Finding Web Design Fluency

1- Start Simple. Place your big content on the page first and work your way from there. After you add your pictures and videos you’ll find that the designing work suddenly begins to flow from there. It’s always easier to create something from something rather than something from nothing.

2- Don’t be afraid to go wrong. You can always erase anything you don’t like. Write down ideas as they come, play around, move things around on the screen and ctrl Z any mistake. It’s much likelier you’ll find a good idea while you work rather than by sitting still and dumb in front of your screen. All the greats do it, improvise. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Allow yourself to write at least 10 silly ideas down. I’m willing to bet at least one of them will move on with you to the next part of the web design process.

3- Take from the World. Use your eyes and your ears and absorb as much as you can. You never know when genius will strike. You may be doing something completely irrelevant. I can’t tell you exactly what to do to find inspiration but I can tell you that stressing about it has never done the trick for me. You can however, browse through other websites from the same field as yours, or simply websites that have caught your eye and use them as inspiration. Imitation is after all the highest form of flattery. One day you may find your own designs being used as inspiration.

4- Don’t Fall In Love Too Fast. How many times have you found yourself pouring your entire soul into the design of something as small as a button? Designers tend to become attached to their creations and at times they lose objectivity. If the people surrounding you are telling you that the button you just invested your soul in is out of context or inappropriate for this site, you may want to listen to them. I’m not encouraging peer pressure but you need t remember that at the end of the day, your new website is for everyone but you. If something rubs most of your potential website visitors the wrong way, it may be a good idea to let it go.

5- Ask for people’s opinions – this is basically on the same note as the previous point. Ultimately the website will serve you best by being attractive and accessible to as many people as possible. Even if you’re an artist and you have your own independent style I would recommend you leave your creative independence at home when you set to the task of customizing one of our free website templates.

6- Keep Learning – If this is your tenth website I think this is the perfect time to take advice from point number three and visit a museum or a football game. Don’t stick to the same clich├ęs. What was revolutionary and outstanding the first time around will not remain so on the fifth imitation. Just think about “the sixth sense” movie. Now that was truly original and exciting when I first saw it, and now they come out with a new rip-off of the film every few months. I don’t even bother seeing them anymore. Prevent your website from being a cheap imitation of a horror film, stay original, and stay fresh. Once again, it’s better to come up with something horrifying once in a while, as long as you know you are continuing a process of development and growth.

7- Have Fun! If you don’t enjoy working on web design, find someone who does. Nobody is ever particularly good at things they hate so don’t count on being the exception. What are you waiting for? Choose a template and get to work!

Why You Should Hire a Real Web Developer and Not Just Some Guy’s Cousin

The mistake that many online entrepreneurs make is that they cut corners when it comes to their web design. Your website is the “face of your company,” and you should not trust its presentation to just anyone. The next time someone says to you, “My cousin did my website and he can do a good job for you,” just say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” The teenage kid three doors down calls himself a webmaster. That doesn’t mean you should trust him with your livelihood. You should treat your website design as if your business depends on it…because it does.

Before you take the first step toward hiring a web designer, you’ll need to determine the goals you want your website to accomplish. Whether your business is totally online or this website is another channel to market your existing bricks and mortar storefront, the impression you give will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

The problem with hiring someone who knows someone is that you may not get an honest assessment of his work. Get a list of his past clients and contact them. Ask them about their experiences with this particular web designer. Look at their sites. Is the website consistent with their company’s goals? Are their sites easy to navigate? Would you buy merchandise from this website?

The best way to find a good designer is to ask existing business owners to make recommendations based on their experiences. Get a list of possible candidates, but don’t make your decision too quickly. Check out each web designer’s personal site. Look for these essential details:

* Is the site visually appealing (colors, design, alignment, consistency)?

* Is the site easy to navigate?

* Do the pages load quickly?

* Is it easy to read?

* Is the contact information, privacy policy, terms of use, etc. clearly visible?

This is just the beginning. You’ll want to work with a web designer that understands the goals of your site and how it complements your business. If you’re building an e-commerce site, you must hire someone who has e-commerce experience.

What could happen if you decide to “save some money” and hire that guy your cousin knows? I heard about one business that was more concerned with making their site look cool than making it easy to navigate. The result? They lost countless dollars in profits because their website visitors just didn’t know what to do once they landed on the page.

Just today, I read about a website owner that hired a friend to build his site. The problem was that the friend registered the domain in his name, and the business owner had to threaten legal action to get the domain back.

Still want to hire that guy your cousin knows?

When it comes to website design, it’s best to keep business matters separate from personal matters. Don’t cut corners to save a buck. Outsource the work to a reputable web designer who will look out for you and your company. If you hire just anyone to build your site, the money you “save” today will cost you a lot of business tomorrow.

Placing Search Engines at the Heart of Web Development and Strategy

Search engine optimisation has traditionally been the practice of increasing the ranking of an existing website by altering the content and promoting inbound referral links from other highly ranked pages. The first part (altering the content) can be a bit like trying to panel beat a rusty VW Beetle into a Ferrari. Often to be effective, the entire structure and content of a website needs renewing, including with the coding (especially websites built in tables or Flash), making it a very costly exercise.

A New Beginning

In truth, the best way forward is to completely rebuild the site with fresh search engine optimized text, structure, coding and often design. This way a company can also take advantage of new advances such as content management systems for greater control of content; database driven content to automate the process; RSS news feeds to keep the site current; and standards compliant coding for greater accessibility and usability.

A website may also need to adopt a more sales-driven approach that converts into greater online sales or stimulates a greater response, thus building your customer database for future opt-in mailings. Or it may need to be more interactive and useful to people to encourage return visits and recommendations.

Referral Link Generation Starts at Home

While the new site is being developed, the task of promoting referral links must start in earnest. This is an ongoing process that takes time, effort and imagination. Begin with any websites already under your control. Make sure you are making the most of links from highly ranking pages from websites you own, if it’s appropriate to have links. Then approach suppliers and affiliates. Make sure any existing links from their pages to yours contain core search term keywords and not ‘click here’ or ‘visit the website’. Then try the free listing business directories. Assess the quality of paid for listings, and if your competitors are there, it makes sense for you to be there too.

Online PR is in Your Hands

Many links can be generated through a variety of promotional techniques. Submit your website for review; invite journalists to review your products or services; write your own articles and submit them to publishing websites; create blogs to air your opinions on your trade and use social networks such as Linkedin. As long as it’s ethical and honest, it’s a valid way of generating links to your pages. Dirty tricks such as blog spam can back fire and destroy your reputation.

When the site is complete, continue this process by generating links to specific landing pages to increase their ranking too (remember, your homepage is important, but it can’t do everything in terms of SEO so spread the load).

The SEO Blueprint for New Websites

All new websites should put targeting, content and SEO at the very heart of the process.

These issues must be addressed at the outset:

1) Who is your audience and who is most valuable to you?

2) How will you reach them?

3) What will encourage them to use and return to the website?

4) What will stimulate them to buy or respond?

5) How will you use the customer data to build relationships?

With these findings you can formulate:

1) Core search term keywords and phrases

2) Site structure with key landing pages

3) SEO text, ensuring good keyword densities within URLs, page titles, meta tags, H tags, body text and alt tags

4) Other useful content and media

Then begin the process of identifying and creating referral link opportunities:

1) Within your existing website network

2) On your supplier and affiliates web pages

3) On free business listings

4) On paid for business listings

5) By generating PR

6) Through self published articles

7) Through company blogs

8) Through appropriate social networks

Always remember that Google ranks web pages according to relevance (the content of the page) and importance (the number of links to it from other important websites). By doing so your website need never languish at the bottom of the heap. And what’s more, when your audience increasingly finds your website, they will be inspired by its up-to-date, fresh, relevant and engaging content, and won’t fail to respond in the way you want them to.