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.

 

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

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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.

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!

Mobile Web Design: Websites, Faster

August 20th, 2013 in Design, Development Design load time mobile Responsive Web

Websites are many things: entertainment, social spaces, even works of art. Primarily, however, they’re sources of information, ways to communicate a message to the person who views it.

From a business perspective, this function of websites is of course key. The web can represent a significant investment for a company, so it’s important that you start getting ROI on that investment as soon as possible.

We’ve spoken before about the importance of responsive and mobile web design as a key driver of that ROI: it ensures that no user is ever bounced from your website just because it won’t work on their device of choice. We pride ourselves on producing websites that are cross-platform compatible – so that your message can get through across every and any digital medium.

That’s why the latest pronouncements from Google caught our eye. Websites are most valuable to you insofar as they communicate quickly and cleanly, grabbing a user’s attention and keeping it. To this end, in their recently published guidelines Google have adopted a ruthless ‘one second rule’ for mobile web design:

“…the whole page doesn’t have to render within this budget, instead, we must deliver and render the above the fold (ATF) content in under one second, which allows the user to begin interacting with the page as soon as possible. Then, while the user is interpreting the first page of content, the rest of the page can be delivered progressively in the background.”

Keeping on top of what Google say is a good idea in general (after all, they’re the ones who decide how to rank that site of yours!), but these new guidelines are particularly interesting. Quick-loading websites are the holy grail of designers for good reason: users are increasingly impatient, and they want their information quickly.

The challenge, though, is still to design a website which looks great, whilst keeping the load time down. Google’s guidelines are canny on this front, too: only the first part of your content, the attention-grabbing stuff, needs to load immediately. Grab your user’s attention, and let the rest load in the background until they’re read to scroll down.

We’re old hands at this sort of mobile web design trickery, and we’re always expanding our skillset to keep up with the latest developments and demands. So – whether you want a new website or to redesign your current one – drop us a line to discuss how we can ensure they say what you need to, and quickly.

Web Accessibility Standards: Practical Politics

May 17th, 2013 in Design, Search Engine Optimisation, Web accessibility Design eu standards w3c Web

They say you should never talk politics if you want to avoid an argument, so it might be worth skating over this week’s ding-dong in Parliament about the European Union, and whether it’s worth the UK being part of it. There are plenty of arguments on either side, and very few of them have to do with marketing your business online.

web-accessible-key[1]

This is a blog about just that, of course, and yet that’s precisely why we mention Europe: the EU, believe it or not, has quite a bit to do with how you might market your business online. This isn’t just about the headline-grabbing stuff about privacy laws, Google and Apple; like it or loathe it, the EU also promotes something uncomplicated which is very good indeed for your business, and for Google’s.

At Image+, we design our websites with what are known as ‘web accessibility standards’ very much in mind. These are a numbers of rules, guidelines and design criteria which aim to ensure your website is as viewable to as many different people as possible. Devised and promoted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), accessibility standards are important for the same reason that responsive web design is important: they make your website more flexible.

There are all sorts of reasons someone may have difficulty enjoying your website to the full: they may be partially sighted or hard of hearing, have a physical disability or learning difficulties. They may be elderly or in a rural location. The key is that W3C accessibility guidelines offer a powerful way of designing websites in such a way that they reach as many people as possible. This may be achieved by offering for alternative text for images, in case on slow connections they do not load; it might be providing transcripts of audio, or offering a website which can function without use of the mouse. Accessibility is about imagining the full range of your audience and catering for them.

This not only fulfills your business’s social responsibility – it brings your products to more people. That’s why we routinely design websites which tick all the accessibility boxes. There are many designers who take short cuts or simply don’t have the knowledge necessary to ensure their websites are fully compliant with W3C standards. Your website will be the poorer for using them.

To risk getting involved in that spat in the Commons, the EU are fully signed up to W3C and promote it strongly – indeed, sometimes it’s not strong enough for them! In that as in so many things, the EU is a complicated beast which occassions fierce debate … unlike web standards, which are a no-brainer. Ask about incorporating them into your website today.

Why Web Design Is Like Parallel Parking

May 7th, 2013 in Bespoke, Design, Marketing Branding Design marketing SEO

James and I were over in Belfast last week meeting with a client. Instead of boring you with a field report, though, I thought you’d find this video more interesting. Filmed in Belfast, but nothing to do with us, we only watched it for the first time when we got back home. Put the kettle on, grab a tea or coffee, and settle in: this one takes a while.

You have to feel sorry for the poor woman (and let’s not make a point about her gender, lads – we’re all above that). She’s obviously just found herself in that zone where nothing you do quite works. We’ve all been there, and nothing’s worse than being watched while you’re in that kind of mood. It only makes things worse!

But you also have to kind of admire her. Not for her parking skills, maybe, but certainly for her persistence and refusal just to give up.

We were in Belfast about a website – of course. We build these things all day every day, for all kinds of different clients selling all sorts of different products to all kinds of different people. The one thing all these sites have in common, though, is the need to keep working on them. Whether it’s an e-commerce site or a blogging site, a straight brochure design or something more bespoke, there’s a simple rule of thumb that works for every site we build: keeping going back, don’t give up.

Sites are like anything else. The first draft might not work. You might put it up and not get the traffic you like. It might work brilliantly for a year or two and then suddenly no longer suit your business. The trick is to understand that a website is always a work in progress.

The powerful thing about the internet is that it’s always changing, constantly updated with the latest information. That means that your website should be tinkered with almost daily – and that it’s worth persevering to ensure you get things just right.

Growing your business and your website together doesn’t just make sense – it’s easy once you get the persistence bug. Change your colour scheme with each marketing campaign; tweak your copy so that search engines direct users to your site more regularly; tweak the design so that it looks its best on every platform. Keep going back, don’t give up.

So, like the lady parking that car, you should keep at it. The Image+ team promise not to turn up at your offices and make a YouTube video about it – but over the years we’ve become adept at helping ease your website into the right space.

Packaging: Thinking Outside The Box

April 2nd, 2013 in Design, Packaging Design Packaging

Perhaps only Christmas can rival Easter when it comes to decorating the nation’s living room floors with discarded packaging. Around 90 million eggs are consumed in the UK each year, and that makes for an awful lot of cardboard torn apart by hungry kids – and sometimes greedy adults!

0001364_470-Essential-Easter-Collection

It’s easy to assume at this time of year that packaging doesn’t really matter, and that it’s what’s inside that counts.Whilst of course the quality of the ultimate product is key, packaging attracts all kinds of attention. For instance, just last week the House of Commons saw fit to debate Easter egg boxes, with the MP Andrew Stunnel unveiling facts and figures which suggest confectioners are still producing excess packaging. As you might imagine, the companies are doing their best to burnish their green credentials in response – chocolate giant Nestle, for instance, are keen to emphasise their eco-friendly Easter packaging.

All of this underlines the point that packaging matters. They might seem to your toddler like a pesky hurdle before the main chocolatey event, but the companies which sell those eggs put huge thought into the boxes: from the structure to the materials used, packaging is considered to be an important part of the overall offer. Cost is weighed, of course, but more important is the message sent by the box in question – and the extent to which consumers will appreciate it.

So as I cleaned up some of the wreckage left behind by this year’s Easter feast, I found myself looking at the branding choices made by the designers of the board and foil I was picking up. At Image+, we offer packaging and promotional items services which embed your brand in the daily experience of your customers. Understanding what they expect of your product and its packaging, what that packaging needs to achieve (does it sit on a shelf, or travel across continents?), but also how your brand should influence and even dictate its shape, colours and composition can be key.

The packaging of those Easter eggs might be disposed of quickly (or not – some virtuous souls in the Image+ office eat their eggs slowly, using the box as storage!). But it’s also the first thing anyone sees of the egg and the company which made it. That makes it key at the point of sale, of course, but also afterwards in reinforcing and reminding the consumer about a brand you want them to recall and trust. I blogged last week about branding – packaging is where all that design work arrives in the real world – not just on the floor, but also in people’s lives.

Why Clearing Snow Is Like Designing A Brand

March 26th, 2013 in Design Branding Design

There’s something about unseasonal snow that maybe makes you look at it a bit differently. We’re well into March here in the UK, and yet we’ve just had an extremely late – and extremely large – dumping of snow across the Midlands and the North. Naturally, that’s hit Image+’s Coventry HQ.

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It’s not just us who have been affected, either: I was walking – skating, really – down the street at the weekend, and spotted a Peter Savage manhole cover peeking through the white stuff. Peter Savage are one of our clients, so spotting their name on a patch of cleared snow led me to thinking: how is branding like clearing snow?

In the same way as getting out the shovel and clearing your driveway, designing a brand involves an awful lot of work: your company might mean many different things to you, and certainly to your entire staff base. How do you go about making a path through all that to a simple, easily recognised brand?

Underneath all that accumulation of ideas, visions and impressions lie the foundation slabs of your business. Devising a brand – whether that means designing a logo, a colour profile, or establishing detailed branding guidelines – is about shovelling away everything you don’t need and unearthing the essentials that you do.

A brand summarises your company and encapsulates its essence: it might promote confidence or trust, project creativity or reliability; it could be bold or subtle, contemporary or traditional. Whatever the core values and virtues of your organisation, your brand has to embody them. A brand unifies a company’s offering, allows customers to connect with you, and offers the most powerful platform you’ll have to make your pitch. Its absolutely key, then, that you do your branding right – if you do a bad job of clearing that driveway, someone’s going to slip up.

At Image+, we’re more than used to chatting with our clients, coming to understand their business, and designing with them a brand that speaks to their customers in just the right voice. Fonts, colours, shapes and slogans can all, when carefully chosen, combine to speak volumes. Your customer might only glance at your logo, or cast their eye over your brochure, but the right branding will tell them an awful lot – and start your sales pitch – before they’ve read, or you’ve spoken, a single word.

Which brings us back to that manhole: with all the snow cleared away, there was Peter Savage’s logo for all to see.