The Theme of Location in Web Design

Web design covers the full gamut of elements that comprise a Web presence. One interesting theme that ties design together is location. Location, location, location – we hear this phrase ringing across the Web when talking about Web sites, especially when it comes to search engine optimization or advertising space. However, there is very little in your Web site that does not relate to location. It is a critical element in everything from hosting to web design, from social media, to advertising.

1. Domains – Location plays an important role in domains. If you have a website hosted as a subdomain with an existing domain (e.g. blogger.com) then you are in close proximity to some potentially major Web real estate. Being tied into a larger community or network in such blogging sites will help people find you and you find them. The other side of real estate is real, real estate – the kind with bricks and mortar – where you can get a domain that has your region in the domain name, for example, we could build a site around the keywords “Calgary web designer”. If you service only one area or region then this can help you brand your site to show your dedication to this region, be it a town, city, state or province or even a country. You can even create multiple subdomains for each region that you serve, under a main domain, if you have a business that has multiple offices or locations across the country or around the world. It shows your customers that you serve their local needs.

2. Web Hosting – This is a lesser known factor that is often overlooked by people looking for Web hosting packages. Find out where your host has their host servers located, most people do not take the time to do this step. They only look for the lowest price and best deal. For example, we use servers that are located in Calgary, Alberta. IP addresses are taken into consideration in some search engines’ indexing, so having a local host can help a bit with your search engine ranking. It can also be easier for you to get support if your Web host is located nearby.

3. Web Design – Location in Web design focuses on the visual real estate of any given Web page. Generally speaking, the highest valued areas should be dedicated to logos, advertising space and featured content. The top left or top center is the standard place for the Web site’s main logo, which is accompanied with key navigational elements, such as the main menu and login forms. Advertising space can also appear along the top, sides or bottom of the Web design. If, for instance, you dedicate the right column of your Web design to show Google Adsense advertising, then you will see that Google will provide targeted ads that, yes, are determined by your location and/or the location of the user viewing the ad. So if the user is in Calgary, Alberta, then they may well see ads posted for “Calgary Web designers” as a key word, based on their IP address. The location of content might seem like a given, but it is important that the main content, and any highlighted content, be placed in clear and easy view for the user to scan quickly.

4. Web Content – When it comes to your main content you need to consider the location of your content on the page, so it is prominent and easy to read. Location is also important for titles and contextual links. For any content generated for articles and article spinning, location is also key, first for adding in your keywords but also to the location of the backlinks to your site. Search engine spiders will prefer to see your links at the top and bottom of the content.

5. Search Engine Optimization – Google and other search engines now display results based on the viewer’s location (e.g. Google Local), so it is important that your Web site be properly optimized and submitted to the main search engines. Create a business profile that defines your location. This will ensure that your listing will appear along with your local competitors and above those who are not located in your region. Defining your location in your search terms will immediately help to funnel local, targeted traffic to your site.

6. Bonus tip – Web Advertising – Paid advertising is related to search engine optimization. The two big hitters Google Adwords and Facebook ads both provide powerful tools to define and track your campaigns. You can specify the regions and specific locations that you’d like to target with your ads, thereby providing you with targeted hits to your Calgary website.

Location, as an element of Web design, needs proper attention at all stages of Web development. Keep location in mind from the domain registration down to post-launch search engine marketing and Web advertising campaigns. Whether you are located in Calgary, Alberta or anywhere else in the world, location will play a critical role in the success of your site.

Is SEO Actually Web Design?

Is SEO Actually Web Design?
By Lucas Arnatt, Calgary Web Designer

Most clients and designers alike tend to think that the first step of building a Web site is creating or choosing the graphic design and layout of the site, or perhaps planning the site using a flow chart or site map. But the first step of design is not the graphical design, nor the overall functional design of the site.

Rather, it is the essential task of defining the core Search Engine Optimization needed for the site. This is the nucleus of design, since it establishes niche, targeted audience, tone and intensity of presence. This starts with assessing the prospective client’s business goals and determining how to best illustrate these goals and their unique online presence by something as simple as their domain name. The domain name is a great example of SEO as design since it is the key to attracting and illustrating a company on the Web, even before the actual site design is seen or a menu button has been pressed. Whether or not the domain is even full of relevant keywords, the more essential nature of the domain name is that it is there to attract and deliver a message – just as design does.

So, when has SEO ever been seen as actual design? SEO is usually discussed in terms of bots and directories, meta tags, keyword density and search engine ranking. But seeing SEO as an integral part of design, rather than just its tools and methods, helps us to move more into the creative nature of the Internet and Web design.

Generally, a designer will start to integrate SEO at the initial stage of graphic development; how a website is built graphically can affect the overall effects of its organic search results. That is, the natural result of the Website being indexed by search engines and the consequent flow of visitors to the site. So, in the same way that SEO is part of design, design is also part of SEO.

At the core of this pairing are two values: Attraction and Delivery.
SEO and Web design can easily seen as separate since they involve different terms, tools and techniques to implement them. However, they ultimately play the same roles – to attract and deliver.


ATTRACTION

Attracting a visitor, whether it is human or an algorithmic robot, takes research and skill. To make attraction as inherent within the site design and SEO results as possible we need to connect with both sides of the “Internet coin” – say heads for the public, viewership side and tails for the back end development. The value of any successful website is the continuous ability to remain visible and attract visitors to the site. This is achieved by the initial work of the focused development of the Website to be as attractive as possible (in word and image) with following, responsive development to how the public side of site is evaluated by search engines and visitors. The two sides of a coin create a unity of value, one side inherently needed by the other to hold value.


DELIVERY

But like a shiny coin given a pre-defined value, a website ranking on the first few pages of Google pre-supposes a level of success over those sites back on the 100th page. The value of a coin is only ever experienced when it is transferred from one to another. Having a million dollars is great, but it is only of value to those who can exchange it for something else they value more. It is the same for any Web site, it is the nature of a successful Web site to deliver something of value to its audience (and by extension, its creators) otherwise it is deemed worthless.

Design and SEO both are crafted to equally create a Web site’s value, since they are equally responsible for delivery of information. As a Web designer I have increasingly become aware of how important it is to have a strong attractive design, but the strongest design is one that surrounds and supports the content and helps delivery of information. This has more value than design that is just eye candy, which may help the attraction factor but does not necessarily help the final goal and richest value found in information delivery.

Is SEO actually Web Design? I believe it is…sure, we can separate the two during the development process, since they require different production methods and analysis, but the essential, integral nature and end goal of both processes joins them together, like the two sides of a coin.

Lucas Arnatt is the lead designer at BlindDrop Design Inc. and has been producing Web sites since 1997. BlindDrop Design serves many local Cochrane and Calgary, Alberta businesses and organizations. BlindDrop offers a wide variety of services that include Web design (and SEO), Graphic Design and Photography.

Calgary Web Hosting Recommendations

Calgary Web Hosting Recommendations

Like most offerings on the Web, you can find Web hosting solutions for any budget, from free shared hosting to owning your own dedicated server rack in a datacenter. Obviously the range in cost echoes the range in services provided and since there are so many hosts and hosting reseller packages you will first need to discern what service you require by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What will you be using your hosting package for? Will it be to run a simple website? Or do you need a specific platform, such as Linux or Windows to run Web software or certain types of scripts and databases used for dynamic Web sites and E-commerce solutions?
  2. Do you have a Web designer or IT personnel to help you with setting up your account and Web files? Or are you willing to take on the learning curve of figuring out whatever Control Panel is included in your server package?
  3. What level of security is provided by your Webhost? Can you easily integrate an SSL certificate into your account? Does the host offer back up features to make sure your files are kept safe?
  4. If you opt for a cheap reseller hosting solution, how much does the host upsell features for? For example, how many IPs do you get with an account, how much  Web space, bandwidth, email accounts are included and how much is it to increase these features if you need?
  5. Is your prospective host a long-standing service? Do they regularly update their systems and have ongoing support by ticket submission and/or phone support?
  6. What is their claim for uptime? Even a claim of 99% uptime could mean that the service is interrupted for up to 3 days per year. Do they have redundancy in place to avoid downtime?
  7. If you are looking to integrate an e-commerce payment solution into your website where credit card transactions are stored in your site’s database, be sure to do the proper research to find a PCL compliant secure server, which means it has passed rigorous security tests and is also subject to recurring tests to ensure ongoing security of your data.
  8. Where is the Web hosting company and its servers located? Are they somewhere on the other side of the world, or can you call them or even take a short trip and go and take a tour of their facilities?

Free hosting usually comes with the catch of banner ads being displayed on screen along with your site. If your website is for business purposes it is best to choose a Web hosting account that allows you 100% of your Web presence.
Many Web hosts also offer a “free Web site builder” along with their hosting plans, which can be helpful for a quick startup website, but be aware that these types of websites are template-based sites, so your site will look extremely similar to other sites using the same template. So again, for business website design, it is always best to invest in the most custom Web design for your website, since you only have moments to capture the interest of your audience with the first impression that your site creates for them.
An ideal host will provide as close to 100% uptime as possible, up-to-date servers located in a secure datacenter, close to where you live and work and offer exceptional service and support. The host will also be clear with what its packages include and what additional charges are required should you exceed the limits of your Web hosting package.
BlindDrop Design hosts and manages its clients’ websites at a secure datacenter in Canada. We offer the next level of service where, in most cases, we manage client requests for adding email accounts, provide stats information and explanation, provide free set up and transfer for new clients (as part of our Web development contracts) and make sure that our sites and email run as smoothly and spam-free as possible.

BlindDrop offers a premium Managed WordPress Hosting package that has been sufficient for the majority of our clients. Those clients looking for specific hosting requirements are also accommodated with a custom solution that meets their needs. Such custom solutions include VPS servers, Colocation space, and high volume bandwidth. Please contact us today for more information on your Calgary or Cochrane Alberta Web hosting needs.

How to Prepare for Your Web Design Project

Is your company or organization starting the process of getting your Web site made by a professional Web design team? If your company is in Calgary, Alberta or elsewhere, you can help your Web design team, and your company, if you do a bit of preparation before you go seeking Web design quotes and buying domain names. You will save time and money in the long run, since you will be clear on what you want and where you feel comfortable in letting the project go in the hands of the Web design team.

Consider these tips before contacting Calgary Web design firms:

  1. Know your business niche. If you are starting a business or in business already, it is critical for you to know your business niche. Think location, your specialties, and areas you want to focus on in the future. Are you tied to one location, like Calgary, Alberta? Or can you run the business globally? Defining the scope of your targeted audience goes a long way in knowing what keywords and search terms to use on the site and in paid advertising online.
  2. Take a look at your current marketing material and how it is branded such as logo, slogan, stationary, business cards, posters, signage, etc. All of these may need to be redone if you don’t have the domain name already on them!
  3. Search out your competitors, both local and global online. The best Web design attracts local and global audiences and will be accessible to as many visitors as possible, although your focus is more local than global.
  4. Search the Web for half a dozen websites that you like for one or more reasons. These websites may be in your niche, but they might be from an entirely different niche. Take note as to what it is you like about that site, is it design, layout, content or some function, such as a blog or gallery?.
  5. Choose if you want a dark web design (light text on dark colored field) or a light web design (dark text on a light colored field. Review your business branding and decide what you think will fit your unique situation best. If you are unsure, make a note to discuss this further with your web designer when you meet.
  6. Think about what you want the Web site to do: will it be a simple static website? Or will it be interactive? Or is it going to be an e-commerce website?
  7. How deep are you willing to go into the development of the site? Will you be able to provide professional, edited copy for the website? Getting a new web site designed is great, but if your content is poorly written then the web design won’t matter! Content is King, so make sure you invest properly in this area and consider hiring a professional Web copywriter for the job. Hopefully your design team also offers writing and editing services, but if they don’t or you need a different writing style, find a professional who can produce what you need.
  8. Create a hierarchy of sections, pages and subpages. An easy way to do this is to look at websites in your niche who have a very similar navigation structure. This will help your Web designer define a realistic timeline for development.
  9. Get your logo and any branding elements you use for print onto a disc or ready for emailing.
  10. Organize any digital photos that you’d like to see on the website and if you know which page you want them on, list that too. If you need stock or custom photos provided, make sure you note this in your requirements when talking with your Web designer.
  11. Define your budget. Consider that a professionally built website will be good for a minimum of three years. Also make room in your budget for hosting, security needs and ongoing marketing for organic SEO and paid advertising.

You can save yourself time and money and provide clear communication with your Web designer if you take a couple of hours to plan out your ideas for your new site. You will be more confident and happy with the final outcome.

11 Advantages of Web Revitalization

Is your website ready for rebuilding?

Sure, a few years ago your website had all the bells and whistles that your Calgary Web designer could offer. But now, the site is beginning to show its age. The Internet lives in dog years more than it does in human years, things change quickly, evolution and revolution go hand in hand.

So, what can you do with your aging site? Scrap it and start again? Well, it depends. When you start thinking about rebuilding your website, it is as good a time as any to review your entire Web presence. You need to consider how your needs have changed, how Web culture has changed and how your goals for your website have changed too. If you need to look further than that, you will be considering your business model, your business niche, your marketing strategy and budget and your corporate identity. These need to be secured before you move into any new or revitalized Web project. Being secure in these key areas allows you to confidently consider the options for your Web site redesign. Consider everything from the domain to hosting, the script/database platform the site is built on, the functionality of the website (do you want to move into e-commerce, if you haven’t already?) the look of the web design and how relevant is your content to today’s visitors?

Here are the top 11 advantages of Web redesign:

  1. Domain and hosting re-considerations – you can look at more relevant domains for your Web presence and redirect your old domain references using a 301 redirect to ensure all of your search engine results find their corresponding link on your new site.
  2. Fresh overall look – has your company’s image been updated? Or does your current Web design carry obviously old design trends? Looking established is one thing, looking passe is another! Keep the site design clean and simple to ensure its longevity.
  3. Expand your Web site design – many older sites were built to the past standard of 800px wide screens. Now the standard resolution is 1366×768 (reference), which makes narrow screens feel constrained.
  4. Funnily enough, we have gone back to having to accommodate small screens again as we are now the mobile generation. If your website structure does not adapt to the different screen sizes it is not considered “mobile-friendly.” Improving the user’s experience is a key part of the design and re-design process and integrating the “responsive design” that adapts to your laptop, tablet and mobile phone.
  5. Update and reorganize content – A redesign gives you permission to turf old news, or at least move it to an archives area, and rewrite your content with content that is freshly enriched with up-to-date search terms and keywords.
  6. Navigation and Menu improvement – A key aspect of redesign is a full review of the menu systems and supporting navigation.
  7. Refresh photos and images throughout the site – get rid of that old stock photo and add in some custom photos of your own.
  8. Update your website’s platform to a CMS. If you have a CMS already, make sure it gets updated to the latest version to ensure compatibility, security and functionality.
  9. Updated SEO techniques – if you don’t keep your search engine optimization up to date, you will lose out to competitors who do.
  10. Add video – get rid of that flash intro and put those development funds into adding a custom video clip to your revitalized site.
  11. Consider adding ties to Social media – like Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Just make sure you are prepared to update and maintain these other media sites in the future.

A redesigned website can be even more powerful than a new website. When done correctly, your Web designer can make sure that the momentum carried by the old site fuels the redesigned site – even if this means a new domain or updated web page addresses.

A final reason for Web site redesign, whether you are in Calgary, Alberta or anywhere else in the world, is to spread the news to clients, friends and everyone else! A Web redesign will get people talking and re-ignite their interest in your company and services.

We specialize in Web site revitalization and can meet your graphic design and web design needs serving Calgary, Airdrie, Cochrane & Okotoks.

Five Key Ways to Market Your Calgary Business

Here are five fundamental ways to market your business on the web and on the street:

1. Get properly branded – getting a professional logo design is a great start, but it is also critical to plan your branding, which is based on the customer experience and how your company is interpreted by the customer from near and afar. Get a logo and business card at the minimum and during this process work through basic marketing factors such as demographics, culture, sales region and budgeting for advertising.

2. Develop a custom Web presence – Once you have the branding planned and established you can move this onto the Web by getting a custom site that supports your branding and business model. Ideally, you will secure  a domain, website and domain-based email addresses. The site should reflect the corporate identity, provide essential information about your company and also provide service to generate sales. If e-commerce is not a suitable fit for your company’s services, you can use a custom form to direct and define sales, or use an online chat system to connect with your customer directly.

3. Market your Web presence Online – this includes having an active website, email list and any active submissions to groups, help sites or forums. You can also increase traffic and sales by actively managing your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) campaigns each week. Examples of this are commenting on blogs, getting back links to your site and running paid advertisements in search engines and directories. The more focused and niche-based your campaigns are online, the better results you will have. But, keep in mind that you need to research what people are looking for and balance those results with what you’d like them to see.

4. Market your Web presence Offline – this is the only way you can attract people to your online business when they are not at their computer. Look at any magazine from the early 1990’s (if you can find one) and I wager it will be nearly impossible to find ads with web addresses in them. These days classified ads, newspaper ads, posters, uniforms, video, tv, vehicle signage, stationary and pretty much any media channel is used by businesses to promote their Web presence. If your website is e-commerce enabled, then your offline marketing efforts can drive direct sales to your company just by handing out a business card. The customer may never call your number, but they may well purchase something from you with nothing more than a good first impression.

5. Be Consistent and be Professional
– in all cases, whether online or offline, be consistent with your branding and communications. Being professional does not mean being overly conservative, but it does require conscious attention to details. For example, simple typos in an introductory letter or a broken link on your website can detract from the overall image of your company. Make sure you follow your initial branding plan and mission statement and triple-check any published items that cannot be easily changed.