Known has the “King of Web Standards” and a longtime hero of ours is Jeffrey Zeldman. He’s one of the brains behind WordPress, the blogging software launched in 2003 that has evolved into a popular publishing system for websites. Jeffrey once said…
“Your company’s survival is tied to the ability of the products it makes to work in situations you haven’t imagined, and on devices that don’t yet exist.”
When we’re asked to design a “responsive design” website, we still start with words. Before one pixel of design is undertaken, we have done our research on all their competitors and listed the top keywords for our customer’s industry. We list what sticks out in our research, we come to understand our customer’s pain points, we search for the “big idea” for the messaging, we list all the reasons why someone wouldn’t purchase from this customer and overcome possible objections, we describe products and services honestly and in process we find our voice and craft the entire message for the website’s content.
Next we create the brand message. Starting with the current logo, we create a brand messaging style guide based on the website’s copy. We gather all the social proof like customer testimonials and case studies and optimize the images to look great on all device sizes such as desktops and mobile phones.
Copy dictates design, not the other way around.
Because we started with the end in mind, we have all the content for the entire website and have created a site map. Every paragraph has a goal and a call to action and the content document is packed with relevant SEO words and phrases. Then we build the wireframe to define the layout structure on the many device form factors (2-dimensional sizes). On the left side of the wireframe is the site design as it will be viewed on computers; the right side is for tablets and mobile devices. Saved as a PDF, this document serves as a “go by” during coding and development.
But what about the future of websites? The answer may surprise you. Look at that growth of wearable devices like the Apple watch. We already use responsive design to translate websites on smaller screen sizes like tablets and mobile phones, but our wearable device is already forcing web designers to redefine responsive design. It’s more intuitive and less distracting to glance at a device on your wrist. Watch for it. The Internet of Things (IoT) is on the move!
Because most of us use our smartphones to find products and services, all websites must now be “responsive” designed, i.e., optimized for any-sized device. If your site is not responsive, and you plan a facelift sometime soon, this list of the most common website design mistakes can make the time and thought into a redesign more productive and profitable.
Did you know that Google penalizes non-responsive sites in mobile searches? Since 75% of searches come from Google and over 90% from the Chrome browser in mobile phones, if you want your site found in searches, your website must be responsive-designed.
BEWARE OF THE FREE WEBSITE BUILDER
It’s tempting to use the “drag-and-drop” website builders that claim to give you a full-functioning, responsive website in minutes. The problem is that because they have to be “all things to all people” regardless of your unique message and needs, these time- and money-savers use long lines of code on the back end causing them to load more slowly. If budget is a problem, we’re happy to advise you on the best, inexpensive solutions.
ACCEPTING BAD DESIGN
A website’s design requires balance. We all agree that the purpose of a website is to lead a consumer toward a favorable decision: to opt in to your newsletter, request information, make a purchase, visit your store, decide to select you to solve their problem, or share your site with colleagues and friends. Over-the-top design can be a distraction. Minimalist design can be a turn off.
NOT CAPTURING INFORMATION
Every marketer knows that to generate revenue, you need to have strategies to keep your name in front of a potential customer. Remarketing and retargeting enable your website to be easily found and opened again. These are good strategies, but pale in comparison to actually collecting names and email addresses so you can send personalized emails, newsletter, coupons, or discount notices to all who sign up or register on your site.
POOR QUALITY CONTENT
Did you know that the #1 criteria for your website ranking in search results is high quality content? It’s not uncommon today to see absolutely beautiful websites with huge images and fancy fonts deliver content as though it was afterthought. For the 20+ years that we’ve designed websites, we’ve never wavered from this: content first—then design.
INFORMATION THAT’S HARD TO FIND
When a user wants to find your address, phone number, email address, or store hours, where do they go? Not the Yellow Pages; no, they bring up your website. This information must be extremely easy and intuitive to find. If you sell a product, make it easy to find directions to your store or, if an online store, return policies, FAQs, and shipping details. When designing your layout, list what your audience must know, and make this information the easiest to find.
FORGETTING ABOUT UPDATES
Does your business stay the same year after year? Probably not. Whether you add new products or services, hire new key employees, revamp your marketing message, hold an event, grow or downsize—it’s always changing. Your website needs to reflect that.
HTTP INSTEAD OF HTTPS
Check those four letters in front of your domain name! If yours is HTTP instead of HTTPS, we recommend updating to HTTPS. Why? The simple reason is, Google prefers it. The “S” stand for “Secure”. Not having that “S” makes it easier for an attacker to deliver malicious content to your website and shut it down. To avoid cybersecurity risks in general, be sure to update your site’s framework on a regular basis.
NOT CHECKING YOUR SITE REGULARLY
There’s nothing more irritating than getting a “Page Not Found” error. This happens when something is wrong in the site’s code—usually a broken link. We recommend going through every page on your website at least quarterly; weekly if it has high traffic. If you find an error code, have your developer fix it—sometimes it takes someone who knows how to find and fix bugs and problems.
NOT USING OR EVEN HAVING ANALYTICS
Google Analytics should be installed in the code of every website. It’s free and the most useful tool you have in your online marketing arsenal. It helps you find underperforming pages, know where your visitors are spending their time, and from which page (or on which product) visitors leave your site. Another mistake is having Google Analytics on your website and never going there.
With a new year on the horizon, we like to share what we believe are the top web design trends that may be applicable for the clients we serve. You’ll quickly notice that it’s all about designing for the way we access the web now and where the web is going in the future. Mobile is up over 35% from last year and the trend won’t be slowing down.
Search engine giant, Google, has announced that they will use the mobile version of the web as their primary search engine. This means that Google will rank mobile sites higher in their index than sites that are not mobile responsive. If you’re website is not mobile-friendly yet, it’s time to get serious about a website design upgrade.
The use of whitespace is becoming more important as designers learn that whitespace, or negative space, makes content stand out so that it’s easier to read and navigate. Here’s a recent sample of ours »
Irregular grids are replacing the uniform grids that have served as the base for WordPress themes. WordPress will likely continue to have security holes and its bulky, buggy code will continue to leave it a target for hackers worldwide.
Bold fonts and bright colors are replacing oversize images so users can focus on content that will likely remain the most critical component of page rankings. Unlike images that slow pages down, scaling the size of typography wont impact performance.
Responsive design has been around for a number of years because we now use phones, tablets, smart watches, desktops and smart TVs. So this design principle is not going anywhere.
For designers, scalable vector graphics (SVGs) have been part of our toolbox for a few years and we expect this graphic format to overtake more traditional files format such as PNG, GIF, and JPG. SVGs don’t lose quality when scaled up or down and don’t affect page speed, so we’ll be integrating more SVG graphics in the sites we build this year and beyond.
In 2018, our focus will be on designing simple yet powerful websites that are optimized for mobile devices and care deeply about the user experience. We will use new formats, styles, and technologies to help our clients say more, do more, share more, and enjoy a greater return on their digital investments.