Using Icons to Boost the Experience for the Visitor

wf-iconsWhen it comes to the design of your website then clearly you want to make sure that each and every visitor has a positive experience from the moment that they land there. Now, there are a number of ways in which this can be achieved and we have previously looked at various important points that do indeed make a difference. However, there is one area that we have not looked at as of yet and it is something that is often overlooked. That something is the use of icons because, when used correctly, they can indeed boost the experience that your visitor has on your website.

What are Icons?

First, a little explanation as to what we mean when we say icons when connected to a website.

If you look at a site and you see the Twitter symbol or Facebook symbol, then you are looking at an icon. You know instantly what they refer to and you also know what will then happen if you click on those icons, you will be taken to the relevant social media page.

However, icons are also used in other ways and you will recognize a number of them such as a telephone icon to refer to a contact number. Alternatively, people will often have an icon to represent an email address, or an actual physical address.

In other words, icons are small symbols that represent a link to either another page or a particular interaction or action.

The Benefits of Icons.

There are a number of rather useful benefits for icons.

First, they are very efficient at what they do. They are very good at telling people what to expect by using just one single graphic rather than you spelling it out for your visitors in words. It makes the page appear less cluttered, unless you overdo the use of icons, and it becomes very easy for things to just stand out from the crowd which can always be beneficial to you.

Also, icons can allow you to move people around the page as you want them to, but that all comes down to their placement rather than anything else. As they have a tendency to stand out from the page, it means that you can effectively force the eyes of the visitor to move around the page as you see fit.

Think of it this way.

Imagine if you are trying to sell something or promote your services or products on a page. Next, you will want people to take some kind of action whether it be to buy something or to contact you. Now, if they have to search for the way in which they do this, then they will be put off and will simply feel that they cannot be bothered. However, use the appropriate icon and it has been shown that people are more likely to then take the action that you want them to.

There is only one problem.

The problem is that you need to make sure that you not only do not use them too much, but also that people are aware of what the icons are representing. This is not a problem when you are dealing with an icon for the likes of Twitter or Facebook as those signs are global, but there is more to it than that.

What we recommend is that you only use icons that are accepted and understood in a global sense. No other icons should really be used or else you are gambling on people being willing to click on something that they do not understand.

The entire idea of icons is that they are supposed to make it easier for visitors to move around your website and navigate between links or pages. If you confuse them by using symbols that they are unaware of then you are more likely to chase them away rather than helping them. Striking this balance is important and that is where spending time talking to your web designer is going to prove to be rather useful. They can guide you as to the perfect placement, the best icons to use, and show how they cut down on unnecessary wordage that just makes the entire website appear to be messy. This in itself is important due to the fact that a clean cut website is always far more effective at getting your point across.

So, as you can see, when they are used in their correct manner then icons will indeed make navigating around your website and links a whole lot easier for your visitors. Also, they can be relatively unobtrusive which is always a bonus because having them getting in the way of carrying out various interactions would only serve to drive people crazy. Striking the balance between being useful and being annoying is certainly something that you need to resolve when you sit down and talk about this matter with your web designer.

The Importance of Honest Feedback with the Design of Your Website

We previously discussed the relationship between client and designer and the way in which it directly influences the end result. However, we need to take things slightly further and look specifically at the importance of honest feedback when it comes to the design of your website.

There are a number of reasons as to why this is key and it does feed into the quality and strength of the relationship that does exist between client and designer. If there is a breakdown in communication between the two, then the chances of there being an end product that both are content with is going to diminish quite considerably.

So, let’s look more closely at the reasons as to why it is so important and also the difference it makes to the end result.

1. It Prevents Miscommunication.

The first reason is that feedback prevents the problem of miscommunication which has to be seen as one of the cardinal sins. If there is a lack of honesty with the thoughts from both parties, then each can have their own ideas of how things should progress and those ideas will never come together. A designer can be carrying on with what they feel is the correct approach and yet if the client is not honest enough to admit that things are not quite what they expected then the entire thing ends up being a mess.

2. It Allows the Designer to Get in the Mind of the Client.

For a designer to be able to produce the end result that the client wants it is important that they are able to effectively get inside the mind of the client. Nobody is a mind-reader and if there is no feedback at different stages of the process then how on earth is the designer going to be able to produce the kind of thing that the client was imagining in their own mind? The answer is that it becomes completely impossible to do this and you then have to deal with the issue of the client perhaps being taken aback by what they see and wondering why they have been unable to get the kind of website that they were hoping for.

3. It Stops Mistakes Becoming Bigger.

Mistakes are always going to happen and they can do so for a variety of reasons. However, it is the way in which they are dealt with as well as them being identified as early as possible that is going to make a real difference. If things are effectively nipped in the bud at the beginning, then it stands to reason that they are going to then be unable to effectively completely destroy the project. This is only possible when there is honest feedback from both sides when the time is required.

Of course mistakes can always happen as that is just part of being human, but the importance of giving feedback is such that people need to be made aware of the mistake before it becomes harder to rectify it. If one side keeps quiet, then the chances of this happening are only going to increase.

4. It Builds Trust Between the Parties Involved.

The final main reason as to why this is so important is connected to another key issue in the entire design process, the issue of trust. If there is no trust between the two parties then it makes it difficult for either side to feel that they can continue with either their ideas or the creation of the design itself. If the designer in particular becomes aware of the fact that the client will be honest in their thoughts throughout the process, then it gets to the point whereby the designer can relax in the knowledge that they can continue with what they are doing as they know that the other party would voice their opinion if anything was wrong.

As you can see, if there is a lack of honesty with the feedback throughout the design process then the chances of the finished design being a bit hit and miss is going to increase. By accepting that feedback is not always going to be a pleasant experience it will allow the client to get what they want which, at the end of the day, is the very reason as to why they decided to go to a designer in the first place.

The thing to remember is that feedback does not always have to be critical. It is just the opportunity for either party to discuss their thoughts and feelings without the other side getting upset or feel as if they are being attacked in any way. Healthy feedback allows for a healthy project and there has to be the understanding that both sides are open to comments and that they are not going to take things personally. After all, without feedback and discussions taking place where will the entire project lead?

Common SEO Terms You Might Hear About With Your Website

You will probably be aware of the importance of SEO in order to get your website noticed, but the problem is that the lay person will have very limited knowledge of the industry, the methods and techniques, and even the terminology that can be used. However, it is often the case that a few common terms are used and by offering an explanation as to what they mean it should make things a bit clearer for you before you go ahead and start your SEO campaign.

Algorithm

The first term is algorithm and this is important. You see, when Google are working out the rankings of websites on their search engine they use something called an algorithm. Now, the way in which they calculate the positions does tend to change every now and then and you should keep an eye out for updates named after animals. Basically, just see this term as being an equation and the result of the equation is your ranking on Google.

Backlinks

Backlinks have always been important in SEO but the types of links that have been preferred by Google has certainly changed. The easy explanation of this term is that it is a link to your website from another website and Google sees this link in the same way as an Internet recommendation. Previously, it used to be the case that the more links you had the higher the ranking but now it is the quality of the site that is important rather than the number.

Black Hat

Black hat is something that has to be avoided as it focuses on methods and techniques that are purely aimed at the search engine and not the public. It includes methods that are against the terms and conditions of the search engines and if you are caught using them then your site is going to be punished by Google.

White Hat

On the other side is white hat and as you can imagine it is the complete opposite of black hat in that it focuses on methods and techniques that work and are in line with the terms and conditions of the search engines.

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is a percentage of people that end up leaving your website after they have just landed on the home page. For Google, this is then seen as your website being boring and not worth visiting so it is a negative thing for your ranking if you have a high bounce rate.

Keyword Stuffing

You may know that keywords are important for good SEO, but overdo it and you end up doing keyword stuffing and that is bad. Google prefers keywords to be used naturally and for things to make sense so if your content is just keyword after keyword thrown in, then they are not going to be best pleased.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are things that you do not see, but they are required by the search engine as they use them to find websites after an individual has carried out a search. They then use this to show you the small sentence that appears on the list of searches so you know what the website is going to be about before clicking on a link.

Organic Search Results

Organic search results refers to the page that you see on Google when you carry out a search but not including the paid adverts that appear at the top or at the side of the page. The results that you see at the top should, by all accounts, be the pages that have been optimized correctly for the search terms that you entered.

Paid Search Results

Paid search results refers to those adverts that appear on the side or the top of the page when you go onto Google or any other search engine. This links in to Adwords and you can effectively buy your way to the top if you have the budget available for it.

Sitemap.xml

This is something slightly more technical, but it is a document that is going to be hosted beside your website that contains every page that is on your site. The search engine spiders that then come your way will look at this document and learn all about your website including how the pages link together. If your website is using WordPress, then this is something that is generated automatically.

Now, we are not saying that these are all of the important terms that you should know about when it comes to SEO for your website as there are many more. Instead, it is merely designed to give you some insight into what is actually being meant when you ask about SEO for your site and you are met by a host of terms that just seem to bewilder you.

The main thing is that if you do not understand these kinds of things, then ask for them to be explained. After all, you are the client and deserve to know what you are spending your money on.

Coming to Terms with the User Experience Concept

webfoot-uxIn a previous post, we mentioned the term ‘user experience’ and, considering the role that it plays in web design and also the way in which individuals interact with your site, we feel that it is important to offer a more detailed explanation of the term. Let’s be honest here, anybody that has a website wants to be sure that their visitors are getting what they want from it, don’t they?

Now, the actual phrase itself does come with various definitions depending on who you pay attention to, but at the end of the day it all boils down to one thing, making sure that your visitors are able to get what they are looking for from your website and able to do so with the absolute minimum amount of fuss. However, it is important to remember that this is not all about a fancy website design or trying to be all clever with what you are doing as it is more than that. It is all about making life as easy as possible for your users and that they can do what they want.

To better explain, there are several points that should be addressed that are seen as being central to this entire thing. Indeed, any website owner should keep these things in mind when their website is being created and even though they are general points, one should make sure that they apply them to their own products or services that are going to be mentioned on their site.

1. This involves each aspect of their interaction with you.

The first point is the idea that this is going to involve every single aspect of the interaction that they have with your website and this does mean from the moment that they land there. What do they see when they land? How do they then get to what they are looking for? Is it easy to understand and follow?

Think of this as the way in which you react when you first walk into a new store. What are your first impressions? Remember they really do count and that applies to how the products are laid out, how easy it is to find what you want, how the staff interact with you, everything right until the point where you are leaving. If one part is not up to the standards that you expect then your entire experience with that store is going to be tarnished.

Well, the exact same applies to your website and that is why user experience is so central to what you are doing.

2. Think of layout, images, sounds, and your brand.

The one thing that you do not want to do when it comes to user experience is having a point where the visitor has no idea what they are looking at, what they are hearing, or even aware of your brand. If one of these parts is wrong then it is going to destroy their user experience and hardly make them likely to then do the actions that you are trying to tempt them into doing.

Your website has to be the most attractive and informative store front that you have ever seen. It needs to have your brand all over and remember this includes your professionalism, customer relations and so much more related to your business.

3. Make sure all questions are answered.

This point is a bit of a guess on your part, but your market research should have indicated the kinds of things that people are going to be asking of your website before you get it designed. That market research should have a series of questions and answers and they must all be included in your layout and overall design.

What you are looking for with user experience in a website is to get to this point whereby your visitors have a question and can immediately become aware of where they have to click in order to get the answer. Searching around, links not working, confused messages and generally annoying added extras that serve no purpose whatsoever are not exactly going to contribute to a nice experience for them. In short, they will click off and that could account for the bounce rate that you see on your website, or at least part of it.

So, what do you do? Well, you do not rush into a design just for the sake of having a website. Get inside the mind of your users. What would you expect if you were in their shoes? What annoys you about a website? What is your own concept of user experience? Seek advice from your web designer who can guide you towards the best solution for the products or services you are offering.

So, after that explanation of the user experience concept, it does hopefully make it easier for you to understand what is expected by the visitors to your site and how to then provide them with this. After all, if your visitors are not happy with their experience then how on earth can you ever expect your website to grow in size and stature? Keep the user experience in mind throughout the design process and see the difference it makes overall.

10 Web Design Terms That You Really Should Know

301 Whenever you are entering the world of having a website designed, one of the things that you will notice is that there are often terms that are being used that perhaps just do not make much sense to you. Now, we admit that some are more complex to understand than others but getting to grips with the terminology does make it easier for you to understand the process of developing your website. So, keeping that in mind, we thought that we would pull together 10 different terms that you might want to know about.

1. 301 redirect.

This sounds confusing, but what it refers to is the person hitting your website being referred from an old page to a new and update page. For example, a 301 redirect would be used if the ‘About Us’ page was now at domainname.com/ourcompany. Most times, you are not even going to be aware of this going on but it makes a website far more professional with the visitor being sent to the correct place so they are still able to get the information that they are looking for.

2. 404.

This is a code that is shown when an individual lands on a page that does not exist. This happens when they type in the wrong URL or the page was perhaps deleted by you. A 404 page will often have an explanation as to what has gone wrong.

3. Call to Action.

This is also referred to as CTA and it refers to a button or banner, text or image that urges the individual visiting your website to take action in some way. This could be used to get an individual to move to another web page or email or perhaps even to purchase something on an e-commerce website.

4. Content Management System.

This is shortened to CMS and is a system that allows you to control the content on your website in an easy to follow manner. Programs such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are prime examples.

5. CSS.

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet and is used by developers to control how your website looks. It sets up colors, images, and text styles amongst other things and creates a sense of uniformity throughout your website.

6. Favicon.

The favicon is the small image that sits in the browser bar as well as bookmarks and is linked to the website. It is often their logo or something that makes it easy to identify the site.

7. Responsive Design.

Responsive design is something that is extremely important for websites as it is a type of design that changes according to the type of screen that the site is being viewed on. For this, everything in the design has to be fluid so that the website is still easy to navigate no matter if it is being viewed on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

8. Slider.

Sometimes in the design of a website you may hear the term ‘slider’ being used. What this refers to is a series of images that are usually in the form of a banner and appearing on the homepage that rotate on a constant basis. Often, you will see this towards the top of the page.

9. User Experience.

User experience is important simply because it focuses on the way in which the visitor to the website is able to interact. Every single part of the design process right down to every single word that appears on a website is going to be linked to the idea of providing the best user experience possible. You need things to work smoothly, easy to navigate, easy to understand and to just make visiting your site a pleasure.

10. WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG stands for ‘What You See Is What You Get’ and it refers specifically to Content Management Systems whereby you are able to preview changes to your website from within the system and the user is able to see things in advance regarding text and graphics without them actually needing to have any specific knowledge of coding. This is often seen as being an easier way of editing and updating websites where you can effectively ‘check’ your work before it is made live.

Now, obviously there are a whole host of other terms that are used within the world of web design and it is important that you do fully understand everything before you get too involved in the production of your site. However, any web designer is going to be quite happy to explain the terminology in advance as there is an understanding that aspects of the industry are rather complex and difficult to follow especially for those with no prior experience.

Never be afraid to ask for an explanation because, after all, you are the client so you deserve to know what is going on at all times.

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