Archives for "Web Design: 2008"

Popsicle - A Free Wordpress Theme from Heraghty.net

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We've created another Wordpress theme called Popsicle, which you can download for free from our web design site.

Popsicle is based loosely on the design of the Heraghty.net website.

The theme comes in five different colours. The demo shows just one of the colours; to see the others you'll need to install the theme to your own Wodrpess blog.

Upload the Popsicle files to your themes folder, and you’ll automatically see a management page in Wordpress. From there, you’ll be able to choose between the gray, green, brown, pink and blue versions.

Download the Popsicle Wordpress theme.

The Elements of User Experience

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I just discovered this diagrammatic representation (PDF) of the various elements that make up the User Experience on a website.

It was created by James Garrett in 2000, and is still just as relevant today.

Homepage vs. Landing Pages - Striking a Balance

One of the things I love about my job is that I'm constantly learning. Everything internet-related seems to continually, rapidly evolve (consider recent changes in design methods, standards and styles; online marketing techniques; web-based software tools; electronic payment options; social uses of the internet; etc.).

That constant change keeps me on my toes, and makes me job challenging. As if that weren't enough learning to be getting on with, I also have to learn about our clients' businesses. I have to learn about their industry and its recent trends; what their business model is; how their internet strategy fits into that model; what their competitors are doing; etc.

Meanwhile, we're faced with another challenge: getting the client to learn what we need them to know. The more open clients are to this "mutual education", the better chance we have of success.

One lesson we try to teach clients is that the homepage is not (necessarily) the most important page on their website.

It's a mistake to assume that users will always, or even most of the time, access your website via its homepage. Consider this: when you search in Google, does it return a list of homepages? Not necessarily: Google returns a list of pages and other documents on the web that best match your search query. This is list is by no means exclusive to homepages, or even weighted towards homepages.

For example, if you've published an provocative article on your website, and a lot of people link to it, that article may tend to get found more in Google than your homepage does. Hence, more people will access your website via this article page than via your homepage.

Similarly, if you have a page on your website that contains a biography of your CEO, many people will access your website via this page, because they Googled your CEO.

Gillian Carson illustrates this point well in an article in Vitamin magazine, entitled Turning Your Visitors Into Users:

Quoting Ryan Singer of 37Signals, the article explains:

I don’t visit YouTube and click around. But I see blog posts with cool videos all the time. I don’t think of YouTube as a site. What draws me in is a blog post, IM or email. Then, when you end up watching a video on YouTube’s site, you realize there are more cool videos there, and might start clicking around. In this way the root of each visit is a permalink, a particular video, a certain experience - not the home page. The video is the epicenter of the permalink, and the permalink is the epicenter of the whole site. Everything revolves around the videos you love, not the farm that feeds them.

The homepage is not the only door to your website. In fact, when you review your analytics data, you will most likely find that less than 50% (probably fewer) of visitors access your site via the homepage.

So what do you need to do?

  1. Make sure that the user experience is positive and consistent throughout the website.
  2. Design the navigation in such a way that it's clear to the user where they are within the structure of the site (e.g. provide contextual cues like a different colour such for menu items that are currently selected; add a "breadcrumb" style navigation trail).
  3. When setting up your Google Adwords or SEO, direct users to the most appropriate landing page for the phrase you're targetting
  4. Spread the love: try to make sure you get just as many links to important landing pages as to your homepage. This will help your site's overall Google ranking.

Effective landing pages are crucial if you want to attract significant numbers of visitors to your website. Once you grasp this concept, you'll be well on the way to increasing your traffic.

Portals and Vortals and Bears, Oh My

A lot of internet-related jargon comes and goes, but a term we can't seem to get rid of is "portal".

I still hear this jaded moniker bandied about a lot, typically from people who have "a great idea for a website" (you know who you are). Said great idea involves creating a "one-stop-shop" related to subject x.

Typically this "portal" is no more than a set of links to other websites -- at best, we could call it a directory.

In fact, when have you heard someone say they were looking up a certain portal last night, or "I read it on a portal"? Never, right? (Substitute the word blog, which works, and you'll see that this is a fair test.)

Some sites have risen beyond mere portality, since they describe themselves as "vortals". About.com tells us that a vortal is a vertical portal, or "a portal geared toward a specific niche audience with focused content."

Errr... so can someone now tell me how a vortal differs from a portal, and how either of these differs from, well, any old web page with a set of links about a specific topic?

Still, I guess "portal" looks good, even expensive, in public sector reports on spending. It's up there with the e words, like e-tourism and e-enterprise.

As I write, someone, somewhere (probably in a pub), is having a "great" idea: Why not create a website aimed exclusively at the niche of ... world tourism? Except it won't be just a website, it will be an e-portal!
[/end rant]

Wordpress 2.5 - New Features, Better Usability

Wordpress 2.5 has just been released. It includes some great new features and, overall, the user experience (already good) has been enhanced.

Some of the improvements include:

  • A better visual (WYSIWYG) editor
  • Native support for embedded media, such as video clips, and neat buttons on the visual editor to match this
  • A more intuitive dashboard layout
  • A nifty file uploader that supports multiple files being uploaded at once
  • Custom sizes for thumbnails
  • EXIF image support (i.e. reads the labels you put on images from your digital camera)
  • Easy creation of image galleries
  • Search now includes pages as well as posts

Sorry Movable Type, Wordpress has definitely become my favourite CMS.

Web Services In a Recession

Last August, I blogged about a book I was reading, called Wake Up: Survive and Prosper in the Coming Economic Turmoil.

While the book was little known, it's authors made some dire predictions that have turned out to be prescient (Wake Up was published in September 2005). For example, they forecast that:

  • the housing market in the U.S. and many other Western countries would collapse
  • the dollar would begin a slow, inexorable slide that will continue for many years
  • a worldwide recession was imminent...
  • and that this recession would deepen into a worldwide depression, leading to deflation

Given this gloomy picture, what is a small business owner to do? Well, don't panic. I believe that the web services industry will prosper in the difficult economic times ahead. Of course, companies are going to look to trim fat, and large, over-priced IT consulting projects will fall foul of many corporate and government cost-cutting knifes.

Overall however, I expect use of the web to grow in times of recession.

  • Large businesses will spend more on improving their websites, and on online advertising, as the web offers a lower-cost and increasingly effective alternative to traditional media and marketing.
  • Small to medium sized businesses will make more services available online, because of the savings this represents.
  • More online businesses will emerge, offering cheaper and better services that improve on existing models and offer greater savings to consumers.
  • Consumers will spend more time online, in all sorts of activities like looking for work, shopping for best prices, using VOIP services to save on phone bills, etc.

That's not to suggest things will get easier for providers. As the ever-colourful Michael O'Leary might put it, the web services industry is going to become a bloodbath. But web services aren't going away, you know.

New Heraghty Internet Website

We recently launched our new-look Heraghty Internet Consultants website. This makeover was long overdue.

The new website gives a better, more comprehensive description of our services.

Other websites we've launched recently include:

- The Galway Technology Centre
- The Roscommon Local Food Initiative

Mediajunk is No Longer Updated

Visit Michael Heraghty's current blog at User Journeys

About

Mediajunk was Michael Heraghty's blog from 2002 to 2010, with articles on usability, UX, SEO, web design, online marketing, etc. More »

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