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.