Category Archives: web-op

RWD2014 || Year of the Mobile

Responsive web design is extremely critical in today’s world; it is necessary for survival among the fittest. No doubt mobile browsing has blown up and continues to grow exponentially. There are times where no matter how good a company’s web site looks on the monitor, if it is not “mobile friendly” and the user gets a poor experience, well, the site might as well be deemed no good at all. On a personal level, I can relate to the importance of mobile browsing. For example, after giving someone my business card usually one of the first things they do is pull out there iPhone, and look at my portfolio. If my personal site was not built with a responsiveness to adapt to different media devices and viewports such as the iPhone; and the viewer looking at my work does not have a good experience, this could jeopardize the integrity of my work and in turn, possibly be loosing future customers and contacts. I would like to quote Andy Clarke, web designer, author and founder of Stuff and Nonesense. Andy says, “Anything that’s fixed and unresponsive isn’t web design anymore, it’s something else. if you don’t embrace the inherent fluidity of the web, you are not a web designer, you’re something else. Web design is responsive design. Responsive Web Design is web design, done right”…

Q&A with a UI/UX Designer

For this weeks blog I decided to interview a friend of mine and professional graphic/web designer. 

 Ryan Canfield is UI/UX designer & front end developer at Synapse Studios specializing in web-based javascript applications.


What do you think is one the most important thing as a web designer?   Thinking past static design & layout to consider the web at all screen sizes.

What about the creative process?   We use a repeatable, successful pattern. It starts with sketching, wire framing, mock ups, rapid prototyping and then development .

 How important is the creative process to you?   Very! Synapse didn’t have designers a few years back, it was developers doing front end. Having designers makes a huge difference in the usability of web applications.  Being classically trained as a graphic designer helps me daily in web design. I use the principles of design, like color theory, rhythm, balance etc. these fundamentals are paramount!

What is your outlook on simplicity?   Simplicity depends on necessity. That is one thing designers forget with the web design and graphic design in general. They feel like they need to fill all the space like it is some “hole to fill” esp. junior designers. Question the necessity of everything you include in the design and then question whether is it presented in the best way possible.

What about the the placement of things like “call to actions?”   You want to make sure your main call to action is available and accessible almost anywhere.  If you’re delivering information you want it at the end of that information. It should be the most prominent path for a user to take.

What do you think about traditional web placement i.e. headers etc. and switching the placement of them up, in non traditional ways?   It really depends on the users of the site or app. Sites that have the same user base are better candidates than sites that have mostly unique visitors. Additionally, younger, more techie users are going to figure out the placement of things and are less likely to get frustrated. With users that struggle you probably want a more conservative layout. You have to determine purpose of the site and the target audience. A marketing site is going to be selling products/services, reference website will be delivering information etc.

Any input for junior web designer?   Mobile first approach, responsive design and write clean code!   

 

world wide web banner

A web sites web banner is by far one of the most important area of a site. It is what people see first,  this is where the viewer makes initial visual contact and gets an overall feel and vibe of the site, and ultimately decides if they want to continue on or not. I can not tell you how many web sites I have left due to the  fact they had a weak header. Even though it is the content that matters in todays world people judge books by there covers, and the web banner is the cover. I like this piece of information I found online, it is from a graphic designer and multiple business owner named Dawn Papandrea-Khan. She states, “usually when we visit a website or blog, we can get a feel for what the site represents in only a few seconds. This is the reason why it is even more important to focus on making the right first impression through a custom header graphic.”

As a designer, there are a few key aspects and bits of information I think the header should contain. The company, the product etc. Which brings me to my next point I found in an online blog talking about this exact topic. This is from boostability.com the importance of a header. 

1. Who are you? (You would be amazed how many websites make their visitors dig around to find out the name of the company!)

2. What do you do? (Again, the number of visitors who are forced to assume your site sells a product rather than just talks about it is ridiculous. Be clear!)

3. Why should I buy from you, not the other guy?

The web is littered with garbage, visual noise and a bunch of sites that house web banners that all look the same. It is up to me as the designer to produce clean, visually interesting web banners that represents the sites overall demeanor and entice people to stay on the site and explore further. It is also up to me to find new and exciting ways to display the content  so we can separate ourselves from the crowd.   Also, I feel like in design I have to take risks. I have to try new and “edgy” things and think outside the normal design box that I often get tunnel visioned in. I would also like to explore maybe trying a banner with out the traditional rectangle box, maybe another shape  or placement? That is something definitely for the sketchbook and some thought.

Sketchy Situations


To me, one of the most important parts of the creative process is sketching. Usually coming right after the initial brainstorming, it is essential for to me to start getting ideas out of my head and onto the paper. This part of the creative process is critical, and is often overlooked or not even used at all. For me, to really explore layout possibilities and new areas it begins with sketching.

Sketching can vary from project to project. For a logo design I might start 45 minutes of straight sketching, with out erasing not making it look pretty just getting ideas out of my head asketching web banner layoutnd onto paper. From there I would pick maybe 3-5 of those and focus on those, then narrow those down making visual decisions, repeating this process.

 It helps me to understand and study the space before I go into the computer. It helps to find new positions, things that are static and centered are predictable and often visually uninteresting, (there are times when static positioning is effective, situation dictates.) Basically when I sketch, I am not going into the design “blindfolded” or rolling with the punches that technology throws at me. I need a foundation, and that is sketching, you can’t build a house with out a foundation!

 

Enhanced CPC: Is This Always The Right Choice?

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When choosing a click-focused bid strategy, is clicking the “Enable Enhanced CPC” button always the right choice? What Enhanced CPC means is exactly how it sounds, it optimizes your cost per click if Adwords presumes it as beneficial, or not beneficial, to your campaign. This feature can increase your bids for clicks by up to 30% if deemed good for the campaign, and lower the bid by any amount if it seems that the campaign will not benefit. Seems awesome right? This may not necessarily be the case.

While Enhanced CPC can be beneficial for a campaign with a good history of conversion data, a new campaign with Enhanced CPC will most likely not perform at its best. It can drive down traffic for a new campaign and make your campaign not work as how you would’ve hoped.  It’s not going to do a good job if there is no data to base its bid decisions over. What is our verdict?

Use it for a campaign with good historic conversion data. This is where the Enhanced CPC feature may perform at its best and be the most beneficial to your Adwords campaign, with potential for increased conversion rate, increase ROI, and overall lower costs. However,for a new campaign, we recommend not using it. Be smart with Enhanced CPC, make sure it’s right for you.

You Are The Company You Keep

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Working in a successful company is more than being good at what you do. Competition for work is high these days and to be the most successful you must aim at keeping your clients happy. It is a matter of both attracting and retaining clients.

In doing so, you must truly work at your networking skills. Remember to always be open and available to your clients. If they call you to ask a question, don’t just brush them off quickly but take the time to explain the answer. Your time is valuable, but so is keeping your client base happy. Do not charge them for your advice and if you do not know the answer to a question, find someone who does. Referrals are your best friend. They not only please your client, but it builds up your own credibility. By referring a client to someone else in your network it makes the client believe that you really know the industry.

On the other end of success you now just have to be good at what you do. Ask them plenty of questions and listen to the answers. Most people are not used to working with designers and often do not know what they want. Always provide updates for the client, even if they do not ask. The clients like to see what is going on, so show them examples and get their feedback.

My last tip of advice would simply be to be nice and remember to love their brand as much as they do. They need to see someone believe in what their doing and reassure them that they are making the right moves. People like to work with pleasant people; I believe that good energy is everything in the workplace and positive vibes go a long way with the projected ups and downs of a project. Therefore, if you aim to be energetic and polite in your work, you should always get the repeated business you deserve.

PPC Tips: What Do You Do On A Weekly Basis?

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When we are called here for PPC consultation or to take over someone’s campaign, we often find that a decent campaign is created, however it is left stagnant and on “autopilot”. The thing with PPC is that is cannot be left to run on its own! Things change in Adwords (Bing too!) in minutes, even seconds at a time, leaving your well performing keyword potentially in the dust in no time. We have developed some “best practices” at Web-Op to optimize our marketing campaigns. These have to monitored daily, and even hourly in some instances.  So how should you keep a close eye on your Adwords/Bing campaign? Follow some of these tips from the experts here at Web-Op.

  • Identify the poor performers: These are the “low hanging fruit”. Poor performers can include ads/keywords with low CTR, low clicks, or low conversions, depending on the age of the campaign. We also leverage data from Google Analytics which can tell us things like bounce rate and average visit duration. Poor performers are a gigantic waste of money. Without keeping a close eye on these, you are just throwing money away for nothing.
  • Negative keywords: Let’s say you are advertising keywords like “computer repair services”. You may not want your ads to come up in search terms like “do it yourself computer repair”. Constant addition of negative keywords to your campaign can be very beneficial, and can keep your overall performance metrics toward the high-side.
  • Average position: Keywords are given position, and this is something very important to watch for. Usually the top 3 positions have the best performance. We have found that position 2 (out of the 3) has the worst performance. We like to aim for position 1 to 3. Every keyword bid is different, so getting the optimal position can be quite tricky.
  • Fix match types: Depending on the client, campaign, and budget, we will choose to mix keyword match types. With broad match terms, we have found that is it important to scale these back and use these as a good way to find what the best search terms are. Through scaling back broad match and adding search terms as a phrase match, we have seen the following statistics after just a week of managing PPC for a health supplement:
    • Spend reduced 11.5%
    • Conversions Increased 7%
    • Cost Per Conversion Decreased 14.5%
    • Conversion Rate increased 19%
    • ROI increased 160%
  • Budgets: In the end, you are spending the client’s money when managing their PPC campaign. Be wary of their daily budgets and if anything is getting maxed out, you can scale back on the poor performers or lower the position. More clicks for less money? Yup, it’s worth it.

PPC can be quite tricky, and it is for good reason. It takes a well optimized campaign, as well as the proper capital, to really get some good, solid, consistent performance. Don’t turn on autopilot, keep a close eye on your campaigns. You will be happy you did.

Is a dedicated server or “cloud” instance right for you?

These days, we’re seeing more clients eager to deploy on a cloud system like Amazon EC2 or Digital Ocean.  These systems are closer to conventional dedicated servers than traditional shared-hosting accounts, even though the price is closer to the latter.

There are certain changes you can expect when you move to a setup like this.

  •  Full control over the software stack.  Want to run on your favourite Linux distribution?  Go right ahead.  This becomes much more important if you need special utilities.  For example, if you NEED ImageMagick to do some custom server-side graphics processing, or, say, wkhtmltopdf to generate instant downloadable PDFs of site content.
  •  More assigned resources.  Shared hosting is famous for being vague as to what you get hardware-wise.  Cloud instances and dedicated servers usually come with more clearly defined allocations of CPU, memory, and I/O performance, and you can frequently select upgrades to each as needed.

However, it comes with a significant drawback:  the whole software system is in your hands.  If you want to configure Apache to redirect everything it touches to a porn site, the cloud system won’t stop you.  If you choose to delete the entire filesystem from the top directory downwards, that’s your perogative.  On a more practical note, it means you’re responsible for keeping the software up-to-date.  Usually this is little more than logging in and running “yum update” or the equivalent on a regular basis, but it still requires some awareness of what you’re doing.

One major difference between cloud instances and dedicated servers comes in the hardware.  With the “cloud”, they’re still abstracting out some aspects of the system.  This tends to make for greater inconsistency in perfofmance.  Spin up a dozen EC2 instances, get a dozen different real-world results.  If consistency is your goal, you may have to go all the way to a full dedicated server.