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.

Request a Website Design Quote


IDS are a security company based in Cardiff who specialise in providing professional security and fire protection systems throughout the UK. With decades of experience in the field, the team are able to oversee the design, installation and maintenance of a variety of security systems, ranging from CCTV and access control to fire alarms. In addition to these services, they also offer 24/7 call-out and monitoring to their customers every day of the year. 

Despite being an established company with a thorough knowledge of their trade, IDS recognised that their website was not performing well enough in search engine results, which is what led them to contact Designer Websites. After careful consideration, our team set about improving the website in order to ensure that it was a great reflection of the company's products and services, which could easily be reached by potential customers. 

The new IDS website has a more professional look, with content that makes efficient use of meta tags and copy to ensure that the company will rank well in search results. The site also has an improved focus on local search terms, allowing them to effectively target and increase their business prospects within Cardiff and the surrounding area. In addition to these improvements, we also added a blog to allow IDS to share their latest news and insights, providing them with an enriched means of communicating with both new and existing customers.

You can view the new website we created for IDS here

For more information about the range of website optimization services we offer, click here, or follow this link to send us your questions and ask for a quote.
Responsive vs. Non-Responsive Websites

The development of new technology moves at an alarmingly accelerated rate, and it's important for business owners and web developers alike to keep up with these changes in order to respond to customer demands. One of the biggest changes to how we search and browse the internet today has been the popularisation of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. We are now able to search for products and services online at any time we wish with practically no restrictions, dramatically changing the way in which we browse and keep up with online content. As a direct result of these changes, website owners need to adapt their sites in order to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers.

This is why responsive web design has become such a popular solution in recent years. Internet users now expect to be able to transfer from one device to another with ease, and well-made responsive websites deliver consistency and adaptability to users while making the lives of SEOs much easier in the process. In this blog post, we will highlight some of the differences between responsive and non-responsive websites, demonstrating why the former option is usually the better of the two.

Images and Loading Times 

Images are a great way to capture a user's attention straight away, which is part of the reason why it's important to include great-quality visuals on any website. A non-optimised website can pose many problems when viewing these images on portable devices, including increased loading times. Responsive web design utilises flexible grids, layouts and images in combination with intelligent use of CSS media queries to address this problem, allowing visuals to appear clearly across a multitude of devices with varied screen sizes. 

Being User-Friendly

As noted above, responsive websites are a great way to prevent images from losing their impact when viewed on devices with smaller screens. This goes for the text and navigation of a website, too; by optimising a website for use on mobile devices, web developers are able to streamline content while making it easier for users to view and navigate the site.

Some would argue that a dedicated mobile website performs better in this respect, particularly in the case of news sites with a lot of written content or ecommerce sites with a variety of functions that are difficult to translate. But here's the problem: due to the fact that every website must found its reputation from scratch, regardless of a separate website being part of the same brand or business, a separate mobile website will struggle to perform well in search engines. A responsive website, on the other hand, can deliver a great user experience across all devices whilst also preserving the site's reputation by keeping everything under one URL.

Pleasing Google and Getting Noticed

Recognition from Google is of vital importance to every website owner, due to the simple fact that high Google rankings drive a lot of traffic. If you're looking to improve your Google rankings, it's important to keep an eye on the bounce rate of each page on your website; a high bounce rate means that users leave quickly because they can't find what they are looking for.

Non-responsive websites often fail to translate content efficiently from one device to another, and this can force mobile visitors to give up on your site very quickly. This is why responsive websites seek to prioritise usability in their design, benefiting both the customer and the website owner by improving the search and share experience. The issue of consistent reputation (see above) is also part of this wider experience, as it once again makes it easier to get your site noticed and ranked higher by Google. Having a single URL for all versions of your site makes it easier for Googlebot to crawl and index the content while avoiding any accidental duplicate content issues. meaning that all positive reactions will be valid on other devices.

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And there you have it: a short guide to the difference between responsive and non-responsive websites, and how they function for users and businesses.

If you would like Designer Websites to create a responsive website for your business, please click here to request a quotation.
Spectrum Displays

Spectrum Displays specialise in the design, construction and installation of film and television sets, as well as display stands and conference sets for special events. They also offer digital print and signage services to businesses who are looking to be more visually engaging. 

Despite having years of experience in the industry and a proven track record of success on a number of exciting projects, Spectrum did not previously have a website on which to display their vast portfolio of work and reach out to new clients. Attractive, engaging online content is vital for the continued success of businesses in the modern world, and now that their brand new site has gone live, Spectrum have a platform that will allow them to expand and improve their business.

The bespoke design of Spectrum's new website ensures that they are able to reach new customers in an appealing and visually exciting way. It is also fully responsive, thereby improving the usability of the website on smartphones and tablets and making it completely accessible and user-friendly for anyone visiting the site.

Due to the nature of Spectrum's business, it was essential to ensure that the website made prominent use of visual features. The use of photography is prevalent across the entirety of the new site, contributing to a clear and compelling reflection of the company's previous work. The subcategories of each speciality title lead to a gallery of images, which can be viewed as an online portfolio of Spectrum's previous work. 

While it was important to provide examples that placed emphasis on the finished product supplied by the company, it was also vital to present potential customers with familiar brand names in order to further endorse Spectrum's reputability. For this reason, client logos such as that of the BBC and ITV are prominently featured at the bottom of the homepage; this serves as a visual indicator that Spectrum have worked with some of the biggest names in the film and TV industry. 

Click here to explore Spectrum Displays' new dynamic website for yourself.