Website design psychology

Did you know that every detail on your website, from the colours to the typeface, has a psychological impact on your users? Website designers can influence the way someone feels when they visit your site by choosing design features that have a desirable psychological impact.

You're probably thinking: "Surely if my website looks nice, that should be enough?" Well, not necessarily. You can have a website that looks great, but if it doesn't appeal to the mindset of your target audience or reflect your brand positively, it probably won't convert as well as you'd hoped for.

Don't worry - you don't need a degree in psychology to understand the impact of different web design features. We've put together this helpful guide to introduce you to the psychology of web design. It's worth keeping these things in mind if you're thinking about a new website, but of course, our specialist website designers are always on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Structure and Layout

The structure of your website is fundamental to its success. Why? Because you want your users to find the things that they're looking for quickly, but you also need to add clean spaces for their minds to rest.

Websites that are over-cluttered and messy can be incredibly difficult to digest, so even if your page features all the photos, videos, and information that you deem necessary, you might be overloading users and driving them away.

We always recommend a website design that orders things in a logical way and features clean spaces between page elements and in margins. Keeping the features of the page relevant and concise will also help users to decide whether or not your website is a good fit for their query in a matter of seconds.

A clean, well-organised website is bound to make a good first impression and will psychologically reassure users that you aren't going to waste their time.

Colours

You've probably heard of the link between colour and emotion before, but in web design, this takes a more sophisticated form. Thinking beyond the typical 'red equals danger, blue equals sadness' conventions that we learn in school, colours can convey a lot of information about your business, so it's important to choose your colour palette carefully.

You've probably noticed that websites tend to have a neutral colour like white, grey, or mauve as the dominant colour throughout. This is because neutral shades are a great base for more interesting pops of colour, and they aren't too overwhelming for the user.

Different colours can be used to hint at the nature of your business. We tend to see cooler tones like blues and greens on more professional or 'serious' websites (our own site is just one example). Meanwhile, warmer tones like pink and orange might indicate a more creative or 'fun' business - take our clients Sweets in the City, for example. You can learn more about the relationship between colour and web design in our in-depth blog on this topic.

Typefaces

In the same way that the colours of your website can impact the way a user feels, so too can your chosen typeface. There are some typefaces that we subconsciously associate with traditional/professional businesses. These tend to fall under the category of serif fonts (fonts with feet). Some examples are Times New Roman, Georgia and Palatino.

In contrast, sans-serif fonts (without feet) have a more contemporary feel and are often used by tech companies to suggest modernity. Some examples of sans-serif typefaces include Helvetica, Arial, and Tahoma.

That being said, there are hundreds of different typefaces to choose from, so don't feel limited to the examples listed here. As a rule of thumb, choose a typeface that complements your brand while still being easy to read across all devices.

Price Order

We've already discussed why the visual layout of your site is important, but did you know the order in which you list your products and services has a profound psychological effect too?

One psychological phenomenon that online shoppers are subject to is anchoring bias. This meant that the user's perception of your products rests on the very first products they see (and become anchored to).

For example, if you list your most expensive products first, everything that the user sees afterwards will appear cheaper. Conversely, if you put your budget items first, you risk making your main line of products look overpriced.

Psychological studies have shown that anchoring bias is almost impossible to avoid; however, people who are more familiar with your products and pricing are less susceptible to it. With that in mind, it's important that you anchor products to the top of the page that are reasonably priced and a good reflection of your product portfolio.

When users land on your category page, you want them to see products that are cheap enough to be a good deal, but not so cheap that they're compromising on quality. Here are some more tips to help you make your category pages convert.

Trust and Confidence

The final thing to consider is whether or not your website design establishes trust and confidence. Whether you're providing legal advice or selling clothes, you need your users to trust you if you want them to convert.

We live in an age where digital scams and computer viruses are an everyday threat. At a brick-and-mortar store, customers can see the people behind the brand, ask questions, and even base their buying decisions on how friendly/helpful the staff are.

Online, you rely entirely on your website to provide the same great experience and make customers feel secure enough to part with their cash. There are a number of web design techniques you can utilise to help with this.

For example, you should refrain from asking for personal details like email addresses right off the bat. An immediate invasion of privacy before someone has had time to become familiar with your brand might be enough to send them elsewhere. Similarly, avoid adding multiple pop-ups and overlays, as these can appear spammy and make it difficult to browse the site smoothly.

Make a good first impression with a clean and logical structure, make it clear what you expect from your users at an appropriate time, and put security measures in place to put users at ease. Use a secure, well-recognised payment system like Sage Pay or PayPal, let users create password-protected customer accounts to store their personal details, and make sure your website is protected with an SSL.

Get all of these web design features right and you can create a website that's psychologically pleasing to your customers. If you're looking for web designers who can help create the best possible website for your business, get in touch with Designer Websites today!

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Improve your category pages

When you're trying to design a category page that will help drive sales, it's crucial to keep the customer's experience at the forefront of your mind. By navigating through your category pages, users should be able to easily find the products they're looking for and place their order.

At Designer Websites, we've been designing category pages for years, so we have a great understanding of what really works for our clients. We spoke to our lead designer, Jenna, and asked her what makes the perfect category page:

"We would always recommend that you use good images that are relevant and high quality, an interesting H1 heading that includes your page's keywords, and text that's short and relevant. Try to put your best-selling / most popular products towards the top of the page, and change them frequently so the pages look slightly different for returning customers."

Let's look at some of these different elements in more detail. You might find that some of these features are missing from your category pages, in which case, this might be a great opportunity to make some improvements.

1. Optimising Your Text

You want the text on your category pages to be concise, relevant and properly optimised for search engines. To achieve this, you should make sure that your category pages include a keyword-rich H1 heading and relevant information about your products.

Think of your category pages as a means for customers to get an overview of your products before making a purchase. You should try to describe the products or services on a category page using a few concise, easy-to-digest sentences, so users can quickly determine if they've chosen the right category.

In terms of SEO, you should try to include a range of keywords that are relevant to your category to increase the likelihood of your page ranking highly in the search results.

For example, if you own a cake business and you want to optimise the text on the category page for 'chocolate cakes' you might target keywords like, 'best chocolate cakes', 'chocolate sponge cakes' and 'chocolate birthday cakes'. You might find it beneficial to keep the text under the H1 (that users will see first) short but include more keyword-rich text towards the bottom of the page to improve your chance of ranking.

If your site is optimised effectively, someone searching for a 'chocolate birthday cake' should be taken to your category page where they can view all the chocolate cakes you offer. Someone searching more specifically for a 'vegan chocolate cake' might be taken straight to a product page instead, where they can read a detailed description of the vegan chocolate cake you supply and place their order.

2. High-Quality Images

When your business operates through an ecommerce website, customers are deprived of that real-life touch, feel and browse experience. It's important to use relevant, high-quality images on your category and product pages to really bring your products to life!

One thing that online shopping allows for is a comparison between brands. Your customers might be considering products from several different competitor sites as well as yours, so you want to provide the best possible experience you can and secure the sale.

Going back to our cake business example, imagine a scenario where a customer is looking for a great chocolate birthday cake. They're considering three or four local cake suppliers, including you. If your chocolate cake category page is filled with high-quality photos of truly tempting chocolate cakes, and your competitors have a few low-resolution images to compare to, you'll (probably) win the sale every time!

3. Featured Products

Highlighting products on your category page is a great way to boost sales. Moving products towards the top of the category page and adding a bold border or an eye-catching sticker is a great way to draw the user's attention towards the products you want them to buy. It also provides users with a sense that they are getting the best option or deal available.

Even if users only spend a few minutes on your category page before moving elsewhere on your site, the emboldened products are likely to stick in their minds. They might even decide to come back for a second look if they feel they've missed out on a good deal.

With that in mind, you should use the featured products section of your category page to focus on best-selling products, products included in special offers, and products that you want to shift quickly.

Keep your category pages fresh and engaging by rotating your featured products regularly. That way, returning visitors won't be greeted with the same products over and over again.

4. Filters

If your business boasts an extensive portfolio of products, you might want to consider adding filters to your category page so users can quickly find the items they need. Filters are a popular feature of most ecommerce websites because they break down categories into smaller, niche groups of products that more relevant to the user.

Let's say you own a shoe store and a customer visits your site hoping to buy a new pair of black high heels in a size six. They're going to a party at the weekend and (as usual) they've left it until the last minute to organise their outfit. When they land on your site, they see hundreds of different types of shoes organised into categories by style.

Luckily, your 'high heels' category page allows them to filter the shoes by size and colour. This instantly refines their search so they can browse all the pairs of shoes that fit their criteria. They spot a fabulous pair and place their order - success! That's one more happy customer who might recommend your shoe store to a friend or leave a positive review.

5. Search Box

No matter how well structured your site navigation is, there will always be some users who prefer to head directly to specific products. That's where the search box comes in handy.

It's important that your database is organised so that the right products show up for the right queries - you wouldn't want a user searching for 'black heels in size six' to be faced with an array of blue trainers, would you?

Data from the search box can also provide you with insights into the products that are most frequently searched for by your customers. Perhaps they're struggling to find the products they're looking for; in which case you could tweak your site navigation so frequently-searched products are easier to find.

Alternatively, frequent searches could indicate that a certain product is very popular with your customers. In this case, you might decide to run a special offer or add it to your 'featured products' section to boost sales. Either way, having a search box on your category page will benefit you and your customers.

If your ecommerce website needs an overhaul, Designer Websites can help. Our experienced team of designers, developers and SEO specialists understand what websites need to succeed - contact us now to discuss your requirements!

Get a Free Ecommerce Website Quote >>

Creating a website that accurately reflects a company message, mood or image can be profoundly important when it comes to public perception of a brand.

That much is fairly obvious and it doesn’t take a genius the level of Leonardo Einstein to tell you that.

However, did you know that the very colours you use on said website can have a profound impact as well? It’s true – just ask Albert Da Vinci!

Don’t be left red-faced with an off-colour website. Leave the competition green with envy and get it right as we serve up these colourful tips on a silver platter.

 

colour and web design

 

Importance of Colour in Web Design

A tonal misfire can be an instant turn-off for users and it’s no exaggeration to say that poor colouration can effectively deter custom and hinder business as a result.

For example, basic design knowledge will tell you that solid black text on a navy background will ultimately make the copy virtually unreadable – a digital sin if there ever was. Shame! Shame!

Similarly, placing white text on a bright yellow background is enough to sear corneas to the point of snowblindness, which I think we can all agree is not good for user experience.

Worse still, basic mistakes like this make a site immediately appear amateur which, in turn, makes your business seem second-rate as a result, ultimately impacting conversions.

If the web content itself is the leading man, the colour scheme deserves an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actor”. As such, getting it right is paramount.

 

Colour and Brand Association

Colour and branding go hand-in-hand like beer and pizza (don’t judge) and effective use of a shade can make that colour instantly associated with a brand.

In fact, according to a study by the University of Loyola (sadly, that’s “Loyola” – not “Crayola”) found that colour can increase brand recognition by up to 80%.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense too. Can you imagine the McDonald’s M in emerald green? Or picture the Coca-Cola logo emblazoned in purple and yellow?

A lot of time and effort goes into establishing brand colours and so too should the colours you use in your website design.

Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, who simply chose blue because he’s colourblind (#FactOfTheDay).

 

Colour and Web Design

Colours have long been associated with a wide range of moods, feelings and emotions; for example, purple is often used to represent prestige and sophistication, while yellow is typical for happiness and optimism.

The same applies to websites. For example, the combination of greens, blues and whites is typical for tech sites, while bright and vibrant, high contrasting colours are often used for professional websites.

 

Colours and Services

In fact, this trend is so common that consumers can often subconsciously determine the nature of a business by the colours alone. As such, sometimes the colours can virtually pick themselves.

We asked company design expert, Jenna Francis, who had these pearls of wisdom to add:

“At Designer Websites, we’ve created hundreds of sites for a wide range of clients and have seen first-hand that colour plays a huge role in reinforcing the products and services on offer.

For example, we work with a number of lawncare businesses whose sites naturally look great with earthy tones, like darker greens, light browns and soft greys – colours you associate with the garden.

Meanwhile, we created a site for a company that sells sunrooms and verandas. Their site is a combination of sunny colours – like bright oranges, sky blues and shadowy greys – to reinforce their summery products.”

 

For more web design tips or to enquire about the web design services available at Designer Websites, why not drop us a line today? Call now on 01446 339050 or get in touch online by clicking the button below.

Contact Us

Ski website design

Us Brits love our skiing trips. According to market research from LHM, 1.5 million UK residents go on at least one skiing holiday each winter, and more than a quarter of those people hit the slopes twice a year or more.

So as you can imagine, there's a lot of money to be made in the ski holiday niche...if you're able to give snowsports enthusiasts what they're looking for.

Is your ski holiday website up to snuff?

With more than 80% of holidaymakers now booking their trips online, travel agents (and other suppliers) are under more pressure than ever to polish up their websites and deliver a smooth, stress-free browsing experience.

In order to compete with all the other skiing agencies on the Internet, you'll need to make sure that your website ticks all of the following boxes:

  • Secure
  • Quick to load
  • Easy to use
  • Mobile friendly
  • Up to date
  • Clear and informative

If any of the above adjectives don't apply to your skiing site, you're likely failing to meet the expectations of users and search engines - in which case it may well be time for a new website!

Designer Websites can help!

Once you've identified the problems with your existing ski website, the next step is finding a web design specialist with the skills and expertise to help you turn things around.

At Designer Websites, we've developed a number of high-quality websites for ski agents and other travel companies. Here are just a couple of examples...

 

Slide Candy ski rental website

Slide Candy

Slide Candy is a ski equipment rental service that caters to Méribel and La Tania, two popular resorts in France.

The Designer Websites team gave Slide Candy's website a complete makeover. Not only does the new site boast a sleek mobile-friendly design, it also has an improved user journey that makes it far easier for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts to book their equipment online.

We also developed a bespoke content management system (CMS) to assist the Slide Candy team with back-end website management. They now have a far greater degree of control over the website's content.

"We are so pleased we chose Designer Websites to overhaul our site." - Andrew Buckingham, Slide Candy

View Case Study >>

 

Travel Booker Ski Website

Travel Booker

Travel Booker own a number of websites that sell lift passes, skiing lessons, and other extras to people who are planning to go skiing in Andorra.

We were asked to deliver a complex solution that would allow the Travel Booker team to manage all of their sites from a single administration portal.

Our expert web developers created a secure booking system that is easy for customers to navigate (regardless of what device they're using), as well as a user-friendly admin console that meets all of the requirements Travel Booker outlined in their project brief.

"Designer Websites delivered our complex project on budget and on time. We would happily choose to work with them again." - Steve Hull, Travel Booker

View Case Study >>

 

Ski Website for Travel Agents

Ski for Agents

The folks at Travel Booker were so impressed with our work on their booking system (see above) that they recently asked us to assist with another project.

Ski for Agents is a website that allows travel agents to log in and book ski holiday extras on behalf of their customers. Agents can register multi-level accounts with different levels of access for the head office, branches, etc. Meanwhile, Travel Booker themselves have complete control over virtually aspect of the site thanks to a complex CMS that we built specifically for them.

This was a very demanding project that called for a lot of unique, custom-made functionalities, but as ever, Designer Websites were more than equal to the challenge. Once again, the Travel Booker team were over the moon with the bespoke solution we were able to deliver.

Find Out More >>

 

If you'd like to speak to the Designer Websites team about your ski holiday website and how it could be improved, please contact us online or give us a call on 01446 339050.

View More Examples of Our Work  Request a Website Design Quote  

AlfrescoPlus is the new e-commerce addition to the ever-growing Greensquares online presence.  This brand-new site allows those DIY-enthusiast and self-builders to purchase high-quality outdoor living products online, quickly, and hassle-free. The built-in area calculators and suggested accessories sections provide a super-quick way to get everything you need in just a few clicks.

The site showcases the unique brands that have helped to build the high-quality reputation of Greensquares, such as PrimaPorcelain, TimberTech and SunSpaces. These are all high-quality products that have not previously been readily available to buy online before now.

AlfrescoPlus is driven by the idea that beautiful outdoor living spaces should be accessible to everyone. When the AlfrescoPlus team approached us, they emphasised the need for a user-friendly e-commerce site that would make their extensive product range easy to browse, and hassle-free to purchase.

What did we do for them?

To provide AlfrescoPlus customers with the best possible experience, we created a truly responsive e-commerce website, that works seamlessly across all devices.

The feature-packed website is not only user friendly, responsive and optimised for the search engines, but also contains clever landing page functionality, custom built and highly sophisticated ad/event tracking, sample ordering as well as product ordering, a comprehensive bespoke content management system, integration into Salesforce, order and sample reports, order tracking, automated Google Merchant Centre integration, and much more besides!

Our SEO team optimised the website copy to give every page the best possible chance of showing up in the search engine results and ranking highly for industry-specific keywords and phrases. Optimising AlfrescoPlus in this way will drive relevant customers to the site, improve overall user satisfaction and increase the likelihood of successful sales.

We believe visitors will find navigating the site a doddle, and equally, they’ll find the normally complex world of ordering something like decking, effortless! The site has a blog and social media feeds integrated so that Alfresco can provide inspiration via gallery images, which will hopefully be useful for those just in the planning stages of their outdoor living space.

You can visit AlfrescoPlus here at https://www.alfrescoplus.co.uk/

If you need a bespoke, practical and professional-looking e-commerce website for your business, then contact us for a FREE, no-obligation web design quote.

Jobs in the IT sector have grown at almost twice the rate of jobs in other industries in the UK. Access Training Academies, a long-time client of ours, is passionate about helping people to retrain and pursue exciting new careers, and they recently asked us to create a website dedicated to promoting a new selection of IT training courses.

Access IT Careers aims to give each student a comprehensive introduction to their chosen profession and set them up for a long, successful career. They offer courses in the following disciplines:

  • Network Engineering
  • Cyber Security Engineering
  • Infrastructure Engineering

Why did Access Training Academies come to us?

We have worked with Access Training Academies before – their main website, which was also created by Designer Websites, offers training courses in trades such as plumbing and plastering. We were thrilled when they asked us to work with them again on their latest exciting venture.

We made Access Training Academies’ IT site mobile friendly so that users can check out these exciting IT courses with ease even when they’re on the go. In addition to the design and development of the site, we also optimised the website to rank well on search engines like Google and Bing.

If you need a professional website for your business, please get in touch with the Designer Websites Team. Request a free, no-obligation quote for your project here.

New Label Source Website

Label Source are a UK-based business who supply a comprehensive range of labels, tags and signs to customers all over the world. Their product range is too diverse to list in full right now, but here are just a few examples of what they offer:

  • Asset tags
  • Electrical warning labels
  • Workplace safety signs
  • Pipeline identification tape
  • Quality assurance labels
  • Warehouse markers
  • Shipping labels

Label Source recently asked us to give their old website a new, more modern-looking design; more specifically, they wanted to make it easier for smartphone and tablet users to view Label Source's products and make purchases online.

We're pleased to announce that Label Source's new and improved website is now live - visit www.labelsource.co.uk now to see how it looks.

What's new?

In addition to the clean, professional new look that we created for the Label Source website, we also made the following changes:

  • Responsive Design - As mentioned above, one of this project's key aims was to ensure a good user experience on smartphones and other mobile devices. The new Label Source site has a fully responsive design that looks great and is easy to navigate on screens of all sizes.

  • HTTPS Encryption - The entire Label Source website is now under HTTPS (as opposed to HTTP). This means that all information entered on the Label Source site is now sent securely, so the company's customers can place orders safe in the knowledge that their data is encrypted.

  • Improved Back End - We also updated the back end of the Label Source website to make it easier for the company to manage their product options and category pages.

Do you have an ecommerce website that's in need of a redesign? Contact Designer Websites for a quotation!

5 reasons to give your website an update (even if it's only a couple of years old!)

New Website Design

How old is your business's current website? One year old? Two? Three? Older?

You may feel like your website is as good as brand new, but things move quickly in the world of web design, and it's a good idea to rethink your site every couple of years. Why, you ask? Well, for a start, it's important to keep your website in line with all the latest guidelines and best practices from the likes of Google, but you also need to ensure that it's frequently reviewed from a usability perspective as well as from a performance perspective.

Over the past 12 months, there have been a huge number of changes to the way in which Google, Bing, and other search engines source and deliver their results. Additionally, voice and mobile usage are changing the way we browse and interact with the Internet in general - search engines have adapted accordingly, but has your own website kept up with new behaviours and technologies?

Today we'd like to highlight five relatively recent changes that, even if your site already has a modern look and a smooth UI, may convince you that it's time to think about a new website design...or at least a bit of an update!

1. HTTP to HTTPS

Back in August 2014, Google made the following announcement on their Official Webmaster Central Blog:

"Over the past few months we've been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal."

Since then, Google have been giving HTTPS websites increasingly preferential treatment in their SERPs; in other words, your website will have a better chance of ranking highly on Google if you switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

Last July - approximately 2 years on from the original Google announcement - Moz.com published some numbers illustrating just how much Google now preferred secure HTTPS websites. They found that, prior to August 2014, only 7% of first-page results used the HTTPS protocol, whereas in June 2016, over 32% of first-page results were HTTPS-secured.

Google want to keep their users as secure as possible online, and over time, there'll be less and less room for non-secure (HTTP) pages within the top results. Switching to HTTPS will safeguard and future-proof your site's ability to rank, and it will give your users a little extra peace of mind too.

Further reading: Why Convert Your Website to HTTPS?

2. Mobile-Friendliness

Did you know that the majority of Internet usage now takes place on a mobile device? If your website was designed for desktop users and can scarcely be used on a small screen, you could well be missing out on a lot of business (since mobile users will likely abandon your site in favour of a mobile-friendly competitor).

Mobile's share of the market will only continue to increase as desktop computers become less commonplace and handheld devices insinuate themselves still further into everyday life. Furthermore, Google started prioritising mobile-friendly websites in its results last year, so you risk losing organic traffic as well as revenue if you do not have a responsive design that provides a mobile-friendly experience.

We recommend using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool to assess the mobile-friendliness of your website, then switching to a responsive website design if you score poorly.

Further reading: What is a Responsive Website?

3. Structured Data

A good web developer will use schema tags on your website to help the likes of Google understand the contents of each page. There are loads and loads of different schema tags, but here are some of the most commonly-used:

  • The Product tag is used to identify a product or service.
  • The Review tag is used to identify a review or rating.
  • A tag such as startDate or DateTime may indicate when an event is scheduled to begin.

Using schema tags (also called 'structured data') enables Google to embellish your search results with additional pieces of information known as rich snippets. Rich snippets look like this:

Review snippet

In this example, Google is able to display a rating and a price for the product in question thanks to the website's use of structured data.

Or like this:

Events snippet

Here, schema tags allow Google to display a list of events (complete with dates and venues).

Rich snippets increase the visibility and usefulness of your website's Google results, and there's a chance that Google may one day give websites that use structured data a small ranking boost. If your site doesn't already use schema tags, you should strongly consider adding them in as part of your next redesign/update.

See also: Google's Data Highlighter Tool

4. Featured Snippets

Whereas rich snippets are dependent on your website's code, featured snippets (also known as rich answers) are dependent on your website's content. Here's what a featured snippet looks like:

Featured snippet - What is a web sling?

A featured snippet may also include bullet points, a table, or - as shown below - a numbered list.

Numbered list snippet - How to remove your oven door handle

If you phrase your Google search in the form of a question (e.g. 'where was lord of the rings filmed' or 'how do antibiotics work'), the top result will very often be a featured snippet. This applies to voice search as well as to traditional text searches - for instance, a Google Home device will usually respond to a question by simply reading out the featured snippet for that keyword phrase.

Google is showing featured snippets for more and more searches as time goes by (we've even started seeing them for non-question queries like 'safety goggles'), and if Google starts displaying your competitor's content in a big box at the top of the SERP, there's a very good chance that your organic traffic will plummet as a result.

For this reason, it may be worth rewriting some of the copy on your site with question-type keywords in mind so as to snag as many of those 'featured answer' spots as possible.

Further reading: How to Gain Featured Snippets

5. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are Google's solution to the increasingly prevalent expectation that online content should load instantaneously - especially on mobile devices. Website owners can now create 'accelerated' versions of their pages specifically for mobile users, and this is definitely something to bear in mind if you're determined to deliver an outstanding mobile browsing experience.

An accelerated mobile page is essentially a stripped-down version of a normal web page that is specifically designed to load very quickly. AMP pages were originally available only to well-known publications like the Telegraph and the Independent, but the technology is now open to all, which means that you can create lean, fast-loading versions of your key pages in order to please mobile users and (potentially) rank more highly in Google's mobile results.

Using AMP on your wensite will significantly improve the speed with which your website is delivered to users. It may also give you an advantage on the Google AdWords platform to boot.

Does your website need an update or a redesign? Request a FREE quote from the Designer Websites team!

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.
Which colours should I choose for my website design?

Selecting a colour scheme for your company's website can be a tricky business - you ideally want something that not only looks good but also accurately reflects your brand and the work that you do.

In order to select the right combination of colours for your business, you need to have some understanding of colour meanings and the feelings that different hues evoke. Here's a rough guide to some common colours and what Western audiences tend to associate them with - which of these descriptions most closely resembles your organisation?

Red

Commonly associated with: love, passion, intensity, aggressiveness, action, danger

Red is the colour of danger - motorists see it every day on road signs and traffic lights, and it usually serves as a warning or an urgent instruction. Yet it's also associated with love and romance: think red hearts and red roses.

Red is a very attention-grabbing colour, and many websites use red sparingly to make one particular element (such as a call to action or a key piece of information) stand out above everything else. It is also commonly used in our neck of the woods to emphasise the company's close ties to Wales.

Blue

Commonly associated with: calmness, clarity, relaxation, understanding, imagination

Blue is a calm, relaxing colour that may be a good choice if you want people to feel at ease while browsing your website. It also carries implications of knowledge and an absence of limitations (you may be familiar with the phrase 'blue-sky thinking').

Blue is reportedly the most popular colour on the Internet. Famous blue websites include Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress, and many companies from all kinds of different industries use blue in their branding to suggest efficiency, clarity, approachability, and connectedness.

Yellow

Commonly associated with: happiness, energy, warmth, light, success

Yellow evokes sunshine and summertime - it's the colour of happiness, so if your company is all about making people happy then this could be a sound colour choice for your website design. One of the most ubiquitous logos in the world - the McDonald's 'M' -  is yellow, and that particular brand is entirely built around themes of joy, happiness, and customer satisfaction (just think of their motto: "I'm lovin' it").

Yellow's other connotations include energy (think yellow lightning bolts) and success (gold medals), so it's perfect if you want to present your brand as energetic, customer-focused, and determined to succeed.

Green

Commonly associated with: nature, the environment, hope, peace, good luck

More or less everyone understands the connotations of the colour green - even the word 'green' has long doubled as a synonym for 'environmentally-friendly'. If you want to bring your company's environmental credentials to the fore, or if you want your corporate branding to evoke the wholesomeness and harmony of nature, then you might want to think about incorporating some green into your colour scheme.

Orange

Commonly associated with: enthusiasm, creativity, determination, affordability 

Orange can be thought of as a somehwat friendlier alternative to red. It's still bright and eye-catching, but it doesn't have the same associations with danger and aggression. Orange tends to make people think of enthusiasm and creativity, making it a good choice if you want customers to view you as an eager organisation that's good at thinking outside the box.

Purple

Commonly associated with: glamour, power, royalty, luxury

Purple is the colour of monarchs; it makes people think of crowns, thrones and expensive jewellery. If you want to evoke glamour and luxury then purple may be the way forward - it suggests that you offer the most delux, high-end version of the product or service in which you specialise.

Black

Commonly associated with: professionalism, seriousness, wealth

This is an obvious choice for businesses who provide a service related to dying or mourning - funeral directors and bereavement counsellors, for example - but black isn't just the colour of death. It also evokes professionalism; businesspeople often wear black clothes and black shoes to look professional at work and in meetings, and this logic can be applied to corporate branding and website design as well.

Black says that you're serious about what you do, and it can also carry some of the same connotations as purple (specifically opulence and wealth - many luxury brands, including Rolex and Chanel, have bold black logos, and being 'in the black' means that you are financially solvent as opposed to being 'in the red'). 

Pink

Commonly associated with: sex, sweetness, femininity, love, nurturing

Pink and purple are both shades of magenta, and so this colour is sometimes used as a lighter, friendlier and/or 'cheaper' version of its darker counterpart. Pink still suggests a level of glitz and glamour, but it's less a night at the opera and more a night at the musicals. If purple is Madama Butterfly, then pink is Grease or Mamma Mia!

Obviously, pink is frequently used as a shorthand for femininity, and it's common to see it used on websites that specifically target women and/or girls. Pink is also the colour of sexuality, making it not just an appropriate colour for businesses of an adult nature but also a great way to subtly trigger the primal part of the brain that drives us to seek out sexual partners and reproduce.

Brown

Commonly associated with: dependability, earthiness, authenticity, tradition

Brown, like green, is a colour that's often associated with Earth and with the world around us. It suggests unrefined, non-manufactured authenticity, and it can be used to evoke environmental friendliness as well as personal health ('brown' foods such as brown bread and brown rice being seen as healthier than their 'white' equivalents) and a general sense of doing the right thing.

Brown also has strong ties to the past, and can be used by brands to play upon the consumer's desire for something traditional or old-fashioned. If you want to use nostalgia to persuade people to use your company, brown may be an effective colour choice both for your logo and for your website design.

Need help choosing the right website design for your business? Designer Websites can help - click here to request a FREE web design quote!
Does the Fold Still Matter?

The last few years have seen some major changes in the way people consume information online. Most notably, mobile devices are now the most popular means of browsing the Internet, and that's a fact that web designers cannot afford to ignore: if your client's customers would rather shop on their smartphones than on desktop PCs, then you're making a huge mistake by designing primarily for full-size screens.

One big debate that's popped up as a result of the mobile revolution concerns the fold and whether it's still a useful concept for web designers to bear in mind. Today, we're going to take a closer look at this issue and find out if the fold still matters in a world where most people view the internet on mobile devices.

What is the fold?

When you first arrive on a webpage, the fold is the line that separates the stuff you see right away from the stuff you don't see until you scroll down. If content is 'above the fold', it's visible from the moment the page loads; content that's 'below the fold' is not visible until you scroll further down the page.

How do we know where the fold is?

Back when desktop PCs were the only option for people who wanted to surf the web, it was fairly easy to identify whether a given piece of content would be above or below the fold, because you could assume that your website would look more or less the same on every monitor. It's trickier nowadays because internet-capable devices come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes: content that's above the fold on a laptop may be way, way below the fold on a smartphone or tablet.

Unfortunately, it's not even as simple as a desktop/tablet/mobile trichotomy, because different phones and tablets often have vastly different screen sizes (for example, the fold is unlikely to be located in exactly the same place on both an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy). Shrewd use of responsive web design techniques will ensure that your website looks good and functions well on every device, but this doesn't change the fact that parts of your homepage will be above the fold on some screens and below it on others.

But is this a problem? That's the question we're really here to answer today: should you be worried when a critical piece of content falls below the fold, or has the entire concept of the fold become outdated and irrelevant?

Here's why the fold isn't as important as it used to be

The argument against the fold having any bearing on modern web design hinges primarily on the idea that present-day web users are happy to scroll down in order to find what they're looking for. And when you think about this, it makes sense: smartphone screens are relatively small, and it's rare to see a webpage that fits the entirety of its content into that limited space. When you read a news article on your phone, for example, you often can't see anything beyond the headline until you scroll down a little:

Not shown: 900+ words about Donald Trump and 'battleground states'

As we mentioned earlier, the majority of Internet use now takes place on mobile devices, and as a result, there's really no reason to be afraid of forcing your users to scroll down any more. Unlike the PC owners of yore who didn't even have mouse wheels, mobile users generally don't mind scrolling to reach the meat of your webpage; in fact, their daily online experiences have arguably conditioned them to expect it. Whether you're scrolling through your Twitter feed, a Spotify playlist, or a list of products on an ecommerce website, it's plain to see that scrolling, not clicking, has become our primary method for interacting with the Internet. Heck, you've probably seen at least one website that consists of just one page and is navigated simply by scrolling through the entire thing.

(If you haven't come across a website like that before, www.tacklestore.net is a good example - note that clicking an option in the header menu simply causes your browser to auto-scroll straight down to the relevant portion of the page.)

So, given that your customers' thumbs will be poised to start scrolling as soon as your website loads, there's no need to worry about the fold at all, right? Even if your Enquire Now > button is buried all the way down at the very bottom of the page, all those hours spent flicking through Facebook posts have left people perfectly content to scroll more or less infinitely, yes?

Well...not necessarily.

Here's why 'above the fold' still matters

While the fold is no longer a Bermuda Triangle-esque vanishing point for user engagement, it's still important to think hard about what's at the very top of your webpage. It's true that most users in this day and age don't mind a spot of scrolling, but you have to give them a reason to scroll or they'll just go away and visit somebody else's site instead. And when Google spots that its users are consistently leaving your website almost as soon as they've arrived, your rankings will disappear faster than the last bacon-wrapped sausage on Christmas Day.

The key here is to think about your website from the perspective of a hypothetical user. Look at your page on a variety of different devices (desktop, mobile and tablet) and ask yourself these two questions:
  • Is this what the user will be expecting to see? If your website sells laptops, and you're primarily targeting people who want to buy laptops, then the topmost thing on your homepage should NOT be a blog post about how to use Google Docs. It may be a brilliant, insightful read, and it may even be of interest to some of your customers, but the main reason they're on your website is to shop for laptops. Your above-the-fold content should first and foremost aim to welcome users to the page and confirm that they're in the right place.

  • Are we giving the user a reason to take further action? Reassuring the user that, yes, your website is the one for them is half the battle. The next thing you have to do is encourage them to take action. That doesn't have to mean buying something or telephoning your sales team, at least not right away. But while it's no longer necessary to place your main call-to-action at the top of your page, you at least need to entice the user to go further with their investigation. The first thing users see on your site should be something that makes them want to read more, or click through to view some examples of your work, or follow you on Twitter because you're clearly the greatest wit of your generation. Be sure to bear this in mind when you're thinking about your above-the-fold content.

Examples

Here are a couple of websites that, in our opinion, have managed to get their above-the-fold content just right:


Access Training Academies

This company delivers accredited trade training courses across the UK.
  • Is this what the user will be expecting to see? Yes - the heading immediately confirms the company's name and gives a rough summary of what they do ("Electrician Courses, Plumbing Courses & More"). Whether the user was specifically looking for Access Training Academies or simply researching potential training providers, the above-the-fold content makes it clear from the off that this site has what they're after.

  • Does this give the user a reason to take further action? Again, yes - the 'Course Finder' tool makes it easy for budding tradespeople to find the area they're interested in and skip straight to the relevant course(s). The telephone icon that appears in the top-right corner of the page when it's viewed on a mobile device also makes it apparent that customers can contact the company directly if they require any assistance.

Floormaker

This is an ecommerce website with a wide variety of flooring products on offer.
  • Is this what the user will be expecting to see? Almost certainly - there's confirmation that Floormaker is a "flooring supplier" directly under the company's logo, and references to the likes of laminate and solid wood flooring give customers further reassurance that this website is likely to feature the type of product they're after.

  • Does this give the user a reason to take further action? Yes. Visitors to the Floormaker website are presented with several options right off the bat: browse the laminate or solid wood ranges, use the search bar to find something specific, or use the live chat software to speak with someone who knows what they're talking about. Note also the icons underneath the search bar (free samples, free delivery, 5 star reviews, etc.), which offer the user some very good reasons to stick with Floormaker and investigate the company's website further.
If you'd like a business website that's designed by professionals with a firm grasp of all the latest web design techniques, please call Designer Websites on 01446 339050 or click here to request a quotation.
ABC Leasing

ABC Leasing are a team of car leasing specialists based in South Wales. They provide vehicles for personal use as well as for professional purposes, and they pride themselves on providing great customer service and making the leasing process as fast and as hassle-free as possible for their customers. 

One of ABC's main aims is to provide a straightforward and transparent service, making it easy to apply for a lease and to find the information needed to make an informed decision. With this in mind, they became concerned that their website was somewhat outdated and difficult to use, preventing them from giving their customers a truly user-friendly experience. This is why they decided to get in touch with Designer Websites with the the goal of creating a sleek new website that would be easy to use and comprehend. They also wanted to improve their website's search engine optimisation, in order to attract more business via Google and other search engines.

Our developers worked closely with the team at ABC to create a modern and user-friendly website, with a variety of helpful features that were custom-built to meet their aims. A primary goal for the new design was to ensure that customers were able to browse and search the full range of vehicles with ease, allowing them to select their desired car or van online. To make this as simple as possible for site users, we developed a sophisticated search system that allows users to refine their search by make, model, vehicle type and budget, granting them the ability to add or omit these specifications according to their preferences.

As well as improving the search function on their website, ABC were also keen to make the application process as straightforward as possible, enabling customers to apply for a lease without having to visit the ABC office in person. Their new website's online application page makes it simple and stress-free for users to apply for a lease on any device, thanks to the responsive design, which ensures that the information is presented on smartphones and tablets in an easy-to-navigate format. There is also an additional enquiry form for people who would like to find our more about ABC before making their decision, allowing them to target undecided customers as well as those who have already chosen to commit.

To view the new and improved ABC Leasing site, please visit http://www.abc-leasing.com/

If you would like to discover how an improved website could enhance your business or organisation, please get in touch with Designer Websites to discuss your requirements.

We recently designed a new website for cleaning at height specialists, Seers, who were looking to better target their height services in order to improve search rankings and expand their online presence. 

Seers offer a range of high level cleaning and maintenance services, from graffiti removal and bird spike installation, to standard gutter and window cleaning. Their team has decades of experience in the industry, and covers a vast number of buildings, such as warehouses, hospitals and office buildings (just to name a few). They also cover a wide catchment area, carrying out jobs throughout South Wales and South West England. 

In order to specifically target their cleaning at height services, Seers decided to commission a website that made full use of this term, in order to compete for a better position in search results. Although their variety of additional services are also included on the site, and are easy to locate in the drop down menu, the homepage copy is optimized to place a greater emphasis on height level cleaning, in order to fully encapsulate this phrase. 

As well is improving the SEO for cleaning at height, the new website also has improved functionality and visual appeal, making the site easy to navigate and engaging for visitors. Thanks to the image-heavy design, viewers are able to experience the full extent of the services offered by Seers, getting more of a feel for the type of work they carry out. The photographs also validate their experience in the field, by providing a visual record of past projects. 

At the bottom of the page, there is a prominent array of recognizable logos from high profile clients such as Pinewood and Marriott, which also helps to validate their experience in the field, by demonstrating their ability to carry out work for reputable companies.

The new website is also fully responsive, which means that it will be easy to navigate on mobile phones and other portable devices. This means that customers searching for their services are likely to have a positive experience once they have landed on the site, which in turn will also improve their search rankings by reducing their bounce rate.

View the brand new Seers website. 

If you would like more information about our web design services, please get in touch with us here.
access training

Recently we were approached by Access Training Academies, a trade qualification course provider who were interested in improving the usability and search engine performance of their website.

Access Training offer some of the best trade courses in the UK, giving students the opportunity to gain practical experience in a large number of fields, ranging from plumbing to plastering. With state of the art facilities, and a concentrated 1-8 tutor to student ratio, Access Training are able to offer an efficient and highly successful set of teaching programmes to their candidates. 

Hoping to reach out to potential students and aid their location of suitable courses once they had reached their website, Access Training asked us to improve the site's visual and technical aspects, thereby increasing its overall performance and quality.They began, by deciding that they wanted to make the site fully accessible to people who were using devices other than a desktop computer to search for their courses. We achieved this by ensuring that the new design was fully responsive across a number of portable devices, allowing excellent navigation regardless of screen size.

This user friendly nature has been extended throughout all aspects of the site, and is particularly noticeable in the new 'course finder' wizard, which allows visitors to find suitable courses with ease and efficiency. This is directly related to the site's improved copy, which has been condensed to provide easy comprehension and better search engine performance by targeting specific keywords. We've already seen some improvements in their Google rankings since the site went live, and we are sure that this is something that will see continued improvement over time.

Visit the new Access Training Academies website now, or get in touch to find out more about our services.

Bespoke website design

Here at Designer Websites, we offer a bespoke web design and development service that provides our clients with unique and highly functional websites. Our work is scalable and fine-tuned to each client's needs, and every website we create is designed to offer the best possible user experience.

Whether your aim is to generate a strong and memorable brand identity for your new company online, or to offer unique functionality to your customers, there are myriad benefits that come from investing in a bespoke website.

One question we're often asked by clients who are thinking of commissioning a bespoke website is...

"What makes a bespoke website better than a template-type site that's based on a pre-built system?"

On first impression, pre-built solutions can seem like a great idea for businesses who are just starting out online. Accessible and affordable, they are the 'quick fix' of the web design world - there are lots of shortcuts one can take to get a website up and running in a short time, allowing the user to build their design based on a set of ready-made foundations.

While the popularity of pre-built systems is undeniable, what we'd like to do in this article is highlight some of the drawbacks - drawbacks that arguably far outweigh the benefits.

Read on to learn why a bespoke web design will deliver a more sustainable, professional advantage to you and your business in the long term.

Exclusivity and Customisation

As mentioned above, a template on a pre-built system can seem like a perfectly adequate choice for your website at first, especially as you can often choose from thousands of available designs to make the finished site feel unique. The fact that it's pre-made also means that you can test your site to see how it will look for the user once you have uploaded all the content. There is very little design or development time required, and therefore the cost should be very low indeed. In fact, many of these DIY-type solutions allow you to build a site yourself (even if you would need to be relatively web-savvy to achieve this).

Sounds OK so far, right? So what are the drawbacks?

A Unique Design...?

Some of these pre-built website solutions offer thousands of different template designs, with new ones becoming available every day. But there are hundreds of millions of websites online, and over time, those templates become less unique as more people choose to use them.

Of course, many of the templates can be tweaked with different colours, images, and so on, making them more specific to your company and your requirements. But you can only go as far as the template will allow you.

With many pre-built systems, you can use a totally bespoke design on top of the platform, which will give you some uniqueness for a while (though, again, only within the constraints of the system's capabilities). The problem is, these systems are designed to be easy to replicate, and the code structure is always the same - so your design will not be unique for as long as you might like.

If you use a decent designer to create a template on top of a pre-built system, then you may well end up paying over the odds for what is fundamentally a template system - and all without gaining any of the benefits of a bespoke website. It's important to be caution here: these web designers may say they're selling you a 'bespoke website' (they may even believe it themselves), but in fact it's only a bespoke design within the rigid structure of a template system.

Moreover, we often see companies charging ridiculous fees for what is simply a design - work that's made relatively easy for the designer by the confinements of a pre-built system. This is not a bespoke website.

Responsive vs Emulated Responsive

A truly responsive web design starts with the user interface (UI) designer, who should spend time creating separate designs for each device type - i.e. mobiles, tablets and desktop PCs. The designer will carefully think about the user journey on a smartphone, for example, excluding sections and including the most relevant areas, making the point of the website more appropriate for that type of user in that situation. It may be a totally different layout to that seen on a desktop monitor. Along with this comes the usual menu style changes and resizing of images, etc.

An emulated responsive design, often employed by pre-built solutions or templates, is one where the system makes automated calculations based on the size of the screen and changes the style of the menu and resizes elements like images and fonts on the screen. So it's the same design/layout, but adapted to the screen size.

Emulated responsive is better than not having a responsive design at all, but this does not give the user the best experience, and does not sell your business or your products in the best way.

Bespoke, truly responsive websites are naturally far better than emulated responsive sites, so be sure of what your web designer is offering you - ask them if it's 'true responsive' or just emulated.

Expertise

Problems can arise when you ask your web designer 'can we make it do this? and the answer is often an intake of air and - surprise, surprise - either 'no' or 'we can do it for the cost of a small car'!

The reason for this is that they are not proper software developers (although don't tell them that because they probably think they are) and fundamentally, they did not develop the system. They have merely placed the design on top of an existing system, so it's actually pretty tough for them to do what you are asking without outsourcing to a software development company.

A truly bespoke website will be modern, totally unique, scalable, delivered by the people responsible for the coding and not just the design, and fundamentally if you need a change it is often very easy and quick, but most importantly very doable!

Truly bespoke websites are delivered by companies with a combination of professional software engineers, user interface developers and highly skilled web-specific designers. These tend to be far more stable companies and not your fly-by-night very small design-only firms, so an additional benefit is that you don't have to worry about your website disappearing one day!

Some large companies take the view that pre-built solutions are a very fast way of making easy money, and therefore still deliver them. Sadly, these tend to be the companies who charge the same as a bespoke development company would for a truly bespoke website, but instead they deliver to you a pre-built template system at an extortionate price! It's a very fast way to make money if you can sleep at night with this kind of business model...

So are bespoke websites more expensive? Well, they most definitely should be, because they require highly skilled and experienced people to develop them, but, quite often they are not more expensive at all! In our experience, they are sadly often cheaper than the pre-built templates systems, because some unscrupulous companies charge a great deal for placing a design on top of a pre-built solution.

Code Age & Technology

One of the biggest problems with pre-built solutions is that they cost the founding company a great deal of cash to develop, as they try to create a one-size-fits-all type solution. This then leads to them needing to sell that solution over and over for many years to claw back their costs. In turn, this often means that the pre-built solution being sold to you is 5 to 10 years old (or worse) based on old technologies and techniques, albeit its existence in an ever-changing technological world!

A bespoke website will be developed with the very latest technologies, available online techniques and scripting functionality, and there is significant benefit to this online, not least of which is the search engine optimisation benefits.

Expansion and Optimisation

One of the most significant limitations posed by template systems is the inability to expand and improve your website over time. If you want to say integrate your Sage accounts, your ERP system, CRM or barcoding system, etc, this can often be made overly-complicated or even impossible!

Plugins are often available within open source pre-built solutions, which are intended to offer the user the ability to extend the possibilities set out in a template, these can soon prove to be unreliable, insufficient, bug riddled and even highly insecure. Developed by third parties, these plug-ins could not only clash when used in combination with other plug-ins, but also with general system updates across the template platform. This puts the user in a lose/lose situation, due to the fact that while an update may affect the freedom granted by these additions, neglecting to conform to system updates could increase the chances of your site's security being compromised (actually a common problem with templates). These plugins can not only compromise security and reliability but are often not optimised and therefore contain unnecessary code, making the system sluggish and unresponsive.

As far as online optimisation is concerned, your website should be light, fast and responsive to the user, making it easy to use. You want to offer your customers a speedy and useful journey through your website, and this too is what the likes of Google want. They don't care about you or your business, they only care that the website they are affectively recommending is providing a useful experience. After-all, if they constantly linked to slow and poor quality websites, then we'd all stop using them to search for things on the internet right?

The problem with a one-size-fits-all system, is that it lends itself to providing quick and easy solutions, meaning that you don't need to be very skilled or experienced to provide one, again meaning that the site will not be properly optimised. These systems contain lots of bolt-on's and plugins to handle newer technologies that didn't exist when it was created 10 years ago, which just adds to the slowness and the bulkiness. Add to this the inherent security issues which arise with these systems, and you have to wonder why they sell so well.

Support and Security

As I have already mentioned above, template websites can cause serious problems when it comes to security, simply due to the fact that they present an attractive target for hackers. If you own a bespoke website, then hackers would need to target it specifically and run lots of tools to find out where the admin area is, where the database is stored, etc. This makes the process far more time consuming, and therefore less appealing. Template websites tend to have the same admin login area, the same database location and the same codebase etc, so they are very easy to hack. As part of a wider network of replicated sites, they form a super easy target once a vulnerability has been identified.

No website is safe from a really good hacker, all you can do is provide as much security as possible and make it more time consuming for them; if a good hacker wants your information they'll get it! If they can get into military instalments or FBI systems, then they can most definitely get into your website if they really want to. The point is, why would they waste their time trying to get into a relatively secure and obfuscated website, when all these template type sites exist on the internet? These pre-built solutions make it easy for them, and the designers developing them actually know very little about the technical security of a website in the first place.

In fact, an inherent security issue is posed by the fact that many of these systems are open source, and provide free plugins. If you want a widget within your website to perform a specific task, you can simply look online to see if someone has created a plugin for it. Often you will find it has been done and most of the time these will be fine, but how would you or your designer know if that plugin had some backdoor access type code hidden within it, or keyboard tracking, or a million other security risks? Bear in mind that your designer didn't write the code, and more than likely wouldn't understand it even if they did try to read it.

Another disadvantage of using a template is the lack of support when things do go wrong, like some of the issues I have mentioned above. If you discover a problem with your website, without the proper expertise it can be very difficult to diagnose and fix.

So, in summary, a bespoke website will have the following benefits:

  • Truly bespoke design - not easily replicated
  • A true responsive design - not emulated
  • A proper development and design team for support and assistance
  • More modern and technologically advanced code
  • True scalability and the ability to integrate any online technology as it becomes available
  • Security from common vulnerabilities
  • Importantly, an optimised solution that is light, fast and responsive
  • And lastly...value for money! We're not simply pushing a design onto a pre-built solution and then charging you the price of a small car for doing so!

We're happy to answer any questions you may have on this subject, if you do have any further enquires, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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