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A New Website Will Get You Much More Than a Great Design

A New Website Will Get You Much More Than a Great Design 

DC Web Designers New Website DesignTypically, most organizations when doing a website overhaul get really excited about updating their corporate design. Many of the calls we get from potential clients are so embarrassed with their current website that they tell their clients not to go there, or they preface the visit with “please don’t judge, we are working on a redesign”. Let’s face it; this isn’t the best way to start a professional relationship. What most organizations don’t realize is this is an amazing time to redesign their website. So much has changed in the web world the last eighteen months that web development companies have to provide much more in their standard design packages just to keep up with industry standards.

Let’s take a look at what has changed on the Interweb

Mobile Web

It’s impossible to talk about websites now-a-days without mentioning a mobile solution. Two years ago most web companies had to build two websites for their clients interested in a mobile solution. With the introduction of Responsive Web Design, that is no longer the case. Responsive Web Design is a new technique that uses cascading style sheets (CSS) to allow your website to collapse and expand to the resolution of the device serving up the website. This means that you can build one website and it will work on every device. A few benefits of Responsive Web Design include cost savings, better search engine rankings, better viewing experience for users, and easier site management. With more and more users viewing the web from smartphones and tablets, these benefits are really now necessities. In late April of 2015, Google forced organizations to go mobile by playing favoritism towards mobile compatible websites. Basically they told the web world, “If you have a mobile website, we are going to improve your rankings in our search results”. That is a nice benefit, especially for industries slow to making moves to the mobile web. Responsive Web Design is affordable and efficient. Building two sites can be costly, and having all of your content under one web umbrella saves time on development and time on administration. You can use one content management system to make content changes, removing the daunting task of updating two sites, your mobile version and your desktop version.

Navigation

Another big change has been the introduction of expandable drop down and mega menus. These newer navigation tools allow users to dig way deep into a site’s content without ever leaving the homepage. In addition, a lot of these menus allow you to add descriptive text and images to provide more insight into the available content living deep within your website.

Homepage Animation

Organizations interested in merchandising their products and services from their homepage have a great way to do so now. If you have spent anytime surfing the web lately, you’ll notice many sites offer an animated element on their homepage that provides unique messaging and calls to action to the important content living in the depths of their website. Homepage scrollers allow you to really take advantage of that seven second rule in getting the attention of your user, providing relevant information, and offering a clear path to get there. Homepage scrollers do a great job in all of the above.

Social Media Feeds

Although we’ve seen the social media bubble burst a bit when it comes to organizations putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into their Facebook and Twitter pages, it still pays an important role in many markets and can be an effective way to attract new users to your site.. Today, many sites are pushing their real-time Facebook statuses and Twitter tweets to their website home and contact pages. Most web design companies can easily add these feeds and format them to fit your branding requirements.

Expandable Footers

Another design change we’ve witnessed is the expandable footer, sometimes referred to as a sitemap footer. A space normally used for privacy policies and terms and conditions is now a prime location to allow users to see the breadth of your content. Sitemap footers allow users to see way deep into your content architecture and easily locate web pages not necessarily seen in a menu system.

Rotating Content

Real estate is limited and valuable on a homepage; a great technique used to take advantage of limited space on the homepage is rotating, scrolling, or tabbed content. You’ll see a lot of websites that rotate their news, job opportunities, client logos, case studies, and other content types in a small area using a scroller or tabbed design approach. When you have a lot of content you want to present on your homepage, utilizing these techniques can really help, they look great and have high click through rates.

Ridding Yourself of Outdated Technologies

Another great reason to have your website designed in 2015 is to get rid of technologies that are outdated, unsupported, or just plain slow. Flash is a great example. Flash is dead and has no place on a homepage anymore. Besides being unsupported on a few browsers, it shows that you haven’t put any investment into your website in the last few years. Updating your web technologies can decrease the load time, provide better interaction, and shows your company is vested in the quality of your website.

Wrapping It Up

Today is a great day to explore the possibilities in upgrading your website. There are many more benefits than the ones I’ve identified above, and to be honest, the cost to build an interactive, robust site has come down. A great way to get started is to pick up the phone and ask questions. We here at DC Web Designers would love to speak with you about your project. Give us a call at 410-740-9181.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at 12:00 AM




A fool-proof plan to an exceptional user experience

You’ve heard the old saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Planning is an essential part to web design and development. Research and thinking ahead will help shed light on some issues you may come across down the line and prevent your site from becoming “broken”. The word broken here doesn’t just apply to broken links or errors. A failed plan and broken user flow are just as bad!

Our first step is to sit down with a client and talk through what their vision is for their site and to add some ideas of our own. But is our responsibility as the web professionals to take all of these ideas and transform them into a functional user experience. We need to know when a seemingly cool idea will and will NOT work. If the client states that they want to use totally awesome, unexpected verbiage in the navigation, for instance, we need to speak up and remind them that this could possibly cause confusion for the users and diminish the user experience. Instead, we may suggest an ALTERNATIVE way to utilize their super cool verbiage throughout the site.
In the second step, design stage, a web designer needs to design a site with that same  approach.

Think ahead. A great idea may pop into our head for the design, but if we cannot envision how this idea will translate into development stage, we need to rethink this idea. A good web designer thinks like a developer… even if they haven’t a clue how to code. How do these buttons work on click? How about  on hover? How does that dropdown work? Where is the best place to put this callout for high visibility?

With the advent of Responsive web technologies, our thinking and planning has to go even further. What will this desktop content look like on a tablet? On mobile? Which pieces of content will need to be hidden when the site is viewed on mobile, without taking away from the experience? Will this mobile nav be easy to use/find?
Users are now expecting faster and easier interaction, and they are growing less patient… especially users of mobile devices… so we want to keep the sites as simple and straightforward as possible.

The final step, after buildout is to test, test and test some more! There are plenty of emulation tools available to test online, but when possible, there’s no better testing solution than the real devices. We test on androids,  iphones, ipads, computer monitors with multiple screen sizes, different browsers, and so on. With this keen attention to detail, we generate beautiful, functional, user friendly websites with a seamless user flow!

Monday, March 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM




Botta Bing!

When Microsoft announced to the world they had a new search engine, I’m pretty sure most of us had an LOL moment.  It was comical, and maybe a bit sac religious, that anyone would put up their dukes and initiate a fight against the almighty God…I mean Google.  

Microsoft’s pending defeat was imminent, but if anyone had a fighting chance, they did.  Their odds were increased simply because of the amount of money and confidence they had in their corner.  

We all know Google’s reputation as a fierce competitor in organic search engine results, but they also have a hugely successful paid advertising model that seemed likely to be Microsoft’s knockout punch.

Microsoft was doomed, and Bing, their #1 contender, was most likely going down in the first round. 

Ding, ding, ding, ding…The sounds of each round ending were a shock to everyone watching. 

Today, we are well into the middle rounds, and Bing (and Yahoo combined) make up 30% of all search engine traffic.

How can this be?

Well, remember all of that money we talked about Microsoft having earlier?  It came flooding out, and people started getting paid off outside of the ring.  Microsoft came out with a huge marketing campaign.  Using the Pepsi challenge premise, they captured the younger market by pretending that people actually preferred their search results over Google's when the two were compared side by side.  Microsoft already had the older demographics.  Most PCs come off the shelves with only Internet Explorer installed.  Being a Microsoft product, they set the default homepage to Bing, which most old fogies don’t know how to, or really want to, change. 
Microsoft then met with Yahoo, and decided that together they could bring down the Andre the Search Engine Giant.  They signed a ten year deal that leveraged each other’s strengths, and all of a sudden there was life.  

The last power play came when Marissa Mayer, one of Google’s stars, jumped ship and started calling the shots at Yahoo.  If anything, the Mayer pickup was more of a psychological win, but still a win nonetheless. 

Finally, Bing made a friend, a huge friend.  A friend so big, that even Google had to respect his presence.  His name was Facebook.  Bing became Facebook’s search default for their new Graph Search.  This partnership instantly increased Bing’s value and market share.

So, with a few added power plays, both physical and psychological, Bing has given itself a fighting chance. 

So now what?

Well, to DC Web Designers, this means we can educate our clients and help them with new online marketing opportunities with Bing.  With a market share that could reach 40% by the end of 2016, we need to pay attention.  Bing has an advertising model of their own, Bing Ads, which has a lower competitive market and more affordable advertising options.  We believe this is a great opportunity for our clients, and with a little research, we can identify some new avenues to pursue in order to increase our client visibility and availability.

To learn more about new advertising opportunities with Bing, give us a call at 410-740-9181.


Monday, January 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM




Open Source, the Second Coming?

"Yeah, Open Source is Free!"

Sorry, not true.  

"Yeah, Open Source is Easy!"

Um no, not really.

"Yeah, Open Source is the Best!"

Not always.

About two years ago, a huge marketing buzz hit the tech space.  Open Source was here, and everyone was going to have free websites and great tools to manage them.  Unfortunately, much like most mass marketing frenzies, it was based on half-truths.  You see, Open Source products can be downloaded for free, but unless you have sat behind a computer for the last five years coding .PHP, you can’t do anything with it.  It is like someone giving you a book on how to cure cancer, yet you have never taken a biology or chemistry course.  

Open Source tools are great if you have an IT department that can integrate, customize, and support them.  Otherwise, it’s just another piece of expensive software with a big catch.  Nobody can guarantee it will work properly.  Sure, there is a huge community of programmers working on improving and enhancing it’s out of the box capabilities, but that community isn’t made up of do-gooders looking to work pro-bono for your organization.  It is a community of software engineers charging $175 an hour and high school hacks who promise you the world.

We aren’t saying that Open Source isn’t a great solution for some companies.  We are simply saying it is not less expensive than most proprietary systems that are fully supported and guaranteed to work bug free.

So now what?

 The first thing you need to do when choosing the right content management software for your company is to demo it.  You’ll be surprised at how cumbersome many open source software systems are.  Open Source CMS software is built by programmers, and programmers don’t care much about usability for everyday computer users.  

Let’s get back to demonstrating the software.  Make sure you demo a few different systems.  You’ll probably have a favorite.  Most likely one system will stand out as a front runner to best accommodate your content management needs.  Hopefully you find one that accommodates your content types, skill sets of your employees, and budget.

Once you have demonstrated a few options, learn more about what it is going to take to support the software.  Are there licensing fees?  Do you need to customize it to fit your needs?  Is it written in a well supported programming language?  Is the software provider reputable and mature? 

Finally, don’t disregard proprietary systems.  Talk with the companies that built them and find out the ins and outs of the licensing agreements.  Do they provide upgrades?  Can you buy a copy of the source code?  Can you use the software if you decide to stop working with the provider?

Do your homework on the CMS systems out there before you take the advice of the dudes in your IT department, there is a good chance they don’t know what they are talking about.  Definitely don’t take the advice of your CEO’s nephew.  He’ll have your money spent by the time you sign the contract, and next time you see him, he’ll be on a new skate board, wearing his hat sideways, and sporting a new iPhone.

DC Web Designers support six different Content Management Systems (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, SmartSite, Sitefinity, and LightCMS). Three are Open Source and three are proprietary.  We’ll take you through the features and benefits of each system, and let you decide the best system for your company.  We’ll provide unbiased recommendations for you and your organization to make certain the right system is used for your next generation website.

Call us at 410-740-9181 to learn more about the CMS systems we support, and set up some time to demonstrate the ones that are good candidates to fill your content management needs.


Monday, January 13, 2014 at 12:00 AM




What the Heck Happened to Website Apps?

Two years ago, when I walked into most sales meetings, I could almost guarantee I was going to be asked, “Can you build us an app?”

“Why yes I can,“ was always my response.  Yet, most often I followed with…

“But why?”  

Most of my clients had bought into a super-sized hype around web apps, which was circulating the webby world as a must have.  As they watched all of their competitors showing off their shiny new toys, they felt not having one was a sign of inadequacy.
  
It always struck me as strange how my clients somehow convinced themselves that linking to their Facebook page, showing their latest tweet, or providing directions to their office could justly cost $8,000 or more. Most of my clients didn’t need apps.  Their websites were already doing these things and the odds that anyone besides their coworkers would be downloading these gadgets were slim to none.

But sometimes, good advice from people that know best can be an annoying background noise that is easily drowned out by wishful thinking. So, apps were built, and hearts were broken.  

But what happened to all of these apps and the hysteria behind them?

 
It didn’t take a ton of time for the organizations to realize the demand was low and the investment was poor, and newer, better alternatives were knocking louder and louder. Mobile web technologies got good, really good, and organizations were immediately interested in an emerging technology called Responsive Web Design.  

Responsive Web Design is a technology that allows organizations to build one website that works on any device and is compatible on any operating system.  It also provides similar functionality at a fraction of the cost.
  
Today, Responsive Web Design is the best mobile solution for most organizations. Built using HTML and CSS, two standardized website programming languages, Responsive Web Design is a clear winner in a mismatched bout with web apps. Today, DC Web Designers provides the majority of our clients with a Responsive Web Design, allowing them to use a single CMS to publish and manage web content for any device serving up their websites.  

To learn more about Responsive Web Design, call us at 410-740-9181, we are happy to make recommendations or build you a website that makes for a great investment, and will hold a long shelf life.

Click here to visit our webpage on Responsive Web Design benefits and features.

-Mark Cyphers, President of DC Web Designers.


Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:03 PM




Understanding the Favicon

First introduced in 1999 by Microsoft in their Internet Explorer browser platform, favicons have undergone little change until recently.  A small graphic file,  usually packaged into a .ico file that is displayed in or next to the browser address bar.  Through the evolution of browsers this little graphic has taken on much more importance in our daily web surfing lives.  Providing users with instant brand recognition, a favicon can be an immediate and lasting reminder of your company or site.  Originally packaged as a single small 16px x 16px file, favicons have come begun to change with the emergence of new technology and display resolution.  Now it is common to have multiple image sizes packaged into a single .ico file so the browser can pick the one best suited to the device display.  An excellent read on the subject was written by Jonathan T. Neal located here: Understand the Favicon

Though small in size, the impact of a favicon is one that should not be overlooked.  Grab a copy Icon Slate  or png2ico and get started.

Jon Hartley

Search Tags: favorite , ico , favicon , bookmark

Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM




What's the big diff between HTML4 and HTML5?

The primary one difference between HTML4 and HTML5 is consistent, defined error handling. As you know, HTML purposely supports the ability to write malformed code and have it corrected by the browser into a valid displaying web page. The problem is that there are not standards on doing so. When a new browser vendor wants to enter the market, they just have to test malformed documents in various browsers (especially IE) and reverse-engineer their error handling. If they don't, then many pages won't display correctly. 


So, HTML5 is attempting to discover and codify this error handling, so that browser developers can all standardize and greatly reduce the time and money required to display things consistently. As well, long in the future after HTML has died as a document format, historians may still want to read our documents, and having a completely defined parsing algorithm will greatly aid this.

The secondary goal of HTML5 is to develop the ability of the browser to be an application platform, via HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Many elements have been added directly to the language that are currently (in HTML4) Flash or JS-based hacks, such as <canvas>, <video>, and <audio>. Useful things such as Local Storage (a js-accessible browser-built-in sql database, for storing information beyond what cookies can hold), new input types such as date for which the browser can expose easy user interface (so that we don't have to use our js-based calendar date-pickers), and browser-supported form validation will make developing web applications much simpler for the developers, and make them much faster for the users (since many things will be supported natively, rather than hacked in via javascript).

There are many other smaller efforts taking place in HTML5, such as better-defined semantic roles for existing elements (<strong> and <em> now actually mean something different, and even <b> and <i> have vague semantics that should work well when parsing legacy documents) and adding new elements with useful semantics - <article>, <section>, <header>, <aside>, and <nav> should replace the majority of <div>s used on a web page, making your pages a bit more semantic, but more importantly, easier to read. No more painful scanning to see just what that random </div> is closing - instead you'll have an obvious </header>, or </article>, making the structure of your document much more intuitive.


Jon Hartley

Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM




Did you know that humans have an average attention span of just 8 seconds?

Don't let your content flatline - make the most of your time by keeping it eye-catching and relevant... 
The average reader will only read 20% of web content. Jim Dougherty says it best, "I love this infographic for its underlying message: we often times take readers for granted. Specifically their time and attention. A great reminder with some pretty great tips to regain perspective."
http://leaderswest.com/2013/06/03/infographic-average-reader-will-only-read-20-of-web-content/

DC Web Designers provides our support clients with resources, tools, and advice on creating successful website content. Call 410-740-9181 or email us at sales@dcwebdesigners to learn more.


Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM




Think email marketing is dead? Think again...

You may be surprised to hear that it is very much alive. In fact, email marketing is making a bit of a comeback, with a few enhancements. Many companies are now using software to create lead nurturing campaigns (sent by email) that are relevant to the needs of the respondent. When done properly, the campaign should bring your prospect through your sales funnel, down to where they are more prepared to buy.

However, there are lots of businesses doing email marketing totally wrong! To make sure you’re not one of them, check out these seven sins and don’t do them!!  http://www.business2community.com/infographics/email-marketing-dead-infographic-0608083

Call us today to learn how email marketing can benefit your organization.  DC Web Designers has a number of great email marketing solutions and would love to discuss them with you.  Call 410-740-9181 or email us at sales@dcwebdesigners to learn more.

Friday, September 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM




Web Design Trends 2013

What hot trends are we looking forward to for 2013?

  1. Responsive Web Design
  2. Larger Photographs
  3. Custom Fonts
  4. "Flyout" Information
  5. 3D Shadows


Responsive Web Design

Up until a short time ago, companies needed to build two websites if they wanted an effective mobile solution.  However, with new techniques and capabilities of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), it is now feasible to build a single website that is compatible for both desktop browsers and mobile devices.  The new technique is called Responsive Web Design.  When you build a website using Responsive Design techniques, your website becomes elastic, and transforms to be compatible for almost every device on the market.

View our responsive websites

Larger Photographs

Honestly, great imagery makes a site design successful. The shift now is towards larger, full-screen photographs that tell a story and capture your user's attention. Our own website utilizes this on the homepage

Custom Fonts

An exciting leap in web design capabilities this year is to be able to add custom fonts to your website. In the past, we were limited to a handful of boring selections like Times New Roman and Arial. With the advancement of HTML5 and CSS3, we can now use almost any font on a website!

"Flyout" Information

You have probably seen it on a website before, a little tab on the left or right side of the screen that when you hover/click on it, it slides out to reveal additional content. These are incredibly useful for giving a more interactive experience to your users. It can be used for a variety of additional content such as:
  • Contact Form
  • Live Chat system
  • Featured gallery
  • Job Opportunities
  • and much more!

3D Shadows

A hot trend this year is to give dimension and texture to your website through the use of 3D design and shading. You can really make your website come alive!


Friday, February 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM





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