Designing Sites That Grandma Can Use

9 Tips for Better Website Design

In a previous article we discussed about the principles of effective visual communications. Those principles also apply in web design and are crucial in making the site appear visually appealing.

Aside the visual aesthetics, effective presentation of information, functionality and user friendliness are also factors that determine whether a site is good or bad.

Both standpoints should be considered equally. Making a site that presents information in an efficient way and is user-friendly would be pointless, if it looks ugly or doesn’t fit the client’s brand and image. On the other hand none will wait to see your nice graphics if they take too long to load, or have to go through a labyrinth of clicks to get to that page.

So with these two factors in mind let’s see some quick tips to help you build a better website.

1. Users don’t like getting tired. All your content should be well organized and easy to reach, be it a text block or a link to other pages etc. Your design shouldn’t be a hindrance between the information and the user but the conduit.

 2. Users don’t like to wait. Try to optimize your graphics loading times and your sites overall performance. That “nice” flash slider won’t do you any good if it takes too long to load. Your user will most probably be in another page by then.

 3. Your navigation should be easy to find on the page, and it must be usable. Users must be able to know where the currently are but also how they will reach their next destination. I see sometimes corporate pages with menus 3 & 4 levels deep containing more text in their navigation than in the body of the page itself, and I do wonder if anyone ever bothers navigating that menu.

 4. Each of the pages must look like belonging to the same site, changing style dramatically, in terms of layout, or colors or the navigation position etc. will confuse and make your users feel awkward.

 5. Take into account the basic principles of design. Even if you think that your web site looks gorgeous because your 4 year old daughter drawn the graphics, it might not be exactly what your clients or your audience is looking for. It never hurts to also take a second and more unbiased opinion too.

 6. Be aware of the emerging web technologies, CSS3 is definitely cool but might not work as well in older browsers.  Best practice is to use it in non-critical spots of the site. So even if it’s not supported in an older browser it won’t harm or make your design unusable. But if it does the user can experience the better effects.

 7. Try to make the site as much accessible as you can. Among your audience might be people with special needs or disabilities that you should take into account too. Web sites should be inclusive for everyone if possible.

8. Always remember that unless you made the site for your viewing pleasure or experimentation, it was created to serve an explicit purpose. Either to sell a product, or service, or showcase your work or distribute news etc., and to be appealing in a specific target audience. Make sure that your design do serve that purpose, and is appealing at that audience.

 9. In the end, design is all about the end user. Try to think and feel as your end user would. He is busy, he is overloaded with info, and he has aesthetics.

Hope you enjoyed and found useful this article!

What you think makes or breaks a web site?

Do you use the above approaches or have any additional tips to share? Looking forward to hear your opinions!

By: Jeremy Keith

How Long Does It Take to Become a Professional Web Designer? Tips and answers

This question is often asked by people who are just starting over in the field of creating websites. The answer, however, is not that simple. The end result depends on many factors such as initial skills and background, time which will be spent on learning. Personal abilities and talent matter as well – how fast one will learn a certain language will eventually affect the outcome. In any case, before giving any kind of estimation it is worth defining what ‘professional web designer’ means in the first place. So let’s divide being a pro in web design from where one can easily create a simple website and where one can add lots of bells and whistles to a website and make it look competent.

Basically everyone starts learning with HTML and CSS for general design and normally that doesn’t take very long – a couple of days to know the drill if you have computer science background. Later on extra gadgets will be required, such as HTML5, JS, PHP (for dynamic content), MySQL (for databases), and so on. There are plenty of things to learn, depending on how much you want to be able to do, and it gets easier and faster as you go because you gain more experience in the process. Obviously starting from scratch will take more time than learning with certain coding expertise behind the belt. But generally you can find a sample code and learn how to do it on your own in a few hours or so. In the future, when you are already a pro, you will be doing similar tasks within 15-20 minutes.

For those who are smart enough to understand how programming and the Web really work, and who can add up two things, it may be a useful skill being able to piece different parts of code together in various reference documents. That, on average, may take around 6 months or so, but it will take a much longer period of time to become a very confident programmer whatsoever. What is required here is basic understanding of the protocols and used technology. However, you will learn to create all kinds of websites by this point of time, but they won’t be any good in terms of bug absence, security, the codebase will be all crooked and enormous, and it won’t make any sense. These issues can be solved thanks to a great number of different coding methodologies that, for instance, divide the code (MVC etc.), help to work in larger projects with other specialists which is rather important on a big scale projects – all of this most certainly comes with experience.

Another effective way to learn to become a professional web designer is in fact starting to make a web design project. It will help you to get to know the essentials of how it’s actually done. Finding proper literature is crucial. Many people think that learning web design is a two-phase process: learn and then practice and it’s not. You learn while you practice.

Ultimately, there are many basic steps that make website design fundamentals, and they usually remain the same while others change rather often and probably always will. Learning the basics doesn’t take much – from a couple of hours to a few months. However, it takes a lot more to become a confident expert on every little detail. But the funny thing is with website design you never stop learning!

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Jeremy Keith

Article by Zfort Group

The article is kindly provided by Zfort Group, IT Outsourcing service provider.

Advantages and disadvantages of responsive web design

Advantages and Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design

Web design has been around for a while but things are changing now. The problem faced a decade or two ago was that there were not enough people using the computer and those who did use the computer may or may not have been using the Internet. What we take for granted today (computer with 24 hours of Internet access) was not quite a reality in those days. In addition to that now smart phones have been introduced and the number people having smart phones is on the rise. In fact according the recent statistics the mobile phone industry is growing at a faster pace than the computer industry. We all know what that means, there are more people with their own personal mobile surfing the Internet on their smart browsers then those using the computer to do the same. Web design has kept up with the pace and in fact there is some thing new called responsive web design. Responsive web design is a web design approach aimed at designing sites to provide an optimal browsing experience easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing , panning and scrolling across a wide range of devices from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones. In more simpler terms, responsive web design uses media queries to figure out the resolution of a device in question.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design

The web designers are breathing easier since the advent of responsive web design. It is almost like a boon for designers and web sites owners alike. The reason why will become quite evident as the article progresses. Considering the recent statistics it is now common knowledge that many people use their mobile phones to surf the Internet these days. Purchasing over the Internet use to be considered as very risky and there were few just a brave people who actually opted for online shopping over the Internet from a desktop computer. But things have changed drastically now. The people have no qualms about spending on the Internet from th safely of their very own desktop computer. But this have changed a tad further now with the introduction of smart phones and tablets. Now it is possible to access the Internet on the go where ever one is.  In fact studies show that the people find it the mobile a more handy device to surf the Internet on then a computer. Besides which no everyone owns a computer compared t o the fact that every third person posses a smart phone or a tablet computer.  With such changing trends the web sites designed by a designer that used to be optimized for a computer needs to be viewable on the hand held devices as well. A web site that worked splendidly on the desktop computer  was no longer sufficient for the web site owners because they also required it to be viewable on their mobile or a tablet and in fact on all mobile devices. Thus web designers shifted to responsive web design which is capable of providing all that and more.

Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design

Just as quickly as the web designers realized the potential of responsive web design the also had to come to terms with the disadvantages of using it too. It became harder to explain the process of web design to clients. Prior to responsive web design all stages of development were well defined however that was not the case with responsive web design. Besides that features that were taken for granted in the desktop computer’s web design were no longer easier to reproduce for a responsive web design since setting the features like navigation, tables and images in a responsive web design demands extra effort and creativity. The same site is used for all devices and thus it tends to load slightly slower and if there is one that frustrates the visitors most, it is a slow loading web site. There are several problems from the SEO perspective as well since such web sites generally do not use mobile specific keywords. In addition to which the features that one would commonly expect in a web site developed for a mobile device were absent from a web site using the responsive web design. For example a mobile device has many features exclusive to itself like two cameras; front and back, touch and multi-touch, GPS, etc and a web built specially for a mobile device ce is able to utilize these and other features thus resulting in a very robust web site, something which is not quite possible using the responsive web design.

Conclusion

At the end of the day it is impractical to make a different web site for each platform. Thus it is a trade off between compatibility and features. It really comes down to the specific requirements of the individual web site. Responsive web design has its advantages but there are a few disadvantages as well. Alakmalak.com is one such compan y that can provide you with the appropirate soultion.

Summary

With change in the way people surf the Internet it has become increasingly important to make web sites that also run mobile phones and tablets and in fact other hand held devices as well. Since there are many different devices available and making a different site for each device is not feasible to all the web designer have opted for a responsive web design whereby a common web site fits all. This has a great deal of disadvantages though since a mobile has a great many features which go used in such a design.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by razorit.com

By: Betsy Weber

What does an Online Retailer Need to Do to Implement an Online Design Software?

Whether you are selling T-shirts, mobile phone covers, business cards, signboards, labels, banners or something else, you must be aware of the new designing concept doing the rounds – ‘Do-it-Yourself’ design wherein the buyer designs the look of the product, meaning its visuals. The buyer is effectively in charge of the design of the product! I am sure you also know how popular this concept is and I am betting as an online retailer you can’t wait to implement an online design tool on your website.

If you are thinking of doing so, you are on the right track, so just take a look at few of the pointers given below that will tell you how to go about implementing such tools/software on your site.

1. Why do you want an Online Product Designer?

No doubt such product designers are a very good idea, but the question is, “Is this software a really good idea for your online business?” You need to carefully think your decision through and list down the benefits that you can incur from such a decision. The reason is very simple. Once you implement this software on your website, you also need a printing apparatus in place to print the personalized designs for your customers. Do you want to make such an investment and will this investment help you get the returns you are looking for? Answer this question and only then begin searching for an online product designer of choice.

2. Searching for Design Software

It is crucial that you have the right design software up on your site. The ‘right’ software in this case means the onewhich caters to all your needs and requirements and also that of your target customers. It must be well designed and must be easy to use. The mark of good custom online design software is its simplicity and its comprehensiveness. The fact that it offers a comprehensive range of features shouldn’t interfere with its usability. Users are not looking for software that looks good, but are definitely looking for software that they can use with relative ease. You must choose software that comes up in the estimation of your target users.

3.  Working out the Credibility of the Company who has designed the software

If you have zeroed in on a designing tool of your choice, you need to be sure that the company that has designed and developed the product has a reputed name in the field. You are of course going to try out a demo version of the tool before you buy it, but what’s the guarantee that the tool will be implemented perfectly on your site and will function effectively without any problems whatsoever. You can only be assured of high performance software if you purchase it from a company that is well known for the quality of its software and has a lot of experience and expertise in designing such software.  It’s important to get references from the company about their past clients who have already implemented this software on their sites. Talk to them about their experience of using this software and whether it was worth it or not; make a decision only after you have a very clear idea about the quality of the software and also the credibility of the company that has designed this software.

4. Do you want a customized solution?

There is no doubt that you will come across plenty of choices when it comes to an ecommerce product configurator. But what if you don’t find any that suit your specific needs and requirements? In such cases, you need to go for a custom web to print solution. Draw up a comprehensives brief of what you want and approach a company that has prior experience of custom building such solutions as per client specifications. Do not worry! There are plenty of web development companies that will offer you services in this regard. All you need to do is pick the one that understands your brief best and is willing to go the extra mile to create an online design tool that meets all your expectations.

5.  Have a Printing System in Place

If you don’t already have one, you need to buy a printer that will help print the customer’s design onto the product. Research the market for a printer that doesn’t just deliver quality printing but whose cost falls within your budget as well. No point, in buying a really expensive printer, without being absolutely sure whether you can monetize its use or not. You can go for a low volume printer and then progress to a high volume printer when your orders go up. But, this is a suggestion and the kind of printer you buy, is more of a personal decision than anything else.

6.  Testing

Before you go live with your web to print process, you need to test it thoroughly. You must take a careful look at the usability of the software you have implemented, and whether the whole printing process can bring even the most imaginative designs to life. The focus must be on your users and whether they will be able to get the kind of immersive shopping experience they are looking for. Testing the process beforehand gives you the opportunity to make some changes to it if needed. You want your software to make solid impression on the users. This is why testing it is important.

End Words

If you are an online retailer who wants to give your customers a chance to personalize the design of their products, these are the few things that you need to keep in mind. There is very little doubt that if you keep these pointers in mind, you will be able to get very high returns on your investment. The key here is to not make any rash decisions. If you follow a carefully thought out plan of action, there is no doubt that you will implement a high quality online product designer that will help rake in the profits for your business. On the other hand, if you just implement a tool just because everybody else is doing it and you have no idea whether it will work for you or not, chances are that it won’t.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Betsy Weber

By: Anderson Brian

How the quality of website affect SEO success

The quality of the website affects the overall success of SEO. There are two basic reasons behind this:

It is the search engines which need to make sure that their users must have a positive experience after visiting the website from their search results. Therefore, to ensure the positive and effective user experience, the search results must include those websites which not only provide relevant and useful information but also provide you the best user experience on the website.

Secondly, website should be designed in such a way that it converts visitors into customers or sales. A professionally designed and a quality site is likely to give more positive and effective results and raises the conversion rate. First page rankings will not be of any use, if your site doesn’t turns out in customers.

Therefore, in this article, it is discussed about those tips about website design which would ensure a positive and effective user experience.

1.  Have a professional design: Having an appealing and a professional website design is one of the most important elements of user experience. A bad design may turn off your users and an attractive design can impress and involve your customers. A bad design will lead to high bounce rate and low conversion rate. If this happens, then the search engine will consider it as the negative signals and hence will reduce the ranking of your site in search results. Moreover, people are visual now days and make judgments on the basis of first impression. A common saying “ First impression is the last impression”

2. Create informative and engaging content:  You must make sure that you write the content for your audience and not for search engines. In order to give positive experience to the users, you must write the relevant and the well written content. It must be easily understandable to the user and must fulfill their needs. If the content is of good quality, then people will like to visit your site again to get updated information, and even share your content if it meets their wants.

On the contrary, if you provide irrelevant and bad content to the users then they will never visit your site again.

3.  Provide easy and user friendly navigation: Once the user is impressed with the design and the content of your site, it is required to keep them on your site for a longer period and this can be possible only if you provide an easy navigation to the user. If the navigation on your site is easier to the user then he/she can view some additional information. If the users find it difficult to navigate the additional information on your site, then he will skip from your site and will move to another site.

4. Ensure quick page loading: No matter how great is your design of your website or how relevant or engaging is the information. It will only be useful if the loading time is less i.e. the page is loaded quickly and is visible to the users effectively. The slow page load speed results in the poor user experience. Therefore you must invest in high quality hosting solutions to ensure faster page loading speed.

Summary

The characteristic features of a high quality website are – professional design, user friendly navigation and faster loading speed of web pages and all these are essential for a successful SEO campaign. A good ranking will be a waste if your website doesn’t comprise of these characteristics.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Anderson Brian

By: Ian Lamont

Common Pitfalls that can affect Mobile App Development

The current time is that of mobile applications as more and more users are turning mobile savvy with more emphasis being placed on having smartphones that are internet enabled. A new genre of programmers of mobile app developers is coming up for want of new and unique mobile apps. With the rising demand of new mobile apps, there is also the advancement in the tools that are available for designing these apps. However, despite the best tools for mobile app development, there are certainly some great apps that do not make it to the app market because of some common mistakes committed by the app developers. Here are some common pitfalls that can affect the mobile app development and therefore, must be avoided:

Making the users wait: mobile app users perform multiple tasks while using the apps and they expect the same of the apps. However, if the apps are so designed that they take long to load, the entire purpose of using the app is gone and the user veers away to find a better and faster alternative. Therefore, app developers must ensure that their created apps do not take long to load.

Giving detailed tutorials: all new mobile apps have tutorials or usage information in some form to enable the mobile user use the app to his or her satisfaction. However, over explaining things is a common mistake made by developers as this makes the new users offensive. There is no need to keep giving information or tutorials at all points of the app. Instead the developer should urge the user to prompt a question asking for help on the usage of the app.

Complex User interface: often mobile app developers create complex apps that have a difficult-to-use-and-understand user interface. This puts off the user and he or she might switch over to a simpler solution. Therefore, instead of creating complex apps, the creators must concentrate of simple apps that can be used easily.

App not tested: often mobile app developers create the mistake of not testing their apps on the devices for which they are created. Things might be different when they are perceived and created, and different when they are actually implemented. Therefore, developers must continually test the apps on the devices for which they are created.

Pack too many things: often app developers in their enthusiasm to create new and unique apps try to pack too many things in one app. What they must understand is that mobile apps have a limited functionality and they cannot be similar to the applications designed for laptops and desktops. Packing more things in a small app created for mobiles increased the upfront development costs while becoming more complex for the users.

The Enterprise apps: most mobile app developers are creating consumer apps such as music apps, games, and social networking apps. What are being forgotten in this frenzy, are the enterprise apps that are not only unconventional but also very important. The enterprise apps that would be very useful include apps for training employees, apps that provide communication between employees and business partners, apps that can be used as reference tools, apps that can assist the sales and service personnel in the field and apps that facilitate the process of business.

Mobile app developers must therefore, try to avoid these common mistakes when creating apps for the mobiles. They must not only be creative but realistic as well and ensure that the features that they wish to incorporate in their apps are actually functional. The developers must also consider the keep in mind the capability of the phone while creating the apps.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Ian Lamont

By: *嘟嘟嘟*

How To Create Winning Ecommerce Websites? 15 Best Tips From Experts!

Every website needs visitors and customers, but eCommerce websites are basically designed to serve the clients. Online shopping has been becoming a trend and eCommerce websites are in high demand these days. A perfectly designed eCommerce website experiences high conversion rate and brings the desired profit for a business. However not all the web designers understand how to make the eCommerce websites conversion-friendly.

Here is given a guide by web design Edinburgh experts to help the web designers in creating conversion-friendly, yielding eCommerce websites.

1. Who Are Your Prospects? Identify!

Having clear understanding of the target customers help in creating user-friendly design. Know the emotions that could trigger the users’ buying decision. Know their shopping behaviour and the things they prefer to see at an eCommerce website. At an eCommerce website, it’s important to provide the users with the desired information to get a favourable response in the form of a final deal.

2. How Should Be The Navigation? Simple!

For an eCommerce site, simple navigation plays the role. The site visitors should be directed with ease while moving from one to the other point. Facilitate the prospects in quickly browsing the product portfolio.

3. Product Images: High Resolution

Product images add to the glory of an eCommerce website so these images should be of high resolution. Presenting product images from different angle is another approach that helps the visitors in making some quick choices, hence promoting conversions.

4. Product Info: Details

Providing the users with the most useful information about the product is another trick to boost the conversions. Write a great product copy to appeal to the prospects and help them in making an easy decision of the deal. The product info should be winning.

5. Call To Action: Images

Gone are the days when buttons were used for call to action. Images have replaced the buttons, but these images should be persuasive to make more conversions possible.

6. Product Promotion: Videos

An interactive eCommerce website is a real appeal for the site visitors. Product videos add to the interactivity of a website and bring more site conversions. However, videos should be compelling and revealing more about the products or offers made at the website.

7. Shopping Cart: 24/7 visibility

The right place of shopping cart is the right corner of the users’ screens. Drop down menu is also good to be there on shopping cart to help the shoppers look at the products with great ease. The shopping cart should be made accessible to the shoppers all the times because they want the product information anytime they visit the website.

8. Shipping: Free

If possible, free shipping should be offered to the customers. It’s natural that shoppers love special discounts, so a stimulating factor for high conversion rates. Try to make the business model having free shipping option.

9. Distractions: Avoid

Distractions are the worst for shoppers, causing switching. Try to make the shoppers’ experience of the site smooth to facilitate conversions. Offer just the order information in the checkout process at the eCommerce website.

10. Landing Page: Present Featured Products

Not all the shoppers are intended to shop. Many site visitors come and decide to shop after looking at the products. To help such shoppers, provide a list of featured products on the landing pages.

11.  Special Discounts: Mention Clearly

Special offers need special place at a website, so display them prominently to be noticed by the site visitors. Try to improve your discounts to enhance the conversion rate because consumers prefer to shop at a website that offer discounted products.

12.  Contact Info: Display Properly

Websites having clearly displayed contact information experience more conversions. Try to make the contact information detailed so that the prospects could contact the way they prefer.

13.  Transaction Mode: Multiples Options

Don’t ask for credit card from every customer, because many will hesitate giving you the information, means losing a customer. There should be multiple payment options to facilitate the customers.

14.  Site Search: Advanced

Although site search is a good feature to be there at any website, but advanced search do the magic. It makes the shopping experience of the site customers lot easier. For eCommerce websites with larger list of products, advanced search is needed the most to please the prospects.

15.  Site Look: Follow Simplicity

eCommerce websites look complex, but should be made simple for the visitors. The products and the relevant information should be made easy to access. Stunning design is good, but extra use of designing elements will make it tough for the site visitors to focus what they are looking for at the site.

Building an eCommerce website could be a challenging task, but the tips given above offer great help even to a newbie web designer. Try to improve the shopability of eCommerce website that you are designing. Keep in mind that building an eCommerce website is a never-ending process, as updating goes on continuous basis.

Share your “tried and tested” tips to help the web designers designing winning eCommerce websites.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by *嘟嘟嘟*

By: Victor1558

Simple Steps to Create Actionable Content Plans

Starting out on any endeavour without a solid and actionable plan is inarguably a fool’s errand. And many times, planning has been responsible for all the difference between wandering lost in a vast wilderness and a fun hiking in the woods. In short, planning has been an integral step towards success. And luckily, web content and content plans have not been of any exemption. Indeed for content development projects, when it comes to the delivery of results as well as traffic for all your web clients, actionable planning has been the secret to success.

Simple Steps to Create Actionable Content Plans

Selection of target market and audience would be the first simple step towards creation of a content plan. And often, more traffic has not been the best traffic. This means that selecting your target market would be an actionable content plan strategy and also a way of slicing and dicing web performances for a more equitable and customizable web approach. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why currently, many web strategists are using the keyword research approach to ensure that the used word choices fit the people they are seeking to address.

The design of fictitious reader profiles as well as persona has been a significant approach in the content planning process. This is because such profiles have been the guiding stone for successful development of any web content by simplifying the decisions needed to establish which content make sense to design. And since time and budget are often in short supplies when it comes to do this, it is also recommendable to gain a powerful portfolio of finances for a timely approach in content plan creation.

Keyword analysis falls as our next simple step to create actionable content plans. This is because keyword research and analysis tools help to collect competitive data and hence aiding you in efficiently exploring areas of great concern. Additionally, keyword analysis has become an integral tool towards satisfying the need for an optimal content and web page. And anytime, you should know that understanding which keywords convert into actionable content plans is a key prospect for all your web contents.

The next phase of our content developmental process will involve brainstorming content types and content topics. Picking a professional team of web experts in efforts to flesh out a plan with content ideas will go a long way towards creating actionable content plans. Indeed, this has awarded efforts to gather up content ideas as well as marching them up with persona profiles and content types.

Finally, putting down on paper and then developing an equitable schedule is the other simple step of creating actionable content plans. This is because ideas need to be traced, captured, mapped and scheduled to minimize loss and misuse. And anytime when doing this, you should remember to assign writing resources as well as budget to any particular contents. However for international payment solutions, phone number for PayPal can be used to achieve payment solutions to these independent content people. And with each piece of the content, this independent content owner should be available for any resources as well as meeting the deadline for the delivery.

With such simple steps, you can now come up with an actionable content plan. Indeed, with the ever-changing face of technology and online niche, there has been a growing need to learn content planning as well as strategies as they are functional for any online and web success.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Victor1558

By: Serge Kij

The Basics of a Quick, Responsive, Easy to Use Site

When designing a website, what are some of the best ways to make it responsive and easy to use? There are many ways in which pages and a site as a whole can be optimised for users, which include spending time on basic HTML layouts, shortening page load times with some streamlining techniques, and looking at typography fonts, social media toolbars, and responsive design for resizing pages depending on devices being used. How, then, can you start to build a great, accessible site?

In terms of producing a simple layout, HTML coding should be kept as streamlined as possible, with any hidden content or code cut out to prevent pages from loading too slowly. Using JavaScript and Flash can also make it more difficult for pages to load without crashing on some computers – one way to improve site layouts is to use HTML5 coding, while also making sure that images and any embedded media aren’t too large.

These approaches can also help to make pages load faster – external objects can be consolidated, particularly when it comes to JavaScript, while CSS3 can be employed to simplify the amount of stylesheets used for pages. Problems with bottlenecking and slowdowns can also be improved by enabling caching, while Apache can be set up to disable host name lookups, and to allow for faster time outs if a broken link isn’t working.

For the details of a site, it’s worth looking at typography and how small design changes can make a big difference to usability. In general, it’s best to set out typography and page layouts to be as clear as possible for different devices, a process that can be improved by using CSS3 – Google Fonts is also a good place to look if you want to find some accessible fonts that will load on different operating systems and browsers. Adding in more header tags to pages can also make it possible to separate important text for users and search engines.

Adding in social media toolbars can also be effective if you want to increase the potential for links to be shared from your site; doing so can also improve your search engine optimisation, and can be achieved by downloading and installing ready made social toolbars such as Meebo, while also enabling comment boxes and opportunities for your site’s content to be easily shared and made available.

Given the amount of people that now access websites through mobile devices can check out Webigence for new tech trends. It’s important to consider how responsive design methods can be used for resizing pages – responsive design involves using CSS3 media queries and flexible grids so that a page recognises what device it’s being loaded on, and converts it to a preset size – this can be a great way to cut down on the need to create a separate mobile site, and can make it much easier to deliver the same content to whatever device is being used.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Serge Kij

By: Playing Futures:  Applied Nomadology

Modern Technologies of Usability Testing

Quality Assurance

Usability as an activity directed at improving custom quality of the product greatly effects the success of the product. Every dollar spent on usability returns from 10 to 100 USD of profit or savings. One of the important conditions of this efficiency is regular usability-testing of the product with engaging the users at all the project phases. Modern technologies do not only streamline the procedure of usability-testing but also bring new opportunities, for instance, monitoring of physiological parameters of the respondent or mobile devices testing.

1.What is usability and usability-testing? What do they effect?

Usability is the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.[ISO 9241-11]

Achieving a high level of usability can be made only by implementing a user-oriented approach to design and development, specifically through the following:Active involvement of the users into the process of design and testing of the product;

  • Clear understanding of user’s requirements and tasks;
  • Optimal allocation of functionalities among the users and technologies;
  • Iterative and multidisciplinary approach.

Return of investment analysis in usability shows that every invested dollar returns from 10 to 100 USD of profit or savings, connected with cost reduction.

Positive usability investment can be divided into four main factors:

  • Development: lowering costs and reducing time;
  • Sales: increase in income;
  • Users: improving efficiency, productivity and satisfaction;
  • Reducing implementation costs (by reducing training) and user support.

Usability testing is an experimental method built on interviewing the users by a predefined scenario and directed to identification of how the users utilize a product.

The meaning of usability testing is about observing of complications which the users experience during the work with the products. The goal of the testing is improving the interfaces so that the target audience of the product could interact with the final version of the product in the most efficient way.

The observation of how people interact with the product allows for finding the method of design optimization. However, detached observation can be pretty difficult. It is natural for human beings to help those in need instead of just watching their failures. An effective moderator should be able to keep a respondent focused on their issues instead of helping them solve these problems. Therefore both the moderator and the respondent should be in different premises when talking to each other through different communication devices. These premises are usually divided by a one-way mirror, allowing the moderator and other observers to see how the respondent works.

2.What specialized usability-testing tools are for?

The major technical difficulty of the usability-testing procedure is about a large volume of data which should be fixed in the process of testing for the purposes of further analysis:

  • The speech of a moderator and a respondent;
  • Facial expression of the respondent (filmed on a  video camera);
  • Computer screen with which the respondent is working;
  • Different events, taking places on the computer, connected with the user’s activities:

- Moving of the mouse and clicking on its button.
– The use of the keyboard.
– Transitions between the screens (of a browser or other program).

All of these data streams must be synchronized so that when analyzed, they could be related to one another.

The observers, who take part in the testing along with the moderator, take notes as problems are found. These problems should also be synchronized with other data in such a way that any part of a record could be easily found once commented in the notes of an observer.

Absence of special tools makes further analysis so time consuming that the time required for it exceeds two thirds of the total time, spent on testing – from its planning to delivery report.

2.1. Morae

TechSmith company developed a high-performance solution called Morae. This software package is set for 15 minutes on the computers of a respondent, moderator and observers which is especially convenient in case the testing is held outside the company, for instance, in the office of a customer.

A few things must be told about Morae:

  • It is a completely digital solution which reduces the cost and complexity of the equipment.
  • It is really portable and can be installed on a laptop and therefore taken anywhere.
  • It brings quality improvement hence exclusive Rich Recording Technology
  • It is easy to install and use: the deployment takes 10 to 20 minutes.

In addition it has 3 major components:

  • Recorder
  • Remote Viewer
  • Manager

Morae Recorder is installed on a respondent’s computer as a module to record the voice of the respondent, the image of their face (for example from a web camera), respondent’s computer screen, different events on the computer etc.

Morae Remote Viewer allows for a few observers to watch a testing process and make notes.

Morae Remote Viewer is used on a computer of the moderator and observers as a module which allows to see not only what happens on the respondent’s screen, but also to set the markers – records with comments to appeared issues which help in the analysis in case the bright impressions from the testing start to fade away.

Morae Manager synchronizes testing notes, quickly calculates the frequency and temporal characteristics and easily creates video-reports.

At the end of testing session the recorded data is imported to Morae Manager where it is analyzed and a vivid video-report is prepared for every found issue, or every testee.

2.2. Observer XT

However it isn’t the only problem which can be found. Respondents despite the agreement to be fair and forthright, are often silent about the difficulties faced in the process of testing, not wishing to upset the moderator, or trying to look more successful.

Usually such distortions are quickly found and do not effect on the quality of received results. But in cases when the cost of testing error is too high it is best to use more complex tools, the purpose of which is not so much in testing as in the research of how the user interacts with the product. In this case an optimal solution may be the one offered by Noldus, Observer XT and attendant equipment.

  • Eye tracking & alternatives of the solution are the following:
  • An infrared camera records the eyes movement
  • Mounted on the head, to the monitor, or placed on a table
  • Analysis: eyes movement, heat maps, the zones of interest
  • Expensive but very accurate

View analysis measurements describe the next conditions:

  • Where the user looks
  • How long and how often do they look at a definite object
  • The path between the eyes to certain zones of interest
  • The diameter of the pupil, as an indicator of cognitive load

Except for the data which is fixed by Morae, ObserverXT through integration with special equipment, it allows to register physiological measures: heart rate, pupil size, and in the case of infrared cameras connection, supplied by the Swedish company Tobii, even the eyes movement of the respondent. It creates an opportunity not only for further data objectification – the change of heart rate can be the actual emotions experienced by the respondent, even if they are trying to conceal it, but can also establish the relations between the user experience and their current functional states. For example, it becomes possible to assess the degree of fatigue that occurs when working with the product.

“Laboratory on wheels”, which Observer XT really is, provides the usability-testing of a dashboard, a navigation system and audio equipment. It also has an integrated video-record with speed, turns, CAT and location (GPS).

Equipment produced by Noldus company can be installed both on stationary computers and used on mobile usability labs that can be fit into a small suitcase.

There is an alternative in the form of a chamber built into the glasses.

2.3. Testing technologies of mobile devices.

User interfaces of mobile devices – phones, communicators – are also available for usability testing services. Because of technical limitations of the devices often it is impossible to record an image with the device screen the way it can be done on a desktop computer or a laptop. That’s why when testing mobile devices special cameras are applied.

For the approximation to the actual test conditions it is best to utilize a wireless portable camera with which the user will feel more free.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology

Article by Zfort Group

The article is kindly provided by Zfort Group, IT Outsourcing service provider.

By: Tom Hughes-Croucher

The Novices Guide to Web Development Mistakes

‘Mistakes happen’, nowhere is this phrase truer than in the case of web development. It is a long drawn out and complicated process, that has enough complexities in it, which make mistakes happen. But at times, the real mistakes happen before and after the actual process of web application development.  These mistakes are typically made by novices who aren’t experienced enough to make the necessary preparations that are need for developing cutting edge high performance applications.

This article will take readers through the different mistakes that web developers, especially beginners are prone to making in the domain of web development.

1. Not listening actively to the client’s brief

There is active listening and passive listening. The latter is when you keep nodding your head about everything your client is telling you without making any contributions to the brief. In the former, you are not just nodding your heads when clients are explaining their project brief to you, but are giving your inputs to the discussion as well. Professional web development begins with understanding the clients brief thoroughly and a developer giving his suggestions for enhancing or modifying the needs and requirements of the client. Newbies must understand that they need to proactively listen to what the client is saying and make suggestions whenever necessary.  As a developer, it is you who will know to what extent the client’s brief is feasible. If you think a certain client expectation cannot be satisfied, you will need to tell him that there are then. For this to happen, you must be an active listener and not a passive one.

2. Not checking project feasibility

Clients are always right, but in case they aren’t, it is your duty as a developer to convince him, that some of their expectations cannot be satisfied. At times, a client might have a specific requirement that you will not be able to satisfy. This could be because of varied reasons including lack of available technology, lack of experience and expertise in your part, or the fact that a particular requirement will interfere in the project’s seamless functioning. Newbie developers fall into the trap of not taking the web application development projects through a comprehensive feasibility study. In such cases, they are unable to identify the problem areas of the projects, which in turn lead to faulty development. This is something to be avoided at all costs.

3. Improper Planning

In order to handle a web development project professionally, you will need to begin by planning its development lifecycle. Developers who have just started their web development journey sometimes make the mistake of not identifying the various stages of development. This means they are also unable to identify the right resources that will help successfully develop the project. Unplanned development and improper requirement gathering, leads to various problems during the development process. This can lead to project delays which can create a bad impression in the minds of clients.

4. Web standard ignorance

Successful web application development results from an adherence to the best web standards for development. Every developer learns these as a part of the process of becoming qualified developers but plenty of newbies ignore them when they start working on live projects; because of this they make some elementary mistakes. Some of them forget to use inappropriate DOCTYPEs; they do not use the new HTML methods; some do no validate their code and even if they use a validator they ignore the results offered. These and many other mistakes are a result of newbies ignoring web standards, something they regret when the project is completed and they find that it is inherently flawed.

5. Compromising quality for affordability

There is no doubt beginners need to focus on affordable web development if they want to make a mark. There is tough competition in this domain, and if somebody wants to get work, they need to offer their services at really cost effective rates. After a beginner starts getting successful projects off the ground, they can rework their services cost to suit their experience and expertise. But, in the beginning their services must be affordably priced. The problem here is that many of them start compromising on the quality of their web development just because they are offering web development at cost effective rates. This is a cardinal mistake and if you don’t sort it out quickly, chances are that you will earn a negative reputation on the market, which will be very difficult to dispel. So, it’s important that beginners start offering their services at affordable rates, but never ever compromise on the quality.

6. Lack of Browser Testing

Your web application needs to work on all the latest browsers and if possible on their older versions as well. This is only possible if you keep testing your application on all the browsers during project development. Many newbie developers plan on fixing browser issues, once they finish with the development process, but when they actually finish developing the project, they realize that their project has plenty of bugs while working across different browser. In such cases, especially with the project deadline looming in front of them, they do not make the required efforts to rectify the various issues across browsers. They implement quick fixes that might or might not work. Invariably, this leads to the development of a project that is very low on quality.

End Words

These are not the only mistakes that novices need to keep in mind while handling web application development projects. There are plenty of others that they must be aware of, in order to ensure that they go about developing an application in the right manner. The key is to keeping yourself updated about the latest happenings the world of web development and also taking tips of experts to ensure that your web development process isn’t flawed and you are not making the kind of mistakes that will lead to the development of a web project that doesn’t meet the needs and requirements of clients.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Tom Hughes-Croucher

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Hands on Webydo: Transform the Way you Design on the Web

Did you ever wish you could create exceptional websites on HTML without writing a single line of code?

Well I am sure you have. For many designers having to turn their vision of the perfect website into code had been a barrier since the first days of the internet.

Let’s face it. You might design the most efficient or stunning layout in the world, but if your knowledge is lacking to implement it in code you can’t use it!

Webydo comes to fill this gap for designers providing them an easy way to create and manage their websites visually, without writing a single line of code. Furthermore you can easily publish your finished website to their cloud hosting servers without having to worry about any technical details!

 

 

So what does Webydo do exactly? Well you simply design your website visually and it automatically converts your graphic design into HTML code that also packs an integrated CMS backend for your client.

So now let’s dive into its features in detail.

Simple and Intuitive

Registration process is very simple, and you simply fill in your email, name and a password.

Next we can choose how we’ll begin creating our website. The three given options are:

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  1. Designstart with an inspiration. This option will provide you with some ready-made sites, that you can customize later to suit your needs.
  2. Layoutstart with a structure. This option will provide you (at the time of writing) 4 basic layouts to choose from: Corporate, Graphic, Portfolio & Wide Box layout.
  3. Blankstart from scratch. Finally you can begin with an empty canvas to fill as you desire.

Choosing any of these options takes you to the visual editor, where you can add your own graphics and elements, and create a website from scratch or customize the template you started with.

In the help section of the editor you can find video tutorials explaining the available tools, but if it’s not your first time designing a website you will find them all quite familiar.

 

Powerful

The editor has all the tools you will probably need for adding videos, images, text, flash, forms, menus and widgets, as well as some extra goodies like setting up custom grids, rulers, and the option to repeat elements across all pages. You have a solid control on the typography and you can choose among 600 web friendly fonts! You can drag and drop all the elements, reposition them till you are satisfied and further customize them through their options.

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Managing your website pages is also a breeze and gives you some very interesting options like duplicating them, set if they’ll be visible on the menu, and of course a field to add them various SEO options.

Finally you can also set and adjust all your site wide options like its width, page background, color styles, even the favicon from a single window.

After you finish your website you simply hit publish, and all the HTML and CSS code will be generated for you. The generated code is not as clean as a handwritten one, but still is cross-platform and cross-browser compatible, and will most likely improve as the product matures (it’s still beta at the time of the writing).

Easy content management

With Webydo is easy to update and maintain your content since it packs CMS like features. You or your client can change, delete or update any content element as many times you like. The content editing takes place in a word like processor where it’s easy to replace texts, add graphics, change images or videos, and once the content is upload it also gets published immediately.

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Cost efficient

The free plan gives you a subdomain in Webydo, 15 pages, unlimited bandwidth and 1 GB of storage.

From your account dashboard you can manage all the websites you have designed and if you wish, you can upgrade their plan to include your own domain name, unlimited pages and CMS users, unlimited bandwidth and 2 GB storage, as well as premium support. The yearly cost is 7.9$/month and you have a 14 days money back guarantee.

 

You can see the complete feature list on Webydo website and give a spin to the free plan to see if the platform works for you and your web design needs!

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Things to Think about when Designing a Mobile Web Site

Ready to increase consumer experience and want to optimize your website for mobile use? If so, there are some things to consider before developing a mobile-friendly site and some of these considerations are directly related to consumer demand.

1. Why Do You Need a Mobile Website?

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Image via Flickr IntelFreePress

People are no longer just accessing sites from a standard desktop. There are new convertible laptops, various tablets, and a plethora of smartphones. Many of these devices run on various platforms and if your site is not optimized for the different devices then you are going to lose business. Before you delve in and find a company or developer to make your website mobile-friendly, what are your goals behind going mobile? Goals will help you determine the features you need most.

Make a list of the most important reasons such as:

  • Do you want to offer the ability to sell and allow consumers to pay from their cell phones?
  • Is your goal to reach locals, nationwide or global?
  • Do you want to drive foot traffic into your retail establishment?
  • Do you plan on offering coupons, discounts or promotions to mobile users?
  • Are you advertising with QR codes in traditional ad mediums and are seeking more scans?
  • Is it your goal to teach, inform or offer a service?

Answering these questions will help you determine the best features to make your mobile site useful to consumers and to keep them coming back.

2. Ensure You Reach All Operating Systems

Because two out of every three people access the Internet every day on their mobile phones, it’s extremely important your site uses the right tools to ensure your mobile site is viewable and works on all operating systems such as iOS, Android, RIM and Windows phones.

Tools to build mobile websites include RWD or responsive web design that allows for optimal website viewing no matter the device—PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Another tool is CSS or cascading style sheets that offers consistent viewing on a variety of devices. HTML5 or hyper-text markup language makes mobile sites easy to see and use without installing plug-ins.

Make sure you choose a mobile developer that possesses knowledge on all these tools to aid you in building the best mobile website based on needs and goals.

3. Ease of Use and Reliability Are Essential

Since four out of every five mobile users make purchases from their smartphones and the average person spends approximately 13 hours searching and reviewing products on cell phones, your mobile site must be easy to use and possess reliable features.

Wireless connection provides PC, laptop and mobile phone service, also seek out websites that are mobile-friendly making access on-the-go easier and a pleasant experience.

Consider how your mobile site will load and what it will look like based on average Internet speeds.

4. Users Will Be Tapping, Not Clicking

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Image via Flickr liewcf

Mashable reminds businesses looking to get a mobile site up and running to remember that people will be “tapping” on their smartphone screens and not “clicking” on a link or using the mouse to click on a shop here or buy now radio button.

This means bigger buttons for easy tapping and be sure to check all of them once your mobile site is live. 57 Percent of users will skip a mobile site with a poor design or one that doesn’t work.

Going mobile with your website is a must-do because today’s consumers don’t just desire these types of websites—they demand them. Making a list of goals and utilizing these tips will ensure your mobile site is a success.

Article by Dj Miller

DJ Miller is a graduate student at the University of Tampa. He is an avid gadget geek who spends most his time writing on anything tech related. In his spare time he likes to travel, play soccer, and watch movies. You can follow him on Twitter: @MillerHeWrote

By: Jeremy Keith

Custom Web Design Advantages over Website Templates

Businesses an companies looking at cost cutting often face a dilemma. They reach a stage where they need to choose between a custom designed website or a website template. When money is an issue, using a template and creating a website in a jiffy sounds like a great idea. Just that, it isn’t.

Importance of a custom designed website

These days, a website is the face of a company. There is no way a company can get away without having to build a great looking and effective website. A website that doesn’t stand out from the rest of them in terms of design, interactivity and usability will soon be forgotten just like millions of other websites that are forgotten.

In order to ensure that a company will succeed in its enterprise, a company must brag about a website that is different from the rest. The website should be an extension of a company’s beliefs, personality and character. With that in mind, a custom designed website is certainly a better option for even smaller companies that may not have huge budgets.

Here are the major benefits of custom web design:

  1. A website that is custom designed offers individuality and uniqueness.
  2. Designers can discuss with clients what they exactly ant and what they have in mind. Specific requests can be considered and a unique website can be built based on client’s requirements.
  3. Careful consideration can be given to user experience, visual graphics, layout, color scheme and overall personality of the website.
  4. A custom designed website gives complete control to the website owner with regard to the way they are represented to visitors.
  5. Custom websites offer future growth, further customizations, fluidity for change and versatility in coding.

Why hand-me-down templates are not good for business:

  1. The template will never represent the company in the true sense.
  2. It will be used and shared by many others, and thus robs the company f its individual face online.
  3. It may be cheaper, but in the long run, causes losses in terms of stagnancy and lack of profits.
  4. A template design can easily be recognized. People may just go to the next attractive website just because the template looked ‘cheap’.
  5. Templates may not support future changes in technology and trends on the Internet.

As any web design firm worth its salt would tell clients, choosing custom web design over website templates should be attempted even if the company is small or has limited budget. Though it may seem like a difficult thing to spend money on, in the long run it will companies to offset losses that occur due to loss of identity and uniqueness on the Internet. Professional custom web designers may even help companies to reduce costs by helping them to make certain decisions which may prove to be surprisingly economical. Templates may seem attractively affordable, but in the long run, the investment made on custom web design pays off.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Jeremy Keith

Article by Smith

Smith is a professional web developer who has ghostwritten several books on web design and Internet trends. His web design firm conducts workshops for upcoming web designers and helps them make important professional decisions.