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Design on the Web Differs From Creative Advertising

August 16th, 2018

Web design contains many of the principles of print related graphic design such as typography, general visual aesthetic, color theory, placement of elements in order to lead the eye to a place of interest, breaking up information so that is is easily digestible, and many other principles that go into creating effective design.

So what’s the difference on the web? Why can’t we apply the same principles to create effective website design? There are many reasons for this — and the first one that might come to most people’s minds is that website’s are built on “code” -and hence the designer must have at least a general understanding of how this code structure works, to be able to effectively design for the medium. This is true, and I recommend designers understand XHTML, CSS, some javascript, and some flash, as well as what the back-end languages like.php can do — however knowing how to actually program is not a requirement. Even though it is not a requirement it is recommend that a web designer understands the languages intimately so that he can design much more effectively and efficiently. An understanding better than just basic, will also help a designer communicate with a web developer (or a web programmer) this is the essential synergy that is necessary to design, build and create great web experiences!

So, let’s say I understand the programming and I am an awesome designer — what else should I know in order to create great websites as a designer? The next thing is structure, or architecture. This is a the foundation and grid of your layout, and there are specific grids that are proven to be effective in the design of websites. It also refers to the placement of elements on the screen, and the placement and proximity of these elements will either drive people through your site to deeper areas of information or drive them right off your website and on to one of the other websites that might have similar content but are easier to navigate and find the information or service that they are looking for. This is the reason that the logical stricture and architectures of your web design be done right — simply because there are so many other websites out there and it is a lot easier for someone to click to another site than it is for someone to put down the print-related graphically designed communication they are reading or looking at. The amount of choices and quick ability to abandon a website make this factor of great importance. Architecture also refers to the navigation structure and how pieces of information are logically broken down into digestible pieces for the website visitor. It is a necessity for a web designer to be able to create visually pleasing designs as well as formulate a logical structure — this is easier said than done. Visual or creative people tend to be less concerned with structure and logic, which is why a web designer requires a special trait — they need to balance the two often opposing sides, or the right-brain and left-brain in order to create effective designs for the web.

So far we have awesome graphically and visually appealing design, an intimate understanding of the programming underneath the designs and we are able to balance our design into a logical, clear and concise structure so people can find what they are looking for, when they want it! What else do we need as an effective web designer? Let’s call this one “on-page strategy”. On-page strategy will enhance the user experience by combining the above three principles into something called strategy. Web design strategy depends greatly on a very good “discovery” period — this looks at the competitor landscape, it reviews the main objective of the website as well as the secondary and tertiary objectives of the business and the website. On page strategy also includes a good SEO (search engine optimization) plan. SEO entails a good coding structure so that your valuable web design copy can be deciphered not only by the humans that read your website, but also by the search engines, so that they can rank your information and index it on their search engines — and in turn making the vast amount of people able to find your website. It examines the information and makes decisions based on this information.

Then we have “off-page strategy” which refers to how other web sites will lead people into your website — sort of like road signs that take people straight on to the street that your site lives. Some off page strategy includes advertising and link building, good public relations, article writing, web sit submission to directories and of course social media.

So, in summary web design requires a whole new set of skills and an expansion of the palette of a print-related art director or graphic designer. Throw in some motion design experience, video experience, maybe a dash of 3D and the art of simplicity and you’re well on the road to designing great website experiences that are effective!

Web Design – To Be Cheap Or Not to Be Cheap? That is the Question

August 14th, 2018

Think a new Web design (or an overhaul of your existing site) is too expensive of a proposition? The “Miami Herald” begs to differ. In an article titled “Web design doesn’t need to be expensive,” the newspaper debunked the myth that only those individuals and businesses that have a lot of excess cash lying around can afford an updated Web design.

Here are some of the cost-effective Web design options the article offered.

1. Customize a Web template. – With the bones of your site already established, you can save both time and money. To ensure that the customization you apply to a template doesn’t look amateurish, hire a Web design expert to give it some upscale finishing touches. The design and development of a website is the marriage of art and science. A professional Web development firm can effectively integrate the aesthetic design-the user experience-with the invisible but crucial programming that makes it all work.

2. Watch out for templates that offer free trials. – Although they afford you an opportunity to see what your site will look like before you shell out any major cash, after your grace period is up, the hosting and tech support costs can often exceed what you’d pay elsewhere. Sometimes, the freebie is just a way to rope you in and keep you paying over the long haul.

3. Consider package deals. – Web design packages give you access to “designers [who] will design your site according to your specs, including e-commerce features that allow you to sell products on your site … at a fraction of what you would have to pay a Web design firm.”

4. If you fall in love with a template and want it all for yourself, you can pay “typically $3,000 to $5,000 to ensure that no one else can buy that design-and it is uniquely yours.” Be aware, however, that this approach will be just about as expensive as having a site custom designed for you in the first place. It also doesn’t guarantee that no one took advantage of the template prior to your staking claim on it. As a result, you always risk the possibility that someone else is wearing the same Web design prom dress you are.

5. Take advantage of money-back guarantees. If you’re the fickle type, or you find out you look too much like a competitor, some template sites will “guarantee to refund your money in the first 30 days if you’re not completely satisfied with their product.”

Building a Website can be done on the cheap, but spending less comes with some caveats. All of the aforementioned advice is not to discourage you from spending top dollar on an expert Web designer, of course. Whether you can afford it now or not, think of Web design as an investment in your future. In fact, in today’s global online marketplace, a professionally designed Website is a must for anyone who is serious about building business relationships via the Internet. Indeed, the cost of Web design expertise can easily pay for itself many times over in the sales it rakes in for you.

Getting Web Page Headings and Titles Correct

August 13th, 2018

Often overlooked is the hierarchical structure and labelling of information on a web page. The two most important of these are page titles and page headings. Research has shown that the usability of a website is significantly effected by getting these two concepts correct.

Page headings
Most website users spend most of their time scanning web pages rather than reading the information on the web page. With this in mind it is important that the web designer makes sure that headings are well-designed to facilitate the user being able to both scan and read the written material.

The web designer should constantly strive to use distinguishing and descriptive headings and also to use as many headings as necessary to facilitate the web site user finding what they are looking for. A rule of thumb for this is that it is usually better to use more rather than fewer heading.
The web designer or the web developer should also create the headings in hierarchical order and because of this it is broadly speaking best not to skip heading levels.

Designers should also make that the site headings, e.g. the html h1, h2, h3, provide strong cues that will provide orientation to the web site users and also categorise the information that is contained on the page. This will provide the end user the ability to scan quickly and locate the information that they are seeking. If the user has to stop scanning and start reading the text on the page there is a strong likelihood that they will move away from the page if the limited text they have read is not relevant to them. It should also be noted that older internet users tend to scan less than younger internet users which can cause a conflict in design requirements. However hopefully the web designer will take into account the demographics of the end user of the website.

Page Titles
Page titles differ from headings in that whilst a web page may (and should) have several headings providing for the demarcation of content, there will only be one page title. Research at various universities has established that descriptive page titles are a fundamental requirement of any website. Whilst many people do not pay attention to the page title they have actually landed on (it appears at the very top of browser in the title bar), they certainly do when they are scanning through a search engines results page, as it is the text of the page title that normally appears as a link. It is this text that also appears as the text when someone bookmarks a page. It is therefore a necessity that the web design company who is preparing the web page provides a page title that is not only meaningful, but also descriptive, unique and concise. By providing clear and concise page titles the web developer will be orientating users as they browse a list a page or even scanning a list of pages in their browser bookmarks or browsing history.

Normally is it common practice that the title of the page is the same as the top level heading of the page. The significant advantage of this is that consistency is preserved so that the user avoids being confused.

Unfortunately many people address the issues relating to page titles and page headings from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) point of view, when in reality they should be a fundamental part of the design of any page for a users benefit (which is probably why search engines pay so much attention to them!)
If you think about the content of your page and the users requirements you will be a long way along the road to designing a great website!