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How to Avoid the 12 Common Web Design Mistakes

Website Redesign ChecklistWebsite Redesign Checklist

Are people visiting your web site, but not buying? This may be a sign, and the time to do some redesign of your web site. Often you are so close to what you have created, that you can’t see obvious design mistakes. I have done the same when writing an article – everything looks fine when I have finished, yet when I review it the next day, I am amazed at how many mistakes I have made.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common Web Design mistakes:

1. Sloppy Web Site Copy – your heading and first paragraph should clearly indicate the purpose of your web site. “Content is King” on the Net, so make sure there is plenty of focused information for your visitors. The content should draw the visitor through the site, to take action in the end. Include contact information on every page in case people have questions..

2. Bad Colour Coordination – avoid using dark text on a dark background. Use dark text on a light background, such as black on white. Use colours that blend well together.   Observe nature, or look at paintings to get some idea of good colour combination's.

web design coloursWeb Design Colours3. Pages Load Too Slowly - using too many images, or inserting large images on a web page, slow down the loading times of your web page. Optimize your images, (reduce their size) before you insert them on your site, otherwise your visitors will leave before your site is loaded.

4. Poor Navigation – this means visitors can’t easily find the information. They experience broken links, error pages, or discover too many moving objects (animations, flash, scrolling text, marquees) – all these will annoy the visitor, and cause him to click elsewhere. Keep your navigation simple by creating clear links on all web pages.

5. Orphan Pages – these are pages other than your homepage, where the visitor has no idea how it fits in with the overall structure of your web site. You should always have a link to the homepage, so that visitors know where they are on your web site.

6. Long Scrolling – the visitor has to scroll horizontally, or many pages vertically to view them.

7. Meta Tags Missing – without optimizing your web page with a description or keywords, people can’t find you on the search engines. Research key words or phrases relevant to your site content. Include them in your title, description, and Web Site copy.

8. Lack of Marketing Strategy – a beautiful lawn without sun or water, will soon die. A Web Site without visitors will soon die too. Visitors are the life blood for your website. Create numerous marketing strategies to attract visitors to your web site – you never know which one will be the most effective.

9. Poor Layout and Design – create an aesthetically pleasing design to keep the visitors on your site. Create enough white space between your text and images by using margins. Don’t overlap text and images, and avoid capitalizing all text – it gives the impression you are shouting at your visitors. Use font type such as Arial, or Verdana, to make it easier to read on your computer screen.

web frameWeb Frame10. Avoid Using Frames – frames don’t allow you to bookmark the page or return to it, and sometimes the URLS stop working.

11. No Cross Browser Compatibility – you may be losing many customers, if your Web Site is not compatible to the browsers most people are using. Internet Explorer (IE 4, 5, 6) is currently the dominant browser, and most users are displaying 800x600 pixels or more, with a colour depth of at least 65K colours. .Therefore check your design with these statistics in mind.

12.Outdated Information – your web site is like a garden. If you allow weeds to block out the sun and take over your garden, it will be destroyed. Attracting, and keeping web site visitors, means continually adding new information (i.e. latest news), deleting irrelevant, outdated information, and removing broken links.
Continuous maintenance of your web site is crucial to attracting, and retaining Web Site visitors, as without visitors your web site will soon die. They are the life blood for your website. Remember to create numerous marketing strategies to attract visitors to your web site – you never know which one will be the most effective.

For more information, or a free quotation, please do not hesitate to contact us

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Why Accessibility Is Easy

discriminationDiscriminationAnti-discrimination legislation did not happen overnight. Indeed, the process of inclusion for citizens of all demographics has been on the agenda of governments, and human rights activists the world over for many years.

It’s not a new agenda, most policy makers and corporate watchdogs actively encourage the employment and inclusion of all people regardless of ethnicity, social or economic standing, religion, mental capacity or physical attributes. Some countries also enforce these policies to create a fair and socially responsible business climate. Private and public organizations likewise have long understood the importance of providing facilities for staff members and visitors with special needs, particularly in their legal place of business or operations. Not providing such amenities would likely result in litigation, and so, in many cases, these companies feel compelled to address any inadequacies as a high priority business agenda.

braille displayBraille DisplayWhat about the Internet?

Surprisingly many companies had not even considered the idea of ensuring their business’ Internet premise was also accessible. After all, why would a person that has vision impairment use the Internet? Well of course they would want to use the Internet, just as any sighted person would want to access such a vast and rich resource. Vision impairment is also only one of many other conditions that can potentially inhibit the use of information resources like the Internet. Many people who have difficulty using digital or interactive media may not necessarily be technically classified as having a disabling condition either. Thankfully, there are now various technologies to aid users with special needs in their use of media. Included in a large variety of assisting technologies are items such as screen readers or Braille machines for people with vision restrictions, subtitles for those with hearing difficulties, and speech recognition for those without the full use of their appendages. In spite of the existence of these tremendous technologies, the ability of a machine to accurately render content in a meaningful way often relies on that content being formatted with careful consideration of accessibility standards.

Why is this suddenly so important?

The issue was not really even on the corporate radar until a recent lawsuit mounted by the US National federation for the Blind (NFB) on behalf of claimants with disabilities, stated that they were being discriminated against because a well known company’s online content was only accessible by able-bodied people. The NFB had raised concerns with the Target corporation (a major US-based discount retailer which operates more than 1,300 stores in 47 states) more than ten months before, and stated:

“The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target.”

The issue bubbles away in boardrooms even now as legal teams scramble to advise their clients on the best way to conform to changes in the Disability Discrimination Act, Section 508, and other such legislative decrees from various governments of the world.

disabled equalityDisabled EqualityWhose problem is this?

Website developers have long known about the technical requirements and specifications as determined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Any developer that has been in the industry for a length of time has already acknowledged and adapted to changing technological standards, both in hardware and software design. Why aren’t website companies just building accessible sites anyway? Yet many website developers felt that the stringent requirements of the Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) would restrict their design capability too much, when in essence the real issue, was a reluctance to subject their working practices to higher standards that are easily measurable by anyone with a browser and a little bit of knowledge.

Their previously ‘easy’ way of doing things was in their opinion much quicker, cheaper, and visually more interesting. The truth however was that this new (and improved) way of doing things would require busy agencies to take the time to retrain. They do say that you ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. In this case, there are now quite a few old dogs in the maturing digital media industry.

legal actionlegal actionAre there any other benefits besides avoiding legal action?

Actually not only is designing accessible websites easy, it makes a lot of sense on many different strategic levels. Consider the following insights as documented in the “Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites” (British Standards Institute 2006, ISBN_0 580 46567 5):

  • The Family Resources Survey [2] found that there are almost 10 million disabled people in the UK with a combined spending power in the region of 80 billion pounds per annum. Furthermore there are millions of other individuals that are affected by sensory, physical and/or cognitive impairments, including those resulting from the ageing process.
  • Research undertaken by the DRC “The Web: Access and inclusion for disabled people” [3] has confirmed that people without disabilities are also able to use websites that are optimised for accessibility more effectively and more successfully.
  • Content developed upholding World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines and specifications can be more easily transferred to other media, such as interactive TV, mobile phones and handheld computers.
  • Accessible content, for example where a text equivalent is provided for graphical elements, is highly visible to search engines, often leading to higher rankings.

digital mediaDigital MeadiaCertainly these benefits will be of interest to executives considering the perceived expense associated with building accessible interactive content, yet there are also other benefits in the form of corporate social responsibility and public relations.

What does the stakeholder need to do about accessibility?

Whenever a digital media project is commissioned by a company the only consideration to be made by stakeholders is to what level of compliance the content should adhere. There is a small amount of flexibility in this context because there are some elements within the standard which are considered compulsory, some which are recommended yet are not necessarily essential, and others which are desirable to create something which has the maximum possibility of being viewed by any user, regardless of their situation. Ultimately, a design or development company can adopt a more stringent approach depending on the design criteria set by executives.

Should the stakeholder be reading more about the standards?

There are a lot of technical and specification documents full of jargon that can be overwhelming to conscientious companies attempting to embrace the need for accessibility. In reality all of this content should instead be assimilated by the agencies that intend to create the content rather than the corporations who simply want to develop an interactive strategy.

business consultingBusiness ConsultingWhy is everyone trying to sell consultation about accessibility?

Given that there is suddenly some confusion amongst the corporate world as executives scramble to become legally watertight, many so-called consultancies have sprung up to exploit these vulnerable companies by charging great sums of money to analyse current websites or digital content for accessibility inadequacies. There are certainly tools available that can easily interrogate the code of a website and examine the structure to identify any obvious ‘rule-breaking’. Some consultants will go as far as to use these free tools to create reports on accessibility, when this is only one component of whether a website is usable and “friendly” for people with special needs. These same ‘consultants’ would like to also have large corporations paying them to help with search engine optimisation (SEO), which should not really be an issue if a website is built correctly in the first place.

What alternatives are there to external consultancy reports?

Actually, corporate executives may be surprised to know that money spent on consultancy reports could be better spent simply paying some users with actual disabilities to visit the website in question and offer constructive feedback through a usability workshop.

So what about Usability?

web devlopmentWeb DevelopmentIf the website is accessible, is it also a good website?

It is possible to check all the boxes of the W3C Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and yet have a layout and content that actually makes very little sense to users of the site. Usability on the other hand benefits everyone, which ultimately translates into a positive experience for all users as they interact with a company’s branded presence. A positive user experience logically leads to results, such as increased sales, brand interaction, positive word of mouth, and other business benefits.

Isn’t accessibility a bit complicated?

Although there can appear to be some complexity (and therefore consultancy work) involved in building highly accessible or usable content, this is actually a fundamental service which should rather come as a standard inclusion with any development proposal that is worth its salt. Indeed, commissioning an accessible website should be no different to commissioning any ‘ordinary’ website. They are certainly the same thing in the eyes of an accomplished website development company. It is really as simple as making sure the site is built correctly in the first place. This means a good foundation, standards compliance, craftsmanship, good project management, together with attention to detail and great build quality.

website designerWebsite DesignerBuilding a website is like building a house

The process could be compared to building a new house. As the homeowner you would want an architect and builder who are abreast of the latest trends, techniques, standards and processes to build your house. You would not expect them to charge you a consultancy fee on top of the house design and build fees. How would you feel if you then found your brand new home was illegal because it did not adhere to the current building code? The enforcement agents would instruct for your house to be razed to the ground. Likewise, building a new website in the new millennium should take all current design and technical specifications into consideration by default.

What if I have existing websites that need to become accessible?

As opposed to building, renovating an existing house can be considerably more problematic. What can seem like a single simple task may end up becoming five other quite complicated tasks. This can make budgeting quite difficult, and milestones seemingly without a definitive end. In the same way the processes used in the original construction of an older website will be dated and likely no longer compliant. This often means that major re-engineering may be required to bring the site up to the standards set in legislation. Sometimes, it can be easier to knock down the outdated house (or website) and start again. Are there any websites that can be easily updated to conform to accessibility requirements? Fortunately database driven dynamic websites have a distinct advantage over static websites when it is time to ‘renovate’. If the content is being loaded into a browser from a database, it is then also possible to modify the way that content is displayed (or rendered by aiding technologies) through page templates. These templates can be updated or replaced with greater ease to create an entirely new website that is completely accessible.

old building set in concreteOld Building Set in ConcreteWill renovating an old database driven website be expensive?

Perhaps most importantly, this renovation process need not be tremendously expensive as there is no complete website rebuild, nor the creation of hundreds of new web pages manually as in the case of a static website rebuild.

Which websites will require a complete rebuild?

If a site has been built statically, it could be compared to a building that was originally set in concrete with steel reinforcement. Unfortunately in these cases it is better to simply demolish and start again. Of course this also affords the opportunity to use the latest trends and building techniques to create something fresh and contemporary, perhaps even prize-winning. In these circumstances, the work (and therefore expense) involved in making the website accessible could be compared to a new build website project.

Recommendations for stakeholders

Certainly it could be said that if there is any one recommendation to be made in the design and building of websites, stakeholders should make sure that all content is dynamically driven from a database. By doing this the company can ensure that the site can be continually modified as Internet technologies and standards change. The content will at the end of the day always just be content. Businesses that are maintaining websites with a content management system (or CMS) will have this functionality built in already and are a step ahead of the game. That’s not so hard, all in all. So accessibility is not complicated after all, nor is it necessarily expensive.

website optimizationWebsite OptimizationThe foundation of a great interactive and accessible project that returns measurable results is starting with a great interactive strategy.

  • Define the market, milestones, means, and measurement methodology.
  • Direct the organization to ensure company-wide commitment, content, continuity, and contribution.
  • Design the technical and aesthetic solution.
  • Develop the content and assets in keeping with the latest thinking in website design and construction.

Deploy optimised and accessible content, and then enjoy the added advantages of creating a resource that people all over the world can enjoy…regardless of their accessibility constraints.

For a free quotation, or to discuss your website requirements, please contact us today.

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Web Site Turn-Offs

loading please waitLoading Please Wait

There are a number of ways guaranteed to turn-off visitors to your website. These are worth consideringas you either design a site, or revise a site. Turn-offs generally can be defined as anything that impedes the user from quick and easy (intuitive) use of your site. Turn-offs also are often the result of gratuitous use of technical 'bells and whistles'.

One of the major turn-offs is a sloooow loading site. There can be a number of contributing factors to this:

* Large graphics files (meaning the file size in bytes). Graphics files need to be optimised to reduce the file size to a minimum to enable them to travel through the Internet in minimum time.

* Splash Screens. These are often Flash graphics and can take a long time to 'load', especially where there is limited bandwidth. Bandwidth is the carry capacity of the Internet, the bigger the faster - a bit like comparing a fire hose and a garden hose. Unfortunately in Australia bandwidth tends to be at the smaller end of the scale. Splash screens also annoy repeat visitors, as they revisit the site and have to wait for the screen to load (not everyone knows how to properly Bookmark).

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What Makes a Site Lucrative?

group people asking questionsGroup of People Asking QuestionsPeople ask too many things about websites. They ask about the key points to remember in order for their website to conquer the Web as well as to boost their sales. They ask about the right colors to use, layout, content and the likes. So many queries but it all sums up to one thing - a profitable website.

To boot, in order for your website to be lucrative, it must exude total equilibrium with all its elements. What do I mean with total equilibrium? Well, it's simple. It involves six crucial rudiments - organization, focus, design, navigation, technology and marketing. Short of one rudiment means your website is incomplete and lacking. One by one let us discuss their essence.

Organization

A design must be detail-oriented. Just like a piece of art, each detail must contribute to the overall projection of the whole. Nevertheless, it must only have what it needs and nothing more. It is with semblance to the maxim in clothing that it is better to be underdressed than overdressed. This is because it can tend to lead the visitors astray. They may not be aware of where to go or where to look at. This is the reason why it is always safe to keep it simple and in order yet not tedious. Follow the basic rules and your readership will surely soar.

website goalsWebsite GoalsFocus

All sites have goals. In order to achieve that goal focus is necessary. Objectives must be met in a way that the target audience can relate and look forward to working hand in hand with you.

Design

Design must be simple with web safe colors. Design is something that will not punish the eyes of the readers, something that will not look shameful but a memorable and professional epitome of both art and function. It is advisable to use toolbars on homepages however, it must not be more than ten. Another thing that you should consider is its size. Ordinary home page has a standard 17" size without any scrolling involved.

Navigation

Easy navigation means quick routing. That way visitors can transfer from one page to another without any difficulty. Giving burdens to visitors may mean annoyance and will most likely result in poor cooperation and realization of your goal.

Technologywebsite marketingWebsite Marketing

It is noteworthy that a website should use accurate technology in order to meet its objectives and dynamics. It must be recent and up to date so that your target readers may not find it passé and rotten. You can utilize all possible resources as long as it will rebound to the benefit and efficiency of your website.

Marketing

Lastly, the domain name must be easy to recall. It can bear the company/business name or something that will easily be connected to your products or services. It must have a one-to-one marketing practice - an abode that will make clients comfortable and at ease. It must also be something that will make visitors come back for more!

Contact us for a free quotation, or for more information

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Why I Switched to A Tableless Design

/tableless website designTableless Website DesignSince I made the switch 6 months ago to a tableless design on my main site, I’ve noticed some interesting things:

* My search engine rankings have dramatically improved

* My bandwidth usage has dropped about 50-75%

* I can now make changes to the look and feel of my site easily by just changing the one file, the stylesheet.

Let’s look at why my search engine rankings improved. Now that I have less un-index-able code on my pages, the search engines can now crawl my site quicker. Less code, more content, therefore a better ranking. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Bandwidth costs money, and unless you have a really good hosting plan with lots of bandwidth, then your larger files will take up more room on your server, and take a lot longer to load. Tableless designs use up considerably less bandwidth and are more accessible.

Every once in a while I may want to alter the look of my site. I like to change font colours, link colours, menu items, etc…Before I started using tableless designs, these changes took me hours to do. Now I just open up my stylesheet, make the changes I want, and in a few minutes I have my site updated with the new look and feel. It’s so easy!

responsive web factsResponsive Web Design FactsFor a client who wants to make their own changes, tableless designs could literally save them thousands on tech costs.

Most of my clients still want sites with tables. I now give them the choice of either style. After all, the customer needs to be happy, right?

Some people have the misconception that utilizing tableless designs means having a boring and less graphical site. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Take a look at one of my favourite websites: http://www.csszengarden.com/. At that site you can really appreciate what can be accomplished through css-based tableless designs. Beautiful!

So make the switch to a more profitable, usable, and accessible website!

Contact us today for a free quotation, or more information

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