Keeping Up Appearances
Your website is more important for your business today than ever before, and it’s important to keep your website up with the progression of best web design practices. Web design has evolved into cleaner looking pages with more streamlined navigation and more recently into design coding that responds to the device it’s being viewed on. More about that shortly:) Here are things to keep in mind when designing or redesigning your website:
Some Best Practices for Web Design
Less Is More On Your Landing Page. Nobody can do more with three chords than AC/DC. Forget progressive rock, etc. Serve it up simply and do it well, and you will earn a loyal following. Keep your bells and whistles to a minimum. Use clean, professional graphics and keep your menu as basic as possible. Put thought into your menu selections and don’t overwhelm visitors with too many decisions right off the bat.
Use Social Media Badges. If your website doesn’t have these already, you should fix that immediately. This is the fastest way for visitors to find you on social media platforms and is a quick-click way to build your loyal following online. Just make sure that you keep up your social media communication so people have a reason to visit your profile consistently. While there are a bazillion to choose from, the main ones you should have are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest.
Responsive Design. Yep…it ain’t cheap, but it’s here and it truly is the future. The gist of it is that your website is coded so it recognizes the device it’s being viewed on (i.e. tablets, iPads, desktops, laptops, smartphones, etc.) and appears in optimum form on that device without unnecessary scrolling. Smart businesses are jumping on this trend because they know it’s not just a trend.
Specific and Detailed Graphics and Illustrations. No matter how well written your content is, expertly designed graphics truly drive your points home and make information easier to understand. Graphics are also engaging, especially when they’re well done. Using InfoGraphics is vital (Google loves these) and don’t forget to scrutinize your logo. Does it really speak? If you use any kind of symbol outside of the font/lettering of your company name, is that symbol relevant so that it’s recognizable as your business even without the accompanying company name?
So what’s next?
We could pretty much write a book on best web design practices and there are certainly more that we’ll send your way as time goes on, but these 4 are some really good ones to help your website both aesthetically and functionally. After all, the idea is to get your business Back in Black …and off the Highway to Hell.
The technology that is the architecture of the internet is varied and complex for someone with little knowledge of creating web elements. How can you know which is the right fit for your web based project? This stage is when a dependable web designer should join the conversation. After coming up with the concept or theme and what you would like to see the site do once it is completed, meet with a designer. They should have a wide range of knowledge and experience to guide the project toward the method that is best.
Hire a web designer or design specialist, someone that knows how to meet the needs of your business using the best available practices on the internet for the site. A good designer will know how to bridge the gap between your understanding and what is possible using the optimal infrastructure. Obviously, the budget and time constraints put on a project dictate the ceiling for any design work that will happen. However, the right designer will know how to meet your primary design objectives and also pursue those extra priorities while staying within the scope of the dollars you have allotted.
Sometimes a barrier exists between a client and the design company because the entities involved are speaking two different “languages”. If you have trouble with “tech talk” be sure to find a web designer that can relate the concepts to you in a way that makes sense before agreeing to commit to a project you may not grasp yet. Creating content rich or function complex sites, like those necessary for the completion of many ECommerce enabled web locations, can be hard to understand as a layman or traditional business person with a limited web technology skill set.
From graphic design to user interface, web accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) choose a company that will use the best practices available to bring your goal into reality. Whether you’re in our hometown of Lancaster, PA or across the country like many of our clients, MIND will help you create a wonderful first-and-last impression website for your business entity.
Some of you may think I’m crazy for saying this, but damn if it isn’t sometimes true in the Internet world of getting your website found, seen and revisited.
It all depends on how you accumulate your numbers.
Please, oh please…for the sake of the children…ignore ALL of those pitches you get about attracting thousands of Twitter, etc. followers virtually overnight. Artificially building your online audience will lead you to a false sense of everybody caring about your business and your website when in fact only a small percentage does. When you build your audience artificially, there truly is weakness in numbers.
As much as you don’t want to hear it, building your audience properly takes time and effort. It cannot and will not happen overnight for 99% of businesses out there. We have to allow for 1% as entities like CNN, ESPN etc. had audiences waiting for them when they entered the Internet and social media realms.
In keeping with my esoteric music references, I’ll use three bands as examples of how to focus on your particular audience.
Maybe you’re like Obituary, the seminal Florida death metal band with the name to end all names. With a name like Obituary, you pretty much know what you’re in for. This ain’t the Osmonds. Extremely heavy music with angry troll vocals you either love or hate. In short, this band has a niche market…and they know it. Will they ever headline large arenas all over the world? No, because their appeal is too narrow as theirs is a decidedly niche market. Conversely, if they communicate with and serve their audience, they can tour clubs all around the world and make music for a living for a long time.
Maybe you’re like Clutch, the Baltimore-based purveyors of intelligent, witty music steeped very much in the classic rock groove of the 1970′s. With Neil Fallon’s backwoods preacher-esque vocal musings featuring liberal doses of literary references over a KFC-fried rock groove, Clutch’s appeal is more broad than Obituary’s while still not at the level of playing large arenas. Theirs is a niche market, albeit a wider niche. If they communicate with and serve their audience, they can tour larger clubs and theaters all over the world and make a living with music for a long time. And they’re doing it…in addition to a large cult following in the US, they’ve got a lot of fans down under in Australia and their 2009 album Strange Cousins From The West became the first self-produced and self-released album in history to crack the Billboard Top 40 Albums Chart.
Or maybe you’re like Rush, frequently referred to as the world’s largest “cult” band. In their case, their appeal was considered limited due to Geddy Lee’s impossibly high vocals and the band’s complex musical arrangements. However, through consistent touring, consistent album releases, consistent communication with their fan base and a knack for connecting with their fans through their lyrics (read: like website content), they found a large audience for their music. Larger than they probably could have ever dreamed…but it took work to reach their audience.
What do these three bands have in common? They consistently serve their audience and, therefore, have all been in existence for well over 20 years.
Look at your business and your product/service. Be honest with yourself…do you have wide or limited appeal? It could be that you’re a local business or have a truly niche product or service, which would would limit your true audience. It could be that you’re a regional business or have a product or service with more broad (though not necessarily mass) appeal. Or it could be that you have a product or service with mass appeal, which would make you a potentially national or international business.
Whatever the case, don’t use shortcuts to build your audience. Earn it. Build consistently by serving your audience with truly informative content on your website that’s easy to read and digest. Over time, you will see your audience grow to powerful numbers. Numbers don’t have to be huge to be powerful…they just have to be properly targeted numbers, and you have to serve your properly targeted audience:)
“I remember when
I remember when I lost my MIND.” – Gnarls Barkley
Those are the memorable words sung by Cee Lo Green on Gnarls Barkley’s massive hit “Crazy” in 2006, and it got us thinking about the work we do and how we want it to positively affect and benefit you. We don’t ever want you to feel like you’ve lost your MIND…we’re here for you and we have one special word for you…
No matter what web development and web design team you work with, always ask yourself this question: “Are they setting me up to be dependent upon them, or are they empowering me to be independent?”
The truth of the matter is that not everyone has the time to update their own website content. Not everyone has the time to write blog posts consistently week after week for top of mind awareness. Not everyone has the time to communicate consistently through their social media platforms and, therefore, naturally drive traffic to their website.
Not everyone has that time, but everyone should have that choice. Your development and design team should communicate with you every step of the way and set you up to be able to take care of your website yourself if you want to and have the time to. With content management platforms such as WordPress being so user friendly, there’s no reason you can’t be in the driver’s seat if you want to be.
We don’t normally wave our own flag with this, but many development and design teams focus on creating need and dependence, placing more importance on creating residual income than on empowering you. You may not have the time to do any of the content updating on your website or social media broadcasting, but the decision should always be left up to you. Our primary M.O. is empowerment…we want you to be in the driver’s seat when your website is finished if you want to be and if you don’t have the time, we will be glad to handle that aspect of service for you.
Ultimately, we want you to be independent and be able to do regular content/blog updates yourself.
“Does that make me crazy? Probably.” – Gnarls Barkley
Actually, we think it’s crazy to do it any other way.
Bob Dylan was way ahead of his time when he wrote of the advent of technology in his 1964 classic “The Times They Are A’Changin’”:
“The slow one now Will later be fast
As the present now Will later be past
The order is Rapidly fadin’.”
Okay, maybe Dylan wasn’t writing about technology but what the hell? The words still very much apply.
Every year brings a new round of progress in web development and web design, and 2013 will undoubtedly be no different. The advent of mobile technology and the changing needs of consumers on the Internet are leading to some interesting and practical changes.
Here are a few that we think you should consider, as they’re both practical and stylish…
Vertical Scrolling for Menus and Buttons: The truth of the matter is it’s just not that difficult to scroll back up to the top of a page to access the buttons and menu options there. The other truth is that the easier websites get, the less patient visitors are with little things. There is more and more demand for header menus, social media buttons and even shopping cart buttons that scroll down with you rather than staying at the top.
Responsive Development and Design: Simply put, it’s not just about PC’s and MAC’s anymore. Now we have IPads, SmartPhones, IPhones, yada yada…which makes it more important than ever for you to have your website properly viewable on all of these devices. Responsive web design means exactly what you would think…the website is developed and designed to respond to the size of the device being used so it will show up properly on each device. Many businesses still look at this as an afterthought…until the owner or a manager tries to access their website on their IPad or mobile device and sees first hand how crappy it looks.
Custom Typography: The advent of infographics due to their increased importance with regard to SEO in 2012 has led to increasing interest in customized typography. The more competition you have, the more websites you will be compared directly to. The more websites you’re compared directly to, the harder it is to differentiate yourself. Graphics are a big part of that equation, and customized typography for your website and your brand can go a long way in communicating our message in a way that will make your words that much more memorable. As with logos, custom typography doesn’t just happen…it requires thought and consideration. Think of your typography as the graphic equivalent of your vocal inflection when you talk.