Web design is a tricky thing. Although it has progressed with technology, trends, and the veteran designers themselves - a sure fire design is not always guaranteed.
I am my own worst critic. I have to make a design functional, yet still visually appealing. Although I am always happy with the final outcomes, I sometimes feel an uncertainty if the client will be blown away and if they think the design will accomplish the goals they were looking for.
Below are a couple rules I like to follow to ensure these thoughts do not creep into my head:
Use of Color
This has to match the clients corporate colours and still work and flow properly. One of the first and most important aspects I think about.
Every picture tells a thousand words and this is still true with web design. Picking the right images helps your website explain its message, products and emotion its trying to convey.
The words you put on your website are carefully thought out. And so should be the way in which you stylize them. The styles need to be readable but also work with the design.
I don’t limit myself to these tips but definitely always keep them in mind when designing websites.
You may have heard of this term before, especially if you frequent the social circles of graphic designers and user interface developers. Here at REM, we apply the iterative design process to our work on WebWiz@rd. I'll spend the next couple of paragraphs explaining what exactly iterative design is, and then I'll explain how this benefits our customers who use WebWiz@rd.
Since I don't believe in reinventing the wheel [It just works! Right?], I'll quote a bit of Wikipedia's entry on iterative design:
"Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process. Based on the results of testing the most recent iteration of a design, changes and refinements are made. This process is intended to ultimately improve the quality and functionality of a design. In iterative design, interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project, as successive versions, or iterations of a design are implemented." -- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterative_design)
That seems pretty straight forward, right? Maybe not. The problem with the term right from the start is that it includes the word "design". Most people will immediately shift to thinking about artwork or graphics. These people aren't entirely wrong, but the word is still misleading. The "design" in iterative design both implies the look and feel (the user interface) of a system as well as how the system is intended to respond when that look and feel is interacted with. In other words: the iterative design process can be applied to not only the colour of a button or its position on the screen, but also to the conveyed purpose of that button to the end-user.
A web page has two buttons on the screen. One button starts an operation such as a stop watch counter. Another button stops the operation that the first button started. The first button is red (the start button) and the second button is green (the stop button).
Do you see the problem? Maybe it isn't a problem at all to you? If the developers of this web page were to present the page to a set of unbiased users, some might complain that the colours of the buttons are misleading. "Red for go? Green for stop? That's ridiculous!" some of them might cry. Of course, some of the users might enjoy clicking a bigger, red button to start the operation because they dream of flying a space ship. Okay -- I hear you -- this explanation is getting a little silly, but you can see what I'm getting at here. The red and green colours themselves are good choices, but their application is the problem in this scenario. The majority of people might expect "start" or "go" operations to be coloured in green, and the related stop operations to be coloured in red. The iterative design process would catch these complaints from users and would help the developers create a system (a web page, in this example) that fits the expectations of the majority of their users.
Iterative Design at REM
At REM, we practice the iterative design process without ever having to speak of the term itself. Our development and design culture at REM forces us to use this process every time we create something new for WebWiz@rd. New modules are put in front of our customers almost immediately after exiting the beta stage and we almost always get instant feedback on how these modules behave for our customers. Our support team sends us bug reports and usability concerns the moment things break down for anyone, giving us the ability to quickly fix problems and get the updates in front of our customers right away so that they can keep working and continue to provide feedback on the usefulness of our changes.
This isn't to say our customers are the first human beings to interact with new parts of WebWiz@rd. Our support team is tasked with hammering our new systems with every possible scenario they can think of. They do their best to try to break down our systems so that our customers don't come across major flaws in their own work flow. Our support team does an amazing job of unearthing both the smallest and largest of design flaws in our systems and the developers, in turn, fix those problems right away and get the changes back in the hands of the support team so they can continue to hammer away. It works and it works well. I'd hazard to say 99% of bugs and confusing interface problems are removed from our system before our customers ever see a single, new screen. That's saying something!
Time To Reflect
I'm very proud of our team at REM. We work really well as a team, but we also know how to approach our own work with an outsiders perspective. This definitely helps us improve our products through the iterative design process and we have an amazing set of technology to show for it.
Do you work for a company that practices iterative design? We'd love to hear about it in the comments or feel free to drop us a line any time.
Summer is finally here! It's a great time of year especially for spending time outdoors; however, it can also be dangerous if you spend too long in the heat.
There are numerous heat-related illnesses that can occur if you don't take the proper precautions. Some of these include:
heat cramps - cramps that normally happen during times of strenuous work. Occurs when you lose large amounts of fluids.
heat exhaustion - when you sweat heavily your body loses large amounts of fluids, this can lead to heat exhaustion. The loss of fluids can affect your brain function causing symptoms such as dizziness, confusion and headaches.
heat stroke - long periods spent in extreme heat can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body cannot regulate it's temperature by sweating.
As mentioned in previous posts, being in the web business has its advantages as we get to work with pretty much every industry out there! We recently moved to a new house with a pool and, with two small children, we were concerned about the kids having access to the pool while playing in the backyard,
The solution was simple - put up a fence. However, I didn't want to ruin the layout/look of the backyard (I am a designer after all!) so we decided to put a wrought iron fence in. This way, it would have the safety factor, longevity and it looks a lot better than standard chain link.
We just happened to be finishing up a site for a great company called New Trend Fencing. I had a very tight time line to put in the fence so, I called our client Joe Pozeg (the president of New Trend) and not only did he help me out with ensuring it was delivered on time, but he delivered it himself which is quite a task as I live almost 2 hours from their location.
The fence arrived and the quality and look is amazing! Unfortunately, the new website we are developing for New Trend isn't 100% complete yet but stay tuned as it will be launched shortly. If you're looking for a wrought iron/decorative fence or even their patented "Fencerts" don't hesitate to get in touch with New Trend, you won't regret it!
WebWiz@rd provides our clients the ability to add content to their websites on their own, but we occasionally have clients hire us to add their content to their site on their behalf. This request is typically made right after their site is first built. Our clients provide us the written content and any images that they wish to include and we implement the content in an easy-to-read and attractive way.
When I started at REM, almost 3 years ago, and first learned that this was a service that we provided, I questioned why anyone would pay us to complete this work when they have the ability to do the work themselves at no cost. It seemed like a waste of money and a missed opportunity to get completely familiar with the WebWiz@rd tools.
I now understand why some of our clients go this route. Not only do I understand why but in many cases I think that it is a great decision.
Lack of Confidence
Some of our clients know exactly what information they want to add to their site but they don’t feel like they will be able to display the content in a complementary way. Because of this, they would rather have us add the initial content knowing that they can update the content moving forward.
Short On Time
Populating a website from scratch can take quite a bit of time. Some of our clients would rather pay us to add their content since they do not have the time to allocate to this task themselves. They are happy to update the content on their own after the bulk of the work is completed.
Eager To Go Live
Like I mentioned above, populating a site can take time. Most of our clients are very motivated to get their website launched, perhaps they have a deadline that must be met or perhaps they are just excited to show it off! Since REM is 100% comfortable using the WebWiz@rd tools, we are able to add content to a site much faster than most of our new clients. Hiring us to complete this work allows our clients to go “live” sooner rather than later.
When our clients choose to add their initial content to their site on their own, they become very confident using WebWiz@rd. There is an enormous amount of value having this knowledge and comfort with our system. But for some of our clients the appearance of their site, their time and their enthusiasm outweighs the benefit of using WebWiz@rd so heavily right at the beginning of their websites life.
3.0.1 to 3.4.2 a Year of WebWiz@rd 3.X - Part 5 of 5
We're celebrating our first official year of WebWiz@rd 3 here at REM and I thought it would be a great time to share some of my experience and thoughts related to it.
Now for part 5, the Final Few & The Future!
The Final Few
We're down to the last remaining customers, and happily moving them to our latest and greatest platform!
By the time you read this, McCordick Glove and Safety will be moved into WebWiz@rd 3 along with their bilingual database of products, that number in the thousands.
One thing that strikes me as noteworthy about this migration is how future friendly our original design turned out to be when we created the site over 3 years ago! Their customized quoting system, database of product SKUs, search features and French & English content will all be converted with the same consistency of quality that we've seen with our hundreds of other customers. It will take a bit longer due to the quantity of data and pages, but not due to architectural problems in the code.
We strive to keep every websites relevant for the long haul and with McCordick Glove, we fulfilled that obligation once again.
So what is to come, now that most customers have been migrated to our newest platform? Mobile domination, for REM and for REM's customers. We've been building mobile platforms and moving our customers onto them as quickly as we've been asked. Now we won't wait to be asked. We've seen the shift in mobile prevalence and we have a strategy that has been well tested and ready for roll out.
I can't wait to start filling in those details in the year to come!
How to decide where to spend your marketing dollars
I have met with small businesses for many years to talk about how a fresh web design can increase their business. I will often spend time pointing out how easily a website can pay for itself if used properly. However, when I ask most small business owners if they have had much success with their current website, few are able to answer that question.
Why? Because they have no measures in place to keep track of what is working.
You should be tracking all your marketing efforts, whether it costs you money or just effort. By doing so you will be able to better understand at the end of the year (or more often) where you should be prioritizing your budget dollars and effort in regards to marketing your business effectively.
It doesn't matter if you use high tech methods or just a scrap piece of paper, as long as you do it. I recommend creating a spreadsheet that you have handy on your desktop that is broken down by month and by lead type.
Here is a list of ideas that you could use for your tracking of lead types:
Google Plus Page
Other Search Engines
Radio Ad - (break it down further if you have multiple)
TV Ad - (break it down further if you have multiple)
Magazine Ad (break it down further if you have multiple)
Every time someone calls in, make one of your first questions, "Do you mind if I ask where you heard about us from". Then mark it down on the spreadsheet right after. Notice, how the list above is more specific then just "Social Media" or "Search Engines". You should be as specific as you can.
Once you start gathering data, you will be able to easily see what is actually working for you and allow you to make better decisions on where to spend your funds and your effort.
Taking it one step further, if you can find ways to track which of those leads turned into a paying client/customer it will allow you to make even better decisions. For example, you are likely to see a much higher rate of closed sales opportunities in the "Referral" category then most others. If someone recommends your company you will typically have a much better chance at securing them as a new customer. Therefore, that might be an area where you begin to find ways to give incentives to people for getting you business.
People often assume that they know in their heads what is working for them but when you start tracking it, you might be very surprised.
If you are looking at ways to make your website a more effective lead generation tool please give me a call at 519-884-4111 x 111 to chat.
REM Web Solutions will be closed on July 1, 2014 and opening again on July 2, 2014 to celebrate Canada Day. Enjoy the day with your family and friends.
Rob Matlow at 3:23 PM
Putting the Pen to Paper
In the digital world of websites we sometimes forget how easy it is to explore options and ideas by first sketching them out. Learning to draw wire frames has helped me not only be more creative but to speed up the initial design process.
By spending only a fraction of the time sketching gives me hours in the long run while working on a project. Ideas come more quickly and on the fly so I can spend more time generating solutions.
In the case of Smokin' Tony's I spent some time sketching out ideas for the typography of the main banner image. As you can see below the initial sketch is a little different than the final outcome, however the idea started at the tip of my pen.
Take a look at Our Portfolio for more samples of our work. Many of the designs there started with just a couple ideas putting a pen to paper.
Spotlight on Design - WebWiz@rd Powered Mobile Sites
REM has been busy pumping out successful, mobile websites for our customers. I'm quite proud of the quality of these sites, as they are in keeping with our attentive and careful design philosophy, while remaining highly responsive and useful.
Here are just a few of the mobile websites we have published for our customers in recent past:
Crosby Auto Group - http://m.crosbyauto.ca/mobileIndex.cfm Features: location & directions, direct call access from mobile device, built-in mobile-friendly form for contacting Crosby Auto Group without leaving the user's mobile web browser.
Whitney Commercial Real Estate Services - http://m.whitneyre.com/mobile.cfm Features: Full access to searching properties and finding real estate agents right from the palm of your hand.
If you're looking to make the jump to catering to mobile web visitors (who isn't, right?), please let us know! We'd be happy to help you realize your dreams of cashing in on the mobile craze!