Archive for the ‘Website Redesign’ Category·
Monday, July 9th, 2012
Ask most any designer and they’ll tell you that the design process is very personal. What works for one designer, may not work for another. In truth, most of the time, our process is ever-changing. With each project, new ways of doing things come to light and redefine how we approach a design challenge.
Refining The Process
When I started out in web design I felt as though there was a right or wrong process to design. As I grew in the field, I noticed that, yes, there are a few practices that are essential to delivering quality design work, but much of the process was up to me to decide what worked and what didn’t work to help me get to an excellent solution.
Discovery is one of those areas that I feel is essential to any design process. Without a deep understanding of the problem, the objectives, the industry, the message, the history and the audience a designer is merely guessing or pacifying either his own ego or the ego of the client. Neither of which will deliver an effective solution. Knowing exactly what the objective is and the story behind the objective allows for a more focussed approach. (more…)
Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Getting your website redesigned or launching your first ever website can be a blast. If you are considering venturing into the world of web, consider these misconceptions about web design. They can save you a lot of money and keep you on the right track after your site is launched.
If I build it, they will come
Ok, you’ve probably heard this expression used in other contexts I’m sure, but it applies here—big time. When done properly, a website is a powerful tool. However, just because you have a well designed website doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get traffic. You need to start getting traffic. There are many ways to start doing this. Some easy ones are:
- Simply talking about your new site
- Put your URL on all your stationery and signage
- Promote your site via social media
- Promote your site via traditional advertising
There is also Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which is highly effective in getting traffic. SEO takes time and effort, or money. The point is that to really see your website work, you need to get traffic.
If it’s pretty, I will make money
Pretty is great. But it’s more of a byproduct of good design than an end unto itself. Good design takes into consideration your target market, user needs, business goals and conversion optimization. Using design principles, we can more likely reach your business goals via your website. The end result is ‘pretty’, but the foundation is sound principles and best practices. Many designers simply offer “window dressing” which may look fine and make you feel good, but it may not move the needle. The goal of your website should be to make it easy for your users to say “yes” to whatever it is you are offering.
All I need is traffic
You can have all of the traffic in the world, but if your site is not compelling, easy and enjoyable to use people will leave. The standards that the average internet user has for interacting with websites has risen exponentially. Your users expect more. They want to be engaged. Boring won’t cut it, either.
Think about it like this. You have a restaurant in the middle of town. You get lots of foot traffic every day. However, your restaurant is cramped and dirty. The menu is difficult to read, and you can’t even figure out where to order.
It wouldn’t matter how much traffic you got, you wouldn’t convert much of it. Not many people would buy food from that kind of restaurant. Traffic alone won’t bring in the business. You need a well executed site that will convert that traffic.
Branding doesn’t matter
Tell this to the biggest brands in the world. If branding didn’t matter then everyone would have the same name, logo and colors. No one would take out advertising, and if they did, it would simply be a word document converted into a magazine ad. Big companies are a lot of things, and they do waste a lot of money, but they must get a decent ROI on their branding and marketing efforts or they wouldn’t do them year in, year out. Your brand is your story, and story is one of the most powerful tools in society. Pay attention to your brand and build it. Your website should help to build your brand and reinforce the message that you are trying to get across.
I just need a Facebook page
With the rise in social media, it’s easy to think that maybe all you need is a Facebook page, or Twitter account. Don’t be fooled! Social media is very important, but having a dedicated website and blog is crucial to your online marketing.
The first reason is shelf-life of content. On Facebook, the shelf-life of your post is about a day. Twitter is less. On your website and blog, your content’s shelf-life is infinite (as long as you pay your hosting bills)!
The second reason is ownership. Many people don’t realize that Facebook owns your content. It can decide tomorrow that it’s changing its policies and half of your posts, photos or videos get removed. This exact scenario hasn’t happened (yet), but recently with the timeline updates, many of the features that marketers were using simply disappeared or changed dramatically. If you are in business, you can’t soley rely on Facebook, Twitter or Linked in for your web presence. Having your own website and blog, you can host your own content and have it there forever. It’s yours. This is a very valuable aspect of a website.
The third reason is customization. With Facebook and Twitter, it is very difficult to differentiate yourself visually from your competitors. Granted, you can change your background on Twitter, and your Cover Image on Facebook, but other than that it’s tough to really provide and exceptional user experience on these platforms. A custom website is the key. Your website is your hub of all marketing. You have the opportunity to create a stunning user experience that compels visitors to engage with you. You can always change, rearrange and redesign the site as many times as necessary. You’re at the mercy of the Social networks’ whims if you rely solely on them for your internet marketing plan.
A good use of social media is to create community and drive traffic back to your website and blog. Don’t waste time and money by exclusively using social media tools.
Set it and forget it
It may work for rotisserie chicken, but not for effective websites. Constant testing, updating and refreshing is necessary for success. What worked last quarter may not work this quarter. Weekly blog posts, monthly updates to core website content and quarterly content strategy plans are essential to a thriving web presence. A website is rarely ever “done”.
Your website is the center of your marketing world. Take the time to invest in a quality web presence that will engage your audience and convert more users into customers.
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Many website owners wonder how often they should redesign their site to stay current. There’s no hard and fast answer. Although many have tried to convince people that there is.
With the rapid changes in the technology space, you may be feeling a bit paralyzed when it comes to deciding whether or not to redesign your website. Should you do it now, in three years, maybe five? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Most business owners don’t know and even many designers simply pull a number out of a hat, unfortunately.
So, exactly how often do you need to redesign—it depends.
How often you redesign depends on your users’ expectations
If you have a site that is geared towards the elderly, the frequency of redesign would be rather minimal. The reason is that this particular demographic is just now getting used to being online. Their expectations are quite low.
In fact, if you redesign too often you may alienate users in the older demographic as they tend to value consistency and predicability more than other demographics.
If your site is geared towards a younger, more web-savvy demographic you may want to consider redesigning your site more often. How often? A good rule of thumb is 3-5 years.
However, there are some other considerations you should take into account.
Low conversion rate
If you are not tracking your conversions on your website, get started today! This is key information that will give you insight to how well your website is performing. Without trackable conversions, you really don’t have any idea about your site’s performance.
If you are tracking your conversions and see that you could use some (or a lot of) improvement, plan on redesigning soon. And here is a tip: don’t look at your competitor’s websites for inspiration, they’re probably not getting any better conversion rate than you! Hire a web design studio that understands conversion optimization and lead generation. That way, you not only will have an attractive site, but one that builds your business while you sleep!
This is a tricky one, because many people view design as a subjective discipline. But, go with your gut and the reactions of others. Get together with some people who you know will be brutally honest with you. Ask them what they think of your website. Hopefully they won’t just flatter you and say that your animated gifs and comic sans font are great. Get them to tell the truth.
A better way, however, is to benchmark your site with a more successful company (not nessesarily in your industry).
Look and see if there site is:
- Easier to use than yours
- More aesthetically pleasing
- More professional
- Mobile friendly
- Constant with other marketing messages and materials
If the answer is ‘yes’ to one or more of these attributes, then you may want to consider a redesign.
Get a website evaluation
Having your site evaluated by a professional is probably the best way to know wether or not you need to redesign your site. They can go over key points including: design, usability, brand messaging, mobile optimization and conversion optimization.
If you’re not sure if you need to redesign, but feel that you might, get in touch and we’ll give you a free 15 point website evaluation.
Thursday, March 29th, 2012
In a recent statistic around 75% of small businesses do not have a website. On the one hand, this is a tragedy. These small businesses could be missing out on a substantial amount of leads and new business.
On the other hand, this is a good opportunity for those small businesses to get online the right way. If you are thinking of getting your first website up, or if you already have one, here are some things to avoid when designing your website. Unless you want to annoy your users and lower your conversion rate!
Have a “Splash” or “Intro” Page
Ok, so you’ve got this amazing flash video presentation that you paid thousands for showing your products and services saving the world. It’s stunning, it’s entertaining, it’s dynamic and it’s going to annoy the pants off your users. Literally, the only people who care about this are YOU (and maybe your mother).
Your website users don’t want to see a fancy video presentation, usually. If they do, they want to have the control to start and stop it. Waiting 2 minutes for your splash page intro to finish is just making people angry and they will most likely leave your site. You may think it’s cool, but just don’t do it!
Have Auto-play Music or Video
It’s tempting, I know. You want to “set the mood” when people arrive. But, think about it. Many people listen to their own music while online. Now, when they visit your site, they hear your song clashing with their music causing a super-annoying soup of sound—not what you were going for.
What about the user who has their speakers or headphones up REALLY LOUD and forgot that they were on. All of a sudden your awesome music comes on and scares the daylights out of them! Again, probably not the impression you were going for.
Music is great to have on a website, just let your users control how and when they listen to it!
Have An All-Flash Website
Sorry to all the flash developers out there, but, flash is simply unnecessary these days. It adds no value to a website, and the few instances that flash would be semi-appropriate (like content sliders and image galleries), jQuery does a fine job.
If you are thinking of having your whole website built-in flash, just don’t do it. No one will be able to see anything on your site using an iPhone or iPad, your site will load slower, and Goggle won’t index your content. Just not a good idea and a great way to annoy your users.
At the end of the day, it’s best to stick with conventions. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Give your users control over their experience and you will have much more success online.
What else annoys you when visiting a website?
Monday, March 26th, 2012
Taking up a website redesign project can be a daunting task for a business owner or marketing manager. There is a lot of complexity and discussions that have to be made in order to have a successful outcome. I’ve recently come across a few business people who have told me how they have been burned by their web designer when redesigning their website.
Weather it’s unmet expectations, poor quality work or unmet deadlines, too often people are left disappointed by the end result of their redesign project.
Here’s how not to get burned by your web designer.
You don’t need to be an expert, but having a grasp on where the web, social media and the internet in general is going is a good idea. Before you hire someone, give yourself a good 3-4 hours of study. Do this by reading top technology blogs like Mashable, and design blogs like Smashing Magazine. This will help you become prepared for hiring the right designer or firm.
Expect Good Communication
In any project, on the web or off, good communication is key to success. Be sure that when you are talking with your web designer that you have a good chemistry and communicate easily. This can save you from a ton of huge headaches in the future.
Expect A Thorough Quote
When getting quotes, expect a detailed one—not an email. There are some designers who, when asked for a quote, simply shoot off an email saying something like, “That would be around $xx,xxx”. This is a red flag, in my opinion. A designer who isn’t willing to put in the time to have a chat with you and write out a detailed quote on exactly what you are asking for, is more than likely not a professional. The communication will probably be poor and your expectations not met. Be sure to get a detailed quote that breaks dow exactly what you are getting, why you are getting it and the total investment involved.
Don’t Assume, Ask
If you are not sure if a certain feature is included in the quote, don’t just assume that it is. Ask your designer if that feature is going to end up in the final project. A good designer will gather the majority of the details of your project in the pre-bid discussions. Look over the features that are listed in the proposal/quote that is sent to you and ask questions if you are not sure if something is included. By default, extra features are not included, so be upfront and ask. This way you will get an accurate quote and wont be burned in the end.
Check The Portfolio
Look at previous work of the designer/studio to make sure that they have the experience necessary to bring your project from concept to reality. I’ve seen too many businesses hire “designers” with no portfolio or experience and regret it in the end. Even though the inexperienced designer may cost less, you need to see that they can deliver up-to or beyond your expectations. Many times, unfortunately, they cannot.
Overall, Expect Professionalism
Let’s face it, there is no shortage of people who can build a website for you. The question is, how are they going to do it, and how is the process going to be? Will you be pleased with the results? Are you going to enjoy the experience? If you do your due diligence and expect a friendly, professional experience, you will most likely get it and save yourself from getting burned.
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
As we all know by now, mobile is the new black, pink and whatever other color you can think of. Mobile is not going away anytime soon and it is increasingly becoming integrated into our lives. In fact, studies show that mobile web browsing will outpace traditional desktop browsing within 2-3 years. Some studies say even sooner.
For business owners and marketers, this shift can seem daunting as it ads in a huge layer of complexity and perceived cost. What approach do you take? Where do you start, and when?
The when part is really up to you, but for the how piece of the puzzle, I would look no further than Responsive Design.
Here are 6.5 reasons why you should consider updating your company site to utilize Responsive Design.
1. You Will Save Money
Before the practice of Responsive Design was widely adopted (it still isn’t, really), if companies wanted to have an optimal mobile experience of their website a separate set of templates or a device-specific app had to be designed and developed.
As you might guess, this can get quite costly. One site for iPhone, one site for iPad, another for Android etc. Then, what happens when a new device comes out? Make another website or app specific to that device? I’m guessing most business owners don’t want to spend that kind of cash just to keep up.
The beauty of Responsive Design is in the fact that it enables your site to fit perfectly in any screen size. One website, all devices. That means that your website only has to be developed once, significantly reducing the cost. (more…)
Monday, February 6th, 2012
Responsive web design is all the rage right now and is becoming the new standard in web design practice. With the growing number of mobile devices accessing the web, it only makes sense to design websites that respond to any screen size elegantly. This ensures that the user experience is optimized on all devices. It also saves clients from spending a heap more money having individual sites built for specific devices.
Here is a roundup of some great resources to get your feet wet in responsive design.
In this post, author Jason Gross thoroughly covers the topic of responsive design. He does a great job of articulating all of the intricacies of the practice from flexible grids, to flexible images and the use of media queries in your stylesheet. This is a great place to start if you are new to these concepts.
This article is a little more advanced, but the ideas that Chris Coyer delivers are pure gold. He explains how will CSS3 media queries you can add and remove content and images as your viewport expands and contracts. Very cool stuff.
Nathan Staines does a great job in this article of breaking down the concepts and practice of responsive design. The article is full of visual examples and code snippets. Worth the read for a quick introduction.
This is an in-depth article from the real world of design. Tito Bottitta goes into the process of redesigning the Boston Globe’s website using responsive design. The article breaks down what tools they chose to use, their process and thinking behind their decisions. A fascinating read that will stretch your thinking.
In his seminal article, the father of responsive design, Ethan Marcotte thuroghly explains the ideas and concepts behind responsive design. This article is a must read for anyone who is venturing into this territory.
This case study by Brent Walbolt of 352 Media Group goes through a another real world example of how responsive design is implemented. The article goes through all the nitty gritty details including code examples and how they handled complex navigation problems.
Wireframing is an important part of the design process, especially when it comes to complex projects with a lot of moving parts and content. Add in the complexities of responsive design and you have a real challenge on your hands. This article by Leigh Howells on the influential Boagworld nails down some key insights on how to approach wireframing for responsive design.
In an industry that is in constant change. It’s vital to stay ahead of the curve. By the looks of it, responsive design is a solution that will be around for many years to come. It’s well worth taking the time to learn and master this technique.
Saturday, October 29th, 2011
Planning a website re design can be a huge undertaking. There are many decisions to be made and, depending on the size of your firm, many stakeholders with ideas and opinions on what direction to take with the site. Having a plan is essential to the success of a website re-design. Without a plan, a great deal of time can be wasted, content lost, goals can be left unachieved and fundability can suffer. With a good plan, the opposite can happen. You can work efficiently, increase the quality and accessibility of your content, and increase your traffic and findability online.
Here are some key things that will help you devise a great plan for your re-design.
Select a point person
Having one single person on your team responsible for the web project is essential. A group or comity approach to a re-design project is asking for trouble. It’s good to have a team with ideas and input for the project, however, having a point person responsible for all of the decisions concerning the re-design will help to streamline the process. Otherwise, you can get into the quagmire of “design by comity”, which can delay projects costing valuable time and money.
If you are the CEO, CMO or owner of the firm, you may want to take this on yourself. However, realize that a lot of time and involvement is required, so you may find it beneficial to delegate the re-design project to someone within your firm.
If you do delegate this responsibility, give that person complete trust and ownership of the project. This will help to focus your team on the project and keep it from experiencing costly delays.
Define Your Goals
What is the purpose of this re-design? What business objectives do you wish to achieve that you aren’t already? Take a good hard look at your current site and ask yourself. “What are we not doing now that we would like to do?”
Some examples of goals may be:
- Generate more leads
- Aid the sales team in the sales process
- Increase brand equity
- Increase social interaction
- Increase traffic
- Decrease time spent on the phone with clients
- Re position your firm in the market
- Attract a certain type of client to your firm
Once you have clear goals, then you only need to decide what the best way to achieve those goals are through your website.
Ask Your Team
Have your staff review your website with your current list of goals in mind. Have them give you, and your point person feedback on what they think needs to change. It’s especially important to listen to the departments that will be most affected by the change. For example, if you are looking to help your sales staff in the sales process by offering lead generation content to your users, you need to ask the sales team what it is that would help them close more sales. Or, if you are looking to decrease the time that your customer service reps are on the phone with clients, you should ask them how they think the website could help lessen the burden of customer service without compromising the quality.
Listen to your team, but don’t take their responses as gospel—they are subjective. Many times what the organization thinks is necessary is not what the client, or prospect thinks is necessary.
Ask your clients
Get in touch with a few of your best clients and ask them to review your site. Ask them what they would find helpful on the site.
Ask your clients to perform a task, such as, sign up for the newsletter, or find our resources page and download a PDF. This can get you some real clarity of the opportunities to better your website.
Also, if you can get feedback from clients that got away, do it. This can be an enlightening experience. Getting real about what your site needs is crucial when it comes to re-designing. We often think that we need something changed, or moved, when it is something else entirely that the user (leads, clients) needs.
Focus more on what your users need and less on what you think they need and you will be on the right track for a successful re-design.
Look At Your Traffic Sources
Where are you getting your visitors from? Is it Google? Facebook? Linked-In? Twitter? Could it be mostly direct traffic from handing out business cards and other literature? Knowing where your visitors are coming from is a great way to plan your re-design decisions. If most of your visitors are coming through Google searches, you will most likely want to be very careful with your current pages and content. Deleting old content without properly redirecting the pages can have serious implications on your search rankings. Also, see where your visitors are navigating to when they land on your site through Google. What pages are they interested in? How can you redesign the site to increase the traffic to these pages? How can you make it easier for your users to find what they are looking for? If you are getting traffic from other sources, such as social media sites or direct traffic, you should use other tactics to guide users to the content that they are looking for. Always keep your goals in mind as well when you think about guiding the user to what they want. Thinking win-win when it comes to a professional services website re-design is essential. Using Google Analytics on your current site will give you a truckload of insight on how you should go about re-designing.
Having a great plan in place is vital to a successful website re-design. Skipping the planning phase can cause many problems with the project. In contrast, fully devoting to the planning phase can help your website actually help your firm accomplish the goals that you have set out to achieve.
What are some ways that you have planned a re-design that have been successful? What are some questions that you may have when it comes to a re-design project. Feel free to let me know in the comments section below.
Tags: Design Strategy, Professional Service Website Re-design, Web design planning, Website Redesign, Website Strategy
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