So you’ve set up shop and you are doing well for yourself, you’ve got a steady stream of loyal customers who refer you to anyone within hearing distance, for now you’re sitting pretty.
But you’re a business person and you know it isn’t good to rest on your laurels and rely on plan A without having a B and C thoroughly worked out. You know that the next inevitable step to keep the cash a-flowing is doing a bit of marketing and so it’s high time to get on the online branding train and start raising your ‘online presence’, which means creating or improving your company website.
Internally though you’re rolling your eyes, you’ve got this creeping suspicion that it might actually not be worth the investment, especially if you’re doing well without it, right?
First things first, websites aren’t just a money-making machine (although all websites should perform this function to some extent). If you get most of your clients through referral then your website’s primary goal is to confirm what your referee is saying about you. Kind of like an online backup, a trust-o-meter.
People generally like to fact check and have third-party assurance, and one way they do that is to Google you. If for example your referee has told your potential customer that you have a shed load of experience designing bespoke metalwork for bars in the city centre. So they do a little search on you and find a gaggle of case studies on your site which talk about those very projects, which backs up the claim and makes you look like a specialised expert. Or say you’re a jack-of-all-trades and have press releases, case studies and testimonials showing exactly that, then the customer will find it and think Aha, just as I was told!
Your website is part of your customer service and using it to forge a positive customer experience acts as the first building block for a trusting business relationship. And that first brick happens before they even getting get in touch with you because your website is basically carrying out the first customer service step by just floating about on the internet.
Are you alright?
And in this digitally switched-on world most people will check you out online. And when they do, they’ll use it to form part of their opinion on your company by looking for your website, social channels and third-party review sites. If you have no online trace, they will start thinking one of two things –
There is something wrong with you
You aren’t moving with the times
The particularly judgemental people among us, will probably think both. And if you are lucky enough to have clients that don’t care if you have a website or not, who just want to see honest work done properly, then fantastic. But times are a-changing, so the next bout of clients from the infamous millennial pool or generation Z will care.
Think of it this way – every person who looks you up and doesn’t find you is a missed opportunity. A website could’ve either helped the potential customer identify who you are in the market or decide whether they should spend money with you.
Back in 5 minutes
Having said that, no website is always better than having a bad website. My personal web design pet peeve is the ‘this website is under construction’ landing page – the equivalent of airing your dirty laundry in public, nobody needs to see it and it makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you are working on your site but you want people to know that you care about your online presence, then use your social channels as a proxy. Especially Twitter and LinkedIn, which have great Google rankings and will help show your professional face in public. As long as people can find a trace of you and are able to discern your principles then you are absolutely fine and dandy.
While I’m on a roll, another cardinal website crime is sites that aren’t mobile friendly or bring you out in a sweat just trying to navigate through it. The whole point of a website is to show your best business self, and so the website needs to navigate like a dream, function well and look like you are ahead of the crowd. If your website isn’t doing that, bring it down for now and work on it, or better yet get the Bamboo boys to step in.
Once you have your website up and running and it’s strutting its stuff on Google, it’s effectively acting as a free advertising beacon. It cost a lot of money to regularly advertise in trade magazines and industry journals, and so if you get your SEO bang on and write relevant content, you will help guide the flock right to your website and your brand with no extra money spent. Think of your website as full-page Ad spreads that have a potentially global and niche audience.
And if you’re willing to loosen those purse strings you can get cracking on some Google Ads campaigns which, when done right, can be cheaper than traditional advertising and reap better rewards or return on investment.
Your website is also a chance for you to show who you are to the outside world and have some sort of control over what they see. This may sound slightly creepy, but if you are truthful then it doesn’t have to be dodgy.
For example, if you manufacture products that are hands down the best in the market, then tell your audience! Put up all the snazzy accreditations you’ve achieved and explain to them what makes your product the bees-knees. When you create sharp, crisp copy that lets you flaunt your best attributes it sets your company apart from the rest.
Or let’s say that you produce some pretty delicious cakes and sell them locally, you are doing well but you want to keep building awareness in the region. You actually really care about supporting local producers to make those cakes, so you buy your eggs and milk from the local farm shop and you purchase your flour from a fellow small and local business. Your first port of call is to tell your audience exactly that! because the type of customers that buy from you will care that you support local causes and will more likely become loyal and tell other people about you. It also strengthens your brand identity, so when people think of you they think of delicious cake and wholesome business practices.
Look into my eyes
If the eyes are the window the soul, then websites are the online doors to your business.
In the end, your website is part of your professional image and is important to get right for any size business. A good website can bring more business to your door, help elevate your brand, set you apart from the rest and provide a back up to what your established customers are already saying about you. And who wouldn’t want that?
Hold on to your web design hats, WordPress is about to change the way we edit and publish content with Gutenberg, the newest update from the WordPress coding crowd. The plugin is aptly named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, and is set to democratise publishing so that it becomes more user-friendly and accessible for all, including those who are a bit shaky on their HTML code.
Gutenberg is currently in its open Beta stage and is being tested by Beta users to crease out any pesky bugs. The WordPress developers are hoping to get 100,000 active installs to test out the system before they roll it out to the wider community and completely change the way people create, edit and publish their content.
All shook up
WordPress coders and designers are currently nervously whispering in various coworking corners of the world because Gutenberg could aggressive overhaul the old WordPress editing system and eventually mark a new phase for WordPress.
Much like its namesake, Gutenberg is going to revolutionise the way users create content, which means some integral changes to the old system. Gutenberg is going to bring editing out of the darker realms of shortcode and into the easy-as-pie functionality realm.
And like any drastic change, it’s polarising the community. Some think it’s what WordPress needs to stay ahead of the game and swim past its modular competitors, but others are worried it’s going to provide colossal problems for older websites and Plugins and mess with something that doesn’t need to be tinkered with. Most WordPress designers also feel that this may mark the start of a move away from HMTL and CSS focused web design.
So what’s actually going to change?
Gutenberg is set to launch this summer and is going to make publishing and editing much easier and hassle-free by stripping down design and increasing usability. In WordPress 4.9 you can add and format text including headings, links and pictures but if you want a more detailed layout you need to do that via shortcodes, which require basic HTML and CSS knowledge or the right Plugin. For new or less HTML savvy users, this can seem fussy and overly-complicated.
WordPress is traditionally a coding focused and Plugin loving platform where content is created via TinyMCE text windows. Gutenberg is going to mix things up and created ‘blocks’ of content for WordPress 5.0. The blocks can be text, headings, pictures or quotes and are going to act like various pieces of a puzzle which create an entire post. Once you’ve created a block you can also save it and use it again in the future to save on time and reduce unnecessary, repetitive design work.
With Gutenberg’s new blocks, users no longer need to use widgets, embeds, custom post types or theme options. As the WordPress team put it –
“By allowing rich customization without deep knowledge of code, blocks make good on the promise of WordPress: broad functionality with a clear, consistent user experience”
The Gutenberg update is basically laying down the breadcrumbs for the Hansel’s and Gretel’s of the WordPress world who get too easily lost in the coding forest.
Gutenberg will mean change for everyone, from the more experienced coders to the shiny new users. The updated user interface will take time to get used to and will most probably involve more clicking and scrolling to accomplish more tasks. For those who write shortcode with no more thought than taking a deep breath, this might seem annoying and unnecessary when they got the job done just fine before. But for those who feel the wind of change blowing towards modality and hassle-free usability, it’s a necessary adjustment to keep the masses loyal and push WordPress into the right publishing future.
One thing’s for certain though – a big old change is gonna come.
There are a lot of great blogs out there that tackle what makes a good website, what website tricks to avoid and what new website trends are going to catapult to stardom. But there is one question that comes way before the rest, and that’s – why have a website in the first place?
This might seem a bit simple and you might be looking at your screen with a raised eyebrow, but the number of individuals and businesses out there that don’t use websites to their full potential, because they haven’t answered this question, is a lot higher than you think.
A website is firstly not a static window display or a tool that only serves 1 purpose.
What do I mean? Well, there are far too many websites out there that look great but are basically sitting pretty. They don’t fulfil what they’re supposed to do, because most websites aren’t there to just look good, they are created to achieve specific business goals. Websites are there to strengthen brand loyalty, increase audience interaction, raise your business profile, and for most organisations – help you make a decent living. A great website does all of these things at the drop of a hat.
It’s also easy to forget that window shopping has the word ‘shopping’ in it. If you don’t think about the mechanics of your website properly and just concentrate on the aesthetics, then people looking at your site will see a window and not a shop. They’ll see a pretty but pointless thing. What happens when your audience sees that your website doesn’t fulfil its purpose? Painful bounce rates that just keep on rising.
Keep a keen eye on those pesky bounce stats as your website moves along, it’s a great indicator for what is switching your audience off.
Want an example of what we mean? Let’s take our very own Bamboo website.
Our website is multi-functional and has several reasons for existing. We are a web design company, and so the first obvious way we use our site is to help potential customers find us, get in touch and work with us, so an online and interactive directory of sorts. But, we also use it as an searchable portfolio of our work, evolving proof that we know how to design as well as a place for industry discussion and helpful information (our blog).
All of these elements are interlinked throughout our site and allow people to contact us, to understand who we are and whether we might fit with what they are looking for. Not sure what we mean? Take a look around our website.
Alive and Kicking
Yes website act, in part, as a digital shop front and designing it well ensures that your brand and tone are on point for incoming website traffic. But your website is so much more than that. Your website should be geared to be an interactive and evolving platform which guides users right to call to action heaven.
A lot of people also create the cardinal website crime of not evolving it with the times and with user behaviour. They create fantastic looking websites, build in all the snazzy bells and whistles they need to generate traffic and convert customers, but then as soon as its live and uploaded they leave it alone, free to hover like an aimless digital cloud on the world wide web.
Your website needs to be honed and improved, much like a plant. It needs to be watered and pruned. For a website to grow a following or to nurture loyal customers it needs constant attention. The goal is to keep working on it, improving it and tailoring it more and more to the people that use it.
How do you ensure a website moves with the times and is in tune with your audience? Analytics and feedback are your best mates when it comes to listening to what your users want and ensuring your website achieves your business goals.
Track and analyse user behaviour. If I could put that phrase up in lights, I would. Track and analyse which pages are most popular, average page duration, which months your website is more popular, which time and day do you get the most hits and where do people tend to bounce off. All of this information is like sweet honey for marketing people because it’s basically free feedback and a call to arms to improve websites so that they run alongside customer behaviour.
If you take anything from this article, breathe these 5 golden tips in –
Think about why you need a website in the first place
Assess whether your website is meeting your goals
Track users and what they are doing on your site.
Understand how people use your website and evolve with them
Push your website to interact with your audience
Do these 5 things consistently and your website will no longer feel like the forgotten toys in the back of your cupboard. Your website will be relevant again, will serve a specific purpose and reach far beyond your previous expectations.
Did we mention that we make pretty decent looking websites and love coding to or heart’s content? If you fancy a chat with us, give us a ring our come into Ziferblat Edge street, where all our website magic takes place.
Creatives are a bit mysterious aren’t they? Shuffling about with their macbooks and hipster outfits, paid to have fun and mess around with colours and words. I recently wrote a blog post about graphic designers, and how people don’t really understand what they do – I think copywriters definitely fall under the same mysterious creative banner.
I often think that it’s probably our own fault that we’re seen this way. We never really lift the creative veil and say ‘hey so we actually do some really practical work behind our Notebooks!’ We never really think about explaining our trade our creative process properly.
First things first – we do a lot more than write up words, we (like graphic designers) wear a few different hats that help us create copy that doesn’t just sound good but actually creates web traffic, loyal customers and increases sales.
Which hats do we wear?
I would say any copywriter worth their salt is also a brand expert, a marketer, a creative writer and understands the basics of design. A copywriter also constantly walks a tightrope between the creative and commercial world so that the copy answers a brief, is engaging and taps into something unique. A copywriter’s goal is to captivate the reader and take them on a journey from brand awareness to loyal customer, without them even realising.
Step by step
When it comes to websites, getting the copy right is crucial. Websites are now the first place a person looks to find out more about your business and why they should even interact with you. 80% of website users will never go back to a website if they’ve had a negative experience. If you have a website that looks like a digital dinosaur, they will probably never come back and will hop to your other competitors on Google without a second thought.
Your website isn’t just a shop window, it can be used to push your users to action and should be integral to the success of your business. Great copy helps create a quality customer experience for your website which elevates your brand, company values and creates long-term loyalty.
So why is investing in professional copywriting so important for websites?
1: Attracts potential customers to your website
Great website content improves website traffic, increases customer interaction and raises awareness of your brand and services.
How? By picking the right words that your audience searches for on Google, otherwise known as SEO, which will help more potential customers find your site, and can convince readers to choose you over your competitors.
Good SEO captures google visitors by adding keywords to your website that people search for and stops users clicking off your site by appealing to their interests and needs. Good quality copy works subtle SEO into the body of the text which attracts users to your site and shows them what makes you special.
2: Helps convert a visitor into a loyal customer
Once your content attracts a visitor to your website, the copy should work in tandem with great website design so that you lead the visitor through an online journey which convinces them to browse through your website and ultimately interact with you.
Professional copywriting takes on board what your core audience is interested in and what will help convince them that you are the company to pick. Good content takes on every step of customer conversion – from discovering you on google, browsing through your website to facilitating contact.
The power of words can make a visitor pick up the phone and ring you because they feel you offer what they need and that you appeal to their values. A good professional copywriter will add the right keywords, structure, layout and tone – giving you the building blocks to capture visitors and nurture long-term customer relationships.
3: Strengthens your brand
A strong brand is directly linked to increased sales. People want to instantly understand who you are and what makes you tick.
Words can help you transform how a reader views your brand. Words can create a consistent image that connects right to your target audience.
When a skilled copywriter works on a website project, one of their main aims is to strengthen your brand. They will work on your brand values, what your target audience cares about, and how to let your best-selling points shine.
4: Differentiates you from your competitors
If 10 other companies in your area sell a very similar service or product, how can you convince someone that you are the company that they should go with?
It’s simple – if your website is the best on the market, your customers will think you are the market leader. Or think about it this way – if two people went for an interview and one was sat upright and dressed in a suit while the other was slouching and had a creased and stained T-shirt on, which one would you choose before even seeing their C.V or speaking to them?
Your website is often the first thing potential customers see about your company, and first impressions count. Copywriters work in tandem with graphics designers and website coders so that every part of a website is consistent and shines a spotlight on why you are unique and why someone should pick you above someone else.
Copywriters understand that words have the power to put you above your competitors and know how to use them in the most effective way for your business. A great copywriter will work closely with you to find your unique selling points and values to elevate your company and put you a cut above the rest.
5: Gives a positive online image of your company
First impressions aren’t just about beating your competitors, they are also crucial for your company’s image. 80% of website users will never go back to a website if they’ve had a negative experience. Bad website design and badly worded pages are the top reasons why users click off and find another website that gives them what they need.
Sleek website design and memorable content help users easily find what they want and understand who you are – creating a positive image and helping you to achieve long-term relationships with your customers.
A mix of quality content and web design is the magic formula for creating a website that your customers remember for all the right reasons.
Psst! At Bamboo, we have our very own copywriter, Sara Benaissa. If you are thinking about a new website and need to work on your web copy, give us a call and we can have a chat about how great design and content create the best websites on the digital market.
Why modern graphic designers are functional artists
Graphic designers sometimes feel quite mysterious. Mostly creative looking, often found shuffling around their Apple Macs and living somewhere between techy and arty. They are also often left to their own creative devices in the business world, because people don’t quite understand what they do, kind of like a unicorn in a suit.
So who are Graphic designers? A lot of people think they design nice looking logos and brochures and spend hours picking out fonts and colours. Which is kind of like saying a chef is someone that just adds lots of ingredients together in a pan.
They are actually the people that build a bridge between art and functional design, to target a specific audience. They design with a practical purpose in mind and use visual arts, communications, and psychology to translate beautiful visuals into tangible goals – which is no mean feat.
Any marketer worth their salt, knows that strong visual branding and sharp wording are the magic markers for a successful campaign. Graphic designers, copywriters and marketers also share a common thread – they use the arts and social patterns to create something that sits between creativity and practicality. Something that is a representation of the current status quo or where a trend is heading.
Behind the looking glass
Graphic designers kind of live between two worlds, or have one foot in each. They are not quite tech engineers and not quite pure artists (although many do wear both hats).
To be a successful graphic designer, you can’t just know what colours or lines go where, how to use a software tool, or go full pelt into a commercial brief without thinking of the artistic beauty of a design. You also can’t just do what your artistic tastes dictate, because you need to listen to the audience and be in line with the intended message.
Pure artists normally design according to what they want to see produced, and if the public like it then that’s a bonus, but not the point. A pure artist creates from their own experiences or because of a need to express themselves. A graphic design creates an experience for the other person and expresses an external viewpoint or how a brand wishes to be perceived. Much like the difference between copywriting and poetry.
Graphic design trends are also directly influenced by already established art movements and are then painstakingly translated into functionality. Minimalism, modernism, cubism, pop art and even the surrealist art movement are all huge influences for modern design.
Brick by Brick
But perhaps the most important is Bauhaus, which was also the first art movement to remove the distinction between artist and designer, and helped pave the way for the multi-faceted graphic designer.
Bauhaus artists were the original functional designers, the minimalist rebels who created shining and unflinching modernism in the wake of a dark and subversive time in Germany. The movement was a huge advocator for marrying art, craft, industry, and technology together – which is still a prevailing concept across both creative and commercial design.
Some of the most famous Bauhaus artists also wrote streams of papers in the 1920s and 30s which predicted our own future relationship with design. Wassily Kandinsky wrote about how objects can relate to one another on a page and how they can guide a viewer’s eye and Paul Klee explored how colour can create an instant reaction with an audience.
Bauhaus ended in 1933 as the Nazis took power, but it still managed to shine a long and unfaltering beacon into the future which helped create the foundations for graphic design, user experience and modern ideas of harmonious beauty.
When I think of graphic designers, I mostly think of tech savvy and commercially-minded artists. I like to think celebrated painters from 200 years ago might have put down their paint brush and opted for Adobe Illustrator if they’d had a MacBook to hand.
I often work with graphic designers because of what I do, and I’ve found they come in all shapes and sizes and really range on the creativity kaleidoscope. Some create mind-bending design from the most boring of products, some go off on a creative tangent throwing two fingers up at caution, and others stay tightly within a brief and prefer the mechanics of design rather than edgy visuals.
What I’ve always found impressive with graphic designers is that they manage to make art a mainstream conversation, they manage to shine a light on it without making it pretentious. They help influence ideas about modern design and beauty and even how products are sold, but they do it quietly behind their sleek desks.
I love that most people hardly even notice them adding cubist shapes or surrealist design processes onto an album cover or a product brochure. For me, what graphic designers do best is that they create something visual that changes opinions and trends without people seeing each and every design stepping stone.
Why are website designers giving us simpler and more stress-free user experience?
If you’ve already had a scroll through our site, then you’ll know that we are WordPress website builders who love nothing better than coding and designing our way through the cold winter nights and building some pretty decent websites along the way.
Something that we often get asked from our clients is whether they should have a custom built or Premium theme-based WordPress site. So, we thought it was high time to explain the differences between the two options, and why a custom-built site is probably the right move 80% of the time.
Before we delve into the murky realms of website coding, let’s start with the basic differences between Premium and custom built WordPress themes.
Theme-based WordPress sites are basically a set of page templates that you can choose from and which form the visual skeleton of your website. Each theme has different visuals and layouts which create a specific website look and function.
The beauty of a theme-based option is that you can find a template that is already built, which you can then download, replace the images and rework the content to suit your own branding. The template themes are flexible and are open to slight modifications, you can also can add plug-ins to build-up a more layered website.
Custom-built WordPress sites are basically built completely from scratch and have no set template that you need to work around. A custom design is a one-off theme, that is specifically created for that individual or company.
Crucially, they can look like theme-based templates, but all the various parts of the custom website are integrated in one go, to work seamlessly together. Kind of like the difference between using a pre-made cake mix or just getting the ingredients yourself and making your own Victoria sponge – working on the base always makes the cake taste better.
Dream me a dream
Ask a website designer what their dream question from any client is and it’d probably be ‘can I have a custom website build?’.
Why? Firstly, with a custom build we are free to generate a website from scratch that is unique and fully adapted to the client. The sky is the limit with custom design. The opposite can be said with Premium, because you are limited to the configurated structures set up for the template. A bit like consigning yourself to playing in a box garden when you know there’s a whole field over the hedge.
A premium theme-based site can also turn into a coder’s worst nightmare, especially when things get a bit complicated. Although it can be simple to create a Premium theme-based site, any advanced site modifications or plug-ins that automatically update can run the risk of crashing your site or a producing a bug which will, at the very least, affect your websites functionality.
Premium theme-based sites typically have many layers of design and much more code. So when something goes wrong with a theme-based template it can feel like crawling through a coding jungle or trying to find a pebble in a desert. Sifting through streams of coding chains to find out why a site is bugging and then repairing the problem can often take longer than just custom building an entire site from scratch.
Template themed sites can also be much slower to load and have reduced page quality because of the additional coding structures and the way they are built. The speed at which your site loads has a detrimental effect for user experience and is even penalised by Google Search Ranking bots.
Premium theme-based sites have their uses and are a great option for people who:
want a very simple site
have a tight budget or deadline
find a theme that is perfect for their website goals
want a theme that has built-in features such as animation (which take a long time to code)
are not planning to modify or evolve their site
Quite a few people also think that building a custom-built theme takes more time and money than a Premium theme. It’s true that when you first set up a Premium theme-based WordPress website it can be a lot quicker and cheaper, and will have your website singing and dancing on Google in no time.
But where this logic falls down is with the maintenance and general upkeep of your site. If you end up having a coding problem or want to turn your site into something more complex (i.e. turning it into an e-commerce platform or an interactive forum) it can often be more expensive and time costly to sort out than building a custom site in the first place.
In the end, the decision boils down to knowing what you want from your site and what you are prepared to invest. Once you’ve seen the light, you can then decide whether you need a quick and simple fix via the Premium route, or an integrated and long-lasting solution which would point you to door number 2, the custom WordPress build.
PSST! Did we mention our boundless love for all thing WordPress? If you want to have a chat about how we can help you sift through noise and build a sleek and functional website, we are a short phone call away or can be found pouring over our Apple Macs at Ziferblat Edge Street.
Why are website designers giving us simpler and more stress-free user experience?
If only life were more simple right?
In a world filled to the brim with information, communication and smartphone planners, how do we hit the stop button and take ourselves off warp speed? What even got us on the priority lane to burn out in the first place?
It’s a sweet paradox that the latest technologies are hungrily consumed because they promise to save us time and energy but are actually the main instigators of fatigue, stress and yes, having less time.
Our lives are so busy and littered with tech that we are now going full circle by wanting a mammoth sized time out from it all. Users are now logging off and bouncing away from websites much more easily and without a moment’s hesitation.
Build me a road to paradise
How does this affect website design?
A functional website is no longer enough to stand out from the crowd. A website now needs to be beautiful, seamless, and completely in tune with how users surf and interact with a site.
In the fast pace world of 2018, the main challenge coders and UX designers face is successfully ridding us of unnecessary time-wasting features and navigation. The most popular sites and the highest user retentions now come from the dream of dreams – quick and easy information that leads us on a beautiful trip directly from A to B.
Users no longer want to scan through a site to find the information they need, they don’t have time to find the needle in the haystack. They want the right information thrown at them, and preferably within 2-5 seconds.
The harsh reality is that browser back buttons give people an all too easy exit strategy to your other 15 competitors sitting pretty on Google. People are more willing to opt out and try another website if you give them a crystal maze style website journey.
Over the rainbow
The most popular time-saving designs hit the right balance between simple but not oversimplified. Good designers create enough complexity to keep someone’s attention span but not too much to burn out their already highly charged brain sockets.
Linear design is one of the most popular website design styles because it follows a chronical or beginning-middle-end format. Instead of just having a drop-down menu at the top of the screen, linear websites have all the necessary links or nudges to other parts of the website throughout the homepage. As you scroll down suggestions follow you along, reminding you that there are plenty more pots of gold within the website. Linear design is also continually adapted over time by analysing user experience and wrapping the website journey around the user.
Some other popular time-saving features include:
Minimalist inspired navigation – design that encourages the minimal number of steps needed, from when a user clicks to when they take the intended action. Proactive design, eye-catching and optimised buttons, nudge features and easy-access menus are all added to produce Hansel and Gretel style bread crumbs, so you get right to where you need to be and don’t get lost on your way.
Automated suggestions – basically personalised suggestions which are based on a user’s former navigation history, and works best with member based websites. Coders and UX designers can using past user experience data, to predict what someone might like in the future and which will increase the likelihood of suggesting something that peaks the user’s interests and in turn, improves user satisfaction.
Visually rich content – combining engaging content with pictures, videos, moving graphics and fluid design to help break up information and guide the eye to the intended information more quickly. The idea is to sprinkle bits of sparkle across a site by combining multiple visual mediums. Visually rich content works particularly well if you want a user to focus on a call to action or a part of the website which encourages interaction.
Knowing me, knowing you
In the end, websites need to mirror our own lives. A good website design has to be both technically awesome and in tune with the modern Zeitgeist. Building a successful website is about blending ground-breaking design, elegant imagery, swish code and listening to your audience.
Putting the spotlight firmly back on the user and having your ear to the ground is paramount for predicting any impending stampede towards change. In 2018, people need stress-free convenience, and savvy websites designers are building exactly such a world for us, brick by streamlined brick.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
Look out Mystic Meg! Bamboo Mcr’s got hold of a crystal ball, and we can see…
First things first, everything is going to get a lot smarter. We aren’t just talking about Bamboo’s brilliant website building skills (ahem), but about the entire breed of technical devices out there on the market.
As predictions go, you might feel like it’s a pretty safe bet to assume technology is going to get a bit more quick witted. Technology has consistently become smarter since we started putting together techy stuff to make even better techy stuff. It’s the kind of horse you’d bet on to get a sure-fire win.
But, what we think will specifically make tech even smarter in 2018 is the internet of things (IoT). Now, the internet of things may sound like a loopy science project or a deep space mission, but whatthe internet of things means is connected objects that can exchange and collect information via the internet – think Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri or your fridge that suggests you might want to make an omelette with the egg and cheddar combo on your shelf.
We are obviously right at the start of the IoT movement, but experts are predicting that 2018 will be the year of IoT and where we’ll start to see real changes to our lives. IoT is going to create a completely connected world where all devices and products will form mass networks that communicate with each other and form integrated services and data troves. The internet of things will basically become the backbone for all our consumer goods.
The movement is so huge and set to tip over into our every waking moment that in 30 years or so, we’ll actually look back at the likes of Amazon Echo and have a little giggle about how quaint our IoT systems were, kind of like how we look at the 80s bricks that were apparently mobile phones or existential life before Google.
Two huge IoT examples set to change our lives are smart homes and smart cities. Most of us are already familiar with smart homes – thermostats, lighting and security systems that you can regulate with your phone, or fridges that predict food running out, and fire sensors that contact emergency services when triggered. Smart cities are also set to revolutionise our urban lives by freely exchanging live data as we go about our days. IoT cities have the potential to reduce traffic congestion, noise, crime, and pollution.
User experience or UX design has been coming up on the rear for a very long time. User Experience has always been important, with 88% of users less likely to return to a website if they’ve had a bad experience. A UX designer’s principal role is to make your journey from A to B as smooth and pleasant as possible. As technology gets smarter and more connected, seamlessly smooth user experience across multiple channels, devices and systems will become even more important.
UX designers are also the real Mystic Megs of the digital world, because a huge part of their job is to predict how people will want to use a system and how that might change over time, which is a crucial asset in the quickly evolving technology sector.
So, what will this mean for our digital spaces in 2018? Time saving nudge features, voice-activated experiences, augmented reality, and modern passwords such as biometric activation, are all being excitedly whispered about along the UX grapevine.
No we aren’t going to predict social media happening, that ship has long since sailed past the billionth duck face selfie. What we are going to predict for 2018 is that social media channels are going to become even more integrated and connected, just like user experience and smart technology.
Social channels are already merging their identities to eat up their competitors and keep their valued users. Instagram stories copied Snapchat, LinkedIn news looks very similar to the Twittersphere newsreel and Facebook is now a video tidal wave, akin to the original video titan, Youtube.
Social media will also continue to eat up traditional T.V viewing. Since the birth of Youtube, Netflix and On Demand streaming, the young’uns and the tech savvy have switched off their family tellies and flocked to their portable devices to stream from the internet wherever they want and to their hearts content. It’s very similar to the previous shift from CD to mp3, everything is getting more online, connected and instantly accessible.
TV channels and television producers have been tracking this colossal shift and have done what all savvy business people are now doing – they integrate the competition. Most television boxes now have the option to watch programmed television or go onto on-demand viewing, because it’s set to become the mainstream way of watching our most bingeworthy television programs.
The Future’s bright
So what’s in store for Bamboo in 2018?
Drum roll please!…… We are very excited to reveal our plans for a brand spanking new website, scheduled to be live and kicking early this year. Since our move to Manchester city centre, we felt like a new look was in order, it also gave us the chance to integrate lots of snazzy new user experience and design features as well as a Manchester bee inspired logo!
We are also going to continue to eat cake and live our very own coworking experiment in Ziferblat Edge street. Working in the northern quarter and being around friendly and creative people has definitely brought about some surprising opportunities. We’ve found new clients, friends and even branched out into photography and video creation.
All we can say is, roll on 2018 and let’s hope it builds on the brilliant year we had in 2017!
If you ever want a chat with us about our uncanny crystal ball skills or maybe even how we build great looking functional and modern websites, we are always available via phone, email or even for a cup of tea at Ziferblat Edge Street!
The modern human attention span often gets compared to that of a gold fish, or sometimes shown to be even worse. Whether it’s true or not, one thing web designers are all too aware of is that it’s a very tricky game to keep someone’s focus.
Our attention is being grabbed from literally all corners of our viewpoint. We are so bombarded by information, images and sound that our clever brains are forced to bring up the drawbridge and only allow a certain amount of information through to our conscious or subconscious mind.
Our brain literally creates a filtered reality of the best or most useful information that we come across in our daily hectic lives – like sifting through mud to find diamonds.
Relax, just do it
Think about it. If we actually listened to every single word of every conversation, read each advert, drank in every honk and screech of the city and saw every single pixel of colour and image – we would, at the very least, need a sleeping beauty style nap.
The brain has become so good at phasing out certain parts of reality that many people are now talking about the brain taking over too much and creating chronic ‘auto-pilot mode’. A good example is when you walk, drive or bike on a route and you don’t remember the process of actually doing it because you were too lost in your own rambling mind.
Apple of mine eye
So how are websites supposed to extract people out of their thoughts long enough to actually see and engage with their information?
Our eyes aren’t just windows to the soul, they are also one of the main ways we receive information and play a crucial role in how we perceive design. Our eyes actually have a very narrow focus, and although we think we are noticing everything around us, we are actually only really seeing what is right in front of us – which is also a nice metaphor for life in general.
Translate this into web design and a user won’t be able to see the whole website at once, but will take in various elements of a website, adding them together to make up the bigger picture or overall experience.
Most sites now have their main content in the middle of the page and let the user scroll down instead of looking freely around, because they know that people tend to look slap bang in the middle of a page and then read down, like a book. Any information in the peripheral corners of the page can be the equivalent of an attention holding graveyard.
Even though our peripheral vision is poor, it does help guide our focus, is very good at picking up motion and is one of the main reasons why videos create such great engagement wherever they are on your page, especially if they run freely.
The simple life
Another consequence of our frazzled lives is that we need things to be really simple. We don’t want to spend more than 2 minutes reading most articles, we don’t want a million flashing images or adverts bombarding us with irrelevant slogans.
A user doesn’t want to search for anything, it should be handed to them on a digital plate. If they can’t find how to contact you in less than 3 clicks, they treat it like a personal scorn and will generally go back to google and start their search again, stepping over your google ranking pop up.
This is why website designers now design with a shrinking attention span in mind and typically have a ticking time bomb to contend with when it comes to users bouncing away from the site.
Something that helps keep users on websites for longer is fluid UX design, or in other words, that the user journey is tailored towards how people naturally navigate around a site and that a simple but stylish design creates focused searching or quick retrieval of information.
Branding is obviously crucial and I’m a huge believer in memorable design, but substance will always supersede image and should never be put on the backburner. A great web design effectively puts the digital footprints in place to help the user get to the pot of gold at the end of a sleekly designed rainbow.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
WordPress is arguably the most successful and influential blogging and website platform there is, and is estimated to power 14% of the world wide web today. A large part of its success is due to its rich set of features and its highly adaptable and powerful plugins.
For those of us who are still getting to grips with the mysterious digital realm of building blogs or websites, plugins are basically bits of software that can be added onto your page by uploading them.
Plugins tend to either extend or expand how your page functions and in many cases, provide a complete solution for the user, i.e. most of the background work is done by the plugin builders.
Plug me IN
‘Which WordPress Plugins should I be using?” has to be the most existential and googled WordPress user question out there.
So before jumping head first into frenzied google searches for Top 5 WordPress Plugins to use, the most logical thing to consider before setting off is whether you actually need one in the first place.
To answer this, ask yourself the following 4 things –
Can the issue be solved without a plugin?
Does the theme I’ve chosen have a built-in solution?
Do I want to find a plugin to perform a specific task?
Is what I’m trying to change or improve actually necessary?
If you’ve brushed the first two off with a no and answered the last two with a firm nod of the head, you are on the right path and do in fact need a WordPress plugin. Next step on the road to your plugin holy grail is to decide whether to use free or premium plugins.
To pay or not to pay
A large part of the WordPress community actually believe all plugins should be free. There are a lot of free WordPress plugins already out there which are great because they do what they say on the tin and, if you are strapped for cash or don’t believe in paying for plugins, are a more than viable option to solve your WordPress building woes. Some popular free plugins include: Contact Form 7, WordPress SEO, Google Analytics and WP Super Cache.
So then why part with your hard-earned coin when you can just upload something for sweet nothing? The two main reasons to air out your wallet when it comes to choosing the right WordPress plugin are –
Range – in some cases the issue you are trying to solve hasn’t been developed by charitable plugin builders and premium can be your only option.
Reliability – support teams from premium plugins actually work on issues reported by users, maintain security and compatibility with the latest WordPress version and ensure the plugin is compatible with other plugins you might also want to use on your site. This can also happen with free plugins but isn’t as widespread.
Saves time and effort – the support team works on issues flagged by users which saves time and effort trying to work them out yourself and means you don’t even need to manually monitor your plugins for vulnerabilities.
Don’t forget that after you pay for your initial premium plugin you usually need to pay extra for any major upgrades!
The final hurdle
In the end choosing between free or paid WordPress plugins depends on your budget, whether there is a free plugin for what you need, the complexity of your issue, your knowledge of plugin set up procedures and how much time and energy you are prepared to invest.
Now all that’s left for you to do is to find the specific plugin for your issue. If you know your stuff, go straight to the WordPress directory and have a good, long search. If you are a little bit wary of making the wrong decision and love expert advice then there are plenty of great bloggers out there that can help you choose the right one for you. Type in your specific issue and let the magic of the internet guide you to the right plugin for you.
PSST! The team @Bamboo Digital Manchester might be the genie to your lamp. We also create our own WordPress plugins!
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
Getting through to your audience has never been more complicated.
We are living in an age of hyper-communication where each individual, on average, processes the equivalent of 174 newspapers and is exposed to an estimated 10,000 adverts every single day.
The hurrier I go the behinder I get
Cutting through the noise and grabbing fickle attention spans means that content must be engaging, digestible, genuine, and quick.
People essentially want to know the core point of any online content in under 2 minutes. 80% of people won’t read to the end of your page and most of your audience will only read 20% of any web content you post.
With these depressing statistics to hand, the only way to persuade audiences to read on is to galvanise your page titles and make sure that your first few points really pack a punch.
Made in his image
And let’s not forget the colossal importance of videos and images that give the reader a quick energy boost between grammatical constructions.
Infographics came on the scene to transform deep datainto visual short hand. These visual ‘word bites’ are an extremely effective way of sharing a lot of information in an easily digestible and shareable format.
So why use infographics?
Visuals boost engagement
The human eye is naturally drawn to images, users pay more attention to graphics and are more likely to linger and retain more information because you have engaging visuals.
‘Engagement’ is banded about a lot on marketing sites, all that it really means is that there is a two-way interaction between the audience and the source. Infographics are the best of both worlds because they combine detailed information with images so that you get the necessary attention and engagement from your target audience.
Crucially, they help move your content away from static results nestled in lengthy paragraphs and elevate data to build a visual information grid that captivates the reader.
Infographics are more likely to go viral
When a reader is engaged and believes that the information will also help others, they are more likely to share and generate a social media snowball effect.
Visuals are a great way to highlight important information that your audience might not have time to read or even skim through in the body of your text.
Without visuals, especially infographics, insightful and shareable information can often be over looked and can disappear into the pool of content swirling around the internet.
Infographics help users immediately process and instantly relate to what you want to get across, which are the building blocks of social engagement and ultimately creating a viral post.
Infographics are highly shareable
Some people don’t actually need to go viral and just want to create enough awareness to start attracting new customers or increase their followers.
Infographics are a great way to achieve sustained awareness and increase web traffic to your page or social accounts. They are a great tool to reach every corner of the internet and spread awareness far and wide.
You can pin infographics to Pinterest, tweet one via your twitter account, share via private message or embed an infographic into your blog.
A relevant and useful infographic will increase your site’s traffic because the people that share it will also link to the source and you will create organic traffic back to your site. You can also add HTML coding to your infographic so it becomes searchable and helps increase your google rankings.
You can even let your infographic loose in the real world and print it for marketing campaigns, presentations, posters or leaflets. In fact, it’s a wonder an infographic isn’t taking over the world as we speak.
The Circle of Life
The reason infographics work is because they don’t just emit out information, they use engagement to push people to share which draws the audience back to you, your company or your online passion.
The circle works because, when you do it right, the traffic loop should never end. Your information is out there and every day someone is picking it up, and the more its shared the more it will attract users right back to the source.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
The sun has been out so instead of sitting for lunch and discussing web design things, we headed out across Manchester to capture our favourite place in the world… Manchester 🙂
– Captured our senior developer Mark on a two step
Deciding Between a Mobile Website or Responsive Website?
In early 2011 Bamboo started to see a shift in the amount of visitors accessing our clients websites on mobile devices such as smartphones (like the iPhone). In those early days businesses would most likely only see upto 3% of their traffic coming from these types of devices. Fast forward to 2014 and there has been quite a noticeable shift. Nearly all our clients websites see at least 15% of their total traffic coming from smartphones and tablets. In some cases mobile access is upto 50% or more.
What does this mean for businesses?
So what does this mean for businesses who already have a website that is not mobile compatible? and what choices are available to business website owners today who want to deliver their content to mobile devices?
It is certainly time to make sure your website is mobile and tablet compatible or you could be loosing a significant amount of leads and sales from your web site. The first step to deciding wether to optimise your website for mobiles and smartphones is to gather information on your current traffic. To do this you need to install some analytics to your website so you have some statistics and reports on the type of traffic your business is currently attracting.
The good news is the best analytical traffic reporting tool on the market is free to use and its supplied by Google. Google Analytics helps you analyse your web sites visitors and will paint a complete picture of your audience and their requirements. For instance if you see 80% of your traffic are all using mobile phones and tablets, then you would most certainly want to serve your website to that target audience in the most suitable way. This is a sure way of increasing leads and sales.
There are x3 different ways of delivering your website to mobile devices
A responsive website serves out the same html to everyone but will change its appearance and layout based on the size of the screen the website is displayed on. This means your website can look easier to use on small screens such as mobile phones by increasing font sizes and making buttons easy to press. This is Google’s recommended configuration.
Using detection techniques you can show pages that are optimised specifically for the device that has been detected. For instance if your visitor is using an iPhone, Blackberry or laptop they all receive different looking html pages and optimised content specifically for their device. This is great for optimising your website for a very specific device but will result in the management and maintenance of your website more costly.
Separate mobile site
Using detection techniques your website will redirect users to a different web address if they are using a mobile device. This website will deliver content specifically for mobile devices with optimised imagery and content.
Google prefers responsive web design because:
Using a single web address for a piece of content makes it easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to your content, and a single web address helps Google index your content.
No redirection is needed for your site visitors to get to the device-optimised view, which reduces loading time. Also, user agent-based redirection is error-prone.
Responsive web design saves resources for both your site and Google’s crawlers. For responsive web design pages, any Googlebot user agents need to crawl your pages once, as opposed to crawling multiple times with different user agents, to retrieve your content. This improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of the site’s contents and keep it appropriately fresh.
– See Google https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/details
The wide variety of different screen sizes and resolutions that people are using to browse the web is widening each day, and creating a different version of a website that targets specific devices is no longer a practical way forward. This is the problem that responsive web design delivers for businesses.
Bamboo are experienced in designing and developing responsive websites. If your company is looking for a manchester web design agency who can deliver mobile and responsive web sites then contact Bamboo today.
Download 1200px Photoshop PSD Grid Template
Today I decided to recreate my blank web design Photoshop template file that is retina ready – When I say retina ready I mean its basically 200% larger than my original Photoshop file. The reason I have had to re-draw a new retina ready 1200px grid template instead of just upscaling the original file is so I know 100% that all the dimensions are pixel perfect. Photoshop has a knack of anti-aliasing edges even if you snap to point or grid etc – It never works perfectly, the only way to make sure all grid widths and columns are correct is to re-draw them… So I did today. It’s a tediously boring job and a couple of years ago I would rely on all my web designs to fit and snap perfectly to my grid.
The file has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 and 12 column grids for 1200px width layouts as well as a 960px width grid thrown in there with 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 and 16 column grid layouts.
At the time of writing this article this is the basis Photoshop file we use to design all our web sites at Bamboo. We all work to a set grid and width before a project starts and this file helps the design process. This is not a finished file by any means though… in fact I am already working on anew file with media break grids in there with columns and I may start to group certain widths and columns together with their common responsive counterpart to make the file even more useful.