Web Design Principles

At Websmiths Web Design the driving force behind all of our sites and designs is the end user. At the end of the day we believe that if for some reason users don't like your web site, they'll leave and find something they do like. So how do we ensure that users like your site? There are hundreds of websites offering advice on web user behaviour and how to keep visitors on your site. All of these articles emphasise the same four points;

1. Speed
The most important thing is the download time of your website. No matter how well designed or planned, any website that takes more than 30 seconds to download is bound to lose visitors. Once a visitor is comfortable on the site then they'll be prepared to wait a little longer for desired content but the first 20 to 30 seconds are vital.

2. Content
Once your web site appears in the users browser, the next thing is to convince them that they've come to the right place. Regardless of how well the web site is promoted there will always be some users who stumble on your web site unintentionally, but those who were looking for your business or product need to know immediately that they're in the right place. Sometimes the company name will be enough, sometimes taglines or images will let the user know that they've found what they're looking for. If you're reading this it means that you're already interested in what you see, and you're looking for more background information to help you decide if Websmiths are for you. Consider yourself average as this is what most people will do when looking for a product or service on the internet.

3. Navigation
Now that the user has found your web site and decided that this is where they want to be, they need to able to find their way around your web site as easily as possible. For small websites this is simple enough - a list of links at the top or right of the web page is where they'll look for routes to the rest of the web site and they'll click and surf until they've found what they need. With larger web sites this can be more difficult - for example with an ecommerce web site with hundreds of products it's not really feasible to list them all as links. The approach here is to categorise in a manner that's intuitive for the user that will allow them to find what they want as quickly as possible.

4. Appearance
Once the three criteria already listed have been addressed, a website must make a visual impact. The visual appearance of your website is the representation of your business or organisation on the internet and should reflect the proffessionalism of your company. Getting a balance between usability and appearance is a challenge that all web designers should take in their stride. How many great-looking websites have you visited that you found frustrating because they were too slow or too difficult to navigate? We believe that having no web site is better than having a poorly designed web site, but one should never put appearance above speed and usability.

Web Site Features

Animations are basically short films that you can add to your website to provide moving images. At the beginning of web design there was a fascination with moving images - people added animations to their web site simply because the could. Research has shown that the vast majority of people find these images distracting, and we tend not to use them. Back in the days before broadband, we strongly discouraged the use of Flash movies on web sites that we were building - they're slow to load and the value of the images couldn't justify the loss of traffic. Having said that there are times when, on balance, it may be worth adding a movie or animation to your web site and we'll be happy to discuss any issues with you.

Sound and Vision
Let's deal with the easy one first - sound. There are very few occassions when adding background music is benficial to a website, so let's just say No! It's generally considered as annoying at best and should be avoided. Videos can help to promote your business or organisation, and there are two ways to add video to your site. Embedded video like You Tube or Vimeo provide instant viewing and are the quickest for the user. Downloadable videos mean that the user will have to click a link and choose a download location, but the video will be available to the user at any time to view and they can keep on browsing your site as the movie is downloading.

Cross Platform Compatability
Web designers would be much happier if designing a website was as easy as designing a print brochure. No disrespect intended to the graphic artists in the print industry but once they've completed their design for print they know their paper size and how the finished article will appear. The web is somewhat different - there are five major browsers, three main operating systems and dozens of screen resolutions to take into account when designing a site. Your web site might look great on one computer, browser and resolution but fall apart on a different browser. The only solution here is balance - discover the most popular combination and design for that, but ensure that your website works in as many different combinations as possible. There's no point in losing 40% of your audience if your site is designed for only one combination! At Websmiths we design our websites to work across all major browsers and our responsive design means that our websites will work on all resolutions, from big desktop monitors to tablets and mobile phones. Once the site is designed we test it on all platforms to ensure that the site is keeps it's design and is usable.


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