What is Responsive Design?

If you’re looking for a re-design or an entirely new website, there’s a good chance you’ll come across the term ‘responsive design’. But it’s not always guaranteed that anyone will explain exactly what it means.

Why Responsive Design is needed:

The first websites were designed to be viewed on a desktop computer or laptop. And for many years, that approach was fine. As long as your website worked properly in the main internet browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome), it was fine.

That’s been changed by smartphones and tablets. In 2015, the smartphone has overtaken the laptop as the most popular way to get online in the UK. Two thirds of the population own an iPhone or Android handset, and spend an average of almost two hours every day using the internet and applications.

When the internet first became accessible on your phone, the answer for big companies was to create a new website specifically for small screens. The mobile versions were often developed separately, stripped out many of the features of the main site, and then had to be maintained and updated.

Making mobile phone applications can be just as complicated. Not only can they be expensive, but each platform requires different features. And with the average smartphone owner regularly using just five apps, most will end up ignored and deleted.

 

What Responsive Design Does:

Responsive Design creates websites which adapt to the device your using to visit them. So the layout and images will change to make it easy to use on your desktop, tablet and smartphone.

Not only is the UK predominantly a country of smartphone users, but more than half of the internet traffic worldwide is from mobile devices. And Google now indicates mobile-friendly websites, effectively penalising those which aren’t compatible.

Essentially, a responsive website sends out a question to the device and internet browser to find out what they can handle, and then supplies the most appropriate version of the website.

An example of Responsive Design

An example of Responsive Design

And that has a number of business benefits:

  • No frustrated mobile and tablet customers unable to use your website properly.
  • No need to pay to develop a separate mobile site
  • Consistent design and branding across all devices
  • Being recommended as ‘mobile-friendly’ by search engines.

 

Now is the time to upgrade to Responsive Design:

2015 really is the time to upgrade to a Responsive Website. The smartphone is the most popular way for people in the UK to access the internet, and more Google searches take place on mobile than the desktop in a number of countries (Including the U.S and Japan).

The UK is now a nation of smartphone users

The UK is now a nation of smartphone users

Google is already recommending websites with a responsive design via a ‘mobile-friendly’ icon for anyone searching on their phone. Google’s own documents refer to responsive design as best practice, and non-mobile compliant websites are now warned directly that they should be accessible on all devices in the future.

You can still built a business without a responsive website, but it’s becoming harder and harder. Do you want to be turning away 50% of potential customers for what is now a relatively small cost to upgrade?

How to keep your Google My Business listing active

Google My Business listings power the results for Google Maps, which is a vital way for customers to find you. If you sell to customers at a physical location, you need to make sure you can be found by them. Especially if they might be just round the corner checking their phone for a business like yours.

There’s growing evidence that customers are twice as likely to trust companies if they have a complete Google My Business listing alongside a quality website. So if you’ve taken the time to fill in details and go through the verification process – or a company like us has done it on your behalf – it’s something you don’t want to lose.

Smart Domain Group on Google+

Smart Domain Group on Google+

Google is now contacting business owners who haven’t logged into their account in more than 12 months. So if you haven’t checked your account, or had someone log in on your behalf, you may receive an email asking you to sign in and confirm your details are still correct. If you choose not to log-in, you may find your account becomes unverified, and in some cases gets removed completely.

Overall this is a good thing. It means people searching via Google Maps and Google My Business are less likely to be disappointed by a business moving, changing opening hours or being closed. And active companies aren’t going to potentially be losing customers to rivals who may have ceased trading months or years ago.

 

Lost your Google My Business and Google+ Page Details?

If you haven’t logged into Google My Business for more than a year, there’s a good chance you may not have the email and password details. It may be the person who set up the account has now left the company, which is why it’s always good to have a formal and secure process for maintaining profiles and passwords.

If you do need to regain access to a page which has been created or verified by someone else, there is a 4 step process.

  1. Visit ‘Google My Business
  2. Follow the steps to verify your business.
  3. You’ll then be informed someone else has verified the business and be given the option to choose ‘Request Admin Rights‘.
  4. You’ll then need to answer some questions about your business. The current owner will then get an email asking them to get in touch with you, and if you don’t get a response in a week, you should then contact Google.

There may have been some uncertainty regarding the future of Google+ as a social network, but it’s clear that Google My Business and Google Maps have a secure future. So there’s no excuse not to be maintaining your listing and ensuring you can access it, unless you’re letting us handle it for you, of course.

Why Social Media Marketing Works for Small Businesses

One of the best ways to grow a small business is by your reputation and word of mouth. The internet hasn’t changed that. But the conversation has moved online, and largely to social networks like Facebook. Which is one reason why Social Media Marketing works for small businesses.

You don’t need millions of followers to attract more customers. In fact, if you have a large number of people who don’t care about your updates, then it can work against you. It’s far better to have a smaller group of people who like, comment and share whatever you’re posting.

 

When Facebook can boost small business:

If you’ve got a typical number of Facebook friends, you won’t see every update they post. By default, Facebook tries to show you the latest posts from the people you interact with the most. And they use a computer algorithm to try and calculate who those people are.

Social_Media_Small_Business

Social Media works for Small Businesses

The same thing happens with Facebook Pages for businesses. When you post updates that get Likes, Comments and Shares from a decent amount of your fans, that better engagement means your post will be seen by more people. If you update with content no-one cares about, then that will just hurt your engagement score, and your potential audience (called ‘Reach’ on Facebook) will suffer.

So no matter if you’re a new sole trader or Coca Cola, you have the same challenge to engage as many of your fans as possible. But small businesses have an advantage – you’ll have a much closer relationship with your customers.

 

How to use your Social Media advantage:

You need consistent, quality content that will get a response. Think about your customers and what gets them interested in what you do? What do they ask about? And what do they find interesting about your company.

Small businesses can also find it much easier to share their personality online. Often big companies suffer by being far too generic and soulless. More and more of us want to support our friendly, local businesses, so why not tap into that?

Sometimes it can be hard to come up with answers to those questions when you’re busy running your business 8-12 hours a day, every day. That’s when getting advice from people with experience can help, so why not contact us for some help? Combine a good website with effective search engine optimisation and social media marketing, and you’ll have a winning formula that will very quickly get you more business.

Apple Continues to Fade as Skeuomorphic Design Dies

Besides inspiring many otherwise sane people to part with vast sums of money for below standard products produced under highly questionable ethics, Apple’s rise to power in recent years has also had a phenomenal impact on graphic and web design.

White minimalist graphic design never truly dies but Apple’s reflective table, curved edges and 3D shading rocketed it back into high end vogue, in no time anyone selling anything had it sitting on a white reflective surface with glossy shine digitised onto the product itself.

Apple's glossy surface design styleThe reflective white surface and glossy shine; occasionally a black surface and background was used but minimal white was the brand image and graphic design trick that stuck, and before long those glossy reflections were everywhere.

The style caught on very quickly with tech gadgets and products, while the Photoshop gloss was similarly digitised on to all kinds of products, logos and social media icons. The approach is called skeuomorphism, and it basically means trying to make a flat 2D image look like it’s 3D or “real”; the picture above isn’t a digital rendering of the iPhone design, it’s a digital rendering of the iPhone in a lit studio sitting on a table albeit in an entirely unlikely way.

In their software, Apple pushed the design style even further, turning ebook stores into bookshelves, giving calendars a leather-bound filofax kind of vibe and providing sound recording software with an old school tape look. Whilst the general opinion amongst a lot of professional designers seemed to be that this was rather naff and made the software feel old fashioned or cheap contrasted against the very modern industrial look of the products themselves, plenty of everyday users quite liked it.

Apple's skeuomorphic iBooks designCool or crass? The iBooks store, one of Apples heavily skeuomorphed graphic designs, and much derided even by Apple adoring designers

Largely designers dislike the approach because it is incredibly uninspiring, unoriginal, un-designed and deviates away from making the software easier to use in favour of making it look “nice”. All this sums up some common criticisms from Apple detractors;

1. All they care about is making things look pretty, functionality is often poor in comparison to competitor products.

2. Apple is not an innovation powerhouse or even very creative and steal all their best ideas; tablets were first produced by Microsoft 6 years before iPad, MP3 players were out for 4 years prior to iPod, Apple made existing products look more pretty, called it a revolution and everyone swooned.

So while the heavy skeuomorphics became a minor embarrassment  the more restrained approach used in branding and advertising had a wide impact in graphic and web design. Drop shadows, glossy surfaces, shading and lighting sources popped up everywhere to make entirely unreal objects like websites look like they had some kind of real world physical presence; a brushed chrome sheet for menu bars, three dimensional top lit buttons for links and white glossy tables for any products to sit on.

Since Steve Jobs passed away a lot of change has been happening at Apple though, they’ve released a series of decidedly average (iPhone 4S and 5 were basically just minor upgrades to the 4) and definitively bad (their attempt at mapping software) products,  obsoleted things less than a year old (iPad 4 releasing the second iPad 3 sales had maxed out) and had all kinds of dirty laundry aired about treatment of staff in factories and impact on the environment.

Of course, Apple are still colossally profitable and sitting on top of the tech/web industry, but cracks are appearing in that glossy surface. Primary competitor Samsung’s long investment in challenging them is paying off with the Galaxy smartphone outselling the iPhone and a slowly dawning realisation amongst consumers that Samsung tablets carry a far more impressive spec than the iPad as well.

Just as Apple’s rise saw widespread adoption of their graphic design style, so their potentially looming demise is seeing the opposite happen; user interface design is a hot topic, and designers are fed up with trying to make a purely digital thing somehow look like something in the real world when that doesn’t make it any easier to use. The response is an approach getting called pure digital; no drop shadows, wood textures or tape reels to be found here, it’s all about solid colours on basic shapes forming simple geometry.

The specific piece of graphic and user interface design that has perhaps defined pure digital best underlines the rule of everything being cyclical and takes some revenge for that tablet steal; Microsoft Windows 8 is dividing opinions in terms of functionality on desktops, but it’s a beautiful piece of pure digital design and perfectly suited to the miniaturised screens of smartphones and tablets.

The Windows 8 approach to pure digital graphic designThe Windows 8 “Metro” design style; an instant classic that defines the new pure digital approach

It’s clean, unfussy and endlessly adaptable to different screen sizes and orientations, really underlining it as a perfect design approach for the array of web and software viewing products in the marketplace. Designers are rapidly jumping on it, with web design forums buzzing about designing things in a grid and getting rid of bevels and drop shadows in favour of crisp, solid colour squares, circles and rectangles.

Just before 2012 ended Apple announced that they were dropping skeuomorphics from their own software and interface designs and a look around their website and marketing materials currently reveals a distinct dulling down of the drop shadows and gloss. Of course it leaves them in a tricky spot though, they either have to come up with something entirely new or they have to follow Microsoft’s design lead, long derided as a company that produces ugly and unimaginative design that Apple had left in its wake.

What does all this mean to those of us without multi-billion dollar tech companies or Internet MP3 stores? It means it’s time to start re-evaluating our own graphic and web designs. The more tasteful end of skeuomorphics is still champion online and the preferred look of the majority of clients, but soon it will start to edge out of date. And as our websites get viewed on an ever increasing array of screen shapes and sizes, we all need to start thinking about when the time is right to make the jump into a purer graphic design that gives customers the cleanest, most functional and most adaptable user experience.

2013 web predictions and the confusing Google zoo

The web is currently awash with various expert gurus making their “predictions” for 2013. It’s remarkably easy to be an Internet guru these days, well over 50% of the predictions I’ve seen have been as vacuous as “mobile will grow this year” or “social will continue to be popular”; look out Nostradamus…

I think the one thing we can be absolutely certain of in 2013 is that Google’s continued tweaking of their search algorithm (previous blog here on Google Penguin, Panda, EMD etc.) will continue to confuse many of these self proclaimed Internet gurus and in turn the many believers who blindly follow them will also find themselves rather lost.

Web forums are packed with people calling themselves professional SEOs doling out truly awful advice to all kinds of unfortunate business owners just trying to keep their search positioning healthy. Comments I see all the time are things like “Google declared war on business” or “SEO is such a complex science now”. Granted, for certain search terms SEO is very complex; we’re well familiar with this as two of the most competitive keyphrases around are ‘web design’ and ‘search engine optimisation’, but to the vast majority of site owners, SEO remains a fairly simple thing.

Google have been making these updates to remove cheats, duplicates and spam from their system. The decision to name a couple of them after pandas and penguins has led to all kinds of increasingly ridiculous debate and rumours about crushing changes to come variously called Pony, Zebra and a whole menagerie of other creatures. Some are real, some aren’t, none of them are terribly crushing to anyone other than the cheats.

A lot of these puzzled SEO gurus are puzzled because they built their services around SEO short cuts; spamming article sites, directories, forums and blogs with totally irrelevant links, using software to auto post hundreds of links all over the place and so on.

Such activities do not create a quality Internet of websites or a quality search engine experience.

Google likes to do well by it’s customers, and people forget that Google’s customers are not website owners, they’re web surfers, so adjusting the algorithm to kick these cheat-built websites down the list is a good result for the customers. Tweaking is ongoing (you can stay up to date on the excellent SEOmoz website here), in places some good quality sites have lost positions and some poor ones have popped up at the top of results, but the work is getting there, the short cuts are fading away and the keening wail of cheats no longer prospering is reverberating around the Interwebs!

So what should a website owner do these days?

On-page SEO on your own website is still really critical; it’s well worth getting an experienced web copywriter to do all your text and make sure your web designer/SEO has filled out the hidden tags in website code called alt and meta tags. Make sure you are using the best possible keywords, and consider adding that blog you’ve been considering and updating it with interesting stuff regularly.

Off-page SEO is where most of the confusion reigns. In the past, simply having lots of links from third party sites was good for your search results. The big change is that now only links from high quality sites relevant to your website have any value.

That’s really it, that’s what’s thrown all these SEO experts into puzzled despair.

So, if you want to help your SEO, third party link building is still a great way to do it but you have to make it relevant and high quality;

Build reciprocal links with suppliers, partners and clients, often these will drive people to your website as well as helping SEO

Be part of forum and blog communities; find high quality blogs and forums (they’ll finish high in search results) that are relevant to your business. Start hanging out there for ten minutes each day, ask questions, answer questions, chat with others, fill out the autosignature with a link to your website, very quickly you have hundreds of links from a relevant and quality site. Same idea with blogs but using the comments feature most offer, don’t be tempted to do the “great info thanks for posting” cheat; it’s called fluff, it isn’t welcome on quality sites and will ultimately get you booted off them.

Understand dofollow and nofollow; links can be labelled “nofollow” in the web code, this tells Google that the link is not endorsed by the website, for example all links on Facebook are nofollow; they have no control over what links are posted so they don’t want to endorse them , the nofollow label informs Google of that. Many high quality forums and blogs are also nofollow; you can tell which from the HTML code which is painstakingly slow, or there are a couple of free downloads around which highlight links in different colours for you; SEOmoz’s SEO Toolbar is a good one for Firefox and Chrome browsers, and has some other useful features too. Obviously, dofollow is more beneficial for SEO, however it makes sense to build a balanced amount of nofollow as well; Google is looking for third party links to be natural, if you have 3000 dofollow links and 0 nofollow links it’s obviously not natural.

Offer guest posts to good blogs; every business sector has some high quality blogs, find out what the best blogs in your market are then offer to write them a guest post about a unique subject you are expert in, and request you be allowed a dofollow link to your website at the end of it.

Don’t be tempted! There are many SEO temptations, here are a few you might come across online;

  • “1000 backlinks for $10!”; the 1000 links will all be from appalling link farm sites with no relevance and no quality, there is no quick way to build quality links.
  • “Article spinning software turns one article into hundreds!”; you can build backlinks posting articles around the web on quality sites, but the articles have to be unique, spinning software mixes a few words up to turn a single article into lots of “unique” articles. It used to work really easily, it currently just barely works with the best software, soon it won’t work at all, there is no quick way to write unique content.
  • “Submit to over 500 directories with one form”; this used to work too, today getting links on 500 free, unedited and totally unrelated directories will do you no good whatsoever, there is still no quick way to build high quality links.

The greatest point of confusion out there simply seems to be that there is no way of fiddling the system anymore, every SEO now has to work in a reputable and high quality way rather than undercutting the quality providers by using cheat techniques.

So, my number one 2013 prediction is that the SEO whining from 2012 will continue for quite some time, don’t be part of the banshee wail, or get taken in by expert assertions that SEO is dead or anti small business or anything else; keep it high quality and you need never worry.

I built my first website 13 years ago whilst learning web design, within a few years as I got to learn SEO as well, based on quality on-page copywriting and reciprocal link building with relevant sites it hit the Google front page for a range of keyword searches. Ten years later it has dropped a sum total of three places having had no changes made to its SEO whatsoever over the years and thousands of algorithm changes (it’s just a hobby site). The amazing SEO secret behind this success? I didn’t cheat, I just stuck to the essentials, everyone else on that front page with me is a corporate sized company, national newspaper or Wikipedia, so I can deal with losing a few places, one weekend I’ll do some work on it and probably make those places up pretty easily.

At SDG Web Design we’ve always focused on the SEO essentials that are always a good thing as well, we bundle quality copywriting and keyword analysis with every web design build so that all our clients get that critical on-page SEO in place from the start. Recently we’ve begun expanding our services to improve on-page for competitive search sectors and we’re working out some cost effective ways to support off-page methods like link building, which can be time consuming, as well. Give us a call at any time to discuss what we can do for your site!

 

Starting an Online Business Part 2; Internet Marketing

Getting a fully functional website and email set up is the first stage of getting a business online, next you have to think about letting people know it’s there, unsurprisingly, the best way to do that is online with Internet marketing.

A common misconception, or simply unconsidered thing for new website owners, is assuming that once the website is built it will automatically be just in the right place on Google searches and have flood of traffic coming in. Unfortunately that’s an impossibility, there are thousands of companies in the world offering the same services, they can’t all be ideally positioned on search engines, so that makes your first Internet marketing investment…

Search engine optimisation

Search sites like Google dominate the driving of most traffic online, leading to the practice of search engine marketing. There are a few approaches to this but the key essential to initially focus on should always be SEO.

This is a simple enough concept often confused by web design “gurus” trying to sell things online. basically, you want to make your site look attractive to the mathematical algorithms search engines like Google work around. In the most basic terms, if you have a plumbing website, you have to make sure the word plumbing is used plenty of times throughout the site so that Google knows it’s a site about plumbing; it becomes a “keyword” for that business website.

Some web design companies package SEO with the website build but most do not, or offer only an extremely basic level of SEO, requiring you to employ an expert to get things moving. Naturally, at Smart Domain Group it is built into our web design packages, but you can still get the most of it by doing some advance research and if you want to keep the costs low when starting up you need to be prepared to build on the foundations laid yourself.

Any business owner should be able to draw up a list of likely keywords describing their business; the primary services, location and industry specific terms for example. Given this starting point your SEO can then research which of these terms are the most popularly used in web searches and how competitive they are, helping highlight a shorter list of keywords to focus on.

The copy on the site should then be updated to build a good level of keyword density (too little won’t be noticed, too much will look like trying to cheat the system) and add a bunch of hidden labels that search engines see but web surfers don’t, such as text labels for images, layout tables and so on. Once the website is optimised the site can be submitted to Google and should get a few reasonable search positions on some of the keywords.

The ongoing aspect is link building or “backlinking”; search engines work out how good your site is based on how many other sites link to it and the quality of those sites. You can wait around and hope that people link to you which is the bizarre advice sometimes passed around by those online gurus, in the early days at least you really need to give things a push to get them started.

Some techniques might be swapping links with key suppliers and clients, spending regular time on a good quality web forum about your market and using the autosignature tool to post a link every time you post a comment, you could also offer to write a few guest articles for good blogs in your business sector, adding a link to your website at the end. Over time these kinds of activities build you lots of quality links from other relevant websites and you rank up in search results accordingly.

Web forums are awash with people over complicating search optimisation, offering long out of date advice, or “500 links for $10” deals and so on, they won’t help; if you don’t have time to do all this link building yourself, ask your SEO provider to do some for you. Google is very focused on removing SEO cheats and shortcuts and are mercilessly banishing such websites from listings, but there are still lots of providers taking advantage of how little most website owners understand SEO.

Social networks

The second key ongoing effort is still link building, but of a different kind. The above links are primarily about building Google’s awareness of your site, so it ranks your website high and people can find you easily on search listings. You can also build links for the traditional reason; so that potential customers can find you directly, and this is where social networks like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly coming into things.

All social networks are free, but they do demand regular attention and some effort to understand properly and benefit from. Each is a little different and better suited to different businesses; Twitter is good for companies who have lots of fast moving news happening, Linked In is good for business to business services, YouTube is great if your business can generate entertaining video content. You have to give each of them consideration on their merits and benefits to you, and take a look at what your competition is doing.

All social networks vary in the best approaches but a couple of key points to consider are that you need to;

Post content to your social networks at least daily, a post which is a few hours old on Twitter or Facebook disappears down the timeline people view, so most of the time, most of your audience will not see most of your posts. If you post once a week hardly anyone will notice you even exist.

Engage in conversation, the idea of social networks is to be social, if someone posts a comment on your page, reply to it, give potential and current customers a dialogue with a real person, it gives your brand a personality people can connect with.

Don’t be a pimp, endlessly tweeting about your services doesn’t make exciting content for any audience; would you want to be friends with a plumber who posted every day on your timeline that he can fix burst pipes? No, but you might be friends with one who posts occasional DIY tips or comic photos of “weird things we’ve found in drains”. On social networks you have to give people something they want to share, give people a laugh or something useful, it gives the brand even more personality and builds trust and familiarity, so when someone does have a burst pipe, they think about that funny plumber guy on Facebook and ask for a quote.

Think of it like long running TV ad campaigns; often they have little to do with the key product being sold, the focus is on characters, atmosphere, things that make people feel connected to the brand, social networks require the same kind of mindset, rather than a typical small business approach of listing products and great prices in print ads.

Of course, offer up enough share-able content and no one minds if there’s an occasional reminder of the website, core services or special offers, and that’s where you can start building your links that people will want to follow.

Internet marketing evolves

Marketing techniques are constantly changing, five years ago social networks barely existed and you really could buy a thousand for $10 and improve your search engine position; things change over time.

In the immediate future though, things look quite clear, SEO will continue to focus increasingly on quality, and it will begin to incorporate “social authority”; evaluating how outstanding you are on social networks and applying that to search engine results. It’s already starting to happen with Twitter and Google+ and underlines the importance of these two aspects of Internet marketing.

As with the web design itself, finding a provider who can do it all is ideal, but to stay cost effective in the early days of a business it helps to cover some bases yourself, especially things like social networking which really requires no special skills, just an understanding of your potential audience.

There are details to these techniques; a good press release can really build great links for you, a few quality recognised directories can boost search and there are all sorts of emerging social networks like Pinterest that companies are just starting to work out how to use to market themselves. Focus on the essentials at first though, get optimised so you’re appearing somewhere in the search results, link build to improve that and go social with the big names like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In or Google+ to bring in a second stream of traffic so you aren’t over reliant on Google alone.

Beyond the Internet!

Finally, of course, think real world; put that web address on vans, business cards, letterhead, invoices and everything else, it should be a hub for everything. People can check bits of information like your address or a price list or service by looking at your website rather than taking up time on the phone answering mundane questions, and if you want to encourage more phone calls, get the site written in a way which does so; a business card doesn’t do any encouragement, but it can lead to a website that does.

It sounds like a lot to take on, and it is a significant investment of money and time, but once you’re set up, it’s all benefits and much lower ongoing costs that can make huge differences to small businesses. Please do drop us a line to learn more about the ways we can help you with the web design and ongoing marketing and SEO here at Smart Domain Group, our services are built around small to medium sized businesses!

Starting an Online Business Part 1; the Website

Today, every business needs an online presence and web design if it is to stay healthy, with so many traditional routes of advertising like Yellow Pages continuing to disappear from usage as people turn to Google to find just about everything.

If you haven’t done it before though, getting online can feel a big and complex task that is all too easy to put off. In truth, it isn’t all that difficult with the right web design company to guide you through it and unlike Yellow Pages, which updates once per year, you can get your website online and make adjustments to it anytime you like.

Everything starts with the web design itself. Your website should form the hub of any online effort, like a central brochure everything can refer to and which in turn can refer to everything online and offline such as printed materials or social networks. Any good web designer will help you through the process of putting a site together, but it pays dividends to put some time in yourself in the early stages to help things along and get the most out of it;

 
Have a look at your competition online, see what they’re doing and how you can do it better

Make a note of anything you see on other websites which you think might work well for you

Consider all the information you should put into your web design such as core services, company history, contact details and news or special offers

Consider things like your unique selling points and key skills; your web designer probably won’t understand the critical things in your business so it’s up to you to explain them

Collect together photos and logos the designer will need to build the website


Whilst you’re doing this, meet with a few web design companies to see what they have to offer. Ask to take a look at previous work and drop an email to some of their customers for feedback on the quality of the web design and service; it is worth paying a little extra for the better product in the long run!

Prices can really vary for websites, and often hide some small print details; a budget site might cost just a few hundred pounds but won’t include things like copywriting, web hosting, search engine optimisation or ongoing support, which is a bit like having a stack of leaflets with no writing on them and no way to distribute them.

More comprehensive packages tend to start around the £1000 mark and upwards, however many companies offer single page or three page web design packages for a lower price which allows you to get a foot in the door to expand upon next time you have some money available. Some web design companies also offer credit or monthly payments so you can get the website you need set up straight away but spread the cost out.

Financially, it’s also very important to establish ongoing costs; domain names, web hosting and e-mail accounts are all things which have to be paid for on an annual subscription basis. A cheap website set up cost may be hiding an expensive annual subscription fee, make sure you take this into account working out the best deal.

There are a few key things you should look for in web design packages, of course you can buy them all separately from different suppliers, but if you can put it all under one roof from the off then it makes life easier while you find your feet;

Copywriting; yes, you could write your own copy, but have you really any idea how to write information that is attractive to human visitors and also attractive to search engines? Probably not, it’s highly specialist and a web design company with a dedicated expert copywriter is a real bonus.

Hosting; this is quite simply space on the Internet where your website will be stored so that people around the world can access it, without hosting you’re not online.

E-mail and domain name; most hosting packages also include a professional website address (domain name) and at least a few e-mail accounts.

Support and updates; you may need occasional updates to your website so it’s useful to have some free maintenance time bundled with web design packages, and make sure you know what the hourly costs are once you go beyond that. If you need regular updates then it’s good to get a CMS website (content management system); this will make it easy for you to do updates yourself, but typically costs more to set up.

SEO; search engine optimisation is a really big one, without it you just won’t appear in search engine listings, but it’s very specialist and can get expensive, find out if your set up costs includes any SEO work and what it will cost to get some done.

There are plenty of good packages around which don’t include all these things, but it really simplifies the process for a first timer especially putting everything under one roof; check out our own web design packages and you’ll see we include the lot for our clients.

So, with all that in mind, you’re ready to get a website set up, but that isn’t all there is to getting a business online, and in a future blog we’ll look at marketing and promotion through search engines, social networks and other web resources.

 

Javascript Explained What Does It Do?

Javascript is all about making web design more dynamic; whilst HTML and CSS have classically focused on laying out the page and content for you to look at, javascript made it possible to start adding in things you could interact with, it made web pages a living thing rather than a static display and integrated cleanly and easily into HTML pages.

Some people call it a toy code which just generates silly little widgets like a current time display, and early on this was how it got marketed to people. Web designers who knew HTML but didn’t want to learn anything else could pick up pre-written javascript code to create all kinds of little gimmicks on websites, however over time it has shown itself to be extremely useful and seamless to integrate with HTML, Flash and many other languages. This has led to it’s place as one of the most commonly used web design and programming languages on the web.

Some classic examples of Javascript usage include;

Simple animation of page elements such as fading a picture in and out or drop down and sliding website menus

Responding to clicks or mouseovers, such as changing the background image on click, zooming a picture on mouseover or creating a lightbox effect on picture galleries

Making it possible for all kinds of simple games, music and video to be played on a webpage instead of forcing you to download the files and play them on your PC software; things like Pac-Man, Minesweeper and chess are all available as javascript games

Gathering data; Google analytics, an add on to web designs to provide detailed traffic stats, runs largely on javascript, gathering data from your website and presenting it in your Google account, whilst Facebook website plug ins provide two way data presenting bits of Facebook on your site and gathering info on how people on your site interact with the plug in

Sign up forms and website log ins, including auto-complete functions

Updating of parts of a web design without refreshing the page, such as live sports results or stock market tickers

 

Javascript gets used in numerous other ways as well, such as within PDFs or numerous desktop widgets, its ability to respond to things in real time is one of its greatest uses and most often exploited features.

Many other programming languages have grown out of javascript or acted as add-ons to it, expanding what the basic language was capable of over time. Processing.js expands on graphics capabilities, CoffeeScript makes it more concise, Quby links javascript and Ruby to enable game playing, Phype links javascript and PHP, while Ajax links it with XML. From an early image issue as a gimmicky toy, javascript has grown to become the glue which binds a very expansive range of programming languages and technologies together in website design.

Winter special offers at SDG Web Design

Our Autumn giveaway went so well we’ve decided to carry it into winter, so for anyone wanting a new website from our Websmart range of packaged solutions, you can get a third off of our regular prices and free CMS software and set up worth an extra £300.

Websmart is the ideal web design package for any business looking to get established and succeed online, with our team of experts providing you with;

A modern, professional and uniquely designed website

Bespoke copywriting to persuade visitors to give you the call

A year of hosting, support and emails (renewable annually from just £99 per year)

Expert search engine optimisation to drive you to the top of web searches

Domain name purchase and set up

Detailed visitor web statistics

High quality professional stock photography if required

 

And of course we provide a full range of ongoing Internet and search engine marketing services if you require them or want to focus more of your business online over time.

We’ve created websites for an incredibly wide range of businesses, from sole traders and small businesses like tradesmen to pharmaceutical companies, industrial designers and international events. Websmart packages can be bought at a wide range of pages so the package can fit any size or complexity of business, and because every site is custom designed and written to fit the individual client, it always works.

Our CMS (Content Management System), typicall offered for £300 but currently free, is an incredible money saver long term as well; it allows you or your team to make simple changes to text and images yourselves without any need for web designer fees. The simple to use software means it’s easy to run a blog, news post, or constantly update your portfolio of work as often as you like.

So why not give your business the gift of a beautiful new website this Christmas?! We can even provide a range of ways to pay; split is 50/50 into a deposit and final payment on completion, or sign up for our monthly payment plans and have it all paid off after a year.

We’ve created over 3000 websites over the pat decade and are proud to offer a high end service at an affordable price that makes Websmart the best value package in the UK; give us a call to learn more!

Is Google+ any good for small businesses?

Google+, the search engine’s response to Facebook, has survived over a year and made it through the 400 million member mark which is quite an acheivement in a short space of time and an already crowded marketplace, but is it a phenomenon largely alien to the UK and is it a social network with any real value to small businesses?

Some of the most regular articles we see about Google+ use words like “ghost town” a lot, with suggestions that 400 million may have signed up but most of them posted once and never returned, Google themselves admit that active users are closer to 100 million, but that’s still a number it took Facebook many years to reach and very close to numbers on Twitter.

More interesting is that whilst many people in the UK have no idea what Google+ is, it still receives over 10% of our traffic to social networks, so it isn’t entirely unknown here, but perhaps what matters the most to UK businesses is more of a hidden feature; using Google+ is good for your SEO.

As you may expect Google designed the site so that it would perform well in web searches, if the same article is posted across all the social networks then searched for it’s no surprise that the Google version will typically come up, equally if a link is posted on the network and users “+1” it or share it around that pushes the link up in SEO search results as well.

Quite simply, any popular link or content on Google+ is going to be popular on Google search as well, and that’s an opportunity ripe for small businesses to take advantage of, so;

Sign up for Google+

They allow businesses to have their own pages and it takes as long as any other social network to set up, not all that long.

Keyword optimise

Treat it just like your website in SEO terms; you want good, professional, welcoming content targeted at your market, but you want it full of useful SEO keywords as well.

Make friends

On Google+, that means getting into people’s “circles”; users arrange all their contacts into customisable groups eg friends/family/work/business, getting into those groups means they’ll be digesting your content.

Use it

Social networks are for social beings, give it some time every day and make sure you “+1” plenty of things, just using the system makes you more visible on it.

 

Like anything new, it takes a while to get used to, but if you’re finding social networks like Twitter or Facebook don’t work for your small business and you want to try something else, or they do work for you and you want to expand that, Google+ is clearly worth taking a look at. Even if the direct social aspects of it don’t lift your business, the SEO affect could, some researchers found that around 70 +1s on a piece of content boosted visitors by 20%, which is pretty cool for something that need only take up a little time each day.