8 Creative Ways to Connect With Customers on Facebook

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Facebook is a not-so-secret secret weapon for promoting your business. That being said, a lot of companies don’t take full advantage of what this social media platform has to offer when it comes to making deep, lasting connections with their customers. Ads and pleas to “like this” simple don’t quite cut it.

That’s why we asked eight entrepreneurs to weigh in on how to best use Facebook to your company’s advantage. Here’s what they said:

1. Put Other People in the Spotlight

On the MySocialCloud Facebook page, we try to cross-promote with our partners and highlight our customers a lot. For example, we partnered with a company called Free Bike Project that has students ride bikes around its campuses with our advertisements on the sides of the bikes. We then ask the students to take pictures of themselves with the bikes, and we post the pictures on our Facebook page. We’ve found when we put other people and their friends in the spotlight (rather than our brand or ourselves), people get more excited about our company and engage with us more on social media.

Stacey FerreiraMySocialCloud

2. Interact in a Private Facebook Community

We invite our customers into a private community on Facebook where they can interact with us and one another, share war stories and where they can turn for support. It’s an amazing way to help them see us as a conduit for them as a united front of crusaders.

Corey BlakeRound Table Companies

3. Post Video Updates

It’s proven that video posts on Facebook highly increase the chance of user comments, shares and “likes.” Create a weekly company update keeping your customers in the loop on new products, employees, goals, etc. Remember, talk about your company and product as well as the category you are in. Your customers want to see you as the expert in the industry, and they will continue to come back if you have great advice!

Torrey TayenakaSparkhouse

4. Offer Discounts and Promo Codes

You can stay connected to your customers through Facebook by posting discounts and promotional codes for your business products and services. But to keep your customers coming back for more, set a limit on the access to a promo code to about 50 people. If a customer sees an expired promo code, they’ll likely check back to see when the next one is posted.

Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

5. Post Unrelated Content

The main purpose of a Facebook page is to communicate company information to customers. However, there’s no reason we can’t make it fun. Posting pictures or videos that have nothing to do with the company tells me a little more about my customers than another promo. Also, it shows the lighter side of the company, which helps customers feel a closer connection to us.

Lots of companies have Facebook pages that offer no real value to those who follow them. Nobody wants to hear about business all the time. They want to be entertained and engaged, and they want to be a part of the companies they follow. What better way than to post content that appeals directly to them? They’ll have some fun while strengthening their ties to the company, which is the entire point of social media.

Jay Wu,

6. Share Stories

Share stories to build trust and reliability. We share stories and photos of events, charitable contributions, organizational partnerships and the daily activities happening in and around our business.

Tyler ArnoldSimplySocial Inc.

7. Post Consistently and Respond Quickly

Realty One Group places a premium on being consistent and responding to engagement. We make a point to post every single day. When a customer notices that you are updating your page with useful information, he is more likely to engage.

Perfect example: An agent wrote on one of our photos asking if we had our logo in a certain format to use for printing. She said the format was not available to her in our back office and reached out via Facebook. Not only did we respond to her — we got her email and sent her the format she needed to carry out her business. She expressed such gratitude for us going out of our way to help her, and that alone was reward enough.

Kuba JewgieniewRealty ONE Group

8. Recruit Talent Socially

We have a relatively large Facebook page of over 75,000, and the page has been growing quite steadily over the last year. We’ve really focused on using Facebook as a recruitment tool for our company. When we have a difficult posting, we usually throw it up on the Facebook page and sometimes give out rewards for candidates that other users can bring to us. The response is extremely positive and usually results in hundreds of new candidates joining our database. Not only does this strategy grow the page, but it also helps us get great candidates placed in amazing positions.

Liam MartinStaff.com

Article taken from Mashable

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

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To keep your library fresh and diverse, today we gathered nine super stylish free fonts for your designs. If you were in need of something fresh, creative and different, look no further, you just found the fonts you were searching for.

The Quantum

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

HECTICA

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

Track Type

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

BARON

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

Primary Sans

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

Morden Free Font

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

Quirky Nots

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

Foresee

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

Gabriela

9 Fresh Free Fonts for your Designs

Using Mobile Keyword URL’s in Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

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Some advertisers use keyword level destination URL’s for tracking and other purposes. And some advertisers need different destination URL’s for mobile and desktop. With Enhanced Campaigns advertisers who need both now face a problem: You can have either device-specific destination URL’s at the ad level, or keyword level URL’s with no regard for device. Fortunately, there are a few workarounds.

The basis for the following workarounds is ValueTrack with its tags that are build into AdWords. With ValueTrack, you can insert tags into your destination URL’s. Then, when a URL is used in an ad, those tags are replaced with the appropriate parameters. There’s a long list of tags and possibilities, and some of them can solve this problem.

Solution #1: Substitute keyword level URL’s

Keyword level destination URL’s are sometimes used for tracking purposes, but don’t actually point to a different page than the ad. If that’s the case, you could just use the tags {keyword} and {matchtype} to identify your keywords through the ad URL:

http://www.itpie.co.uk/?adgroup=idk&keyword={keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

This solution isn’t very elegant as everyone, including competitors, can see those parameters. However, it would solve the problem as you wouldn’t need keyword level URL’s any longer.

Solution #2: Internal redirect

A more elegant solution would be to use the {device} tag. Depending on the device type this tag is replace with either “m” for mobile, “c” for computers, or “t” for tablets. So your keyword destination URL’s could look like this:

http://www.itpie.co.uk/redirect.php?tracking=sometracking&device={device}

The script (redirect.php) would then look at the device parameter and redirect visitors accordingly. There are different ways to handle this on the server side, of course.

Currently, this is the only way to separately account for tablets as well. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google removed the “t” for tablets somewhere down the road.

Solution #3: Keep using mobile keyword level URL’s

The third solution looks a little unclean, but it’s easy to do and it basically gives you back your mobile keyword level URL’s. There is a potential downside here: In this case, mobile includes tablets.

By using ValueTrack’s {ifmobile} tag you can insert anything into the URL if the click comes from a mobile device. The tag is used like this: {ifmobile:value}, with the “value” part being used if the click comes from a mobile device. So you could use a destination URL like this:

http://www.itpie.co.uk/{ifmobile:mobile-landing-page/}

The tag inserts the part after the colon into the URL, if the clicks comes from a mobile device. So a mobile user would go to

http://www.itpie.co.uk/mobile-landing-page/

while a desktop user would go to

http://www.itpie.co.uk/

Now there’s a little problem here: There’s no “else” part, meaning there’s no way to tell Google to send desktop users to a page like http://www.ppc-epiphany.com/desktop-landing-page/. However, there’s a nice little workaround. Just do it like this:

http://www.itpie.co.uk/{ifmobile:mobile-landing-page/#}desktop-landing-page/

Now for desktop users, the part in brackets is omitted, so they’ll get http://www.ppc-epiphany.com/desktop-landing-page/. But mobile users get this one:

http://www.itpie.co.uk/mobile-landing-page/#desktop-landing-page/

The hashmark (#) at the end of the actual mobile path makes everything that follows irrelevant for the web server. The URL above would just point the nonexistent anchor “desktop-landing-page/” within the mobile landing page. So the user would get to the correct mobile landing page – and that’s it!

Of course, this works for longer and more complex URL’s as well. If you consider using this, just play it through and test if everything is working correctly before rolling it out. The example URL’s here don’t work (I don’t have any landing pages on this blog), but just use any two URL’s from any website you like to try out that last example. I’ve tried this with AdWords and some actual URL’s and it worked perfectly.

I’d still check with the webmaster to make sure there are no side effects, but this should essentially give you the ability to use keyword level URL’s that work for mobile, too.

How to Drive Long Term Engagement with Readers

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Blogging and social media marketing are absolutely essential for any company – especially a small business. Small businesses start blogs or publishing content and are often able to attract a lot of initial buzz. But this initial enthusiasm wanes quickly because they are unable to convert first time visitors to their websites and blogs into loyal readers and struggle to drive engagement.

This can be frustrating for small businesses and their content marketers as they have no clue how they can re-create the original response or get back those readers again. Below are some tips that can help you convert casual visitors into loyal readers and drive engagement with readers over a long length of time.

Drive Engagement With Readers

Publish Content Regularly

Often times, small businesses publish very interesting articles on their websites and other content marketing channels, which get a lot of reader engagement. But they are unable to follow up these articles with more interesting content. When readers go back to them to find new content and are unable to find any, most of them do not return the next time.

You need to make sure that your company is publishing content on a regular basis so that readers always have something to read when they come back. Also, if you are regular, readers can anticipate when the next article or post is going to be published and return to your website on time. This ensures that you have a ready audience for future posts that you are publishing.

However, creating new content on a regular basis can be difficult for small businesses as they may not find new things to write about. In such cases, small business can re-purpose their existing content in new and exciting ways.

For example, you can convert your old articles into an ebook or a video series. You can also hire a content writing firm to manage content creation and publishing for you. They can come up with fresh content on a regular basis.

Engage Readers on Many Platforms

Small businesses are advised not to use only their blogs to attract and retain readers. Social media platforms are excellent for retaining and engaging with readers and customers.

Use your blog to get readers to connect with you on various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can remind your social media followers every time you publish a new blog post, allowing you to get your readers back to your blogs and websites.

Almost every social media platform offers social media plug-ins for a variety of blogging platforms and websites. By installing these plug-ins on your website, your readers can connect with your brand directly from your blog or website.

Always Respond to Comments

Many small businesses make the grave mistake of not replying to their readers’ comments on their blogs. This can make readers feel like their opinions are not being valued and the company is unwilling to listen to them.

Make sure to reply to comments on your blog posts as quickly as you can. You can get readers to come back to your blog if you enable notifications for comments so that they get an email when you reply. It also helps if you have a new blog post up when you reply to comments so that when the readers come back to check the comments, they will notice the new blog post and read it.

Sometimes comments can be spammy, silly or just plain negative. You can ignore or disable the spammy or silly ones but you must reply to the negative comments. Be as objective and diplomatic as possible and genuinely address the problems stated in the negative comments.

Develop a Writing Personality

This is where being consistent pays off. Polish your writing and grammar skills or make sure that experienced writers are writing for your brand. People love reading articles, even if they are on boring topics, if they are aware of the writer and have enjoyed his/her writing style before. The casual writing style and tone works best for blogs and social media platforms.

Think of the kind of blogs you enjoy and the brands and authors whose blogs you like following. This can help you figure out the tone and style that will work for your company blog.

15 Tips For A Conversion Friendly E-Commerce Website

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An e-commerce site needs to be conversion friendly. The site must attract visitors and convert them into paying customers. Improved conversions are a direct result of a site that offers a satisfying shopping experience. When designing e-commerce sites, you need to make sure your site has been designed from a target shopper’s point of view. Give them what they want and you have a profitable site, but create a site that doesn’t cater to their needs and you will have to say good bye to any chance of achieving a high conversion ratio.

Here are 15 tips that need to be kept in mind to create a conversion friendly e-commerce site:

1. Know your target audience

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Your target audience is the one that will buy products from your site. So, know what makes it tick. Remember, buying is an emotional decision, so get an idea about the kind of user emotions that will trigger a buying decision. Also get an inkling of their shopping behavior and the various qualities that they look for in an e-commerce site to make a buying decision. Understanding your target audience is crucial for e-commerce success, because your audience is going to make a decision to buy the products, based on the visuals and product information you have on offer. Therefore, you must be able to provide them with the information they are looking for. If you don’t, it will result in shopping cart abandonment.

2. Simple Navigation

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Prospective shoppers want a navigation that is very easy to understand and gets them from point A to point B on your site, with a minimum fuss. So give them a navigation that will allow them to browse your product portfolio quickly and conveniently.

3. High Resolution Product Images

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Product images are the single most important visual element on your e-commerce site. High resolution product images that showcase the products in all their glory are an absolute must. Shoppers want to know what they are getting, so give them what they want. Zoomable product images taken from different angles are also a great conversion booster.

4. Detailed and Engaging Product Info

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Think of an ad for a product that you see in newspapers or magazines, but with more info about the product; that’s how your product information should be. It’s another important element that triggers conversions. Great product copy is not just about the kind of information that you offer, but also the way you offer that information. It must be complete, interesting and engaging.

5. Call to Action Images

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Forget about call to action buttons (these are a part and parcel of every e-commerce site), what you need to use are great call to action images. These are images that have one defining quality about them – persuasion. These are images that persuade people to buy products from your site.

6. Product Videos

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Shoppers love an interactive website that offers the kind of interactive elements that serve some purpose, for e.g. product videos. Videos are the next best thing to touching or feeling a product, and what’s more they help you talk about the benefits of using a particular product. This is a subtle kind of marketing that adds to your efforts towards better conversions.

7. Shopping Cart Visibility at all Times

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Make sure that their shopping cart is visible to shoppers at all times, preferably at the top of the right hand corner of their screens. Another good idea would be to make sure that they get info about the products on their shopping cart via a drop down menu. Shoppers have a habit of checking the items ready for purchase and therefore want continuous access to their shopping cart. This is again something that boosts the conversion ratio of the e-commerce site.

8. Don’t Charge for Shipping, if Possible

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Here’s a question for you – Would you rather offer free shipping or a discount on products? A number of people choose the latter, thinking most shoppers love discounts and that will prop up the conversion rates, but you know what the truth is? Shipping charges are a real conversion killer. So, why not offer free shipping? Agreed, it doesn’t make sense to give free shipping for products that are priced at the lower end of the scale, so define a shopping amount, above which you will offer free shipping. Work out a business model that allows you to offer free shipping to boost conversions.

9. No Distractions Please, We are Shopping

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

I see plenty of e-commerce sites where there are product ads on the checkout page or links to the company’s blog or something else. Remember, shoppers don’t like to be distracted and might abandon the cart if they find certain elements interfering with their shopping experience. So, in your website’s checkout process, only offer the order information and nothing else.

10. Have a Section of Featured Products on the Landing Page

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

There are plenty of shoppers who will have no clear idea about what they are shopping for when they come to an e-commerce site. This is why featuring specific products on your landing page is always a good idea. This will get rid of confusion in their minds and help them focus on the products that they would like to buy. Another conversion booster!

11. Clearly Display Specials and Discounts

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

If you are offering discounts on products or running some specials, this information must be clearly visible on your site, preferably on your Home Page. You want your discount offerings to improve your conversion ratio, so make sure they grab the immediate attention of your target customers.

12. Show Contact Info

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Something as simple as mentioning your contact info on your e-commerce website can make it more conversion friendly. That’s because online shopping is all about trust. If customers trust your site, they will buy from it. One of the ways this trust can be established is by offering detailed contact information.

13. Multiple Payment Options

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Some shoppers might have doubts about sharing their credit card information on your site, which means they will abandon it before buying anything from it. So, make sure that you offer multiple payment options to ensure you give all your customers an opportunity to buy from your site.

14. Don’t Just offer Search, Offer Advanced Search

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Offering advanced search facility will help shoppers find their products easily and quickly. The Search bar is an important part of your e-commerce site navigation, and is especially important if you have a huge e-commerce site, a ’la Amazon or eBay. One of the ground rules of improving conversion rates of a site is to make the shopping experience simpler. Search is one way of doing this.

15. Keep it Simple

15 Tips for a Conversion Friendly Ecommerce Site

Avoid onsite complexities as much as you can. Make sure that you stick to a simple user flow that makes products and their information easily accessible to the user. No shopper is looking for a brilliantly crafted e-commerce site. They are only looking for a site that makes shopping a breeze.

End Words

Taking note of these fifteen tips will definitely help you build an e-commerce site that sets cash registers on fire. But, keep looking up new tips that will help you further improve the site’s “shoppability”. You would do well to remember that a successful e-commerce site is always a work in progress and you will need to keep tweaking it to make it more conversion friendly.

The Uses & Benefits Of Photoshop

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Photoshop is a large graphic design software program created by the Adobe company. It enables a novice photographer to touch up recent photos, and experienced graphic design professionals to create advertisements, logos and marketing pieces. Through a vast collection of filters, tools and palettes, Photoshop offers benefits to users of all skill levels.

Touch Ups

Photoshop offers the benefit of touching up photos that may be otherwise ruined by an errant speck of dust, an unwanted person or item in the background intruder, or a subject’s clothing stain. Tools such as the software’s “Clone” tool can be used to copy a matching area of the same picture and place it over-top of the unwanted area, creating a seamless image. For example, using the clone tool, a desired photo of a sunny sky that has an unwanted bird in the shot can be edited to remove the bird from the scene without the viewer seeing any discoloration or missing spots.

Colour Change

Photoshop gives even the most basic user the opportunity to create a colour palette of opportunity. Through some of Photoshop’s selection and color enhancement tools, a user may quickly change the color of a model’s eyes, switch the hue on a sweatshirt to include it in a catalog, or add a tie-dye pattern to a blanket. Photoshop also allows graphical alterations such as changing a color photo to black and white or sepia. Another option is to add spot colour, such as when a black-and-white photo features one or a few individual spots with bright bursts of color, calling attention to an item such as a flower, balloon or shoe.

Layers

Photoshop is one of the only graphics software programs that allows users to work in layers. Layers are a way of stacking designs, then removing or hiding them to see how your work looks. For example, on a free graphics program such as Microsoft Paint, if you draw a line on an image, it becomes flattened on top of it and you can’t move it or add to it. In Photoshop, you can add a layer to your image, draw on top of it, then make any changes required. Layers are similar to a flip book. Imagine your image as the last page of the flip book. Each page of the flip book places something on top of the image, and each page can be deleted, or further designed to enhance the image.

Our Adobe Photoshop training course will show you how to use this the industry standard for all kinds of image-related work. It allows you to create and edit images for both print and web. Photoshop itself gives the user complete control over all kinds of image manipulation, editing and special effects and can be used for exact calibration of images for all output methods.

Led by a highly experienced graphic designer, our hands-on courses mean that you will leave with practical experience as well as useful tips and tricks.

One-to-one or group bookings can be arranged on dates to suit you and customised to your specific requirements. To make the training as relevant as possible we will work on your Photoshop files where possible.

Benefits Of SEO For Small Businesses

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Small businesses have a lot to benefit from SEO and it is not an exaggeration to say that businesses that don’t practice SEO are in far worse situation than companies who invest in search engine optimisation.

10 Benefits of SEO for small businesses

Create a better and more user friendly website

For starters, SEO will help you create a better, faster and friendlier website for users. Despite the name, search engine optimisation is not only about search engines but the focus is on the user. When your users are happy, search engines are happy as well. Following good on-page SEO techniques improves the user experience and this creates a number of short term and long term benefits.

Find new customers and assist growth

If you think about it, one of the main reasons you have a website is to increase and differentiate your customer base. It is a fact that businesses that have a website grow twice as fast as businesses that don’t have a website.

SEO will help you gain better rankings in search engine result pages and this translates to more targeted visits and essentially to more customers.

Explore new markets

The web is definitely one of fastest growing markets in world economy but it is not the only one. A successful SEO campaign will help you find new markets and explore new economies. Social media platforms and mobile marketplaces can take your traffic levels to a whole new stage by boosting your SEO performance.

Achieve better conversion rates

An SEO optimised website is fast, easy to use and compatible with mobile and tablet devices. This also translates to better conversions i.e. visitors coming to your website are more likely to become customers, subscribers or loyal visitors.

Build brand awareness through better rankings

One of the hidden advantages of ranking in the top positions of the SERPs is brand awareness. Users are more likely to trust a brand when it appears in the first places when they search for a term rather than brands that don’t have a good web presence.

Small businesses that need to build brand awareness (either for local purposes or for expanding nationally) need to invest in SEO and gain top positions for the terms related to their business. This is not the 90’s anymore and search engines play a very important role in building or destroying a brand.

Build a dedicated fan base via newsletter

A good SEO approach means more traffic and a great way to build a dedicated fan base through RSS feeds and newsletters. These two services existed before social media and they are still very important sources of traffic. In fact, many successful bloggers claim that most of their money comes from their email lists and not from social media or other mediums.

So, even if you are working on your social media marketing it is necessary to make it easy for your users to subscribe to your feeds and newsletters. What happens in many cases is that websites do have a newsletter box, people enter their emails to subscribe but the website never sends a newsletter out.

Stay in-synch with latest developments

The search engine industry is one of the fastest changing industries in the world. Rules and practices change all the time and if you can stay in-synch with the latest developments then it’s for your benefit.

SEO is a continuous activity and if you hire a reliable digital marketing agency they will give you the necessary advice so you won’t miss any opportunities.

Bypass competition

Imagine two businesses in the same niche, selling similar products at similar prices. One of them has a search engine optimised website and the other one has a non-optimised web presence. Other things being equal, which company do you think is more successful? Which company will gain more customers from local SEO and which company is likely to grow faster?

Do not underestimate the power of search engines and don’t forget that if your competitors are doing SEO and social media marketing then you have to do it as well. If on the other hand they are not doing any of this stuff, then it’s your chance to differentiate and get a step ahead.

Open your business 24×7

A business that gets organic traffic is like it is open for 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. That’s the magic of the Internet and SEO. Invest time and money to get your website on top of the SERPs and gain new customers while your business is closed!

SEO is good for social media

A webpage with high rankings will also gain more social media exposure. The relationship between SEO and social media is by-directional. Social media popularity is good for SEO purposes and SEO brings more social media visibility. In simple words, searches are more likely to LIKE / Tweet / +1 a page when it is found in the first positions of the search engine results than a page that does not have good rankings.

How can you take advantage of all these benefits?

You need someone to design your digital marketing campaign. You need to consider money spend on SEO as an investment and not a cost. Remember that all the benefits of SEO explained above are not the result of a cost but they are the result of a careful investment.

Conclusion

SEO is not only important for businesses that compete online but it is a necessary investment for all companies. Having an optimised website is the absolute minimum these days and the money spend on SEO should not be considered a cost but an investment.

If you would like to know more about SEO then give us a call on 029  2070 6336 or visit our website.

7 Web Design Tips For Non-Web Designers

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Here are some general guidelines to ponder before asking your web designer to create or change something in your website design.

Two to three colours are enough

A clown doesn’t need to vomit rainbows onto a page for it to ‘pop’ (and don’t ever use this word unless you’re ordering a soda; it’s not helpful in design because it isn’t specific). Establish a couple brand colours. This will make your website feel like it has a consistent design language.

Two to three typefaces are enough

Just because millions of typefaces exist, it doesn’t mean your website should use all of them, or even a dozen of your favourites. Just like a good colour palette, your site will have a stronger visual brand and more visual consistent language if you use just a few. As an added bonus, your content is far easier to read or scan quickly if it uses consistent colours and fonts.

Five to eight navigation items are enough

This is how visitors get from one page to another. Fewer menu items mean quicker scanning and finding. The page naming also needs to make sense, especially to first-time visitors. You can always use things like drop-down menus or even section-specific sidebar menus if absolutely necessary. Try a first draft of your menu and check with your web designer to ensure it makes sense from their perspective.

White space is not just for minimalists or art projects

The space between each element or section on your website gives your visual design enough room to breathe. It separates ideas and helps draw attention to the most important elements. If things are squished together or there’s too much stuff on a page, it’s hard to differentiate each individual element and equally tough for visitors to choose what they should actually do. There’s elegance in simplicity, but more importantly, there are sound business reasons to focus on less. Too many options lead people to simply pick none of them (and probably to navigate away from your website in search of something clearer).

Minimalism can be bright, bold and colourful. It doesn’t have to be stark white with muted, subtle tones. An effective minimal website could have a bright pink background (one colour, not 10) with white text in just two sizes (one for headings, one for paragraphs) that draw visitors to either read a blog entry or buy a product. This website would be very noticeable, but still have the minimal focus that encourages people to do just one or two things.

So before you ask your web designer to tighten up spacing or add more fonts, colours, patterns, anything—think about your audience. Will they be more likely to take action because you’ve used lots of fonts, or because your site is clear and focused?

People scroll… seriously, they scroll

Scientifically proven by Internet scientists (if they existed). Every usability study (these actually exist) has shown that people know what a scroll bar is and will in fact use it (even on mobile devices). The caveat is that they need a reason to scroll.

‘The fold’ is a mythical Internet ideal that was wrongly ported over from the print world (where things like newspapers actually ‘fold’). The fold area (i.e. the amount of a website shown without scrolling) is different on every screen, browser and operating system. It’s also very different on a mobile device or a tablet than on a huge desktop monitor.

Obviously, place important information higher up in the design. But focus more on making your content and design scroll-worthy. You have my promise (as a fake Internet scientist) that if you do, people will scroll to keep reading.

Standards exist for a reason

Your visitors shouldn’t have to learn your website before they can use it. They won’t, and instead, they’ll just leave. While your style, brand and voice need to be creative, don’t ever sacrifice understanding. Use clear language and visuals so they make sense to everyone. Keep items that appear on every page (like the logo and navigation) in the same place on each page so they’re easier to find. Label pages and sections with words that make sense.

It’s more important that visitors know how to do something than be wowed with your creative naming.

Top 20 Web Design & Development Trends This Year – Part 2

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11. Storytelling and personality

Bluegg studio manager Rob Mills reckons 2013 has seen a “further step in the direction of storytelling and personality on the web, achieved through a greater focus on content and an increase in the use of illustration”. He says content strategy has always been important, but we’ve nonetheless of late seen a renewed focus on content. “Agencies and individuals have therefore been having to work better with clients on content-creation and management, which can only be a positive thing for user experiences.”

12. Making a profit

We’re used to seeing venture capitalists fling money at half-baked ideas, and major players open bulging wallets to pay absurd money for existing services (witness Facebook’s $1billion purchase of Instagram). Developer, speaker and writer Rachel Andrew hopes the rest of this year year will see this change. “From a business perspective, I’m hoping 2013 will see more celebration of profitable businesses,” she says, “rather than glorifying successful funding rounds.”

13. Tablet thinking goes beyond the iPad

Publication designer Roger Black says publishers have continued to “push out native iOS apps” as they realised “the iPad is not the magic pony they’d been looking for”. Android and Microsoft tablet sales, combined with apps not being linkable outside of each platform, will result in more “impressive, hand-built responsive HTML apps that play everywhere”. However, Black adds iOS wrappers for responsive publication templates will “allow publishers to have their app and eat it too, enabling developers to stick to new OS revisions and publishers to stick to content.”

Mobile platform strategist Peter-Paul Koch also thinks we should watch out for Tizen: “It’s an HTML5-based mobile OS created by Samsung and Intel, and initial devices are expected in Q2 2013. If Samsung pushes Tizen devices, you’ll know it’s going to be a big deal.” On Firefox OS, Koch is less optimistic: “It will fail, because they can’t produce cheap enough phones that compete with cheap Androids and run a decent browser.”

The iPad—no longer the apple of publishing’s eye in 2013?

The iPad – no longer the apple of publishing’s eye in 2013?

14. The app backlash

Apps remain big business, but some publishers continue to edge to HTML5. Redweb head of innovation David Burton reckons a larger backlash is brewing: “The gold rush is over, and there’s unrest in that apps aren’t all they promised to be. We now live in a just-in-time culture, where Google can answer anything at the drop of a hat, and we no longer need to know the answers. The app model works the old way. Do we need apps for every brand we interact with? Will we even have iPhones in five years’ time? Who knows? But one thing is certain – the internet will remain, and the clever money is on making web apps that work across all platforms, present and future.”

15. A mobile design explosion

Designer/developer Dan Eden says that with “more companies focusing web efforts on mobile,” designers feel the pressure to brush up on the subject, to the point that, “designing for desktop is considered legacy support”. Rowley agrees projects have increasingly “focused on mobile-first regarding design, form, usability and functionality”, and Chris Lake, Econsultancy director of product development, explained this has had an impact on interaction, with web designers exploring natural user interface design (fingers, not cursors) and utilising gestures.

16. Experimental and iterative design

Product designer Faruk Ateş says so far we’ve seen “a rise of new approaches to design and development”. Rem units, CSS grids support, pre-processors, and a better, wider understanding of RWD will “lead to more people exploring different ways to get the job done, and result in more experimental approaches than we’ve seen so far in real-world situations”. A big shift, reckons Burton, will be more live iteration: “We’re increasingly comfortable using products that aren’t finished. It’s become acceptable to launch a work-in-progress, which is faster to market and simpler to build – and then improve it, add features, and keep people’s attention. It’s a model that works well, especially during recession. As we head into 2013, this beta model of releasing and publicly tweaking could become increasingly prevalent.“

17. Better page layout

Recent years have seen a lot of focus on technology, but many designers see a swing towards design in 2013. Eden is looking forward to typography improvements and was “incredibly excited to hear about Monotype’s acquisition of Typecast and Typekit’s ongoing negotiations with Linotype”. Meyer points at CSS “finally getting strong layout mechanisms it’s lacked since its inception”, through the likes of Flexible Box Layout and Grid Layout. And Lake reckons there’ll be a trend towards ‘nano design’: “The detail matters, and can be the difference between a good experience and a great experience.” Garrett adds we’ll also see a “trend towards not looking CMS-like”, through clients demanding a site run a specific CMS but that it not look like other sites using the system.

Online type is changing fast, providing more options for designers

Online type is changing fast, providing more options for designers

18. Scalable web design

According to Nick Pettit, teaching team lead at Treehouse, scalable web design will be big later this year: “SWD is a methodology for designing websites capable of being displayed on screens with both low and high pixel densities. Like RWD, it’s a collection of ideas, techniques, and web standards.” The SWD approach ditches rasters for vectors, utilising SVGs “capable of scaling in size without a loss in detail or sharpness”, and Pettit reckons it was only IE’s lack of SVG support holding designers back; now SWD and SVG are viable.

19. Behaviour-driven discoverability

With so much information now being produced, digital technology strategist James Gardner says this current year has seen a trend towards dealing with discoverability: “Current solutions are clunky and inaccurate, and rely on plenty of input from the user. New solutions will be behaviour-driven and built on more sensitive algorithms working with diverse data sets, such as location and social.” This, he believes, will take the onus off of search and be more proactive in providing related information: “I see this as a race between established companies – Google and Facebook – and startups who focus on niche discovery.”

20. Rise of the hybrid designer

Budd thinks the switch to RWD has brought more collaboration in agency teams: “We’ve seen fewer designs being thrown over the fence to developers, and a rise in cross-functional pairing.” But Mist believes we’ll in reality see more hybrid designers emerge: “Take a brief that requires a responsive design. Give it to a designer who knows how to code and then to one who doesn’t. You’ll get a more effective, fluently designed site from the former. Throw in frameworks, new standards, and massive improvements in capabilities for designing in-browser and the latter will fall further behind. Those who already code have an astonishing playground to create with. Those who don’t need to learn – fast.”

Top 20 Web Design & Development Trends This Year – Part 1

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Check out these web design and development trends you should be mindful of over the rest of the year.

It was suggested that 2012 would be a year of ongoing economic hardship and attempted internet censorship, and web design and development would also be turbulent. Such predictions proved accurate, with the web industry battling censorship, native apps, and fragmented, rapidly evolving technology.

2013 hasn’t been any quieter. Industry figures predict a year of design shifts, evolving device usage, and web consumption adjustments, all of which will impact on designers and developers.

All these things and more are explored in these 20 must-know web design and development trends for 2013…

1. Baked-in responsive web design

RWD took hold in 2012, but Flash games developer Iain Lobb reckons it’ll go mainstream in 2013. “If you’re designing a website and not thinking about the user experience on mobile and tablets, you’re going to disappoint a lot of users,” he warns. Designer Tom Muller thinks big brands getting on board will lead to agencies “increasingly using responsive design as a major selling point, persuading clients to future-proof digital marketing communications”. When doing so, Clearleft founder Andy Budd believes we’ll see an end to retrofitting RWD into existing products: “Instead, RWD will be a key element for a company’s mobile strategy, baked in from the start.” Because of this, Budd predicts standalone mobile-optimised sites and native apps will go into decline: “This will reduce the number of mobile apps that are website clones, and force companies to design unique mobile experiences targeted towards specific customers and behaviours.”

As major sites get RWD overhauls, clients will need less convincing

As major sites get RWD overhauls, clients will need less convincing

2. Multi-device design

Designer Laura Kalbag says 2013 has seen “the abandoning of device-specific web design”. She explains that as more devices arrive with varied viewports, “pixel precision and Apple-specific breakpoints will die out, the idea of control will be relinquished, and web design will be more about system design than static mockups”. Developer Remy Sharp agrees: “It’s sunk in that we need to test on mobile, but with IE arriving on Xbox, Jason Grigsby’s TV browsers talk, and Anna Debenham’s excellent state of games browsers, it broadens our deployment targets even further and challenges designers and developers to work in ever more diverse landscapes.” As consultant and author Eric Meyer says, it’s “not just desktop vs mobile any more”, but “desktop and mobile and couch and TV and more”.

3. Flash shifts again

“Last year, I said Flash was here to stay, especially for creating rich, immersive online content in the entertainment sector,” admits Muller, “but the unstoppable rise of tablets and the uptake of standards means Flash is being pushed to the side in favour of fast(er) loading HTML-only sites that deliver future-proof yet equally rich experiences.” However, Lobb notes Flash isn’t quite done: “It still has strongholds: specialist video players, banner-ads, Facebook modules, and games. In web games, some predict HTML5 will take over, but on the desktop I see little evidence for that. Until Internet Explorer adds WebGL support, Flash will remain the go-to technology for web 3D.”

4. Leaner, performance-focused websites

During 2012, the average site size crept over a megabyte, which designer/developer Mat Marquis describes as “pretty gross”, but he reckons there’s a trend towards “leaner, faster, more efficient websites” – and hopes it sticks. He adds: “Loosing a gigantic website onto the web isn’t much different from building a site that requires browser ‘X’: it’s putting the onus on users, for our own sakes.”

It’s a sentiment that chimes with many. Chris Mills of Opera/W3C thinks 2013 has seen “more responsible usage of libraries”; he reckons “people will become sensitive to this as they work on more projects that require good support for TV and mobile”. Designer and writer Stephanie Rieger reckons that although people now know “web design isn’t print,” they’ve “forgotten it’s actually software, and performance is therefore a critical UX factor”.

5. Device and design resource-pooling

We’re familiar with people pooling code, but 2013 has seen sharing widen. Instead of studios each maintaining dozens of devices for testing, we’ve seen community device labs. Open source developers often spend so much time working on the technical side of things that the visual side can end up being neglected. But this past year has seen great work from the W3C’s Responsive Images Community Group, which now has a well-designed home on the web that strengthens its image as well as its mission.”

Code is often open, but not design. Sites like RICG show this doesn’t have to be

Code is often open, but not design. Sites like RICG show this doesn’t have to be

6. Modular design

More people are taking advantage of design process building blocks. Through RWD, grid-based, modular GUI design is now stronger than ever. Mo Morgan, head of technology at Kitcatt Nohr Digitas, notes that “Amazon Web Services and others prove infrastructure and platforms can be commoditised”, and “the plethora of available frameworks show it’s no longer necessary for developers to keep reinventing the wheel”. Such building blocks remove pain and expense, he explains, “allowing the masses to make things that would have previously been too arduous or expensive”. Designer/developer Paul Mist says such changes “speed up workflows, so we can spend more time making the web beautiful”, but Morgan worries there’s a possibility 2013 will see people “lose touch with core technologies that underpin all of these things, to the point where if the commoditised offering can’t meet a specific requirement, it effectively can’t be done”.

7. Standards involvement

More developers are taking an active role in the web standards process. Today, you see ‘developer preference’ cited in a mailing list thread, but rarely do full-time web developers chime in with opinions. There’s a disconnect, and that impacts both groups negatively – standards bodies get blamed for standardising features developers dislike or don’t understand intuitively, and developers get blamed for ignoring features or using them incorrectly.

8. Industry education

2012 was a good year for web education, and this trend has continued: Sharp stated “I’m talking about educating kids, the ‘yoof’ of today.” He admits the government may not be pushing as hard as the industry would like, but says organisations are filling the gap: “Efforts like Code Club are starting to really land, and I’m seeing an increase in events aimed at teens and youngsters, in web programming and hacking.”

9. New tools for web design and management

With the explosion in RWD, developer Sally Jenkinson believes 2013 is the the year processes and tools evolve. “We’ve seen a move towards designing in the browser, but vendors like Adobe aiming to introduce offerings such as Edge Reflow will impact on existing wireframe and design methodologies.” She thinks lines between mockups and prototypes will blur, and static representations will no longer “accurately reflect the variety of permutations in terms of device renderings”. Redweb head of development Wayne Rowley adds that improved mobile tools are also likely: “CMS vendors are already seeing the need to provide mobile support when creating and managing content, and the next step is to optimise CMS software interfaces, empowering content editors with true flexibility and location-independent content management capabilities”.

Adobe’s new Edge suite shifts web design tools from their print-oriented predecessors

Adobe’s new Edge suite shifts web design tools from their print-oriented predecessors

10. More video

Internet speeds, including for mobile devices, are rising. People with subscriptions to Adobe Creative Suite have suddenly found themselves with extra ‘free’ software, and are playing around with video packages and experimenting with After Effects. Some video trends will perhaps be less welcome, but we’ll see ongoing heavy use of the DSLR look – narrow depth of field and shake – and slow motion, because more cameras are incorporating that.