's as simple as the game itself. From one page, beer pong fans can browse beer pong sets, brush up on the rules, and download handy printables (including a tournament bracket and a 'how to play' guide). The website also has a 'Drinking Game Ideas' blog in case you need any inspiration for your next big party!

We're very pleased with the finished version of this new website, and its responsive design means that you can buy your beer pong gear via smartphone or tablet just as easily as you can on your PC. Visit the Beer Pong UK site now to take a look at our latest work, or contact Designer Websites if you need a quote for your own online project.

In this modern day and age, where words like ‘tweeting’ have become a part of our everyday language, it is hard to imagine a world without social media. Since it originated in 1997, with the social media site Six Degrees, social media platforms have excelled in prominence and have become an increasingly important part of modern generation’s lifestyle.

In a 2016 study, it was revealed that 61% of people check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up; 30 minutes later that number increases significantly to 88%. This evidence of human addiction to smart phones and social media is something many businesses have used as a fundamental part of their marketing strategies. With the constant abundance of information fighting for every individual’s attention nowadays, it is easy to see why your business might be left behind if you do not stay in the forefront of your target markets mind. This is why we’ve put together this handy list of reasons why setting up your business social media accounts should be top of your priority list. 

It allows you to understand your audience

One of the many benefits of social media marketing is that it allows you to get to know your target audience on a personal basis. This knowledge is incredibly useful for any business as it helps you find out your target demographic and understand what they want from you as a business. For example, things like Twitter Analytics provide you with an insight into your follower growth, their interests and their demographic. It also allows you to see which of your tweets performed the best and from this information you can discover what content your audience enjoys and the best time of day to tweet.


It's an easy way to promote yourself

Another benefit of engaging with your audience via social media is that if a customer loves your product, it is very likely that they will either tweet about it or post a photo of your product on Instagram or Twitter. It is typical of users to tag the maker of the product in their posts, because in the same way that you want to see reviews, customers also want to be recognised by the brands. This type of engagement works well for both parties involved; if your business then shares the post, your other followers will see how well you are doing and the consumer will be pleased that you have promoted them. 
An example of a business that does this well, is the clothing brand Chi Chi London. 

On their Instagram account, Chi Chi London often posts photos of customers wearing their clothes as promotion. This type of post works well because it displays Chi Chi London customers happy with their product, which can in turn, persuade the other followers to buy one of their items while simultaneously making the buyer happy through recognition. Future customers may then buy the products not only because they want it, but to have the chance of being featured on the account. 

You can build a loyalty base with your followers 

People are typically a lot more receptive to advertisements on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, due to them being social networks. The key word being social. If you have tailored your audience using the above steps and engaged with your followers frequently, they are much more likely to want to hear about your new product or company update. As long as you mix your sales social media posts with things like helpful tips, blogs about relevant topics, client reviews, photos of your team, competitions and so on, your followers are much more likely to listen to what you have to say. 

Typically, if you provide someone with something of value (helpful tips, giveaways, great customer service) the majority of the time, they will want to repay you in some way. It’s down to you to provide your target audience with all the help you can, and what better and more efficient way to do it than through social media?  


Using social media marketing boosts your SEO

If your website is full of fantastic content that you want all of your customers to see, there’s no doubt about it, the best way to get the number of visitors you deserve is through social media marketing. Using social media platforms allows you to drive targeted traffic directly to the quality content you want them to see. Googles bots are fully aware of which pages are consistently gaining traffic, so by routinely sharing your pages on social media, you can influence the bots to move your pages up the search engine results page (SERPS). The more shares your page gets, the more likely it is to rank higher in Google’s search engine results page. 

Social media marketing generates sales 

It makes sense that by going where your customers are, your business will be able to generate more leads. Some statistics that display the importance of social media marketing are that 70% of business-to-consumer marketers state they have generated sales through Facebook, 67% of Twitter users are far more likely to buy from the brands they follow on twitter and 46% of web users look towards social media when making a purchase. 

Most of the big brand names lead in the market because they manage to stay at the forefront of their customer’s mind through their social media. These brands have become the masters of social media marketing through continuously appealing to their consumers with idyllic images of their products, frequent competitions and discount coupons on their social media channels. 

So, if you were wondering why social media marketing could be important for your business, hopefully, this list has helped you understand the many benefits of taking advantage of these platforms. Social media platforms are a free method of developing relationships between you and you consumers that typical outbound marketing cannot provide. 

If you like the sound of using social media but don’t know where to start with it, the SEO experts here at Designer Websites can help – get in touch today!
Visit www.primaporcelain.co.uk to see our latest work!

PrimaPorcelain's New Website

We recently told you about the new website we created for TimberTech, one of the UK's leading suppliers of composite decking. TimberTech UK is part of Greensquares, a British company specialising in a variety of high-quality/low-maintenance solutions for the home and garden; Greensquares have a whole family of websites showcasing different parts of their extensive product range, and the TimberTech site wasn't the only one they asked us to update for 2017.

PrimaPorcelain is the brand under which Greensquares provide a whole host of gorgeous porcelain tiles and paving slabs to customers right across the country. With nearly 40 different colours and styles - all of which can be used internally or externally - available to order from stock, PrimaPorcelain have the perfect porcelain flooring solution for practically any project, and their low-porosity products are every bit as practical and low-maintenance as TimberTech's composite deck boards.

Greensquares asked us to revamp the PrimaPorcelain website in order to better show off their beautiful porcelain tiles and give customers a keener sense of the possibilities afforded by these products. The new design, which is now live here, is fully responsive and offers a great user experience across all devices. It also shows off PrimaPorcelain's tiles in spectacular fashion, with amazing photographs of the tiles in situ sitting alongside hi-res images of the products that really give you a feel for their irresistible texture.

We also worked to improve PrimaPorcelain's product selector tool, making it easier than ever for site visitors to compare their options side-by-side and order up to 3 free tile samples to assist with the decision-making process.

If you're thinking of revamping your home and/or garden, be sure to visit the new PrimaPorcelain website and see what they have to offer. Alternatively, if you need an expertly-designed website for your business, please click here to get in touch with Designer Websites and request a quotation.
TimberTech Decking Website

TimberTech are one of the UK's leading suppliers of composite decking, a low-maintenance alternative to wooden decking that has become hugely popular over the last few years. We at Designer Websites have counted TimberTech as a valued client for quite some time now, and we are pleased to announce that we recently completed a total overhaul of the company's website, redesigning it from the ground up in order to enhance its visual appeal and provide a better experience for TimberTech's ever-expanding mobile user base.

The new website, which went live earlier today, boasts an attractive, contemporary design that puts TimberTech's gorgeous decking products front and centre. Our design team worked hard to emphasise the outstanding technical specifications of these composite decking boards without getting in the way of the eye-catching visuals that will, at the end of the day, really move people to pick up the phone or order a free sample.

The result is a website that works wonderfully on all devices and allows potential customers to find out all about TimberTech's various decking products while simultaneously seeing numerous examples of just how great those boards look in situ. We are very proud of the new and improved TimberTech website, and we hope that you enjoy browsing it just as much as we enjoyed designing it!

Visit www.timbertechuk.co.uk to see our latest work for yourself, or contact Designer Websites now to request a quote for your own web design project.
Mobile User Experience

Mobile user experience should be a core consideration for all web designers and online businesses in 2017. A huge portion of all online activity now takes place on a smartphone; Google have even created a completely separate index to make sure they're giving mobile searchers the best possible results. Even if your website works like a dream on larger screens, you'll lose a lot of potential customers if it's a nightmare for smartphone users.

So what can I do to make mobile users happy?

If you want to get a good return from your site's mobile visitors, you'll need to think about the user experience you're offering and how this translates to smaller screens. Mobile user experience quality depends on many different factors, but here are a few key areas to focus on:

Use a responsive design.

The first step towards total mobile-friendliness is upgrading to a responsive website design. Browsing a non-responsive website on a smartphone usually means 'pinching' to zoom in and get a proper look at the content; a well-designed responsive website will automatically adapt to fit the screen it's being viewed on, so no matter what device your customer is using, your content should display perfectly with no pinching required.

Don't bury important content.

One mistake that lots of people make these days is assuming that mobile users are happy to scroll indefinitely in order to reach the piece of content they need. It's true that scrolling is a more comfortable and fluid action than clicking/tapping, and because of this, it's safe to assume that most mobile users would rather scroll through a long page than click through several small pages (this is why people don't like those articles that display information in the form of a click-to-proceed slideshow). However, smartphone users don't have an infinite supply of patience, and you won't be doing anybody any favours by putting your important content at the bottom of the page, several screen-lengths down.

Wherever possible, the 'meat' of your page should sit above the fold (or, failing that, not too far below the fold). Make your important content - your call to action, your key info - immediately visible rather than assuming that people will be happy to scroll down to find it.

Be fast!

If there's one thing that everyone on the web (but especially the average mobile user) hates, it's a page that takes an eternity to load. Even if you don't care about ticking off smartphone owners, you should be striving to ensure that your website loads quickly for the benefit of your desktop visitors; if you are serious about maximising your mobile conversions, then site speed becomes even more important because lots of mobile users are browsing within a very limited time window. Perhaps they're killing time while they wait for the bus, or perhaps they're already on the bus and they've got one minute to peruse your website before their stop arrives - either way, time is of the essence and long loading times will cause frustration and quite possibly prompt people to try one of your competitors instead.

If you're not sure how to boost your website's loading speeds, try typing your URL into Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.

Space out your clickable elements.

Tapping a smartphone screen with your finger is a less refined, less accurate action than a mouse click, so if there's something on your website that you want lots of people to click on (e.g. a 'Contact Us' button, a hyperlink within a paragraph of text), you'd better make it easy for them. In order to meet the basic standard for mobile-friendliness, all clickable elements on your website should be:
  1. A good distance from all other clickable elements
  2. Big enough to tap with ease
Crowding a whole bunch of links into a small space increases the likelihood that users will click the wrong link by accident. Giving your clickable elements a tiny 'click zone' that requires hyper-accurate tapping increases the likelihood that users will need multiple attempts in order to land a successful click. Both of these outcomes are very frustrating for the user and will seriously damage their experience of your site, so make sure your clickable objects are large and reasonably far apart.

Make the user's journey short and simple.

Think of your website as a running track. The end user is a sprinter, and they cross the 'finish line' whenever they complete a conversion on your site ('a conversion' being the thing that you ultimately want users to do on your website - this could mean making a purchase, requesting a quote, subscribing to your newsletter, et cetera). Between the user and the finish line are a series of hurdles: actions that they must complete and hoops they will have to jump through in order to reach the conversion stage.

Your mission is to make those hurdles as few and as minuscule as possible. Make that running track as short and as unobstructed as you possibly can!

Here are a few example of 'hurdles' and how you can help your mobile users to overcome them with ease:
  • Finding the right page. The first 'hurdle' for most visitors to a website is working out where to find the thing they're looking for. You can minimise this hurdle with a clear site layout and intuitive navigation (i.e. not too many menu options, self-explanatory category names).

  • Entering payment details. This is a huge hurdle on some ecommerce websites - entering your credit card number and billing address and so forth is a tedious, time-consuming task, especially when you're using a touchscreen rather than a computer keyboard. Minimise this hurdle by using an online wallet service like PayPal or allowing users to create accounts and save their payment details for future purchases.

  • Entering contact details. Even if you're not selling anything through your website, the inevitable 'fill out this form' stage can still be a big hurdle for users en route to a conversion. Whether you're encouraging users to send a message, request a quote / call back / free sample, or sign up for something, they will always be forced to painstakingly tap in their details; however, you can minimise this hurdle by only asking for information that is crucially important. For example, why ask for someone's postcode, telephone number and date of birth if all you really need is a name and an email address?
If you need help optimising your website for mobile visitors, Designer Websites can help - get in touch now to request a quotation for your project.
Google Instant

Why does Google suggest 'why doesn't Voldemort have a nose' when you start typing 'why doesn't...' into Google?

You-know-who's noselessness has long been a hot topic among Harry Potter fans, and even today - nearly 10 years after the last book in the series came out - many people still wonder how the Dark Lord came to look the way he does. Plenty of theories have been tossed around, one of our favourites being that Voldemort's nose was smashed in by the bewitched snowballs that Fred and George Weasley threw at the back of Professor Quirrell's head (actually Lord Voldemort's face, concealed for most of Book 1 by a turban).

Still, with no concrete answer ever provided in-universe or by author J.K. Rowling, the question of why Voldemort has no nose remains a hot topic around the world. But why does it appear when you simply type the words 'why doesn't' into Google?


This happens because Google is trying to predict what you're searching for so that it can offer you suggestions related to your query before you've even finished entering it. The second you begin typing something into the search bar, Google starts displaying results - even as you're still typing. This feature is called Google Instant.

What is Google Instant?

Google Instant is a well-known Google feature that was introduced back in 2010. It is a feature that predicts what you're searching for and provides you with results as you're typing your query. It uses Google's autocomplete technology to show predicted search terms that are relevant to your query as you type it; it also begins to display search results in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). As you continue to complete your query, both the predicted queries and search results will change, becoming more relevant to whatever you've typed into the search box. 

The suggestions that Google provide are influenced by three factors:
  1. Query volume (lots of other people Googled this query)

  2. Searcher's location (this query is relevant to your current location - e.g. you started typing 'takeaway pizza', Google noticed that you're located in Brighton, so it suggested 'takeaway pizza Brighton')

  3. Keyword/phrase mentions (this query - or part of it - is getting a lot of mentions across the web right now)
The suggestions that Google provides are all terms that other people have searched for. For example, if you type in the word 'offers', Google will suggest the following based on the kind of 'offers' that other people commonly search for:


The popularity of a query is a massive factor in deciding what suggestions Google provides. In the example above, the user typed in 'offers' and Google guessed that they might be looking for offers on toys, perfume, or liquor. Why? Because lots of other Google users have started typing 'offers' and then followed it with 'on perfume', 'on toys', or 'on spirits'. This happens frequently enough that Google is now confident that it can save users a few keystrokes by offering these suggestions.

(Note that Google Instant suggestions are based on the number of unique verifiable accounts and independent users who search for a specific query, not the number of times that query was used. We'd love it if 'Designer Websites' appeared as a suggestion every time somebody typed 'designer' into Google, but we can't make that happen just by Googling our own name hundreds of times - we'd need lots of separate individuals to do it for The Big G to take any notice.)

It's important to remember that not everyone will see the same suggestions as you. As mentioned above, your geographic location can have a big impact on what Google Instant shows you. 


When we start typing 'hotels...' into Google, it suggests terms like 'hotels in Cardiff' and 'hotels in Tenby' (see screenshot above). This happens because Google has identified that our office is in South Wales, and people in our location often search for accommodation in these places. However, if you're using Google in, say, Scotland, you might get suggestions like 'hotels in Glasgow' or 'hotels in Pitlochry' instead.

In summary, Google Instant makes suggestions that it thinks are relevant to you based on what you've already typed in, what queries are popular right now, and - sometimes - where you are.

How can I use Google Instant to get more traffic?

Google Instant doesn't just benefit consumers - it can also be a somewhat useful tool for SEO professionals. The feature is very handy for keyword research purposes as it can give you good idea what people are commonly searching for. Just type in your keyword and see what Google suggests - these suggestions are likely to be commonly-Googled queries that are worth targeting on your website!

For instance, if you own a furniture store that sells dining tables, you could start typing 'dining tables' into Google for a couple of quick keyword ideas:


This tells you that quite a few people search for 'dining table with bench' and 'dining table and 4 chairs'. Now that you know this, you can target these long-tail keyword phrases on appropriate pages within your site; for example, if you sell a dining table that comes with benches, you could tailor this product page's copy to rank for the corresponding search term. Alternatively, if you sell several table/bench combo products, you could write a blog post that features all of them and targets the search term 'dining table with bench'. Ranking for a keyword like this should give your organic traffic levels a great little boost!

We hope this blog has given you a better understanding of Google Instant. If you want your brand to appear more prominently in Google's search results, the SEO experts here at Designer Websites can help - get in touch today!
Facebook 2016

Whether you keep up to date with social media developments or not, you're likely to have seen Facebook making headlines quite regularly last year, and often for the wrong reasons! From developments on the parent platform (which still has the biggest user share in social media), to increasing Instagram shake-ups since 2012's take-over, Facebook did a lot to get people talking in 2016. They also managed to find themselves right at the centre of the year's post-truth' climate, as the growing prevalence of 'fake news' on the platform was criticised throughout mainstream news, particularly in relation to the year's biggest political developments.

Despite all the negative attention received, Facebook did manage to make headlines for the right reasons on several occasions during 2016, although it's fair to say that many of these achievements were lost in the swathe of bad press towards the end of the year. To get a more balanced view of the platform's accomplishments and blunders, we put together a list of the company's top hits and misses of 2016:

Miss: Organic Reach Falls 

facebook organic reach chart
(data via edgerankchecker.com, now property of socialbakers.com

Throughout 2016, we heard a lot about the increasing problem of competing organically amidst the growth of paid advertising, which was a particularly sore issue for content creators on Facebook over the course of 2016. Throughout the year, we heard increasingly dismal reports about the depths to which organic reach capabilities were sinking, and back in August, Marketing Land reported that capabilities had fallen by a whopping 52%. 

Using data provided by social publishing tool Social Flow, the news site reported how reach for brands and content publishers had hit a new low, as Facebook's algorithm became increasingly stringent about the posts that were able to make it into people's feeds. In fact, the only area that seemed to be demonstrating growth for content creators was video, which had it's fair share of positive and negative attention this year, as will be discussed below. 

Hit: Reaction Buttons

facebook reactions
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

During 2016, our social interaction habits became increasingly 'emojicentric', which is why the introduction of reaction buttons can be seen as one of the platform's more successful moves of the year, for users and content creators alike. While this expansion of the 'like' feature may have gained it's fair share of negative press, with suggestions that it was a further invasion of user privacy, it has certainly increased the 'social' aspect of the platform overall. It has also acted as a creative tool for encouraging interaction from users, as companies and publishers have taken to asking audiences to select reactions, in order to run makeshift Facebook polls. 

Despite an initial slump, a study by Quintly published back in September reported a 22.4% rise in the use of reaction buttons from May to June 2016, with video content picking up the largest amount of Facebook Reactions. It also inspired sets of 'Reaction Packs' to be developed as an alternative to the standard emoji-like icons, as well as limited-edition reactions from Facebook themselves during Halloween.

Miss: Instagram's Algorithm Changes

instagram algorithm

If people weren't already angry enough with Facebook's algorithm tweaking, this frustration extended to the company's acquired photo-sharing platform at the beginning of the year, as it was announced that Instagram would be rolling out an interaction-based system for deciding which content users would like to see. This sparked an outpouring of complaints from users, particularly from those who were concerned about their ability to sustain and expand their audience, when competing with accounts that have a considerably high follower count, and therefore likes.

Despite the negativity earned by the move, Instagram continued to witness growth in 2016, particularly from advertisers. According to Mashable,  it is likely that the platform will overtake Twitter as the go-to sharing service for paid marketing efforts in 2017, a prediction that was based on market research from Emarketer, who also predicted that Twitter's prospects would continue to stagnate. With advertising on Instagram having doubled since last year, it's hard to count their collective changes to the platform as a 'miss', however, the negative backlash from such a high volume of users is impossible to ignore. Perhaps the best way to describe this point is as a 'miss' in terms of public opinion, while it may be described as a 'hit' from the perspective of business development.

Hit: Live Video

live video on facebook
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The most substantial achievement for Facebook in 2016 had to be the introduction of Live Video, which has even prompted Twitter to launch it's own version of this feature, in a bid to use their acquisition of Periscope as a competitive advantage. The secret to success for search and social media platforms alike, is the ability to keep users in one place, and to offer a range of features that will encourage users to interact with the platform on an increasingly frequent basis. Taking ques from a combination of user behaviour and other social platforms, Facebook devised a way to take users beyond the capabilities of a simple status update or photo share, by granting them the ability to interact with their audience in real time.

In 2016, there was a mass outpouring of articles championing the efficiency of video content, which made this development just as appealing to brands and content creators as it was to the average user. 

Miss: Miscalculated Metrics 

miscalculated metrics

Talk about bad press! Above is an example of what shows up when you type 'miscalculated metrics' into Google, which goes to show how much of a slip up this was for the company last year. Perhaps the worst part, is the fact that this happened not only once, but three times in the space of just a few months, as was noted by Search Engine Watch

The first example came in 2016, as Facebook announced that a miscalculation in video metrics meant that it had been vastly overestimating the average viewing time. The second case came in November, which revealed even more issues within Facebook Analytics, including a miscalculation of weekly and monthly summaries on Page Insights, among other issues. Finally, in December, Facebook announced a range of miscalculations and fixes that would impact areas such as estimated reach and reactions to live videos.

As expected, marketers and content publishers were angry and concerned about these revelations, which cast doubt on their previous goals and achievements using Facebook to generate engagement, using both paid and organic methods.

Hit: Facebook Grows in India 

facebook india
(image via Wikimedia Commons)

2016 was a good year for Facebook in terms of global growth, as the site achieved more than 166 million Monthly Active Users in India. This meant that the country accounted for a huge chunk of Facebook's overall growth last year, at a rate of 22% year on year, which was higher than the global average of 17%. It was also revealed that at least 159 million of these users were accessing the site via mobile devices, which counts for over 90% of Facebook's overall traffic.

Despite the eventual success witnessed by Facebook by the end of the year, this did not come without its struggles. In fact, back in February, India's Telecom Regulatory Authority blocked Facebook's plans to install the 'Free Basics' internet service, which was intended to offer a limited number of online services to users, without an added cost.

Miss: Fake News

hilary clinton
(image by Gage Skidmore) 

This was without a doubt, the biggest headline to impact Facebook last year, and sadly for them, it wasn't a positive one. Highlighted primarily by events such as the US election, 2016 was the year that Facebook came under harsh scrutiny for the levels of completely fabricated news being spread across the platform. One of the most severe cases highlighted in the press, was a popularly shared story that linked presidential candidate Hilary Clinton with a fabricated paedophile ring, all elements of which were a complete invention.

To make matters worse, Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the impact and scale of this issue, insisting on Facebook's position as a neutral, non-media company. Naturally, as a company with such a huge influence on the daily lives and information consumption of its active users, this statement went down like a lead balloon with many, which meant that Zuckerberg was forced to address the issue again in November. This post consisted of a list which outlined 7 ways in which Facebook could tackle its fake news problem, and shortly after this, news outlets began reporting that users had spotted some of these methods being tested.

While Facebook's efforts to address the problem are a step in the right direction, for many, these changes are a case of too little too late, particularly with regards to the possible implications on important political developments.

Hit: Instagram Comment Disable

instagram logo

While Facebook itself may have missed the mark when it comes to filtering out damaging information, Instagram granted it's users with the enhanced ability to filter out trolls towards the end of 2016. This appeared in the form of a comment disable switch, which provided users with the ability to turn off comments on individual posts.

Social media platforms have been collectively criticised for their failure to deal with online abuse for some time, which made this feature a welcome addition to the photo sharing app. While this ability had previously been available to only a select few accounts, it was later rolled out for all Instagram users, granting individuals with the ability to flexibly alter their comment preferences when posting and editing their images.

In addition to the ON/OFF comment switch, Instagram also introduced abuse filters to account settings, allowing users to active a general abuse filter, as well as adding their own set of keywords, to prevent these from appearing in the comments of their post. Taylor Swift became one of the first users to test this feature, after her account was spammed with a swathe of snake emojis, in the aftermath of her feud with Kim Kardashian West.

Miss/Hit: 'Stories' on Instagram

instagram and snapchat
This is the last Instagram related news story to make it onto our list, and it's something of a combination when it comes to how it was received by users and the media. Back in the summer of 2016, Instagram announced its brand new 'Stories' feature, which was a clear copy of Snapchat's photo sharing format. Unsurprisingly, this led to a lot of backlash from users across social media, who were quick to make jokes, express their confusion, and criticise the changes to the platform. 

This certainly isn't the first or last time that social networks have 'taken inspiration' from one another's features, and soon enough, it became clear that the company's move had paid off. Instagram had not only managed to add a new, interactive feature, without making existing capabilities more complicated, but had also succeeded in improving the confusing and non-user-friendly elements of Snapchat's interface. For Instagram, this was a way to offer the missing element of spontaneity to their users, providing another incentive to remain active on the app, while succeeding in preserving the already successful elements of their model.

Hit: Best Tech Company to Work For

facebook hq
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

While users and commentators may have experienced many issues with Facebook as a company in 2016, this was not the case for their U.S employees. After months of dealing with negative press relating to fake news and metric mess-ups, Facebook needed a positive news story, which came in December, as they were named 'Best Company to Work for in the U.S' ahead of 2017. Assessing ratings from employees, job hunting website Glassdoor publishes the list ahead of each new year, with Facebook coming out on top in its most recent set of yearly rankings. 

While Facebook had featured on the list 7 times previously, on this occasion it managed to rise up and claim the top spot for 2017, after many of the company's employees praised the positivity and flexibility of their workplace, as well as their opportunities to thrive and progress.

Miss: Facebook's 'Year in Review'

facebook tweet

While there may have been many positive notes for Facebook thought the year, it wasn't surprising that the company managed to anger their users one more time before the year was out. This came in the form of Facebook's 'Year in Review' for 2016, which included personalised memories for each of its users, as well as a round up of the most popular trending topics for the year. While Facebook have included similar features in past years, a combination of existing distaste for Facebook's selective algorithm, anger over the Fake News scandal, and general distaste for 2016 in general, meant that the reception for this year's feature was particularly frosty. 

When it came to people's 'personalised' videos, it seemed that Facebook still managed to miss the mark when it came to showing users their most memorable moments of the year, something it had promised to improve on in previous years. Many users complained about the feature being depressing, inaccurate and unnecessary, while others also complained about their publication of the trending topics list, which to many was a bitter reminder of the many negative events that had occurred throughout the year.
Prepare Your Website for 2017

Though we're only a few days into 2017, it's already clear that change is on the cards for this year. America is getting a new president; the UK is scheduled to begin the process of leaving the European Union; and important elections will be taking place in a number of countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Don't worry, though - this isn't going to be a post about politics. The world of web design is constantly reshaping itself, and just as 2017 looks set to usher in a number of big political changes, we're also expecting to see several sizeable shifts in the landscape of the Internet between now and January 2018. Lots of changes are coming, and if you want your business to succeed (or continue succeeding) over the next twelve months, it's very important that you stay abreast of these changes.

Priorities for your website in 2017

Below are 5 design, UI and SEO changes website owners should aim to make this year.

1. Speed it up.

If there's one thing that will utterly scupper your chances of online success in 2017, it's a website that takes too long to load. The days of dial-up, when web users would happily wait several minutes for a page to render, are gone; nowadays, most users will leave if your content doesn't load within a second or two. People hate waiting around, especially when they're on the go and browsing the web on their smartphones.

And what users hate, search engines hate too. Google, Bing, and the rest of them will be reluctant to list your website as a search result if it provides a sluggish and frustrating user experience. If you want to make your customers happy AND keep the organic search traffic rolling in, it's imperative that you minimise your site's loading times.

TAKE ACTION: Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to check your website's load times and find out how you can speed things up. Talk to your web developer if you're unsure of how to implement any of the tool's recommendations.

2. Stop using pop-ups.

For years, 'pop-up' was a dirty word associated with the spammiest, most irritating kind of online advertising in existence. When you think of a pop-up ad, you probably picture garish colours and dubious claims such as 'YOU HAVE WON AN IPOD' or 'THERE ARE 14 HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA WAITING TO CHAT'. Strangely, though, pop-ups have become somewhat legitimised in recent years, and many perfectly reputable websites now use pop-ups to drive newsletter sign-ups, app downloads, and other conversions. Perhaps you use this strategy on your own site; perhaps it even works for you.

But now is the time to stop. Google recently declared war on pop-ups (or 'intrusive interstitials'), stating that sites using them "may not rank as highly" from 10 January 2017 onwards. This doesn't just apply to old-fashioned, 'click here to claim your prize' pop-ups - it applies to pretty much any on-screen element that appears unexpectedly and gets in the way of the actual content. And yes, that unfortunately includes your nice-looking 'subscribe now' box. Get it gone by the 10th of January, or prepare to see a drop-off in your Google rankings.

TAKE ACTION: Remove any nonessential pop-ups from your website, or redesign them so that they don't cover up too much of the page itself. Learn more about Google's forthcoming pop-up penalty (and whether it will affect you) here.

3. Declutter your design.

We're always reading about the latest web design trends, and we've seen a lot of articles lately with titles like '17 Web Design Predictions for 2017'. Lots of industry experts are offering lots of different opinions and forecasts right now, but the general feeling seems to be that a minimal, uncluttered aesthetic is the right choice going forward. The design world has been moving steadily in the direction of minimalism for several years now, and it's unlikely that 2017 will buck that trend.

TAKE ACTION: Minimalism is a great approach to web design because it makes sites easy to navigate as well as easy on the eyes. Here are a few steps you can take to declutter your site this year:
  • Fewer menu options. Listing loads of different categories in your site menu can make things look messy, and users may struggle to work out which one they need. For this reason, it's better to streamline your site structure and show just a few options at the top of each page.

  • Make your message stand out. If you've got a key message to get across, don't bury it in reams and reams of text. Aim to cut down on unnecessary copy and focus on making the important words stand out. Lots of people have predicted that big, bold typefaces will be very popular in 2017, so ask yourself if the point you've taken ten paragraphs to make could have been made in a single striking sentence writ large at the top of your page.

  • Don't fear empty space. When designing your site's layout, you may be tempted to fill every last gap with an image or a bit of copy. But this may not be necessary! Discerning use of empty space can help your website to feel elegant and inviting rather than claustrophobic and overwhelming. Empty space also draws the user's attention back to the central focus of the page, whether that's an image, a headline, or a CTA.

4. Optimise for user intent.

There are two big buzzphrases that every SEO specialist in the land will be running into the ground this year. The first is 'user intent' - basically an extension of the well-worn adage that you should be optimising your website for users, not search engines. If you want to boost your organic search traffic in 2017, the key is to 'optimise for user intent'.

This means that, rather than picking a popular keyword and carefully concentrating on that term when you write your site copy, you should be thinking about your target audience and what they're trying to achieve. Keywords remain an important part of the search engine optimisation process, but both your keyword choices and your website's content should be directly informed by the needs that you're trying to meet.

For example, if you sell carpets, don't just write a tonne of copy about 'cheap carpets' and expect the search engines to reward you with a tonne of traffic. Instead, take the time to identify your target audience; consider what your average customer wants, and then create a website that gives it to them. This could be a simple, easy-to-navigate list of the different products you stock, or it could be a handy wizard-style tool that helps users to select the right carpet for any given room. What it probably won't be is a thousand-word essay on cheap carpets and why your cheap carpets are the best cheap carpets on the market.

You should also think carefully about the intent behind each keyword you target on your website. 'How to lay a carpet' and 'carpet installation' might seem like two very similar search terms on the face of it, but where someone who Googles 'how to lay a carpet' might want a how-to guide or instructional video, the person who Googles 'carpet installation' probably just wants a professional to come and do the job for them. Be sure to consider how well your content satisfies the queries people are typing in to find it.

TAKE ACTION: Don't just create a website and then stuff it with your industry's most popular keywords; instead, follow the Intent > Keywords > Content model described below
  1. Intent: Start by identifying your target audience and the needs that you're trying to meet. What is their intent when they visit your website? What are they looking to achieve?

  2. Keywords: Use a keyword research tool to find out what people type into Google when they need the thing that you provide. Do your potential customers use short phrases or longer, more conversational search terms? Identify a set of keywords that are directly related to your niche.

  3. Content: Structure your website and create its content based on the intentions of your users and how they are expressed in the form of search queries. Pick a keyword (or group of keywords) for each page of your website, and ensure that every page is perfectly tailored to the needs expressed by the query it targets. 

5. Remember your mobile users.

Here's the other big SEO buzzphrase of 2017: 'mobile first'. For many webmasters, mobile friendliness has thus far been little more than an afterthought, but now that the majority of Internet usage takes place on mobile devices, it's absolutely crucial to make sure that your website works perfectly on smaller screens.

Google demonstrated their commitment to putting mobile users first several months ago - not only did they roll out a completely separate index for mobile searches, they also announced that this new mobile index would be "the primary Google index" going forward. This shows that Google are extremely keen to make mobile users happy in 2017, and if your website doesn't make mobile users happy, your organic Google traffic may well take a nosedive this year.

TAKE ACTION: Look at your website on a range of mobile devices and ensure that it is nice-looking and easy to navigate on smartphones and tablets as well as on desktop computers. Strongly consider upgrading to a responsive website if you haven't already done so.

Need help getting your website in shape for the new year? Get in touch with Designer Websites - we are a team of expert designers, developers and SEO specialists, and no matter what business you're in, we can help you to succeed online in 2017.