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Why Do I Need a Web Designer? Comparing Custom Website Design vs. Templates

Entrepreneurs and business owners understand the importance of having a website. However, many ask themselves where they should begin. How do they compete while providing the best return on investment? Regardless, there are advantages and disadvantages to both custom website design vs. using templates.

 

The debate over using a custom website design or a template is very common. Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all right answer. You must evaluate the advantages and disadvantages for each, and choose what is best for you. Here are some elements to consider.

 

Budget - We have all seen the commercials offering to get your business website designed for $1 or even free with a hosting plan. You can then build your website using a predefined layout and options. Initially, this looks much cheaper than custom website design. However, if you need changes, the cost to add functionality and usability can end up costing more in the long run.

 

Branding - When you choose a free or low-cost template design, it is common to expect restrictions, co-branding, or advertising conditions. Your website's main purposes are building your image and growing awareness. Custom website design gives you full control to highlight your company, products, and services.

 

User Experience - Website usability is extremely important. Visitors, leads, and customers must be able to easily navigate your site and find the information and products they need. Templates, while sometimes visually appealing, often miss the mark on usability. The user of your website must be able to easily learn their way around and achieve their goals.

 

Scalability - Templated website design is intended as a one-size-fits-all solution. While elements and plug-ins are often available, they can cause slower website reaction times. On a low traffic website, there is rarely a problem. However, a better option is forecasting future visitor growth and needed functionality.

 

What haven’t we covered yet that is important to you? If you would like to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of custom website design vs. templates, or need more information, please contact us.

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What’s Wrong with Using Design Templates?

3 Things That Can Go Wrong

 

Should you use a pre-made website design template? A drag-and-drop website editor sure seems to make things easier. However, easier does not mean better. Here are three things that can go wrong when using design templates.

 

It Leads to Poor Branding

 

Using a pre-made template will reflect very poorly on your brand and is a disaster for your marketing efforts. Some templates have literally been used by dozens of thousands of people. The more popular they become, the more recognizable they are. If you want to stand out, you need to have a unique website.

 

You Are Stuck in a Box

 

With design templates, you are stuck in a box. Most templates have extremely limited design features, with a built-in menu, header, and widget structure. If you want to, for example, create a slideshow menu, sidebar, or header, you will have to upgrade to a more expensive template -- which will still be quite limited.

 

You Can't Improve Customer Experience

 

Ideally, you want to be able to streamline your visitors’ experience on your site. For example, if you want to direct them to a landing page, you need to be able to customize your site in such a way that gives them cues to go there. You will need to constantly tweak your site so that the user experience improves. If you are using a pre-made template, you will be extremely limited in your ability to do so. You also need to make sure that your website is mobile friendly, something that many templates lack.

 

We service Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph and the surrounding areas. Visit our site at remwebsolutions.com or call us at 519 884-4111 to arrange a demonstration of what we can do for your business to set you apart from your competition.

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Does Your Website Help Your Business? 5 Signs Your Website Needs Work

You have a business in either Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, or Guelph, and tried your hand at web design. Unfortunately, the website hasn't brought in new customers or increased sales. What went wrong? There's more to web design than merely building a website. Its design should reflect the fact that people will use it. You want their experience to be pleasant and convenient. For troubleshooting purposes, here are 5 signs your website needs work:

 

Your Website Loads Slowly

 

People have busy lives and they don't have the time to wait for slow loading web pages. The one advantage that print media has over many websites is that it only takes a second to turn a page. Too many web pages take longer than 5 or even 10 seconds to load. While some people will wait for a single slow loading page, they won't have any inclination to explore multiple slow loading pages. Two important factors affecting web page speed are its design and the server that hosts the website.

 

Your Website Isn't Search Engine Optimized

 

To get search engine traffic, your web pages should use keywords in the content, and in their titles. Keywords also help in your image descriptions. The URL of every page should contain legible words, some of which are keywords. You should also work in different but related keywords into your content.

 

Your Web Design Has Navigation Issues

 

Your navigation system should follow standard conventions so that people can navigate effortlessly without having to think too much. Place navigation links along the top and/or sides of each page. People should know exactly where they are and be only one click away from the home page. The navigation should be logical and make sense.

 

Your Web Design Doesn't Quickly Tell the Visitor What You're About

 

The visitor should know within a few seconds of landing on your website, what your business is about. Sometimes the name of your business makes this apparent. If not, your home page should have a simple statement near the top of the page that draws the eye. Don't leave this to a logo or picture.

 

Your Web Design Uses Harsh Colors and Difficult Font

 

A red background with blue font creates instant eyestrain. White or yellow font on black backgrounds also make for difficult viewing. There are many bad color combinations. Fortunately, you need only use black or gray font on a white background. Although there are other workable combinations, the conservative black/gray font on a white background will always work. Make sure the font type and size is easily legible.

 

If you require help with your web design, contact us. We design websites that improve business. REM Web Solutions serve Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, and surrounding areas.

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Hmmm.... Why Do I Need a Web Designer?

If you're looking to set up a new website for yourself or your business you've likely seen advertising for services that promise you a quick and easy "do it yourself" approach. While some of these services are very good, the reality is that they're built for people who already have some level of knowledge in web design. This is not to say that you can't design a website on your own, you'll just be better served if you have a professional around to get you started. What do we mean? Good question. 

 

Designing a website for today's visitors requires an education in how the new web works. With the increasing use of mobile devices as the primary personal computer, users are now shopping and retrieving all sorts of information from their phones and tablets. A web designer knows that your site will need to be responsive and adapt seamlessly to different viewing devices. 

 

A web designer also knows that you'll need social media integration and sharing strategies involved in the development of your site. Of course, this is not to say that you don't know this information, it is only to illustrate that as we move forward, the topic of designing your own site becomes a bit more complicated.

 

A good approach, given that we've barely scratched the surface of what you'll need to consider when designing a web site for success (think Search Engine Optimization). What this means is you'll work with a professional web designer (like the awesome team we have here at REM) to get your site up and running, and then (our Customer Success Manager) will teach you how to do content updates to the site, yourself (WebWiz@rd is a very easy to use software package). There is much value in working together! 

 

So, Why Do I Need a Web Designer

 

Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but we hope you have a better idea now that you've gotten our input. We look forward to talking to you about the excellent services we can offer at REM Web Solutions.

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Google Analytics

As I mention in all of my WebWiz@rd training sessions here at REM, it is really important to get a Google Analytics account. Not only for the HTML code that you get to add to your site for better SEO, but the even more important aspect of utilizing it for keyword searches. It’s the keyword relevance that draws in the qualified traffic to your website. So, in order to bring this highly qualified traffic to your site, you need to develop a better understanding of keywords.

 

That’s where Analytics comes into play. Google’s Keyword Tool, with its huge database of keywords in over 50 languages, is a great place to start. You can even enter a phrase that describes your website right in Google to get a sense of traffic. But before you do that, let’s utilize your Google Analytics account to conduct the research.

 

Google Analytics allows us to see all of the relevant data in an easy to read format. It’s almost like having the answers to a test before we write it. The entire “keywords” section is devoted to providing the keywords people used to find our website, how many visits from the keyword, how much revenue that keyword generated, the bounce rate and so much more! This is very informative data to have before you start investing time and effort into organic and paid searches.

 

Remember, we want to bring qualified traffic to your site. SEO experts follow a basic thumb rule for choosing keywords that bring the most relevant, revenue-adding traffic to your website. Here are a few considerations:

 

  • Phrases are better than singular words.
  • Target highly searched terms that have as little competition as possible. However, do not use keywords that have less competition just for this reason alone.
  • Choose keywords that are specific with a narrow focus but you don’t want to be too specific that you start to lose traffic.
  • Localize your keywords by making use of your geographical location (Web Design Kitchener Waterloo).

 

Remember, you will want to get the most of out of your keywords when you begin to optimize. That means including them in obvious places on your web site (Meta Tags) in order to achieve high keyword density, frequency and prominence.

 

Without having a good place to start, choosing keywords can quickly become mind boggling given there can be literally millions of keywords to choose from. Besides, choosing the wrong keywords can be disastrous and set you back months if you are optimizing your site for organic search. For that reason alone, is worth the time and research using Analytics.

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3 Downfalls of Using Design Templates

Web design templates are meant to be quick to set up and easy to maintain.

 

Unfortunately, that means there's no wiggle room to customize the site to your needs. Every business has unique features and complexities, and so should your website. Before you jump into a store-bought web design template, consider these three downfalls of using design templates.

 

1. Lack of Customization

 

Your website should be able to reflect the nuances of your business, making use of every tool and scrapping elements that don't fit your needs. On top of custom functionality, your website should display your custom branding. Colors, logos, photography, and all media elements should showcase your business in a unique way across your site. Cookie-cutter websites don't win business.

 

2. Poor Scalability

 

As your business grows, your website will likely need to grow as well. You may need more pages, a larger portfolio, or wider access for customer logins. Whatever your needs down the road, you shouldn't have to stunt your growth now just for a convenient solution. Custom web design means your site will always fit your needs.

 

3. No SEO Optimization

 

Many prefabricated web design templates are simply a skeleton. SEO is integral to your online presence and web design templates are not built to accommodate it. Don't give yourself more work than you already have. Investing in custom web design means ranking in the top of your clients' search results.

 

Want to build a unique and stable online presence? Contact Us for more on creating custom web design solutions for your business.

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Don't Be So Quick To Dismiss Hiring A Web Designer

It is true that web design has evolved in tremendous ways over the past decade. With the rise of do-it yourself web template software programs, the need for proficiency in HTML is not as great as it used to be. However, if you are considering launching a website, you should not be so quick to skip over hiring a web designer to take on the project.

 

If you decide to create a website yourself using template software, you will probably find yourself being limited to unimaginative styles and formats that visitors have seen before. This creates a passive experience for visitors that does not really leave a lasting impression on them. Essentially, a website that isn't engaging is a website that will probably be only visited once and then forgotten about. If the purpose of your website is for your business, then you are setting yourself up for a huge missed opportunity.

 

The truth is that web designers aren't just experts in HTML, they are well versed in modern development language that has moved onto new formats that ensure a site is optimized for mobile and desktop viewing, all while ensuring that the experience is the same on each. If you are a creative person, web designers will be able to tap into that creativity and translate it into a fully functioning web site that goes beyond basic web templates. 

 

The other great aspect of having a web designer on board is that they will be there for support when issues occur. This is a much better situation than sending emails to a support inbox and waiting for generic responses that are supposed to troubleshoot your issue. A web designer's work is always personalized for you and will understand the mechanics and goals of your site better anyone else.

 

It is a good thing that web design has become easier for new-users to experiment with, but when it comes to your business you simply don't have the time to waste on experimenting. Only professional web designers are proven to get the job done in the way you need it. 

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Font-astic Terms

Continuing my theme of web design terms, this blog post is to further expand upon one of the main elements I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post: fonts.

 

As you might’ve read in my last blog post, it refers to the typeface the texts use. It plays a crucial role in establishing a website’s branding (look and feel), especially when it comes to composing a consistent and cohesive design. It can impact the message of the text itself. For example, using a hand-drawn style might give the viewer the impression that it’s a personal message from someone.

 

The following are my personal interpretations and are in no way the “official” meaning. There’re visual typeface examples on the right for each category mentioned. They can fall into these main “Font-astic Four” categories (Pardon the comic book pun! I couldn’t help it.):

 

Sans-serif

clean and modern. This style is best used in all sorts of scenarios from headlines to small type to body copy because it’s easy to read, big or small. Common ones such as Arial and Helvetica are considered neutral styles.

Fonts: sans-serif

 

Serif

classic and traditional. This style is useful for business settings such as documents, formal letters and contracts, but still has so many variations that it could work in a modern context. Just like sans-serif it can be used in a large variety of things such as headlines, small type and/or body copy.

Fonts: serif

 

Script

cursive, elaborate and elegant, also known as “calligraphic” styles. This style always looks beautiful and unique; it definitely highlights text when used. However, unlike serif and sans-serif, it’s most effective when used sparingly, as most script typefaces are notoriously hard to read when small and will look busy when used too much.

Fonts: script

 

Hand-drawn

custom-looking, fun and creative. It’s hard to give examples for this one because they’re not “standard” typefaces. It can also be combined with the other categories (as in a hand-drawn typeface can look like a script, sans-serif or serif typeface). This style is usually literally hand-drawn by the person who created it. Similar to script styles, they’re ideally used infrequently to highlight a headline or a callout. 

Fonts: hand-drawn

 

There are plenty more categories typefaces can fall into, but these are the basic ones that come to my mind first. Just like any design element it’s not about the quantity, but the quality; that’s why best practices suggest that you only use 2 or 3 styles in a design. When used at the right spot in the right combination, they can give your users/customers the right feeling and attract them into the website, making them want to explore it further.

 

I shall end this blog post with another inspiring quote. This one is from Steve Jobs (I think almost everyone knows who is) one of the founders of Macintosh/Apple:

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

 

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How we do it? Part 2

This is a continuation from part one that talked about the creative brief process in our designs.  

 

After our design team, has reviewed the creative brief with our design team the begin the design process.  In a matter of days, the graphic designer provides an exciting look at the website concept and solicits early feedback from our clients.  This early feedback is unique to our process and is instrumental in designing the perfect website.  This feedback loop is repeated up to 4 more times.  To state it concisely, we allow up to 5 rounds of revisions per project. That’s more than any competitor we’re aware of.  We really want to make sure you love it before we build it!

 

Once a concept is approved by the client, the design files get send to our development team where all of the powerful WebWiz@rd components are attached by a dedicated developer. 

 

Every part of the project is tested during implementation by the developer and then double checked by your account manager.  A final check is performed between the completed product and the original agreement.  Once complete, the beautiful new website is held on our staging server and presented to our customer.  We call it a tour.

 

In conjunction with the tour, our technical support team will invite the entire client team in for training.  Training is designed to quickly demonstrate how the new tools work and to make it easy for our clients to make their own content changes in the future.

 

The new website remains on the staging server until the customer is ready show it to the world.  While on the staging server, the customer is free to modify their content, add new pages, transfer existing content from other sites, all while keeping their existing site up and running.

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Websites are more important now than ever before!

If you have just started a small business you have probably went through the traditional checklist of keys for your success such as, having a great product, a great staff, procuring the necessary licenses, and of course having the financial means to operate the next year. If you are really serious about your business taking off, you might have dug deeper and even took the time out to develop a strategic plan for growth, a marketing plan, and launched your social media accounts.

 

Out of all those crucial markers, however, one of the most important to have in 2016 is a great website for your business. Local businesses often overlook at a web site because they feel their customers already know them, but this is an extremely short-sighted view. The internet has expanded customer bases from those in cities like Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph, to those in cities across the world. The way people look for products is heavily reliant on searching the internet so if you do not have a web presence, you are invisible to thousands of potential customers.

 

Another outdated belief that people still think of when considering developing a web site is that web design is a timely complicated process. This just simply is not the case anymore thanks to user-friendly web content management system's such as WebWiz@rd, a proprietary CMS designed by us here at REM Web Solutions. Many customers without any web experience in web design have found that managing a website is a simple process that will not occupy as much of their time they thought it would.

 

REM Web Solutions has made web design simple and actually quite fun once you allow yourself to get creative. If you ever are in Kitchener, you should stop by and meet the team yourself to learn more. 

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