3 Essential Tips for Great Web Navigation

June 23rd, 2017 in Design, Web web design web development web navigation

Great navigation on websites is the difference between becoming a really successful online resource for your customers – and, well, not. Today’s savvy internet users want every website they visit to make immediate sense and be easy to use. The best way to achieve this is with intuitive navigation.

From menus to hotlinks, back buttons to breadcrumbs, navigation is all about how a user goes from one page to another. Great web navigation enables visitors to your site to find the content they want quickly and with a minimum of fuss. In other words, it’s about convenience.

In survey after survey, the majority of web users admit that they judge a business by the quality of their web design. This might be unfair – although it’s increasingly easy to produce professional-looking websites – in today’s world, it is simply a matter of fact.

The good news is that ensuring your site is easy to navigation is relatively straightforward. On the other hand, it can be more subtle than at first appears: the interaction of your menu with the content and images on each page can render even the clearest architecture cluttered or difficult to parse. That’s why you’re always best off engaging professionals to build your site.

 

1. Clear & concise labels/categories

 This is the golden rule: make your navigation easy to understand at a single glance. Think of your site as a set of boxes, and file content and pages into the appropriate one. Then, describe each box with a single word of clear meaning and importance – and fan out your pages from there. Your users will thank you.

 

2. Theme, colour & layout consistency

An architecture of pages that structure your content in such a way as to make it easy for your users to find the content they need. But don’t neglect visual cues. That is, should each category of pages share colours or layouts, to emphasise the belong to the same group? Avoid clutter, make things subtle.

 

3. Utilising a flat architecture

 Not so long ago, websites had become unwieldy cascades of pages: under each category, innumerable pages nested under the ones before them, with users clicking again and again to reach the content they needed. It is very rare that this can’t be avoided. Try to ensure that each of your pages is reachable within a couple of clicks.

Follow these three tips, and great navigation – and happy visitors – will be yours.

 

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, 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.

 

Top 10 Web Design Trends of 2017

May 30th, 2017 in Design, Development, Web

We’re already almost half-way through 2017 (no, we don’t know how that happened either). So what have we learned – and what pointers can we perceive to lead the way for the rest of the year?

Web design, like anything else, has its trends and its fashions. Following them slavishly will make you seem like a cliché, but ignoring them entirely risks rendering you out of date. Here are the ten trends we’re keeping an eye on – and deploying where they make the most sense.

 

1. Responsive Design 2.0?

Designing websites in such a way that they can adapt to whatever screen or platform they’re being viewed on has been a thing for a while. But with designers increasingly adopted a mobile-first position, and Google rewarding response sites with higher rankings, its adoption has been picking up real pace this year.

 

2. More Use of Scalable Vector Graphics

This comes in hand-to-hand with more responsive design: vector graphics are able to grow or to shrink as windows stretch this way or that. It’s a clever piece of technology that will make your all-important graphics look great every time.

 

3. Big & Bold Typography

If responsive design is “under the hood”, one of the most visible changes to web design this year is the prominence of typography: big, bold fonts will be placed at the heart of designs. In particular look out for serif fonts and geometric ones. Single words, simply presented, have never been clearer.

 

4. New Kinds of User Interface

As mobile-first because more prominent, UIs are changing, too. They look more and more like mini-desktops – lots of buttons to click, sorted into grids – and increasingly involve conversational elements – think questions, prompts and chatbots.

 

5. Authentic Photography

Gone are the days when stock photography passed muster. Users see so many websites per day now that they notice when photographs look staged or don’t seem unique to the site they’re viewing. Take your own photos, and use them prominently.

 

6. More Animation

With GIFs now a thing way beyond cult websites like Reddit, and animated images easier than ever to produce, moving images are more a part of websites than ever in 2017. From animated transitions between pages to cheeky decoration, animation is having a moment.

 

7. Vibrant Colours

White and grey have had their day. The clean and stark lines of recent years remain, but their backgrounds have changed: think fuchsias and oranges, and even bright greens. Let your websites pop.

 

8. The “Hero Banner”

The large image at the top of the website, filling the first screen a visitor sees – situated “above the fold” to adopt newspapers terminology – now reigns supreme. 2017 may see its apogee, but for now it is having a real moment in the sun.

 

9. The Long Scroll

Partly because the “hero banner” is now such a thing, sites are scrolling further than ever before. Mobile-first websites in particular benefit from “single-page” websites – there’s no need for an endless navigation tree of pages. Just let your users scroll.

 

10. Minimalism

All of this said, the biggest trend of 2017? Simple sites, plainly appointed. But be bold.

 

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, 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.

New Website Launched For FTC !

December 15th, 2016 in Design, Web

Another website that Image+ has designed and built and published in the mad Christmas rush is for The Food & Drink Training and Education Council (FTC), previously the Meat Training Council. FTC is a non profit skills charity representing the whole of the food industry. The FTC website includes information on a range of apprenticeships within the Food Industry and a range of food training courses – mainly around the area of butchery. The website also lists approved training providers.
In order to keep the content of the site fresh there’s a News section where visitors can choose from general news, blog items and press features.

https://www.foodtraining.org.uk/

New Websites Launched For Brindley Twist Taft & James!

December 13th, 2016 in Web

Image+ has designed and built two new websites for long established and leading Coventry solicitors, Brindley Twist Tafft and James. The first is for the main practice in Coventry https://www.bttj.com/. The home page is fresh and modern with very clear direction based on whether the visitor is seeking individual or business services.

The second site is for BTTJ’s specialist medical negligence services – https://www.bttjmedicalnegligence.co.uk/. This side of the business operates on a ‘no win no fee basis’ and is all about generate enquiries. As such, the home pages has very clear ‘call to action’ options including clear phone number, enquiry form and live chat option.

New Website Launched For Tow Trust Towbars !

July 15th, 2016 in Design, Web

Tow Trust Towbars is the largest manufacturer of towbars in the UK – making high quality towbars  for practically every car model there is. Image+ designed and built the website with a simple but slick user interface so that visitors to the site can quickly find the correct towbar for their make and model of car. The site contains comprehensive information on all Tow Trust’s towbars including fitting instructions and all required technical information. http://www.tow-trust.co.uk/ 

 

 

Coventry City of Culture 2021 bid website

May 10th, 2016 in Web

Coventry City of Culture identity - PRIMARY FINAL

Image+ is delighted to have been chosen to build the new Coventry City of Culture 2021 bid website and we are all genuinely excited and proud to be part of something special for Coventry.

We have been based in Coventry for over ten years. In that time, we’ve invested heavily in this city that has given us a great home at the side of one of its wonderful canals. We have employed several graduates from Coventry University (and still do), and trained a number of apprentices from the city (one of them is still with us, in his fourth year). We take our responsibility to the city and its people seriously, and consider ourselves a small part of its renaissance during the last decade: we regularly offer work placements to students from local schools, and have contributed to the cultural scene, too – for instance in developing the Charterhouse Priory website free of charge.

It goes without saying that we think we’re pretty good at designing and building websites, and our client list is full of big Coventry names – both Peugeot and Citroën are customers of ours. We’re equally proud to have designed websites for many Coventry small businesses, too.

The reason we love Coventry is the same as the logic behind the 2021 City of Culture bid: that somehow it is a city that uniquely fuses a richly diverse, and endlessly refreshing, set of cultures and arts. We are relishing the opportunity to help communicate that message to the people of Coventry – and to the world at large.

We see this website not just as a brochure for the bid but a living, breathing document of Coventry’s cultural life – we can’t wait to get started – watch this space!

https://coventry2021.co.uk/

Just Like Starting Over: Why DIY Isn’t a Dirty Word

January 18th, 2016 in Bespoke, Development, Web

I’m going to start with some jargon, because sometimes there’s just no avoiding it.

My term of the day is “technical debt”. No, this isn’t what overly optimistic people might call their overdraft limit or credit card statement; it’s the phrase we use to describe the inheritance we taken on when we use an “out of the box” solution.

Oops. There’s some more jargon. “Out of the box” is the phrase used to describe a pre-existing product that can be purposed to a variety of applications. Think of a website builder – a piece of software that allows you, and many others, to build a very basic website using a limited number of templates.

Equally, as an agency we might be presented by a new client with a solution they have previously developed, and which they would like us to move over to our servers as part of our new service to them. This isn’t an “out of the box” solution per se, but it’s definitely a case of us taking on a previous developer’s work – and very often we’ll need to fix issues and add new functionality to it.

That’s “technical debt”: taking on and working with the foibles of a previous piece of software rather than building something expressly for a new purpose, from scratch. Few people like debt, and unsurprisingly we’ve found that it’s often better for everyone if we just start again – build new software for the new servers and new systems. That way, we understand the code better, and it’s been written expressly for the current purposes and contexts.

We understand that clients can see things from the other end of the telescope: they’ve paid for a system that does more or less what they want, so why should they pay again for us to re-build it? After all, it will take time for us to write the new version of the application and get it to a stage of maturity similar to that which the previous platform has already reached.

But if there’s no tight deadline, we’ve found that in the long run it will work out cheaper to write the code anew. Why? Because the devil’s in the detail: your time-honoured software only more or less does the job, and that means we’ll be constantly trouble-shooting the gaps between what the software can do and what it needs to do. That bug-fixing costs money, and it will continue for as long as we try to use the old system for new purposes.

Imagine that the old piece of software is a square peg; maybe when it was first fashioned the hole was square, too … but now the corners have shifted slightly and our developers are having to shave a bit off the peg, or fiddle with the diameter of that round hole. If we’d just made the peg from scratch, it would fit perfectly every time – and we’d understand the material the peg was made from better, too, so future improvements would be much quicker and easier for us to implement.

Likewise, if one of our developers builds your software, all our developers can fix it – because we share “frameworks”, another bit of jargon that basically refers to a shared environment in which code is written. Your previous developer’s work will almost certainly use a different framework – and from any security vulnerabilities to its quirks of grammar, we’ll probably be able only to allocate one developer to understanding it. That means that if I spend a month figuring out your old software, and then I’m sick for a week or go on holiday, then James will be totally stuck.

So it might seem counter-intuitive, but starting over from scratch is often quicker and cheaper in the long run. Like any other type of debt, the technical kind has to be paid for again and again – and in that sense I suppose that sometimes jargon isn’t so divorced from everyday language after all.

Why Affording An Agency Website Is Like Eating Cake

October 29th, 2015 in Apps, Bespoke, Design, Development, Marketing, Web apps cake Design development Web website

cake-web-advert

I realized the other day that I’ve been spending a lot of time at networking events in recent weeks. This is not just because it’s a great way of scoring free cake (hardly a networking event in the country now does not supply afternoon tea as standard, I can only-slightly-smugly report). It’s because these sorts of meetings offer great ways to meet new clients, and understand how all businesses are thinking.

One of the constant themes of my conversations with people from SMEs is one of cost – or, maybe more accurately, how expensive many businesses imagine a professional website might be.

We’ve all met the small business owner who asked his friend to build a website, and wound up with one that was half-finished; we’ve all probably tried to build a website using one of these ‘out-of-the-box’ services or web builders, and found it just cannot do the job. The fact is, your business’s website is ever more important – and needs to be professionally tailored to the particulars of your business. That takes a proper design agency.

The people I talk with over all those cream teas, however, are always worried that they simply can’t afford an agency. You might expect me to try and convince them otherwise, and, I confess, I do – but it’s a fact we don’t want to hide that, sure, we’re more expensive than using a website builder’s templates or getting your mate to do it.

But you invest a lot in your business, and an investment repays over time. We believe that the little bit extra we cost – and it’s nowhere near as much as many people seem to fear! – is worth the investment, and will help your business be the best it can be.

Come to think of it, it’s all a bit like cake (yes, I have cake on the brain – why do you ask?): the better the ingredients, and the better the baker, the tastier the final product. If you’re trying to impress, you don’t use value flour, you don’t scrimp on the icing, and you don’t ask someone who’s never made a cake before to whip one up for you. Your business will look worse than it is – and be less accessible to customers than it should be – unless you build your website like you’d bake that special sponge.

At Image+, we build a website around your business: we’ll design it to look uniquely yours, build in the features you need and those customers expect, and write the content for you so that it’s all professional and compelling. You’ll have face-to-face meetings with us; we’ll be on the end of the phone whenever you have a question; and we’ll do it all for you – you won’t have to fiddle with a single button if you don’t want to!

Let’s say you spend about £3000 on your website with us – that’s a standard amount for a fully-featured website, tailored for you, though we’ve done cheaper – and let’s say it lasts three years before it needs a bit of a facelift. That’s just £80 per month, which is a great deal given that proper websites, as opposed to bad ones, are proven to generate leads, improve repeat business, and increase your brand’s reach. From this perspective, dealing with a tricky online website builder that churns out a basic cookie-cutter website and doesn’t offer any after-sales support seems like the bad investment, right?

So. Not only is an all-singing, all-dancing agency website cheaper than you think; it justifies whatever extra expenditure it may incur over the cheap-but-far-from-cheerful alternatives. So why not pop in and have a chat with us about what we can do for you? I’ll even bring cake.

Mobile-First Design: Why Remembering Mobile Is Like Putting On Trousers

October 14th, 2015 in Design, Development, Search Engine Optimisation, Web

We’re all familiar with the concept of optional extras: additional cup holders in your car,

or ‘accent stitching’ on that custom-made suit. But you wouldn’t buy a new motor

without an engine, and you wouldn’t slip on a new three-piece that didn’t come with

trousers. Those are just the basics. But why is it often so different for websites?

In today’s world, your website will be viewed in a hundred different ways. On a

smartphone or a desktop, a tablet or a netbook; it might be loaded up in Chrome or Safari,

Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. This makes demands on your developers that were

absent in the ‘good old days’ of IE’s dominance, always installed on a 486DX2 66 MhZ

machine.

 

Just like an engineer or a tailor, web designers need to move with the times in terms of

what is considered ‘the basics’. That’s why we believe that all websites should be

‘responsive’ as standard. What do we mean by this? It’s simple, really: we mean that

every client should have confidence that their website will display perfectly on any

screen – and that none of their customers will be turned off by a design that just doesn’t

work on their device of choice.

 

This might sound like common sense, but a surprising number of other web agencies

charge extra for building responsive websites. That is, they treat the ability to display

properly on the varied devices people now use as an optional extra. For us, that’s like

forgetting to put on your trousers.

 

Think about it: according to comScore, the number of people globally using mobile

devices of one kind or another to access the internet has now exceeded those using the

traditional desktop computer. If your site is designed exclusively for desktops – still the

‘basic package’ offered by many developers – you will be alienating the largest segment

of your audience.

 

Not only that, but the internet has changed to reflect these new behaviours: Google has

made changes to how it ranks websites in order to reward those which prioritise the

mobile experience. They are not only penalising those websites which don’t offer any

mobile functionality at all; they are denying rankings even to websites which offer

limited responsive features, such as providing a ‘no-frills’ mobile version of their desktop

website.

 

What can you do about this? You can choose a developer who doesn’t simply remove

functionality from a basic desktop website until it ‘fits’ on a smartphone screen. At

Image+, our design philosophy is ‘mobile first’: we start from the smallest screen,

creating a great website which we can then enhance with each move upwards in size

towards the desktop. This, not surprisingly, is the approach which Google endorses.

 

‘Mobile first’ design isn’t just what the world’s biggest search engines expect. It’s what

your customers want, too. Make sure your website is the success you need it to be – and

don’t settle for a designer who forgets to put on their trousers.

How Websites Are Just Flesh and Bone

November 15th, 2013 in Design, Web Design website wireframing

How does a website start its life? All those familiar elements – the navigation bar, the main content area, the splash image – don’t materialise from the ether. They’re planned and carefully placed to produce not just an appealing visual experience but also one which guides the user’s eye and helps them use the website in the best way possible. So how do we do it?

The web designer’s is a shadowy art, half aesthetic connoisseurship and half technical coding which is often unintelligible to the untrained eye. But it’s also a collaborative activity, in which everyone on the team should be involved – most especially the client. Web design is about capturing what makes the client different, special or unique and getting it online – because to do so will be to persuade browsers to become buyers.

For instance, one of the key first steps in any web design process is ‘wireframing’. This is the technical term for drawing up a schematic or blueprint for which elements of content and functionality the website will include, and how it will display those elements. Think of it as the website’s skeleton, the bones of a page layout or content arrangement onto which the designer can later add the ‘flesh’: font styles, colours and graphics. When we look at a skeleton, we see how a joint might move, rather than how the limb will look. It’s the same with a wireframe.

The key, though, is to make sure the joint moves in the direction the client requires. At Image Plus, we work as a team so that each of us understands the wireframe, and thus the project. But every part of it is informed by the client’s needs and goals: wireframing isn’t about detailing every last item about the website, but it is about fundamentals, and the client is best versed in the essentials of their business, product and audience.

Once we know what the website must do, we can turn to how it should look. Again, the client will almost always have some ideas about the look and feel of their site – corporate or contemporary, monochrome or colourful – which we will be taken onboard and applied to the final site. We do a lot of this graphic design work in Photoshop, which has become a crucial tool for every designer.

Photoshop is an image manipulation software package, making it ideal for the building of websites – which still rely on a wide array of imagery if they are to look exciting and pleasing to the eye. Web browsers don’t produce exciting visual effects alone – they read code and display images which have been carefully put together by the design to look good and operate well. That makes Photoshop a good means of putting together the background images, content area shapes, font colours, foreground graphics and other imagistic elements which will make your website attractive as well as useful to your visitors.

The internet is changing – increasingly websites are less like a magazine, designed in Photoshop to certain dimensions and specifications – and more fluid, displayable on many devices in many ways. But graphical content is still key, and the graphic designs we come up with in Photoshop can be laid over the skeleton we built in the wireframe to bring together look and functionality in one highly effective package.

So. That’s web design in a nutshell. But it all starts with that conversation with the client – so drop us a line today!