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!
 
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.
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.

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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When it comes to web design, there are a lot of pitfalls to be aware of. Whether it's doing something you shouldn't or failing to do something you should, one mistake can ruin your entire online presence, so it's important to keep your wits about you!
 
Here, courtesy of our professional web design team, are five do's and five don'ts for you to bear in mind when you're putting together your company's website...
  • DO get straight to the point. The average web user prefers not to stay in one place for too long, so when you're designing your website, be sure to put the crucial details (i.e. what you offer and how to get it) front and centre.

  • DON'T put style above functionality. We've no doubt that you're an artistic genius capable of designing a web page that belongs in a gallery, but appearances shouldn't necessarily be your top priority when it comes to creating a successful business website. Instead, focus on providing a straightforward, elegant experience for the end user, and tailor your design to complement this.

  • DO be consistent. Each page of your website should have the same basic look and layout as the next, as this will give users a smooth, seamless journey through your site. Of particular importance is the site menu - if this crucial navigation element changes or moves around as users browse your website, those users will quickly get frustrated and go elsewhere. However, we also recommend keeping a close eye on less obvious factors such as fonts and branding; keeping these things consistent at all times will ensure that your company looks professional to site users.

  • DON'T use Comic Sans. This 'fun' font looks extremely childish, and it is almost never an appropriate choice for a professional business website.

  • DO stick to a simple colour scheme. Using too many colours will make your website hard to read and unpleasant to look at. Stick to just two or three colours to keep everything striking and easy on the eye.

  • DON'T forget about your mobile users. The number of people using smartphones and tablets to browse the web is increasing every day, and so it's becoming more and more important to ensure that your website looks just as good on these devices as on a desktop PC. A good way to achieve this is with a responsive design that changes to fit the screen on which it is viewed.

  • DO show off your social media accounts. The power of social media has grown exponentially in recent years, and few business can afford not to be seen on Twitter and Facebook these days. Incorporating your company's social accounts into your website is a great way to gain followers and boost your visibility; obviously, you'll want to include links to your various profiles, but you may want to go one step further by integrating social media feeds into your site's design, allowing visitors to see your latest tweets, pins and posts as soon as they arrive on your homepage.

  • DON'T stuff too much in. When designing your website, aim for brevity and simplicity - don't pack each page with dozens of images and reams of text, as this will create a cluttered look that makes it difficult for users to find the information they need.

  • DO keep analysing, measuring, and making improvments. Like great art, a good web design is never finished! After your website goes live, you should use Google Analytics and other tools to continuously monitor its performance and tweak your design as necessary. Are people clicking on that button? How does it compare with the other button on the other side of the page? Should you move it elsewhere, make it bigger, or scrap it entirely to make room for something else? These questions can be answered with the help of things like goals and event tracking, so keep a close eye on how people interact with your site and never stop looking for potential improvements!

  • DON'T use Comic Sans. Please. We know we said this already, but it bears repeating. Refer to www.comicsanscriminal.com if you don't understand the issue here.
Want us to design your business website for you? Click here to get a quote, or visit our Professional Web Design page for more information.

We have just launched a new website for Inspire Windows who are a well known UPVC Windows and Doors company based in Cardiff.

Inspire Windows are a modern and very professional company who both supply and fit upvc windows and doors, so if you're looking for a great deal on your next home improvements then we recommend that you give these guys a call:

The winner of The Apprentice 2012, and business partner to multi-millionaire business magnate Lord Alan Sugar, is Ricky Martin. Shortly after winning the Apprentice Ricky began work on the website for his new business with Designer Websites.

The brief from Ricky was to design and develop a highly functional and very professional website to represent Hyper Recruitment Solutions. The website itself would specialise in science jobs, science and technology being a field of considerable expertise for Ricky himself. The website would fully integrate with their chosen recruitment software solution, to make managing and posting jobs on the website automated and easy.

Ricky Martin Ricky has worked in the scientific and technology recruitment industry for many years and is a well-known and respected recruiter in this industry, thus proposing this as his business plan was both clever and attractive to Lord Sugar. 


When we learned that Ricky wanted to work with Designer Websites to develop the HRS website we were most pleased and honoured. We immediately began work on planning and designing what we now feel is the best recruitment website on the Internet.

 


“We chose Designer Websites over many other companies for the HRS website because they have a great track record and obviously have the skills to produce a high quality website, which was absolutely imperative for this venture. Working alongside Lord Sugar is a great privilege, but it comes with very high expectations, so choosing the website developer required much consideration. Thankfully we chose the right web developer and our website is proof of this. Designer Websites completed the work on time, to expectations and without fuss. The team at Designer Websites were easy to work with, full of ideas and extremely cooperative in all areas of the project. We now have an excellent working relationship and hope to continue working together in the future. HRS would like to thank Designer Websites for all their hard work and for producing an excellent website for our business.”

Ricky Martin BSc (Hons) MIRP CertRP MRSC
Managing Director of Hyper Recruitment Solutions


The Apprentice, of course, is the wildly popular television programme in which aspiring young entrepreneurs battle it out for a chance to become a 50:50 business partner with Lord Sugar who would invest £250,000 in to their company.

With Hyper Recruitment Solutions, Ricky Martin is aiming to provide a specialised, professional and highly compliant recruitment service for the science and technology industries. Jobseekers and employers alike will find the HRS recruitment website incredibly useful; applicants can find science jobs with some of the biggest names in the industry, while companies can use the website to recruit highly qualified candidates. It’s a great deal for both parties, so whether you’re looking for employment or looking to recruit some talented new employees, Ricky Martin and the HRS recruitment website can help.

We’re thrilled to have been given this opportunity – it isn’t often that you get to work with such high-profile clients. Apprentice winner or not, we think that Ricky Martin has come up with a brilliant business idea, and we know that he and Lord Sugar have worked hard to bring Hyper Recruitment Solutions to life. We’ve been working hard too, and we know that the HRS recruitment website that we’ve developed will be up to their high standards.

The site went live today; you can find it at www.hyperec.com.

We have just published the new site for Liberty Marketing. The guys at Liberty provide a range of search engine marketing services, including AdWords management, link building, guest blogging, social media posting and copy-writing.

We have used Liberty Marketing ourselves for many years and thoroughly recommend their services.

The choice between static and CMS websites should be shaped by a number of factors. The objectives of your business are key to the decision, as is the industry in which you operate, and as always businesses decisions are constrained by the available budget. By working with an experienced team of website developers, you will receive the balanced advice you need to choose the right website for your business.

Static Websites
A static website is one in which the content (copy and images) is fixed. At the time the website is developed the content is placed into a static web page by the developers. As a result, if you would like to change those pages you will likely have to go back to your website development team.

Dynamic Websites (CMS)
A dynamic website is one which displays content (copy and images) that has been stored in a database or data files (e.g. XML files) and is fetched from that database every time a  web page is viewed by a visitor. Dynamic pages are essential for websites which require regular content changes e.g. ecommerce websites. If you have a fully dynamic website you will be able to make content changes yourself, without having to contact your website development team.


Pros and cons of static websites


Pro: Static websites use pages which have already been loaded, ensuring an instant response to the search engines. A rapid response to search engine bots has become increasingly important over the years for a number of reasons including website SEO, and is now considered an essential element of successful websites.

Pro: Static websites tend to benefit from clean code and rarely cause issues for search engine bots.

Pro: If you require a bespoke, high-end website, a static site will be cheaper than a bespoke, dynamic website.

Con: Future modifications which need to be made to static websites will usually need to be made by your website development team. Over time you may pay more for a static website as you are unable to make modifications yourself.

Con: Search engines like to see frequent, fresh content on websites. Static websites can become a bit stale, which in turn might affect your search engine rankings.


Pros and cons of dynamic websites


Pro: Dynamic websites can be easily updated in-house - changes can be made quickly and cheaply.

Pro: Dynamic websites are often developed using a pre-built CMS, which means they can be relatively simple, quick and inexpensive to create. However, if your dynamic site uses a bespoke CMS then it will be considerably more expensive than a static site. A bespoke CMS will significantly out-perform a generic CMS, although it may take more time to develop. If you’re looking to hit the market quickly then a pre-built, cheap and cheerful CMS might be the answer, but this is not something Designer Websites would recommend or provide.

Pro: CMS websites are essential for businesses that have frequently changing content, for example, ecommerce websites with products and prices that change daily/weekly. A dynamic website will allow you to quickly incorporate changes to products, prices and delivery options.

Con: Dynamic websites are slower to load than static websites and can take longer to be indexed in the search engines as a result. If you have a bespoke ecommerce website then you will benefit from static pages as well as dynamic pages. This can counteract the fact that fully dynamic sites may not rank so highly in the search engines, dependent upon your business, products, competition etc.

Con: Dynamic CMS driven websites can become rigid over time, particularly when you need your website to carry out a specific task which it is not currently set up to deal with. You might find the change cannot be made or that it can, but only at great expense. In this instance bespoke CMS websites can claw back your initial investment as they can be changed so simply.

Con: There are hundreds of website development teams out there who will tell you they are the best thing since sliced bread, without even evaluating your business requirements. This one-size-fits-all approach to website design is the fastest and easiest way for web companies to make money, but rarely represents the best solution for your business. There are a huge number of old and poorly developed CMS systems out there and as time goes by the code and methods used become outdated, much to the detriment of your business website.


Summary
If your business requires a website that can be frequently updated then a CMS might be just what you are looking for. Before making any decisions your business should be analysed by an experienced website development team, who can make recommendations based on the level of competition in your market, the products or services on offer, the reputation your business already has online and much more besides. The decision to have a dynamic or static website should not be taken lightly.


So what would we recommend? Well it’s tough to say without examining your business. Here are some examples to help you understand:


Example 1: You are a website development company (like us)
Analysis: Competition is high; content changes – infrequent except maybe news posts;
Recommendation: A static website and fully integrated blog for the news posts

Example 2: You are a quirky (unique) products company and want to sell online
Analysis: Competition is low; content changes – frequent;
Recommendation: Definitely a simple dynamic CMS driven website and possibly an integrated blog

Example 3: You are an online gadgets retailer
Analysis: Competition is extremely high; content changes – daily;
Recommendation: You require a more complex dynamic CMS website with as many static pages included as possible; you should also have at least one fully integrated blog

Over the years we have met many business owners who insist on a CMS, even though in some cases their websites haven’t undergone any changes in over 12 months!

At Designer Websites we have all the skills required to develop static, dynamic or hybrid websites. We would not try to sell you a CMS site when it simply isn’t required. Such practice could have a significant impact on your SEO, with grave consequences for your business. Similarly, if you need an ecommerce website and therefore a CMS, we would develop a bespoke ecommerce website, as well as possibly a set of static pages. We care more about developing the right website for your business than simply selling you something because it’s the easiest option for us!

Don’t be tricked into buying a website which is unsuitable for your business; seek independent expert advice. If you’d like further information from an experienced website development team, give us a call here at Designer Websites on 0845 272 6813.

It might all sound like pop-psychology and hocus-pocus, but there is real psychology at work in how colours affect the way users approach your website design. This isn’t as simple or powerful as “red=angry” or “blue=calm”, but the tones, hues and saturations used in your website design can certainly have an impact on your browsers. In this article we’ll be looking at the effect that colour has on your website design and whether or not it’s worth keeping colour in mind when putting your site together.

Saturation

The saturation of the colours in your website design is one of the most measurable factors in the world of colour psychology. As a rule, the higher the saturation of a particular colour, the stronger the viewer’s emotional and physical response will be. Bold colours will generate a far stronger response from users – whether that response is positive or negative can depend on the colour in question.

This makes using highly saturated colour in your website design a risky move. If it pays off, you could generate a really positive, excited response from your user but, if you pick an unfortunate shade, you risk putting them right off!

A smart, bold colour choice will create a really strong, memorable impression on your visitor, which is great for your brand. Equally, too many very highly saturated colours can create a kind of colour overload, making your site feel hectic, stressful and more confusing than it really is – the key is to keep it simple and use just one or two bold colours.

The colours themselves

So, if this is the case, which colours are going to create the impression you want from your website design and which are going to send your visitors sprinting in the opposite direction? It’s really all down to our everyday associations and, if you take a little time to think about it, it is all common sense.

For example, brown is a warm, natural colour. It brings to mind wood – which is both natural and used in furniture. It is a safe colour which suggests warmth, sincerity and comfort. Meanwhile, black is typically associated with sophistication, power, sexuality, seriousness etc.

A load of old nonsense?

Well, not really. It is possible that the real power of colour in website design gets overstated from time to time, yet it does have an effect and it is well worth bearing this in mind when you create your site. Sticking to a few basic tips will help you to use colour to your advantage:

  1. Keep it simple
    Overcomplicating your colour palate is a sure-fire way to put visitors off. It looks messy, confusing, overstimulating and will completely distract your users from the real purpose of your website.
  2. Use your common sense
    Before settling on a colour scheme just have a quick think about all the possible associations your selection might conjure up. For example, if you’re selling toothpaste, brown, black and yellow are probably not the best colour choices.
  3. Create a strong theme
    Use one or two strong colours to your advantage. A memorable theme will keep your website design fresh in your visitors’ minds and help you create a strong brand image.

We've just launched a new website for John Lewis Access Hire; they provide a cherry picker hire and access platform hire service in the Cardiff and the South Wales area. We know that the company is very professional, keep all of their cherry pickers in tip top shape, carry professionally trained operators with insurance, and extend a very friendly service, so if you need a cherry picker in Cardiff or anywhere Wales or the South West then we thoroughly recommend these guys.. Cherry Picker Hire Cardiff

Here at DW we dont just design and develop amazing websites all day, we like to take regular breaks to keep our creativity flowing. We've created some infographics to illustrate just how we "wisely" spend our spare time!

One crucial factor in successful website optimisation is the quality of the code itself. Many small businesses that employ website developers judge the site on appearance, without giving a minutes thought to how things look behind the scenes. The fact of the matter is, without clean code your search engine rankings are likely to suffer.

It is often the case that smaller companies, eager to save money wherever they can, will opt for a cheaper website from a team of website developers who do not possess the required technical ability, and over compensate with a lot of unnecessary code.

Many of the sites website developers design for start-up companies have been made fool proof so they can be easily administered by business owners who are not particularly internet savvy. However, this fool proofing will often take the form of a large amount of unnecessary code, damaging the potential rankings of the new site, even if all other website optimisation factors are accounted for.

The importance of clean code becomes clear when considering the importance of page load times on search engine rankings. Google recently announced that page load times are going to become a bigger factor in how they decide as website’s rankings, and have even provided some tools in Webmaster tools so that site owners can measure their page load times and take steps to improve them. Although, it is important to consider, many of the do-it-yourself- website platforms which are becoming quite popular at the moment will offer you little or no control over these factors.

The best way to ensure a website which benefits from clean code is to hire the services of an experienced and technically aware team of website developers, who can ensure your site not only looks attractive to visitors, it is also neat and tidy behind the scenes. This will go a long way to ensuring the visibility of your website on the search engines.

If you are looking for a website which not only looks good, but which is also not held back by unnecessary code, contact Designer Websites. Our expert team of website developers have many years of experience producing ecommerce sites and websites for small businesses. Give us a call today! 

We have recently finished a redesign for the TimberTech website. We have worked with TimberTech for a number of years and they recently asked us to design a totally new look for their composite decking website, which we of course were happy to do.

When we completed the design concepts for the new website TimberTech were absolutely delighted with our proposed layout/design. Based on these new concepts we developed a new, more modern, more responsive website, which also contains some clever tracking functionality and a very good level of search engine optimisation.

Take a look at TimberTech - Composite Decking Website and see what you think.