Coventry: City of Culture 2021 … and Us

December 8th, 2017 in Design, Development

As Coventry is named City of Culture 2021, here in the Image+ offices we’re wearing huge smiles (and possibly a couple of party hats).

We’re proud of our Coventry roots – we’ve been based here for nearly twenty years, and can’t think of anywhere we’d rather base ourselves. Our offices at Electric Wharf on the city’s regenerated canal network are everything that made Coventry a successful candidate for City of Culture 2021: vibrant, buzzing, forward-thinking but with links to an incredibly rich past.

Coventry, City of Culture 2021 (yes, we like the sound of that): it has it all. Medieval heritage in the cathedral quarter, mid-twentieth-century modernism in its remarkable architecture, passionate grassroots commitment to arts of all kinds … it’s a genuinely exciting city, and the rest of the UK is about to find out why in spades.

The win for our city is doubly sweet because we had a small part in it. A while back, we competed to become the designers of the bid team’s website and digital presence – and won. So we feel we contributed in a small way to what was, of course, a fantastic pitch. (And a winning one – did we mention that Coventry is City of Culture 2021?)

It’s the diversity of Coventry that I think helped tip the balance in its favour: it welcomes everyone and has room for everything. At Image+, we have on staff huge fans of Shakespeare and massive football nuts, petrol heads and live music goers. Coventry and its surrounding area caters to us all.

The website we built for the bid reflected this vibrancy: bright and colourful and with plenty going on, it also crafted a single identity for the bid and sought to bring together an awful lot of fizzing activity. It used events, social media, videos and bold colours and graphics to really bring home the bid’s particular character and personality. We’re pretty proud of what we contributed.

Coventry has its own particular energy, and the challenge for the bid was bottling that to present it to the panel of judges in distilled form. The website we built was a part of that process, of course, and we are made up that we helped in a small way to win this prize for our city. But the real winners are the people of Coventry themselves – and we’re pleased as punch to be a part of that crowd.

 

In short: here’s to Coventry, City of Culture 2021!

We’re not going to get tired of saying that.

 

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

 

 

How Can You Make Your Website Stand Out?

December 1st, 2017 in Design, Development, Web web design

Making your website stand out is ever more difficult. In today’s forest of web pages, how can your single tree ever hope to stand out from the crowd? What was once known as “surfing” the internet is more like “wading”; to mix metaphors, it can be hard to see the wood for all those trees.

The good news is that there are still plenty of ways to make sure that your website is a cut above the rest. A lot of this has to do with simple design principles. When applied well, good design simply makes a site look right – and it’s surprising how few sites, in truth, fully achieve this goal.

 

Layout & Structure

First and foremost, sort out your structure. Using a good layout is key to attracting and then retaining what we in the trade call “eyeballs”. If your navigation is clear and your site convenient to use, your visitors will like what they see – and make use of your pages again and again. In other words, you’ll stand out as a place to hang out.

 

Branding

Consistent branding can really help achieve this. A recognisable brand builds your reputation and inspires confidence. A good brand can provide visual clues, too, that can bind a site together like the egg in a cake mixture. Think carefully about colours, logos, and typography – make your site a uniform experience as much as a collection of pages.

 

Graphics

Indeed, using images and graphics appropriately can be a really powerful means of making an impact. If branding is the visual framework of a site, then photography and illustration acts as the decorative detail. Great imagery supplies visual flare and interest, making a site beautiful to look at as you use it – and every eyeball likes to be entertained!

 

Content

Finally, consider your content. The text and video you utilise to expand on and detail your messaging needs to reflect the identity of your brand. Your copy should be easy to read and characterful, but not distracting or overly wordy. Likewise, video is increasingly important on many sites, and offers a very dynamic way of supplementing your content.

Just remember to make sure that everything – video, photography, colours – are crisp and vibrant, the best quality you can produce. Muddy graphics or sub-standard video will reflect badly on you; however good the design of a site, if the content is wanting then you will only be able to stand out so far.

 

Ultimately, your goal is to stand out as much as possible – to be, at your best, head and shoulders above the other sites in your field. Clear design, consistent branding, and quality content are the best ways to achieve that. Get these basics right, and you’ll be amazed by the results.

Essentially, we’re telling you to get a good designer (fortunately, we know some!). It’s not rocket science: great design is how you can make your website stand out.

 

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

 

The Benefits of “Breadcrumbs”

November 17th, 2017 in Design breadcrumbs web design

Breadcrumbs are more useful than you think. Not only are they an essential ingredient in veggie burgers, Katsu curry and fish fingers … They can help you find your way home.

We all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, who were brave enough to explore the forest … and smart enough to lay breadcrumbs along their path. In this way, they didn’t get lost – useful when you’re running away from the evil inhabitant of a sinister gingerbread house.

In web design, his story has given a name to the tokens we leave throughout a website to enable a visitor to track backwards through their online journey. Often breadcrumbs appear as nested page names – Home > About > Our Company, for example – which situate a user clearly with the site’s architecture. They can take other forms, however, and always the aim is simple: to help your visitor to not get lost.

This is a good function to include, especially on a site which boasts a large number of pages. Resource-heavy websites are great, but once you’ve clicked one link you’ve clicked them all – and it can be very easy to become unmoored, lost amidst all these pages and unable to find your way ‘Home’ again.

 

Why Use Site Breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs – prominent indicators of where you are and how you can get back to where you were – greatly enhance the usability of a site. They make it easy to click on pages but also remain oriented; to find other content quickly; and to go back to content you found interesting once you’re done exploring.

In turn, this reduces the clicks or actions required to return to a given page – and this, too, enhances the user experience of your site. Making your content easy to navigate is a key means of making your site pleasant to use … And that will earn you return visits.

If you’re wondering why users can’t just click the “Back” button, you haven’t yet understood the power of the humble breadcrumb. Breadcrumbs aren’t just about going back: they’re about situating yourself within a site, and understanding how each of its pages relates to the others. You’ve worked hard on structuring your content – so make that structure clear. The “Back” button alone doesn’t achieve that.

Sites without breadcrumbs don’t get read as much as sites which opt to use them. Being able to find your way home encourages browsers, like Hansel and Gretel, to explore a little deeper; if you don’t help your users to find their way, they’ll stick a little more closely to the ‘top-line’ content – and never make the most of what you’ve built for them.

In fact, sometimes they won’t even read your top-line content: sites without breadcrumbs suffer from higher bounce rates, meaning essentially that their visitors leave those sites much more quickly. Today’s internet users are savvy and impatient – if they can’t find what they want quickly and easily, they’ll go somewhere else. Breadcrumbs encourage them to stay.

In other words, think of breadcrumbs as a wayfinding system. Complex buildings often include coloured corridors and large maps to help visitors find their way around. Hardy fairytale explorers carry loaves of bread. And websites have the benefits of breadcrumbs.

 

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

 

3 Great Techniques for Engaging Typefaces

November 5th, 2017 in Design Design trends typeface typefaces web design web designers

Typefaces can be the poor man of web design. There’s so much else that’s novel or exciting about digital platforms – animation! video! parallax scrolling! – that the humble font can be overlooked.

This, however, would be a mistake. In fact, bold and striking typefaces have been one of the big trends in web design over the last year or so. That’s because they can be very effective at engaging visitors straight away, as soon as they land on your homepage.

A great typeface makes a statement almost subliminally. Getting your fonts right can in this way add some serious punch to your design – and give real character to your brand. If you play your typeface cards right, your visitors will be hooked instantly.

So what’s the secret? A lot of the typeface trick, as in any other aspect of design, is in understanding your brand and expressing it elegantly in your choices. That said, there are some elements of typography that you can consider in order to hit the right balance for you.

 

Be Minimal – but Dramatic

The temptation when toying with typefaces is to go wild. The problem with showily fabulous fonts, though, is that they can be distracting. Take comic sans, that much-hated font which purports to have lots of character. The reason designers hate it is because it’s unbalanced – its balance and shape and legibility are all compromised by its desire to be so kooky.

Don’t fall into this trap. Use a simple font that makes a big impact. Consider fonts like Fat-Frank, Frontage or Poly. These sorts of font will convey meaning and attract – but not distract – attention.

 

Keep Creatively Simple

Don’t over-use effects or point sizes. Be creative, but don’t go overboard. In just the same way that you want your typeface to speak eloquently but not always shout, think carefully about how to use it. Maybe you could do something very straightforward like using ALL CAPS to make your message loud and clear, instead of using italics, underlines and bold? It’s worth considering.

 

Integrated Images

If bold typefaces are a big trend in minimal web design right now, so too is integrated video and animation. The great news is that you can do both at the same time.

By using bleed – that is, placing an object in front of the text – or including video in the background of a text area, you can add visual interest to your site whilst still letting your text do the talking. Maybe your text can extend beyond the bounds on an image, or be partially obscured by one? This is a trick often used in comic books to make panels look dynamic – it can work online too.

In short, typefaces can make text sing. Great-looking text seals the deal with customers online, so don’t ignore the writing on your website … or it might wind up on the wall for you!

 

Contact Image Plus for Responsive Web Design

If you need a web design or just want someone to check if your website is already responsive then speak to our experts. Our Web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

 

Why Responsive Web Design is Important

October 20th, 2017 in Design Design responsive web design responsive website design web design web designers website design

Responsive web design is important. If you take only one sentence away from this blog post, let that be it: in today’s online environment, ensuring that your website can respond to the devices and screens on which it is viewed is absolutely key, for all sorts of reasons.

 

Clients and designers alike can get wrapped up in colours and font faces and where the navigation is positioned. They can become very agitated by the wrong graphic or a button that stands out insufficiently. The truth is, none of these will damage your site as badly as failing to make it responsive will.

 

To be fair, what everyone wants is for your site to look good – and the truth is that responsive web design ensures it always looks its best. No matter how great your graphics or vibrant your colourways, all that work will be for nothing if your site doesn’t look good on a mobile phone or a tablet or any of the countless types of device which can now be used to view your site.

 

This is all that responsive web design means: building a site that can shrink and resize and even display differently depending upon the platform. For example, on a large desktop monitor, a site might stretch across the screen, displaying big and bold slider graphics and expanding its menus fully. On a mobile however, it might contract and intelligently crop those images, or collapse the menu into a ‘hamburger’ icon.

 

Responsive web design is important because it enables you to ensure your content looks good in every context – and that you get the message across immediately, however a user is logging on.

 

Ensuring this cross-platform compatibility will increase mobile visits to your site – crucial given that mobile internet usage is increasing constantly, and is now the dominant method many use to go online.

 

Likewise, search engines such as Google reward website that provide this courtesy to broswers – meaning that your rankings will improve if you adopt responsive design. Should you for some reason choose not to go down this route, don’t expect to reach the top of the search pages for your chosen keywords.

 

For example, some businesses still use multiple non-responsive websites, directing users to the site most applicable to their device. Not only will this ensure that all of your sites do worse in search engine rankings; it also makes managing them a nightmare, since each time you update a page you’ll need to do it on every single non-responsive site you maintain. Responsive web design is a time saver, and will make your business more productive.

 

In other words, these taking advantage of responsive technology is the only sensible way to approach building a new website. In fact, all your competitors are already doing it – and maybe that’s the best reason of all why responsive web design is so important!

 

Contact Image Plus for Responsive Web Design

If you need a new responsive design or just want someone to check if your website is already responsive then speak to our experts. Our Web Developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

 

How Psychology is Important in UX Design

October 6th, 2017 in Design, UX ux ux design

Psychology is important to UX design. This may not seem an immediately obvious truth since Freud or Jung might seem distant relatives of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

The fact is, however, that in all branches of design focus on the responses our products will provoke. In this way, all designers are necessarily psychologists – they must understand and predict why and how what they build will affect their audience.

In UX and web design, a lot of this comes to revolve how people tend to respond to layout, typography and graphical elements. Get the mix and balance right, and your visitors will be more likely to return or become customers; get it wrong and you’ll turn them off – they may not be able to say why, but a psychologist would.

 

Psychology in Colour

In what ways can a designer use psychology to improve their work, then? For starters, they can think about colour. There’s a wide range of studies concerning how humans react to colour, but as a rule, we are attracted to bright and vibrant ones. To that end, designs which feature more exciting colours will be more successful.

Likewise, men and women react differently to colour. Which gender, if either, is your primary audience? Many studies show that men are less good at discerning different shades of colour than women, while simultaneously tending to be better at tracking fast-moving objects.

Colour has other effects, too. For example, the evidence shows that red or orange is most effective for boosting conversion, whilst red-themed websites can use green to achieve the same effect. A good designer knows their colour theory back to front and can get you the results you need merely through the judicious application of that knowledge.

 

Psychology in Text

Text, too, is important: words don’t just communicate their own meanings. Their layout will influence your site’s message, too. Take, for example paragraphing: space them out properly and users’ eyes will glide across them; put them too close together, or make each too long, and instead, those eyes will glaze over.

Too much text is a turn-off, but so is small text. At the risk of being the pot to call the kettle black, aim, for simplicity with your copy: keep thing straightforward and well spaced, and your users will respond positively.

We’re used to thinking of psychology as a tool for managers and leaders, whose job is to cajole and persuade members of a team. Think of designers, too, as professional persuaders: their job is to convince your visitors to stay long enough to engage with your company.

To do that, they need to understand humans in all their complexity and quirkiness. And that’s why psychology is so important for UX design.

 

Contact Image Plus for Web Design

If you’re unsure about UX or need help to design your website or drop-down menu then then speak to our experts. Our Web Developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

Top 5 UX Design Tips for Dropdown Menus

October 2nd, 2017 in Design, UX design tips ux ux design ux design tips

The dropdown menu has long been a venerable entry in the web developer’s toolkit. It is so widely used because it can be terribly useful: the dropdown menu tucks away all your pages until a user hovers over a button; that gives you a lot more space for your content.

Most commonly, the dropdown menu appears as a bar of navigation labels at the top of a website; hover over any particular label and a further list of labels will appear, offering instant access to a range of pages within that category. Very often, items in that list will in turn ‘drop down’ further lists.

The trouble is that dropdown menus can also pose challenges to a savvy web developer. Because they can offer feature so many labels, and once collapsed take up so much space, they can also look quite ugly … unless, that is, you follow our top tips.

 

Make Hover States Obvious. If your dropdown menu is to work, your user needs to know where they are in it. Use colour and highlighting to make that clear.

Padding Is Not A Dirty Word. You’re not a writer, or a musician making your difficult second album: don’t be afraid to pad things out. Put space between your menu’s buttons.

Mark Those Sub-Menus. If one of your menu’s labels expands a further menu – a section within a section – mark it appropriately, with an arrow, a dot or other icon.

Animate! Menus don’t have to be dull or static – in fact, dropdowns are so common they can become dull without a bit of subtle animation to spice up their transitions.

Explore The Alternatives. Many web develops decry dropdowns – particularly if you want a responsive website for mobile devices. Look into scrolling panels and hamburgers.

Consider The Click. Usually dropdown menus operate simply via hover – but depending on your application clicking to open a submenu, or to hide a menu, could make sense.

Make It Seamless. There shouldn’t be any lag at all between click or hover and the appearance of your menu – it should load immediately. You owe your user slickness.

Say No To Tooltips. Tooltips – those often helpful labels which appear when hovering over an item – can be good. With dropdowns, they get in the way. Eliminate them!

Style Consistently. Make your menu a part of your website. It might not always be on show, but when it is give it the same fonts, colours and feel as the rest of your site.

Be Ruthless With Your Content. The dropdown menu can go on forever – but that doesn’t mean it has to do so. Only have the number of pages you absolutely need.

 

Dropdowns have detractors. But follow theses rules of thumb and you’ll have success.

 

Contact Image Plus for Usability and Website Redesign

If you’re unsure about UX or need help to design your website or drop-down menu then then speak to our experts. Our Web Developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

Top 5 E-Commerce Web Design Trends for 2017

August 9th, 2017 in Design, Web e-commerce web design

E-commerce website trends in 2017 are related to, but also diverge from, the more general web design fashions. Much of this difference, of course, is simply due to the separate functionalities required of an e-commerce site. You wouldn’t build a bungalow the way you would a skyscraper. Websites are the same.

The primary purpose of an e-commerce site, not surprisingly, is to drive sales. How you do this online is all about how a website looks, and how that appearance guides and empowers the user. E-commerce web design trends are equal parts style and substance: they both keep things fresh and make them functional, enhancing the user experience.

So what are the latest trends? As dedicated followers of fashion, we’re glad you asked.

 

1) Responsive Design

This one shares most with the general trends elsewhere in web design: a responsive site is one that can be viewed optimally on many devices and platforms, and with mobile a very big thing now this is essential. It’s extremely important that your e-commerce website looks good on a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer: you want to maximise your customer base, and responsive design is the way to do it.

 

2) Material Design

If responsive e-commerce design is primarily about function, material design is about aesthetics. Put simply, this e-commerce web design trend builds on a language introduced by Google in 2014, and focuses on card layouts and responsive animations. This is perfect for an e-commerce site, since the grid system of material design offers the perfect way to arrange products simply and easily. This helps your user find what they want quickly.

 

3) Menu Placement on the Left

This is another trend driven by Google. The service has begun to place its menus on the left, and so ubiquitous are the service’s platforms that users are automatically beginning to expect this. Intuitive navigation is a key means of ensuring your visitors become customers, so following this trend makes a lot of sense. Look for ‘hamburgers’, too – the three-line horizontal button which, when tapped or clicked, expands the menu. Hiding your menu in this way gives you more space for content when you need it.

 

4) Bright and Vibrant Colours

Web design in general, has been inundated with blocky colours of late: less pattern, more bold hues. E-commerce can make real use of this trend to highlight key areas of content and simply stray fresh when it comes to look and feel. Do away with whites and greys –  try reds and yellows. At last web design is fun again!

 

5) Lots of Images

Your e-commerce website is your new shop window – and no one likes an empty window, right? Let your customer see your products, and be unafraid of leaning heavily on original photography. Likewise, don’t just limit yourself to product shots – use attractive photography of your products in situ, being used and generally looking great. Release your inner artist.

 

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

Drop us a line to learn more about where we’re taking our e-commerce clients this year. But there they are in a nutshell: the top five e-commerce web design trends of 2017!

If you’re looking for a web design company in Coventry, Warwickshire and would like some support with a website or mobile website, then please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

Business Benefits of Website Design & Development

July 28th, 2017 in Design, Development, Web businesses web design web development

Businesses make decisions on the basis of value. That is a truism so obvious as to bear repeating: we’re all told that web design is important, but what are the business benefits of web design and development? How can we measure their impact in order to inform and justify our investments?

The benefits to a business of great web design are multiple – and offer multipliers in turn. In the digital age, your customers will assume any business with which they engage have a web presence – and they will trust you less for not having one or even merely for having a poorer platform than they expect. Expectation management, then, is key – but there are still more quantifiable business benefits to great web design and development. They can be roughly broken into four areas.

 

Good web design makes your service or product available 24/7

A quality website is a resource that your customers will want to return to. Not only that, but it’s always on. Unlike your reception desk or call centre, your business’s website is open to the public all day, every day. Whatever their schedule, each of your customers can access your services or products at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen, constantly. That means you’re doing more business throughout the day.

 

Smart web development streamlines business operations

Digital technology offers smart solutions. Integrating your business processes with your website and another online infrastructure, enables information sharing, more efficient operations and better lines of communication. All that makes your employees’ days easier and more seamless, which in turn releases efficiencies for the business. Websites aren’t just shop windows – they can be workbench tools.

 

The web opens up more channels for outreach to customers

From Twitter to Facebook, smartphone to tablet, having a good digital presence means you can open up a larger number of channels to communicate with your customers – and convert new ones. Does your website include a blog? Create new content regularly to engage new users. Have you developed a new product, service or feature? Promote that online to earn higher traffic and greater sales. Good web design means better conversation.

 

Your business will benefit from staying competitive online

For all these reasons and more, your competitors will be investing in web design and development, too. The business benefits of web design and development often flow from matching and exceeding their efforts!

 

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you’re looking for a web design company in Coventry, Warwickshire and would like some support with a website or mobile website, then please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

What are Microinteractions in Mobile Web Design?

July 21st, 2017 in Design microinteractions mobile web design

Microinteractions: they’re not something from Star Wars. When I wrote a few weeks ago about the top web design trends for 2017, I didn’t mention them – but maybe should have done.

As users become ever more sophisticated in the way they use the web, so the sites they access must match those expectations. In particular, gone are the days when a good mobile site was merely a traditional webpage that looked OK on a smaller screen.

In other words, designers have turned to additional functionality to satisfy demanding users who are increasingly not just viewing but interacting with online content whilst on the go. The aim is now to create a unique, fully functional web experience on mobile devices; microinteractions are one way of achieving that.

 

What are Microinteractions?

So what are microinteractions, anyway? As the name suggests, in some ways they are small things – little tricks and flourishes that may seem like tiny details at first blush. And yet, as we all know, the devil is often in those details – and getting them right can make your website stand very far out from the pack.

For example: if a user taps your website’s menu button and a smooth animation expands a list of their options, that’s a microinteraction. If a user can pull downwards to refresh a page, that’s a microinteraction; and if a user can turn off a particular function of your website with a single swipe, that, too, is a microinteraction.

What all these actions have in common is that they are easy to perform, focus on a single data-point or task, and provide subtle pleasure to the user. A microinteraction provides a function but also some feedback: perhaps haptic (that is, sensory – a vibration, for example), but certainly visual.

This enhances the user’s experience – and therefore the time they spend on your site and the regularity with which they’ll return – because it renders it as two-way and convenient. The Facebook ‘like’ function, for example, makes acknowledging content you have appreciated easy – but the animation that occurs when a user clicks that little thumb also gives the impression of your having done something substantive.

Those subtle events that occur around an action, then, encourage repeat use – and even foster brand loyalty. When using their smartphone, today’s users want to enjoy surfing the web. Microinteractions are one way of making sure that your website is one of those which give your customers and clients not just a practical tool but also a little pleasure, too.

 

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you’re looking for a web design company in Coventry, Warwickshire and would like some support with a website or mobile website, then please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.