Tag Archives: URL

Mobile Responsive Web Design

Mobile Web Design: What it is and What it Means
By 2014, mobile Internet usage is predicted to overtake desktop Internet usage. For those not already on board with mobile web design, the train is now officially leaving the station. However, mobile design is not merely a matter of making objects smaller. Instead, mobile design calls for an entirely different philosophy and perspective. Some of these differences are obvious and some less so.

“Flavors” of Mobile Web Design
Two primary techniques comprise mobile web design in 2013, each with advantages and disadvantages. These techniques are discussed in detail below:

Responsive Web Design
A responsive design detects the user’s device type (desktop, mobile, tablet) and adjusts layout properties accordingly. Among the advantages of responsive web design is that only a single URL is necessary. Similarly, the look and feel of the site is the same regardless of device, an important aspect of building brand loyalty and recognition. On the other hand, a responsive web design is rarely optimized for mobile users. Because the HTML is the same for both the desktop and mobile instances of the site, the content is essentially the same as well. However, mobile users often have different expectations and needs. Slower performance and navigation are also potential drawbacks of responsive web design.

Understand the End User
It sounds like an oversimplification to say that mobile web users are different from desktop web users, but this one fact is probably the most important takeaway when designing for mobile platforms. Mobile users are predominantly goal-oriented. They’re looking for a restaurant, checking on a reservation, seeing what movies are playing, etc. Mobile users are “intentional”: Their browsing typically is purposeful. Good designers understand this and ensure that all design elements contribute to the site’s purpose.

Prioritize Functionality
Above all, a mobile site has to work. Slow response, broken links, a wonky interface and bugs will all deep-six the best intentions of any mobile developer. Designers have one chance to capture a visitor’s attention. On the desktop, a stunning layout and aesthetics alone can sometimes do the trick. For mobile web purposes, however, the site must be fast, easy and perform exactly as expected, every time.

Balancing Performance with Design
Despite the advances in Smartphone hardware, they are still relative lightweights compared to the most powerful desktop computers. Web designers have to be aware of the limitations of handheld and tablet devices. Too much code, too many bells and whistles and the mobile site will slog to a halt. Screen size is probably the most obvious limitation. The content present on a desktop site will never fit on a mobile site. For that reason, traditional menus and options simply don’t work. Designers have to be creative and selective. An example of this might be an air travel booking website. Whereas the desktop site will be a virtual library of information, pictures, calendars, etc., the mobile site might consist merely of flight schedules at the nearest airport. After all, most mobile users are checking on a flight with their smartphones, not booking one or investigating the tourist hotspots at their destination.

Because mobile users are on the move, bandwidth changes from one location to the next. Good mobile web design copes well with periods of weak data signal by not over-relying on dynamic content.

Concentrate on Branding
At the end of the day, branding and content are the cornerstones of any company. Mobile web design cannot neglect the identity of its parent organization. Mobile users frequently navigate directly to a specific site rather than searching, so name recognition is essential. Even if the brand already has strong market penetration, ensuring a quality experience for all mobile users will help maintain and build brand loyalty.

Will Desktops Be Left Behind?
The short answer is no. The more complicated answer is that no one can be sure of the evolution of web design 5 or 10 years from now. It’s possible that the best practices of mobile design will subsume desktop design, bringing simpler and more efficient interfaces to users everywhere. However, it’s hard to imagine the need for information-dense, substance-over-style design philosophies becoming obsolete.

Website Design Best Practices Using Title and Descriptions Tags Effectively

It is surprising how little attention is paid to page title tags and meta description tags during a website’s design process. In fact, when pressed on the subject, few website designers, let alone site owners, know too many details about them beyond some very basic concepts. However, both tags are quite important in terms of attracting visitors and increasing the click-through-ratio of organic search. This article defines these terms and reviews why they are a key component of effective website design. It also includes details regarding how to write attractive tags, as well as what to avoid from a design and marketing point of view.

When executing search on any of the major search engines, results are presented with the most relevant websites showing up in descending order (that is the more relevant results show up first). In Google, the contents of each page is presented with a title in large blue font, as well as a short description in smaller black font. In website design jargon, the blue text is the title tag and the black text is the meta description, both of which are found in the site’s html code.  At first sight it looks like both Yahoo! and Bing present search results like Google with the same blue-black font nomenclature. But looks can be deceiving; while they might all look identical, there are some subtle differences to be aware of.

The first major difference is character length.  While these are subject to change at the whim of the search sites, currently Google displays 70 characters for title tags and 150 for meta descriptions. Yahoo! and Bing in turn display 72 and 65 title tags and 161 and 150 meta descriptions respectively. These are important to know because exceeding the limits will result in the search engines cutting the amount of text displayed. And of course if not displayed, the text will be useless in terms of attracting visitors.

The second noticeable difference is which words are bolded in the page title tags. All search engines bold the keywords of a search term. For example, a search for “website design” will result in the bolding of this search query each time it appears in both the title tags and meta descriptions. And Google leaves it at that. Yahoo! on the other hand, in addition to bolding the actual keywords, also uses a geo-coding algorithm to bold the city in which the search is located. So a search completed in Seattle, WA for the term “website design” will result in the city “Seattle” being bolded anywhere it appears in the title tags and meta descriptions. Bing for their part does not bold by geography, but the search engine does bold each instance of a search word even if the words are not together. For example, the search term “website design” will result in the bolding of the words “website” and “design” even if they do not appear side-by-side.

Understanding these subtle differences is important to website design as the poor wording or lengthy tags can dramatically impact what text looks like and how much of the text is visible to anyone conducting a search on the internet. Keep in mind that Google has 64.4% market share of all search (Yahoo! has 17.7% and Bing 11.8%), so it will probably make sense to satisfy this search engine’s requirements before all others.

While title and description tags pull very little weight in terms of search engine optimization, they are relevant from a raw marketing point of view because it is the very first part of a website potential visitors see. Especially first-time visitors will make click or no-click decisions based on what the tags say. They set expectations about what the user will find on a site. In most cases, the search engines do a pretty good job of returning relevant websites for a given search term, however, in some cases this can be ambiguous. For example, the search term “frames” gets 5 million global searches a month on Google and it will be up to the title and description tags to specify whether the site deals with eyeglasses, digital movies or picture frames. Well written tags can quickly clarify this.

It may be helpful to think of title and description tags as a billboard display; an attractive billboard will attract passersby, while an unremarkable one will be quickly forgotten. Furthermore what may be considered a norm in one industry may not be acceptable in another. The next section of this article provides tips on how to write good tags.

The most important rule is to remember that title tags and meta descriptions will be read by humans who will then make a decision whether or not to click on a particular search result. Therefore, they must clearly state what the site is about. It is recommended that the site owner not leave this task up to the website developers. Instead, it should be a joint effort. A developer best understands how to design websites, while the site owner best understands their industry.

A useful technique is to closely study competitor tags of a given keyword. What are they putting in their tags? What are they omitting? Do the tags clearly state what the visitor will find on a site? How can your site do this more effectively? Once this is clearly understood, the site designer and owner can brainstorm ideas that will be noticed and get the most clicks.

A particular point to consider is whether or not to include the website URL in the tag. Generally, the rule to follow is that the more well-known a brand is, the less need there is to include the URL in the tag. For example, everybody knows Toyota Motors, but how many people have ever heard of Tata Motors?

As far as pitfalls and things to avoid, thankfully many website designers today know about these. First and foremost, do not clutter the tags up with keywords in hopes of obtaining better search rankings. This worked in the pre-Google era of the 1990’s. Always remember to write them for a human and never for a machine.

Another, perhaps less known tip, is not to change the tags once they are set. Title tags and meta descriptions should only be written once. This is because the search engines will be lead to believe that some sort of spamming activity is going on and this in turn will result in an immediate drop in rankings. Even well ranking sites that have old URL will drop if they start changing the headers and description tags each time the site is crawled. This point is a bit counter-intuitive since in other aspects of successful website marketing, such as Adwords, experimentation is not only welcomed, but encouraged by the search engines.

How to Write Excellent Website Content

The overall design of a website will influence a visitor’s split-second decision whether to stay or leave a particular URL. Design includes items such as the layout, font style and color, as well as the choice of graphics and pictures. However, once the visitor is drawn in by the design, the quality of a site’s written text will have a lasting effect on both whether a visitor will remain for a longer period of time, as well as whether or not the visitor will return sometime in the future. For this reason, with the exception of basic site design, nothing impacts the quality of a website more than its written text. Ensuring that great text is written is therefore a critical step that requires a structured approach to accomplish efficiently. This article answers this question by outlining a specific writing process that is used by all the best website design writers.

Website Writing in 5 Phases
When attempting to write excellent website text, it is best to keep in mind that all web writing goes through 5 specific and discreet steps or phases. These are 1) creating an overall plan, 2) writing an outline, 3) composing a rough draft, 4) revising the draft and finally 5) proof-reading. The key is to have these steps happen as efficiently as possible.

Step 1 | Creating an Overall Plan: The key to any design process whether graphics or text, is to have a clear plan. In the case of writing, the planning phase includes each person in the writing team discussing and agreeing upon key points. To use a website design parallel, this can be thought of as a brainstorming session from which a statement of work (SOW) will emerge. The typical questions that are answered in this phase include making content decisions, determining who the main audience will be, and putting together a timeline.

It will also include determining how long each section, including articles, should be. For example, a home page might be written in short paragraphs, single teaser sentences, or even bullet points. The secondary and tertiary pages however will probably be somewhat longer and more detailed. All this has to be planned out in advance.

Some time should also be set aside in this step towards coordinating with the website designers to ensure that there is alignment between the graphic designers and the writers. This is particularly important on the homepage as it is the page that will have the largest impact on bounce rate.

Step 2 | Writing An Outline: Once the project is properly planned, an outline can be completed. An outline is a list of the key points that will be made in each section or page of the site. Bullet points are certainly appropriate here as the goal in this phase is to get a general outline of the text. For longer passages or individual articles, the outline should be structured as an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. This is a fundamental writing technique, but one that is all too often forgotten. It is surprising how many website articles do not follow this formula.

Step 3 | Composing a Rough Draft: The rough draft is the first time that full and complete sentences are put together. The most important thing to mention with regards to the rough draft is that the better the outline is, the faster the rough draft will be written and usually, the better its quality will be. If multiple individuals are writing the rough draft, it is usually a good idea to assign a single individual with the responsibility of pulling all the content together. In addition to the mundane tasks of formatting the text into a single coherent document, this individual can also be tasked with comparing the draft with the outline to make sure that nothing is accidently missed.

Step 4 | Revising the Draft: Nobody writes a perfect text after only a single draft. All text should be revised until it meets the quality requirements of the website’s owner. Indeed, even Pulitzer Prize winners revise their work. Any written text, even the one you are reading right now, requires revision to make sure that it is perfect and includes the intended content.

Revision includes checking for proper content, verifying spelling and grammar, examining the style, and reviewing references if applicable. There are several tricks to revision. For example, reading the text backwards is an effective method to finding spelling mistakes. Another tip is to read the text out loud. By reading it out loud, a reader can often pick out awkward passages and improve upon them. A third trick is to put the text down for a few hours, or even overnight. Often looking at a text with fresh eyes will allow the proof-reader to find additional mistakes.

If deleting any text, especially large sections, it is recommend that this information be saved in a separate file. One never knows when a piece of deleted text might come in handy for future work.

Step 5 | Proof Reading: Finally, the written text goes into a final revision or a proof-reading stage. Here every last detail is double checked for items such as accuracy, formatting and styling. This person fills the role of editor and does not necessarily have to be the person who compledted the draft revision step. In fact, it can often be helpful if this is a different person with fresh eyes. Also, the same document can be proof-read by several people.

To review, the real secret of great website writing is to have a clear and systematic process. This provides structure and allows the project manager to measure how the team is performing vis a vis a schedule. If each step of the writing process is completed thoroughly, the final product will be of high quality and be achieved in a relatively short amount of time.