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Web Design - Simple Mistakes and Golden Rules

Good Web DesignGood Web DesignGood web design is something that can be achieved relatively easily by sticking to a small set of guiding principles and avoiding some very common mistakes.

Truly excellent web design skills are born out of years of experience, dedication, and plenty of hard-learned mistakes. Fortunately, being truly excellent at web design is not a pre-requisite for building a fantastic website, and the lessons learned from those mistakes can be passed on without the hardship.

This article contains some of the principles which I have learned the hard way, and the easy way. Each principle is fairly obvious, but so many designers ignore them for one reason or another, and the consequence is a hard-to-use, poor looking site that is difficult to manage, and fails to make the top 1000 in Google. If your website adheres to the principles below, it will almost certainly be much healthier, and you, and your visitors will reap the benefits.

1. Keep Everything Obvious - Don't Make Me Think

The book entitled Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug, is one of the best selling books on the subject of web design and usability. Personally, I think thinking is a good thing, but at the same time, I don't want to be struggling to figure out how to submit a web form!

Visitors to a website expect certain conventions, breaking these is a great way of losing visitors. People expect to find the navigation at the top of a page, or on the left hand side. Logos are mostly found on the top left. Much research has been conducted into how people view and use web pages. The good news is that you do not need to know all of this; instead, look at how larger companies, such as eBay, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft structure their pages, and the language they use, then emulate them.

website colourswebsite colours2. Limit Colours

A website using too many colours at a time can be overwhelming to many users, and can make a website look cheap and tacky. Any users with colour blindness, or contrast perception difficulties, may even be unable to use the site.

Limiting a palette to 2 or 3 colours, will nearly always lead to a slicker looking design, and has the added bonus of simplifying your design choices, reducing design time.

Software like Color Wheel Pro, can greatly simplify the creation of a pallet, by showing which colours sit well together. If you really do not have the eye for design, then software like this provides the perfect way of escaping monotone, or badly combined colour schemes.

If your site uses blue and yellow together, or red and green, then it may present problems to anyone suffering with colour blindness. Vischeck.com provide free software that can simulate different types of colour blindness.

Web fontsWeb Fonts3. Be Careful With Fonts

The set of fonts available to all visitors of a website is relatively limited. Add to that the possibility of a user having a visual impairment, then the options become even smaller. It is advisable to stick to fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Courier, Times, Geneva and Georgia. They may not be very interesting but your content should be more interesting than your font, and if it can't be read, what is the point of having a site?

Black text on a white background, is far easier for the majority of people to read, than white text on a black background. If you have large amounts of text, then a white or pale background is far more user friendly. Always ensure that there is a good contrast between any text and its background. Blue text on a blue background is okay, as long as the difference in shade is significant.

Verdana is often cited as being the easiest to read on the screen. Georgia is probably the best option for a serif font.

web design developmentWeb Design and Development4. Plan for Change

If you fix the height of your page to 600 pixels, will you still be able to add additional menu items, without completely redesigning your page?

The ability to add or remove content from a website is fundamental to the ongoing success of it. Having to rewrite the entire web page, or website, each time you want to make a small change, is a sure fire way to kill your interest in your own site, and will negatively impact your overall design and usability.

Getting a good idea of how your website is likely to grow, will clarify how best to structure your layout. For example, a horizontal navigation is often more restrictive than a side navigation, unless you use drop down menus; if your navigation is likely to grow, and you hate drop down menus, then your design choice has been 99% made for you!

Understanding how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), avoiding unconventional layouts, and complicated backgrounds, will all help enormously.

5. Be Consistent

Again, don't make your visitors think! About how to use your site, at least. If your navigation is at the top on your homepage, it should be at the top on all other pages too. If your links are coloured red, ensure the the same convention is used on all sections.

By using CSS correctly, you can make most of this happen automatically, leaving you free to concentrate on the content.

holiday picturesNon Relevant Holiday Pictures6. Keep it Relevant

A picture is better than a thousand words, but if the picture you took on holiday is not relevant to your Used Car Sales website, then you should really replace it with something which reflects the content or mood of the page; a photo of a car perhaps!

If you can take something off of your web page without it adversely affecting the message, appearance or legality of your website, you should do it without hesitation.

Avoid the need to add images, Flash animations or adverts, just because you have space. This wastes bandwidth, and obscures the intentions of your website. If you absolutely must fill the space, then exercise your imagination to find something as relevant as possible.

Keeping your content focused will ultimately help your search-engine rankings

cascading style sheetsCSS-Cascading Style Sheets7. Become a CSS Expert

Cascading Style Sheets should be any web designer's best friend. CSS makes it possible to separate the appearance, and layout of your page, from the content. This has huge benefits when it comes to updating and maintaining your site, making your site accessible, and making your site easy for search engines to read.

CSS at a first glance is very straightforward but it is definitely worth investing in one, or more books. Two great books are: CSS the Missing Manual by David McFarland and Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm.

8. Avoid Complexity

Using standard layouts for your web page will save you development time, and make your site easier to use. Pushing the boundaries nearly always leads to quirky behaviour, cross-browser problems, confused site visitors, and maintenance headaches. Unless you really do like a challenge, then avoid complexity wherever possible.

Many standard layouts are freely available online with much of the boring, repetitive work already done for you.

The principles above all border on common sense, and are well known to most people, yet so many sites continue to deviate away from them, and suffer as a consequence. Following these principles will help you keep away from trouble, although it still doesn't guarantee it!

Don’t delay, give Stanley a call today on 081-525-1727 to discuss your requirements or send him an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.' to request a free quotation

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Your Company's Web Site – Quality Approach

team plannning a websiteTeam Planning a WebsiteThis is the second segment of a three-part series that addresses the guidelines on how to plan, present and develop your company’s website. In part one; we explored the importance of having a professional website that represents your company online. In part two; we will identify the quality approach of planning your company’s website.

Designing and developing a quality website. When you hire a team to create or redesign your company’s website, keep in mind that the basic concepts of quality also apply. They are:

Continuous Improvement

Leave space to grow, and make what is good now, even better. Your company will improve through the years, and so should your website, but this does not mean you need a new design every year! Leave room for improvement; build a quality website that can be easily updated to reflect the changes in your company.

Value of Quality

A well-designed and developed website does not cost; it pays! This is an investment that will bring you return in the form of satisfied clients. On the other hand, the cost of a poorly developed website can be a price that most companies pay for unknowingly – that is the price of non-quality. If your company’s website reflects the high standards of your company, it will bring you more clients; however, if your company’s website does not mirror the image you are trying to build, it will drive visitors and potential clients away.

How to Build an Engaged Audience for Your WebsiteBuild an Engaged Audience for Your WebsiteVisitor Satisfaction

Nothing is worse than getting lost within in a poor quality website, or being on a site and unable to find the information you need. Or when text is difficult to read because of site colour combinations. Have you ever been frustrated after clicking on a link and finding that the page no longer exists?

These and other website issues reflect on your company’s image. If a website is not well built, it sends the message that your company is not well structured; if your website has dead ends, it suggests that your company is not well managed.

Raise the bar – provide a well-structured and well managed, quality website, and exceed your client’s expectations.

Problem Solving

A quality website must anticipate the needs of the visitor. Since a company representative is unavailable to deal with any prospective problems that may occur while a visitor is browsing your site, plan ahead and crosscheck all possible scenarios. Let’s translate this into Quality terms:

1. Define the problem: Make a list of potential problems users may experience when browsing your website. This will maximize the solutions and keep a quality focus.

2. Generate alternative solutions: Once potential problems have been identified, make a list of possible solutions that deal with each problem. Implement this procedure to ensure that your visitors have an enjoyable visit to your site.

find a solutionFind a Solution3. Evaluate and select alternatives: Choose a solution that is right for your website, to ensure that your target audience will know what to expect, should a problem arise, and how to use the feature you provided. It is unhelpful if the solutions you provide are causing a visitor more problems. Example: Your Company manufactures hardware and a website visitor would like a copy of your catalogue; you provide an online form for visitors to complete in order to receive the catalogue in the mail. Sufficient? Not really. It may take a week for that catalogue to reach your prospective client. Consider providing visitors with a version of the catalogue online that can either be printed or downloaded as a PDF.

4. Implement and follow up on the solution: Simply adding solutions will not fix the problem; you must ensure that each solution works. For example, if you request an online form to be completed in order to download the above-mentioned PDF catalogue, how can you be certain people are actually submitting the form? Are they finding it easy to complete? Are they hitting the “Submit” button and downloading the catalogue in PDF format? This is where “follow up” becomes important. But how can a company follow up if website visitors never submitted the form that would have allowed for an easy follow up in the first place? You (or your webmaster or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant) should monitor the stats of your website and compare how many visitors your form page had, against the visitors your PDF catalogue page had. If you have 70% less visitors on your PDF catalogue page than on your form page, this would suggest a problem that has not been thoroughly solved.

planning a website designPlanning a Website DesignPlanning for the Future

Plan your website to grow with your company. When a facility is built to house a company for 10 years, plans include a good-sized parking lot, ideal kitchen facilities, more than one washroom, several plugs for countless electronic devices, etc. The same rings true for your website– it should be built to evolve. As products and services develop, or contact information changes, your website changes too. Build to grow!

Quality Website -- Quality Assurance and Quality Control

A website design company should ensure that a website will be built to the complete satisfaction of the client (you), and be customized to that client’s needs. Make sure your website is functional and user friendly, and that usability testing takes place. Usability testing is a form of website quality control, and it ensures that your site is visible by different types of browsers and that visitors will not get lost.

properly designed for all appsProperly Designed for All AppsSupplier Quality

Finally, a website design company must provide good service and a custom product that matches all your needs. This does not have to cost a fortune, nor does the company requesting a new or redesigned website need to be a large one. Ask questions before committing to a design team; make sure they understand your needs. Check their portfolio and references. Nothing speaks louder than current clients who are satisfied with the results of their new website.

Summary: Planning a quality website and seeking the company that will undertake its creation, is a major step in promoting your company, and the products and services you offer. The same care you take in planning the growth of your company, and the quality provided by the products and/or services you offer should be transmitted in a professional, well-planned website. List your priorities. Search for a good design company. Discuss your company needs, products and services. Plan for the future.

Don’t delay, give Stanley a call today on 081-525-1727 to discuss your requirements or send him an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.' to request a free quotation.

Contact us for a free quotation, or more information

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How To Survive

coronaThe coronavirus pandemic has hit every individual around the world. All over businesses are being forced to shut down and close, and people are losing their only source of income.

If you are confused about what to do, or how to handle your business, then stop and read, and hopefully you will be able to understand how you can save your business in these trying times.

Firstly, you need a way to keep your customers updated about your business and availability. Contact your customers and keep them updated regularly.

A great option is to have a website with an online shopping cart. People do not need to leave their homes to go shopping anymore. An online shopping cart gives them the ability to still buy what is needed and have it delivered to their homes.

This causes less stress, and provides you with the added benefit of keeping your business going, which is what we are all looking for in this time.

A good website and shopping cart takes care of all aspects of online shopping, from ordering to payment and delivery, without anyone having to leave the safety of their homes.

online shppingPeople are shutting down their businesses, which is disastrous and unnecessary. Save your business today, contact us to discuss your requirements and let us design you an online business you can be proud of.

Don’t lose out.

People are online more today than before, so your presence must be visible so that people do not forget about you. Good marketing is priceless for your business, and StormBiz can and will do all your marketing for you

Do what is best for your business to survive through this pandemic, and beyond.

Don’t delay, give Stanley a call today on 081-525-1727 to discuss your requirements or send him an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.' to request a free quotation.

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Why CSS Is Good For Your Web Site

css style sheetsCSS Style SheetsCascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used within the HTML behind your Web site as a way of controlling how each page is laid out and what elements on it look like. For instance, you can use CSS to make headings in your copy a standard size across the whole of your site.

CSS has been around for several years and is supported by all the major browsers available today, including Internet Explorer for the PC and Mac, Firefox, Safari and Opera.

Using CSS to control your Web site will give you several benefits:

Makes your Web pages snappier

By using CSS and writing your HTML code to match standards like 'XHTML Transitional' or 'XHTML Strict' you can decrease the 'render time' of your pages. This is the time it takes between downloading the page and actually showing it on screen to your Web site visitor.

When using tables for layout - the traditional alternative to using CSS - and 'font' tags to control how the text on the page looks, the browsers have a lot more work to do before they show the page. Using CSS and the proper DocType for the pages means the browser knows what to expect from the code and can display it much more quickly.

In practice, converting to a standards based CSS layout on one client's Web site reduced the time it took the page to display by almost a quarter of a second. Although this is a very small amount of time, it is more than enough to make a Web site feel much more snappy and responsive, helping it give a good impression to your potential customers.

red nose dayRed Nose DayMakes your Web site quicker to update

As well as making your pages display quicker, CSS makes it easier to make global updates to your Web site. Say you're having a minor change in corporate image and want all your page headings changed from blue to green. With CSS controlling how your headings look, that means changing the colour in one file and the whole site shows the change - a two minute job rather than having to edit every page on the site.

This flexibility gives you the opportunity to do more with your Web site. Want to show your support for Red Nose Day? Again, one file change can put a little red nose next to all of your headers, turn the text red and even make them display in a silly typeface. Turning them back to normal for the next day is, once again, a single file change.

Good for Search Engine Optimisation

Because using CSS removes lots of HTML from your pages as layout and the look of text is controlled through the CSS file, it makes your textual content much more prominent within your HTML. This means the search engine spiders can easily find your textual content, and that your content is generally displayed in one block, rather than being split up into less readable chunks by HTML just to fit it in to your design.

Using 'semantically correct XHTML' - ie heading tags around the headings and sub-headings in your copy, and bold or strong tags around content you wish to highlight - tells the search engines those words are the most important on the page. This helps give the page a boost for searches which match the words which are marked as more important in this way.

disability awarenessDisability AwarenessHelps in passing the Disability Discrimination Act

Using good CSS and XHTML makes it easy for people with disabilities to change your pages the way they may need to for easy reading. This may be through increasing or decreasing the font size, or having it read to them through a screen reader. The clean page coding that goes along with using CSS means screen readers can easily navigate through your page and find the content, giving a good experience to visually impaired users.

Using CSS and XHTML also helps you comply with the UK Disability Discrimination Act rules for accessible Web sites. This is a valuable side-effect of using this kind of coding and takes no extra development time to be compliant.

Helps browsing from different devices

As well as helping screen readers, using CSS means alternative devices like mobile phones and PDAs can show your content effectively and easily. Although the current market in the West for browsing the Web through mobiles is small, it is growing and by using CSS you can create a Web site which is easily viewable on these devices with little extra effort,. So as more people use them it will be simple to convert your site to work with current or future devices..

cross browser testingCross Browser TestingDownsides

Currently, Web browsers treat CSS slightly differently, so when your Web site is created you may need slightly more cross-browser testing, and you will need to find a Web designer who understands how to build a site in CSS correctly. Most professional designers and developers are now seeing the benefits of creating standards based CSS sites, but it is worth ensuring that anyone you hire to make your Web site does know CSS before starting a project.

But the downsides are small when compared to the immediate and ongoing benefits of a CSS-based Web site

Please contact us today to request a free quotation

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Why Your Organisation Needs A Website

customer buying onlineCustomer Buying OnlineIn this age of electronic communication, more and more consumers are turning to the internet to purchase products or services in the comfort and convenience of their own homes. Research suggests that there are well over 500 million people who access the internet world wide, and that 70% of consumers who browsed online in the UK alone, went on to make a purchase. As technology progresses, consumers feel more reassured that online shopping is safe.

Does your competitor have one?

As markets are constantly changing, keeping an eye on your competitors gives you an insight into industry specific market trends, and can show you any offers they may be promoting. If your competitor has a website, so should you. If you don’t, they could be taking potential business away from you.

24/7 Shopping

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your shop open all the time, without having to pay extra staff wages. Not all businesses can stay open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An online presence means you can take orders and enquiries, even when you sleep. Online credit card transactions mean you can get paid too.

International Markets

global internet usersGlobal Internet UsersWith your website up and running,your products or services can be accessed by anyone using an internet ready computer, from all over the globe, any time day or night. It’s like having a shop or office in every town, in every country, all over the world.

Email – Fast and Efficient

There is no need to wait for the postman for that important document you have been waiting for, and no more lost mail. Email can often be delivered in less than 15 seconds, anywhere in the world.

Feedback

Knowing what your customers really want, or what they are thinking about your company, is very important information. By including feedback forms and surveys on your website, you can gather valuable information, which in turn could improve your organisation.

Interaction with your customers

Keeping your customers up to date with company news, special offers, polls and forums, can keep existing customers returning to your website and using your products.

people want online shoppingPeople Want Online ShoppingCompany information online

There is no need to be constantly repeating all the products or services that your company offers, and giving directions to your shop or office to people who call. Your website can hold all this information, including mission statements, terms and conditions, office locations and phone numbers, maps, product prices and more, freeing up time to focus on your business affairs.

websiteWebsiteCustomers Expect Websites

The internet is the fastest growing source of information, growing bigger and stronger every day. Without a website your business runs the risk of never being found by potential customers. Also, a business without a website can seem to be less successful than a business that has an online presence.

The internet is a form of media that attracts more and more people everyday. As competition between website designers and web hosting company’s increases, and prices become more competitive, it makes sense to market your organization online. Don’t lose out on all that potential business.

For more information, or a free quotation, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

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