What is "Responsive Web Design" and why is it so important?
With the upward trend in the use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, more people are using smaller-screens to view web pages making Responsive Web Design more important than ever before.
Website owners also need to consider the mobile-first index announced by Google in March 2018. As more small businesses increase their mobile presence, their website, eCommerce, Google Business page, social media pages and other assets have to be easily accessible across all devices.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive Web Design is the practice of developing a website that automatically "responds" - or adapts - to the device that it is being viewed with, whether it be a smartphone, tablet or traditional desktop screen. With so many different screen sizes available, it has become more important than ever to ensure that your website works on any sized screen, allowing your users to enjoy your content no matter what device they are using. This helps to provide your users with a good user experience, which in turn helps to keep them coming back to your site.
When viewing a website that has not been designed with responsiveness in mind on a desktop computer, the website might show three columns. But when you view that same website on a smaller tablet screen, the content may get scaled down really small or need to be horizontally scrolled which is not a pleasant experience for the end-user. This can also be complicated by the fact that tablets can be viewed either in portrait or landscape view.
On smaller smartphone screens, this same website can be even more challenging to view as larger images and text can “break” the layout making it almost impossible for the end-user to view the content properly.
However, if a site has been built using responsive design techniques, the tablet version can be set up to automatically adjust to display just two columns, making the content readable and easy to navigate. On a smartphone, the content may reduce down further to a single column, usually stacked vertically. Images will be set to resize automatically instead of distorting the layout or getting cut off.
Why is Responsive Web Design important?
Not too long ago, most websites were viewed exclusively from a desktop computer, with most having a similar-sized monitor. Today, consumers access websites from a variety of different devices with screens ranging from a few inches in size, up to 27″ or more and their expectations have changed.
Consumers expect the website they’re visiting to know what device they are using and for the site to adjust to them - not the other way around. They expect to be able to tap on a phone number and their smartphone will give them the option to call that number. They expect to be able to tap an address and their smartphone will automatically give them directions based on their current GPS location.
In 2019, mobile devices accounted for over 53% of web traffic, which was an increase of 222% since 2013. What does this mean for your website? To put it simply, if your site is not designed responsively, you could be driving half of the possible visitors to your site to your competitors. Depending on the type of website you have, this could mean a possible 50% reduction in revenue! Can your business afford that?
Search engines like Google also rank websites using a mobile-first approach. This means that, no matter how good your content may be, if your website provides a poor user experience on mobile devices, you will rank lower in the search results than a competitor that has lesser content but provides a good mobile user experience.
At Nightowl Design Studio, we specialise in custom Responsive Web Design. If you need advice or would like a quote for transforming your website, contact us and we would be only too happy to assist.
Should you invest in a professional website?
Many small businesses and startups think there’s no benefit in having a professional website when it is so easy to do everything on the various social media channels. Others feel they can’t afford a professional website and go for the D.I.Y. route instead.
Even if you are an established business that has relied on - and done well from - word of mouth, there are still several reasons why your business can make use of a professional website.
One of the first things people do when they are looking for answers to their particular question, comparing prices, or just to get some information about a business before they purchase from them, is to do a quick search in their search engine of choice.
If you don’t have a website, you will immediately be behind the 8 ball as potential customers will go to your competitors that do, especially if you are a small or home-based business without a bricks-and-mortar store.
Having a website can provide your potential customers with the information they are looking for in a format that is easy to understand which is not always possible on social media pages due to limitations of the platforms.
A website that is carefully planned, designed responsively and organised with your customers’ needs in mind will provide a professional image and give potential customers a great experience when they visit, no matter what type of device they are using.
A professional website can actually save you money
Although the cost of a professionally designed website varies depending on your requirements, the ROI a professional website brings to your business is worth every penny.
If you compare a website against the cost of "traditional" advertising such as newspaper ads, radio commercials, printed marketing materials and networking events that usually have extra costs associated, it ends up being a very cost-effective way to promote your business over the long term.
If you need to regularly pay your website designer/developer to maintain and update your website for you, the upkeep costs are still lower than ongoing traditional marketing, and the investment is certainly worth the number of potential customers that will find your business online each year.
When comparing the cost of a professional website with a free or cheap D.I.Y. website, you need to make sure you account for ongoing updates and maintenance which will cost you in time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere in your business. Additionally, if your website is not professional looking or can’t be found in a search, you can miss out on new customers and that will also cost you more in the long run.
Keep your customers up to date
Think of your website as being an online brochure or catalogue that can be updated at any time for minimal cost. It is far easier and quicker to update information about your products and services on your website than it is in printed collateral that will need to be re-printed if there are major changes.
Your website is an excellent way of announcing new products and services to your customers. You can also provide added value by posting tips, resources and other information through a blog on your website.
Unlike traditional advertising mediums such as print ads, newspaper articles and flyers, which quickly become outdated, your website can provide up to the minute information and news. If you discover an error after you have published the site, it is easy to update and fix up the error.
A website can be so much more than just an online brochure or catalogue. You can create videos, podcasts, eBooks and other online media to showcase your expertise and products, provide online courses and tutorials.
Sharing anything from your site to your other social channels couldn't be easier, allowing a greater reach for minimal effort to continually keep your customers up to date.
Unlike a physical store that is only open certain hours each day, a website is accessible 24/7/365 so you can provide both regular and prospective customers with the added convenience of reviewing your products and services when your physical location would normally be closed.
With so many interactive features and add-ons available, website visitors can contact you, schedule appointments and purchase directly through your website when you’re away from your desk or after closing.
Your website is accessible from anywhere in the world there is an internet connection. Every day, more and more people have access to the internet, so you can target a much broader audience if your business has a website. No matter the type of business you have, a website provides you with an alternative location to inform your clients and generate new prospective leads.
For retail businesses, an eCommerce website can provide an extra avenue of opportunity to sell your products to a larger market.
Service-based businesses can now offer their services globally through a website. With so many affordable ways to communicate with people, we can do business with anyone, anywhere and at any time. A website makes it so much easier to attract clients from a global market.
Showcase your work
A website is a great place to showcase your work or demonstrate your skills. Including a portfolio, image gallery or videos, as well as testimonials about your work, you can demonstrate what makes your business unique.
A lot of people are using social media channels such as Pinterest and Instagram to showcase their work. But is your target audience actually using Pinterest or Instagram?
On most social media platforms, your photos or graphics are automatically compressed, lowering the quality. Couple that with the fact that platforms like Facebook control how people interact with your posts and even who can see them.
On your website, your portfolio can be viewed by anyone anywhere and at any time. You are in control of what people see, the quality and size of your photos, and how people interact with those photos.
We've all heard the saying "Time is money".
Time is an important commodity in our increasingly fast-paced world. Many people struggle to find enough time for leisure, family or healthy activities. Having a professionally designed website saves you time both in the short and long term.
By providing information to your customers online, you can save valuable time that you would otherwise spend communicating with your prospective customers.
Talking on the phone, in emails, face-to-face at meetings, networking events or trade shows all takes time. Creating flyers, brochures and other promotional material takes time – time to plan, research, communicate to your designer, printer and so on. Not to mention the time needed to distribute your marketing material.
With a website, you can save time by providing information about your products and services in various formats - graphics, video, eBooks or simply just text on a page. Once your website is up and running, it is available to your customers indefinitely, saving you time having to communicate the same message over and over again to different people.
Improved Customer Service
Your website is an excellent opportunity to provide value-adding services and information to your customers and clients to keep them engaged and coming back to you when they need more of your products or services.
You can share tips and tutorials on how to use or care for the products they’ve purchased from you. When selling food and beveridges you can list inforation about recommended preparations to get the best results. If you provide services you can provide advice for your clients to get the best results when using those services.
If you include an FAQ section, you can regularly add information to answer all your customers’ most common questions, keeping them better informed and up-to-date.
It belongs to you
Although there are plenty of free or low-cost ways to obtain a web presence and claim your online space, you don’t always own that space and, even worse, you have little to no control over all that’s contained within that space. When you invest in a professional website, it belongs to you and you control what is or isn't shown on your site. Using Modern website frameworks such as WordPress allows you to add or update content as it suits you and your business.
Social media is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website as well as a great way to share content from your website. However, relying only on social media to attract customers or clients is not only preventing several prospects from doing business with you, but you do not always own the information you have posted and you cannot control what happens with it.
The same is true for a freebie website built on one of the plethoras of website building platforms available. If you decide that system cannot keep up with your requirements, it's not always simple to take your website content with you and you will likely need to start from scratch.
Although you are "renting" your online space (hosting) with a professional website, you still own and control everything within that space. If you ever want to move to a different web-host, it's very simple to take everything with you - simply backup the information on your site and migrate to your new hosting space. A lot of hosts will even manage the migration for you to make the transition just that little bit easier.
These are just some of the many reasons you should consider investing in a professional website for your business. Save money while keeping your current and prospective customers - both near and far - up to date using an advertising medium that is always "open". All while spending more time doing the things that are important to you with the comfort of knowing that you control all aspects of your website.
If you are ready to step up to a professional website, feel free to contact us to have a casual chat about your options.
Choosing the best Web Designer for your project
A good website can help improve your business. Just like a bad website can have an adverse effect on your bottom line by pushing potential customers away. Since this decision can have such a huge impact on your business, choosing the right web designer can be crucial.
Below is a list of important considerations when choosing a web designer for your project. But firstly, lets clear up an important distinction.
What is the difference between a Web Designer and a Web Developer?
The designer is the person who will design the look, feel & layout of your website. They will advise you on colour choices, typography, visual elements as well as site navigation and how the different pages interact with each other, external links and so on. A good designer will also be adept at creating custom graphics for your site.
If your business is already established and you are now having a website built to add value to your customers and business, the designer will “translate” your existing company style to the website to ensure your branding strategy is maintained across the board.
Quite often, you will come across a web designer who will take on both the design and development tasks of the website. This is not an unusual scenario, but always make sure that you do your research before committing to the designer.
How do you find a good designer and how much should you expect to pay?
Although pricing is a very important factor when choosing a web designer, who you choose to work with may come down to personal choices regarding whether you want to work with a local designer, or if you’re willing to work remotely via email, phone, video calls, etc. Other factors may include whether you get along with the designer. It can be difficult to work with someone if you don’t see eye to eye – no matter how good a designer they are.
Following are some of the things you should think about when choosing a web designer for your next project.
Most designers will have some sort of portfolio of their work. Have a look through their recent work and see if you like the kind of work they do. Does their visual style resonate with you? Is there variation in their work from project to project or are they all very similar?
Are they interested in you and your business? A good web designer should want to know as much as possible about your business, your target market, the goals of the business and website. The more information the designer takes in, the more likely they are to come up with a design that reflects the needs of you, your brand and your business.
Can they provide you with a structured plan that leads through the processes of building your site?
Do they include online marketing and Search Engine Optimisation as part of their services? Having a great looking and functioning website with all the bells and whistles is pointless if nobody knows about it!
Once the content and functionality of the website have been discussed, can the designer give you an itemised estimate of their fees to build the site? Depending on your needs, quality websites can vary greatly in cost, so be sure that they have included any of your functional requirements in their estimate. The type of website you require can greatly impact the costs associated with building the site so make sure they have a clear understanding of your requirements from the start. If you are unsure, don’t be afraid to seek clarification on any aspects of the estimate. Any good designer will be only too happy to discuss your concerns and work with you to come to a mutually suitable arrangement.
Make sure you understand the designers billing policies. Some designers will charge an hourly rate with payment schedules. Others may charge a specified percentage once certain milestones of the build have been reached and may require an initial deposit on project commencement.
The final budget is your responsibility as a customer. You have the final say on whether any add-ons are included after the initial design brief has been agreed upon. You also need to understand that any design or functionality add-ons that you wish to include will vary the final costs if they weren’t agreed on in the initial scope of work.
Do they offer a maintenance management plan for once the website has been handed over to the client? This will usually include backend updates to any plugins they may have used and general system maintenance – excluding content or design updates – for a small monthly fee.
If you are planning to maintain the website yourself, can they provide tutorials or information on managing the backend of your site? Which technologies will you need to have an understanding of to maintain the site effectively?
Similarly, who will be responsible for keeping the content updated? Again, the designer may offer content update packages to keep your site up to date for you.
Make sure that you own the website domain – even if the designer registers the domain on your behalf. Also make sure that you own the copyright to any content, custom graphics that were created on your behalf and any custom coding work. This should all be covered in a contract agreed upon before any work has commenced.
Can they confidently meet your deadline? Discuss any deadlines you may have with your designer and ensure that they are realistic. Keep in mind that deadlines can often be missed due to clients not being able to provide all the required information such as graphics and content in time, so you need to make sure the project is not going to be held up from your end.
Having a well designed and developed website can have a dramatic impact on the success of your business. Doing extensive research and interviewing potential web designers before you start your project means you’re more likely to find a designer that:
can do the work you want;
is willing to listen to you as well as offer advice; and
can create the type of site that reflects you, your brand and your business positively.
If you're currently in the market for a web designer for an upcoming project, we'd love to chat with you about your needs. Click here to start a conversation about how Nightowl Design Studio can help you with your business.
8 Popular website styles for your next project
In this article, we take a brief look at Popular website styles to choose for your next project.
Back in the early days of the internet, most websites were predominantly text-based and used by government agencies and public institutions to convey information. Since those early days, all manner of sites have popped up as people found ways to get creative with their HTML, using images and other tricks to make their sites more visually pleasing.
These days, there are so many different website types and styles available that it can be difficult to choose the right style for your site. Below are some popular website styles to help you decide what is right for your business' next project. The below list is not exhaustive, so it is always best to speak with your designer to get advice for your particular project.
Catalogue and Brochure
If you have products or a service-based business, then an online catalogue or brochure site can enable you to display what you have on offer and attract potential clients. Advertising your business used to be limited to traditional mediums such as television, radio and print. In modern times, however, the brochure website gives a much wider reach at a more cost-effective price point.
Similar to the brochure or catalogue, a Landing Page can be a great way to highlight a new product or service on your site. Landing pages are also a useful way of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Simply point the advertising to the landing page rather than your main site. Once there you can include your lead capture forms and/or ways for a person to purchase the specific product or service you may be highlighting.
An E-commerce website is an online shop where people can order goods and make payments from the comfort of their own homes. If you have products to sell, an e-commerce store is a great way to get your products out into the wider community. Whether you run your store exclusively online, or in addition to your traditional "bricks and mortar" store is entirely up to you. Most e-commerce store plugins and software have built-in stock management along with a huge range of options to manage your store.
An interactive online resume can showcase who you are, not just your qualifications, giving you much more control over your first impressions with prospective employers. Depending on the industry you are in, an online resume can be an excellent chance to show off your skills with samples of your work alongside the textual information.
An online portfolio can work just like a Resume. They are both excellent opportunities to showcase your work to potential employers. The online portfolio site can be used by anyone from photographers, models, videographers, animators, illustrators - the list goes on... If you can create something digitally, you can display it in your portfolio.
Personal Sites and Blogs
Personal websites have long been a favourite for those who wish to document the big events in their lives such as holidays, new family members, or even just their day to day lives. The modern alternative - blogging or "vlogging" - has become extremely popular in recent years. Blogs are usually updated frequently and older posts can be viewed through archives.
Community Forums are a great way to get in touch and share ideas with people with the same interests. The forum can be the main focus of a website or part of a much larger ecosystem that visitors can use to discuss topics relating to the site.
Authors and writers have their own websites which may include a biography, a catalogue of their works with reviews and comments, as well as links to their social media, blog, and places their publications are being sold online. This is especially useful in the world of publishing and establishment of a fan base.
As I said earlier, the above list isn't exhaustive but gives you a good starting point when it comes to deciding the type of site you need for your business. Feel free to contact us to discuss the direction of your next project.