As we move fully into April (and mid autumn) we thought it was time we looked at some of the fantastic resources that web designers and web developers have been tapping into over the first quarter of 2014.
Email marketing is actually a very powerful tool when it comes to furthering your business in this day and age. It does, however, raise a number of questions regarding how these sorts of campaigns are undertaken – do you need to spend thousands of dollars constructing mailing lists or can you do it organically; which techniques work and which don’t?
- Get permission: Your email marketing campaign must comply with privacy laws. This means that you must ask permission to use someone’s email address otherwise you might find yourself penalized or blacklisted.
- Target audience: You must make sure that each message you send out is targeted towards your audience. If you are a web design company, for example, try to offer tips regarding website upkeep.
- Keep clean. Only work with the cleanest permission-based list that you can find. If you don’t want to spend the time crafting your own, join a (legal) company that will allow you to send information to their lists.
- Be persistent: Keep in mind that it takes time to build up customer relationships; sending one or two emails isn’t going to cut it. Make sure that your mail is a regular thing (once a week or month).
This final email marketing tip should actually be more common sense than anything else – make sure that you keep mail short and sweet. For most people, a simple newsletter that contains at least one non-sales article (providing that it says something valuable for recipients) will be sufficient. Don’t send pages and pages of information, as no one will read it.
Every day, the number of people accessing the internet via their smart phones and other mobile devices (such as I Pads and tablets) is growing. Many believe that it won’t be long before this is the norm in terms of surfing the net, leaving desktop computers and even laptops far behind. Because of this, it is important that all companies focus on mobile web design.
Whilst it is possible to create a website specifically for mobile devices, it is also possible to make a single site (known as a responsive one) that can be accessed appropriately on all devices. Simply creating a design that can be viewed on a smart phone is not enough, however; you need to test the site out and make sure that it works on these smaller devices and platforms.
This can be achieved with the assistance of mobile emulators, which allow you to check the site’s responsiveness and functionality across a variety of platforms. Some of the better emulators out there include: ‘Mobi Ready’ (which also allows you to check dot Mobi compliance); ‘Screen fly’ (which covers a variety of platforms); and ‘Responsive’ (which allows you to check responsiveness).
The other great thing about using an emulator to test your mobile website design rather than the devices themselves is that they provide you with free feedback regarding the functionality and responsiveness of your site. They also ensure that you can test the design on all platforms and devices without having to actually go out and buy them, which will save you money.
You might be a designer who has never really had to deal face-to-face with clients before, or you might be a client who is seeking design work for the first time. For whatever reason, talking about a graphic design portfolio can actually be a difficult and intimidating task – you don’t want to use terminology that the client won’t understand and you don’t want to insult their work after all.
The first thing to understand is that this is not easy, especially for designers, but it is certainly a good skill to learn. Try not to be afraid of making mistakes when discussing a portfolio; instead, treat each meeting as a training opportunity that teaches you what is and isn’t okay to say. For a designer, the aim is engage potential clients in your work. For a client, the aim is to gather more information.
Clients will like to discuss your graphic design portfolio because they are trying to determine whether you possess the skills to undertake their project, whereas designers will like to discuss it so that they can show you that their work is of a high quality. By being aware of these reasons, you can ensure that you don’t alienate the other party during the discussion and that you answer all queries.
Finally, you must be aware of how the person (or persons) you are speaking with is reacting to your comments. As a designer, watch for the clients’ reaction when you briefly explain a project that is similar to their own. As a client, look for the artist’s reaction when you ask them questions about their graphic design work or experience.
If this is the first time that you have been involved with the creation of a website, you might not have understood what members of the team meant when they mentioned the alpha and the beta stages of the web development process. These stages are actually part of the cycle that brings a website to life, and they are vital if you want to ensure that the client is happy with the finished product. So, what are the alpha and beta stages?
This stage is the part of the process that involves the web development team presenting their ideas to the client, who will then approve any ideas that they like and dismiss those that they don’t. This will not only include the design; the client also has final say on the functionality, layout and other elements of a website.
This stage is the part of the process that involves the website being coded and tested. The designs approved by the client in the alpha stage are coded so that they are completely functional on the internet; the client is then provided with a copy of what the website will look like and testing commences to make sure that everything is working as expected.
These are not, of course, the only stages involved in the web development process – there are many other steps that must be completed before and after the alpha and beta stages to ensure that the finished website meets the client’s expectations, including: the pre-alpha stage (which involves idea conception) and release stages (which involve the site being made ‘live’).
These days, web designs created in one country can be viewed by people from countries all over the world, which has created a problem in the way that different colours are viewed by different cultures. To avoid offending your international audiences, it is important that you understand the different messages that these colours send to each culture. As an example, how is orange viewed by other cultures?
- Western (Australia, North America and Europe)
Orange is seen as being representative of the harvest and the autumn months. It is also often associated with warmth (fire) and with citrus fruits (oranges). Some cultures associate the colour with Halloween, whereas others (especially the Netherlands) see it as the colour of royalty.
- Eastern and Asian
Orange is seen as being a sacred colour in many Indian cultures (especially the darker hue of saffron), whereas Japanese cultures see the colour as being symbolic of love and courage.
- South America
Many people in these cultures see orange as being a ‘sunny’ colour. It is also commonly associated with the earth, as many of these countries have similar coloured soil.
- Middle East
In these countries, the colour orange is often associated with ideas of mourning and loss, so can be considered disrespectful in web designs that are promoting happiness.
With all of these different meanings for a single colour, it is easy to see how some cultures may be offended by its use (especially Middle Eastern ones, whose view of orange is very different to other cultures). Think about these meanings when creating an orange and web design, and you will avoid offending people whom you did not even know would see your website.
In web design, you will quite often hear people talk about symmetry being the ideal way to create websites, but there are arguments to suggest that this is not always the case. An asymmetrical design – that is, one containing elements that do not create a mirror image – can be highly attractive and effective in their own right. They, too, can be balanced – just not with perfect halves.
In asymmetrical web design, you can use images to balance out your text – for example, a large chunk of text on one side of the page can be mirrored by a large image on the other. You do need, however, to ensure that both the text and the image complement each other and work together (such as a cupcake on a baking website).
- Foreground and Background
A newer introduction to the world of asymmetrical web design is the idea of using background elements to balance out foreground ones. This creates an interesting background dynamic that doesn’t normally exist (it is much more functional as a part of the content as well as functioning as a backdrop). This is often done with layers, as it creates depth.
As anyone who works in web design will tell you, balance is one of the key fundamentals to coming up with a good website – this is probably why symmetry is often lauded as being the way to go. By using images and the elements of the background and foreground, however, you can create a more asymmetrical design that is both balanced and attractive.
Many people look at the home page of their website and decide that it is the most important section, therefore, will frequently ask for the web design, content and layout to be altered – but is this how you should be spending your money (and using your designer’s valuable time)? Ask yourself a question – how long ago was the content, layout and web design of the other pages of your website updated or maintained? Can’t remember? Looks like you’re giving your home page too much importance.
Instead of looking at your home page as the be all and end all of your website, try looking at it like it’s a hotel lobby – when visitors arrive at your “hotel” they should find that the “lobby” presents the space in a good light (by having an attractive, spacious, elegantly lit and welcoming web design). They should also find that the “lobby” is easy to navigate – they should be able to see where the front desk and where the lifts are, for example.
But, how is a hotel ultimately judged? Generally, on the quality of their guest rooms. It is the same for a website. Visitors will judge the quality of a website based on the content and web design of its ‘rooms’ (other pages). The home page becomes, then, an area that visitors pass through in order to get to where they want to go.
It is for this reason that the time spent updating, enhancing and creating a web design for a home page should reflect this view – visitors will simply pass through, not stay there for a substantial length of time. How much time do you focus on your home page? Do you think that this correlates to the importance the page should be given in your website as a whole?