Archive for the ‘Web Design Process’ Category

Worthy of the Buzz

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Babies at The Fuzzy Peach by Zach Dotsey

If you were in Wilmington, NC for the summer of 2010, you probably heard about The Fuzzy Peach, the most talked-about new eatery in town.

The Fuzzy Peach was the brainchild of three recent UNCW grads.  It’s a simple concept- you get a bowl, fill it up with whatever kind of frozen yogurt you want, load it up with all the crazy toppings your heart desires and pay for it based on how much it weighs.  We’ve been a couple times and really enjoyed it.  My one-year-old girl (seen here sharing some froyo with a friend) particularly loves it.

The first time we went the wife and I were planning on taking some friends of ours from out of town, and before they arrived I wanted to see what the store hours were so I took a minute to look up their website.  I was surprised by what I saw.  Here was the most talked about new place to go in town, and the site appeared to be thrown together with a .Mac account (seen above).  That’s all well and good, but a place with buzz like that needed a buzz-worthy website, so I decided to suggest that to them in an email.  I’m not usually one to make cold calls, but I figured there was nothing to lose.

A couple weeks went by and I didn’t really think anything of it, but one day I finally got a response.  They were interested in talking to us about a redesign, so I had Travis give them a call and, long story short, they had a few meetings and today they gave us a deposit.  I’m pleased to announce that Impulse and Venuecom are going to be updating The Fuzzy Peach’s website to give them a site worthy of their buzz!

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Causes and Solutions for Slow Websites

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Does it take forever to load pages on your site?  Does it feel so much like you’re on dial-up that you can almost hear the modem noise?  In case you forgot (or you’re too young to remember), here it is:

There are a number of reasons your website could be running slow, even if you’re on a high-speed internet connection.

Slow Server

This is something you’ll have to discuss with your hosting company.  There are a lot of different reasons that a server can be slow, but there’s not much you can do about it if you’re not a server admin.  In the interest of brevity, I’ll just say that if the server is the issue and your hosting company can’t do anything about it, it might be time to search for a new website hosting company.

Large Files

In particular, I’m talking about images.  I’ve probably seen hundreds of websites where someone uploads a full-size digital image and then uses the image properties to shrink it down.  Sure, the image only takes up 300 x 200 pixels on the screen, but it’s actually a 3000 x 2000 pixel image scrunched down to that size.  Unless you change the size of the before you upload it, it’s still, in reality, a really big picture, and a big, full-quality picture is always going to take a lot longer to load than one that has been optimized for the web.  And when you try to create your own photo gallery of images that haven’t been optimized for the web, you’ll definitely feel like you’re back in the dial-up age.  Besides, a scrunched-up image looks terrible compared to one that has been properly optimized.

There are a few of options you can use for resizing a picture prior to uploading it.  There are lots of programs out there, such as Photoshop, GIMP and even MS Paint that easily take care of resizing picture.  There are lots of websites out there too.  Just do a search for image resizing and you’ll find plenty of them.

Another option is to see if your web designer can install a program that will resize the images for you automatically when you upload them.  For example, if you use our ecommerce solutions and upload a category or product image, we can set the parameters of the uploader to set the image to a specified height and/or width.

While I’ve mainly focused on images here, you could have the same issue with any sort of media such as Flash, music or videos.  Remember that the web, as nice as some things look on it, is geared (at least for now) towards low resolution.  For example, a client of ours recently sent me an audio file of a radio commercial she wanted to play on her homepage.  I noticed the large file size, re-sampled it to a lower quality and cut down the file size by about 75%.  And you know what?  It still sounded fine on her website.

Just remember that in order for your page to load fast, you’re going to want to make all your files as small as possible while still maintaining an acceptable quality.

Coding

This ties into my last point, to a degree:  The smaller the size of the files on your page, the faster it will load.  By that same token, the smaller your page’s file size, the faster it will load.  You’ll most likely have to talk to your web designer about this, but optimizing your code includes such things as converting the site to CSS, linking to external files (such as one consolidated CSS file and one consolidated javascript file) instead of coding them directly in the page and reducing unnecessary white space in your code.

Of the three suggestions I gave, the one that will usually make the biggest difference is converting a site to CSS.  Now, I don’t want to get into a CSS vs. tables debate, but the fact of the matter is that a site using pure CSS is going to have a lot less code than a site using tables, so it’s going to be faster.

The problem that a webmaster will sometimes run into in telling a client that they need to optimize their code is that a client won’t see a difference in the site, so some website owners are hesitant to shell out the dough necessary for a website coder to spend hours on updating their site’s guts.  Cleaning code isn’t sexy, but it can be extremely effective in speeding up a website.

Making sure your site loads quickly will not only make your website visitors happy, but it will make Google happy as well.  Search engines put a premium on sites that are quick to load, so it can also push your website up in search engine rankings.

If you have any questions about how to go about doing some of the things I mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment below, contact us or send us a Tweet.

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Things to Consider Before Building a Website

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

I saw someone on Twitter ask if anyone had a good checklist for building a website.  I wondered if they were talking about a checklist to look at before a designer gets involved, or if this include looking for a designer.

If the list were to include looking a designer, I’d have to write it to be shamelessly self-promoting.  (Do they build the site in a CMS at no extra charge?  Do they offer any free updates?  Do they give you a free search engine ranking report?)  In light of that, let’s assume you’ve decided you want to build a website, but are not at the point of hiring a designer yet.  A lot of people skip the part in-between, but the more fleshed-out your site is before you talk to a designer, the easier that talk will go and the faster the designer will be able to come up with a quote for you.  Having a clear vision for your website will also keep you from adding to the project as you go, sparing the designer a headache and saving you some money.

So, here’s a checklist for building your website.  Maybe it’s not a checklist, per se, but this could serve as a guideline for things you should know about your website before you seek out a designer.

What is the goal or purpose of my website?

Are you selling something?  Are you trying to generate leads?  Are you giving information?  What do you need to do to draw attention to that purpose?  Knowing the answer to these questions will help you strategize the layout, graphics and typography of your website with your web designer.

Who is the intended audience?

If the purpose of your website is to sell Medicare supplements, you’ll want to capture the attention of people around the age of 65 and above.  You’ll want the writing to be easy to read, maybe a little larger than usual.  You probably wouldn’t want the design to be too slick and techie.  On the other hand, if your website is geared towards gamers, you probably want more images and slick graphics.  Keep your audience in mind when planning your website.

What should my website look like?

This is a pretty big one.  A decent web designer can make a site look like anything.  Some people are fine giving a designer complete freedom to design a website however they want, but hopefully you have some idea as to how your site should look.  It will save your designer time, even if you look at other websites and pull elements you like from them, if you’re able to give at least a few guidelines.  If you already have a logo, business cards or some kind of branding, make sure to incorporate that.

Do I need my website to be found?

You’d think the obvious answer would be the affirmative, but not every site needs to be ranked #1 in search engines to be useful.  I refer to these sites as business card websites.  Some people just need a portfolio, resume or supplemental information to be available when they point people to the site.  Most sites, though, do need to be found.  If you offer a service or sell goods, you need to make sure to set aside a good budget for search engine optimization and/or pay-per-click ads, and you need to plan your website accordingly.

Does my website require any special features?

Would it be useful to my visitors to allow them to create an account for my website?  If you have a movie theater website, it would be useful to have a database to add movies and their showtimes.  For a real estate agent, it would be great to be able to have a database for real estate listings on your website so you won’t have to manually create new pages and links for every listing.  If you need a special feature on your website, think it through in as much detail as you can.  Simply telling your web designer that you need a client login doesn’t really tell them anything.  What information is required to create an account?  How do they retrieve a lost password?  What happens when they log in?  Think through what you need and how it should work.

The point in all this is that the more fully realized your website is before you even contact a web designer, the easier the entire process will be.  You don’t need to write out an entire RFP (although we do love those), but you should know something about your creation.  Many people dream about having a great website, so get it started on the right foot by laying the groundwork for success.

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AttyDC.com Redesign

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Wilmington NC Lawyer - Attorney David Collins

Venuecom and Impulse Web Designs teamed up to redesign www.attydc.com, the website for Wilmington, NC Lawyer, Attorney David Collins.  The client’s original website was designed from a phone book ad from six or more years ago.  Obviously, styles have changed since then and our first mockup was much more modern; a little too modern for Mr. Collins, who wanted to update the look, but keep it familiar.

The challenge was this: the existing website already ranked at the top of Google for the search term Wilmington NC lawyer, but it was not converting, so one of the points we emphasized in preparing this project was that the look of the site needed to be modernized and more engaging in order to hold the attention of visitors and thereby convert more traffic into leads.

Collins was pleased with the second mockup by designer Travis Ray.  We feel he designer tasked with this challenge did a great job of meshing the old, outdated look with a more modern, pleasing style in the second mockup.

In addition to aesthetic updates, over 200 unique pages were added to the site to help search engines index key service areas and locations targeted by the client.  Links to the client’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were also added and a WordPress blog is slated to appear soon in order to increase the site’s social media presence.

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What is the web design process?

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Here is a breakdown of the web design and development process so you know what to expect:

Communication
This is the most crucial step of the whole project and needs to be documented correctly before any work is done on the site. It is important for us to listen to you and your needs as a client. It is important for you to accurately communicate your goals for the website. Sometimes clients don’t always know what they want, so we often ask some questions to help begin effective dialogue.

Website Quote and Pricing
Once we know what you do and don’t want, we can provide you with an accurate quote on how much the project will cost. Once the site budget is approved and all documentation has been signed and approved, we require 50% of the site cost up front. Pricing a website is sort of like buying a car, the more bells and whistles you want the more the car will cost. Therefore, the more information about the project we have and know up front, the more accurate the quote will be.

Web Design
Your website design speaks volumes about your business. Think of your website as the billboard on the side of the internet highway as thousands of web surfers cruise the internet on a daily basis. Will they stop and take a look or keep going? The quality of your site will determine if they stay or go. Be sure you have taken a look at the past work of the web design firm you choose and that they can produce the kind of quality your site deserves.

Web Coding and Programming
If your site requires any PHP programming, this is done once the design has been approved. PHP is a dynamic programming language we use to do tasks such as email contact forms, application form processing, content management, e-commerce and database development.

Delivery
Once the site is complete and has been approved by the client, we are ready to ‘go live’ and put the site up on the web for all to see and explore. To make a site live, you will need a domain name and someone to host the website. We recommend GoDaddy.com for purchasing domain names and we provide hosting for $15/month. Read more about our web hosting plan.

And then….
Well, the site is done, but the relationship is not. Many clients like to do site upgrades in the future, like to purchase other services like search engine optimization or will need technical support. We often check in with clients on a monthly basis to make sure things are still running smoothly and to offer any support they may need.

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How long does it take to build or design a website?

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

I think this mainly depends on the client. Some clients have deadlines and timetables, some don’t. Some clients get everything that you need right away and some take their sweet time.

One of the longest periods of time during website development is the initial mockup design phase. Often, I will design 1 or 2 mockups for a client. Sometimes I will do 1 mockup and show it to the client – they like it, but they want to tweak it. This back and forth cycle can take up too 2 weeks easy. Make a change – show it to the client – they get back to you in a day or two – make another change – show it to the client, etc. Some clients are pickier than others. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that as a designer I need to try and understand exactly what it is the client is looking for.

Another time killer during web site design is waiting on content. When the website design is complete and then you say, ‘ok, I need to know everything you want to say on the homepage’.

Writing copy for a website is hard, I’ll admit it. I don’t like doing it either. But it is important to say the right thing and so many clients spend a good amount of time thinking over exactly what they want to say.

Sometimes it’s not always copy – sometimes it’s waiting on images. I did one website for a client who wanted a different header image on every page. So that client went to a stock photography site and hand picked every image they wanted. Not saying that was a bad thing, just saying that kind of stuff takes time. Searching for the right image can take awhile, trust me – been there.

But, I have to be honest, we designers can also kill some time as well. I am very picky about my web designs. If I don’t like it, I don’t show it to the client. I have to like it too. I often do multiple versions of a design until I get it just right. This can take a week easy.

My general rule of thumb is about a month for a basic 5 – 10 page website. I figure a week for the design phase, a week waiting for content, another week for popping in content and then the last week is for final review by the client and any last minute changes and updates before going live.
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I want to be able to update the site myself – can I do that?

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Many clients come to me and want the ability to update all or some of the pages of the site on their own. Sometimes they may have changing prices, new sales events and specials, they want to display different ads in different seasons or they just want to have that sense of control over their site text.

Many tools are available on the market today for what are called Content Management Systems or CMS.

One method I use is to create a ‘backdoor’ for a client with a listing of pages. Each page has a content box and that content box is where text edits can be done. They hit ‘Update’, the data is sent to a database and then the site updated on the front end.

Another option is to purchase a copy of Contribute, a product by Adobe (formerly Macromedia). Contribute connects to your web server, where the files are stored, and lets you edit the content of the site pages using a nice GUI editor, similar to Microsoft Word.

These are just two examples, but I know there are many other type systems on the market today. If you are a web developer and know of another CMS system, please feel free to share your ideas here on this forum.

Link: Content Management System

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How much does a website cost?

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

The best way to answer this question is to think about buying a new car. The more bells and whistles (chrome rims, 4-wheel drive, spoiler, flames painted on the side) you want on the car the more it costs.

Same goes for web design – the more bells and whistles (Flash movies, CMS, dynamic pages, fancy navigation menus) the more the site costs.

I try to first extract from the client what the basic needs are: homepage, about us, products, services, contact us.

These are what I call the ‘Fab 5’ – the foundational pages of a website. These type of sites aren’t normally that expensive, maybe $500 – $750. But then when you start adding Flash, more pages, the ability for the client to update the site themselves (CMS), etc., the bill starts going up.

Another factor of course is how much the web design firm charges per hour, per page, per mockup, etc. I know one guy who is very good who charges $500 just for the mockup. I know some companies where you can get an entire ‘Fab 5’ site for $500. But then again, just like everything else, you get what you pay for.

So, how much does a website cost?

1. Will depend on the web design firm’s standard charging rates – not everyone charges the same.

2. If you want to pay for what you need as compared to what you want.

3. Do you want all the bells and whistles or will a basic ‘Fab 5’ suffice?
To get a web design quote, please use our web design quote form to contact us.
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Client deadlines

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

I spoke with a guy at church today who said he got a website done but it has never gone live because he just hasn’t gotten around to writing the copy. In fact, he said it’s been about a year and a half since the site’s been done!

I wanted to post a question: what should be an acceptable deadline to receive copy for a website? 2 weeks, 1 month, etc. What is the norm in the industry?

I’ve always found that this is the biggest slow down to site development – waiting on copy from the client.

Anyone else have this issue? How did you resolve it? Is there an industry standard for dealing with this?

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