Union Jack Web Design

Site Principles

The Home page

Think of your home page as a virtual shop window. You need to display something visually appealing. Your site should make it clear, within a couple of seconds, what it's all about. If people have to spend any effort reading to find out what your site promotes, they'll move on. Also remember that many people don't scroll down, so anything below the top, visible part of the page may get missed.

Structure

The structure should be presented simply. Visitors should be able to find what they're looking for in as few clicks as possible - and they like to know how to find it again too. If you re-organise your site, previous visitors may have bookmarked pages so you'll need to make sure they get redirected to the new content.

Inner Pages

People scan web pages rather than reading everything. You can help to point out the most important messages by breaking the text into sections and using headings.

Keep pages simple and relaxing by:

  • Keeping the number of words down.
  • Not mixing too many fonts and colours. Use different fonts, font sizes and colours consistently too, so that important headings and phrases are easily picked out when scanning the page.
  • Not having complex background images. Don't use anything that distracts from what you're really trying to show.

Top Ten Content Tips

  1. Know your audience in mind when you write the content. They want to find out about how you can help them - what benefits they will get.
  2. Keep the pages as short as possible, and make sure your key messages are near the top. Try out your pages on a netbook or a phone if it's relevant. Make sure there's good and obvious content at the top to make people scroll down if that's really necessary.
  3. Keep images small in terms of their Kb size. Large images annoy people. If a page takes too long to download, many people will never see it, as they will have browsed somewhere.
  4. Don't send people away from your site! You've managed to get someone on to your site... keep them! When you need to refer to another website, set the link to open in a new tab/window.
  5. Avoid lots of text. People don't read the web, they skim it. There are cases where substantial content is necessary - in which case, try to break it up into short paragraphs and lists.
  6. Creating good website navigation is one of the most important tasks a website builder has to accomplish. Website navigation is the pathway people take to navigate through websites. It must be well constructed, easy to use and intuitive.
  7. If you're updating your site, remember to take account of both previous visitors and search engines. You may well have to change the site structure, but make sure it's easy to work out how to find information from the old site. Search engines will have recorded pages in their old locations. If you have to move pages, use redirects to tell the search engines how to find them again.
  8. Avoid Flash where possible. In recent years the web has become more multimedia oriented, but not all devices can see Flash content - iPhone and iPad representing a sizeable chunk. Much of the functionality of Flash can be achieved using Javascript and web video.
  9. You need reliable and fast website hosting. A website that is slow to build puts people off in seconds.
  10. Search Engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the "natural" or unpaid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. Other forms of search engine marketing (SEM) target paid listings. In general, the earlier (or higher on the page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine.
  11. Never eat yellow snow.

Profiles

Profiles will help to establish your site's objectives. Here are some ideas to get you started.

User Profile

  • What is the age and gender of the people you'd like to attract?
  • How knowledgeable are they about the web?
  • Are they likely to be at home or at work?
  • Will they be using a laptop or desktop computer, tablet or mobile?
  • What are they looking for?
  • Where are they looking?

Competitor Profile

  • Why is what you do better than what your competitors do?
  • What are your main differentiators?
  • What do people like and dislike about competitor websites?
  • What ideas can you borrow from any other website, related or not?

Usage Profile

  • How do your target visitors use websites?
    • Scan the site for headlines that match their interest
    • Head straight for site search
    • Browse by following interesting links
    • Interact with the site - games, apps, calculators, etc.
    • Use one site as a hub for information in many other places

Online Video Tips

Web video has become huge on the internet. YouTube hosts video content on any subject you care to choose, while there are many other dedicated video content libraries for both personal and business audiences. In light of this, search engines have attached more and more significance to web videos. Here are our tips to help you to raise your search engine profile.

  1. Use good content - entertaining, informative, descriptive... anything that engages your audience.
  2. Use relevant video titles, and remember to include a good description in the ALT tags.
  3. Search engines index file names as well as content, so use keywords in your video file names. This applies to all file names in your site.
  4. Add your video to YouTube. The search engines will look at the popularity of your video.
  5. Embed the YouTube video into your site - you'll have a popular in-coming link. Add it to a page which also has relevant text content so search engines can identify the subject.
  6. Use relevant keywords in your video title & description in YouTube
  7. Look for other video libraries - especially those for business audiences if that's relevant. Host your video there as well.
  8. Set your video pages up so they can be viewed by any browser on any platform. iPhone and iPad devices can't show Flash-based video, so add HTML5 video to your page as well.

Search Engine Optimisation Tips

So how do you get your website to appear on the first page of a search? It's not easy, and you do have to keep working at it. However, if you do nothing else, the main thing to consider is that the content in your site should be relevant, useful and written for human eyes.

There are unscrupulous people out there who will guarantee to get your site in the #1 slot - be very suspicious! They will use all sorts of tricks to try to bump up your site's profile. In the end, however, these techniques will get found and your site will get black-listed.

Our SEO tips are just a starting point - they will get you going in the right direction:

  1. Write your content for a human audience - and specifically for your target audience.
  2. Keep your content original and don't repeat. Google penalises sites for copying content from elsewhere, and for duplicating text within a website.
  3. Use real HTML text, not images, wherever possible, since search engines don't read "text" inside images or videos.
  4. Do some keyword research - see what real people are actually searching the internet for. The search engines provide tools to help you do this.
  5. Write your page content bearing in mind what people are searching for. Include those "key phrases" in your text - but make sure the text still flows well.
  6. Keep the content on each page relevant to the page's subject. And add enough content so there's some depth to the information, while not making it too dull for people to read.
  7. Get as many links coming in to your site as possible. These links should be from sites that are relevant to your content, and preferably from popular sites.

All of this takes time, and it can be months before you start seeing your site move up the search engine listings. If you need a quick fix, then pay per click advertising is the answer.

Mobile Website Tips

If some of your audience is likely to be viewing your site on a mobile device, then make sure it's easy for them to find what they need. If your site is too big or complicated then you'll need a separate mobile version. An alternative could be a mobile app. This really depends on what you want to achieve.

Here's our top tips for mobile websites:

  1. Use separate style sheets for computers and mobile devices. The style sheet can be chosen by the web server or at the browser. Many sites direct mobile users to a dedicated mobile web site (e.g. bbc.co.uk/mobile).
  2. Keep the amount of data down to a minimum. If your mobile visitor only has a slow connection, they're going to be frustrated if they have to wait for that large background image to be delivered.
  3. Think about font sizes and how easy it is to "click" a button or link on your site. Also remember that mobile browsers convert phone numbers into clickable links, so make it easy for people to phone you by making sure the number makes sense.
  4. Use fluid layouts so the page fills the available space.
  5. Use HTML5 input types in forms to tell the mobile browser which keyboard to present. If your form has, for example, a telephone input area, use the type "tel" so the browser displays a number pad.
  6. Remember there's no Flash on iPad and iPhone. Use HTML5 with fallback to Flash to accommodate all possibilities.

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