Tag Archives: web design

Programming Challenges are With Me Everywhere I Go

image_712016 is shaping up to be a big year in the life cycle of Apoxe.   After letting some competing technologies battle for supremacy its time to re-evaluate the winners, methods, and techniques and vet them against core fundamentals of what Apoxe is so that it can move to the next level.

Taking Apoxe down to the studs so to speak has me excited and anxious to get in there and get geeky.  This reminded me of an article I read a few years ago by Joel Lee that I feel is still relevant and at least for me – reaffirms that I’ve chosen the right profession.  If any aspiring programmers are reading this, I highly recommend you take the time to let the following points sink in.  Its ok, I’ll wait… http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-signs-meant-programmer/

Each point made in his article about why you shouldn’t be a programmer rings true for me on some level.  For example, the first point “You Lack Experimental Creativity” made me chuckle because I can think of a few times that I spent hours coding, only to scrap it later because some revolutionary thought came to me later in the day.  I wasn’t that sad to scrap it, instead I was excited to try a different approach.   Or, You Want Normal Work Hours.   Just this past holiday season I was on the couch programming away ideas for Apoxe while kids were watching TV, and I found it very relaxing. Even in church I may have wondered from the sermon thinking about a lingering problem I wanted to solve.  Programming challenges are with me everywhere I go, and most of the time, I’m OK with that.

As I approach 16 years with TKG, and 20 years (holy crap) since building my first websites –  I feel lucky that challenges that got me hooked on programming and web development have been replaced with new challenges to continue to grow – and that the thought of getting in there to solve them continues to motivate me.

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“Oh I Forgot I Had a Website”

Oh I Forgot I Had a Website ImageWhile it’s not likely that you actually would ever forget that your business has an online presence, but that might be what the content and look of your site tell your visitors.

We all get busy running our businesses and making sure we are selling products. Fortunately, we at TKG are thinking about your website and we care a lot!

We took a look and, trust us, we were equally excited about the big news you announced proudly on your homepage in 2009! Unfortunately, it’s now 2015 so it is not quite as exciting.

That brings us to the photos you have of your team proudly displayed in your About Us or Meet the Group section. Everyone looks great, but unfortunately half of them are now gone as that photo is circa 2005. Or even worse (better?), you now have 30 employees, rather than the 10 shown in the photo.

So all joking aside, what kind of message does this outdated kind of info and look convey to visitors?

  • Do these guys update anything?
  • Are they almost out of business?
  • Is this really a company I want to do business with?

Other recent TKGenius blog posts have talked about the importance of things such as technology, keeping up with browser compatibility and responsive design. What your site says (or doesn’t) can be as important as the technologies used. It’s why we don’t take a one size fits all approach with our clients at TKG. We evaluate what you have, take the time to understand your goals and strategize to make the right recommendations to move your business forward.

So remember that website you have? Go take a look. Are you proud of what it says about your company? Would you want to do business with your company? Is it time for a few updates, a facelift or maybe even a complete overhaul?

We’re here for you. Get connected!

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Responsive Design

Over the years, the ways in which we view the internet have changed dramatically. I still remember the days when my family dialed up the internet on our old Compaq, and now users have the option to access the internet virtually on their TVs, PCs, tablets, smartphones, netbooks or even their refrigerators. The point is, users are accessing your site on a range of different devices, and you want to be seen everywhere you can.

If your company is willing to invest the time, money and resources it takes to create a digital playground where customers can go to discover your products and services, it’s worth adapting that investment to display correctly on all relevant devices.

According to a recent study by the research firm IDC, there were over 1 billion smartphones sold worldwide in 2013, and according to Gartner, over 195 million tablets were sold the same year. With that many mobile internet users in world, it is important that your website is equipped to adapt to those users’ mobile screens.

So what’s the takeaway? To stay current and relevant in the digital space, it is important to consider responsively designed websites. Responsive sites are quickly becoming the industry’s standard because of their ability to adapt to changing technologies, and bonus: they have all sorts of residual business benefits.

Have additional thoughts about responsive design? We’d love to hear them!

Viewing-platforms

 

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The Return of Frames

20 years in the web design business has allowed me to see a lot of change.

So, who remembers frames? You know that clunky, multi-document approach to leaving branding and navigation in place while the user scrolled?

I have fond memories of heated debates I had with our team years ago about frames. Believe it or not, I was a fan of the evil technique. I always felt that leaving navigation and branding in place for the user had some real value.

Navigation is essential for guiding users through a site’s content, and an effective and useful navigation must be accessible and intuitive. Frames allowed essential website elements, like branding and navigation, to stay in place while the rest of the website content moved around it. This made it easy for users to find what they were looking for, no matter where they were on a site.

Of course, I was never a designer or developer, so I didn’t have to deal with the nasty details of making a frames site work.  Let alone the mess that they made for the search engines if not done properly.

As it turns out, a little over a decade later, the concept has returned.  Today it’s done by setting a fixed position of elements from within the CSS.  It’s fair to point out that it’s much cleaner this way and doesn’t require the multiple html docs that frames did.

I’d be willing to bet that many who argued vehemently against frames years ago, if they are still web developers today, have either built or will soon build a site with fixed navigation and branding.  They don’t even realize that they are helping to bring back an old technique they once fought so hard against.

Have additional thoughts about the return of frames? We’d love to hear them!

Get Inspired (and Learn Something New)

When you catch yourself staring at a blank screen, unable to generate ideas, where do you get your inspiration from?

Often times, I take myself out of my digital environment and look to physical products that are built to solve problems or provide solutions for people and study what goes into them.

When planning a website redesign, it’s difficult not to rely on the re-use of features from a previous project. While this inherently has benefits (employing solid, user-tested patterns for features like searching and product list sorting), it can feel like a crutch. Seeking out fresh ideas in the vastness of the inter-webs can even prove trying even for the seasoned developer.

codropsRecently, I happened upon Codrops, a website full of articles, tutorials and demos for web developers and became inspired initially by its fresh perspective on traditional website features.

After looking through several of the demos, I was drawn to continue looking. In addition to the entertaining topics focused on user experience and interaction design, the articles are well written for quick comprehension. The website features do rely on the latest technology available in web browsers, which is increasingly becoming the norm, so it’s good to be looking ahead.

arrowI’m compelled to share this with you so that you can be inspired too. The demos are presented in a simple way that allow you to browse from one to the next (just jump in here and continue navigating with the arrows – which is a great user experience in itself).

Perhaps when it comes to redesigning your website next with TKG, looking for additional ideas here will allow you to contribute in the selections used in making your website an engaging and effective solution for your visitors.

So long, blank screen.

Spotlight On The City of Green, Ohio

City of Green Responsive Website

The City of Green, Ohio (CoG) identified a need to refresh and redesign their old website (http://www.cityofgreen.org) that was originally designed and hosted by TKG.

Green has changed pretty dramatically since the former site was created. It is now a bustling suburban community with more than 25,000 residents. Some small farms still dot the landscape, amid 530-acres of city-owned parkland, homes and subdivisions, office parks, businesses and recreation facilities.

Their website served the community well, but a lack of updating meant that it couldn’t be viewed on some devices, specifically mobile. More than 80% of traffic to their website were returning visitors on a weekly or monthly basis, so it was important that they have a site that could be viewed on the go.

At the same time, and most importantly, the website needed a review and restructuring of the existing content to improve relevance and improve findability (it’s a word, look it up!).

Valerie Wolford - City of Green

For the pivotal task of reviewing and restructuring existing content, we were introduced to Valerie Wolford, Communications Coordinator, as the lead of the project. We have worked with only a few project leads that can compare to Valerie. Her attention to detail and realistic outlook on seeing a project of this magnitude through to the end were invaluable and a joy to see in action. We know it will probably be awhile until we get the opportunity to work with Valerie again, but until then we will be looking forward to it.

Valerie lifted the heavy weight in the beginning of the project by rounding up a staggering amount of factual data from the current website. She polled and interviewed actual visitors and employees alike in an attempt to uncover the true areas to be improved. Out of this research, we determined three core objectives of this project:

  1. Create a responsive design to quickly engage visitors by focusing content to their demographic and interest(s)
  2. Provide CoG with a higher level of stability and content flexibility using APOXE 7, TKG’s latest content management platform
  3. Assist CoG to improve site structure and usability

In order to facilitate the objectives, TKG employed these administrative sections behind the update of the website’s aesthetic design of 17 unique layouts:

 

  • Page Content
  • Community Events (with community submissions)
  • News Articles
  • Real Estate Listings
  • Citizen Alerts
  • Contact Forms
  • Image & Document Directories

This project has come to completion and, for all parties involved, it was a huge success. The City of Green, Ohio will continue to be a progressive, technology-friendly city by improving its web presence by utilizing tools such as search engine optimization, content reorganization and other continued strategies to focus the navigation, tone and user experience on the website.

TKG would like to again extend a thank you to The City of Green, Ohio for the opportunity to work on the project. Congrats on a great site!

 

3 SEO Benefits of Responsive Design

With more and more users accessing the internet on their smartphones and tablets, it has become increasingly important to create websites that work across a variety of devices. Because of its flexible and adaptive qualities, responsive design has quickly become the industry standard for website development.

Responsive design is not only a tool for device adaptability though; there are significant SEO benefits that result from a switch to responsive design. Here are three of the big ones:

responsive

Google likes responsive sites
Google typically favors mobile-optimized sites, especially when those mobile users are searching for local goods and services. Because Google is the world’s largest search engine, and other search engines typically follow Google’s lead, it is a good idea to pay attention to what Google likes.

One website with one URL
From an SEO perspective, responsive sites consistently outperform separate desktop and mobile sites. With a single URL, responsive sites help reduce content duplication issues and improve SEO performance.

Reduces bounce rates
A mobile website can suffer from high bounce rates if users are unable to easily read and interact with the content. Users often get frustrated when sites are not mobile-optimized, so they leave. Responsive designs allow users to enjoy their online experience on any device, which helps reduce bounce rates.

If you would like more information about responsive design, contact the development experts at TKG . And make sure you sign up for our Breakfast Bootcamp on Oct. 16, where we’ll discuss even more SEO benefits of responsive design.

Important Responsive Design Tips

PrintEvery responsive site is a fluid and dynamic creation, so it can be difficult to get a handle on even the basics of responsive design. Luckily, there are a few general tips and techniques that serve as the foundation for nearly every responsive project.

Follow these important responsive design tips and you will be on your way to developing mobile and tablet-friendly websites:

Mobile First
A mobile-first approach to responsive design allows you to prioritize content for mobile devices and work your way up to larger desktop displays. This mobile-first approach ensures that your audience sees the most important content first, no matter what device they’re using.

Content Strategy
The goal of responsive design is to offer the best user experience possible, on all devices. A website redesign is the perfect time to rework your content and make it more readable, valuable and accessible. This emphasis on content strategy shifts the focus of your website development back to the needs of the user and their unique online behaviors.

Initial Design
Once you have a content strategy in place, begin crafting a rough website design on a responsive sketch sheet. The various screen sizes, resolutions and device capabilities available today mean more layouts to plan for. By using a tool designed specifically for responsive design, you can refine your ideas and lay your site’s framework before you begin the actual site development.

Framework
While choosing a CSS framework is mainly a matter of individual preference, incorporating one into your responsive design process offers a number of benefits. A framework can help speed up the development process, reduce browser compatibility issues and streamline your responsive design.

Breakpoints
Once you’ve selected a framework for your site, you must set breakpoints to signal the transition between devices. Some developers set breakpoints based on common screen sizes, but that practice does not totally embrace the flexible and adaptable potential of responsive design. Explore your design to find natural breaks in your content. That’s where you should set your website’s breakpoints.

Scalable images
Images present serious challenges for responsive designs because they need to be fluid enough to adapt to a website’s viewports and text sizes. Resources like adaptive images, CSS sprites and jQuery plugins are available to scale images and interactive media, so you don’t have to worry about warped or disproportionate assets.

If you would like more information about responsive design strategies, contact the development experts at TKG. And don’t miss out on our Breakfast Bootcamp on Oct. 16, where we’ll discuss even more tips and techniques for responsive design.

An Introduction to Responsive Design

In my opinion, the number of tablets, smart phones, laptops, etc that enter the market each week is a bit excessive. Don’t get my wrong, I love all the devices that I use in my daily life, but as a web developer, the more devices available, the more complex my job gets… but I’m up to the challenge!

The Challenge: Ensuring that client website content is easily viewable no matter what device it’s viewed on, while at the same time providing a great user-experience.

Responsive DesignResponsive Design

Back in the early years, this issue was solved by creating a desktop version and a mobile only version of website content. This solution worked for a few years because mobile devices, like the desktops in the early 2000’s, only had a couple of resolution types. Now, with more mobile devices being launched with larger resolution types being required, we needed a better answer.

The Solution: Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Defined as a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices.

“Day by day, the number of devices, platforms,
and browsers that need to work with your site grows.
Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift
in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.” – Jeffrey Veen

Responsive design allows web developers to create a great user experience for all users, no matter what device they’re accessing a website from. The idea behind responsive design is to display/hide different elements on the site depending on the visual space allotted. This means a user could view the site on three different devices and have a different, yet great experience on all three.

Unfortunately, some web developers have yet to implement this crucial technology, which results in people becoming frustrated with websites they’re trying to view on a mobile device or tablet.

Another Solution!
Responsive design isn’t the only answer. In addition to having a website built with mobile in mind, applications are another way to ensure your content is properly represented in mobile environments. Earlier this year we explored mobile applications and although expensive, could be an option for your business to explore.

Has your business already implemented responsive design or launched a mobile app? Share with me in the comments your experience…

Photo credit: http://blogs.forrester.com

Top 3 Traits of Good Web Designers

Good web designers

Coming soon to our office fridge

Obviously, good web designers have project work that visually speaks to you while it simultaneously is pleasing to the eye. Kind of like buying your first house or meeting the love of your life – you just know.

If you’ve done your initial home work on a prospective designer, you’ve discovered there is a good personality match and their references check out. I suppose then this article might best be titled “traits a top-shelf designer”.

Good web designers are relatively abundant, but top-shelf designers are, in large, those that have years of experience behind them – having gone through bad projects or worked with a variety of project managers to ultimately know these following traits make a relationship and project work smooth. If you’re new to or considering a design career, I’m hopeful these will get you a leg up.

  1. Asks questions
  2. Thinks “What if?”
  3. Delivers on-time

Start by asking questions

A good project manager should be the provider of the base of information to get a project done. A top-shelf designer asks any questions they have at the time of reviewing objectives, digests the information (post-meeting), and follows up with a re-statement of the information.

It may seem silly, but the step of re-stating the objectives offers an opportunity to expose any missing details that should have been provided initially, allows an opportunity to ask any more questions for further clarification, and reassures the project manager that their designer has no mis-interpretations.

Constantly think “What if?”

This trait is one that is meant to be engrained in every facet of project work and becomes the catalyst for the questions asked at a project’s on-set.

Constantly thinking “what if?” is especially significant when it comes to complete re-branding projects or those that include a website component to them. The re-branding flavor of project can run in a multitude of directions like current and future logo uses, the different channels of marketing chosen (on or off-line), etc. Any seasoned designer could share that knowing and making sure designs are produced at high resolution (or physical dimension) initially can save you from re-doing or adding hours of work resulting in missing a deadline.

When purely in the web space, factors like on-page interactivity, functional contingency (when s*%# happens), intended devices (responsive design), etc. have deep importance on how a design should be executed and/or what should be considered a complete set of deliverables.

Finish on time (or before)

With objectives covered at the on-set of the project and carefully thought out “what if?”s, this very critical point becomes simple to consistently accomplish – and a joyous occasion between you and your project manager – at any stage where a deliverable is due. Nothing says “hire me (again – for the freelancers among us)” louder than being a dependable part of the team.

I would typically say “save the war stories” for internal conversations, but since this article is meant to expose the hiccups that cause points of failure in a designers project work, share with us your worst experience. If you’d rather, hit me up privately and allow us to expand this article.

What are traits you look for in good web designers?