5 Trends in Web Design You Might Like to Try for 2013

If you have not done it yet, the month of March may just be when you will start thinking of revamping the look of your website. You are probably thinking that the third month of the New Year is just the right time to scout the web and see what trends have come to stay for the year.

You might like to pick one or two of these trends to apply on your site, so you will have an improved design to present to your audience. It might also be that you will make use of these trends to prepare your website for the possible changes that may happen in the course of the year when it comes to new CSS or HTML features.

So, here are the newest trends in web design that you will face and have to decide about this year:

Minimalistic Single Tone Site Colours

This means using a single tone of colour all throughout your site. This minimalistic trend is great at getting your readers to pay attention more on your content rather on your colours or your design. See the redesigned site of Mashable where a single colour is consistently used to determine the theme of its new look.

Going the Responsive Direction

In 2013, you need to have a responsive or fluid design that will shift and adjust itself so its entire content will be seen in mobile devices such as an iPhone or an iPad. This is very important because more and more people have smartphones and other mobile gadgets that they use to access the Internet.

Cool Typography

This is the year for you to stop using the Arial font and change it for something more creative and eye-catching. You can use CSS 3’s FontFace to get any kind of template from the Internet just by using the URL as reference and try it out to enhance your site’s look.

Go with Highlight Boxes

Instead of sticking with Javascript sliders, why don’t you use highlight boxes instead. This is a static box that has an image for its background and comes with an article header or punch line at the top. You can even use different colour tones for these boxes when you decide to replace your old sliders with them.

Influx of More Web Development Companies

If you think there were already a lot of web development companies before, think again. This year, you will see more. This is mainly because more and more designers are emerging to offer quality services at more affordable prices and to counter those companies that are offering their services at prices not everyone can afford.

The only problem you will have with this is being able to decide which firm to go for when you plan on having your website redesigned. If you will do your research carefully and pore over portfolios thoroughly, you will find one that will cater to your needs well.

Need a Website Developer and Don’t Know Anything About Websites? Lessons Learned

If you’re looking to hire a website developer, do your homework. It’s the Wild West out there, especially if you don’t have any experience with websites and coding like me. I launched a website over a year ago and ended up in a good place but it was a lot of working finding the right developer. Here are some lessons learned.

Know If You Really Need a Developer

Before you hire any developer, first explore the possibility of creating your site on a free platform like Word Press. Word Press has hundreds of different themes (paid and unpaid) that offer numerous design and functionality options. Using a platform like Word Press saves money, offers an online community if you get stuck, as well as more control over your site.

I launched my blog with Word Press but needed more functionality for my website than I could get with Word Press, so decided to hire a developer.

If You Need to Hire a Developer, Know What You Want and Write It Down

Before I looked for any web development firms, I wrote down exactly what I wanted on my website – how I wanted it to look and the functionalities I needed. Don’t freak out but it was a 50-page PowerPoint document. I had a page for each page on my website. OK – I tend to be AR about such things and am a former consultant, so it was in my nature to do it this way.

Having the detail was great for comparing proposals. The risk of having such a detailed proposal was that I wasn’t sure if it closed off my developer from offering other ideas, features I may not have been aware of.

Research Possible Firms and Make a Short List

In looking for a firm, I needed a developer within driving distance of Chicago because I wanted to meet them in person at least once. I felt this would help set a foundation for a good working relationship.

I searched online to compile my initial list of 20 firms. I threw out those who took more than a few days to respond or never responded at all, had a string of complaints on Yelp or who misrepresented who they were on their website; for example, displayed different pages of the same website as different website clients in their portfolio, or projected themselves as a bona fide enterprise when it was a freelancer with a full time job doing websites evenings and weekends (freelancers are great for some work but I needed a firm who would be immediately available if the site crashed or had backup if the developer left).

I ended up with a short list of seven possible developers.

Ask for a Proposal and Prepare for Prices All Over the Map

When it came time to ask for a proposal, I was glad I had prepared such a detailed document to give them. It gave me confidence their prices would reflect the same understanding of what needed to be done.

Some developers, when seeing what I needed, immediately knew they couldn’t do the work and told me so (thank goodness). The rest emailed or called with a few clarifying questions and thanked me for the detail as it made their job so much easier.

I was shocked when the proposals came in. They ranged in price from $5000 to $150,000 for the very same work!! The higher prices mostly came from firms who also have corporate clients. They must have figured my pockets were just as deep as their corporate clients.

Check Their References

After narrowing my list to four possible development firms, I spent considerable time checking their references. I did not ask them for references but rather found names from their online portfolios.

I looked for clients who had websites with similar functionalities to what I wanted but also websites from different-size companies – from the mom and pop shops to larger businesses. (This latter point turned out to be a good thing as I was able to talk to not only others like myself who were launching their dream but also to webmasters, with technical expertise, who were managing the website for an employer. The mom and pops could speak to how well the development firm was at working with people like myself, and the experienced webmasters could speak to their technical expertise.)

Once I had my list of references, I emailed each reference and asked to speak by phone. Everyone agreed.

Here is the questionnaire outline I used during my phone interview:

Reference Questionnaire

Intro:

Hi. Thanks for agreeing to talk.

I have a series of questions I’d like to ask you but just want to start by asking you about your overall satisfaction with [name of website development firm].

Top Priority Questions

Do you feel they delivered on the proposal they offered?

Once your site was operational, did you experience any problems? Navigability? Calls for help from users? Other?

When it came to problems, how was their overall attitude toward fixing the problem and what was the turnaround time?

Once the project was over, how was the general support you received?

How close was the original bid as compared to the final cost?

Are you happy with the experience?

What would you do differently?

What were their greatest strengths and assets?

What were their greatest deficiencies?

What are the “watch outs” you would give people like us looking for a web development company?

If Time

Did they follow your “vision” and put it into action?

How did you feel about overall website design creativity and flexibility throughout the process?

When you call/email, did you typically get to talk to the person you needed to talk too?

Were they professional?

Did you get the sense that they were building a lasting relationship with you or just getting a project done?

Checking the references was an invaluable part of the process. I ended with a clear first choice whom I eventually hired.

Find Out How Much Control You’ll Have Over the Back-end

It’s been a year now of working with this firm and I’ve been happy. They’re professional, delivered as promised for the price they quoted and good to work with.

The one step I would have added if I had known better at the time was to find out how much I would be able to do on the site myself. I’m able to make simple content changes directly but not any changes that require coding.

This past year, I learned just enough HTML to make simple improvements but because my web developer has control over most of the back end, I can’t make those changes directly. Instead I need to pay development time which has been the only frustrating part of the process. There are definitely things I would want my developer to do but some of the little things, like putting a line of code into the header, are things I would like to do myself.

These are my lessons learned. Are you a non-techy who’s worked with a developer? What lessons do you have to share?

The Semantic Web – Where Language Meets Mathematics

The constantly evolving nature of the Internet means many businesses are left clinging on to the coat tails of major advances. Web 2.0 – not a new version of the Internet but new ways of using it, including social networking sites and the use of videos and blogs – has now been embraced by many.

But now IT professionals are starting to talk about Web 3.0 which is exploring a new range of possibilities yet to be developed.

Web 3.0 actually describes a paradigm shift in how information is structured and searched for on the World Wide Web.

Web 3.0 concerns the use of the Semantic Web – it’s about enabling search engines to scan for meaning and interpretation when presented with a search query, rather than just corresponding the number and density of matching search terms.

The Semantic Web is the brainchild of Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web and head of the World Wide Web consortium, the only independent organisation dedicated to consolidating standards of quality in content and structure to the web.

The repercussions of this shift towards a more intelligent and intuitive web will have a huge effect on all web-based data, be it commercial, academic or cultural.

Websites will either have to adapt to the Semantic Web, or be left outside the search loop.

According to Lyang Yu, author of The Semantic Web and Semantic Web Services, most of us use the web for three basic functions – search, integration and data mining, in that order.

The current search paradigm is epitomised by Google – answering particular queries by matching documents from its database that correspond to the precise language the searcher has entered.

Search Spiders are like stupid robots that only do precisely what you tell them. As a result, most search engine optimisation (SEO), tactics are largely restricted to optimising the use of commercially strategic language on websites that will more likely be coughed up by Google or Yahoo in response to a search query.

Google’s AdWords operates on the principle of auctioning off the most popular searched for vocabulary to the highest bidder.

This year, the growth in search engine optimisation activities by brand leaders is unprecedented and rapidly increasing. Any blue chip worth its salt has an in-house search engine optimiser at the centre of its web development team.

Big brand companies like Tesco and Renault are spending their Internet budgets on increasingly competitive SEO tactics, both on page and off page.

One of the biggest growths in IT recruitment in both the US and the UK is for SEO managers and experts. Some companies currently spend as much optimising their web presence as they do designing their sites.

Usability and optimisation have become the defining criteria for distinguishing an effective website from a rarely visited online brochure.

While keyword search is still the most popular search method, it is seldom accurate. Users sometimes get up to 10,000 hits on a result page and then have to wade through a list of loosely-related keyword results to find the relevant documents they were searching for.

Up until the Semantic Web, search criteria have been based on the choice of the correct key words to tag and identify your web presence to the spiders indexing the Internet.

The premise is that the closer the language of your website corresponds to the language choice of the searcher, the more relevant your website, and the more likely Google will rank you higher in the search results.

But this is all coming to an end. The Semantic Web is where language finally meets mathematics.

In comparison to standard search, semantic search looks at the logic of the sentence – how words in a sentence relate to one another, as well as understanding the context of the keywords.

Instead of clumsy, corresponding criteria, the words grouped around a keyword or phrase will now play as important a factor in the relevancy of the term as the keyword itself. The focus is now on context, how words and assets are grouped together.

For example, when a term is ambiguous, such as with the word bark, semantic analysis is needed on the other words that wrap around it to give it its true meaning and context.

So a semantic web search for Obama plus McCain would correctly interpret that the searcher was seeking results relevant to the recent election campaign, as opposed to results that contained those names.

There are search engines on the net that are already beginning to harness the principles of semantic web development.

Cuil.com is a semantically inspired search engine that pulls relevant results from deep within website pages as opposed to just listing the index page of a particular website.

Other good examples include juiceapp.com, cuil.com, illuimin8.com and headup.com.

Ultimately web content publishers are going to have to adapt to the notion that all published content is equally accessible to semantic-based search engines. The past SEO criteria for priority placement of text and other assets on a website is declining.

Yahoo’s recently launched SearchMonkey applications are semantically based search tools. Yelp, Yahoo!Local, and LinkedIn Enhanced now appear automatically in Yahoo search results.

These three applications are among the first to share structured data. ZiMesh is a semantic information management and recommendation engine that manages personal information. ZiMesh is powered by a semantic platform, which automatically tries to understand users’ interests over time, and connects them to topics, users and contents it thinks will be of interest.

So what does this shift represent to the average business trying to maintain a competitive web presence?

In one way it means that the playing field is levelling. There is less need to spend a fortune on SEO tactics that are never guaranteed to deliver measurable results.

Writing concise, relevant and informative content for a website will always pay dividends over SEO tactics. Google wants to refer its queries to useful resources. The more useful a resource you make your website, the more likely Google will rank you highly. So, do nothing but be good.

The more the individual data components -text, images, video, sound – of your website are ascribed searchable terms, the larger and deeper your web presence and the more likely you will be found by a semantic search.

The end result will be a more responsive, more intelligent and ultimately more useful world wide web.