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Web Design 101

Website Design Trends for 2013

July 2nd, 2013

Over the last few weeks, a couple of clients have asked us what we think the latest website design trends are for 2013. Since we’re only half way through the year, our list isn’t comprehensive but several are worth noting. 

responsive_web_design

1. RESPONSIVE WEBSITE DESIGN

We won’t go into this too much as we’ve posted about it a few times already. Basically, folks are designing a website to automatically size down to fit multiple devices like tablets and smart phones. The scaleable layouts are always well designed for a great user experience.

 

HM-Fixed-Nav-Ex Herman Miller Why Design

2. FIXED or LOCKED NAVIGATION 

On some websites, you’ll start to notice that as you scroll down the page, the navigation stays locked in place. You’ll see that the website content will scroll under the navigation. Here’s an example of fixed or locked navigation: Hedrick Industries

Fixed Navigation is a pretty easy and functional update you can make to your website as it works well with most layouts.

 

WNC-Forest-Directory_Web Atlas Designed: WNC Forest Owner’s Directory

3. LARGE PHOTO BACKGROUNDS 

This trend has been going on for a few years, but more and more websites are starting to showcase very larger photos as the background to their website. It’s an excellent way to set an immediate tone and experience for your website users, but works the best on websites with minimal text and pages.

 

Pinterest-Infinit-Scrolling Pinterest example

4. LONGER PAGES, BUT FEWER PAGES (a.k.a Infinity Scrolling) 

With the proliferation of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, website users are getting used to scrolling down long pages of information. The UX trend is to start crafting longer pages, but fewer pages. Even Google has shifted its search options to show endless amounts of information on just one page for its images and loads them as you scroll down the page.

 

Ex-Illustrated-Website Illustrated Website Ex: Mango Tree

5. ILLUSTRATIVE WEB DESIGN

We’ve noticed that several websites have turned to illustration for their website as opposed to photography. This creates a wonderful experience that is unique and special to the specific business or product. This type of website can be more expensive to create as you’re relying on illustration, but depending on your business can be quite worth the extra time and budget.

We’ll bring you more website design trends in a few more months as we continue to watch the market.


10 Questions to Ask Your Web Design Firm

May 14th, 2013

What to ask your web designer

We have the pleasure of meeting regularly with all different types of businesses to discuss their website design. Often times, business owners express some confusion in comparing website design and development proposals from one web design firm to another. What should be like comparing apples to apples often times becomes a comparison of apples, to orange, to pineapples. No two agencies are alike so the type of proposal, quality of work, and website features you’re going to see on your proposals will vary tremendously. Here’s a quick list of the top 10 questions we recommend asking as you interview web design firms to find the right fit for your needs.

1) Does your company build custom designed websites, or do you start from design templates and themes?
A custom website will be uniquely designed for your business, product or service. You can rest assured knowing that your website belongs to you alone. Whereas, a website designed from a template is limited to the copyright laws within the template on what a designer can and cannot change or alter. And, it is currently being sold to and utilized by thousands of other businesses in existence. A template may be slightly cheaper initially, but will it serve the needs of your unique business?

2) Will you design a website for my content, or will you develop a website shell that I’ll need to fill in?
Some web design firms will choose to build a website shell then have the client fill in all of the content on their own time. However, this can be like designing a website while wearing a blindfold. How can a website be designed without knowing how the design should function to support your content? Your content is king as it supports your business, your website should be one with your content.

3) Do you build websites that have an editing system that I can use to edit my website? Will you train me on how to use it?
With options like WordPress and Drupal (content editing systems), most web design firms should offer an option to allow clients to edit their websites for text, graphics, adding new pages, etc. Unless you do not have the time or design to edit your website, this will be a beneficial and crucial feature to add to any website. And, you should hire a firm that will take the time to train you on how to edit the website.

4) Will my website be mobile-friendly?
The average website receives 18% – 25% of its traffic from tablets and smart phones. That percentage is slated to go up to 30% by the end of 2013. When designing or redesigning a new website, it’s crucial to consider how your website will look on mobile. If it doesn’t render well or scale down, your viewers will get bored or annoyed and leave your website.

5) Will you be using Responsive Website Design?
This is a great question to ask and see if the web firm is staying up on the latest technology and website coding trends. We believe responsive website design is the best option currently available for web design because it allows you to fit your website to most device,s while not costing as much as a full mobile website. Read more about Responsive Website Design. Check out our recent blog post on Responsive Website Design.

6) What initial measures will you take to optimize my website for Google and other Search Engines?
Some web design firms will offer their own unique cocktail on how to best position and market your website. If you’re interested in getting increased traffic to your website, it’s worth asking the firms you interview what internet marketing services they provide.

7) How long will my website take to create?
This will depend on several factors for all firms. First, what is your deadline that you would like to meet? How quickly do you plan to provide website content (text and images) to the firm? How large will your website need to be? Depending on your features, timing, and providing assets, many things can have a factor in the website turn around time. Most professionals will say 60 – 90 days from when they receive website content. Half of that time is used for design and the other half is used for coding.

8) Who will be my point person throughout the process?
It’s good to know ahead of time who will be your point of contact throughout the website design process and to meet them. You need to know that you can communicate well with this person and have a good gut feeling about the team before you hire them. Make it clear what type of communication you prefer whether it be by phone, meetings or e-mails so they know the best way to get in touch with you.

9) What is your website design process?
Try to find out in your initial meeting how they go about building a website. Each firm will vary, but it will give you a good idea of what to expect throughout the process. 

10) Can you provide me with a list of up to 10 websites you have designed and coded?
Some website design firms don’t update their website portfolio on a regular basis. This makes it really important for you to ask for links to websites they’ve worked on so you can see the work they’ve crafted for other businesses. You should also consider asking how the websites added value and how they benefited the businesses they were designed for. If the firm you are considering to hire does not have their own website, or can not provide you at least 10 links to website they’ve designed and developed, you should consider that as being a red flag.

Overall, designing a new website is both a rewarding and fun experience. You should enjoy the process as there’s nothing better than seeing a new website go live online. Ok, maybe a few things like Christmas but it’s a good feeling. Good luck with your process and feel free to contact us about your website needs.


The Year of Responsive Web Design

April 18th, 2013

Atlas-Branding-is-Responsive

Since last December there is has been a lot of buzz in the design and development community about “Responsive Website Design.”  We’d like to take a few minutes to explain what Responsive Web Design is, and how it will benefit your business in the future. 

Computer monitors are no longer the only go-to device to access the internet. On average, over 20+% of website traffic is coming from mobile devices like iPads, mini iPads, iPhones, Androids and much, much more. You’ve probably heard talk about having a mobile website in addition to your main website or mobile apps. But, now there is a third option that has the potential to replace the need for an additional mobile website.

Responsive Website Design is a website design approach that aims to take your main monitor-sized website, automatically size that website down easily and effectively for all other mobile devices. This design optimizes the viewing experience because it cuts down on zooming in, panning and scrolling. The website looks as if it was uniquely designed for whatever device you are viewing it on. So, essentially one website is automatically adapting to all mobile devices… seamlessly.

Why Go Responsive?

1. Customized for a Range of Devices

You will no longer have to worry about if an image loads or if the website functions properly on all devices. It will, and it does. When approaching your website, this should be a standard requirement and request with any firm you work with to design a new website or update one.

2. Don’t Make Me Think

A responsively designed website will not direct you to a mobile site because you will be viewing a size-appropriate full website. When a mobile site has to load, this takes up more time and can slow down considerably causing frustration and impatience in your viewers. You have to think about your mobile device viewers because they are accessing the internet just like everyone else, and their time and effort should be respected. Your mobile traffic will only increase over the next several years as more people move to mobile.

3. Because Google Says So

Google keeps most of their process and procedures for search engine optimization a mystery. So, when they publicize their recommendation of something, one should take heed. Google has specifically said that responsive web design is “Google’s recommended configuration.” When you make Google happy, they provide you with better ranking on organic searches because you are respecting the viewers experience in how your website is design and coded. Better website search rankings equals more traffic to your website.

4. Increased Traffic to Your Website 

Let’s be honest, most mobile websites are very unattractive and simplistic. They sort of go like this: Logo, Button, Button, Button, Contact Info… snore. A spiffier looking website that has high functionality will drive more traffic to your site simply because folks will spend more time exploring it. The more time they spend, the more likely they are to contact you and covert to becoming a loyal customer.