Good Web Design – Why There’s So Little

Most small website owners rely almost entirely on themselves or their web developer to create a good website design without them actually knowing what good web design is. Based on my 8 years experience in website design and optimization for visitors and search engines, I can say with a good deal of assurance, many web developers don’t know what good web design is either.

My views are based on the detailed evaluation of hundreds of websites which in many cases look good on the surface to the untrained eye, but when evaluated more closely, are either average to poorly designed websites, bad websites, or just simply suck.

After all, anyone can call themselves a website designer after just creating one website, either their own or for a friend or relative. Most website designers are self-taught and have no qualifications of any kind that relate to the job. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being self-taught, but a lot depends on where and from whom you learn and what length of apprenticeship you serve in web design.

Bestwebgallery.com a showcase website typical of many showcase sites for good website designs has defined what quality design is to them (according to the statement on their site):

Quality web design = Visual + Technical + Creativity.

The problem with a definition like this is it focuses on the creative and visual aspects of design which is really only of interest to other website designers aspiring to create something that pushes the boundaries even further in the same direction. It also completely ignores whether the website is fit for the purpose for which it should have been designed. Most websites don’t need to be stunningly beautiful to serve a purpose and they don’t need to be “technical” either.

Many web developers think they have to be “creative” and set out to design a website never seen before, or one that behaves in an entirely new and original way. This often leads to an overly graphical and sometimes technically complex website design with an unconventional layout and navigation, that actually creates more problems than it solves.

All these “quality web design” features may impress another designer, but it generally wins no prizes or favours from the public website visitors who generally don’t come to a website to admire the design. Many web developers seem intent on re-inventing the wheel instead of observing the established design conventions that visitors to a website are familiar with. They also seem to have forgotten the basic K.I.S.S. rule of design which is Keep It Simple Stupid.

So, having said quality or good website design is not about Visual, Technical or Creativity just what should it be?

Good Web Design = Satisfying Visitors

There are two distinct groups of visitors to a website that a good website design needs to satisfy and they are people and search engines. Some website designers will argue that designing a website for the search engines is not necessary, or a waste of time. Although I prefer to design websites with search engines in mind, I don’t have a problem if other web designers don’t, providing they have an alternative plan.

If a web designer doesn’t design for the search engines, then they need to have an alternative plan to get traffic to the website and they should explain this plan to the site owner. There is no point in designing the greatest website ever, if there are no means for attracting visitors to the site.

A good web design also needs to satisfy the people who visit the site. If a web designer creates a website that attracts visitors through search engine optimization ( SEO ) or other methods, this will be wasted if the site fails to satisfy enough of those visitors when they arrive.

By satisfying visitors, I mean providing visitors with the information, products or services they came to the website looking for and doing it in way that is satisfying to the visitor. If the website is meant to sell products and/or services the design should also be designed to convert enough visitors into sales or leads to satisfy the site owner.

If it doesn’t do all this then it’s NOT good website design!

When deciding what is, or is not good web design, I use two checklists. One checklist is for evaluating a web page and the other checklist is for evaluating the whole website. The web page evaluation checklist examines over 150 aspects of good page design and the website checklist examines over 120 aspects of good website design.

In an effort to find some good quality website designs in 2011, that meet my standards for good web design, I launched a good web design award with a $500 prize for the winning entry.

Tips to Buck Up the Web Designers Out of Their Irksome Web Design Process

When you are running a web design business, it is very important for you to understand that your clients are the part and parcel of your business. The type of clients you agree upon to work with speaks a lot about you and your web design firm. Similarly, the grounds on which they delegated the responsibility on you to produce a design speaks a lot about them. Maintaining a good relationship with the client is though a hard nut to crack, but a lot of it spins around the web designers’ knack to edify their customers and set expectations so that both sides end up with gratification.

Many of the designers go off the beaten track in a way to gratify their clients. They make continual edits, re-designing, Last minute changes, moreover the add-in features that had never been discussed. Web designers just give in to each and every caprice of their clients but then at the end they end up getting underpaid and feeling frustrated, rebuffed and jaded.

Most web designers might relate this to worst example in a web design process. There are a few absurd expectations for a project to go quickly and smoothly. The minute these expectation ruins out of delays in the completion of the project or the bad designs or due to the coding bugs, etc., both the client and the web designer as well gets irked. Nevertheless, there is a trick out of which you can make your irksome design process a pleasant experience for you and your client as well. Edifying your clients is not a great part of your business project but you can make certain that it will aid you greatly in recuperating the working relationship with your client.

Wondering what tags along a general list of some significant lessons that must outline the scaffold for the education process? Well, a few key points are brought into a limelight below:

Tip 1: You are a Professional Designer, Not a Laborer

People never tell their Doctor’s and electricians how they need to do their jobs. They understand that the doctors and electricians obviously more on familiar terms with their respective field of work than them. This attitude on the other hand ought to persist with the webmasters too. Many clients have a set mind that just browsing through the websites qualifies the webmasters to make design decisions. They treat web designer as the annex of their brains. And because of this kind of false premonition the designers are often wrongly taken as the laborers who are born to get their task done, and not the professionals who are creative and talented with the skills and experience that others professionals to might have in their area of work. Moreover, the clients forget that the Web Designers too are the part of the design process equally.

This pathetic situation occurs generally in the case of freelancers where the clients presume that if the designers don’t have their office then they can work in any odd hour of the day too as if they don’t have their family or other things around to be taken care of!

Thus it is imperative for the web designers to make certain that their clients understand that they are experts and that their opinions are grounded in the research before the web design process initiates.

Tip 2: Communication is Vital

Lack of communication can often badly ruin the whole of the project. Generally, the clients tend to keep themselves involved and vocal in the initial stage of the project. This as a result ends up with the designers’ belief that the things are going well until when the clients hand over them the laundry list of edits.

So, bringing this clause under the contract that you might need your client’s feedback throughout the project from an issue as large as payments and billings to the minuscule subjects like the color combinations etc. so that you can generate a better product in less time period.

Tip 3: The Web and the Print Medium are like chalk and cheese

There are some of the clients who are going through the web design process for the first time and web is a strange and foreign place for them whilst there are a few who are incapable of figuring out the difference between the print medium and the web.

There are also a few clients who want their website to represent itself just like a brochure of their product or services.

Therefore, being an expert of this design arena, it’s the designer’s responsibility to enlighten their clients about the things like their website can be very well fabricated like a brochure as per their desire but doing this might fail to plug the real power of the internet eventually setting them up as the failure on the web. The web designer’s having their lives almost certainly been spent surfing the web should never take these little things for granted. Edifying the clients over the nuance and the subtlety of the web can help aid the wrong illusions that the clients might have.

Thus, to wrap-up, the art of learning the management of clients is a major challenge for any service-oriented business. If one wants to maintain good working relationships then, edifying clients are one of the wisest ways. Web designing is an essential fragment of the service-industry and thus follows the same rules. The toughest job to do ever is to stand up your client or boss but as a matter of fact doing this regularly can make your irksome website process a pleasant experience for yourself and for your clients as well.

What to Look for in a Web Designer or Design Agency

Google for web designers or web design firms and you will get millions of results for companies all promising very similar things: timely delivery, budget-friendly, search engine optimization and cross-browser compatibility, etc. Now if they were all so great, why are there so many crappy websites you may ask. Here are some qualifications that will help you to weed out the good web designers from the bad ones.

Great Portfolio

A great portfolio displays creativity, style variety and most importantly has examples of real client work and not just spec work from school. Ensure that the web designer’s overall style in their portfolio matches what you are looking for. Test out their previously launched websites to ensure that they are user-friendly, error-free, suitable for their target market and fast-loading.

A great portfolio always trumps design experience or education. Web designers with too much experience could be set in their ways and less open to new ideas or trends. And just because someone took a few classes for design does not mean that they have an eye for it. We have encountered many websites offering web design services with hideous websites.

Customer Service

No matter how stellar your designer or agency is, if they cannot respond to your calls or emails in a timely manner during business hours, they most likely cannot meet your deadline. This can mean death to your business if your project is time sensitive due to something like a product launch. Some freelance web designers are moonlighters meaning that they have full-time jobs and they pick up the odd project here and there for extra cash. Be wary of those folks because they will likely not be around when your project goes awry forcing you to forfeit your deposit.

Required Skills

Whoever you select should be proficient with the web technologies your project requires. If you need Flash for an animated clip, ensure that your web developer is proficient in Flash Actionscripting 3.0. If you want to convert your website into a CMS, ensure that they are well versed in your chosen CMS and the web technologies that support it. Most open-source CMS’ are controlled by PHP. It is always better to hire an expert who can excel at the things you need rather than a jack of all trades who is just mediocre in everything. Usually, you should be able to evaluate this based on their online portfolio.

Their Timeline Fits your Timeline

All projects have a deadline or some preferred time range in which you would like it to be completed. Inexperienced web designers often quote overly optimistic timelines. No matter how simple your website design or redesign is, it is almost impossible for the design process (from concept to completion) to take less than two weeks because there will always be revisions. I always laugh when a potential client emails me and estimates that their new website is very basic and should take no more than 2 days. It is much more professional to quote a longer timeline and deliver earlier than expected. However, if your web designer says it will take much longer than their competitors, they may be moonlighting.

Full-Service

Full-service is usually offered by design firms because it requires a team of developers, designers and marketing experts. Full-service means that they offer all-encompassing web solutions like SEO, ecommerce, branding, mobile compatibility and social media marketing all in one place. Rarely will you find a web designer who is an expert in all of these categories, which is why some companies hire design firms if they have the budget.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are just as important as design and programming skills because if your web designer communicates with bad grammar or spelling mistakes so will your website. Do they articulate issues well? Can they translate complicated technical jargon into laymen terms? You can easily evaluate their communication skills through your initial calls, emails and project proposal.

Marketing / SEO Experience

What good is your website if your target market cannot find it? Your web designer or design firm must understand how to promote it. If you found your web designer by via Google with industry-specific keywords then they must know something about SEO. Here are other simple SEO techniques your web designer should implement to build your web presence:

  • Generate fresh content relevant to your target market with a blog
  • Write a meta title and description tags
  • Include your keyword search terms in your headings and subheadings (H1 and H2 tags respectively)
  • Sprinkle your keyword search terms throughout your content
  • Create a sitemap for search engines to crawl
  • Add your website to online business directories
  • For more SEO strategies, refer to my blog post about Driving High Quality Web Traffic.

Customer References

Ask for client references and make a point about calling them. Ask their clients whether they were responsive, on time and within budget. Some web design firms look for work through freelance websites such as Guru where you can find reviews.

Social Media Presence

Social Media helps you respond to people talking about your brand and understand how they perceive your company. There are so many social media networks but the ones to monitor are Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. A good practice is to post a status update whenever you publish a blog post or new web content.

Cost / Budget

It is key to consider all of the above and then consider cost or budget if everything else falls into place. The cheapest quote is rarely the best.

Web Design in 2010-2011 – Analysis

As we’re coming to the middle of this year, everyone is trying to analyze the recent trends in web designing and web development. However, in this article, we’ll see what web designers and developers are trying to utilize with the new features to create impressive designs. We will also try to look into the factors that are driving this change.

1. The days of static design visuals are dead
With the online technology that is available today, web designers are coding websites more creatively than using simple images and html/css. Clients have come to expect a higher level of functionality and interactivity as they visit more and more websites that utilize things like Ajax, and JavaScript. Whilst CSS3/HTML5 has started to step on the toes of JavaScript, JavaScript itself has started to inch into the territory of Flash. JavaScript has just finished a major revision of its specifications for the language. Once browser companies adopt these standards, web developers will be provided with more tools to improve their capabilities in creating web applications.

2. Grid-based designs, Mobile Designs, Retro Designs are gaining popularity as well.
But Grid based is used mostly in portfolios, product pages and big blogs; they almost never appear on corporate websites or in online shops. With the huge amount of data present, classifying information based on context rather than content will be paramount for companies which handle large amount of data (financial, social, etc).

3. Print Design influence
Traditional techniques from print design are increasingly being applied to the Web, be they layout techniques or rich versatile typography. Web Designers are taking layout and design inspiration from print. This includes lots of whitespace, large type,use of a grid and clear hierarchy of elements. The layouts of these websites often resemble those of print magazines or posters, with striking headlines, multi-column text, highlighted quotations, indented text, supporting imagery, side notes and footnotes.

4. Faster and better Web browsers
Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera has offered more choices to web users. But, well, it is part of a web designer’s job to make sure that texts are easy and nice to read on all major browsers and platforms. With browser wars is in full force, Techniques for progressive enhancement are more commonplace than before, giving users of modern web browsers a better web experience than those who will not or cannot use them. This has surely drive competition in web designing.

5. Growth of community-oriented Platforms
In many ways, the growth of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has led the web to be much more community-oriented. Along with these changes will come increased focus in getting information in real-time. Twitter is one of the examples that give immediate and breaking information on the sites. With more and more growth of such social media platforms and more people participating in the creation of information on the web, the way in which we obtain information has shift from being from a singular source, into a more community-created source.

6. Interactive Designs
Web designers of Web applications are paying significantly more attention to the way in which functionality is presented and are trying to improve the user experience with more interactive and responsive solutions. There’s a lot more emphasis now on site usability and creating sites that are minimalist in design and easy to navigate (perfect use of CSS and a grid based layout). Horizontal scroll bars have been out there for a decade, but today it feels that they are gaining a new context. The move to horizontal scroll bars is probably an attempt among some designers to provide a more distinct user experience. One way to make websites more responsive is through “keypress navigation,” which hasn’t been widely adopted so far. But lately we’ve observed more designs implementing this effectively. Web designers of Web applications are paying significantly more attention to the way in which functionality is presented and are trying to improve the user experience with more interactive and responsive solutions.

7. Slab Typefaces
These are relatively new as in the past logos and headers were smaller and more understated by web designers. However, combined with the trend toward larger headers, slab typefaces demand the reader to take notice.

8. Rich and strong Typography
It has played a major role in Web design for years now. Bold, strong, heavy headlines can effectively convey the purpose of an e-commerce website or portfolio, while subtler headings help structure content and improve legibility. Obviously, the big change we’re seeing today is richer, more versatile typography. Oversized logos on an equally oversized header and Footer. We’ve further noticed that Web designers are extending their font stacks, adding increasingly more fall-back fonts in case a specified font is not available.

9. Recent trends
like embossing, PNG transparency, rich user Interfaces, Font replacement, Huge Images, Modal boxes(A modal box is like the pop-up’s more sophisticated They serve as a user-friendly alternative to classic JavaScript windows), Media blocks, The magazine look, Carousels (slideshow navigations, in which the content rotates vertically or horizontally), Introduction blocks(place the most important message of the website right there and thus make sure that readers get the message as quickly as possible.) will continue to grow in this year.

10. More Personalization
As web designers look for more ways of attracting users and prospects to their websites and generating business online, personalization is emerging as an important component of managing the web experience for site visitors – and delivering business value. Be simple, invisible complexity, big and bold, art and creativity, bigger picture. Web Typography is going to reach some new heights in 2010-2011. JQuery, Mootools as well as CSS3 are evolving and reaching new levels of quality and ‘interactivity’. Everything seems to be moving forward to larger elements which focus the attention.

If you haven’t checked out CSS3 and HTML5 websites yet ( like http://www.12thi.com ), you should really look into it because they will change the way you design and code. You can take advantage of the new features to create cleaner and more efficient layout.

It is possible that we have missed some other great trends and factors. Why don’t you contribute some interesting information here? Please don’t hesitate to share it with us in comments.