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How to Find a Good Web Designer

Choosing a good web designer is not just about getting some guy to build you a good looking web site. There are many factors that can and will affect the success of your site. For you to know what qualifies as a good designer/developer you need to be educated. That is the intention of this article.

I believe that your web site development begins with a plan. A solid plan that incorporates search engine optimization,(SEO) and usability at its foundation. Building your web site in this manner will enable your SEO to be much easier with just minor tweaking and updating. At the time of this writing it is still not yet possible for search engine spiders, a.k.a: robots, to make sense of everything you have on your website.

Spiders love text. They don’t read javascript and they do not have the ability to read complex flash text or images. Making sure that your entire web site including all its pages are indexed by the spiders is essential. If they can’t see your pages, it may as well not be there.

So what does all this mean to you in your search for a web designer or web developer. In case you’re wondering why I refer to designer and developer as if they’re two different things, the fact is, is that they are.(if you want to be technical). Web designer seems to be the general term thrown about as one who makes or builds web pages. However this is usually the person who designs the physical appearance of the web site. He usually just works with images. Since there’s more to building a functional web site than just pretty pictures and fancy moving graphics, it may surprise you that a web page can in fact also be a computer program, or more appropriately, a web application. This is the behind the scenes code that gives the site its intelligence, so to speak. Some web designers are only responsible for completing a physical design for your site. If they don’t code in HTML or CSS, the design usually photoshop or fireworks, then goes to the coder, who actually puts it all together using html, CSS and in some instances a scripting languages like PHP, asp.net or ruby for back end programming. The end result is a web page that renders in the users browser and depending on whether some scripting was included, also allows the user to interact with the page and make choices and decisions. This is the very short version of a somewhat complex subject.

If you can keep this in mind when you go over the contract it will help you understand why the programming aspect (developing) of your site is usually pricier. Any serious web design company will have an in depth contract and should not hesitate to explain details of the contract to you.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines standards and best practices for web design and development and you should make it a point to ask your web guy whether they will be designing your website with standards compliant code. This just means adhering to the W3C standard.

If they say that they intend designing the layout of your web page using tables, insist that they don’t. For two reasons:

  1. Using tables for layout is not standards compliant and could adversely impact page loading times. (not good) The more code in your page the larger the file and the larger the file the longer it takes to download.
  2. Updating and maintaining web pages will be much harder, and could take longer, which may translates more being more expensive.

When you think of your website project try thinking ahead and plan for the long term. You want a site that is extendible and can be managed more easily. Best practices are not called such for no reason. I stress this point because it’s an important one.

A portfolio will give you a glimpse of what the designer / developer is capable of will allow you to see the design style. Any web designer with sense won’t include customers in their portfolio who were not happy. It’s bad for business. Searching for a good designer in reputable online listings is a good place to find a web designer or any other service for that matter where the company or individual will be rated by the public.

It is of greater importance to that firm that they perform well since their rating is available for the public to see. An example of such listings would be Yahoo’s Local Search listings, or online Yellow pages. A good source for finding a good web designer is to speak to people who you know who have had first hand experience and who built their web sites. If people have been given good service they usually don’t have any problem recommending their designer to you.

It is OK to ask for a mock up site. Usually designers will tend to make 2 mock ups for you to compare and sometimes they may even show you an array of various web styles and templates prior to commencing. This is a way of narrowing down the style, how many columns, colors and themes he will need to design for.

The web developer needs to advise you on every aspect of the design process. He should educate you and explain in very plain terms the reasons for doing things. Don’t just take his word for it. Ask why. He needs to give attention to what content you intend putting on your site also, because SEO is all about content, keywords and relevance. Obviously the content decided on is ultimately the client’s decision, but a responsible designer should inform you of how you could optimize your content. It is important to note that some web designers usually are not experts at SEO and there are specific SEO companies or individuals that do just that, however it is best if they work hand in hand with the designer of your website. If you do find a web designer that can do a good job of SEO then you stand a better chance of your web site being easier to market and rank.

So here are a few points I believe would make an overall good choice in a web designer/developer.

  1. Expresses the importance in planning your site for user friendliness
  2. Understands good web design that is standards compliant
  3. Can think through the eyes of the potential visitor of the clients site
  4. Uses colors well and researches the target audience.
  5. Educates the client and explains web terminology in layman’s terms.
  6. Plans a site from SEO perspective, with attention to file structure and naming schemes.
  7. If doing any programming, all the above applies and also strong focus on usability of the application. Easy user interface, secure and full featured to name a few..

These points are by no means the hard and fast rule, its just a guide. However, I believe most importantly above all, you should get good service. Good quality service is the best marketing tool for any business and you should expect it.

Roger Samboer is the founder of Alien Design LLC, a Seattle based web site development company. They create streamlined, professional looking web sites at very competitive prices. The main focus is on providing new start up companies with affordable yet high quality web sites as well as coaching and training companies to market their site better online. Information is always free!

Web Design and Development Information

Web design usually involves many varied disciplines and skills in the maintenance and production of websites. The different parts that encompasses web designing include interface design, graphic design, authoring which includes proprietary software and standardized code, search engine optimization and user experience design. Although some designers may specialize in all the aspects of web design, most designers usually work in groups each individual tackling a different aspect of the process.

web design1

The term web design is mostly used to refer to the design process involving the front-end design of a site that includes writing mark up too. In the wider scope of website development, Web design is partially complex more than web engineering. This is because web designers are expected to have the technical Know-How in usability and to be at par with the current website accessibility guidelines if their work involves creating mark up too.

HTML and CSS in Web design

HyperText Markup Language commonly known as HTML, plays a big role in web design since it gives the content in the website, it’s meaning and structure by defining what the content is, for instance, paragraphs, images, headings and so on. Cascading Style Sheets or what is commonly referred to as CSS, is a display language used to enhance the appearance of the content in the site for example use of colors and fonts.

Both the languages CSS and HTML are used independently of each other and that should be maintained when dealing with web design. For instance in all your web related activities such as “Web Design and development, appearance, website, homepage, HTML” HTML should not be written in a CSS document vice versa. The general rule is that HTML should always be representing content while CSS should always represent how that content appears. For those who are the beginners of HTML, in some cases you might encounter strange and often-new terms but with time you are likely to become more conversant with all of them. However, the commonly used terms in HTML you should begin with include attributes, tags and elements.

New standards in HTML and CSS

To enhance “Web Design and development, appearance, website, homepage, HTML” the W3C recently released new standards of CSS the CSS3 and HTML the HTML5. Additionally the W3C released new JavaScript API’s. Although they are all new but they are all individual standards. While the new term HTML 5 solely refers to the latest version of the HTML and a number of the JavaScript API’s it is common to hear most people use it to refer to the whole lot of the new standard both the CSS3,the HTML 5 and JavaScript.

Technologies and Tools used in web design

Depending on the step of the production process, web designers use a wide range of varied tools in their work. Though the principles behind them remain the same, the tools and technologies are updated with time by the current software and standards. To create design prototypes or and images that are formatted on the web, web designers use raster and vector graphics. The main technology used in creating websites is the standardized mark up, which can be generated or handcooked using the WYSIWYG editing software. Furthermore, there is proprietary software that uses plug-ins to bypass the user’s browser versions. They are mostly WYSIWYG but with the choice of using the scripting language of the software. Search engine optimization strategies may also be applied to check the ranking at the search engine and suggest ways of improving it. Other tools used are the mark up validators and other tools used for testing accessibility and usability. This is to make sure that the website meets the website accessibity guideline.

Homepage design

Most Usability professionals and experts such as Kyle Soucy and Jakob Nielsen have on a number of times insisted on homepage design for any website success since the homepage is the most essential part of a website. However, in the early 2000’s it was discovered that a surging number of web traffic was inconsiderate to the homepage and was directly going to the contents of the pages via e-newsletters, RSS feeds and search engines.

Due to this, it is evident that homepages play a lesser important role in the success of any website. In the years 2012 and 2013 rotating banners and sliders, also known as carousels became a very popular component of web design on homepages. The carousels are used to display recent content in a specific space. However, while undertaking “Web Design and development, appearance, website, homepage, HTML” it should be noted that carousels often damage site’s usability and search engine optimization.

Web development

The term web development is used to refer to the work involved in coming up with a website for the World Wide Web. Development usually ranges from coming with simple single page sites using plain text to the complex web applications, social network services and electronic businesses. Tasks in web development include web design, client liaison and e-commerce development.

Web site appearance

The feel and look of your site is more essential than just displaying the information you want, but doing it in a way that it appeals and creates attention from your target audience information. Multiple factors should be taken into account when scaling out the appearance of your website. One of the major considerations is your intended audience. Look at their nationality, gender, age bracket, animations, colors, animations and graphics.

In summary, the idea here is to assist you develop a site that appeals and gets attention from the largest possible audience in all your work including web design and development.

Why Your Business Should Upgrade to a Responsive Web Design Sooner Rather Than Later

Why should my business have a responsive web design?

Responsive web design has become the go-to solution for businesses who want a user friendly interface and higher customer retention. If your company has come this far without taking advantage of all the benefits it has to offer, you may have already begun to see lower visitor numbers and a disappointing conversion rate.

As a responsible business owner, you’ll probably need convincing before paying to upgrade your web presence to one that includes responsive design. However, by opting in you’ll soon see a return on investment that will make it worthwhile. In a nutshell, responsive design is just better than what has gone before and in order to keep up with the competition, you’ll need it too.

Responsive web design is crucial for the majority of businesses because it allows your users to achieve their goals quickly and smoothly. The important elements of your website can be pulled up on a smart phone and appear as a fully functional version of the original, complete with all the utility you’d offer to customers on a laptop or desktop computer. If you fail to provide a mobile-friendly experience like this for your visitors they won’t hang around, they’ll simply click away and complete the action or purchase on a rival site.

Unhappy customers are not good for business and neither is going up against a major search engine. Google have recently confirmed what many insiders have suspected for some time – sites that are not optimised for multiple users will slip down their search rankings. Google bases their rankings on how useful a page is for the query a user has entered, plus the utility of the site – for example, can a user complete the action they would like to?

Your page may be completely relevant to their search, but if visitors cannot access the content easily across a number of devices, your site may receive a less than positive review and be placed lower in the search results. If your company is reduced to a second or third page entry you’ll lose a considerable amount of traffic, as people naturally select links from the first page.

Google have also pointed out that companies which have a single responsive website – rather than one standard and one mobile version – are far easier for their bots to discover, because there is just one URL.

If your site is responsive and ready to service mobile customers, you can take advantage of many tools and helpful apps like the click-to-call button, this enables a web user to make a voice call to your company immediately. Potential customers can also read reviews about your business or even find you in a busy place using Google Maps, both keenly relevant to the needs of mobile users.

Branding is one of the ways in which we build a relationship of trust with a customer and keep them coming back for more of the same. This is pertinent to responsive design for two reasons, firstly, people do not feel confident in a site they cannot easily navigate and second, in order to create a uniform brand you’ll need responsive design to produce a consistent web appearance; however your clients reach you.

In today’s market there are only a handful of reasons why a company may choose to stick with static design on their web page. Those who do not rely in any significant way on web traffic to drive sales, or those who have few competitors, or those who have already looked into responsive design and found it was not right for them. For everyone else, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, responsive design is the only way forward for your website.

Responsive web design features

Until recently web designers created different pages depending on where they would be viewed, a tablet for example has a different screen resolution to a laptop, and so the content would be optimised for viewing on that particular device.

However, responsive web design has revolutionised the way in which users look at the internet, it has created an across the board experience allowing us to view pages on a PC, smart phone or notebook in exactly the same way. When they build a site, designers use the same coding on any number of resolutions, giving every device the same degree of functionality.

Responsive web designers believe that their clients’ web pages should be accessible to every visitor, giving them an optimal experience, regardless of the device they using. This kind of intelligent response to a web user’s actions keeps your company relevant in an ever changing online market place; it boosts your e-commerce figures and makes visiting your site an enjoyable experience.

In technical terms there are three key features of responsive web design, the secret ingredient is generally considered to be media queries. These are filters added on to the CSS or Cascading Style Sheets, affecting the look and feel of any individual page. CSS is a highly useful tool for web designers, but by tagging on a media queries adaption, the process of resizing, rendering and orienting a page becomes far easier.

Another linchpin of responsive design is the flexible layout, this is based on a grid formation, ideal for formatting margins, positioning the key elements of a page and getting the spacing just right. This means a designer is not limited to a certain number of columns, they can choose as many or as few as is appropriate for the page. A flexible layout also removes the need to work out the layouts and text size based on pixels.

Instead, designers use percentages which enable them to adopt a far more fluid approach to producing each page. Pixels work well in photographic images, but are a clumsy tool to use over a number of devices. One pixel may be expressed as three dots on a phone, but ten dots on a desktop, changing the quality of an image considerably between devices.

The third component of responsive design involves the use of CSS or a dynamic resizing function to create flexible images, videos and other content. Text can flow relatively easily as the containing area resizes, but in order to spread this across more complex segments, web designers need to use different techniques. Dynamic resizing gives a web designer greater control over how a page behaves and enables them to add or remove components as needed.

Taken a whole, these multiple technologies mean visitors can enjoy the feeling of familiarity, regardless of what device they happen to be using, or will be using in the future.

When a mobile user changes from landscape to portrait mode, the intuitive design will ensure the page gets bigger or smaller. Furthermore, each element, be it an image, textbox or video will also resize itself to correspond with the different dimensions.

If you have ever tried to access a website and discovered that it was almost impossible to navigate around without shrinking and enlarging the text or buttons, you’ll understand why responsive design is considered good practice for the majority of website owners.

Responsive web design Vs Mobile web design

Until quite recently, mobile web design was considered far more relevant to modern consumers than it’s responsive counterpart, this approach sees designers using smart phones as a starting point and upgrading the technology progressively, through to notepads, desktop computers and beyond. This method meant that companies needed two websites, one for their mobile pages and one for PC users.

In the early golden years of mobile web design, there were a number of reasons why experts thought that web applications should always be designed first for use on a mobile device. Most important of these was the prevalence of smart phones and the fact that their popularity was continuing to skyrocket. By creating a platform that favoured these millions of users, companies could promote their service or product to what was seen as the next generation of computing consumers.

Secondly, mobile design was said to foster a cleaner concept without room for extraneous elements or unnecessary page clutter. In a screen the size of that on a mobile phone, there simply is not enough room to crowbar in extra buttons and widgets – instead, a design team had to focus on what was actually needed. By giving users a clear route to what they want, it was assumed that their experience would be better, faster, leave them more inclined to return or convert them into a paying customer.

Mobile applications were thought to have far more utility than PC based software, what users expected from their laptop paled in comparison to the capabilities offered on smart phones. From a digital compass, to gyroscopic effects, touch screen inputs and voice control, designers hoped to build on these tools to produce modern web design that was not limited by the constraints of a PC.

Although there are pros and cons for the adoption of a mobile site to run parallel to a main site, responsively designed pages are ideal for retailers who want a robust, homogenous website with plenty of utility for every user. A single site also simplifies marketing campaigns; there is only a need to manage one site and one SEO strategy. Therefore, a website which features responsive design can save companies time and money, but also provide a seamless, convenient way for customers to shop.

Responsive web design statistics

When a team of designers build you a responsive website you know it will adapt intuitively to whatever device it is accessed from, but where is the evidence that proves this is a factor in commercial success?

The content marketing company, Brand Point, found that over 90% of consumers buying decisions are affected by visual elements. In other words, if people land on your site and like the look of the place, they are more likely to stay and buy.

Screen resolutions are changing all the time as new devices reach the market, web developers Spyderweb found that in 2010 there were just 97 unique screen resolution sizes, but by 2013 that figure had leapt to 232. The only way of tackling this increase is to have a responsive website that is optimised for every customer, whatever device they favour.

Customers are driven away by high wait times and pages that take too long to appear; even way back in 2009, 47% of people expected a load time of just two seconds on a webpage. In a study carried out by cloud service providers, Akamai, it was also found that 40% of web users clicked away if they had not gained access to a page within 3 seconds. That is a pretty slim window of opportunity, and it’s fair to assume that people’s expectations have increased since this study was compiled.

Although external factors like a lack of Wi-Fi or 4G can also affect wait times, the importance of speed for business sites cannot be underestimated. Wed designers can write code for your responsive site that makes it selectively load the elements needed, or even bring in graphics at a later stage.

Design matters because it can have a huge impact on the number of new visitors to your pages, these are people who have reached you through typing in a specific search criteria and decided to click on the link to your site. Web designers, Domain7, have reported that in the case of their client Regent College, there was a leap of 99% in unique visitors after a revamp of their responsive web design.

If your mobile pages leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth of your visitors, they are far less likely to view your entire organisation favourably, and they’ll tell their friends. Industry experts at the Search Engine Journal discovered that 57% of people would never recommend a company that had poorly designed pages, strengthening the case for a consistent web strategy that performs the way your customers want it to – wherever they happen to be.