Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Top Tips on Website Usability

Website Usability
by Kathryn Richards

Of course, it’s great if your site is arriving at the top of Google. Visitors are clicking through to your website? Excellent.
But what’s the point of your business website? Whether it’s to provide information, showcase your business/ products or build your online presence, ultimately, your aim is to generate leads or sales.
This is where usability comes in. As when visitors do arrive at your site, they need to be able to use it – and understand the content.

1. A clear + simple navigation system
At all times, users need to be able to answer these questions with ease:
- Where am I? Where have I been? Where can I go now?
Action points
- Keep it consistent. Your main navigation system should be the same on every page – regardless where you are on the site! Otherwise visitors will be confused – and could easily click away.
- Create clear links. Be sure to use relevant text inside your links – e.g. "About us" rather than a picture or irrelevant text – e.g. "the corporate story". Even if you use a dynamic menu system (e.g. Javascript), keep the text links.
- A site map. A text based site map (that is accessible from all pages) means that visitors will always have a back-up.
- Link to your Home Page. Keep the link option "Home" not only in your main navigation system, but also your logo. Visitors expect the company logo (normally in the top left corner) to be a link to the homepage.

2. Content that’s clear and simple.Great content is at the heart of any quality website. The design is important – but after all, the content is what will generate leads, and return visits to the site.
Of course, it’s best to create powerful, optimised copy – but never forget, your ultimate audience will be humans – not search engine robots!
Action points
- Put the best at the top. Be aware of where the fold is on your site, and be sure that all important content is above this.
- Keep text visually friendly. The copy needs to be easy to scan – so visitors can easily find and read the information they are looking for. Use lists, headings, highlighting, bold type…
- Think about your Images. Firstly, avoid using text inside images whenever possible – search engines can’t read it. Be sure to also give ALT and TITLE attributes to all images.
- Contrast. Make sure your content speaks for itself – be careful when using background images and colours – otherwise it’s simply not possible to read the text!

3. Stay strong to your brand.Remember, if your website seems professional and modern, so will your business. Whilst content should be your #1 priority, making a good impression visually is also extremely important.
- Colour and font consistency. Ensure you’re using the same colours throughout the site – even for links. Work with your designer on choosing the colours and fonts that best reflect your business, and then stick with them!
- Uniform page layout. By using a web site template, you can enforce consistency across all pages. This is important as visitors can then predict where all the important elements are on every page on your site – even if they have only visited one.
- Use of a tagline. Make sure your tagline – which clearly and concisely explains your "valus proposition" – is clearly displayed on every phrase.

4. Test your site on humans!

Be aware that you, having spent hours on the design, of course you understand how your site works. But it's important that as soon as visitors arrive on your site, they understand what your site's about, and how to use it.
Usability testing means testing your site on the average web user - and, following the experience, improving your site. There is absolutely no reason to skip this step - it is a very important part in the creation process - after all, what's the point in having a website if your visitors don't understand how to use it?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Colour Inspiration for Web Design

by Kathryn Richards

Colour has a big impact on our reaction to a website, and certainly on our first impression of a company. When choosing colours for a website, it's important web designers look beyond just the aesthetic appearance - but also to psychological, cultural and usability/ accessibility factors.

Thanks to Tech King for this cool Infographic on the Psychology of colour.

Infographic: The Psychology of Color

 Elsewhere, here are our top 5 Colour Inspiration Resources from around the web:

- The Color Wheel - lets you "spin the colour wheel", resulting in a selection of 3 random colours - also providing you with the code for each colour. With over 16 million colours available, if you keep going for long enough you'll get there eventually!

- Color Contrast Analyser - this is a great tool which allows you to check if your colour scheme (including the colours used for the texts) stand up to the W3 Accessibility Guidelines.

- 20 Colour Tips for Website Design - a very informative article over at Econsultancy with lots of helpful tips on choosing your colour scheme.

- COLOURlovers - an online community based on a love of colour - lots of blog articles, discussion groups - we especially love the 5 free online tools they have for colour inspiration

And lastly, our favourite online tool, is - Kuler - by Adobe - warning - it is highly addictive! A must for every webdesigner. An inspiring and easy-to-use tool to help you select and try out different colour schemes for your site design. You can get inspired by themes already created (with equally innovative names such as "Tropical Breakfast", "Shiny new shovel" and "Urban Greenery"), create your own theme from a base colour or an uploaded image, join the community and much more...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

SEO around the world

Did you know? Just because you’re at the top of Google in one country (e.g. google.co.uk), it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same position in another country (e.g. google.fr, .com…)! Even search results on google.com are personalised according to your location.

So, how can you get your site to rank well in different countries around the world? Perhaps you have 2 geographically different target markets? Here are some of the major factors that will affect your ranking. It’s great to have an awareness of the main points – it will enable you to have a better understanding on prioritising your online, and SEO spending.

First up is your Domain Name. TLD (top level domain) is the extension that appears after your domain name - e.g. for www.mysite.com it is the ".com". Top Level Domains can be either specific to a geographic region or more general. General TLDs (such as .com, .net, .org...) are not tied to any geographic location or country.
However, Country Code TLDs (ccTLD) are country specific (e.g. for the UK = .co.uk, for Russia = .ru, for Algeria = .dz). CcTLDs are better for ranking in a specific country - however they will rank less highly elsewhere. For example, if your website is www.mysite.ru, it is likely your site will rank much more highly in the Russian Google (www.google.ru) than the UK Google (www.google.ru).

A ccTLD can be an important factor in your rankings in a specific country, for sure. However, creating individual websites for each country/ location you are present in may not be an efficient solution! Remember that .com is powerful not only in the US but also internationally in general.

Next, your websites IP address will have an impact on your sites ranking. This depends on where your server (that hosts your website) is located. In short, if ranking in a specific country is important to you, you need to host your site on a server in that country.

So if you're outsourcing your hosting, you need to make sure your provider is offering an IP address for each of your sites corresponding to the country you're targeting.

As you might expect, next up is content - Google will consider not only the copy on the pages but also your page titles and meta descriptions. So you need to think about not only developing unique content for each local site (e.g. in the local language) but also all the content (e.g. page titles and descriptions). Don't forget that all important keyword analysis you did at the start of your site too - this is very much a localised process - and would need to be entirely repeated for each local website. Naturally, any content that also mentions a geographic location (e.g. your address) and for example your listing on Google places can also have an impact.

Also worth consideration is your backlink profile. This means how many targeted backlinks your site has from relevant, high quality websites. This, and the text that the links come from (the anchor text) will not only boost your Pagerank (Google will see your website as being more important) but your site will also be ranking for the keywords in the anchor tect you used.

In conclusion, there are lots of factors to consider when defining your online presence internationally - does the cost of SEO (and potentially the creation of new, local websites) outweigh the benefit? If indeed, your business is truly international, you might like to consider a .com domain (which can still rank well outside the US), with language specific sections.

Want to know more? Just give us a call, we'd be happy to talk it over with you.

Monday, 7 February 2011

How to Optimise your Website - Part 2: Top 5 SEO Actions

by Kathryn Richards
1. Keywords

Keywords are essential to attract the right type of visitors to your website. A keyword is a word or phrase that you wish to be found for in Search Engine results.

How to Optimise your Website - Part 2
Choosing the right keywords for your site can really make the difference between Page 1 and page 10 Google results. So while there are some great free tools around (like the Google keyword tool) – it’s wise to get an input from professionals – who with professional tools can help you weigh up the quantity of searches and the competition.

It's also a great idea to take the most important pages in your website (for example, your 5 main product lines), and select individually for each one the keywords you would like it to rank for.

Action 1 : carefully select 2/3 keywords for each page on your website

2. Optimised Copy using h1, h2, p, …

Optimising your copy involves making sure the keywords chosen in action 1 are present in the text on your website. Bear in mind that Google will consider headings more important than the text in the main body – take advantage of this by using your keywords here!

Of course, there is definitely a limit – your text, above all, must be readable, and convey the information and tone you are looking for. Stuffing your text full of your chosen keywords is not the idea! But, within reason, it’s important to ensure your text does include your keywords.

Powerful and optimised copy can really transform the performance of your website. Not only does the text need to convey information, guide your visitors through the site, but it also needs to keep Google in mind.

Action 2: Create Powerful, Optimised copy, making use of headers

3. Meta data

Meta Data is information hidden inside the website which lets the search engines know what it is about.

Meta Data involves keywords too! Meta Data consists of :

Page Title: This is the string of words that sit at the top of a web browser and, in windows explorer, are written in white font on the blue browser bar. Page Titles are one of the most important factors the search engines will use to assess relevance and establish a ranking.

Description: The meta description is most often displayed under the first line of each search result. So even if it is not so important from a ranking point of view, it is essential to get this right to get the traffic. After all, even if your site is on the first page of results, the description plays a huge part in click-throughs.

Keywords: Yes, another chance to use those keywords you so thoughtfully selected earlier!

Action 3: Take care to complete the Meta Data individually for each major page

4. Sitemap

A site map is a list of the pages you have on your website – it is important so users can easily navigate through your website. From an SEO perspective, it’s essential an XML sitemap is submitted to Google (so they know how many pages on your domain they can index).

Action 4: Submit your sitemap to Google.

5. Analytics Code

Analytics code allows you to access the all-important visitor statistics for your webpage. Google Analytics (a free product) is the most commonly used. You can see how visitors have arrived at your website (e.g. from a linking site, from Google…), which pages they are visiting, how long they have spent on them, and lots more…

Action 5: Set up your Google Analytics account.


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