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Our top 5 web design tips for new websites

We’re going to assume you’ve got your branding and look & feel sorted – we’re not here to tell you how to come up with the actual design of your site. But from a technology point of view if you’re embarking on a new web design project either yourself or through an agency here are our top 5 tips to help get the most from your new layout:

Web Design Tip 1: Think like a search engine

Page titles, meta descriptions and content are key when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation but so is layout. Looking at your design from a search engine perspective is often a good way to pickup issues before you head into the development phase.

Is your navigation easy to find, text based and not reliant on any scripts like Javascript? Will all images have accompanying text that a search engine can read? Do article pages have clear headers at the top of the content? Have you, on every page you’re building (including the homepage) at some point described what the page is about? Think relevance. The more relevant a search engine sees your page to the content you’re trying to optimise for, the better you will fare.

Web Design Tip 2: Try it on a tablet (and a phone)

Once you’ve got a layout save it as a JPG and load it on your tablet. See how it looks, is it easy to read the text at that size? Are navigation elements going to be easy to tap on? Now do the same on a smartphone. How does it look?

This is the time to confirm if you are going to commission a responsive design template or optimised views for mobile users. And if not, why not? It’s not too late to change your mind at this stage of the process before development has started.

This is also the time that you can have a final sanity check to make sure you’re not loading any components like Flash or applets that might not run on tablet devices at all. If your web dev agency is recommending them make sure they have a very very good reason for doing so.

Ideally, do this step right at the beginning of the project. We often take wireframe sketches and load them on an iPad to make sure we’ve got things like image spacing, line lengths, navigation options and general layout correct before opening up Photoshop. It’s very quick to do and can save you a lot of time in the future.

Web Design Tip 3: Show your kids

Show your website to your kids (unless you’re developing the next version of Playboy.com) and ask them what they think it’s about. I believe that if you can’t explain an idea to a 6-year old then you don’t have a proper grasp on the idea at all. The same goes for design. If kids don’t get what you’re trying to sell or do through a quick glance at the design, might your customers have the same problem?

Web Design Tip 4: Faster is better

Take a look at your design and start counting out all of the items that you think will take longer to load, that’s things like pictures or videos or promo panels or animations, etc. If you get to 5 or more then stop and consider how this might affect how website will load. Page loading speeds aren’t just important for a good user experience they’re also considered by Search Engines when ranking your site. So make sure your pages will load as quickly as they can.

Web Design Tip 5: Do you really need all those social media icons?

Finally, does your layout have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube (and so on…) icons on it? If yes, do you really need them on there. Yes you want to grow your likes and followers, but are there better ways to do this? Could you put your icons in the footer rather than up in your header? (That’s the first place I look, and it doesn’t affect the design nearly as much). Could you add them to your “contact us” page instead? Do you really need that big Facebook like box on there or are there better uses of that space on your site? For bigger brands, do you actually need to tell customers you are on Facebook or could they work that out for themselves?

What are your top tips in the Design phase of a project? Let us know your thoughts below.

Save Our Spoons social media campaign from wahaca Mexican restaurants in London

wahaca – the Mexican Market Eating chain in the UK – have created a fun social media campaign based around their specially designed spoons.

Over the years it seems that customers have taken quite a liking to wahaca’s spoons with no less than 25,000 walking out the door during 5 years of trading.

To encourage a safe return home for their lost cutlery (and to generate some clever social media buzz) wahaca created the “save our spoons” campaign. Customers who have previously “borrowed” a spoon are encouraged to hand them in to their waiter next time they dine and in return for their new found honesty will be rewarded with the cheapest dish from their order for free.

Additionally, to help combat future cutlery crime, wahaca are encouraging customers who witness their friends trying to escape with a spoon to dob them in by posting a photo of their crime to their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/wahaca) or Twitter using the hashtag #spoonamnesty. The most creative photo wins a meal for 2 each week.

You can find out more about the campaign and watch as photos are posted on wahaca’s Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/wahaca

Why Facebook will fail within 5 years

Earlier in the year I read a very interesting article by Ross Dawson giving his thoughts on scenarios for the downfall of Facebook.

He stated that in 5 years time “the most likely outcome is that Facebook will still dominate” but gave 4 key reasons how, should that not be the case, Facebook could potentially fail, they were:

  1. issues relating to privacy and overcommercialisation
  2. an alternative becomes more popular (eg: Google+ or Socl)
  3. an alternative non-commercial social network becomes more popular (eg: http://diasporaproject.org/)
  4. a shift towards a mobile targeted social network

I wanted to add three more ways in which I see Facebook could potentially fall off the top spot:

a) Over-controlling the newsfeed

The primary way that users browse Facebook content – the newsfeed – has changed a lot over the years, and we’re now in a phase where Facebook have a lot more control over it than many people realise. Originally it was a chronological list of ‘events’ – ie: who did what, who said that, who liked something, etc. Basically a window into the lives of your friends, exactly what made Facebook popular in the first place. Today by default your newsfeed is set to show “Top Stories” which Facebook say are “the most interesting stories at the top of your news feed”. But how “most interesting” is determined is largely out of your control.

Some of the “most interesting stories” are in fact sponsored posts from companies that your friends like which raises the question of relevance. For example, as a vegetarian do you really want to see posts from McDonald’s in your news feed just because someone you went to school with ‘likes’ them on Facebook. Or when a friend ‘likes’ a political activist group that you don’t agree with do you really want to know about their rally in the local park this weekend?

We all joined Facebook because we love seeing what everyone else is up to. If that’s taken  away from us and Facebook start to make the call on what they think we want to see then that could start to drive people away.

b) Visual social networks – people love pictures

So I know Facebook own Instagram, but what’s been interesting is watching the growth of Instagram not just as a post-processing photo filter app but as a social network in its own right. The cameras on smartphones are so good these days that nobody really buys compact cameras anymore and having a place to quickly share snaps from your phone with your social network is going to become more and more important.

Facebook launched Instagram style photo filters in the new Facebook app recently but is this enough to stop a migration from Facebook to Instagram and other similar niche photo sharing networks? Uploading a photo to Facebook on your mobile is still a relatively clunky experience, it’s simple on Instagram.

Photo sharing is one of the most popular aspects of social media, so a network that provides a simple & easy to use way of doing this could well pull market share away from Facebook.

 c) Overly complex layouts

Take a look at your Facebook news feed page. There’s a lot going on. Links down the left, your apps, the news feed itself, birthdays & events, ads down the right, the live ticker, chat application, search, and a lot more.

What killed MySpace? Ok a few things, but it has a reputation for becoming way too cluttered and hard to use before everyone jumped ship.

Could Facebook’s need for driving revenue since the IPO mean the introduction of sponsored custom layouts, more integrated advertising such as over-the-page (OTP) rich-media ads or banners in the news feed? And if so, would updates like this eventually drive people away to simpler niche social networks to get away from all the noise?

Whatever happens, I don’t think you can say with any certainty whether Facebook will still be number one in 5 years time. However this is no time for them to rest on their laurels as like we all know things can (and do) change very quickly in the Digital space…

Ross Dawson’s original article can be seen here: http://rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2012/07/scenarios-for-the-downfall-of-facebook-and-a-new-landscape-for-social-networks.html

 

Find available screen names and how to update your twitter username

Sometimes you just need to change your online identity. Maybe you’ve recently changed your real name, or you’re being hounded by spam, or perhaps you’re just after fresh start. Whatever the reason, here are 3 tips for how to find that perfect new handle:

1) Twitter > Edit your account

Twitter allows you to check availability of a username in your account settings on its own website.

Click to your profile page, click the “Edit your profile” button then the “Account” link from the left and you’ll see the “Username” box above. Here you can type in new usernames and Twitter will instantly tell you if it’s available.

2) Name generator sites

Stuck for what to call yourself though? No problem – name generator sites can help. SpinXO (pictured left) is one of the best that I’ve found as it allows you to type in your interests, keywords and “must have” words and then generates options based on that.

You can then click on the name(s) that interest you and check their availability.

3) Name checker websites

But what happens if you’re after the same username that you can use across multiple sites? It can be cumbersome to go to each social media site individually and check using their own tools.

A better way is to use a site like namechk.com or checkusernames.com which let you type in your username and search availability across every social media site you can think of in one go.

Good luck with updating your identity online, let us know in the comments if you have any tips of your own.

Fashion with Digital Passion – Vogue Australia’s ‘Online Shopping Night’ Is Back

Vogue Australia’s ‘Online Shopping Night’ (VOSN) is on again today. This is the third #VOSN event I can recall, once again bringing online retailers together under the umbrella of one of fashion’s best known names and executing it in a very clever, interactive and social way.

For some time now the primary vogue.com.au website has featured a countdown to the start of the event (midday today). This has been complimented with a strong social media campaign across Facebook and Twitter steadily providing updates on retailers who have come on board, special offers, staff picks and so on – all very shareable content and all presented in the perfect place for the target market.

Yesterday the recently appointed new Editor of Vogue Australia Edwina McCann held a live Q&A on Facebook started simply with the post “Hi here to discuss #VOSN ! Tell me what you plan to buy?”. A neat way to introduce her to the new audience and stimulate interest in the campaign at the same time.

The company uses Twitter extensively to promote the evening and encourage retailers and customers to adopt the #VOSN hashtag during the day.

For the last two events #VOSN has trended consistently in the Top 10 in Australia, something I expect will be happening again today.

Last time the company also were one of the first to trial a ‘Google Hangout’ via Google Plus.

Good to see what may be conceived by some as a fairly traditional offline brand adopting digital media so effectively to promote retail sales. Best of luck to Vogue Australia and all the eTailers tonight and let’s hope it serves as inspiration for other companies to try equally innovative digital strategies in the current economic climate.

Coles $500 Gift Card Facebook scam

Another Facebook scam to watch out for, this time a misrepresentation of the Coles brand that suggests users can receive a $500 Gift Card for Christmas by entering some personal details.

The rogue status update looks similar to the screenshot below:

According to comments on Facebook clicking the link has varied outcomes ranging from being asked to complete personal details like mobile phone numbers to populating the affected customer’s profile with the hoax status update.

In a statement on their Facebook page Coles said: “Please be aware the “Free $500 Gift Card for Coles” link to ikeazoneinfo that appeared on Facebook and was distributed via email last night is a hoax and that Coles did not create or endorse this website. We issued a warning on our page as soon as this came to our attention.”

The full Coles status update with more information on what they suggest customers do if they have been tricked by this hoax can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/coles/posts/226790620718294