The importance of strong imagery for website design

In today’s digitally-focused world, it’s vital that businesses of all shapes and sizes recognise the importance of maintaining a strong online presence.

And, when it comes to designing a good quality website that is able to connect and engage with your audience in a way that inspires action, triggers emotion, and grabs the attention of your target market, it’s vital that you recognise the significance of strong imagery.

Imagery is extremely important in website design, playing a crucial role in capturing the attention of visitors. After all, they do say that a picture paints a thousands words, right?

In fact, a huge amount of research that has proven that people are more likely to recall images than words.

Here are just some of the reasons why strong imagery is crucial in website design:

Create a great first impression

In today’s increasingly crowded digital environment, it’s vital that your website is able to grab the attention of your target market from the second they land on your site.

This starts by choosing the right images, as imagery plays a massive role in the overall experience and performance of your website. Ultimately, your main goal should always be to make a great first impression.

Influence behaviours

Images have the ability to inspire action and showcase a product, service or destination in the best possible light, but they can also modify behaviours, creating an element of trust between the business and the consumer.

Increase conversion rates

A website that contains high impact visuals is more likely to achieve higher conversion rates than a text heavy website because the human brain reacts and responds more to images than intimidating blocks of heavy text.

In fact, research has proven that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual and images are processed approximately 60,000 times faster than text.

Convey a greater understanding

Another advantage of incorporating images into the design of your website is that they convey a greater understanding of a product or service. After all, the majority of consumers like to see what they are purchasing, especially if they aren’t able to see it in person.

If a visitor finds your website difficult to navigate and the information hard to consume, they will simply look elsewhere and try another site.

With this in mind, it’s important to find the perfect balance between words and text, and a good website will incorporate the right amount of both. A site designed for AG Events, a business specialising in photo booth hire for weddings and other special occasions, is a great example of a site that boasts a number of high impact images that are relatable, eye-catching and memorable.

AG Events
AG Events’ website

The website is easy to navigate, simple and easy to digest, but most importantly, the designer has used a number of vibrant colour ways that instantly grab the audience’s attention.

Are you overcomplicating your signup forms?

180 Training

180 Training

Photo Credit: 180 Training – Re-Training Opportunities

Do you offer a newsletter subscription or opt-in mailing list through your website? Have you given much thought to the amount of time and effort it takes your readers to use these forms?

When it comes down to it, the question boils down to: how much information do you really need to sign somebody up to a mailing list? Do you need any postal information? Perhaps if you send a lot of physical samples or mail-shots. Do you need to know the user’s age? Perhaps if your product is particularly age-sensitive. Presumably however, in the majority of instances, you really do not need much information at all.

I’ve included a screenshot of 180 Training’s newsletter sign up form. 180 Training offer flexible learning solutions for young adults. By taking up re-training opportunities, their students can change their career trajectory and shift into new directions. Take a look at the screenshot above. Their web designers Sleeky Web Design have made it remarkably simple! Enter your name and your email, press ‘Sign Up’ – job’s done!

Take a look at your own mailing list signup form. Does it include any unnecessary forms for entry? If it’s longer than 2 or 3 fields, you may be taking too much of your readers time, potentially losing customers.

Using Icons on your website

The internet has become increasingly visual in years gone by. Where now there are plenty of external websites and services website owners wish to link to (social networks, repositories, content providers etc). Logos are also used to symbolise key aspects of a businesses offer: their range of services, partners or products.

Whilst modern browsers make things easier by allowing website designers to include high-resolution graphics (like SVG) for use as icons, third-party scripts such as FontAwesome now allow anybody to make use of high quality icons for their website.

Whilst using icons in your website has become easier, how do you make sure that you are doing it right? We take a look at 3 websites which use icons in their website designs exceptionally well.


Snapstorm – Marketing for Today

Snapstorm Icons
Snapstorm Icons

Isle of Man-based marketing agency Snapstorm offer a variety of choices for their clients to enrich their marketing campaigns. Their website makes use of a variety of icons to make it clearer to users what exactly each service is attempting to describe.

Not only do the icons serve to anchor the user on their website, but photographs alongside each segment also serve to give a better idea of the practical application for each service.

Pharmacy Seekers – Pharmacies for Sale

Pharmacy Seekers Icons
Pharmacy Seekers Icons

London-based UK pharmacy sales company Pharmacy Seekers are dedicated to achieving the maximum value for their clients who wish to purchase or start their own pharmacy business.

The icons on their website, particularly those on the front page, help describe exactly what service they offer. The icons perfectly align with the message trying to be put across, that a readers grasp of English need not even be perfect, they are likely to understand what Pharmacy Seekers offer without a full grasp of the language.

Sleeky Web Design & Print

Sleeky Icons
Sleeky Icons

Sleeky are a web and graphic design agency based in the North East of England. Their offer top-shelf web-design packages alongside highly attentive brand designs.

Their use of icons here helps to give a better context to describe the services they are offering. The web design icon for example clearly shows both a mobile device and a desktop computer, this helps to signify that their website designs are responsive for screen sizes large and small.


I hope that this blog article has helped show you some of the importance surrounding quality icon usage. It’s possibly to design your own icons or download many of the available, royalty-free icons from the internet.

Icons can help you get your message across in a visual way without breaking immersion.

5 Stunning & Effective White Websites

As a web designer, one of the problems you may face is convincing a client that throwing all the crayons in the box at the screen doesn’t always work – white websites can be just as effective and visually stunning as those with full palettes. Here are five examples of sites doing a great job with a minimal colour scheme…

Gitman Shirts

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 14.33.04

This strikingly simple website for a shirt maker lets the colours of the products get the message across – the majority of the page is beautifully white and clear, making navigation an absolute breeze and the content a joy to take in.

Stand Up To Cancer

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 14.33.07

A ‘digital canvas’ allowing visitors to learn about all the ways they can help raise money and awareness of cancer research. The minimal design isn’t 100% minimal – there are splashes of watercolours and hand drawn items throughout the page.

Orchestre De Paris

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 14.33.29

An adventure in sound is how this site is best described, with interactive symphonies the user can take part in using their mouse or trackpad. The white minimalist design is stunning, with the interactive elements adding a splash of life to the user experience.

Prestwick Care Home Group

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 14.34.02

A beautifully simple UI combined with immersive streaming video makes this introduction to a care homes north east provider informative and visually stimulating. The site has a beautifully minimal user interface and the information presented throughout is easy to find with nothing more than three clicks away at any time.

Sabe Masson

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 14.31.41

The French fragrance house has a suitably minimal website, with black and white photography, gorgeous typography and oodles of sexy white space.

Auto-Scrolling Image Carousels

Chances are at least 50% of the websites you’ve visited today have featured a scrolling/rotating image slider carousel taking up most of the homepage. The idea is to give a snapshot of a companies offering – products, services, special offers, latest news – but what is the reality? Are carousels a useful tool or a waste of valuable onscreen real estate?

advanceAdvance Flow Pack’s carousel allows users to scroll through their range of wrapping machines at their own pace.

A lot of the time, people will see something on a website and be impressed by the movement or graphics, thus the idea is stuck in their heads and they insist on having a similar feature on their own website. This is not a decision based on effectiveness, rather it’s a shallow way of planning a website.

Various organisations and companies have tested people’s reactions to image carousels and the feedback is not positive – the overall results show that auto scrolling carousels are terrible for business. Often users will look straight past them, as they look like banner adverts, and if they do notice them they become frustrated at the information changing before they’ve had a chance to find what they were looking for.

j3

This banner works as the call to action remains static whilst allowing high quality photos of previous projects of this Newcastle Builders to rotate in the background

So what’s the solution? If a client asks for a banner, you can’t just refuse. Here are the options:

  • Put control in the hands of the user – add navigation options so they can scroll through at their own pace. You get the impact of the large image without the frustration of missing it.
  • Use a static banner to communicate your main point – ideally the banner space should provide users with the ability to find what they’re looking for immediately, make the most of their one second attention span.
  • Don’t overstyle the banners – the more it stands out from the rest of the page, the more it looks like an external advertisment, so keep it relatively simple.
  • Ditch the whole concept of banners and simply start the actual web content at the top of the page.

monarch

This banner is static, and smaller than usual – the user instantly knows their looking at a range of flood protection products.

What makes a good website?

A modern website needs to be focussed in its goals to be successful. The days of throwing a few pictures and some quickly put together content up in a table based site are gone – now we need to analyse users’ behaviour and create clear journeys through the site towards a goal – be it an enquiry, a sale or signing up to a mailing list.

To examine some features which make a modern website successful we’ll take a look at edwardscleaningltd.com, a new website for a north east cleaning contractor which ticks all of the boxes.

Responsive Design
First things first, it’s 2015 and just as many of us swipe and tap a mobile device as click a mouse on a computer. This site is responsive, meaning it adjust the layout and size of elements to fit the screen it is being viewed on. Not only does this mean it’s more useful to half your target audience, but Google’s recent changes mean it will rank higher in search results.

Blog / News
A blog or news section allows a business to connect with its customers and this site does it well. It’s well written and doesn’t take itself too seriously, meaning it’s easier to read and remember. Google also loves fresh content so keeping this up to date will help with SEO.

Social Media Links
All businesses should have a presence on social media sites like Twitter and Linkedin. It helps create connections, it improves SEO and it gives you more opportunity to find new customers through sharing. Edward’s uses social media well and links to it’s accounts through the website.

Clearly Laid Out Sections
Having information presented clearly and distinctly allows users to locate exactly what they’re looking for almost immediately – and studies have shown a website has under a second to make an impression on a user.

Icons
Icons are a graphical way of representing important areas and features, and the Edwards Cleaning homepage uses these perfectly to drive traffic to their main service offerings.

Newsletter Signup
Gathering users’ data allows a business to sell to them on a regular basis. By inviting users to signup to a newsletter you’re not only gaining a chance to keep them informed of your latest products and services, you have made a connection with them which you can build on going forward.

Why your website needs a contact form

Contact Us

Contact Forms are a highly efficient way of opening lines of communication between your organisation and potential customers. A well designed form can entice users to get in touch with you, but receiving their message is only one of the benefits these powerful tools offer. Below we summarise the benefits of having a contact form.

Gathering customers data

When someone fills in a form on your site you will receive an email containing their message, enabling you to engage them directly. But the really useful information going forward is the contact details they provide. In a few seconds you have gained a potential customer as well as their email address, their telephone number, where they’re based, and a good idea of what kind of service they’re looking for. Add that to your prospects list and you know who to target with your latest offers – you know they’ll be interested if it’s something they enquired about previously.

Collecting Customer Opinions

Find out what your customers think of your products and services, how they get on using your website, and what they expect or desire in future. A well placed contact form on your website is an excellent way of harvesting customer feedback and building this into your future marketing strategy.

Reducing spam sent to your inbox

Because a contact form is handled server side, spam bots can’t harvest your email address and subject you to months of messages selling dodgy pills or offering you a share in a deceased African Prince’s estate. Time is money and spam eats time.

What makes a good contact form?

It’s all well and good having a form on your webpage, but if it doesn’t appeal to site visitors you may find it doesn’t bring in as much feedback as you’d hope for. These simple tips can help ensure a successful contact form.

Keep It Simple

Don’t make your customer work to send you a message – it should be straightforward, like this form from Ruen Thai Newcastle Massage. Three simple fields to fill in, stacked neatly on top of each other as to be easy to read, and the business has the contact details of a potential customer, ready to be informed of special offers or new services.

Don’t Ask For Too Much Information OMG! TMI!

Not only does a website user not want to spend more than a few minutes filling in your contact form – they shouldn’t have to. Bear in mind it’s their time and they’re more likely to complete a form if there is less than 6 fields. This form from Student Grove is a great example of a good, concise form – 5 fields, only 3 of which are required information. A user should have filled in this form in under 5 minutes, unlike this monster from FedEx – which has TEN compulsory fields for a user to fill in.

Leave Out The Captcha

Captcha images are those annoying little images which you have to decode and enter into a text field in order to send a message to a website. These are great for you – it means spam bots can’t fill your inbox with garbage. But think of the customer first – it’s a real hassle for them to fill it in, and if the user has eyesight issues they often can’t use them at all. Those few seconds you spend sifting through spam is a price worth paying for an extra customer enquiry.

Five great OpenCart extensions

Opencart Logo

OpenCart is one of world’s leading ecommerce platforms. It’s popularity is partly due to its simplicity, which makes it possible for the average web designer to learn and create custom templates – advanced PHP / programming knowledge is not necessarily required.

However there is also a huge community of developers offering free and paid for extensions for the software. Therefore whatever modification your client wants, there is usually something already developed to do this.

Here are five of the best extensions out there:

1). Mega Filter PRO – $19.99

An excellent extension that truly takes your online shop to another level. Visitors can instantly filter a variety of data such as price and options to find exactly what they’re looking for. This makes it an essential for fashion stores in particular. See it in action by clicking here.

2). MailChimp Integration – $35.00

OpenCart’s newsletter function is some what limited, especially in comparison to that of specialist email marketing services. This extension allows you to export and sync your OpenCart mailing data with MailChimp. Now all you have to do is create a pretty template.

3). Admin Advanced Products Filter – $12.99

If your store has hundreds or thousands of products, this plugin is an essential. It makes finding and editing a particular product a breeze with loads of new filtering options opposed to OpenCart’s default five (product name, model, price, quantity and status).

4). OpenStock – $50.00

Openbay Pro is now a default module on OpenCart due to its game changing integration with marketplaces such as ebay. OpenStock further builds upon this by allowing the syncing of products with multiple options. Sleeky, a company offering Web Design Newcastle, recently used this to good effect on www.butlerandsymonds.com.

5). Product Sort Orders – $25.00

Last but not least is Product Sort Orders. Positioning those must have products above the fold is no longer a pain, with this extension’s funky drag and drop functionality.

Have you gone responsive yet?

Responsive Web Design

Photo credit: Forklift Solutions Ltd

Last year’s web design buzzword was most definitely responsive web design.

With ever increasing mobile and tablet usage, responsive design has emerged as the undisputed solution for web designers.

A dedicated mobile website is no longer adaptable or flexible enough to cope with the proliferation of device / browser sizes. A mobile website also is a potential headache in terms of updating and duplicate content, as many a web designer will testify.

If you’re still weighing up the additional development time or web design costs, we list reasons for going responsive:

SEO – it is noticeable how responsive websites have been given a ranking boost in the last few months by Google. For example in May ne-web.com, teamvalleyweb.co.uk and sleeky.co.uk were the top three ranked websites for ‘web design newcastle’. Fast forward to September and sitely.co.uk has come from nowhere to #2, despite having a fraction of the backlinks and less established on-site optimisation. It is also the only site of the four that is responsive.

Future proofing the release of the new iPhone just days ago highlights the ever changing landscape of device and browser sizes. You may remember accessing the Internet on your WAP phone 10 years ago, and how things have changed. So imagine what the future will bring in 10 years time? Responsive design future proofs against this to an extent.

Maximise your visitors – with certain industries getting as much as 50% of their visits from mobile devices, not catering for this is like a shop and restaurant not accepting card payments. Fickle web users don’t need much excuse for tapping the dreaded cross, so don’t give them one!