Archive for Website Tips

Web Design Mistakes of the Past to Avoid in the Future

Today we design websites to be fast and sleek, but some best web design practices of the past are now considered to be web design mistakes! It’s not so much that web design mistakes were made, but technology changed, making some past web design practices obsolete.

The best way to minimize impacts resulting from future changes in usage is to keep websites simple, and design for speed!

When I first got started with web design we weren’t using phones for surfing the web. Back then most of us only used our phones for calls. It’s not only mobile technology alone though! It’s the mindset of how we search and use the information we want and need. It really boils down to changes in usage brought about by improved technology.

Today, we use the web differently than most of us ever imagined. Exactly what the future holds, I can’t say for sure. I do know, whatever it is will have something to do with our social networks and added convenience for our website users! How about hands free web surfing? Though not widely used, this feature is already being used.

Looking back at how we created websites in the past compared to how we’re building them now, I’ve developed my own methods to avoid web design mistakes in the future. The goal is to make our current designs to last as long as possible before redesigning. By following current best practices, thinking ahead, and avoiding mistakes, we’ll get more milage before changes are needed.

I Want It Now or I’m Leaving!

Today, it’s about creating a simple but high performance website experience for mobile users. Rightly so, most of us are designing for mobile device users first. As a user, when I visit a webpage I want to find exactly what I’m looking for and I want it NOW! If you make me wait, I’m leaving! If I can’t find it instantly, I’m leaving! It only takes a split second and a potential customer is gone!

Special Effects Now a Web Design Mistake?

Since our website visitors won’t wait, is there any reason for adding some of the cool features such as scrolling effects or animations? Our web visitors don’t care!

Since our visitors don’t care about special effects and it only slows down our websites, why design it? I’m sorry, but any feature or design element that slows my client’s site or is not beneficial to visitors, is a web design mistake!

Avoid web design mistakes so they load fast

Today, in order to avoid web design mistakes of the past we must build websites for speed! If your website needs to rank high for SEO, the mapping structure needs to be outstanding and your site must load very fast! This brings us to our next potential problem, which is WordPress!

Too Many WordPress Plugins

Years back, as a web novice I was adding plugins without much thought. Now I know better, but that was a big web design mistake! Now, I carefully weigh the advantages and look if there’s someway to achieve similar but acceptable results without adding a plugin. Too many WordPress plugins or poorly coded plugins slow down websites and add unneeded bloat. Plugins are great, but I encourage you to be cautious!

Is WordPress a Web Design Mistake to Avoid?

In the past, I was advising 95% of all clients to use WordPress. Even if there was no specific need for a CMS, WordPress was still the way to go. Now, many experienced designers believe, if the client only needs a brochure website and don’t want to blog, build it with good old fashioned html and css. Since the site is static, there’s no database, the website will load very fast.

What is the future for WordPress? I don’t know but as long as there’s a need for content management, I believe there will always be a place for WordPress. WordPress might not be a web design mistake now, but it could be later. It does require a good amount of work to configure WordPress to run fast. Don’t misunderstand, I love WordPress but we’ll see what the future holds.

List of Web Design Mistakes to Avoid – for Now!

  • Don’t automatically choose WordPress unless there is a need. We can build some attractive but speedy websites using simple html and css. I love WordPress, but this is a consideration.
  • Before adding a plugin, consider if it is really needed. It’s a tradeoff of speed vs functionality.
  • Minimize the use of Javascript and animations.
  • Don’t get carried away with web designs. Keep it simple and use more subtle design effects. Some creatives can create amazing designs with typography effects.
  • Be careful with large images. This is probably the most common web design mistake. Make sure images fully optimized before loading on the site. If you have lots of images, it’s better to use a content delivery network.
  • Avoid sloppy website structure. Make your site’s navigation obvious and simple for all device users.
  • If you need to achieve high organic search engine ranking, learn the basics and hire a trusted SEO consultant. These days, SEO is much more involved before. Duplicate content issues on our own websites is common, especially if using WordPress.
  • If using WordPress I suggest avoiding page builder plugins. These are often problematic and cause conflicts.
  • Unless you don’t plan on attracting mobile users to your website, avoid using full size video or image backgrounds. If your web page loads too slow, you will receive a penalty from google.
Be Careful of Old Multiple Column Layouts

This is not so much a web design mistake, but many older websites designed with columns now need to be edited. I was looking at some old sites with the popular three horizontal widgets type layout. Designers like to use the three column design with the important call to action widget placed right in the center! It was the perfect layout before mobile devices came about! Now, we must plan and design so the intended column will stack up on top and above the fold when displayed on mobile devices.

I know I’m not alone in this, but I’m now finding myself designing more full width page layouts. I’m slowly abandoning the old two column layouts because they just aren’t so useful anymore. I used to like having the old narrow column on the left or right. Some older sites look like a web design mistake and now need to be redesigned so these columns don’t mess up the mobile presentation of the website.

Conclusion

In conclusion, web design mistakes of the past must be edited as we move forward in the future. We didn’t even begin to cover everything in this post, but perhaps it will stimulate more thoughts on how we might improve our web designs for the future. There will be more changes and I can only continue researching future trends in order to keep up with technologies.

We offer a number of affordable freelance web services for small business. Please contact us today for a free one hour consultation.

Mobile Friendly Website Design is Now a MUST!

When it comes to providing a positive user experience, mobile friendly website design is now a must! This is especially true if the website in question is your business website. If your website is NOT mobile friendly it will result in less traffic and lost income revenue.

Displaying a mobile friendly website will not only make your visitors happy but your site will receive higher search result rankings.

Before going any further, there’s no need wasting your time reading if your website is already mobile friendly.

Take the Mobile Friendly Website Design Test

Find out now if your website is considered mobile friendly. If your website passes the test, great! If not, come on back here to learn more!

Test Website Here

How did you do? If you came back to this post, it’s likely your site failed the test! In that case, let’s see if we can provide some enlightenment about mobile friendly website design.

Contact Us for a Fix!

Mobile and Responsive Web Design

First off, it’s not about just building a website to display well on mobile devices. It’s not about any specific device but rather, it’s about displaying your site well on almost ALL devices. To accomplish this, forget the “mobile friendly website design” part, and start thinking responsive! With a responsive design your website will appear nicely on all devices

Remember, your visitors will be using devices of different types and sizes. It’s just not cost effective to design specifically to every type of screen size available. That’s one reason we like going the responsive route. We only need to stay focused on providing your visitors a positive experience, no matter the device. A responsive design will pass the mobile friendly test and help you maintain your SEO rankings as well.

As freelance web designers, we use mobile friendly website design on every site we build. In order to accomplish this we correctly use responsive code and proper site structure. It’s about more than the code though. It’s our whole thought process while laying out the site structure. We must think through how various site elements will stack and appear when the screen size varies from large, to small.

Unless the client has a particular reason to design to a specific device, our sites appear nicely on most every device, eliminating the need to focus on one specific device.

Personally, I like simple general responsive designs that appear nicely on all devices. Others prefer a site more geared for mobile.

Below we created a short screencast video showing the difference between a responsive and non responsive website. The responsive site shown in the video is based on our mobile friendly website design and passed the Google test.


 

Difference Between Responsive and Non-Responsive Website

Pretend for a moment you have a website home page with 3 columns. It appears perfectly on a desktop or laptop screen.

Now, imagine slowly shrinking the horizontal size of the screen, from right to left. Depending on the type of website design used, those columns will probably stack on top of each other, ultimately resulting in a single column page.

Now, what happens if we have an important call to action in center column. That might display perfectly on a large screen device. However, viewing this same page on a mobile device, the middle column will probably stack down under the column on the left. If so, your most important call to action is moved below an element of less value or importance.

Designing a responsive and mobile friendly website is about more than using percentages and the modern code. It’s also about proper site structure so that elements appear as desired.

Seriously, mobile friendly website design is a MUST and sometimes it’s really not that difficult.

If you have a non responsive WordPress website there are even a few plugins out there that will automatically make your site somewhat responsive. At least good enough to pass Google’s mobile friendly test. This would only be a short term fix but it’s better than nothing! This won’t work on all WordPress themes, but if  your site is not mobile friendly, you have little to lose by trying!

Honestly, if your website is not mobile friendly, it’s time for a new website.

Contact us today and let’s see if we can help!

Responsible Website Management for Small Business

Today we’re sharing about some of the new challenges associated with responsible website management for small business.

Update Note: Originally published on 7/11/15 this post was updated and re-published as of the date shown near the title.

With today’s ever changing technology, the chore of website management is more challenging than ever. This can be true for even the most simple websites.

Since technologies change, responsible website management is more demanding than ever. Remember, our business websites are a direct reflection of our business. If our sites aren’t responsive, look outdated or contain old school functionality, we might be better off not having one at all! Obviously, NOT having a business website is not an option, so the only responsible choice remaining is to continually put in the time needed to keep our sites managed.

Before moving forward use Google’s mobile friendly test tool to test your site is mobile friendly. If your site does NOT pass the test, we advise only completing the absolute must updates and contact us immediately. There’s no need going further until your site is responsive!

Google's Mobile Friendly Test Tool

Contact Us for Emergency Mobile Friendly Service

Absolute “Must Updates” for All WordPress Websites
Regardless of the type of website, the first list below reflects the most critical tasks that MUST be done on a regular basis to avoid breaking your website!

We suggest checking for and performing updates every week. BTW, often these updates contain security fixes and by not performing these tasks the security of your site is at risk.

Note: Always Backup Your Site BEFORE updating!

  • If using WordPress, always update as soon as new updates become available. It’s now possible set WordPress to update automatically and for a simple site, I would recommend taking advantage. Personally, I think it’s too risky to allow any automatic updates, but it’s better than the alternative of NOT updating at all.
  • Update your theme as soon as the updates are available
  • Update all plugins
  • Always backup your website BEFORE updating themes and plugins. If you need a dependable backup solution, contact me today.
  • Be careful deleting any previously published content. This includes photos or any other media. Many website owners don’t know, incorrectly deleting media without setting up redirects results in crawler errors which is NOT good for SEO.
  • Perform monthly optimization of the database.

Updating a Simple Business WordPress Website – Recommended Monthly
Always perform the “Must Updates” shown above each week. If your business website primarily functions as an online brochure and contains no blog or extended functionality, it’s likely your continued management is minimal. Even so, if using WordPress even a minimal site requires more than just clicking the update button every once in a while.

BTW, we’re all about WordPress, but if your site is built on WordPress but you don’t blog and very rarely add or change content, you might be better served with a non-WordPress static website. There are some advantages, especially with regard to site speed. Contact us today to learn more.

wordpress update photo

First, be sure to backup the database monthly, or whenever changes are made.

Consider, does your site need to be converted to a responsive website so it appears perfectly on all browsers? What about the new screen resolutions? How does the site look on a newer retina screen? Are photos and icons outdated? Also, make sure there are no broken links.

The website should always be a professional reflection of the business it represents, so it’s crucial it always appears perfectly on all browsers and all devices.

Updating a Business/Blog Website
Always perform the “Must Updates” shown above each week. If your business website also functions as a built in blog, the management chore becomes a little more daunting.

If there are multiple users blogging on the site, it’s important to take full advantage of the SEO benefits associated with blogging by using GREAT on-page SEO. Since most users know little about SEO, it’s likely someone will need to go back to edit and optimize each post to take full advantage.

Be especially watchful of duplicate content, even within your own site. Also, if using outbound links, be sure to verify those links are still good. It hurts your SEO and we don’t want our site visitors dealing with broken links.

Updating a Business eCommerce Sales Site
Always perform the “Must Updates” shown above each week. Responsible website management for any e-commerce site is absolutely crucial! First, even if linking your customers off to another secure payment processing site, it’s still good practice and good SEO to make your site secure! Double check your payment method is working as it should.

Did you know Google is now ranking secure sites higher than other similar sites that are not secure. If your site is an ever changing Ecommerce website, What do you do with old products being replaced by new? This can be an SEO nightmare.

If you don’t know how or where to set up canonical or 301 redirects, you’ll need to learn quickly. Otherwise, you’ll end up with duplicate content. Take a look at what Yoast has to say about duplicate content.

Updating Website with Extended Functionality
Always perform the “Must Updates” shown above each week. If you have a site with extended functionality it’s critical to update often! Make sure all plugins are functioning as they should, check for java script errors or any other programming conflicts. Verify all automated functions are working. Are your forms sending out email notifications?

I manage several real estate broker websites with extended functionality. Because they almost always offer their users to search for homes on the MLS, these plugins are fussy and most require continual adjustments and configuration.

General Style Updates

Next, it’s time to look at how your site is displaying to the world. Just as clothing styles and fashion continually change, so does web design. If a trendy looking site is important to your business, we recommend a complete site style overhaul at least every two years, but yearly if possible! Even if it’s not necessary your site have that “trendy” look, it’s important your site look and feel, current.

Be sure to view your site using a mobile device, iPad or tablet, laptop and large screen monitor. It’s critical Google has declared your site “Mobile Friendly.” If it’s not, fix it immediately!

Test Your Site Using the Google Friendly Test Tool Now. If you fail, contact us immediately and we’ll see if we can do an emergency quick fix until your site can be re-built using responsive code.

Take the Test Now

Responsible Website Management for SEO

Crawler errors won’t physically break your site, but they can ruin your SEO. Every three months fix your crawler errors. These are usually the result of deleted content, especially deleted media content.

Then, take a look at all content and search for any duplicate content. Take special note of any tag or category titles matching your more important page or post titles. If your site has tags and categories with the same keywords you are trying to rank for with your important pages or posts, fix it. Again, don’t just arbitrarily delete anything because that will result in a 404 error.

Assist Website Management ServicesResponsible Website Management Options
We provide responsible website management, especially for small business. We offer complete or partial care services to perform the basic services needed to keep your site healthy. Then, if you want enhanced SEO we can help with that as well. This way, you can focus on your business and we’ll take care of your site, so you NEVER have to think about it again. Service plans range from Basic Minimal Service to Full Service and prices vary depending on your needs. Please contact us to learn more.

How to View Your Website in 3D Using Firefox

I was watching the iThemes Weekly Youtube yesterday and Professor Ben showed how to view your website in 3D using my Firefox Browser. It was really cool to see, and I had no idea that feature was even possible! As far as I know, at this time the feature isn’t available in Google Chrome. After viewing the training I decided to create a short version screencast, only showing exactly how to find the 3D feature using your Firefox Browser.

Video – How to View Your Website in 3D Using Firefox Browser

The screencast below shows our family real estate website in 3D view, which is sooo cool! It’s a great way to see an accurate visual representation of your website. Have a look at the video below and please leave a comment let me know what you think.

I think this 3D effect is just amazing! Each layer is an html div and you can actually see or drill down by viewing and rotating the 3D image as opposed to studying the code. This could be helpful if your not sure where to apply CSS styling to specific classes or id’s.

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