Posts Tagged ‘Seattle Web Design’

5 Questions to Ask Yourself or Your Web Designer

Most businesses need a website. In 2016, when the average Seattleite actually researches brick and mortar stores from their phone while standing outside the door, that is an undisputed fact. But, bridging the gap between “I need a website” and “I need this website” is a huge step for most small business owners, and that’s logical, especially considering that you’re probably not an expert in web design and development. But what do you need?

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You can use these five basic questions to get a better idea of what you want, what you need, and what you can afford. You can ask your Seattle web designer to help.

  1. What Features Do You Need?– Not everyone will know the answer to this question, and that’s okay. You can have a meeting with a Seattle web designer who can walk you through different features and why you should have them. You can also start looking at competitor websites and deciding what they have, what you need, and why you need it. It’s always a good idea to make three lists of features, one of features that you absolutely need now, one of things that you might need later, and one of things that would be nice to have. This will be very useful when it comes time to budget, because if some things don’t quite fall into your budget, you know that you can cut them out.
  2. How Much Do You Know (Or Are You Willing To Learn) About Website Technology? – If you’re willing to handle hosting, security, website monitoring, and a bit of code every now and then, then you won’t need long-term website management. You also might work well with simple websites like WordPress or Joomla, which you can set up and install yourself after someone else designs the theme for you.  This can save you a lot, if you have the time and skill to make up for it.
  3. How Do You Want to Manage Your Website? – Do you want full control of everything or do you prefer that someone else comes in and handles it for you so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally deleting everything? Both have their pros and cons, but most business owners want at least some level of control. That means using a CMS (Content Management System). You can use an existing one like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, or have a web developer design you one from scratch.
  4. What Kind of Content Do You Want On Your Site? – If you want a one page website, you’re looking at significantly less issues than you are if you’re hoping to build a restaurant website with interactive menus. Content will affect costs, development time, and the CMS you should use.
  5. What is Your Realistic 1 Year Budget For Your Site? – It is important to understand that normal website costs extend well beyond development. You should consider costs of hosting, security, monthly maintenance, updates, debugging, adding new features/tools, etc. as part of your costs. Set a yearly budget that you can afford, and plan accordingly.

Working with a web designer means that you will have someone to walk you through your needs, options, and choices, but it’s always a good idea to do some research yourself so that you know what you want and how to get it. If you’re ready to get started with your website, contact Rory Martin at 206.355.0894 for a free consultation and quote.

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What to Consider for Your Home Page – Seattle Web Design Tips

As a small business owner in the Seattle area, you’re faced with several conundrums when it comes to web design and development, and your home page is one of them. While other issues, like having a solid basis on which to choose a local web designer, which language or CMS to use, and even your website branding are equally important, we’ll take you through the basics of what to do and what not to do with your home page.

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Less is More

The days of overcrowded home pages jammed with side bars, banner ads, and menus everywhere are long gone, and today’s websites are simpler, sleeker, and definitely bordering on minimalistic. This trend is ideal for mobile users, who get faster load times, and can spend less time looking for what they want. This means paring your home page down to include the basics, and hopefully paring the rest of your website down as well. You can add more items if they are necessary, but keep in mind that most users don’t need the plethora of pages available on most websites. Hamburger or hidden menus, sliding headers, and video are all great ways to integrate more items into less space without crowding.

Really, Keep it Simple

It’s tempting to keep adding features to ensure that your user can do everything you want them to do, but keep it simple. You also don’t want mobile users to be scrolling down for more than a minute or two at most on their phone. Most mobile users are in a hurry, so a heavy text or image laden home page that scrolls down for hours simply won’t do. You can integrate longer pages when necessary, but make sure you test out the length before you make the site live.

Consider Your Brand

Your brand is a crucial element to include in your web design. While it may be difficult to integrate a concept into a website, it’s important for giving users the same feel that they get when they walk into your physical location. That’s one of the reasons why it’s always a good idea to work with a local Seattle web designer. They can visit your actual store or facility to get a better idea of who you are. What’s involved with brand? Basically everything including colors, styles, the thickness of borders, images, font, and much more.

Integrate Large Images

Whether you’re using large header images, banners, or a fashionable background image is up to you, but you should integrate large media. In some cases, you can swap the image out for a video, but make sure it still looks good on mobile. You’re probably getting 40-60% of your visitors from mobile phones, so you want to design for them as well. Why large images? They combine a feeling of luxury with the minimalistic trend of modern websites, allowing you to brand, customize, and stylize your website, without making it look crowded. What’s a great image? Again, it’s up to your business and your brand. If you’re at a loss for ideas, discuss it with your web designer in your kickoff meeting.

Make it Unique (But don’t go overboard)

Even if you’re using a theme or website template, it’s important to make it your own. Adding your own media, photos, colors, and style can do a lot for your website and your brand. But, you don’t have to go overboard. It’s nice to make your website stand out, but you don’t need flashing banners to make it happen. Instead, discuss your options with your web designer, and see what comes up.

It is important to keep in mind that a good website is customized to your business, not the other way around. If a general home page doesn’t fit, make modifications, add features, and make it your own. You’ll pay more for adding in unique features or flash video, or similar, but you will get more value out of it. A great way to get started is having a discussion or kickoff meeting with a local Seattle web designer to discuss your needs and your brand.

Want to know more? Contact Rory Martin to get started today.

Should You Use a Web Designer or Go with a Template or Builder? Seattle Web Design Questions

Setting up a website for the first time can be tricky, especially if you’re trying to do it on your own. One of the biggest questions we get about Seattle web design is whether it’s okay to use a template or website builder or if you need a web designer. This question is difficult to answer, because the truth is it depends on the business in question. The following information should help you decide.

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Website Builders and Templates or Themes

Website builders, themes, and templates are usually free or low cost (a quality theme will cost as around $40-$65 or $500+ if you want to buy all of the rights), or cost a monthly fee, which may or may not include hosting. While this might seem like a cheap and easy way to get started, it often isn’t, because there’s a lot more involved. When you hire a Seattle web designer to create your site for you, they will handle everything, including setting up hosting. If you’re using a paid website builder, it is as easy as it sounds, but you’ll still have to drag and drop, and work with the layout to try to create something professional. Some of the tasks that a design and development company will handle included:

  • Purchasing your domain name (Costs money)
  • Setting up hosting (monthly fee)
  • Installing a CMS
  • Installing the theme, skin, template, etc.

If you’re doing it yourself, you’ll end up doing all of that yourself, some of which can be quite complex and time consuming. If you’re tech savvy, you can probably handle it okay, but many people end up paying for professional help just for setup, which can be almost as expensive as paying a designer to do it for you in the first place.

Website Design

Whether you’re using an existing CMS like Joomla or want your own CMS, a website designer can and will create a custom design for you based around your business needs. Costs usually run in the mid to high triple digits and can run into four digits but do include items like hosting, domain names, maintenance, installation, and setup. Many web designers set fees based on how many hours they take to complete the project, and setting up a website with an existing theme can run from 5-20 hours, and designing a new theme can run from 50 to over 150 hours depending on the complexity and style of the site.

You get:

  • Everything done for you
  • A unique website that performs well in search and exactly meets your needs
  • A branded website
  • Scalability, responsiveness, and local optimization

Which Option Should You Chose?

Choosing between web design and templates usually comes down to one thing. Money. If your business can afford to pay for a website designer to create a custom site for you, then do it. It’s well worth the money in terms of having a unique site that no one else has, having the branding, and saving time on installing and updating the website yourself. In some cases, you can pay a designer to set up a theme with custom graphics to save money if you don’t know how to set up a website yourself. If you don’t have any money or budget for digital marketing, then you can use a pre-built theme or skin while you save up, and plan to make something worthwhile.

Want to know more about how a custom website can help your business online? Contact Rory Martin for more information

How to Protect Your Website From Hackers – Seattle Web Development Tips

If you have a business website then, you no doubt, worry about hackers, viruses, and other issues that could not only affect your website, but also your business reputation. This is especially important if you offer online purchases through a shopping cart. Even if you’re just starting to set up and build your site, the following tips from Seattle web developers can help to ensure that you take the right steps to protect your site. While these tips do not include coding issues, you can talk to your web development team to ensure that they are integrating security into your design.

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Use Secure Logins

While you may be tempted to use your default logins, or ‘administrator’ plus “password123”, you should usually be a bit more creative. Some hackers are nothing more than good guessers, and some use software to input commonly used password and username combinations, until they get lucky. Make sure they don’t by ensuring that your password is a string of complex numbers and letters, with special characters, and that your username is something other than your name, ‘administrator’, or similar. A good idea is to use the name of your first pet plus your school locker number or your first phone number if it’s a personal website, or a randomly generated secure hash if it’s a website that multiple people are using.

Consider Security Plugins

If you’ve gone with popular CMS like Drupal, Joomla, or Wordpress, you can choose multiple security plugins to ensure that your website is as safe as possible. Options range from apps that only give you a few tries to log in until they lock you out, to those that email or text you if you’re logging in from a new location.

Don’t Integrate Third Party Flash Apps

Unless you’re using apps from a very trusted source like Google Maps, try not to integrate third party applications into your website. JavaScript and flash injection both allow hackers to insert malware into visitors computers directly from your website.

Purchase a Security Script

Buying security is a must if you want your consumers trust. Most web hosts offer security certificates, but you can also purchase them from popular antivirus companies like Symantec’s Norton. Posting these on your website tells your visitors that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. If you don’t know how to set this up, don’t be afraid to ask your developer.

HTTPS

If you’re running a store, asking for personal information, or even asking for email addresses, you should consider setting up HTTPS. This means that your site is secure, as is the connection, so that hackers cannot access the information under normal circumstances. Once again, just ask your developer.

Knowing how to protect your website is important, especially with more and more vulnerabilities found in websites. If you want to know how to protect your specific website, ask your developer, or hire them to build in more security.

What Seattle Companies are Doing Wrong with Web Design

With over 644 million active websites on the Internet, it can be difficult to make yourself stand out. Luckily, there are far fewer local Seattle websites to compete with, but you’re still going to have to make yourself stand out. While the average small business now recognizes that they need and should have a website, not everyone goes about it in the best way. A website is your brand on the web, and it has to be just as convincing as any physical storefront. Because many consumers are now visiting mobile websites before they go to a store for the first time, your site is becoming more and more important. With that in mind, here are few things that Seattle businesses frequently get wrong, and help from local web designers on how to fix those problems.

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Forgetting to Research Your Demographic

If you’re in a hurry to get your website up, a new business, or don’t think you need a target demographic, you could be making a huge mistake. While some people don’t think they need to target anyone and others try to target everyone, both options are a mistake. Researching your target demographic allows you to market your website directly to the people most likely to need your services or products, allowing you to create more churn and make more sales.

No Marketing

No one likes to be marketed to but if you have a whole website with no calls to action, no links driving people to buy things, and nothing at all to tell the consumer that they should be spending money, then you’re probably missing out. Integrating strategic calls to action, links to products, and creating landing pages for users who search for your content on the web can be crucial to your success.

Overly Complicated Design

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The 90s and early 2000s saw a rash of poorly designed websites with flashing banners, jQuery animation, and really cluttered design. If your website looks like an advertisement board, has more images than free space, or crams something into every possible space, you’re probably telling customers that you aren’t professional or modern. Go with simple, elegant, and easy to use.

Not Updating Your Content

Regularly updating your content, even if it’s as simple as changing all of the listed dates on your website once yearly, is crucial to being on the web. Customers like to see activity so that they can see you’re a relevant, real business. Consider linking your social media so that consumers can see your likes and social activity, keep a weekly blog and update it weekly, and post regular updates.

Using the Wrong Designer

The wrong designer can completely ruin your website. Whether you’re paying more than you have to and going way over budget, or paying less than you should and getting a substandard website, you’re making a mistake. You’re probably also messing up if you decide to do your website yourself, unless of course, you’re a qualified website designer. Go over your budget, decide how much you can make back from your website in a year, and choose a quality designer with a good reputation based on that criteria.

If you want to know more about quality Seattle web design, contact Rory Martin for a free quote.

Seattle Web Design – Should I Use a Custom Theme?

If you’re using a CMS that supports themes, then one of your first questions is probably whether or not you need a unique, custom theme, or if you can get away with purchasing an existing one, or even using a free-to-use theme. The answer to the latter is, probably not, there will be thousands of websites with that theme, which is a definite disadvantage for making your website stand out on the web. The answer to the second is that it depends, and you may want to consider your options. The following help from Seattle web design experts should help you decide if you need a custom theme or not.

Why Use a Custom Theme?

A custom theme is advantageous for a number of reasons, especially if you’re just one of a number of similar Seattle businesses. Whether you use Joomla, Drupal, WordPress or one of another of the countless available CMS systems available, you can likely download a number of free and cheap themes that allow you to easily set up and get your business running. Unfortunately, that’s the problem. The cheaper and easier they are, the more businesses who will use them. Over time, consumers may become confused by seeing the same websites with different brand names, which generally reduces the impact of your branding and consumer messages.

It also affects your SEO, because most web based algorithms track uniqueness. When you have a website theme, none of your code is unique because other people, and potentially thousands of other websites are using it. When you have a custom theme, you won’t have any of these problems.

However, custom themes cost more, take longer to get up, and might delay your website launch if you’re planning it quickly. While custom themes have a lot of advantages for branding and some advantages for SEO, they might not be the best choice right away if you plan on launching your site immediately. However, you can plan to launch immediately with an available theme and plan a re-launch with a custom option for a few months or a year down the road.

What is Your Web Traffic and Web Based Revenue?

A custom theme typically costs upwards of $500, and many more than twice or three times that depending on the size, complexity and required features. Depending on how much money your website is going to generate, a custom theme might not be a good business decision, especially not if you own a small business. If you mostly want a one to five page website so that your customers have somewhere to go if they look you up on the web, then a custom theme might set you back a great deal of money when you would be better off investing it in advertising to boost your online sales. However, if you’re already making a great deal of money off of your website, or have the potential to, then a custom theme can be part of your marketing plan, because it is good business sense for branding, custom advertising, and standing out from the competition.

Want a quote? Contact Rory Martin’s Seattle web design team at 206-402-6347 for a consultation.

Seattle Web Design – Redesigning Your Website

If you’re ready to redesign your website, then you’re probably wondering about the steps and processes that go into it. While a lot of what goes into redesigning is decision making on your part, the following include the steps taken by Seattle web design teams when reorganizing, revamping, and redesigning websites.

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Kickoffs and Meetings

The first step to redesigning your website is talking over your needs, ideas, and dislikes with your team. They will make suggestions, you will make suggestions, and both parties will walk away with a clearer idea of what you actually want. This is one of the most important reasons to hire a local Seattle web designer, because you can actually get together and talk to them, instead of trying to communicate your ideas over the web.

Structuring Content

After writing up ideas, a web design team will begin structuring content to create a mockup of the new design. Structuring is the planning of where photos, call to actions, slogans, and web content fit onto the site. It is an important part of the process because it allows both the web design team and the editorial team to work together to create something. Once your team has structured content, both teams can go to work, even if you’ve hired them separately.

Web Design

Most of the time, when you redesign your website, you get completely new web content. This is logical because it’s usually easier to start from scratch or with new ideas than to drastically change and existing website. If you’re using a theme or preexisting CMS with a custom theme, then your new web design should be finished fairly quickly, but usually you do get to see mockups first to ensure that you like the ideas.

Content Editing

If you want entirely new web content, then part of the web design is usually just that, although not all web designers offer copywriting. If you want the content to be tweaked, re-arranged, or improved, that is also an option, although it depends a great deal on you. Web content usually takes considerably less time than web design, meaning that you can have it back to approve well in advance of the website going back online. Most of the time, if you’re paying for new web design, you will want new content as well, or at least reorganized content so that it fits your new website better, suits the voice better, and if there are any errors, they are fixed.

Graphics and Artwork

If you haven’t chosen the graphics and artwork for your website, then your web design team can handle that too. In some cases, you may want custom imagery, in which case you need a photographer to come in and take quality photos. Otherwise, stock imagery will be purchased and used to brighten up the website.

If you wan to know more about redesigning websites, you can contact the Rory Martin Seattle web design team, for a consultation to ask about your site, or go ahead and make the hire to start with your kickoff meeting.

Seattle Web Development and Design: What Affect Your Bottom Line?

Paying for quality web design is an understood part of doing business on the web, but do you know how it affects your bottom line? Does having a certain type of website, or a quality looking website, actually affect sales? Actually, studies show that having a ‘credible’ looking website affects sales, and it scaled a four out of five on the level of importance. If you’re interested in improving your web design, the following include a few tips from Seattle web development professionals on what actually affects your ROI.

Clutter

Did you know that minimalistic, clean websites are more professional and usually convert better than cluttered and crowded websites? The natural idea is to try to fit everything in, but statistics show, that might actually hurt your business. Keep your tabs, submenus, and features to a minimum, and focus on offering the best quality possible for what you do have. This holds true for your web design as well. A minimalistic look with large, clean graphics, rather than more images, serves you better.

UX Design

User Experience is incredibly important for professionalism and sales. If the user can easily navigate a website, get a clear idea of what to do, and not feel marketed to, then they are more likely to purchase something. While UX design can be complicated, it’s mostly the idea of planning out your website, taking consumers from top to bottom, and then to secondary pages, and guiding them through your website. UX is making it easy for the customer to purchase something.

Content

You may have guessed that your content, including graphics and web copy, affect your sales a great deal. For graphics, you want large, unique images as often as possible. Clutter is always bad. Web copy is a little more difficult. You need well written content that avoids clichés, is easy to read, flows, well, and doesn’t make it obvious that it’s trying to sell something. Obnoxious calls to action may have worked in the past, but the modern Internet prefers to be talked to rather than marketed to.

Frequent Updates

New, content is the best way to tell your consumers that you’re still around and you’re still relevant. By updating your website frequently, keeping dates on your website to that year, and blogging regularly, you tell your consumers that you’re always around, and that you’re reliable. No one wants to purchase anything from a website that hasn’t been updated since 2012, mainly because the might not know if the website is still in business. This does mean you need a quality Content Management System.

Professionalism

If your website looks professional, then you look professional. Because a website represents your brand on the internet, it is every bit as important to be professional online as it is in your business. Your text, your conduct on blogs, and your site design should all reflect that, because they do impact your business and sales.

Want to know more about how quality web design can improve your business? Or, do you need a quality, modern website to help boost your conversion rates? Contact Rory Martin to ask about a consultation, or browse through our past websites to see what we’ve done for other clients.

Why You Should Hold a Kickoff Meeting With Your Seattle Web Development Team

Whether you’re hiring your first web development team or hiring someone to make small updates to your existent content, they will probably offer you a kickoff meeting (if they don’t, go find another developer). While it may seem like a waste of your time to get together and have a meeting with your web developer, after all, some people hire international rather than local Seattle web developers, there are a couple of pretty convincing reasons why you should take them up on the offer and attend the meeting.

What is a Kickoff Meeting

A kickoff meeting is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a meeting where you go over initial design ideas, tell your web developers what you want, and if you’re lucky, they will show you any preliminary ideas. This sort of meeting can be done over the web if you’re short on time, but you can also show up to get to meet your designers, and they can meet you to get a better feel for who you are and what you might want. Some developers will want to host the meeting in your place of business so that they can get an idea of what your business is like as well, which is helpful when creating a design.

What Should You Discuss with Your Web Designers

A great kickoff meeting will allow you to discuss your needs, desires, and requirements for the product. In return, web designers will discuss product viability, feasibility, budget, time constraints, and any preliminary options for the site. You’ll cover topics like your brand, your core products, your product purpose, and most importantly, getting everyone involved to submit ideas, suggestions, and other information which might be helpful for creating a finalized idea of what you want your website to be.

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Preparing for your Kickoff Meeting

While your web developer should do most of the prep work for the kickoff meeting, you can make sure that you are prepared by bringing along ideas of what you want your site to look like, lists of requirements, timelines, and items such as crucial elements of your website. If you have a separate web designer, then you’ll want to bring them along to the kickoff meeting as well so that they can work with the developer, but most development teams include design in the package.

Other than that, you really just have to set up a time and a place, and then start talking to your web developers about what you want and need in a site. From there, they can decide which direction you want to go, get a better idea of the feel of your company, and choose an appropriate direction, so that you get a website you truly love. A good kickoff meeting sets the stage for a whole project, and the ability to hold them is actually one of the reasons why you should choose a local Seattle web development team, rather than choosing one in Austin, Texas.

Want to know more? Contact Rory Martin to discuss your web development needs.

What’s the Difference Between Web Design and Web Development?

If you’re getting ready to hire a Seattle web design or development company to create your website, then it is important to know the difference between them. While many business owners often confuse the two, web design and web development are two different things, and depending on which you hire, will create vastly different outcomes. While some of the best Seattle website companies offer both, you should be able to distinguish between the two.

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What is Web Design

Web design is the visual element of a website. It includes your graphics, your layout, your branding, and usually a good part of your UX. Web designers are graphic artists and designers who specialize in creating websites. When you hire a web design company, you’re paying for someone to create the look and feel of your website as others will see it. Most of them then either work with a web developer to create a CMS and the back end code for your website, or use an existing CMS such as Joomla to skip the web developer. Things that a web designer may offer include page design, landing page design, brand analysis, website branding, lead generation forms, email marketing templates, and more.

What is Web Development

Web developers create the functionality behind your website, they also create the back end, where you can interact with your site, add content, and otherwise edit it. Web developers are code experts, and although some of them are also graphic editors and able to do web design as well as development, not all of them are. A web developer might create you a website, and then allow you to design the graphics, colors, and style yourself. Another might work with a web designer to hand you a complete website. Web development is programming rather than graphic design, and web development usually costs a great deal more than web design. However, if you don’t want to use a pre-existing CMS, then you do need a developer. Items that web developers offer include website design, ecommerce creation and integration, interface development, database management systems or integration, email marketing development, landing pages, form creation, and more.

Which Should You Choose?

Most of the time, you want a web team that handles both development and design. However, you can usually save money by hiring a web designer and using a pre-existing CMS like Joomla to power your site. In some cases, you may also want to stick with a developer. For example, if you’re creating a storefront that mostly just needs a banner header and focus on the products, rather than great design.

Essentially, depending on your website and your needs, you might need one, the other, or both. You can decide on your own which you need, or discuss your needs with a professional Seattle web developer to see what they recommend based on your budget, your goal website, and your needs. There are plenty of reasons to go either way, so your best bet is to talk it out with a professional and choose based on your needs.

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