There are many different types of web design, from those built using website templates and ‘build your own’ site building applications to complex content managed and e-commerce web designs such as those used by big brand names like Amazon, ebay and Tesco. Some companies, even some big name companies, have unprofessional looking and badly designed websites. Some have amazing looking websites but because of their high graphical content and minimal text content can take an age to load, are not user friendly and do not provide what the visitor wants.
Though many aspects of website web maintenance design differ from site to site, many things remain the same throughout the majority of websites on the internet. Most notably is the navigation or menu. The way in which a website’s menu works and looks is very important, as ultimately, visitors to a website are looking for certain criteria that will make them either stay and interact or leave. This ability for a website to keep visitors interested is sometimes referred to as stickiness. Visitors want an attractive visually exciting experience, but perhaps more importantly, they want ‘ease of use’. Website usability is a key factor for websites that want their visitors to stick around, make an enquiry and ultimately complete a transaction and order a product or service.
Internet users tend to prefer easy to use websites, because they do not want to have to learn how to use a website every time they find a new one. They should be able to use a website after only a few seconds of looking around a homepage, any more and they will leave and browse elsewhere. The need for fast user interaction is vital and therefore having a fast loading website is also important for a website to succeed. Even with faster internet connections such as broadband, internet users don’t want to wait around.
Just imagine, if you go to a shop on the high street and are totally ignored by shop assistants at the counter for 5 minutes, even after you have made it clear you want help. There is a correlation here to how an internet user may feel, when they arrive at a website that has been poorly designed, is difficult to use, unfriendly and slow to load. Making sure that a website has been well thought out and designed with the user in mind, displays a company’s unique selling points within easily recognizable eye catching calls for action and has a clear, easy to use menu is key to its success.
With recent web design advancements, such as the introduction of Flash animation and high definition video content, impressive websites have been produced to take advantage of much higher levels of visual effects and interaction. However with this ‘high end’ web design, comes a price, more often than not, web designs which rely heavily upon Flash content are often ridiculously slow to load. They often have a progress bar, which slowly goes across the web browser to signify when the website will finish loading.
This is much like the progress bars that you may be familiar with if you use video editing or 3d rendering software, or if you use games consoles where they are displayed whilst you wait for games to load. Internet users on the whole do not want to wait 3 – 5 minutes for a web page to load even if it does feature high resolution images, animation or video. They want fast informative content rich websites. If they wanted to watch an animation or video they would watch TV.
This is not to say that Flash animation is all bad news and shouldn’t be used in web design. If used subtly and in small amounts it can make a website more visually appealing without slowing the load time down too much. Suitable uses for Flash animation in web design are things such as; Flash banner advertisements, Flash video and interactive Flash forms for online questionnaires or business presentations.
Using Flash for a whole website design however, is not such a good idea. It slows the user’s experience down because they have to wait for elements of it to load. Also, sites totally developed in Flash tend to use unfamiliar menu structures and features. This can confuse visitors who just want to quickly interact with the website and not be amazed by the way the menu animates. Just because you can do these things in Flash, it doesn’t mean they have any real working value in the real world. They may look pretty, but if they are not functional and only irritate the visitor then they have no real value.
Another argument against using Flash to create a whole website is that it dramatically reduces the effectiveness of your websites’ Search engine optimisation. Flash web designs are made up of one main file within a web page which search engines find difficult to index. This is because the text within them is usually graphical text and therefore is not usually accessible by search engines. Some recent developments allow some text to be displayed for search engines in Flash websites, but this is nowhere near as effective as text content within traditional HTML based websites.
Although Flash does have its limitations it also has its good points if used correctly. For instance; Flash animation is usually smaller in file size than traditional gif animation and because of the way it is made the animation flows smoother than gif animation too. Having said this, I would recommend only using Flash in small areas within a site to compliment other imagery that makes up the overall design. Finding a balance between minimal graphical elements, imagery, Flash and good quality informative text is the key to a successful user friendly website. This isn’t to say that web design needs be boring. By working with quality web design companies there’s no reason why you couldn’t have a visually exciting, well designed, easy to use and successful website.
When visitors first arrive at a website, they want to be impressed and engaged with what the website has to offer. This will be determined by the ways in which the web designer has laid out the website’s content text, images and features. Arranging elements such as imagery, text, graphics, flash and video in such a way as to keep the visitor interested in the website is the key to good web design. If a website has poor design and doesn’t grab the attention of the visitor in the first few seconds, then it may well be dismissed as just another average website. This ultimately means the visitor will go elsewhere to spend their time and, more importantly, money.
A lot of time and money is spent making sure that the right elements of websites are positioned in the right places. Companies spend large amounts of money conducting research into how internet users use their websites. This type of research shows where their visitors’ eyes concentrate the most, which elements of the website they click on first and generally how they interact and use their websites. Most internet users will look primarily from the top left either across the page, or down the left hand side of the web page through an internet browser via a computer, mobile phone or Tv set.
I would hazard a guess, that they are looking for the company’s name or logo, their main selling points or slogans and then what the website has to offer in terms of what is featured in the menu. After which their eyes are probably drawn across the page content and over to the right hand side. Successful web design usually takes this into consideration and will ultimately affect the way a website looks.
There are of course rather famous exceptions to this rule for instance one rather well known search engine has a web design which is quite different. The main focus and core functionality in their web design is located right in the centre of the page. This however, isn’t any ordinary website with tens or even hundreds of pages of products and services to display, its main focus is its recognisable logo and of course its search box. It does however feature a small minimal menu across the top of the web design, which flows from left to right. So even they have taken onboard some of the research undertaken into internet users’ habits. If you go looking at websites after reading this article, I can guarantee that most of the web designs you’ll see, will have a left hand menu and a defined header bar with a company logo and slogan across it.
Finding a web designer is the easy part- all you need to do is perform a quick search online and bingo, you’re presented with pages and pages of them in the search engine results. The hard part is choosing the right web designer for your individual project. Every web design project has a specific set of requirements and every web designer has a unique set of skills that may, or may not, be suitable for your needs. In this article, I’ll list some key factors that will help you find the right web designer and how you determine if they have the necessary skills to undertake your web development project.
Every web designer should have a functioning website and an online portfolio of their work. If they don’t, you can scratch them off the list. After you have found some web designers in your area, or anywhere else for that matter, you should research each of their websites and check out samples of their work. Different web designers take different approaches to their work and use a variety of technologies. You should read up on their skills and approach to web design, to make sure they suit your requirements. Viewing completed websites and samples of the web designer’s work is also essential to get a good idea of the design style and skills they have. Make sure the websites function correctly. If some of the web designer’s recent samples are not working, there is a good chance that, if you use them, your website might have the same issues. Look at the design style of their portfolio samples. Most web designers tend to stick to a particular style. If you like the look of their websites, and their website text sounds appealing, you’re onto a winner. Take the next step and call them, or send a project brief through.
Another key point to determine which web designer is best for you, is finding out whether you can communicate with them. You will need to explain your vision to the designer and they should be able to respond with ideas and suggestions for your project. If you call your designer and there is, for example, a language barrier between you, that could be a problem throughout the development process. Talking to a potential web designer also gives you a good idea whether you are going to get on with them or not. If you call to speak with your chosen web design company and you are put on the phone to a rude or uninterested individual – in my books, that would not be somebody you would want to deal with on an ongoing basis. If they are enthusiastic, keen and communicate well you are more likely to have a successful ongoing professional relationship.
Qualifications and experience are not always essential but they do give you some security that the web designer knows what they are doing and has the skills to undertake your project. It’s really up to your judgment whether you want to use a web designer with no experience but you never know, they might be a young gun with tons of talent and is just waiting for that first project to unleash their skills on to. Whether you prefer your web designer to have qualifications or not is also up to you. Qualifications just mean they have had some formal recognition of their skills. My preference would be experience beats qualifications any day. Your web designer may have undertaken a six month course which has got them a certificate of some sort but that does not make them a good designer. There is so much information online and ways to hone your design talents now, that needing somebody to teach you is not essential.
It is very important the web designer you speak to understands your creative vision. To create a website that truly serves a purpose and business goal, the designer need to understand the nature of the website and relate to your overall vision. Take note on whether the web designer offers any ideas or suggestions when you’re talking to them. This is a good indication of whether they understand the project and are enthusiastic about it.
Different web projects need different technology behind them. Not all web designers have all the necessary skills for some types of web development. For example you may need a full content management system with database driven content and advanced search engine optimisation. This is something not all web designers can provide. Most designer’s will tell you straight away if they are unable to complete the project, due to technical limitations. It is up to you as a client to inform the designer of all the feature’s you anticipate your website to have so they can tell you whether they can complete it.
The cost of the web project is normally the key factor in how people choose their web designer. The scope of your project and what budget you have can limit what designer you choose. If you have a very small budget but want to build the next Facebook, any sane web designer will tell you they can’t help you. However, it is always good to get a few quotes and see which designer can offer the best package, for a reasonable cost. If they’re too expensive, it might be because they are a larger company with more overheads, or they are simply very good at what they do. If they are cheap, do a bit more investigation before committing – Cheap web design may end up costing you more in the long run, as it probably won’t serve its purpose very well and you will need to get it rebuilt. The cost of web design is often open ended… ‘how long is a piece of string? ‘… A good web designer should be able to explain the reason why they have quoted a certain price, and discuss what they can do within your budget – Just because you have received an initial quote that may be higher than you originally anticipated, talk to your designer about it. Quite often, there could be features or aspects of the quote than can be removed, or modified, to get the project back within your budget – If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.