Monthly Archives: January 2017

Some Principles Of Effective Web Design

Like the phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, effective web design is judged by the users of the website and not the website owners. There are many factors that affect the usability of a website, and it is not just about form (how good it looks), but also function (how easy is it to use).

Websites that are not well designed tend to perform poorly and have sub-optimal Google Analytics metrics (e.g. high bounce rates, low time on site, low pages per visit and low conversions). So what makes good web design? Below we explore the top 10 web design principles that will make your website aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, engaging, and effective.

1. PURPOSE
Good web design always caters to the needs of the user. Are your web visitors looking for information, entertainment, some type of interaction, or to transact with your business? Each page of your website needs to have a clear purpose, and to fulfill a specific need for your website users in the most effective way possible.

2. COMMUNICATION
People on the web tend to want information quickly, so it is important to communicate clearly, and make your information easy to read and digest. Some effective tactics to include in your web design include: organising information using headlines and sub headlines, using bullet points instead of long windy sentences, and cutting the waffle.

3. TYPEFACES
In general, Sans Serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana are easier to read online (Sans Serif fonts are contemporary looking fonts without decorative finishes). The ideal font size for reading easily online is 16px and stick to a maximum of 3 typefaces in a maximum of 3 point sizes to keep your design streamlined.

4. COLOURS
A well thought out colour palette can go a long way to enhance the user experience. Complementary colours create balance and harmony. Using contrasting colours for the text and background will make reading easier on the eye. Vibrant colours create emotion and should be used sparingly (e.g. for buttons and call to actions). Last but not least, white space/ negative space is very effective at giving your website a modern and uncluttered look.

5. IMAGES
A picture can speak a thousand words, and choosing the right images for your website can help with brand positioning and connecting with your target audience. If you don’t have high quality professional photos on hand, consider purchasing stock photos to lift the look of your website. Also consider using infographics, videos and graphics as these can be much more effective at communicating than even the most well written piece of text.

6. NAVIGATION
Navigation is about how easy it is for people to take action and move around your website. Some tactics for effective navigation include a logical page hierarchy, using bread crumbs, designing clickable buttons, and following the ‘three click rule’ which means users will be able to find the information they are looking for within three clicks.

7. GRID BASED LAYOUTS
Placing content randomly on your web page can end up with a haphazard appearance that is messy. Grid based layouts arrange content into sections, columns and boxes that line up and feel balanced, which leads to a better looking website design.

8. “F” PATTERN DESIGN
Eye tracking studies have identified that people scan computer screens in an “F” pattern. Most of what people see is in the top and left of the screen and the right side of the screen is rarely seen. Rather than trying to force the viewer’s visual flow, effectively designed websites will work with a reader’s natural behaviour and display information in order of importance (left to right, and top to bottom).

9. LOAD TIME
Everybody hates a website that takes ages to load. Tips to make page load times more effective include optimising image sizes (size and scale), combining code into a central CSS or JavaScript file (this reduces HTTP requests) and minify HTML, CSS, JavaScript (compressed to speed up their load time).

10: MOBILE FRIENDLY
It is now commonplace to access websites from multiple devices with multiple screen sizes, so it is important to consider if your website is mobile friendly. If your website is not mobile friendly, you can either rebuild it in a responsive layout (this means your website will adjust to different screen widths) or you can build a dedicated mobile site (a separate website optimised specifically for mobile users).

It is easy to create a beautiful and functional website, simply by keeping these design elements in mind. Have you got a website design that needs reviewing or optimising? Or perhaps, you are planning a website and you are looking to get the design right from the ground up. Either way, these principles of effective web design can help your website be more engaging, useful, and memorable for visitors.

Should Know How Big is WordPress Exactly

WordPress is aiming for 50% market share, in Matt Mullenweg’s own words from an interview with Kitchen Sink WordPress:

The next goal is the majority of websites. We want to get to 50%+ and there’s a lot of work between now and then. As the percentage increases, it gets harder and harder to grow the market share, and we have to grow the market share by doing things we haven’t done in the past – really thinking about the onboarding process, really thinking about the integration with social networks, and with how WordPress works on touch devices, which is going to be the predominant computing platform of the future. These things are going to be really important.

What got us here isn’t going to get us there. Once we get to 50%, we can decide something new we want to do.
Right now, WordPress claims a 24% share. We decided to dig through the statistics to try and find out a bit more about where they come from, what they really mean and how WordPress may need to adapt to hit its target – and if such a seemingly ambitious target is reasonable.
Of course, one must bear in mind the scale of the web: 24% market share is huge. As I began writing this post, WordPress 4.2 (the latest version) had been downloaded 48,258,660 times. In just the time until I finished it, that figure had risen to 48,282,215 (23.5k downloads).
So, now, the results of my research – beginning with what exactly makes up that 24% figure and what it means for WordPress.

24%: Says Who?

The figure of 24% (or 24.2%, more precisely) comes from W3Techs’ analysis. Of the websites they monitor, a quarter of all of them use WordPress CMS.
Obviously, not all websites use a CMS – in fact, 58.6% of the websites W3Techs analyzed aren’t using a CMS that they monitor for. There is a caveat here – they may not be able to detect it if the website has hidden it or if the CMS is especially obscure or bespoke. Since that’s not the case for most websites, the figure provided by W3Techs can by-and-large be taken as representative.
Out of the remaining 41.3% that do use a content management system, the figure of 58.6% (entirely coincidentally) resurfaces. So, in terms of market share among websites that already use a CMS, WordPress has already surpassed the halfway mark.

That becomes the case even more if you consider each separate WordPress.com website as an installation, which W3Techs largely don’t – they’ll only count a WordPress.com website as a separate WordPress website if it has its own URL, rather than a *.wordpress.com one.

Considering the next most popular CMS by W3Techs’ metrics makes the statistics for WordPress yet more impressive. While not insignificant, Joomla’s 2.8% of the web (as opposed to WordPress at 24.2%) rather pales in comparison – and while WordPress’ use is booming, Joomla’s is declining.
In this light, WordPress’ (and also Automattic’s) influence over such huge portions of the web – particularly the sections that publish – is extensive to say the least.
The figures W3Techs has compiled are, naturally, not a
complete reflection of the web. Even Google can’t know about every single website out there (as hard as it might try). W3Techs actually looks only at the top ten million Alexa-ranked websites on the web. That’s likely to discount quite a lot of WordPress-powered blogs (even active ones) and other websites, so while being a measure obviously designed to make statistical analysis practical, there’s no guarantee that it’s a representative sample of the web. Nevertheless, it does give the best reflection we can really hope to get.

Who Is (And Isn’t) Using WordPress?

As noted, the statistics we’re using are potentially not a completely representative sample, but within that sample, WordPress is by far the most used CMS platform. Although Drupal sites tend to have more traffic, WordPress is in line with most other CMS platforms on that front.

WordPress lags behind Drupal in high-traffic sites, though one could hypothesize that there could be a lot of high-traffic WordPress sites whose averages are pulled down by the sheer number of lower-traffic sites.
However, as I discovered when I looked individually at the top 250 Alexa sites, only six used WordPress and only two of those used WordPress to power the whole website – those two, incidentally, were WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
In terms of the highest ranked sites, the trend seems to be that media organizations were using WordPress (quite a common theme in some of the highest ranked sites anyway) to publish less formal content, often from contributors as opposed to the organizations’ editorial staff. The web is undoubtedly revolutionizing the media and these sorts of contributions are rapidly replacing full-paid editorial staff, not least because it’s much easier and cheaper to have subtly “sponsored” content. A prime example is The Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free section which, although not WordPress, is a good example as one of the most-read online publications. The debate over whether this is a healthy state for traditional print media is one for another time, but this more “bloggy” content from large organizations is likely to make WordPress an increasingly viable option.
However, the big players are far from everything, and WordPress’ huge share comes from the millions using the platform for their smaller sites.

Even though it makes up ~0.00001% of W3Tech’s 24.2% figure, WordPress.com is a good indicator of what many other, smaller self-hosted sites are using WordPress for: creating pages on a website, often with blogs. Blogging is what WordPress started out for and while it has developed into a full CMS subsequently, this is what a big part of its use is still going to be about. Naturally, there are different interpretations of its blogging features – variously used for traditional blogging, press releases and organizational news – but in essence they’re doing the same thing.
Clearly, for running relatively simple sites, WordPress ticks all the boxes with its core features: ease in picking and changing designs, blogging, page, easy image and file integration, security and friendly UX. Then, of course, there’s the cost advantage.

What Else Could WordPress Do?

Automattic has been going to a great deal of trouble to expand what WordPress can do, because one of the platform’s greatest strengths is obviously the range of extra features its plugins can add; from forums, to social networks, to eCommerce. The latter is especially important given that Automattic just bought the company behind WooCommerce for US$30,000,000. It’s significant because these are areas where WordPress isn’t used; platforms like Magento, specifically built for eCommerce, has 2.8% of the CMS market share (1.2% overall Web share), with nearly a quarter of a million users. This is one area where WordPress doesn’t control the market as much as it could, and it seems Automattic wants to remedy that.
And who else isn’t using WordPress? Well, that 58% not using any measured CMS at all is quite a large audience to target. There are all sorts of different websites under the “no measured CMS” banner. Many will be using bespoke solutions, perhaps because they feel that WordPress can’t be flexible enough to cater to their individual site’s needs.
It would seem logical that going forward, it’s going to gradually get more difficult to attract more users to the platform. This is because increasingly narrow features will need to be added to attract more difficult users, without undermining the simplicity of the systems its existing users enjoy.
In saying that, the market segment that will obviously have to be tackled since it occupies more than half (even if some gains are made from other CMS platforms) is those websites not using tracked CMS (ie. including bespoke solutions).
Reaching 50%: A Worthwhile Target?

It’s worth asking if that 50% web share is a worthwhile target to pursue, in a number of senses.

Firstly, WordPress and its most influential affiliates (i.e. Automattic) have made clear aims to “democratize publishing”. It could quite well be asked whether this big aim can obtained by achieving an even larger market dominance, potentially pushing out other innovation. Of course, everyone on the internet is free to use whichever platform they please, but aiming to move to what could become an oligopoly or even effective monopoly market could arguably stifle any innovation through new platforms. Many states will regulate, or at least monitor, this in most industries and it could be suggested that this 50% aim could be irresponsible – leading to a less desirable position than the market as a whole is currently in.
Perhaps a more pertinent question is how achievable this particular target is; it’s arguably beyond pointless to have an unrealistic target, even putting aside questions about the consequences of such aims.

While the number of people not using a CMS is decreasing and WordPress is filling the gap, plenty of websites with more custom features – such as eCommerce – will need a lot of convincing to move to WordPress. Many still feel that platforms designed specifically for their needs are better than WordPress with a plugin – and this might apply, for instance, to community sites too: would vBulletin users consider abandoning such a mature platform for bbPress?
That’s not to say that it’s impossible to convert these users from other established platforms, or their bespoke solutions: WordPress just has to offer the best functionality as well as the obvious attraction of the cost savings it provides. Again, that’s not impossible, but it will require a lot of hard work, and potentially more marketing than has been required for the first quarter share. WordPress’ best advocates are its own users, so breaking through into these new areas – a charge apparently being led by Automattic – is going to require a steady stream of people converting.
It seems then, that the 50% target may well be achievable with huge investment in plugins to develop new functionality and resources on top of a modern, future-ready core platform.

Theseus’ paradox is often brought up with regard to the future of the WordPress platform. It’s a thought experiment that asks whether something with all its components changed is still the same thing. But actually, the future seems to lie not necessarily in what the Core platform becomes, other than essential modernization to make it completely fit for a mobile web. The success of the platform in breaking into new areas of the market, as Automattic seems to recognize in its huge investments in companies like WooThemes, is going to be adding the extra functionality with the quality people will need to be convinced that WordPress is better for their needs than the established providers’ services.
Summary

The 24% share WordPress has right now isn’t determined by a flawless metric, as we’ve seen. Within the CMS marketplace, it has already surpassed the milestone of half the market share, and now it’s aiming to do that with the web as a whole. It will be up against it to break through into bespoke CMS and non-CMS users’ marketplace though, although it will be essential to tackle this if WordPress is to succeed in what it has set out to achieve.

To do this, it’s going to need to be able to continue proving its worth as a modern platform, something it’s already able to do well, improving with every new version release. More importantly, it’s going to need to show that it’s better than the standalone platforms, by providing functionality through improved plugins. A big focus will obviously be on eCommerce, as more and more businesses take to the web with its growing number of users.

While some questions still remain as to whether WordPress’ and Automattic’s plans are advisable, if it goes about it the right way there shouldn’t be too much doubt that WordPress will extend its influence across the web even more. With its growing support for many languages, there’s a good chance it will become internationally and widely-used for an even more diverse range of purposes.

Tips to Help Your Clients with WordPress SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), most of us would agree, is vital in ensuring the success of many clients’ WordPress websites.

If nobody finds your client’s site, that client isn’t going to get business from it and they’re not going to be able to justify spending any more on it (i.e. on you) in the future. A bit of SEO can make a big difference to your client’s feelings about the Web, and can bring a lot of money your way from projects as a result of recommendations, or anything else that clients needs.
The problem? SEO takes time: lots of it.

Nevertheless, your clients cannot be expected to know how to optimize their sites alone – not least because effective SEO practice changes with such frequency; mostly at the whim of Google’s algorithmic variance. And it won’t do to allow their sites to become neglected – that wastes their money and won’t bring anything new to you in future.
There are ways to get the best of both worlds, though, by making sure your clients have excellent search engine rankings without the necessary steps being too much of a drain on your time – and what time you do invest will be paid upfront and well worth it in terms of overall client satisfaction and future work coming your way. This article will guide you through a few of the most effective ways to make this compromise work for both you and your clients.
Include SEO From the Beginning

First things first: You need to explain what SEO is and why it’s important for your client.
Another point is that keeping things simple to start off with for clients is probably a good idea. Many will not have heard of SEO before, much less thought about how to use it effectively to improve their business; to this end, using Google as the reference point for what you’re aiming at might be worthwhile – and anything else you can do to avoid confusion or information overload for the client. Make things as simple as possible to begin with and you can introduce more at a later date.

One nice easy task to get the client started with is setting up a business presence on Google+ if they haven’t already – they can even do this while their site is still being developed. Although not pure SEO, it will improve their Web presence and make their pages look better on Google results.

Set up new Google+ Business Page.
Setting up a business presence on Google+ can be favourable for the world’s most popular search engine. It’s simple enough that your client should be able to create one themselves.

Take Advantage of Existing Software
As a WordPress developer, you’ve got the power of plugins at your disposal, which can make lots of things easier. SEO is no exception.
Having explained the importance of SEO, you can offer your client an SEO plugin install and configuration on their project for a small extra cost. There are some very good SEO plugins available free in the repository, such as WordPress SEO by Yoast, which includes a helpful traffic-light-style visual representation of how good SEO is on any given post or page.

Yoast SEO free WordPress plugin
You should also use a keyword monitoring tool by adding Google Analytics code or activating the Site Stats module of the Jetpack plugin. These will show the user which keywords are getting them the most success and on which content, enabling them to tailor their future content to cater to these successful areas in a more focused way.
Since you want to give your client a fighting chance with SEO when they first start out, you can offer – again, for a reasonable fee – to have a few of their site’s first pages (e.g. the About page if they will have one) written in an SEO-friendly manner before the site is handed over to them. If you don’t want to be doing this, you can still offer the service but find a freelance writer who’s good at following instructions and has a good grasp of SEO concepts; take a small cut of the fee the client’s paying for the writing.
Offer SEO Training

So far, nothing I’ve suggested will actually be a huge drain on your time – the biggest would be configuring the settings of an SEO plugin, but they’re generally quite good to start with and require only a few minor tweaks. Now, however, let’s consider something that does require more time – but can absolutely be worth it for you and your client if you do it well.

SEO training is something you can have as a separate service, sold independently of your Web projects – although you should advise it for any SEO-conscious client alongside a new website. Using quite a bit of your time as it would do, you can charge a premium rate for it; the justification for clients is that it should overall improve their business’s prospects for the Web if they make the most of their session and go away with knowledge on how to boost their online impact.
What exactly needs to be included in such a training session will depend on a number of factors. Primarily, the client’s current understanding – do they have a vague idea of why keywords might be useful already, or are you going to have to explain that “Google” and “the Internet” are not synonymous? The amount of time available (roughly one hour per session is advisable) and changing SEO trends will also play a part, but the basics probably include:

Reiterating why SEO is so crucial for their business – getting found by the right people equals more sales.
The importance of writing content for their site’s blog regularly. Having a blog will give their rankings a boost in some search engines anyway (an advantage of blog-centric WordPress as a CMS platform) and writing regularly allows them to build a following of people who see them as an authority; post regular, interesting social media updates if they have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other websites; over time, create a large amount of SEO-friendly content for people to find in search engines.
How to write SEO-friendly content, including:
Using the SEO plugin, if you’ve installed one, to create good browser titles, descriptions and perform useful analysis.

Coming up with eye-catching titles.
Writing content of an appropriate length – less than 400 words will generally be considered “thin” content, whereas Google is looking for high-quality, helpful content.
Weaving in keywords to their content, including linking them and making them bold to improve SEO. In saying this, content should still flow well and be interesting for humans to read it or they’ll just leave and it’ll be pointless.
Never, ever, ever plagiarizing content – duplicating another site’s content will lead to penalties, not a quick boost.
Noting again how crucial blogging will be: they need to stick at it, creating a bank of good content, and results will start appearing over time.
Generally, you should try to keep at least the initial sessions as simple as possible – once the client is confused, it’s hard to get back on track without wasting a lot of the session.
Given the ever-changing nature of SEO, you can offer your clients refresher sessions in the future. This way, you keep your clients’ techniques up-to-date, their sites fresh and bringing in business (reflecting well on you as the developer) and keep earning on the sales of the sessions.
You could also consider compiling a booklet for those who have taken the session to refer to (again, this could be sold as an extra if you wish), updating it with new trends. This might also help you keep up if you spend a lot of time doing things other than SEO because you’ll have to dedicate a little time to finding out anything new.

Build a Network of Affiliates

Development isn’t everything in the Web business, but if you’d rather it were, you can make that happen – just make sure your clients don’t miss out on anything important as a result by building a network of affiliates to whom you can outsource various other tasks for them. This does have the advantage of allowing you to have a greater client base as you spend your time only in the one area (development), not in several (SEO, copywriting, and anything else).
If you’re not hot on the idea of giving SEO tutorials then find someone to whom you can refer clients for that training. They’ll still receive the benefits, as will you (active, fresh, successful site to your names) and in fact you could work payment through the agency so you take a small cut.
The same can be the case with freelance writers and SEO copywriters if the client feels that despite SEO training they might not be up to the task, or won’t have enough time. You can negotiate good deals and get the best people for your clients, making your service more valuable and hopefully ensuring your clients stick with you for a long time.
Once you’ve established these ties, you hardly need to invest any more time in them – although you could continue to take a small cut of the fee for setting up the affiliates with the clients. Your clients get good service, your affiliates employment and whilst reaping the benefits of an improved site for your client, you also make a little extra.

Summary

The core message here is that you should be making SEO part of your Web development services because it’s important for the client, and for you to retain the client. Making websites more successful is only going to be a good thing for the client and will keep them enthusiastic about the new opportunities you can offer them on the Web. Yet it needn’t be a loss leader: you can make money out of providing and/or recommending SEO services.
Whether you set up the services in-house or do build relationships with affiliates, it will benefit everybody not to ignore SEO and getting business’ websites found in favour of simply pursuing new development jobs (tempting as that can seem). To do the best for your clients, you need these services available in some form – and you can be paid for it, so what could be better?