Web Design

Web Design Basics

You can not hope to specialize if you don’t have your basics right. After all what you build on a shaky base is doomed to shatter. Let me illustrate three very basic, but often undermined principles of web design. It will give you an idea what to look for when browsing templates or portfolios and will help you distinguish between good and bad work.

The most important tool to highlight areas of the site is contrast. Without the correct application of contrast a site often appears haphazard and difficult to read. By using the correct amount of contrast in your fonts, backgrounds, objects and styles you will incorporate a much more professional looking design. Despite what most people think contrast is more about difference than it is about colors. Use whatever tools you have to make text contrast including text tricks like bold, caps and underline where necessary so that your page has obvious “hot spots” for people to review.

A great example of this is hyperlinks inside text. Always set your style to underline and change the color of hyperlinks (preferably the default blue) so that people’s eyes are drawn to them inside blocks of text. Use color contrast between menus, logos and the main part of the page so that people can easily break these components up inside their minds. Be careful not to over do it though! High contrast pages are difficult to read (white text on a black background or purple and green are complete non no) so remember to consider practicality before creative expression.

The most important factor in a website design is the way the elements of a design are balanced on a page. The abstract layout will instantly convey a basic message about your site. Symmetrical or simply balanced sites will create a calming tone while asymmetrical or complex designs will create an excited feeling. A website is a dynamic entity, so maintaining the balance becomes all the more difficult. Your screen may view it perfectly balanced in 1280×1024 but someone’s 800×600 screens may throw it totally off. It is always a good idea to use a tool or plug-in to view your design in different resolutions before you purchase or deploy the site.

Common solutions to help you overcome balancing a site including using the “float” attribute and centering text or objects. If you want to achieve a symmetrical look be careful not to just center all elements. You will end up with a boring or flat design that they are not eye-catching and look extremely amateurish. If you are attempting to create an asymmetrical design then remember that it’s into just about piling everything onto one side, you must still create a feel of balance despite the fact your site is not symmetrical. You can do this either by placing smaller items opposite large items or even by pitting images against text or solid, dark colors against transparent or light objects.

Rhythm is sometimes called repetition and is a vital part of constructing a website as it helps your website flow between pages. It gives your visitors an easier and more fulfilling browsing experience as the brain will recognize the repetition in the template and focus on the new parts of a page. This is very important as if you keep disorientating the visitor they will quickly become fatigued and are likely to leave the site. Moreover, if your have successfully associated the website appearance with a brand then marketing have a whole new area to explore. It also means a redesign will have a big impact on the site in the future, a service that will likely swing back round to you if you did a good job in the first place.

Useful Tools for Evaluating Your Website

You may think your website is great, but if you really want to know the truth, you need to call in some help. Whether you’re assessing your popularity, traffic, or usability, there are plenty of tools out there to do the job. Here, we’ve shared 50 of the best tools that will tell you just how good your site really is.

Search Engine Optimization :
Use these tools to make sure your site is receptive to search engine traffic.

1. Google Webmaster Tools: See how Google views your site, diagnose problems, and more, on this control panel for Google.
2. SEO Group Website Evaluation Tool: With this tool, you can track your search engine ranking and up to 3 keywords per report.
3. Indexed Pages Tool: Find out your total link count from major search engines.
4. GeoTargeting Detection: Determine how well your site is targeted to country-specific search engines.
5. Search Engine Positioning Tool: Track how well your websites rank for targeted keywords using this tool.
6. Keyword Density Analysis Tool: See how well you’re targeting keywords on your site site using the Keyword Density Analysis Tool.
7. Multiple Data Center Pagerank SEO Tool: Use this tool to check out your page rank in multiple Google data centers.
8. Niche Watch: See how you rank against competitors in your niche with Niche Watch.
9. Strongest Pages Tool: Determine which pages on your site offer the most strength to search engines.
10. Future PageRank: Use this tool to find out what your PageRank will be in the near future.

Popularity & Traffic Assessment :
Gauge the hotness of your traffic and reach using these tools.

1. URL Trends: Visit URL Trends to get an evaluation of your search engine popularity.
2. Alexa: Find out your traffic rank, reach, and compare your site with competitors on Alexa.
3. Technorati: Bloggers should check out their site on Technorati to see how they rank and get a glimpse into their popularity.
4. Link Popularity: Find out how many web pages link to your site with this tool.
5. Traffic Estimate: This site will simply give you an estimate of your traffic over the past few months.
6. Compete: Compete offers a great way for you to track your site’s performance against your competitors.
7. Quantcast: Check out Quantcast to get a look into your traffic demographics.
8. Website Popularity: With this utility, you’ll get reports of indexed pages, ranking, and more.
9. Backlink & Anchor Text Tool: Find out who is linking to you using this tool.

Statistics :
Put any of these great statistics tools on your site, and you’ll get a peek into search engine terms, usage, and more.

1. Google Analytics: Get clear and easy reports about visitors to your site with this tool.
2. StatCounter: With this web stats tool, you’ll be able to track your traffic, search engine terms, and more.
3. Measure Map: Understand what people do on your blog with Measure Map.
4. AWStats: Use this open source tool to format your log information in a readable way.
5. pMetrics: Performancing’s pMetrics offers detailed site and user statistics.
6. Mint: Identify where your site succeeds with this fully-featured tool.

Browser Tools:
Evaluate your site in your own browser with these tools.

1. Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar: With this toolbar, you can turn CSS and Javascript on and off to see how your site displays without them.
2. Firefox Web Developer: Use this add-on to get tools that will help you evaluate your site in Firefox.

Accessibility and Usability :
These tools will allow you to get a peek into just how well others can use your site.

1. Accessibility Extension: Download this accessibility extension for Firefox, and you’ll be able to check your site right in your browser.
2. Fangs: Download this text reader for Firefox to see how your site serves up.
3. Crazy Egg: Take a look at heat maps and other tools that will tell you where interest lies on your site.
4. Mobile-Readiness Evaluation: Find out if your site is ready to be viewed on a mobile browser.
5. WAVE: Have WAVE take a look at your site to see your original page with embedded icons that discuss accessibility issues.
6. Link Validation Spider: Make sure that all of the links on your site work with this spider tool.
7. Vischeck: Evaluate your site for vision-impaired users with this tool.
8. UITest: This tool will give your site a quick run-over to evaluate its accessibility.
9. Readability Test: Use this tester to find out if your site is easy to read or not.
10. Backward Compatibility Viewer: See how your site looks in older browsers using this tool.

Conversion Optimization :
Does your site make users do what you want them to? Find out with these tools.

1. Google Website Optimizer: Google’s Website Optimizer can tell you how well you’re converting visitors, and what you can do to improve your rate.
2. Verster: Verster will give you an analysis of your conversion rates on landing pages, internal marketing, and e-commerce.
3. UserVue: With this service, you can see the way users behave on your site.
4. Omniture SiteCatalyst: This tool will help you determine profitable paths on your site.

Performance Monitor:
Check your speed and user experience using these performance assessment tools.

1. Web Page Analyzer: With this tool, you’ll get a look at the loading speed of your site. It analyzes what loads first as well as your site’s overall speed.
2. YSlow: Check out your site’s overall performance with this developer tool from Yahoo!.
3. Load Time Analysis: Find out how long it takes to load all of your site with this tool.
4. StressTester: Check how much stress your site can take with this stress testing tool.
5. UXinsight: Check out your visitors’ user experience and website performance with UXinsight.
6. WebWait: Check your website’s speed using this tool.

Validation Check:
These tools offer a handy way to check your code.

1. W3C Semantic Data Extractor: This tool will evaluate how semantically rich your site is.
2. NetMechanic Toolbox: Use this toolbox to check for bad spelling, code, compatibility, and slow-loading pages.
3. W3C Markup Validator: Use this service to make sure your code is up to snuff.

Test your webpage in different browsers

While most people use Internet Explorer, a sizable portion of your users will use other browsers such as Firefox or Safari. Therefore it’s prudent to check your web design on different browsers to ensure all users view the webpage as it’s intended.

:: Browsershots is the most comprehensive service, offering multiple versions of browsers for various operating systems.
:: BrowserCamp focuses on Mac browsers.
:: BrowserCam offers a 24 hour free trial period.
:: Litmus cover Windows browsers.

A Successful Website Owner

So what’s it really like to own a website which both generates profits for your business and helps (forces) it to grow?

Here’s a breakdown of a typical day of a successful website owner…

1. You Check Your Emails

  • You wake up in the morning and switch on your laptop (or PC), open your email account and check how your website has produced overnight.
  • If you sell direct online, how many sales were made?
  • If the aim is to generate sales leads, how many new leads have you received?

2. You Check Your Stats

  • You login to your Google Analytics account.
  • How much traffic did you receive yesterday?
  • Is it increasing or decreasing?
  • Where did the traffic come from?
  • Are there any areas of opportunity that small effort can result in big payoff?
  • You implement.

3. You Check Your PPC Performance

  • You login to Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing.
  • How many conversions did you receive?
  • What is the CPA?
  • Are you still profitable at this rate?
  • How are your text-ad split tests going?
  • You optimize.

4. You Check Your Rankings

  • You either run your ranking software or you manually type in your top keyword phrases.
  • Are you still in the top 5 positions for your major keyword phrases?
  • How are your competitors doing?
  • Who has just broken into the top 5?
  • What are they doing?
  • You check their linking strategy.
  • You review your strategy.

5. You Check Your SEO Strategy

  • You’re in the top position in Google, but you know that it is fiercely competitive.
  • How many articles have you syndicated this week?
  • Are you releasing a new press release this week?
  • Are you social bookmarking your valuable content?
  • Are you contacting other site owners to exchange links?
  • What are you doing to maintain your rankings?

6. You Check Your Website’s Performance

  • You login to Google Website Optimizer.
  • How is your website performing?
  • What is your conversion rate?
  • How is the latest split-testing going?
  • Is it time to test a new version of your PPC landing page?
  • Is it time to test a new version of your ‘money’ page on your main website?
  • You setup new split tests.

7. You Check Your Content Strategy

  • You know that continually providing valuable content will give you the competitive advantage you need.
  • What new content are you adding to your website?
  • What new tools are you adding to your website?
  • What can you do to build value to your prospects so that they trust you more?

8. You Check Your Emails Throughout the Day

  • You’ve setup your email account to automatically check for emails every 5 minutes. Expectations have now been set.
  • You expect a new sale or a new sales lead every 30 minutes.
  • If you haven’t received a new sale or a new lead in a couple of hours, you check that everything is okay.
  • Is your website still up?
  • Are your forms working?
  • You audit.

9. You Review Your Email Strategy

  • You login to your email management system.
  • How many new people have joined your email list today?
  • What emails will they be receiving?
  • How many people are now on your email list?
  • What value-add can you send to them?
  • How can you build the relationship with them?
  • You write a new email.

10. You Look For New Sources of Traffic

  • Your sales process is refined. A new sale or lead comes through and it automatically goes into the sales funnel.
  • How can you drive more prospects into the sales funnel?
  • You research additional keyword phrases you can add to your PPC campaigns.
  • You research additional keyword phrases you could be optimising for.
  • You design new banner ads and place them on new sites.
  • You track everything for ROI.

11. You Manage Your Business’ Growth

  • You continually try to balance the cost of growing your company vs the profit you are currently making. As your sales increase you need more staff and better systems to handle the growth.
  • What are you doing to support this growth?
  • What new systems are you putting in place?
  • Are they scalable?
  • What happens if your business doubles overnight (again)?
  • Who do you need to hire?
  • What do you need to outsource?

12. You Read Online Marketing News

  • You have a folder setup in your Firefox bookmarks toolbar with all of the online industry publications you follow. You right click and ‘open in all tabs’. You read all of the blog entries and find out what new developments are happening with SEO and PPC, especially Google.
  • What new developments could affect your SEO rankings?
  • What new developments could affect your PPC results?
  • You review your strategy.

13. You Review Your Marketing And Education Strategy

  • Online marketing moves at an incredible pace. Staying ahead of your competitors requires strategic thinking and continual education. Your SEO rankings are supporting 5 to 10 full time staff.
  • What if you lose those rankings?
  • What backup strategies have you got in place?
  • What are you doing to stay ahead of the curve?
  • What do you need to learn to be successful tomorrow?
  • Where is the online market going?
  • How can you learn what you need to learn in the most efficient and effective manner possible?

So there you have it. The life in the day of a successful website owner.

It’s not easy, but it is fun.

Of course, if you use an online marketing agency to manage your strategy, you only have to check your emails and bank balance each day, the agency does the rest.

A successful website is one of the most exciting and profitable assets your business can own, because it generates profits and helps your business grow 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.

Web Design Resolutions for 2011

Akkhor Web Design Resolutions for 2011
A new year always brings up new hopes and wishes. These days everyone is occupied with things we want to accomplish in the next 12 months. We here at Akkhor are occupied too. Occupied with the future of web design and the changes and challenges the new year will bring.

We don’t want to try and predict what 2011 would look like on the web, but we sure have some hopes for it. These are our top five resolutions for web design.
Wishing you’ll  you a sensational and creative 2011!

1. Return of the Text:
While we certainly don’t want to resurrect 90′s style full text pages we’d definitely love to see some more text integrated into web design. The greatest benefit here is that more text means more typography, and more typography means a lot more experimentation and fun.

2. No More Distasteful Embedding:
The post-modern website is a dynamic one. It adds and drops embedded elements so fast, with each element leaving its mark on the design. We’re always sad to see beautiful websites turning bad for using an app that simply doesn’t blend in with their layout.

To avoid misfortunes, both embedded object and website should correspond with each other. Embedded widgets and apps should be designed compliment each other. True, new usabilities are important, but not at the cost of scarifying basic design principles.

3. Space it Out:
No, we don’t mean adding Star Wars clip art. We’re talking about leaving reasonable spaces between elements. Cramming too much information together is tasteless and extremely disorienting for site visitors. In 2011, give each element of your design enough room to make an impression.

4. Effects & Animation? Less Is more:
While some animations are cute and some effects really are useful, the popular use of animations and effects is mostly wrong. We keep running into websites that look like 4th of July gone wrong – too much motion and too much commotion. If you don’t want to scare your visitors away or leave the impression that you’re a Justin Bieber fan, please remove your animations or at least tone them down.

5. Abolish Automatic Audio Players:
Despite what some web designers believe, music is not always a fun addition to a site. Most internet users feel helpless when they open a page and, out of nowhere, strange music is coming out of their speakers. It is extremely uncomfortable in public spaces, not too mention that it slows down the loading of the website.

If you feel convinced that an auto-player will contribute to your website, please use a visible player that will be easy to turn off and on.

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