Responsive Web Design – The Changing Shape of The Future

Anyone with kids can tell you that they’re always staring at screens, and it’s rarely the TV. The development of devices and social media over the last ten years has made the online world available to anyone, anywhere, and the demand for it is ever increasing as mobile technology offers better devices and connection speeds every year. People are now accessing websites on phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, workstations and games consoles, and this has produced a major challenge for web designers. What looks great on a desktop screen can look awful, and may not even work, on the 3 inch screen of a mobile phone.

So how is the Web design community responding to this, and is it possible to have a great looking website that works across the whole range of devices and different screen sizes?

The initial response was to start designing separate websites for each device. So if you were logging on with an iPod you were actually viewing a different set of web pages than you would have seen had you been using your laptop. But this was a lot of work, and still limits the number of devices that will provide a really good view of that website. You could end up with the web designer having to produce six or more versions of the same website, and this doesn’t even take in to account what happens when a new device, with a different sized screen, hits the shops.

A new approach is needed, one which provides a general solution both for future devices and the full range of existing devices, and this is what Responsive Web Design achieves.

Traditionally websites have been designed and built a fairly fixed way, and when a device displays that site, the browser shows it as best it can. This means that when a smaller device like a Blackberry tries to show a web page that has large pictures with text wrapped around it moves the elements around and the design is often lost. Responsive web design tackles this by recognising the device that the page is to be viewed on, and then being able to adjust the layout of the elements that make up the page accordingly. To make this work new website design software is being developed, and web designers are just getting to grips with this new approach. Over the next few years, however, this approach will become the standard to which all websites are built.

The development will also lead to new thinking about page designs as it’s no longer a case of just mocking up ideas on a workstation screen and seeing what looks good. The website pages will have to look equally good whether they’re seen large or small, portrait or landscape, and a single design will no longer meet all the requirements. A more modular approach is needed, where each page is made up of a number of elements which will be arranged differently according to the device that is used to view them, and the orientation being used. The design of a website must be flexible in a way that has not been workable until now.

The industry is having to come to grips with “flexible images” and “fluid grids”, “media queries” and “responsive type settings”. This is the new technical jargon of the tools that allow designers to create websites in a responsive way. The software that makes responsive design possible is already available, and improving as the techniques are becoming better understood, but the real change needs to happen with an existing generation of website designers who are looking at a major shift in their skill sets.

The tools are there, customers are demanding websites that need to look good across a whole range of devices, all that is needed now are Responsive Web Designers.

When It Comes to Web Design, One Thing’s For Sure: Nothing Stays the Same

With the web constantly evolving there are important components to consider before your redo your website and invest valuable time and money.

Simplicity. In recent years, simplicity was hardly what was on the mind of many businesses with websites. The more graphics, banners, ads, Flash movies and other bells and whistles, the better. Not so today! Now it’s about simplicity in design, helping your visitors get from point A to B in the quickest, easiest manner possible. The fewer page elements, the better. Ideally you want to bring your visitor from point A to B in three easy steps. You don’t want your visitor to get lost in all the confusion, you want to help them stay focused on the goal! Think clean, minimalist, and intuitive.

Responsive to the needs of your target audience. More and more people are accessing the internet from Smartphone’s, tablets and laptops – it’s not the dinosaur ages anymore, when the only way anyone could go online was from a desktop computer! The fact is, over the next few years it’s likely that even more devices will make it possible to access the internet on the go, and your website should be designed in a way that makes it accessible to these platforms. Sure it takes more time and ability to meet all of these demands, however reponsiveness is necessary.

Typography. Because the primary focus is content, what could be better than content that really stands out? Big, bold headlines that cannot be ignored. The web fonts available today allow web designers to indulge themselves. From big and beautiful to contemporary, sleek and just plain good-looking, content can be a beautiful thing today. Google fonts has created a seemless integration through code that can be embedded in your website to insure all browsers can see your styling.

Of course the most important thing is to deliver what your user wants in terms of information, services, products, etc. This isn’t something you can guess. You need to take the time to understand your target market and what their needs are. However, with so many choices today and the rushed world we live in, people want what they want now, and the easiest way to get straight to it in the least amount of time is the best. When looking for a web designer to create a memorable online presence for your company, be sure to keep simplicity and responsiveness in mind!

Why Good Web Design Matters: 3 Keys to Good Web Design

There are a million different ways to create a website these days, but many of them will leave the organization that is creating the website no better off when it is all said and done. The reason that is true is because good web design is an integral piece of creating a website that gets results. There is one statistic that seems to resonate with having a great design. A Stanford University study found that you have 7 seconds to give a website user the information they are looking for, or they will bounce off of your site. If you think about it that is not a lot of time to help the user find the information they are looking for. Here are several keys to a great website design.

    • Layout. The site has to be laid out in a way that makes sense to a first time user and also allows them to find information quickly. Hierarchy is a term that is used in the web design world to define how people view a website and determines what the designer wants the end user to see as the most important part of the site. I have seen many sites that emphasize the wrong things simply because the layout is not done correctly.
    • Interactivity. When people have a chance to interact on your site it is huge. It will help them stay connected with your site but will also bring them back to visit the site later. A website that lacks interactivity will leave users wanting for more and will also ensure they leave your site quickly.
    • Great Graphic Design. If you do not have ability in graphic arts and you are trying to build a website, you are almost assured to have a web presence that will not help you get results. Great websites have great graphics. If you want to get results with your site, you need to have a professional help you with the graphics. Not having a professional help you with graphics is a lot like trying to draw up a blueprint for a new house without using the expertise of an architect.

So what is all of this trying to say? Websites that get results are not websites that happen overnight with little forethought, planning, or resources allocated to them. They are sites that focus on these keys to create a strong online presence for your business.

How to Create the Perfect Contact Us Page

When I’m buying online, one of the pages I always look at on a website is the Contact page.

A contact page is important because it builds trust between a business and its customers. It’s also a great way to communicate with them and show more of your business ethos.

You can tell a lot about a business by the information on this page and in this week’s online marketing assignment, I’m going to share some simple steps for you to get the best out of your Contact page.

    1. Begin with an intro paragraph. Welcome peeps to the page and let them know what happens if they get in touch with you e.g. do you have any service level agreements in place whereby you’ll respond on the same day/within 24 or 48 hours? It’s important to manage expectations.
    2. Direct them if possible to a FAQs page or similar, sometimes people don’t read information which is already on a website, so reminding them firstly of any help you have instantly available for them. Don’t forget to keep this FAQ page updated by making a note of questions you receive.
    3. Add a Contact Form – it’s a great way to ensure that people give you the exact information you need to respond to their request. Make sure you have the Contact Form set up to reject any incomplete forms – nothing more frustrating than just getting a question from someone without any email address or phone number for you to contact them.
    4. Have a number of ways to be contacted. Eg a webform, snail mail address, telephone [with working hours noted], an Instant Messenger Service [such as Skype], support email address, or a help desk URL.
    5. Make sure your name, address and phone number are correct and the ones you use consistently
    6. Consider other ways a customer could communicate with you e.g. a Live Chat function.
    7. Don’t use a PO Box and/or a mobile phone number as your only public means of contact. This doesn’t build trust – you come across as temporary and perhaps not even a genuine business. If there are personal reasons why you use a PO Box or a mobile number, switch to renting a mailbox and/or a telephone answering service.
    8. Add a Google Map of your location – using the Google Maps site, you can produce an embeddable map of your location using your postcode.
    9. Add a photo – perhaps of your customer service team/assistant? Or maybe another image relevant to your bizz.
    10. Don’t be afraid to use branding, images and quirky copywriting to set your Contact Us page alight. Make it an extension of the rest of your website which reflects your brand and not an unloved dusty area!

Important Distinctions Between Mobile and Full-Size Websites!

An ongoing debate since the inception of mobile websites for smart phone viewing is whether or not to actually create one; and what may be good for one company may not work so well for another. So it is important to understand the differences between the two types and the pros and cons of each one. Mobile websites have their own sets of rules just as full-size versions do and all of this must be considered before deciding if it sounds like a worthwhile endeavor.

Differences

The most obvious point of difference of full-sized versus mobile is that the latter is built on a smaller optimized layout, making the entire presentation very streamlined and uncluttered. Most are very simple, done in the same colors as the main one and designed to be as complimentary as possible. It is the amount of content that is served on a mobile website that is most different. Typically, this smaller version may contain a company logo and name, a simple menu, and little else. There just isn’t enough room for much more without causing a great deal of scrolling or text and links may appear too small, which is why it is kept so minimal. Many mobile sites include a link to the main website for those still preferring that option; other than that everything is somewhat abbreviated. Only basic needs and functions are located on apps designed for smart phones.

Pros and Cons

Content is one of the big differences between the two design types and this is where things get heated between supporters and non-supporters. The concern is that these miniature websites do not represent the full version well enough and viewers miss out on many things. Conversely, those who commend the use of mobile versions feel that all that is needed on this type of device is the main, most valuable information. Yet another issue stems from internet crawlers and browsers and their ability to see mobile websites in order to direct inquiries to them rather than the main internet location of a company. Of course, there are ways to ensure that browsers continue to see a mobile website so traffic that is identified as coming from one of these devices is sent directly there; however, it is time-consuming and tedious.

Over 25 percent of those who access the internet do so only on smart phones. On the one hand, being able to easily view a site that is optimized for a tiny screen is convenient and easier without having to spread the screen to enlarge the view. On the other hand, if significantly less information is contained, the rest of the main version’s content accessed via a cell phone is missing all the time.

Pro-mobile supporters continue to back the idea that smaller, leaner and simpler is enough; there is another train of thought that could be an answer when not wanting to miss out on the convenience of offering a website for smart phones. Considering that any internet design should be as minimal and clean as possible, a full size internet location can be designed to actually display well on a cell phone app also. It would involve redesigning the existing website; however, the end result would achieve a mobile device presence and allow all information to be useable on both mobile and full-sized devices – and make it well worth the money spent. The real question is whether or not such a simple, pared-own internet presence is enough for desktop use, where visitors are used to having full capabilities.

Ultimately, it largely remains a preference that should be based on knowing how much traffic a company actually does get from a mobile site and whether or not presenting limited information could negatively affect conversion numbers. Understanding these facts will allow for the best business decision to be reached!