People who commission websites, like you and I, must be in awe of web designers. That’s the only way I can explain the way that we allow the look and feel of our sites to slavishly follow the styles that are in vogue, and which just happen to have lots of up-to-date, off-the-shelf templates which designers can use and save time. You can date the majority of websites simply by looking at them.
Some of the features which have come and gone weren’t great. Take links and buttons, for example, which I mentioned last week. Once upon a time all links were underlined blue text. If you’re under 30, you probably can’t imagine a web where everything looked like this. Then designers started experimenting with different colours (confusing), removing the underlines (design at the expense of functionality), buttons (which worked, in moderation), animations (which made everybody sick), rounded corner buttons (cute), shadows and 3D (which went out of control), flat design (as a reaction), and most recently, ghost buttons. These are the type of buttons which just have the text in a translucent or transparent box.
Now doubt is being cast on the effectiveness of this latest trend. Research has shown that stronger contrast between elements reduces the time taken to find information. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who uses the proven technique of Common Sense. But the lesson to learn is that we should not be afraid to question website designers. Make them explain why they’ve chosen a particular way of doing things. In many cases, their only answer will be because Noupe or Smashing have told them that’s the trendy thing to do at the moment. And that’s not good enough.
The videos we put together for anyone who asks are slideshows, and even if you don’t want to go to the expense of getting someone to make these for you, we encourage you to create them yourself. They don’t just have to use static backgrounds, however. There are a number of sites offering short video clips free of charge, including blurred ones which are ideal for this purpose. The good people at Noupe have compiled a list at High-Quality Stock Videos: 20 Free (or Almost Free) Sites to Download which is well worth bookmarking.
Alternatively, you can blur your own video to use as a background in Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.
Expect to see an increasing number of sites using video as a standard background in future. The new sample theme for WordPress, Twenty Seventeen, has a video header which is likely to inspire a lot of designers to go down this path.
Here’s something to consider next time you have your website redesigned. There are at least half a dozen widely used web browsers, and two or three widely used operating systems. My own website had 50 different combinations of browser and operating system visit it just last month, and that’s before we start looking at the different versions of each browser. Now, most experienced designers know full well that the way different browsers interpret the code behind a page is so different that no two representations are going to be alike without fiddling and compromise. However, that’s exactly what the designers do, in attempt to make the page display as identically as possible for every visitor. It costs a lot of money, and involves a lot of tweaks, some of which may later make the whole site fail to display properly. As the client, you’d be upset if you knew how much time was wasted by the designer on this activity.
So why do they aim for this identical display nirvana, without asking? Because client after client in the past has discovered unexpected inconsistencies from browser to browser in their precious signed-off design …and they’ve asked the designer to fix them (without offering to pay for the effort involved). So it just becomes standard practice to fiddle and compromise from the outset, to attempt to make the site look identical in all browsers. The designer would like to give you rounded corners on that panel, but they’d turn out square on one particular browser, and that would be pointed out as a “fault” …so they avoid the round corners in the first place. And on it goes.
If – as a client – you would say up front that you don’t mind the site looking different from browser to browser, so long as it looks good, and functions well, the designer could produce a much better job. But don’t expect them to voluntarily suggest this approach, because they’ll have tried it with many clients in the past, and eventually given up after the 17th managing director in a year said: “the new website didn’t look exactly the same on my old home PC as it did on the one in the office, please fix it”. Read Websites Shouldnt Look The Same Across Different Browsers …Here Is Why on Noupe for a more in-depth explanation.
A fundamental skill requirement has crept into the marketing function over the past few years: the ability to write good prose. Now that everyone’s a publisher, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid having to write material which gets presented to the public directly. There’s always something which is so urgent there’s not time to outsource it to a professional writer, and few small or medium sized companies have in-house copywriting specialists.
Even if you don’t have an aspect of the English language which constantly perplexes you, I’d recommend reading Tools and Resources for Grammar, Copywriting, Spelling and More on Noupe, which will point you in the direction of some brilliant online resources for improving your writing. From conquering “the most feared punctuation on earth” to examples of great headlines and “killer” copywriting words, it’s all here.
This is great. FAQ Pages: Best Practices and Examples on Noupe reminds us all of how important “Frequently Asked Questions” pages are, and how we can use them effectively. And as I’ve mentioned before, many people type questions into search engines (rather unthinkingly). If your website has the actual question there, and not just the answers, guess who comes up top in Google for that question?