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All posts in: Website Development

affordable website design happens at this desk

Affordable Website Design That Ticks Boxes and Drops Jaws

Getting a website built used to cost an arm and a leg. Sometimes it still does, but generally it doesn’t need to. What can now be achieved with even the most modest budget is amazing.

Here’s a brief introduction to some of the things we can do to make your website not only look impressive but also work hard for you.

Content Management

We almost always recommend WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system, but if you prefer, we can build your website on whichever platform you like (that might be Ruby on Rails, Drupal or Joomla for example). This means you can be sure we will leave you with a site you can edit easily. This is absolutely vital as it means you won’t have to keep paying more and more for updates – you’ll be able to add and edit text, blog posts, even pages, images, videos and more. If you do want us to look after your website permanently though, we offer flexible contract-free service and maintenance packages to suit your needs and your budget.

wordpress back end

SEO - magnifying your content

Search Engine Optimisation

You hear about SEO, (search engine optimisation) all the time, and for good reason. What’s the point in having a website if nobody can find it? We will ensure that your website shows up as high as possible in search engine results, and will even advise you on how to optimise your text for maximum search engine exposure. We offer the most basic on-site SEO as standard, and there’s a lot more we can do to help on an ongoing basis, as we can also give you tools and advice that will help you enhance your site’s visibility long into the future.

E-Commerce

E-commerce needn’t break the bank. In fact it needn’t even use the bank. If you want to sell online, get in touch with us – you may be surprised how affordable an e-commerce site can be and how easily you can set up shop using PayPal. If you want to accept credit/debit cards we can help you with that too – we’re well versed in payment gateways, PCI compliance and everything else you need to know to sell your products or services from your website. We have a few great success stories from recent years, with one client earning over £50k from her startup in the first two years since we launched their website.

E-Commerce can be affordable

 

Scalable hosting solutions

Scalability

We work with TSO Host to offer you highly competitive hosting packages that scale seamlessly as your business grows. Our most basic hosting package is just £3/month and includes automated data and database backups. This is what most of our clients’ websites use and is more than sufficient to handle the volume of traffic you can expect if you run a small business. As you grow, you may find you need a VPS or dedicated server for your website capable of handling huge volumes of traffic. If and when you reach that point, we can migrate your website over seamlessly, with zero down time.

Responsive showcase presentation

Responsive Layouts

Be wary of those who talk of creating a website design from a Photoshop file. This is a practice that was commonplace a few years ago, but is now (thankfully) almost obsolete. With the huge increase in websites being viewed on phones and tablets with varying screen sizes, it is now vital for successful websites to display correctly on mobile devices. For that reason, we build websites so that they respond dynamically to the size of the user’s browser. Not sure what we mean? Try resizing your browser now, or viewing this website on a phone or a tablet, and notice how the content re-arranges itself to suit the viewport size. We didn’t build multiple versions of the site – it just morphs and adapts itself dynamically – this saves a lot of development time compared to building a ‘desktop site’ and a ‘mobile site’ and helps us focus on your content while delivering truly affordable website design. What this means in terms of the design and build process is that we design largely in the browser, once we have sketched out basic wireframes on paper. In the web development community this is now considered best practice, and for several good reasons – here are a few of them:

 

question-futureproofing

 

Futureproofing

Future-proofing in the world of the web is always a relative term – it’s anybody’s guess what the internet will look like in 2050 and beyond – however there are certain things we can, and should, be prepared for. For example, it looks likely that Google will start penalising websites that are not mobile friendly, so building a site today that doesn’t tick that box would be shortsighted. Another major consideration is security – something that many don’t take seriously enough. You might think your website isn’t at risk of being hacked because it’s low-visibility or of low value, but you would be wrong. There are bots out there attempting to hack into everything and anything, from a LinkedIn profile to a multinational bank. Of course, it makes sense that your level of protection befits the kind of website you’re running, but being completely unprotected in this day and age is just dangerous. All websites we build come with security features as standard, and we will encourage you to take advantage of updated security measures as they become available.

Testing

You wouldn’t want to launch your new website and then find out that something doesn’t work on it, would you? Well we wouldn’t either – that would be embarrassing for both parties. I’ll admit this was a lesson learned the hard way, but we now build in time to any website launch for thorough testing to ensure there are no broken links, contact forms are going to the correct emails, performance is good and that code is bug-free.

No Hassle, No Hidden Costs

You know you need a website, and you want as little to do with the technical side of it as possible – of course! We can take care of domain registration, hosting, and all the other little things that might needlessly worry you or take up your time. In short: you give us your content and we will take it from there. We’ll even set up your email accounts for you. We don’t ask for any recurring fees unless you want us to maintain your site for you. Instead, we build into any website quote a little budget for us to meet up with you at the point of handover and show you exactly how to control your website yourself very easily, from virtually any computer or connected device in the world. This way you know exactly what your outlay is going to be at the point of receiving our quote, and you can be safe in the knowledge there will be no hidden costs.

The Medjool Date Company Website is Faster than 98% of Tested Websites!

We have just launched a simple but effective, clean and tidy little e-commerce website with the sole purpose of selling and purveying information about just one delicious product: medjool dates. It’s always a pleasure to promote something that you love, and medjool dates have been my favourite dried fruit ever since the first time I tasted one – they truly are both delicious and nutritious. If you’ve not had the pleasure yet I genuinely recommend you try them – you can buy anything from 200g to 5kg very easily on the Medjool Date Company website.

We also broke a personal record with this website: it’s the fastest loading site we’ve ever built, loading in less than half a second! Don’t just take our word for it – check it yourself on Pingdom (Disclaimer: the test result will vary depending on a number of factors, you may find it’s not quite as fast when you run the test, but do try again and feel free to let us know what result you’re getting).

Performance is absolutely key when it comes to website development – it’s a fairly well known fact that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, while 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.

We aim to ensure every website we build loads in under 3 seconds, but in this particular case, through some very clever techniques and technologies deployed behind the scenes, we managed to absolutely smash those targets! Amongst other tools, we make heavy use of Pingdom when testing websites – it’s an absolutely invaluable tool!

The super fast website has already proved to be a success, with the first few transactions being made within days of going live. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Identity for The Medjool Date Company

We’ve just finished this logo design that will form part of an overarching brand identity for The Medjool Date Company. We will also be designing their packaging and building an e-commerce website a little later this year.

medjool-mockup

Agenda Media Website Redesign

Agenda Media is a cutting edge digital advertising agency based in Manchester, regarded highly in the industry for their outstanding service and professionalism. They approached us earlier this year because their website was no longer reflecting the nature of their work in the best possible way, having not been updated or refreshed for three years (a very long time in the world of the web)!

We were very happy to take on a project which involved updating, curating and re-flowing their content into a website more in-keeping with today’s standards.

We were very pleased that the client liked our suggestion of going with a one-page style website – something of a trend, but a trend that makes an awful lot of sense… let me explain:

There’s a very high chance you are reading this on your phone, your tablet or some other touch screen device, and if you are you’re amongst an ever-growing number of people doing the same. This is more than just a trend; it’s a long-term shift in the way people experience the web. Before mobile devices took off, you would hear a lot of talk of ‘the fold’ in web design. The accepted wisdom was that you needed to captivate your audience with your website ‘above the fold’, ‘the fold’ being the bottom of the viewable area of your website, assuming people were viewing it on a computer.

While the validity of this concept remained hotly debated for many years, it’s now generally accepted within the web design & development community that ‘the fold’ is well and truly dead.

In 2013 mobile surpassed desktop in newssportsretail, and social media consumption. People are spending their time with the web on an incredibly varied set of devices, all with different screen sizes (and different “folds”). – Matt Johnson

If you haven’t quite recently flicked your thumb or finger upwards on a touchscreen device, I would be very surprised. In fact this behaviour is now so strongly rooted in our muscle memory that it’s fairly safe to say most users of the web know exactly what to do when they see a webpage that doesn’t immediately give them all the information they require: scroll down!

While there are definitely still those who would disagree, there are quite a number of undeniable benefits to a one-page website, the biggest for me being that all the content is there in one place without the user needing to click or wait to load further information!

We’d love to hear from you if you have an opinion on this, and indeed any feedback on the website!

Education Gateway Magazine: Our Biggest Challenge Yet

We are very excited to announce our biggest ongoing project yet: a multilingual (English & Arabic) magazine available in print and online called Education Gateway. We have worked closely with Prime Education Consultancy to create a brand, a magazine and a website with the purpose of helping Libyan students and young professionals further their education and professional careers.

This is one of our most unusual briefs to date, partly due to the challenges of creating a bilingual magazine featuring English and Arabic content side-by-side – it involved a lot of research and a definite step outside of the comfort zone – however, with four issues now under our belts we feel confident dealing with Arabic, and well equipped to work on multilingual projects in future. In the initial stages of research many questions came up, for example:

 

 

Through research, development and trial and improvement, we overcame all of these challenges, and are proud to say that the first issue of the magazine was very well received, with an estimated readership of around 6,000 and more online, and those figures look to be increasing in the more recent issues.

 

The bilingual website has now been officially launched, and we are in the process of developing and optimising it further.

 

Issue 1 of the magazine is now available on Issuu, Newsstand, in PDF form and in print.

Please take a look, and feel free to comment both here and on the Education Gateway website!

A Great Design Brief Will Get You Great Results!

Over the years, I’ve executed and overseen a large number of design projects – some small, some big, and mostly very successful. I will admit though that occasionally there have been situations where clients have not been happy straight away, and it’s taken a lot of back and forth to get to a good end result. These situations can be difficult for both the client and the designer, stretching budgets and straining creativity. With a good designer, and a good design brief, these woes can be easily and completely avoided.

Tell Us What You Want

Sometimes, clients simply forget to tell designers why they want the work in the first place. Sometimes there’s a deeper reason than just “for my website” or “to drive sales.”

A few examples:
  • Recognition of a problem with existing design
  • Reaction to bad feedback
  • A shift of audience demographics
  • An effort to improve Google Page Rank
  • A design is needed for a specific event

 

Telling us why you need the work helps us understand the results you expect to achieve. We know this from experience. The shorter the brief, the longer the design process may need to be!

lama

It has taken me a while to realise that this isn’t necessarily obvious, especially if you’re new to working with designers. I had an epiphany one day while getting a hair cut. I realised that I had a very “lassez-faire” attitude towards hairdressers – having spent years trimming my own hair with clippers, when I started growing my hair again I would just go into hair dressers and barber shops and just say “make it shorter” (or words to that effect).

Then, although I thought I didn’t care, I would invariably come home and get a horrified reaction from my partner, and have to deal with my hair looking deeply unfashionable for a while, until it ‘settled’.

I realised that day that I had been giving hairdressers terrible briefs. I wasn’t telling them why I wanted my hair cut, what I wanted to achieve, and what the people in my life might expect to see.

Tell us How You Want It Done

How you’d like the work delivered is also important, so please tell us when you write your brief! Let us know where your deliverables will be used. For example: will you be using your logo on your website and social media sites, or are you just getting it embroidered on a tee? What size resolution would you like? Will you be stretching or condensing the image? We can work with you to provide exactly what you need, but if you don’t tell us what you want, sometimes accidents can happen. For example, we once provided a client with final artwork for some printed flyers, but the client then uploaded the print files to Facebook. They looked quite peculiar because print files are set up in CMYK colour rather than RGB… if we had known the client wanted to use the same designs on Facebook or elsewhere on the web we would have provided appropriate files.

Tell Us When You Want It

Be realistic about timescales, but give us the actual deadline, don’t build in a month of ‘buffer time’! As the name suggests, we pride ourselves on working swiftly and hitting deadlines, however giving a design more time is almost always a good thing! It can be frustrating as a designer when you stay up late completing ‘urgent’ work, only to find that the client has gone on holiday, but of course the opposite situation is even worse. Make sure when you give us a deadline that the work is definitely not going to be needed any sooner!

I hope this post has given you a good idea what you need to put together a great design brief. If you’re ready to do just that, we’ve got a handy online form for you here.

If you have commissioned work that hasn’t gone to plan, or if you’ve had some real success stories, we’d love to hear about it! Feel free to tweet us or just leave a comment right here!

Absolut Center (A Post About ‘Absolute Centering’)

absolutcenter

I recently read a Smashing Magazine post by Stephen Shaw on making things appear slap bang in the middle of a web page no matter what – this is known in the trade as ‘absolute centering’. Believe it or not this is something that web developers and designers have been struggling with for years. Stephen’s method is so astonishingly elegant in its simplicity, I just had to try it out for myself! Of course, I needed an object to place in that central position and the idea struck me. Ten minutes later it was a reality. I tweeted about it and Stephen replied:

"Great little demo! Absolut-ly perfect." Stephen Shaw's response to my demonstration of absolute centering.

I really hope Absolut don’t mind – I know their iconic ad campaign has been spoofed a few times before!

Three Websites for Prime Recruitment

We were recently asked to get involved with Prime Recruitment, a new venture from the lovely people at Prime Education, who were in the  process of building three new websites. We were happy to help, and liaised with recruitment CMS specialists Firefish to design and build three recruitment websites for three market sectors: education, medical and engineering.

Prime Recruitment Websites

Our involvement primarily consisted of redesigning the first website, which was already in progress, and using that as a template for the other two. We created slideshows, buttons and other graphical elements of the interface, and two page templates for each site, working primarily with CSS to alter the appearance of elements generated by the Firefish content management system.

The Prime Teachers website is now live, while the other two are still being populated with content, and the client is very happy with the result.

Update: Prime Medical and Prime Engineering are also now up and running, and all three sites can be accessed from the Prime Recruitment portal page.

Identity for Speak Out Lancashire

Speak Out Lancashire, part of The Children’s Society and Lancashire Children’s Rights, approached us with a brief for a new identity and a website serving young people in care in the area. This has been a unique opportunity for us to work directly with end users, listening closely to what they want from the website and their ideas about visual language. Here is the simple, bold logo we came up with together, and the new website  is due to be launched in spring 2013. is now live.