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Secrets of Web Design for the Pragmatic

A website functions as the main headquarters for your online business. Thus, it only makes sense that you want it to be both functional and enticing. That means sticking with the best possible design principles to make it appealing to a wide range of persons. Here are a few “secrets for pragmatic web design.” Use these ideas to make sure your site is hitting on all cylinders:

Site Navigation Secrets

Make the site navigation system as clear as possible. Visitors should be able to find their way around your site with ease. Avoid complicated flash menus; you want your navigation to be simple enough for a child to understand. If visitors aren’t able to find what they’re looking for, they’re likely to go elsewhere.

While we’re talking about navigation, make sure that site users can easily see where they are on your site. If they’ve browsed themselves down a few levels deep, you want them to be able to see where they are to avoid confusion.

Images Secrets

Go easy on the images. Your site will load more quickly with fewer pictures, which means potential customers are more likely to stay on the page. Any images that must be on the page should be optimized for size using an image editor. Make the image file size as small as possible to speed up your site load time.

Seeing a solid wall of text on a page is one of the quickest ways to get visitors to head off to another website. Big blocks of text are uninviting to readers. Instead, break your text up into smaller, easier-to-read paragraphs, and you’ll find that visitors are more likely actually to read your content.

Browser Platform Secrets

Check your page across all the major browser platforms. Obviously, appearance is important. Your website might look perfect on Firefox, but if it looks bad on Chrome and Opera, visitors will be hitting the back button – meaning you’re losing out on potential earnings.
Do you know what a splash page is? These are those pages you see on many websites with pretty pictures and the words “Click Here to Enter Site.” Avoid the flashy splash page! They are a waste of your time and a time-waster for the visitors to your page. When someone comes to your page, they want to see the value right from the start, not fancy graphics.

Banner Ad Secrets

Avoid using an overabundance of banner ads on the header and sidebars of your site. Most people don’t pay them any attention, anyway – in fact; it’s been shown that as the internet matures, web surfers are developing “banner blindness,” where they don’t notice banners anymore. You’ll be better off supplying your followers with epic content that has relevant text links to your affiliate offers.

Audio Secrets

Finally, think long and hard about using audio on your site – and then say no! There are two big reasons for this. First, many people do their web surfing at work; unexpected audio can get them in trouble. Secondly, even when surfing at home, people multi-task. They may be watching TV or listening to music while visiting your site; your choice of music might not be as enjoyable for them as what they were already listening to. What’s more, if they spend more than a couple of minutes on your site – which you hope they do – having the same tune loop over and over can get really annoying. If you absolutely must have audio, make sure that the controls for muting it are easy to find.
Pragmatic Web Designer on Effective Web Design

Dr. John P. Elcik, IV
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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5 Tips to Help Your Website Load Faster

Web DesignWhen it comes to your website, you must consider more than just design. Some factors determine whether or not your site visitors will stay to explore or leave without so much as a goodbye. One thing that can make or break your website’s success is the amount of time it takes for your pages to load. After all, web surfers are a finicky bunch; they lose interest quickly if they can’t move around your site quickly and efficiently. So, what steps can you take to prevent page load lag? Here are five tips to help your website load faster:

Cut out unnecessary coding

Bulky coding slows downloading speed because browsers must read through everything as they load your pages. Therefore, just going through your coding to eliminate unnecessary white space and tag elements can reduce the amount of time it takes for your pages to load.

Enable caching

PHP caching will store images and other vital information from your site on visitors’ computers when it is downloaded the first time so that your site visitors can subsequently retrieve that data in the blink of an eye.

Trim your images down

Graphics take much longer to load than text, so you should be strategic about your use of them. There are a few things you can do to trim down your images. First, assess the pictures you are using to determine which are necessary, and then keep only those. Second, scale the images down if you can (as smaller images will load faster than larger images). Third, if you have a page with many photos (an online catalog page, for example), then you can give each image its page instead of including all of the pictures on one, slow-loading page.

Optimize your database

There are numerous ways you can optimize your database to decrease your site’s load times. Simple search the web for “database optimization” to learn the details of how to get optimal performance out of your site by optimizing your database.

Find a new host

Believe it or not, the distance you are from your host affects how quickly your site loads. You can decrease your page load time by simply choosing a host that is nearby.

Additionally, some of the cheaper hosting companies use inferior equipment. This can significantly delay your site load. Consider upgrading.

5 Tips to Help Your Website Load FasterWhen it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Contact Dr. John Elcik at identityXperts to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone at (561) 543-2892 or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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Web Navigation is So Important to Your Website

Web DesignAll good web designers know not to overlook specific aspects of web design like navigation. Navigation is just what it sounds like – how people get around on your website. If your site is lacking in effective navigation, it is not going to work for your business the way you need it. Here are some reasons why website navigation is so important.

Web Navigation

People can enter your site from several different pages.

Some people make the mistake of designing their website entirely on the home page. It is important to remember, however, that a multitude of your site’s pages may be ranked simultaneously by search engines. People will be able to access your website from pages other than your homepage. Without proper navigation, visitors could get stuck on a page and not be able to move on to explore more of your site.

You don’t want to put your site visitors to work.

Simply put, users don’t want to work hard to explore your site. A lousy navigation network can mean multiple clicks (and guesses) to get the desired information. If you force your visitors to put in too much effort, you will lose their interest. And you will lose them.

Your site should be well-organized.

Again, this comes down to helping your site visitors find what they need, with as little effort as possible. You can’t expect people to understand how to get where they want to go automatically. Navigation is your way of organizing your site. For example, by making good use of primary navigation, secondary navigation, menus, and internal linking, you can create a user experience that is likely to keep people interested, and loyal, to your site.

If they can’t find it, they can’t read it.

You put a lot of money and time into creating, aggregating, and commissioning content for your site. Simply put, if your website is not designed with navigation in mind, your visitors won’t be able to find your content. If they can’t find it, they can’t read it. So what good is that content?

Why Web Navigation is So Important in Your Website DesignWhen it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Contact Dr. John Elcik at identityXperts to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone at (561) 543-2892 or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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Design Essentials for Websites: 5 Must-Haves

Web DesignWhen people think of web design, they often think of things like graphics, page layout, and attention-grabbing fonts. And yes, these elements are certainly part of web design. The truth is, however, that web design essentials encompass much more than just aesthetics. Are you interested in learning more about what makes a great website design? Then check out these five must-have website design essentials:

Navigation.

Navigation pertains to how people will get around on your site. You can’t make them work for it. You want all of your content to be readily available, and good navigation is the answer. Use primary navigation, secondary navigation, text menus, internal links, search boxes, and breadcrumbs wisely. Do this throughout your site to ensure your site visitors can easily find what they are looking for.

Leading the eye

Navigating through the site, you must also help visitors determine how to focus their attention on each page. You must “lead the eye,” so to speak, by strategically applying weighting, placement, positioning, spacing, and highlighting techniques to guide your visitors from areas of primary importance to supporting or secondary areas.

Typography

The type and size of font you use will significantly impact the user experience and will go a long way in creating the impression you want (or even one you don’t want if you are not careful). Additionally, you must consider line spacing, text effects, line length, paragraph size, and emphasis (italics and bold) when placing your typography.

Clarity

While it may be tempting to pack your website with all the neat graphics and informative content you can, it is more important that your site visitors can quickly ascertain what is on your page. Keep in mind that simplicity is almost always preferable over complexity when it comes to web design and that too many visuals (or too much information) could end up looking like nothing more than a jumbled mess to your site visitors.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Your site is no good if others can’t find it on the web. When it comes to design essentials, good SEO practices include using alt text for images, no-following outbound links that are irrelevant to the site, and labeling page titles and headers effectively.

Design Essentials for Websites: 5 Must-HavesWhen it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Contact Dr. John Elcik at identityXperts to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone at (561) 543-2892 or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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How a Good Website Design Creates a Great Impression

Web DesignYour business needs a strong web presence to be successful in the Age of Information and that your website is integral to your web presence. However, do you realize the importance of good web design when it comes to your business brand? That’s right – it’s not just enough to have an aesthetically pleasing site with good content. Good design is more complicated than that, and it can mean the difference between having an effective or ineffective website. Want to know why design is so important? Here is how a good website design creates a great impression:

Professionalism

When you take shortcuts, it shows. Don’t make the mistake of taking shortcuts with your web design. Sure, your teenage cousin knows a thing or two about creating websites. Still, unless he can create a top-notch, professional-looking site for your business, your site is just going to look amateurish. And your site visitors will get the impression that you are an amateur—spring for a good website design.

Navigation

Good design creates an effortless experience for your site visitors. You don’t want people to have to work or make guesses to find their way around your site. By providing them with straightforward, simple, and well-organized site navigation, you are giving your visitors the impression that you care about catering to them. You are also ensuring they can find (and read!) all of the valuable content you have on your site.

Branding

Your website design should be in line with your business branding in every way – from the colors to the fonts. That means that good web design, with your brand in mind, will elevate your brand and increase brand awareness, thereby creating a lasting impression for your visitors.

Attention-grabbing

You have a minimal window of time in which to grab new site visitors’ attention and pique their interest enough to want to stay and explore for a while. Studies show that a first impression in the web world may take as little a fraction of a second to form. Good web design will snag your site visitors and enable you more time to get your message through to them. In a world where first impressions are so vital, you must invest in sound design.

How a Good Website Design Creates a Great ImpressionWhen it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Contact Dr. John Elcik at identityXperts to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone at (561) 543-2892 or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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Give Your Website the “Cool” Factor

These days, it’s not enough to have a well-designed, easy-to-navigate website. There’s a lot of competition out there. If you want to stay relevant, you must find a way to stand out from the crowd. Here are three tips to give your website the “cool” factor:

A – Z index

Navigation is arguably one of the most important factors influencing your site’s success. For that reason, you should always be on the lookout for cool new navigation features you can add to your site. One such feature that is really catching on when site navigation is the A – Z index. This is exactly what it sounds like: a way for your visitors to easily find things on your site simply by clicking the corresponding letter of the alphabet (or number).

Image galleries

Gone are the days when simple graphics could attract major attention and cause some audience “oohs and ahs.” Now there are many sleek ways you can incorporate a variety of images into a single web page. Consider a sliding image gallery that allows users to view new images by simply clicking a left or right (or up or down) arrow. Or consider a neatly tiled image gallery with a hover-box preview feature that allows users to hover over any single image to enlarge it.

Alert box

As previously mentioned, navigation is tantamount to the success of any website. You can help your visitors navigate if you organize your content to make the order of importance apparent. An alert box is a cool, eye-pleasing way to draw visitors’ attention to the most pertinent content.

When it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Make sure you get the best of the best by contacting us at Pragmatic Web Designer to handle all of your web design needs.
Pragmatic Web Designer on Effective Web Design

Dr. John P. Elcik, IV
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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Fonts as a Design Element, Part 1

Choosing your font

The Pragmatic Web Designer uses fonts as a design element. Fonts like images, beautiful colors, and user-friendly navigation are design choices. A font can either enhance or detract from the theme and feel of your web design. Successful web designers understand this and know or learn which typefaces are most effective. The rules in the web environment are anything but arbitrary, so they need to be followed if a website is to engage the reader rather than turn them away.


There are many fonts out there, so many that choosing a font for your website can be overwhelming. The choice is important, however. Certainly, you want people to read the useful content provided on your site. The intricate details of a font, such as weight, kerning, axes, strokes, and counters, affect how we read, although we are rarely conscious of it. The font that you choose could determine how much text is read and how effective your site is.

Yes, there are thousands of fonts from which to choose, but only a few are successful on the web. Readability and availability are the issues. First, consider the difference between two popular font types: serif and sans serif.

Serif or sans serif

Serif fonts are fonts that have fine cross lines at the ends of the letters. Because the lines make each character more distinctive, serif text is typically easier to read in print but generally harder on a monitor, particularly at smaller sizes. Serif fonts have been used for centuries in printed books, magazines, and newspapers. Consider a serif font for your website if you wish to convey warm, personal, artistic, distinguished, traditional, conservative, or intellectual qualities. Serif fonts are effective as headings or for text and documents intended to be downloaded and printed. The most common serif font is Times New Roman and happens to be the default for most windows-based browsers.

Sans means ‘without’ in French, so naturally, a sans-serif font doesn’t have embellishments at the end of each stroke. Sans serif fonts are generally thought to be better for the web. This was particularly true when computer screens didn’t have a high enough resolution to capture the fine details of the serifs. They could appear blurred and unclear. Even today, on a screen, sans serif fonts appear more readable. Sans serif fonts convey technical, cool, clean, crisp, youthful, modern, or uncluttered qualities. The most popular web font at the moment seems to be Verdana. It is a sans serif font and looks good on both PCs and Macs. Because of this, it is one of the most popular, widely-used fonts on the web.

Availability constrained by technology.

The range of fonts that web admins can reliably select for their pages is not as wide as you may think. Some fonts look better on PCs (such as Arial), while others are best viewed on Macs (like Helvetica and Geneva). Even more limiting than avoiding Serif fonts (perhaps less of a requirement with today’s hardware), web designers have long been limited by what fonts website users have installed on their computers.

The list of universally available fonts is slowly growing, with additional fonts such as Cambria and Candara coming into the picture. In an ideal world, all fonts would be loaded onto all systems to open up design possibilities. Until then, conventional wisdom suggests that you use Web safe fonts from the following list.

Serif

  • Times New Roman/ Times
  • Georgia

San Serif

  • Arial Black
  • Arial/Helvectica
  • Comic Sans
  • Tahoma
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana

Monospace

  • Courier New/ Courier

By selecting one or more of these fonts for your website, you will be able to control somewhat how your text will appear in most browsers. Using Cascading Style Sheets, which is the underlying technology used by a web page to control its appearance, web designers can specify a list of fonts to be used. In CSS, your font-family code might look something like this:

p{font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif}

The first three fonts are pretty common, and chances are most computers will have at least one installed, but in case one doesn’t, you provide the computer generic sans-serif font for the browser to use.

Technology advances

Google Web fonts are an amazing free resource for web designers, as seen at the LearnWebDevelopment and Fox News sites. A web with web fonts is more beautiful, readable, accessible, and open. This newer approach makes it quick and easy for everyone to use a broader selection of web fonts, over 500 font families, and counting. Google’s API service makes it easy to add Web fonts to a website in seconds. The service runs on Google’s servers which are fast, reliable, and tested. Google provides this service free of charge. [Author’s note: To learn how to add Google Web fonts in WordPress themes the right way, optimized for the performance, go to http://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-themes/how-add-google-web-fonts-wordpress-themes/.]

Breaking the rules

Occasionally, there will be times when the “artist” in us desires to break the design rules. Thus, if you absolutely want to ensure your text displays in a specific font, you will need to make that text an image. Just be aware that if you want to make any changes to the content, you will have to edit the image itself, which is much more tedious than going in and editing text. This should be done sparingly as search engines won’t recognize the text in the image. Using images for your text will also increase the download time of your pages. However, there are places where it’s appropriate to use an image to display text. A good example would be your company logo.

Remember, you are the designer.

While fonts may not seem as important a design element as color and graphics, thoughtful consideration should go into your selections. The fonts will convey important information about your company, products, and services. They will help visitors successfully navigate your site and interact with you. Most importantly, the right fonts will contribute to your site’s overall visitor experience. If it’s positive, your content is read, and you have made the right choices.

Dr. John Elcik is a Pragmatic Web Designer. He is passionate about the application of web technologies to marketing communication issues. His specialties include web design, social media, and customer relationship management technologies. His search for the “right” font has been a pragmatic one. It has never been about looking for something unique and distinctive that expresses his particular aesthetic taste. Rather, “appropriateness” is the acid test that guides his choice of font. His favorite fonts are: Takoma, among the san serif, faces for body text, and Georgia, among the serif faces for headings. Typefaces that have several weights (light, regular, bold, etc.) and/or cuts (italic, condensed, etc.) work are good choices to become your personal “workhorse.”
Pragmatic Web Designer uses Fonts as a Design Element

Dr. John P. Elcik, IV
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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Recommendations for a Great Web Designer

Web DesignIf you’re in search of a great web designer, you may want to skip Elance and go directly to Twitter, do not pass go. Finding recommended vendors and freelancers for your business may be as easy as asking the hundreds of folks in your social media network who they recommend. Here’s a breakdown of ways to find trusted contractors, by social media outlet:

LinkedIn

One of the most powerful elements of LinkedIn is the “recommendations” feature. You can write, read, and request recommendations from others in your network. It may take a little legwork, but you can use this feature to find a great copywriter, and read what others have to say about him or her. Think of it as a Yelp for people.

Twitter

While you’re missing out on the depth of information available on LinkedIn, you can get instantaneous responses. For instance, tweet “Looking for a great online bookkeeper” and you should get a bunch of responses within minutes. Give more weight to those that come from inside your network, though, as often a request for referrals will generate automated responses from a spammer. It looks like it comes from one of your friends, but is actually just an ad.

Facebook

You can post requests for referrals, just like on Twitter, and you can also search for people with those keywords in their profiles. Beware, though; just because someone is listed as “Penelope Bookkeeper” doesn’t mean they’re an expert. You could also post your request in groups that are associated with the topic (post a request for a logo designer on a graphic artists’ Facebook group wall, for example).

YouTube

It might seem a little strange to put out a call for resources via video, but why not? Especially if you have a significant following, you could get a tremendous response. Added benefit: If the project you have in mind has a visual aspect, you can demonstrate it right on the video (think office organization, website overhaul, kitchenette remodel).

Even if fourteen people recommend the same web designer, make sure to do your due diligence. Get a written quote and scope of work, ask for a list of projects completed, and confirm that that person will be doing your project personally, not outsourcing to another. With these tips in mind, you should be able to find great outsourcing resources at the click of a mouse.

Recommendations for a Great Web DesignerWhen it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Contact Dr. John Elcik at identityXperts to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone, at (239) 400-0622, or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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3 Website Design Elements to Avoid

There are design elements to avoid. When you design a website, your most important goal is to make it as easy as possible for visitors to use it while still providing a welcoming aspect that represents what your business is about. No matter how wonderful your product or service might be, your website has to present it well, or you won’t be making any sales; instead, your visitors will be clicking the back button.

When we talk about good website design, we aren’t talking only about art or graphic design. You must take into account; accessibility for the user, the layout and interface design, and of course, the graphic design. Each of these contributes to an overall well-thought-out website design.

To help you out, we’ve made a list of a few of the worst features that come up in web design. After you read this list, you can check out your own site and see how it compares; if you notice any of these features on your website, perhaps it’s time to revamp your design.

Background music

Too many sites seem to want to provide a soundtrack with looping background music. Frankly, we really only recommend it for websites that are promoting a band or other music-related products. While having a little tune playing under your site might seem fun at first, it can be a real annoyance to a website visitor trying to browse your site – every time they click over to another page, the music starts all over again. Many visitors will either turn down their volume – or worse, click away from your site. What’s more, visitors with a slow internet connection have to wait for the music to download when they visit, slowing down their ability to browse your site.

Text that’s too big or too small

Like we mentioned, there’s much more to the design than simply the graphics – user-friendliness is a big part of what makes your website work. And a part of that is the text size; text needs to be large enough to be legible but not so large that it makes it hard to read. Another thing along the same lines is the text color – make sure that there’s enough contrast between the text and the background that you can read it without straining.

Popup windows

Many surveys have found that popup ads or windows are among the top annoyances on the internet; most people ignore them or immediately click the back button rather than deal with them. In fact, most people have put popup “blockers” on their computer so that they rarely have to see the things. So not only are they annoying to the people who do see them, whatever message you’re using them to convey is not being seen by many people who come to your site. If that message is important, it’s most likely getting lost; you need to find a better way to get it in front of your visitors.

Remember that as a webmaster or site designer, your main concern is making sure that your site effectively conveys your message to your visitors. Take a good look at your site to ensure that your message isn’t being lost or ignored because of a relatively minor design flaw!
Pragmatic Web Designer

Dr. John P. Elcik, IV
The Pragmatic Web Designer

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What Makes WordPress so Popular with the Pragmatic?

WordPressIt is free

Being free is not a requirement, but it helps. WordPress, first released in May 2003 by Matt Mullenweg, it now being used by more than 300 million websites worldwide. That’s what I call growth. As a result, WordPress is my personal recommendation to anyone considering creating their blog or website.

It is functional

WordPress offers significant functionality right out of the box. It doesn’t matter if your site is a blog or a business site. It is a robust and efficient solution.

Easy to manage

I’ve always been a DIY type individual, and WordPress makes a website easy to manage by yourself.

Easy to learn

There are online communities where you can learn more about WordPress without having to figure it out on your own. Building a website is no more complex than learning to use a moderately complex application like Microsoft Word. Also, don’t underestimate the value of online tutorials. There are many.

Well supported

It’s also easy to find service providers who are experienced with WordPress when you need additional customization or personalization of your blog. Consider yours truly, the Pragmatic Web Designer. I just love to build websites: timely, practical and relevant.

Search engine friendly

Another very compelling reason to use WordPress is that search engines like Google.com and Bing.com love WordPress and rapidly index posts and pages on a WordPress site.

Flexible

You can find thousands of WordPress plugins which will enhance, and extend your blog or website. They are what make WordPress truly extendable. There are plugins for almost any purpose you can imagine. Plug-ins allow users to customize their website without having to pay a programmer or purchase expensive add-on products.

What Makes WordPress so Popular with the Pragmatic?When it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Contact Dr. John Elcik at identityXperts to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone, at (239) 400-0622, or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.