Hertfordshire (Herts) Web Designers since 1999 - over 10 years of Web Design Experience
A well designed and carefully structured website is an asset to any business, a poorly designed website is more than likely to be a liability. We aim for good content, clear navigation, smart coding ... which all leads to an effective website designed to work well for people and rank highly in search engines.
that is effective and search engine friendly
give Michael a call now on 01462 674840 or email
What is good web design?
There are many possible answers to this question (probably as many as there are web designers) as people's personal tastes, likes, dislikes and opinions enter the discussion so there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Good websites work, they attract people, they list well in the search engines and they are a clear asset.
Here are some aspects of Web Design to consider:
- Target Audience - approach the website from their perspective
- Content - this is what the website is all about
- Presentation - the look, layout, image, graphics to portray your company brand
- Navigation - how to find what you are looking for, easily
- Search Engines - design for search engine optimisation from the start
- Accessibility - allow for universal access (and meet legal obligations)
- Download times - do you want a fast site?
Web design should be approached from the perspective of the target audience rather than from the perspective of the website owner. The website should be written in the language of the visitor (which is fundamental for search engine optimisation as well as good marketing). It should relate to the audience and must be easy to use, it should be logical and present information clearly.
If there are several different target audiences it is probably best to sub-devide the website into suitable sections for each. Otherwise it is most likely that it will not be focussed on the right audience.
Text content (copy) is the primary concern of most web sites. It plays an important role in communicating with your visitors, customers and achieving good Search Engine Rankings. This is your message, your marketing ... this is so important I have written a separate article covering what to say and how to say it ... Copy, not graphics, is the number one priority in web design.
Your website is your shop window to the world. The image that you want to present is important. For most companies this is likely to mean clear, clean, professional and business like. In web design this is likely to mean staying in the main stream of opinion on how a quality website should look. Being different is not the best approach for most websites.
Most people visiting your website are there to find out something about your company, services or products - not to see how many different web toys you are using
Staying in the mainstream of web design is likely to mean:
- Using the company logo and company corporate colours in a complimentary way to the main background colour of the web site which will usually be white
- Most text will be in a dark colour and a common web font (sans serif fonts such as Arial or Verdana are intended to be easy to read on the screen)
- Text should be coded in html text, rather than a contained in a graphic, to aid search engines and accessibility
- Graphics are used in a minimalist and complimentary manner where they are helpful to do so
- Watermarks if used should not interfere with the readability of the text content
- Animated images and multimedia should not be used just for the sake of it
- Cartoon images should only be used with caution - they can create the wrong impression
Graphic Designers or Web Designers
Most web design projects start with some pictures of what a website could look like. It is difficult to get away from the fact that everyone likes to see some graphic designs to choose what their website should look like first. It also makes a certain amount of sense from the web designers perspective to sort out the look of the website before concentrating on creating all the web pages.
The trouble is that too much emphasis can be put on the look of the website at the expense of the text content. We find ourselves worrying about the colours, the curves, the photos, the shapes, the images, the bullet points, the icons, the background, the watermark and all the other graphic elements rather than the text content (or copy). The vast majority of web sites are visited for their content not because they look nice.
Looking nice comes in lots of shapes, sizes and colours so don't get too hung up on it to the detriment of copy. I come across so many web designs where it is clear that graphic design is all important - with copy being made to fit the design. Everything fits in a very convenient grid of, for example, six boxes that are all the same size and balance nicely. What happens when you want five boxes or seven boxes or you have a lot more text you want to fit in one of the boxes? Or worse still, latin has been used because the designer didn't know what was going to be said on the web page but did the graphic design anyway.
Graphics, of course, have their place but for most web sites they are of secondary concern, they are for decoration or are there for a specific purpose (such as to display products). It does of course depend on your target audience and the industry you operate in.
- Images - Ask yourself if they add value. If they do make sure they are optimised for use on the web as they will slow down the website. Search engines cannot interpret graphics so make sure you have alternative text for anything meaningful being portrayed by a graphic image (which is also a basic requirement for Disability Accessibility).
- Animated Graphics - These are distracting and they slow down the website. Banner ads are generally regarded as ineffective these days and people tend to ignore anything that looks like a banner advert.
- Flash Movies - These have their place in entertainment or as demonstrations or to catch your eye for something you want to make sure people see. However as whole websites or as introductions to a web site they will probably do more to irritate visitors rather than enhance their website experience. They are slow and can have a big impact on website speed. They can also stop search engines from indexing the website effectively and are a problem for Disability Accessibility.
The Website Designers Dilemma: Design for a Fixed Size or Fit to Window
Do I (as a web designer) fix the size and presentation of the web page. This means fixing all the proportions of the page (usually to fit within the commonly regarded minimum screen size of 1024x768) regardless of the screen resolution or browser settings of the visitor.
Do I (as a web designer) lose a lot of control over appearance and allow the content to flow into the browser window.
This is a tough one on the web designer. For years I have thought it right to put the control in the hands of the web site visitor not the web designer so many of my websites fill the screen. The objective being to make the web site usuable across as wide a range of hardware and software as is practical. Thus allowing visitors to choose their own method and tools for surfing the web along with screen resolution and browser preferences. However, sometimes this means the web page is not presented as well as it could be particularly if there is little text content and the screen is set on high resolution. Lately I have been re-thinking this 'fill the screen' approach - mainly because screens can now be so large. I think there reaches a point where web pages are not sensibly presented or easy to read when they fill the screen so of late I have been using fixed width designs more.
Web site navigation must be designed to be intuitive. This will keep your visitors stimulated and interested by allowing them to surf your website without getting lost or disorientated.
You should know where you are, navigation should be easy to follow, it should be easy to find your way back. A clear and logical website structure helps visitors get the most out of your web site.
Common practice has created certain expectations about website navigation and following the common practices helps visitors.
Common navigation throughout the website helps visitors through familiarisation. People can also enter a website through any page, not just the homepage - if guided by a search engine or links from external sites - so common navigation helps them find their way around a site from every and any page. Visitors should be able to reach the homepage quickly from any page within the web site.
- Left navigation is the most natural for left to right readers
- Top navigation bar leaves more room below for content and other relevant information
- Text menus at the bottom of pages are an additional aid for long pages
- Unusual navigation tends to confuse visitors and you could be putting them off
- Too many links on one page tends can be overwhelming but the general rule is make all navigation visible at all times - if your website has hundreds of pages this will not be practical so consider splitting your website into logical zones
- Bread crumbs showing people where they are can be helpful for deeply layered websites
- Sitemaps help visitors and search engines find all pages
Help visitors find what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible.
Internal linking between pages is an important feature of website navigation. It allows visitors to find related information quickly. Internal linking also helps search engines find their way to every single page.
Surprisingly Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is often an after thought or not even considered by the web designers. Historically it was separate but that no longer makes any sense, despite this web designers and SEO specialists are still regarded as separate by a large proportion of the community. Adding Search Engine Optimisation to a web site at a later date is not the best approach.
There are 2 basic routes taken to SEO:
- Black Hat SEO - Tricks to fool and deceive search engines which often work well for a while until the search engine spots the deception. This is the approach that many SEO companies take as they are often not working with the website design or content but are using external (off page) measures to influence the search engine page ranking. This strategy is generally regarded as unethical as you are fighting against what the search engines are trying to acheive. As a result this approach to SEO tends to be an ongoing battle requiring constant effort and puts your website at risk of being seen as a cheat and penalised by the search engines.
- White Hat SEO - Using valid and search engine approved SEO strategies to get the best ranking for your site in the search engines. This generally means designing the website to be search engine friendly with a very strong focus on good quality text copy that appeals to human visitors and search engines. This strategy means working within the search engines guidelines and is the better long term strategy.
You can read more on our Search Engine Optimisation services or read our articles on DIY Search Engine Success and Search Engine Optimisation for Beginners if you want to learn more about the subject.
The world of technology is opening up new avenues for people with disabilities. Your website should be designed with accessibility in mind.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 brought about changes in legislation resulting in the need for companies to be increasingly aware of accessibility issues. The wording of the Act did not mention on-line services specifically. In February 2002 a Code of Practice was published which removes any ambiguity by defining that the Act does apply to on-line services such as websites.
Please visit Disability and Your Website for more information or you can our accessibility website www.web-accessibility.co.uk to learn more about accessibility issues.
Many people have broadband, many still do not. Even those with broadband are often amazed how slow it can be for websites to download as their broadband connections slow from the number of users sharing the same facilities.
A fast loading website is therefore better than a slow loading site and recently Google has announced that they are going to take this into account in their ranking algorithms.
There are numerous factors that govern the speed of a website not least of which is the congestion on the internet. However there is quite a lot about the website design that affects download speed such as:
- graphic files (large files or lots of small ones, animations, flash movies etc)
- html structure (excessive use of tables to layout a web design instead of css)
- server code (database access and processing)
The content is often the smallest part of the code on many web pages!
Epsilis - Web Designers
47 Farthing Drive
Letchworth Garden City
"Epsilis are a very competent website design company. Their approach to web design is very structured and professional so you are always aware of where you are in the project lifecycle. Their understanding of Internet technologies and the way that people use the web has proved invaluable."
Hershna Mistry, PBI Media
Need help with web design?
Having been web designers in Hertfordshire since 1999 we have extensive knowledge and experience of creating effective web sites. We can guide you through this process and design a website you will be proud of.
Call Michael Spencer on 01462 674840 or email
Articles on various aspect of web design:
Web Design Hints and Tips - Short hints and tips that do not warrant a whole article.
SEO and Web Page Design.... an overview of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and relevance to Web Page Design
Thinking about your Branding - Implications of Web Design - with print you have millions of options - unfortunately only a tiny fraction of these options are available to web designers
Legal issues concerning websites - There are a variety of legal issues that may relate to your website - Minimum information to be provided on websites - Copyright - Data Protection - Opt out or Opt in- Email Marketing - Distance Selling and Online Trading - Charge on Returned Goods - Trade Mark Keyword Online Advertising - Disability Accessibility The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 - Disclaimer.
Content is Everything .... to your website visitor and to the search engines!
A Quick DIY Review of your Web Site. Got a web site but you are not sure if it is any good – well here are a few things you can look at to give you a better idea.
Useful Website Design Resources - Here are some resources I find useful: Photos, Graphics software, Favicon, Web Safe Colours, Websites Fonts, Coding Software for Web Pages, Uploading Your Website to Your Hosting (FTP), Running Online Surveys, Marketing Emails.
Marketing Your Website - a brief overview of most aspects of website marketing activities and our services.
Getting the words right - by Susannah Ross
Susannah Ross is the author of 'A Simple Guide to Writing for your Website'. In this guest article, she addresses how writing for the web is different to writing for print and what you need to know to make your words work for you.
What can you do with your web site: a generic list of benefits of a web site serves as a basis for discussion.