Once you’ve decided to have a new website, the fun really begins!
The key to success for any website development project is a strong foundation. This comes from having a clear and precise understanding between the client and development team from the very beginning. For this reason, we meet with all of our clients to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
The procedure usually goes something like this:
- An initial meeting is arranged with our Directors to discuss requirements. At this stage basic elements of design and functionality of your website are discussed, as well as budget and timescale.
- The next step is to meet with the Project Manager and the development team to lay out an exact specification of what you need for your new website to be as effective as possible for your business.
– This part is where you can tell us your ideas, from aesthetic preferences through to functionality. During this meeting we take note of any other websites that you like (and what you don’t like) and also get a feel for what message you are trying to put across to your customer.
– It is also agreed between both parties as to what exactly is feasible within the constraints of time, budget and scope. An exact price is calculated to suit your budget are we also give you an expectation of what end product you will receive.
We find that these early meetings are important for the success of the project. As Project Manager, I find that I’m able to plan your website build more effectively after discussing your needs in detail.
Every project can be faced with hiccups along the way, but if the project has been built on this strong foundation then the difficulty can be overcome – leaving you happy with your new website.
Making a website from scratch, rather than using a template, is the preferred method of almost all professional web designers.
Creating a website from nothing will mean that everything behind the scenes (we call this the code) is specifically required on that website; and there won’t be any unused code that often occurs when using a template.
Website template editors can also produce bloated code, when there is a far simpler way to do the same job by hand. Less code means that the files will be smaller in size and pages will therefore load quicker.
Hand coding also means consistency throughout the website design – for example, there won’t be odd sections with incorrect colours which could easily occur if bits of the template are overlooked.
Problem solving is also significantly easier if a website site is build by hand. Any error that occurs can easily be read by the designer since they wrote it themselves in the first place.
Finally, a hand coded site will be a better product for you, since the designer won’t be restricted in what they can produce and each web design will be unique.
Doing things this way not only helps the website itself, but also allows the designer to improve – which is so important from my point of view.
From the perspective of the designer, constantly having to code a website from a blank canvas will allow them to find new and more efficient ways to create. Not only this, but with the ever changing world of web development, hand coding allows the designer has to develop with the times. This ensures that each new website produced is in-line with what’s happening in web design right now.
Following Phil’s post on Friday, which was about how to choose a web design company, we thought we’d go back one step further.
Our Back to Basics guide will talk you through everything you need to know about setting up your own website. We will be posting a series of articles discussing domain names, hosting, web design and SEO. All the posts will be jargon free – we promise.
So onto Part 1… Do I Need A Website?
With an estimated 51million of us in the UK now online, getting a website for your business makes perfect sense.
If you decide to make the commitment to having a website which is easy to use and easy to find, you could be opening up a huge potential market.
Online retail is now growing six times faster than high street retail and UK companies are exploiting this trend by selling products through e-commerce websites.
Even if you don’t want to sell online, research shows that 83% ofUKshoppers use search engines to research a purchase before they buy. This is also true for consumers looking for services, making a website a cost-effective way of advertising your company.
However, a web site which isn’t seen by your customers is like a shop with no front door. It is essential that your website can be found by using search engines such as Google, which is where SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) comes in.
SEO is about making your website easily found when people use search engines to look for keywords related to your business. We will be discussing SEO in more detail later in the series.
If you would like more information about getting your own website please email email@example.com. Tune in for the next Back to Basics when we will be discussing domain names.
Choosing the right web design company is a tricky thing. There’s a lot at stake, and if you end up with a bad design, bad code and are nowhere to be found in the search engines then you’re at a massive loss.
Here are a few pointers to help you narrow down your search and find the perfect company for you:
Don’t just go with the first company you find in Google. Ask people you know or local businesses with good websites which company they used.
Is their own website designed well?
There’s nothing worse than a web design company with a terrible website. If a company can’t design and maintain their own website well enough, will they do that for you? Although you don’t need to like their design, a well designed site is a good indicator.
Do you like their design work?
Every designer should have a portfolio. Have a look at their work, and see if anything catches your eye. Always remember that every client wants a different thing, so bear in mind that they may not have the same aims as yours.
Do their sites work well?
There’s a lot more than just the design. Check their sites in different browsers to see if they break or look same across the board. Make sure they are easy to navigate, well thought out and convey the client’s message well.
Have they made a site with features you want?
Although it’s unlikely that they will have made something to your exact specification, they may have made a site with certain parts you need e.g. ecommerce, content management system etc. Don’t be afraid to contact the company and ask them for specific examples of things you are after.
Do their sites rank well?
Try and find some of their portfolio sites in Google, obviously without using their company name! You want your completed website to be easily found, so make sure that they can do that for you.
So what’s next?
Gather a shortlist of the best companies you have found and approach each one with your specification. Remember don’t always go for the cheapest option. It is more important to go for a company that understands your needs, you can communicate well with and will deliver you exactly what you set out to get.
It’s amazing to think that the number of mobile internet users looks set to surpass desktop users within the next four years.
Just take a look at the facts:
- 89% of theUKpopulation use a mobile phone [Source: Ofcom, October 2010]
- 54.3 million smart phones were sold in the first quarter of 2010 alone. [Source: Gartner, via AOP Digital Landscape Report, June 2010].
- 7.1 million people access the internet through a mobile phone [Source: Internet Monitor Survey, Kantar Media, September 2010]
- Smart phone usage in theUKis growing up to 70% faster than inEurope. [Source: comScore/GSMA MMM, via AOP Digital Landscape Report, June 2010].
These figures really show how much we’re in love with smart phones. And it’s easy to see why – as Claire discussed in her post last week –smart phones can be used anywhere and everywhere. The internet is available to your customers on the go and as long as you have a mobile website, your customers can find you while they are on the train, waiting for the bus, on their coffee break or even when they’re having their hair cut!
If potential customers can find your mobile site from their smartphone, they are more likely to choose you over your competitors. Because smartphones are great for sharing, your customers can also use their phone to share links to products with their friends via Facebook or Twitter – meaning that they can spread the word about your products for you!
Now is the time to get ahead of your competition by investing in a mobile website. These sites are specially designed for new smartphone technology, helping your company to tap into a lucrative audience of new customers that want access to your website when they’re on the go.
A mobile website is different to a regular website in both appearance and functionality. Mobile websites need to be much simpler than a conventional website in order to suit the mobile phone format. This means that there need to be fewer graphics (as these can take time to load) and less text so that your customers can access the information they need fast.
A mobile site also needs to be compatible with the different smartphones on the market and therefore needs to be coded in a clever way. If you find that your current website looks great on a desktop, but not so hot on a mobile, then it’s time to upgrade and get a mobile website that suits the purpose perfectly.
Make sure you are leading the way and contact eSterling today about your new mobile website by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When your customers search using Google, it is possible for them to refine their search to shopping only results to help them find the products that they need. This is useful to consumers if they have a specific product in mind and they wish to compare prices between different retailers.
To try out Google shopping for yourself, simply click on “Shopping” at the top left of the Google home page and type in a product name (e.g ‘iPhone 4’). This directs you to the Google Product Search page and here you will find a list of products that are available to buy on the internet. These results can be sorted by category, price, brand and retailer – helping the user to locate exactly what they want quickly and easily.
If you have an e-commerce website, you will not want to miss the opportunity to get your products listed in the Google Shopping results. Making sure that your products appear in this search will help you attract new business and generate sales by helping your customers to find your site easily.
With the help of eSterling, it’s simple to submit a product feed to Google, as we can configure this to happen automatically from your e-commerce database. For further information about how to get your products listed in Google Shopping, please contact eSterling Limited by emailing email@example.com.
These days most of us have a mobile phone and increasingly we have smart phones, giving us easy, fast and reliable internet access everywhere we go. Whether we check our Facebook or Twitter accounts in bed, read the news headlines in our coffee break or order our Chinese takeaway on the train home, we’re thoroughly addicted.
And whether you find this trend an amazing experience, or an irritating nuisance it is doubtless a fantastic opportunity for businesses to increase their online sales. With a 24/7 internet culture which goes everywhere (and I mean everywhere – you’ve got to know at least one person who takes their smartphone into the smallest room) businesses can now reach their customers in the most unlikely of places.
To take advantage of this irritating/ exciting phenomenon, businesses are developing mobile versions of their existing web sites, specifically created to be easily navigable on a range of smart phones. By ironing out the bugs traditional sites can throw up on mobile devices, you can maintain customer interest and keep them browsing your site and buying your products wherever they may be.
Speak to your web development company today about creating a mobile version of your website, throw in some strategic online marketing and wait for the sales to roll in. Just don’t ask your customers where they were when they clicked to buy…
As web designers our job is not only to create kick-ass web sites, but also to educate our clients in the ways of the internet and to explain to them the limitations we all have to abide by.
In this article I will outline some of the biggest issues that face web designers and developers across the world and help you realise why we do certain things the way we do.
1) Cross Browser Support
What’s a browser? Why is it angry? Let me explain..
A browser is the program your computer uses to view web sites and there are a number of different browsers you can choose from, the main contenders are Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome etc. They all render websites in their own special way, which can alter how they appear to you.
In order to be provide you with a valid website we have to test each site in over 5 browsers and make sure it is not only looking right but also functioning correctly in each of them.
Add to this the fact that the companies who make these browsers will keep on updating them, putting multiple versions of multiple browsers into the mix. This makes the job of the web designer tricky to say the least!
One browser in particular has made our job more difficult over the past 9 years and that browser is little ol’ Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. Many of the biggest web sites in the world have now dropped support for this browser, as have many design agencies, so if you are using the dreaded Internet Explorer 6, it’s really time you upgraded.
2) Resolution Issues
I’m not about to confuse you with inane computer jargon so don’t worry, but I do have to mention the Resolution Issue which is cropping up more and more.
Have you ever thought “I want my home page not to scroll”
or “I want my web site to fill up the screen”?
When you say “screen”, web designers think “OK, is it a 17’, 19’, 21’ screen or bigger?
When you say “scroll”, we think “Not scrolling on your resolution? Or all resolutions and screen sizes?”
You see, its not just as easy as coding in HeightOfSite=100% its far more complicated than that.
What we have to do as web designers is come up with a happy medium whereby the site vertically scrolls as little as possible in as many resolutions and monitor sizes as possible. Getting it right for all screen resolutions and monitor sizes is a bit of a juggling act. The end result looks easy, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes!
As a side note, vertical scrolling is now second nature to internet users so it really has no bearing on the success of your new web site.
I hope you have found this article interesting and informative.
So remember, even if something seems easy to you, its probably not the case. You have hired the web designer so trust him or her to do their job properly.
Talking of which, my next post will feature handy tips on how to choose the right Web Design Agency for your next project.
Perhaps a bit harsh but this is something that has been plaguing Web Design Agencies for years, let me explain.
What is ‘Design-by-Committee’?
When a single goal or aim takes a back seat to ‘letting everyone have their say’.
When a group of two or more business owners have a vision to hire a design agency to build their new website, or redesign their old site, they all have their own ideas and thoughts on how it should look and work. They all put their ideas forward and come to a happy medium whereby all of their ideas are appeased and added to the initial brief.
The Designer in question has to take their brief and do all he/she can to please the members of the committee. This is nigh on impossible.
What we often end up with is a middle ground, whereby all members have had some of their input included but the site completely misses the initial goal or aim. This is where the original vision and purpose of the new web site has completely lost out to ‘pleasing the committee’.
This is a sure fire way to have a mish-mash of a design with flawed functionality.
Stick to the Plan
Whether the new site is to attract interest, sell products or even a first port of call for any new customer, make sure you stick to the plan!
The end-users are the most important thing to your site so think about what they would want, what would they want to see? It easy to say “Well that site has got that element, so I want it” but look beyond the obvious and think ‘Why have they got that?” and “Is it appropriate to my customers or potential customers”
Don’t ignore the ideas and skills of the designers/developers that YOU have hired.
Although they don’t know your business or industry they can often steer you in the right direction on how to communicate directly to you customers and potential customers. Listen to them.
Here is some further reading on Design-by-Committee and how to approach having a new web site or redesigning your existing site.
Nary a month on from the UK launch of the iPad it’s iPhone 4 day. Beyond the sight of people getting giddy over expensive consumer electronics the proliferation of mobile devices with all sorts of different resolutions and orientations raises the question of how best to serve web content that can be viewed as nature intended on all these devices. We’re not even past clients asking for pages that “fit on one screen” to which we invariably point to articles such as this – http://www.cxpartners.co.uk/thoughts/the_myth_of_the_page_fold_evidence_from_user_testing.htm – so how do we build for everyone ?
One answer are CSS media queries. Simply put these allow you to supply different CSS depending upon queries about the devices resolution and orientation. For more information see http://broadcast.oreilly.com/2010/04/using-css-media-queries-ipad.html and http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/