Frustrated WomanIf you don’t have a website for your small business, you are certainly missing out on potential business and growth for your company. But, some business owners are nervous about branching out and getting online because they are afraid to lose money on a venture they don’t entirely mistake.

It is a fair concern. There are countless thrown together websites that litter the web, neglected and forgotten by everyone except the bots search engines send out. But, that shouldn’t be enough to stop you from reaching out with your own company. The majority of sites that have gone unnoticed and cost their businesses money share a number of fatal flaws that will stop any traffic from trusting you or returning to your company’s site.

Today, we are going to discuss the most common mistakes that drag down websites that have the potential to engage and excite visitors, and how we can help brands turn their struggling website into a real platform to expand your customer base and engage with your audience in new ways.

Visual Mistakes

Hidden Contact Information: For smaller businesses a website serves as an entry point for customers. While your website should demonstrate your expertise and services, the most important thing on all of your site is your contact information. Far too often, this information is stuffed and hidden away at the bottom of the front page or an obscure tab. Instead, put the contact information front and center, or at least above the fold. Visitors should be able to contact you within seconds from the front page of your site.

Crowding the Page: In web design, less can certainly be more. Your front page shouldn’t look like a crowded advertisement you send out to local papers or a mishmash of information crowded into as little space as possible. With online design you never really run out of space, so don’t be afraid to let your site breathe and let the white space of the page shine through where it needs to. If your page gets too busy, ask yourself what is essential, and prioritize what information should be immediately visible when your page loads. Then build from there.

Dead Links: Nothing says “this website is not well maintained” to a customer like a site filled with links that no longer work. But, if you only work on your site from one computer or network, you might not ever know the links are broken. Regularly check your site from a different computer and check to make sure all the sites you are linking to are still up to date and don’t lead to pages that no longer exist.

Animated Logos: When you visit websites for highly respected brands or prominent companies, do you ever see logos that spin, flash, or shoot glitter? While Google’s animated “Doodles” are a popular feature of their site, the vast majority of successful sites put their animated logos out to pasture years ago. Just use your professional logo in the cleanest looking format you can.

Content Mistakes

Typos and Grammatical Errors: There should NEVER be grammatical errors or typos on your page, especially on your front page. Yet, I still see this all the time, and audiences notice. If you have to hire someone to proof read all copy you publish, do it. The bottom line is that visitors and readers automatically respect and trust you less when they notice errors on the digital face for your company.

Stale Content: One of the biggest ways to push away your audience is to appear out of date. If you have content that is just sitting there and is never udpated, visitors will start to wonder if you are still in operation, and if so, why did you leave your website and content to rot? Regularly publishing fresh content shows that your business is up-to-date, in touch with its customer base, and an expert in your field.

Outdated Calendars: The same problems with stale content are inherent in outdated calendars, but worse. If a visitor sees your online calendar hasn’t been updated since November of 2011, they will assume that is the last time your website was updated. Similarly, they will assume you have either neglected your site or gone out of business. If you don’t have enough events to fill a calendar, cut it. If not, then start updating the calendar with all your events so your audience can join in on the fun.

The Big Picture

Yes, there is plenty of room for failure online. But, with a little bit of wisdom and a skilled hand to guide you through the process, it is actually much easier to gain a bit of traction online than you probably think. But, you can’t use full measures. By waiting to get online you are just missing out on potential customers, but a poorly done website projects disinterest in your own business or a lack of professionalism that won’t attract any new faces. Most importantly, you won’t see any new sales with a site like that.

It appears we are currently in redesign season for most major search engines and social media platforms. Over the past month, Google and Bing have announced redesigns of their search results pages (Bing’s is still in testing, but has been confirmed). Meanwhile, Facebook rolled out the latest version of their site, and now Twitter has announced a new design for profile pages, complete with a slew of new features.

It seems obvious that one of the major motivators for the redesign was to improve organization of the site. Marketing Land recently conducted a study that found one of the biggest reasons for people to quit Twitter was the lack of sorting, filtering and media, which are all major focuses of the new layout.

Source: Marketing Land

Source: Marketing Land

The biggest and most notable change however, is the huge profile header that spans the full width of the screen. The huge header is easily the biggest visual change, but the most important updates all fall below. The new features allow users to pin Tweets to the top of the page, which is the first feature that allows users to break the chronological flow of their page ever. You can also filter the tweets you view by three categories:

  • Tweets
  • Tweets and Photos/Videos
  • Tweets & Replies

One of the last updates is a bit more subtle than the rest. Tweets with more engagement have gained more prominence on the screen as fonts get bigger based on activity. The Tweets getting the most attention get bigger, while less popular updates will continue to be shown at the normal font size.

Source: Marketing Land

Source: Marketing Land

The new profile design and functionality is currently limited to a small group of prominent users such as Weezer, Zac Efron, & Michelle Obama, but Twitter promises all users will have access in the “coming weeks.”

Responsive design is the popular title for a website designed to respond or adapt to users across multiple platforms. The idea is to make a responsively designed website equally as functional on your smartphone as it is on your desktop.

Of course, one way to make a website function properly on smartphones and desktops is to create a unique version of your site for each platform. What makes responsive design so special is its ability to take one site and make it work across devices, without the alternate versions.

With current estimates suggesting traffic from mobile devices may tie the numbers for desktop traffic, it is no mystery why it would be important for your brand to ensure your website is accessible and functional for everyone attempting to view it. Responsive design seems like the natural fit to solve this problem, and in many cases it is. But there are some drawbacks and problems you may need to be aware of before you start thinking responsive design is any kind of magic solution.

Tech Magnate created an infographic to explore the advantages and disadvantages of responsive design, as well as a guide for the common best practices used in the industry. If your business is online, but doesn’t have a site designed for a mobile experience, the infographic you see below can help you decipher whether responsive design is right for you.

best-practice-of-responsive-website-design

By now you’ve probably noticed your search results don’t look like they used to. Google told the public their new look was just an experiment earlier this week, but now everyone is getting to see Google’s search results pages with the new design.

Jon Wiley, Google’s lead designer for Google Search basically made the announcement the new style was rolling outto desktop when he said on Google+. “you may have noticed that Google Search on desktop looks a little different today.” He specifies desktop users because the style was showing up much more prominently on mobile before the full roll-out.

As many have noted, the new SERPs have much larger titles and the underlines have been removed. Jon also notes that Google “evened out all the line heights,” which he claims “improves readibility and creates an overall cleaner look.”

Most of those changes won’t have a huge impact on the usability of the search engine, but visitors will have to become accustomed to a different way of marking ads. Google has used smaller yellow tags to pinpoint which results were part of ads on mobile, but desktop users have still been relying on the lightly colored boxes Google has relied on for years to mark ads. Google says the change is intended to unify the mobile and desktop search experience. Jon explained:

Improving consistency in design across platforms makes it easier for people to use Google Search across devices and it makes it easier for us to develop and ship improvements across the board.

There are bound to be plenty of complaints about the redesign. I personally don’t enjoy it as much as the old style, but most will acclimate to it fairly quickly. But, it isn’t a high-profile site redesign unless people initially throw a small tantrum in the meantime.

You can compare the old and new designs below.

Google Search Results New Design

 

Keeping your website design fresh and modern is an important part of your brand, but it is also essential for SEO success. Search engines tend to favor sites which are regularly refining their site to offer new features and better user experience, as Matt Cutts recently confirmed in one of his Webmaster Chat videos.

But, there is a lot to consider before redesigning or modifying your website. A good website should be able to feel modern for at least a couple of years before needing another serious overhaul, and you are investing considerable resources into having the site designed in a way that communicates your brand well while keeping up with modern design styles.

There are also several factors behind the scenes you need to consider. Great usability and style are important, but several modern design practices seemingly go against some of the biggest search engines suggested practices. If you aren’t careful, you may do some damage to your SEO while trying to improve your site.

Kannav Chaudhary recently broke down how some of the most popular web design practices of the moment can affect your SEO. Usability and keeping your brand modern are important, but finding the right style for your brand also means choosing the paradigm which won’t hurt your other efforts.

Parallax Design

bagigia

Parallax design recently became popular with web designers for it’s unique way of restructuring a site in a visually exciting way. You build your entire website onto one page, but with responsive scrolling which delivers the content in impressive style. Sites with parallax design are incredibly easy for most users to navigate, as they simply have to scroll through the page, but it raises some issues with optimization.

Simply put, most modern SEO practices rely on creating a lot of content over numerous pages so increase the impact of keywords. You show off your skill and reputation through your content, while showing search engines you are relevant for these keywords. When all of your content is on one page, it can dilute the impact of those keywords, and Google can be unsure about how to view your site.

The key is really understanding when to use parallax design. It is great for product or contest pages, because there isn’t much content on those types of sites in the first place. Parallax design can showcase a product and rank for a few key phrases, but it will struggle with presenting a full website to the search engines.

Infinite Scrolling

Etsy

If you are pumping out a lot of content on a regular basis, but want it to be easily available from a single page, infinite scrolling can be the perfect solution Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter popularized the design practice, but it can be found all over the web these days, especially on blogs.

If you use the wrong method of implementation for infinite scrolling, you may run into some SEO issues, but the current practices avoid the lion’s share of drawbacks. Most web designers use frameworks such as Backbone or Bootstrap with crawlable AJAX so you can present your information on one page, while avoiding the problems of parallax design. Best of all, it loads quickly, so everyone will be happy.

Fixed Width Navigation

Fixed Width Navigation

Navigation will always be an important part of web design, and lately many designers have been using fixed width navigation to keep their menus in place while users move down the page. This way, you can always jump to another part of the site you want to find, even when you’re at the bottom of an article.

Thankfully, this design practice has very little effect on SEO. Your content will still be spread over plenty of pages, but you’ll want to make sure your navigation widget is indexable so that Google can also explore your site.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you’ll always want to fully understand the new design trends before implementing them for your brand. Most of the time their SEO drawbacks can be mitigated with careful practice, but occasionally you will find one that just isn’t right for your site. As long as you keep user experience as the highest priority, you’ll be able to manage any of the SEO problems that pop up along the way.

SkeuoVsFlatBanner

As a business trying to keep up with the constantly changing internet, it can be hard to decide which trends to follow and what works best for your business. It is important to have a modern and up-to-date website, but if you chase every trend you’ll often end up falling behind and adopting practices that don’t suit your own business.

The biggest decision many web designers and business owners have had to make in recent history is whether or not they should adopt the flat design craze that has swept the web over the past year, or whether they should be using more traditional skeuomorphic design practices for their brand. As the flat design style has become a staple of many big businesses, many brands are also forced whether they run the risk of becoming cliche by picking up flat design or if they will fall behind the times with the older style.

If you aren’t familiar with the whole flat design vs. skeuomorphism debate, there has been a major shift in popular web design trends that really gained steam in 2013. Chances are, your web design has relied on skeuomorphic design principles at some point, even if you’ve never heard the word.

Skeuomorphic designs rely on recreating objects and visual styles from the three-dimensional world in order to make web design more easily relatable to users. By using stylistic cues and layouts from things such as calenders or notepads, users are immediately able to feel familiar with a website or application.

However, as computers, tablets, and smartphones have made technology a constant part of day-to-day life, flat design proponents have pushed for designs that are created “for the screen.” As a guiding principle that is understandable, but flat design activists have translated that mantra into strict stylistic principles as grounded in minimalism as they are web design.

Flat designs use simple elements and a strict two-dimensional approach that eschews all added effects such as drop shadows, bevels, and embossing. Flat design has also been heavily associated with the flourishing popularity of more complex typography.

The loudest voices for flat design have made it sound as if the new design style is a revolution in how we design, and on some levels it is. The basic guiding principles of “designing for the screen” can open up many new ways of thinking about web design which are fertile for innovation. As a style based on minimalism and strict stylistic rules however, flat design is a trend with more lasting power than some of the more fleeting crazes.

It is more important as a business owner to decide what design styles benefit your brand the most, rather than which trends are the most popular at the moment. There are numerous benefits of flat design, but skeuomorphism has been a long standing way of making products and web designs the most usable and familiar they can be for their audience. Plus, as Apple has shown, you can make your designs more flat to benefit usability without entirely going to Flat Design.

To help you understand which design style benefits your brand and business the most, WebdesignerDepot released an infographic highlighting the biggest advantages and drawbacks to skeuomorphism and flat design. It may help you find which style works for you.

New Image

Over the past year Google has been pushing to streamline the look and functionality of many of their products. They have redesigned several of their products, and replaced many tools webmasters rely on with new tools with better performance. AdWords is the next tool on their list for an overhaul, as Google announced earlier this week while highlighting “more screen real estate to the tools and reports you love.”

Their announcement also assures you, “By updating AdWords to the look and feel that we use across Google, you’ll spend less time getting where you want to go in your account, and more time focusing on growing your business.”

The redesigned AdWords will be implementing several stylistic and functional aspects from Google’s broader network, such as moving navigation links like billing, help, and account setting into the gear icon.

adwords-menu

They have also shifted key campaign information above the fold in the dashboard, so you won’t have to scroll to get to the information you’re looking for. You can also quickly see who is signed in for accounts with multiple users

On the purely aesthetic side, Google has brought more white space into the page, especially within charts and tables. They also softened their color palette to make AdWords “easier on the eyes.”

adwords-charts

You can expect to see the changes appear within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime you can acclimate yourself to the updates with a short video Google released focused on navigating the redesigned AdWords.

2014The New Year is here and many are already looking forward, making resolutions and formulating predictions about the year to come. But, we can’t know what is going to look for in the future without looking back at 2013. The past year brought big changes to online marketing thanks to some big revisions in Google’s policies and the ever-changing world of design.

Whether you spent the past year doing the Harlem Shake or actively following all the notable blogs to keep your site up to the latest standards, you might want to refresh yourself on the big events and articles from the past year. With that in mind, we thought we would share our most popular posts from 2013. You can remind yourself what mattered in 2013, and see what might be important in 2014.

Our Most Viewed Posts

Pantone Radiant OrchidWhile most people outside of designers don’t tend to follow color trends, it can be surprising how much they affect what you see every day. Most consumers would be surprised to hear that colors come in and out of favor in design on a regular basis, and those trends affect marketing, purchasing decisions, and your perception of a brand or object.

One of the leading influencers in color studies and usage is the Pantone Color Institute, known for their widely used color system. Not only do they provide an organized way to communicate about color in exact terms, they also regularly analyze media, socio-political events, and technological advances to help decide the Color of the Year.

In 2014, you can expect to see a lot more “Radiant Orchid”, as the purplish-pink color has been chosen as the color of the year, as reported by Web Designer Depot.

Portlandia EmeraldLast year’s chosen color was the more recognizable Emerald, though the specific hue wasn’t what most actually associate with emerald. It was a bold but relaxing color of green “symbolizing growth, renewal, and prosperity”, which then became extraordinarily popular among the fashion and design world.

“Radiant Orchid reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Institute. “An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.”

It is hard to tell whether the analysis is so accurate that the team can predict a color that will become popular on its own, or whether Pantone’s influence is the primary factor making these colors so ubiquitous for a year. But, it is almost guaranteed 2014 is going to have its fair share of Radiant Orchid.

Web design changes all the time. New trends come and old trends go as quickly as the crowd catches up to them. Some of these trends can be long lasting and have a huge impact on how we interact with the internet like responsive design, others can be more fluid and fleeting like flat design. The design community has made its name by always pushing to create the most visually exciting and effective user experience the technology allows, but that means we also have to let go of bad habits as we grow.

As the new year draws closer, designers are reflecting on the changes web design has undergone in the past year. While many are using this reflection to predict what is going to be popular next year, Maryam Taheri looks at what we need to get rid of to improve looking forward.

Homepage Sliding Banners

Rotating Banners

The sliding banners have become a hallmark of news and culture websites across the web, as well as many retailers. But, the banners are becoming dangerously close to cliche and users seem to be mixed in their response. Many find them to be distracting and annoying. While there may be ways to make these sliding banners more enjoyable for users, it could very well be in our best interests to instead turn to more interactive design methods such as single-page scrolling.

Extensive Fill-Out Forms

While we will always have to fill out lengthy forms for legitimate purposes like online shopping (at least the first time!), there is no need to make users fill out a full length form for optional areas of your site. Chances are, they will just avoid that area of your site to avoid giving personal information, and it could severely hurt your trust with many of your online customers. Asking for an e-mail address is fine. Asking for their life story isn’t. Thankfully, the majority have already realized this.

Overuse of Fonts

Sketchbook Typography

It works in a sketchbook, not on your site.
Source: Carolyn Sewell

Typography is enjoying a new wave of interest in all areas of design, but it has its limits. A good designer can match a select number of fonts (no more than three) to create a pleasing website. But, it is far to common for less experienced designers to choose the “more is better” approach to diminishing returns. A mish-mash of fonts only makes a site look cluttered and schizophrenic. If you want to make your header or your copy pop but don’t know much about fonts and typfaces and kerning, it is wise to limit yourself to two fonts. If you can make two fonts compliment each other, you’re design won’t need any more.

Complicated Design

If there is one thing the favored trends of the past year have shown us, it is that users want their web experience simple. This seems like common sense for the large number of mobile users accessing the web while out and about, but it also stands true for desktop users. You don’t have to choose flat design or convert to the church of minimalism, but successful websites are increasingly focused on creating the best experience for users. If your website confuses or overwhelms, you’re doing it wrong.