Category Archives: Web Design

Three Things That Make a Good Website

We are often approached by people looking to get a website designed, who don’t know where to start, or don’t have the time to get it going. They don’t always understand what goes into the design and development, the evolving technology behind it, or the tools, planning, and time required. They don’t always consider the people that will visit their website, either.

There are several aspects to consider, when answering the question, “What makes a great website?” We’re going to touch on three of them with you today.

Content

Do you ever fully read through each and every paragraph on a website, especially the ones that are pretty dang long? Or do you just skim through them, hoping to catch some relevant information? If you do a lot of skimming, you’re not alone. The thing is, if your content has a lot of long paragraphs, people are skimming through your website.

If your visitors want to read huge paragraphs, then they will read a novel, most of which are known to be chock full of juicy written goodness. By shortening your paragraphs and breaking down your content, it will make text easier to read and digest.

Update your content regularly. Updating the content on your website shows visitors that your site and business is active. By far, the most well-known method of updating content is blogging. Not only are you spoon-feeding fresh content to your visitors, but blogging can be helpful for improved SEO results.

Also, take a little time to proofread your content. If not you, then try to have someone provide a fresh set of eyes on it, preferably someone that knows the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Watch for those misspelled words, improper grammar and punctuation, because they do nothing but make you sound unprofessional.

Mobile Devices

A 2015 survey done by the Pew Research Center concluded that 64% of American adults own a smartphone.

Another Pew study shows that 89% of Americans use the internet at least occasionally.

What does this mean for your website?

It means that people will be accessing it through not just a desktop, but a tablet and smartphone. Because of that, your website needs to be created in a way that offers the user a good experience, regardless of what device they are using. That, in a nutshell, is what responsive web design is about.

Websites designed responsively will look good on screens large and small. Users won’t have to squint or zoom in further in order to read text that’s tiny.

If you’re using a desktop, a great way to see if a website is responsive is to resize your browser window.

Functionality

Just like with everything else in your business, you need to ensure that everything within your website is functioning correctly.

If I’m getting an iPhone, it’s going to be more than just a purchase. It’s going to be something I’m using everyday. It’s supposed to compliment my life. Because of that, every aspect of that iPhone should be working without a hitch. A similar view should be used for your website.

A fully functioning website should have images that display, and display correctly. All internal and external links should take the user to their intended destination. Contact forms should submit all inputted information smoothly, and send it to the proper email addresses or databases. Any obstacles that prevent the user from using your website properly can result in users giving up quickly and moving on.

While these are only three things to consider, the best path to a great website is one where these items are discussed with a professional web designer or design agency. They will be able to answer any questions that you, as someone who might feel overwhelmed, will have.

Does Your Church Need a Website?

King James Bible

Churches and places of worship are frequented by millions of people every year. With this sort of traffic, one would think that these places would find their way online. But that isn’t always the case.

And that’s a shame.

Only 15% of Americans don’t use the internet. That means that 85% are using it.

Churches should be taking advantage of this, just like any other niche, segment or industry. They can use the internet for similar reasons as anyone else could.

Answering Questions

An effective website will answer questions that your user may have. For a church or place of worship, this is just as important. Your visitors may either be current members, or prospective members who are looking for a place to worship, for any number of reasons.

Your church may have specific worship times. It could have a nursery or a Sunday school, or serve a specific denomination. Serving up relevant information, such as worship times during the week, if your place of worship has a nursery or Sunday school, and what their schedules are, is important so that you can answer questions that your current and prospective members may have.

And if non-members are looking you up online, they may have questions that need to be answered.

  • What do you have to offer for new members?
  • What is your purpose?
  • What is your mission?

Special Events

Having a website is an excellent way of listing upcoming events for your church.

How these events can be listed is between you and your developer, depending on your needs. They could be organized in chronological order or displayed in a functional calendar, allowing for the opportunity to list relevant information pertaining to that event.

From church softball games to special holiday services, listing events on your church website can help members stay up-to-date.

Sharing Content

You can show pictures of the church, both the exterior and interior. You can show pictures of the church staff and its congregation, or of any of your special events. Perhaps there is meaningful or relevant scripture that you would like to share that week.

You can even get a little more advanced, and post weekly sermons online, so that members can view or listen to them at their convenience. Potential members can also use these to see what the teachings are like.

Communication

Your site can serve as a communication tool. Really, this can go for nearly any website, but providing users a way to communicate with your staff can be useful. If users have a question that isn’t answered anywhere else, then a contact page with a simple form is needed. A contact page can also display:

  • Your address (using Google Maps is optional, but can be helpful)
  • Phone and fax numbers
  • Social media links, if any

A well-placed phone number within the header or footer of each page on your website can also be helpful, potentially reducing the amount of time spent by the user looking for it.

Launching a website for your churches and places of worship is arguably the best way to reach out to your community, to increase membership, to help others in need, and to spread your message. This is your chance to become a Google search away from doing just that.

All of the items listed above are benefits that churches can take advantage of. If you don’t have one, it’s time to look into getting one developed. And if you do have one, you should consider evaluating if it is being maximized to the best of its ability.

Three Signs Your Website Needs Updating

Your website, when it’s new and fresh and exciting, is like buying a new car, a brand new computer, or the latest smartphone. It can be…uh…new and fresh and exciting.

But like the new car, computer, or smartphone, it can get a little outdated. It might get a little neglected. It might even become slightly obsolete after a short amount of time.

How do you know if your website needs to be updated? Here are three things to look for.

The Copyright Date

Most websites will display a year at the bottom of each page. Copyright whatever-the-current-year-is. Some will even display two different years, such as the year that their company started, followed by the current year, separated by a dash.

But some sites won’t display the current year. This could be because the year isn’t being displayed on a dynamic site and being called using an alarmingly simple line of PHP code, or the designer simply hasn’t edited the HTML code to reflect the current year.

Whatever the case, an outdated copyright year won’t give you any bonus points. It may stick out in your visitors’ mind, as they may say to themselves, “Wait a minute. It’s not 2012.” It won’t give your visitors any confidence that your business is still operational. And if they don’t have that confidence, then you can kiss them goodbye.

This is merely one little thing. But you know what they say: little things can add up.

An Out-of-Date Blog

Blogging takes research, patience and dedication. And because of that, it also takes time.

Sure, you may be able to crank out a few blog posts. But some people don’t realize that the positive results of blogging don’t show up overnight. And when they feel as if the results aren’t there, they give up.

The thing is, you just simply cannot stop after posting a handful of entries. If someone were to visit your blog and see that the most recent post was from 18 months ago, it would look as if you neglected a part of your website. And if you neglected part of your website, how would that make your business or brand look?

As stated earlier, blogging takes time to research ideas, find a voice, and write an well-thought-out post. Sometimes, you may simply underestimate the kind of effort it takes to maintain your blog.

A blog that is consistently updated will make your business look better in the eyes of users who are looking for your products or services. It will make your business look active. It may help lend you credibility with your users.

Oh, and it may also help you rank better with Google.

Does it use Flash?

Back in the days when MySpace was freaking awesome, Adobe Flash was widely used for different aspects of web development. Banner ads, forms, to entire sites could be built using Flash.

Fast forward a few years later. Flash is dead on the mobile web. Steve Jobs himself gave it a stiff arm in his “Thoughts on Flash” essay in April of 2010. Advancements in web and application development continue to make strides.

If your site uses Flash for anything, it is time to upgrade it.

Like, in a flash, amirite?

Bad jokes aside, the point is that some changes to your website can be simple and quick, while others can be perpetual or major. The characteristics listed here can fit into either one of these categories. And if your website has at least one of these characteristics, then it may be time to invest some resources into making updates or hiring a web developer.

Google to Add Mobile-Friendly Label

Perusing through the search results on your desktop can be frustrating, if you do not immediately find the information you are looking for.

Performing the same search on your mobile device can add another layer to that frustration: can you easily read the information? Are you able to consume that information, or do you have to zoom in, or scroll left to right, or resort to squinting your eyes? If you have to do any of those things, then your getting served the desktop version of a website on your mobile device.

Google, our lord and head of state for everything that is the interwebs, is here to help.

In an effort to help people to find information that they are searching for, the search engine giant has started to add a “Mobile-friendly” label to its search results page on mobile devices.

Google and Mobile Friendly label

As stated by Google itself, to get this label, a web page must meet the following criteria:

  • Use text that can be read without zooming
  • Avoid the use of software, such as Flash, that is not widely used or supported on mobile devices
  • Size or resize content so that users aren’t required to zoom or scroll horizontally
  • Place enough space around links so that they can be easily tapped

Users shall be seeing this label globally starting in November and December of 2014.

Other than the obvious advantage in that it allows users to see right away whether a website can easily be viewed on their mobile device, this feature could encourage website owners and developers to implement mobile-friendly changes so that the growing number of people who use their smartphones and tablets to surf the web can benefit.

The Cons of Using Website Builders

Previously, I talked about the advantages of using a website builder, such as Wix and Weebly, to name a few.

And for certain people in certain situations, they can be very useful.  Maybe you’re too busy running your small business and don’t have the time or the money.  Maybe you need something right away, or you just don’t know anything about what it takes to build a website.  If so, then a website builder may be for you.

But if you want the best possible website you can get, then you should stay away from them.  Stay far, far away from them, like you should from a Nigerian member of royalty who is more than happy to want to deposit a seven figure amount into your bank account.

Why?  Here’s why.

You Can’t Always Take it With You

What if you’re unhappy with the service, or the company that offered it to you?  If you go all Cartman on them and say, “Screw you guys…” then chances are you will have to move your website.  But it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Chances are, you used one of their templates for your site.  But those templates were made strictly for that website builder.  So if you move on to another company or professional, you’ll probably wind up losing the look and feel of your website.

And your text and images as well, if you weren’t smart enough to keep copies of those.

Are you down with starting from scratch?  Because that’s the risk you’ll be taking.

Branding and Ads

See the text link or badge at the bottom of the website?  Website builders, such as those from GoDaddy, VistaPrint and Homestead, will proudly tattoo their name either discretely (such as a simple line of text) or as a graphic at the bottom of the website.  A graphic that is somehow so distracting that it can be seen from space.

You can’t remove them, as there might not be an option available to do so.  And even if you knew a little bit of CSS to try and hide that sucker, you could be in danger of violating the company’s TOS agreement.

And yeah, many ad agencies, web design, and marketing firms and individuals will include some sort of ad at the bottom of the website they created.  But they didn’t drag-and-drop some solid-colored elements, type your company name with some generic font, lean back in their chair and call it a day.  They worked hand-in-hand with you throughout the entire process of creating your website, from establishing your goals to customizing the source code, also known as that mish-mash of letters, numbers and symbols that you won’t understand.

Limited Flexibility

A website builder will offer you several different templates to choose from.  And while you’ll have the option of choosing different colors and sizes for graphics and fonts, the worst case scenario is that you’ll have a small list to choose from.  You can try to upload some pictures, but if the file size exceeds the limits imposed on you and you don’t know how to optimize them, then you’re up a certain creek with a four-letter name that rhymes with ‘bit.’

Oh, and did I mention that other businesses who use website builders may choose the same template as yours?  That means that your website layout may look awfully similar to other websites.  Way to stand out from the competition.

Your website is like an interactive advertisement for your business.  You should treat it as such.  You should budget it as such.  You should take the time to write down your goals, gather your ideas for structure, functionality and content, and then talk to a professional.  Whether you use an agency or an individual, or even keep it in house, your website is a part of your business.

The Pros of Using Website Builders

In this day and age, having a website is essential for nearly any sort of business. They go together like Kanye West and comically-priced t-shirts. A website for your business can instantly tell any potential customer more about you and your business, where you’re located, what you offer, and more. If you don’t have one, then you might as well be living in the ’50’s, gramps.

Today, many small business owners use website builders to create their site. This solution has several advantages to it. Let’s go over some of those, shall we?

Here, I’m defining a website builder as an web-based tool that allows you to design a website with little to no knowledge of web design or coding. Typically, they’re offered by web hosting companies as a free or low-cost service.

Cost and Time Efficient

You’re an owner of a growing business. You’ve got so many things to keep track of, from budgets and supplies, to making sure none of your employees go joy-riding in one of the company vehicles. You don’t have the time or the money to sit down and hash out a plan for creating a website, with a professional, that will only make you feel stupid when you ask him anything web-related.

Alan Cumming - Goldeneye

“For the last time, no more LOLcats!”

That’s where website builders can come into play. They offer a quick solution for the CEO on the go. You can choose from several standard templates and upload your company logo. You can insert your phone number, write some copy about what your business offers, and upload. Boom, done.

And many of these website builders offer various low-cost packages. Some places even offer them for free if you purchase other services. They are a good solution for those who are in the beginning stages of living the dream of being your own boss, but with little to no budget.

Drag and Drop

Even if you don’t know the first thing about the guts of a computer, most of you know how to use a mouse, right? From quickly hiding the adult material from anyone about to walk by, to the accidental deletion of critical company files, knowing how to use the mouse is half of the battle right there. Many website builders offer a drag-and-drop method of creating web pages.

You can literally drag nearly any element onto a designated area of the page. Forms, pictures, text blocks, and social media icons can be positioned without breaking a sweat.

No Knowledge? No Problem

Everyone who knows anything about web design and development, from XHTML and CSS to WordPress and anything database-related, was either self-taught or went to school to learn it. Unless you can put a book to your head and gain knowledge through osmosis, you don’t have the time for all of that fancy book-learning. You have a business to run, money to make, and a family to feed.

Website builders to the rescue!

You don’t need any sort of web design experience, come from a coding background or be a Photoshop wizard. They will handle nearly all of that stuff for you. Just choose your template, add your content and you have a website that your mom can be proud of.

Ed O'Neil, Sofia Vergara, Rico Rodriguez

“I want you to be proud of me…mom”

Overall, going down the path of using website builders can be advantageous depending on your unique situation. You may find yourself in a similar spot. Have no money, no time or knowledge? Then a website builder might be for you.