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

So what can I do to make mobile users happy?

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

Use a responsive design.

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

Don't bury important content.

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

Be fast!

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

Space out your clickable elements.

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

Make the user's journey short and simple.

Think of your website as a running track. The end user is a sprinter, and they cross the 'finish line' whenever they complete a conversion on your site ('a conversion' being the thing that you ultimately want users to do on your website - this could mean making a purchase, requesting a quote, subscribing to your newsletter, et cetera). Between the user and the finish line are a series of hurdles: actions that they must complete and hoops they will have to jump through in order to reach the conversion stage.
 
Your mission is to make those hurdles as few and as minuscule as possible. Make that running track as short and as unobstructed as you possibly can!
 
Here are a few example of 'hurdles' and how you can help your mobile users to overcome them with ease:
  • Finding the right page. The first 'hurdle' for most visitors to a website is working out where to find the thing they're looking for. You can minimise this hurdle with a clear site layout and intuitive navigation (i.e. not too many menu options, self-explanatory category names).

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

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

Really Wild Bird Food are family-run business based in Hampshire, who specialise in growing, harvesting and supplying seeds and feed mixes for garden birds. Since their business was first set up in the early nineties, their selection of products has expanded rapidly, which means that their website is now a one-stop shop for a variety of garden bird and wildlife products, including:

  • Suet products, peanuts and live/dried mealworms 
  • Bird feeders, tables and stations
  • Feeder cleaning and hygiene products 
  • Bird baths and nesting boxes 
  • Food, habitats and accessories for attracting other garden wildlife 
The farm and business is headed by husband and wife team Richard and Lesley, who came to us with a vision of a new, user-friendly ecommerce website, which retained their approachable, hands-on image. In addition, they also wanted the ability to easily manage their product listings and company blog, which was especially important for a couple with such a long to-do list!
 
We are now happy to say that the website has been completely revamped, to include an eye-catching, user-friendly design, highly optimised SEO and copy, and a functional content management system that's easy to use. In addition to these many benefits, the site is now fully responsive, making it easy to navigate on mobile devices, and optimised to perform well in mobile search results.
 
Whether you're looking for seeds and wildlife products for the budding bird-spotter in your life, or you'd simply like to have a closer look at the new design simply click here to visit the new and improved Really Wild Bird Food site!
 
Would you like a functional, attractive and SEO friendly ecommerce site for your business? Get in touch now to request a free quotation.
 
When it comes to commissioning a web design and development project, we understand that the process can sometimes be confusing for business owners, particularly those who are building their online presence from scratch. Perhaps the most confusing aspect of all, is the level of input required from the business owner, which can vary massively depending on each case. While some clients may have a very specific idea in mind that they are determined to stick to at all costs, others may want to hand over most of the work to the design team, as they feel that they lack the direction and knowledge required to make a truly informed decision.
 
At Designer Websites, we’ve helped a variety of clients over the years, and feel it’s important to inform those who are looking to commission a website, about the steps they should be taking both before and during the process. Here a few common mistakes that can be made when planning a website, along with some advice about how and why to avoid them:

Mistake #1 - Setting your sights on a design that’s wrong for your business:

A common problem that may arise at the very beginning of the process, is a request for a design that is completely wrong for the business in question. While it can be useful to browse the internet for design ques, in order to get a better idea of which direction your headed in, insisting on emulating a design that has nothing to do with your business, can only end in disappointment. While it goes without saying that your design should be visually appealing, this also has to combine with functionality and business aims in order to create a truly successful website. There is little point in having a website with an ultra-sleek design that fails to sustain the interest of your customer, or present any of the required information to promote your brand and services. Having a clear idea of what you want can be a big help to your design team, but be prepared for these ideas to evolve according to the needs of your business, and the purpose of your site.

Mistake #2 – Assuming that the design doesn’t need to perform on mobile:

Despite the hundreds of articles that have circulated in recent years, which insist on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website, some businesses continue ignore this vital element of modern web design. Whether you think that your target demographic are likely to search predominantly on mobile devices or not, there’s simply no denying the fact that mobile search has overtaken desktop, which means that regardless of your audience, there will be many people who arrive on your site his way.
 
If you deal in ecommerce, then this should be something of a no-brainer for you, although a mobile-friendly design can also present a range of benefits to sites who are not looking to target direct sales. The main reason, which applies to any and all websites, is that Google have openly said that they favour mobile friendly websites, using it as a ranking signal to determine how your site shows up in search results. 

Mistake #3 - Forgetting functionality:

Business owners can sometimes neglect the most important element of the entire project – the end user. If your design is based solely on what you think looks and sounds good, or you just take a ‘web design 101’ approach to the project, then you’re completely missing the point of a great web design. It’s absolutely vital that you think about how your website will engage existing customers, and also consider how to attract new followers to your brand. Your website has to be easy to use, and it also has to deliver what people are looking for when they discover your business. While there are best practices that apply to all web designs, you have to think beyond the basics if you want a website that both meets and responds to the needs of the intended user.

Mistake #4 – Coming to the table without aims, ideas and targets:

A flaw that can sometimes hinder the design process, is the fact that many business have realised that they need to appear online, but aren’t sure how to go about it. A website should not only compliment your business, but be an extension of it, allowing you to enhance existing services and attributes, while also generating new possibilities. Before you begin the design processes, it is important that you consider not only what you want the website to achieve, but also what is possible in the modern digital world. You also have to make sure that this aim is clear enough to be understood by the viewer, in conjunction with the last point about usability. Some points to consider include:
 
  • If I want to influence sales through my website, what is the best way for me to do this?
  • How do I want potential customer to contact me?
  • Am I looking to provide an extension of my services to existing/typical users, or am I looking to appeal to a different audience?
  • What messages are most important to by business? What’s the first thing I want people to see?
  • What images do people in my industry respond to? Am I looking to correspond to certain expectations, or do I want to provide a new/unconventional experience?
  • Will I need scope to add new content and additional features in the future? How could this website potentially expand my business?

Mistake #5 – Stuffing in social media for the sake of it:

Using social media for business has become almost as important as the website itself, and for many businesses this may even prove to be just as influential for driving business. The problem with using social media within, or in conjunction with, your business, is that there is no universal approach to success with it, and not every platform will provide a positive result for a business. Having said this, choosing the right social media platform, and including this in your website in the correct manner, can provide tremendous results for your business. After thinking about which accounts you should have in the first place, your second thought should concern how these will fit into your website. Social feeds and icons need to enhance your website, not hinder it, so be very cautious about adding these in without careful consideration. Here are some examples of questions you should ask yourself, before rushing into the set-up of your on-site social media:
 
  • Which icons should appear? Do I need to provide every social media account, or just those which are most valuable to the business?
  • How should these social icons appear? How can I make them prominent, without distracting from the more important features of the website?
  • Is a feed right for my website, or will it just distract my users away from my site? Are my social accounts active enough to produce a feed which looks up-to-date and relevant?
 
If you’re have a web design project in mind, and are looking for the right knowledge and expertise to bring your vision to life, then get in touch with the team at Designer Websites! For more information, or to request a free, no-obligation quote, simply fill in our quick and easy contact form here.