Mobile Web Design Tips for 2013

This is definitely the year for mobile website optimization. With the newest gadgets like the Lumia, Note II and a whole lot more to come, it’s important to consider how your website will look on a mobile screen. As recently reported, about 25% of clicks come from mobile devices! Here are some mobile web design tips to take with you this year:

1) Make everything big – Text, photos, buttons, navigation, calls to action, white space, and more. This is certainly a good year to think big when it comes to your mobile website. Big is better than small and it’s certainly almost always true for a smaller screen, so don’t be shy about it.

2) Prioritize content – Your mobile site can’t possibly have everything that the desktop version has. Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr will serve as good practice for your content curation skills – this is where you’ll need to pick and choose the best content and arrange them in a way that’s pleasing to the eyes (as well as thumbs).

3) Follow typography trends – Pictures are great but if they’re too big or there are too many, it could slow your mobile website down… and that doesn’t include spotty cell phone coverage that’s thrown into the mix. Designers are gravitating towards using customized and stylized type. Who knew you could be so creative with just letters? Check out some trends here.

4) Utilize responsive web design – Wouldn’t it be great to have a flexible site that can shrink and grow depending on the device? When using the responsive web design approach, you don’t have to worry about making different versions of a site for specific devices.

5) Test for different screen sizes – If you’re not ready or able to take the responsive web design approach, testing your mobile website is crucial. There is no longer a “standard” size. Check out mobile device emulators like iPad Peek,  MobiReady, and ScreenFly.

Website Audit: 7 Factors to Look Out For in 2013

Tomorrow marks the first day of December but it’s not too early to audit your website for the new year. It’s been a tumultuous year for search but all aspects of online marketing have been affected. As cliche as it is to talk about the changing world of the interwebs, 2012 really showed SEOs how much the landscape can change and that we need to be quick on our feet in order to survive.

Although there are many, many more, here are 7 things to look out for when analyzing your website’s effectiveness. Be sure to share your ideas with us too!

seo-2013

1) Keyword Usage: In most cases, the best advice is to cut back on using keyword rich anchor text, diversify phrases and use more branded terms.

Long gone are the days where you need a exact match domain in order to rank well for a certain term. Not only do the incredibly long, hyphenated URLs look spammy but Google has removed the benefit that they have long received in order to level the playing field for everyone.

Cutting back on linking exact match anchor text isn’t enough, as it’s important to also check pages for high keyword density. Even if you’re selling something specific like red tube socks, it isn’t necessary to see that phrase (or very similar) 100 times on one page. This also means cutting back on aggressive keyword use in meta elements, alternative text and image titles.

2) Number of Links: The less number of links you have on a page, the better. Around 100 is the goal but even less will be even better. When we talk about number of links on a page, we don’t just mean links in the content. Think about the links in your side navigation, drop down menus and links in the footer. It’s unnecessary for most of these to be on EVERY page of your site and will only slow it down. This is where utilizing an SEO-friendly content management system is helpful because you can control the links from one location and initiate site wide changes.

3) Navigation: Help users find what they’re looking for. But this doesn’t mean showing them all the content on your site at once! Make sure your pages are using appropriate breadcrumbs and even add jump-to links that will show up in search snippets.

4) Social Media Integration: Google, Facebook, Twitter are a must. But are they really? If no one is Tweeting, why not use LinkedIn shares? If no one is Liking, what about Google +? More buttons = more load time = more frustrated visitors, so choose the ones that are relevant to your business. It’s amazing to see that some sites are riddled with every social media share button possible including ones that might not be extremely mainstream/important such as Digg and Reddit.

5) Mobile Website: Have you thought about how failing to optimize for mobile phones and tablets could drive users away from your business? Check out our previous post: Elements of Effective Mobile Website Design. Keep things simple and take the rule of thumb literally: people don’t want to swipe multiple times to find what they’re looking for!

6) Utilization of Local: Local businesses need to make their contact information easy to find. Many contact pages still don’t have maps to their location or just have a toll-free number. This isn’t just crucial to the user experience, but Google+ Local relies on the contact info on your site and citations from other relevant local sites to make the connection to your physical location.

When it comes to mobile devices, use local strategies to your advantage by offering coupons, click to call options and supplying user-generated content like reviews. These will all help with conversion and bring customers into your business.

7) User Experience: Including all the things we’ve already talked about, it’s crucial to address basic things like having no pop-ups (or very few if necessary). Some sites also utilize user crushing experiences such as too many ads above the fold, auto-play videos/music or even making it hard to find your business’ contact information.

Design Inspiration for Your Friday

Ah, yes. The best day of the work week… What’s better than some web design and other miscellaneous creative inspiration for your Friday? Check it out:

Sleek e-commerce WordPress theme (View here)

Microsoft’s new look (View here)

Eye catching contact page (View here)

Simple About Us page (View here)

Cool business card (View here)

Fun to share graphic (View here)


Novelty phone case, anyone? (View here)

Make sure to follow us on Pinterest and share your recent inspirations with us!

Web Design Trends: Huge Headers

Google’s Layout Algorithm Update
Earlier this year in January, Google announced a page layout algorithm improvement. Sites that were mainly penalized had a high percentage of ads placed on crucial places on their pages. The goal was to improve site experience so that users could quickly find what they’re looking for on your site, without running into problems… like having to scroll past ads.

The Importance of “the Fold
Ads aside, this is where an interesting design element comes into play – the header. The header takes up most of the space on your website and is above the “fold”. This is the point where users would have to scroll to find more information. A good amount of the designated information on a certain topic/web page should be located near or above the fold. But, a recent design trend has popularized gigantic headers and while they’re fun to look at, it’s important to understand their role in search friendly web design.

The Downside of Hugeness
Having a huge header can make or break your website. Remember that having a big image (or using Flash) will dramatically slow down the page load time of your site, which is also an important factor in search engine rankings. Next, when not executed right, it’s easy for a gigantic header to look like a spammy landing page or pop up ad, which will having visitors quickly bouncing away. Take a look at these examples of some sites that have done it the right way. Overall, having a huge header means that users will have to scroll and click more to find what they’re looking for and as we all know, they’re not very patient.

Go Big or Go Home
With certain creative industries, like entertainment, a big header can be used creative and actually keep visitors on the site. But in other industries, such as the health field, it’s not likely that a giant picture of a smiling doctor is helpful when people are looking for specific medical information or help. It all depends on what business you are in and there are different tests that can help determine the effectiveness of your web site. So, the next time you want to go for a certain design element because it looks “nice”, remember to do some research before hand! Let us know what you think about using big headers and what specific industries they work in or where they don’t work.

4 Visual Networks for Social Sharing

look at me

Are you tired of Pinterest yet? If you’re looking for other sites for visual sharing, you’ve come to the right place. Take a look at these 4 picks and you’ll see why you can benefit from other, niche social networks:

1) Behance – This is a great place to showcase your online portfolio and organize collections. Use popular categories as you grow your profile for some awesome link juice. This site is an excellent, profession forum to review peers, show off and have some fun.

2) Snapguide – This site is like eHow (or similiar tutorial sites) …BUT it’s more visual appealing as pictures are front and center. Instead of relying on text that can be confusing/boring, you create guides using with chunks of text and easy to follow visuals. From “How to Get More Followers on Instagram” to “How to Keep Bananas Fresh Longer”, you’re sure to find a relevant category that you can contribute to.

3) Jux – When you visit Jux, the pictures literally take up your whole screen. Join to immerse yourself and share pictures, articles, slideshows, block quotes, videos and top 10 lists. This may seem like a lot but all these categories are based on big,beautiful pictures. Whereas sites like Pinterest can be overwhelming with endless pictures and thumbnails, Jux zeroes in by allowing you to only focus on one piece at a time.

4) Story Wheel – Instagram pictures, stories and nostalgia. What more is there to want? This site allows you to curate stories into neat little slideshows using your own pictures. Sometimes, words just aren’t necessary.

Whether you’re looking for more external link building resources, social media advertising inspiration, or just a place to connect online with peers, these sites are sure to be helpful. Let us know if you have any other favorite sites for sharing visuals!

SEO Factors to Check after a Website Redesign

check list

Ideally, you would keep track of important SEO factors during a website redesign. But that isn’t always the case and websites can always be re-optimized. Although it’s better to have a SEO web design checklist to work off of during the redesign process, it still helps to evaluate your site after a major change. Although the list can be endless, here are a few things to take note of before things get out of hand.

Duplicate content – Have you ever seen a site with hundreds of duplicate pages? You’d be surprised. Make sure to check for duplicate content when you go through your sitemap and cut down any low/no ranking pages with low content. The goal is to funnel down the most helpful information and help it rank even better. There are many helpful tools like Copyscape and Simple Page Checker.

URL changes – If possible, always try to keep your original URLs. This isn’t always possible, especially if you switch over to a content management system or vice versa. If this is the case, make sure to 301 redirect and direct internal links to the right pages. Tools like LinkSleuth should come in very handy for that.

robots.txt file – This text file is a crucial part of any well-optimized website. It tells search engines what pages to ignore and where to look for things on your site. One mistake could prevent your website from being crawled or blocked from Google bot. Not good!

Website analytics – If possible, it’s helpful to check analytics at least once a month. This includes Google Webmaster Tools and anything else you use for checking keyword rankings and search results. Using these tools regularly will help you gauge the success of your website and help you diagnose problems such as a decrease in website traffic and a fall in rankings.

Search engine marketing news – Sites like SEOmoz and Search Engine Roundtable always break the latest SEM news. Articles and comments can help give you a heads up on Penguin and Panda updates and what to look out for. Google’s search algorithm is constantly changing so things that were important, say 3 years ago, can be quickly outdated.

Many things can change and be lost during a website redesign. If you’re handing off your website to a new internet marketing firm, it’s important to know that they’re committed to continuously optimizing your website and not just doing it once and leaving it stagnant for months or years. This checklist can help serve as a starting point for something that can be done on a regular basis to ensure that your website is in good health.

Do You Think About These 3 Factors in Web Design?

web design

If you’re ready to redesign your website, what sounds like the best thing ever could turn into the worst project you’ve ever encountered without proper planning and research. There’s a lot of pressure on both sides: for the business owner as well as the web designer/developer. Don’t forget to consider these 3 important factors of web design:

1) Personality – This is where the endless search for inspiration begins. What kind of identity do you want your brand to take on? It’s common to feel overwhelmed and feel the need to include many different design elements to your site. But think about how that will translate to customers – it will be very cluttered and confusing. Keep it Simple Sam, is a good rule of thumb to go by. Take a look at some cool web design examples:

20 Examples of Minimalistic Responsive Web Designs

20 Inspiring Examples of Big Backgrounds in Web Design
21 Awesome Bright and Colorful Websites

2) SEO – Now that you have an idea of what you kind of persona you want your new site to portray, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Have you thought about the SEO web design functionality of your website? How can all that great content be found if it’s not made to be seen and crawled by search engines? This includes technical aspects including meta and title elements, on page optimization, search friendly URLs, image attributes, navigation, sitemaps and more. Ideally, this is a process that takes place before a new website is ever launched. It’s always a possibility to go back and re optimize but it’s best when these elements are looked at in the very beginning.

3) User Experience – When users come to your website, they want to easily find and read the content they’re looking for. Load time, navigation, relevant information, and engaging content are all a big part of user experience. Some websites can be aesthetically pleasing but too abstract to navigate. While other sites may be so “boring” that customers don’t identify with the company/brand. This is where these three elements meet to create an effective and useful website. Creating an objective may sound simple on paper, but it’s a more difficult process as you go along. Remember, it’s worth it to devote time and invest into the beginning stages because a website is a highly valuable asset that your business will keep for many years to come.

So Long Facebook FBML


Are you ready to finally say goodbye to Facebook FBML tabs?

As of June 1, 2012, Facebook FBML apps will no longer work. As Facebook suggests, you can use HTML, JavaScript and CSS if you are building a new application. This is good news for web designers because it is just like building a regular web page without worrying about weird formatting issues. But this could be problematic for non-coders who liked the “simplicity” of using FBML.

For Page owners who haven’t used FBML, this news isn’t a big deal. For active users, it’s making the transition that could be difficult… depending on the number of tabs you have and their complexity.

There are many other alternative applications available and many are making the switch to iFrame Apps. Facebook accepts and favors this framework because the content will be hosted directly on the developer’s server, instead of through Facebook’s servers. Now here is one important thing to consider:

Should I use a Facebook tab application or make my own iFrame app? There are many applications to choose from if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to set up Facebook tabs – Wildfire, Involver, Tabsite to name a few. While these applications are easier to use, remember that they often have require monthly fees and are branded with their own company name (instead of yours’, unless you want to pay a higher fee for white label services).

Making your own iFrame app will give you the advantage of creating your very own web page on your Page. Depending on the number of tabs you want, it could be like creating your own mini-site with targeted landing pages that you can track using analytics. With FBML, this is something that couldn’t be done – don’t look at it as something that Facebook is doing to inconvenience owners!

So, if you need to, you have less than 1 month to make a transition. Give yourself time to think about the type of web design you’re looking for and weigh the benefits of using different applications for tabs. Be sure to contact us know if you have any questions and check out our portfolio!

Bad Web Design Pet Peeves

Outdated. Cluttered. Intrusive. Tacky. Hard-to-read. Confusing. Questionable. Unreliable.

These are all words that could be used to describe a bad web design. While effective design is based on different factors that are “objectionable”, there are some fundamental things to consider before creating your masterpiece.

Here are some of my top pet peeves when it comes to bad seo web design:

Auto-play anything: Auto-play videos suck. Auto-play music is annoying. The worst offenders are sites that have a little person that walks out onto your screen and starts talking! I’m not sure who started this trend, but it’s 2012 and it should die already. A small but prominent call to action box is necessary sometimes, but this is just too much. (I’ve seen my fair share working on different websites, but what do you as a consumer think? Are these ever really helpful?)

Long, ugly contact forms: When a customer wants to contact you, they want to fill out as little important information as possible and hear back from you as soon as possible. Requiring a lot of personal information is aesthetically unappealing and can make potential customers question your ulterior motives. For example, are you giving away something for free in exchange for some contact information? Or are you asking potential customers to leave their information behind to be contacted. Either way, requiring too much info will kill your design and make your business seem not as trustworthy (all dependent on your industry, of course). Remember, this is an online contact form… not a tax return!

No clear call to action: Umm… where am I supposed to click and what am I supposed to do? Your home page and important landing pages should have an easy to find call to action. Contact, newsletter signups, click to call, buy now, download now – these are all easy to follow call to actions that your website needs in order to be useful. Don’t go overboard by displaying too many at the same time. Your customers don’t want clutter and too many CTA buttons can make your site look spammy.

Unconventional design that doesn’t make sense: Nowadays, every small business wants their site too look unique and capture the attention of their visitors. But going too abstract can make you lose site of basic website structure that is necessary for any website. I’m talking about: not having a home button, no contact information available, utilizing too much white space, using contrasting background and text colors. There are basic practices when it comes to effective web design and they exist for a reason!

Having a creative and effective website design doesn’t mean that you have to confine yourself inside a box but there are some things that you have to keep your eye on. Any design annoyances that you care to share?

3 Things to Think About Before Launching a New Site

emarketed portfolioAs exciting a new website launch sounds, it requires a lot of time, research and communication on your part! You don’t have to limit yourself to just 3 questions, or these 3 specifically, but it will help to have a list that you can look to when thinking about your new site.

Do I need to integrate seo web design? – Search optimization isn’t something that just comes later, after the design and building process. Make sure that you understand the SEO capability of your site as it’s being built so that all the necessary elements can be added during or immediately after the design aspect is completed. Think of SEO as an ongoing campaign and not something that just done at the beginning of the website building process, such as the design.

Do you know your customers and what they want? – Do you know your target demographic? Once you’re able to answer this question, you’ll get a better idea of what content will best suit their needs. Remember, there are many trends such as QR codes and even certain social media sites. Will your customers even use these functions? Just because it exists doesn’t mean that you should use it. Case in point: QR codes have been spotted on the BACK of moving buses. Talk about a quick response!

What do I want my customers to do? Remember that your website has to have a point. Do you want to push calls, newsletter signups or contact form submissions? Make it clear so that customers know how to complete the action, but don’t be so pushy that they feel overwhelmed and leave. A good example is Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout blog. If anyone is familiar with it, it used to just be a marketing blog about different topics. Now, a re-vamp as focused the calls-to-action and has made users more familiar with Neil’s services and his other companies.

What type of website do I need? This depends entirely on your industry and business model. If you’re selling goods, an ecommerce store is the way to go. For services, information is key. Feel free to browse competitor sites or even look at our portfolio to see what kind of website will best suit your business.

Whatever questions you decide to use for pre-launch, remember to take that list back out and evaluate it post-launch. There are always things you can use to improve the customer experience and these seemingly simple questions can be the basis of marking your progress!