Website and graphic designer speak

How to design an under construction page in three easy steps

There is always a stage or two when you have your domain name live but your site is not quite ready yet. Or when you have to update your website and need to put the current site down. Question is, what d you put up on the site at these times?

The answer is always different but arriving at it – we think anyway – always has a simple formula. It all begins with communications. I will say again that at Aksent, design doesn’t begin until we have talked with our clients, asked questions and had questions asked of us.

Step one: Talk
Sit down have a coffee with us and let us understand what you want to communicate and how. This varies from letting visitors know when the website will be up again to allowing them to contact you meanwhile. The communication options vary based your communication strategy and objectives.

In the case of the image above which at the moment you can visit at: www.alwayspresent.co.ke – the client wanted customers to know that they were building a website and to be able to contact them should they need to.

Step two: Ideas
This is arguably still part of the talking phase but it is more focused on the actual page look and feel, it is no longer what do we want out of the page but rather how do we want the page to look and behave. As a rule we suggest you keep it really simple.

In the case of the client above they wanted an artistic page that simply had their logo and easy contacts.

Step three: Build it
The building phase should only begin now. After your designer has understood what you want and can now mesh your objectives and ideas with his/her own creativity.

Et voila! It really is that simple, stick to the steps and you will be happy with your under construction page.

Why i love gmail

I love my gmail account. Not because i don’t know how to set up or update any one of the various off line mail clients out there, no. I love my gmail because – first and foremost it is all online and i can check up anything i want whenever i want.

I am not stuck to saying “oh, hang on… i will have to check that for you and get back to you when i have had a chance to check my mail.” no, all i have to do is ask you to give me five minutes and i will get back to you. Then switch on opera on my phone and dig into gmail to find whatever info i need to find for you.

Please do not take this to be a bashing of offline clients… they are important back ups… and when something happens to your account, and something will… you have copies of everything.

There is another great strength in gmail for me; i can check for new mail easily without too much fuss… if i am having my mail delivered offline i have to wait to check it, deal with the unpleasant interfaces provided for web mail.

Now the absolute clincher for me [and it is not all the calendar, online editors for documents and that stuff those are great but not the clincher], is the fact that so much thought is constantly going into gmail…

something i discovered just yesterday was that if your search in your own in box yields nothing, gmail offers suggestions for something close that it has found al la screenshot provided.

Long live gmail and the folks who don’t stop thinking about it and keep innovating.

How you should choose your designer

These days graphic designers and website designers are so many its hard to figure out who you should use to do your various projects, be they brochure design, logo design or even website design projects.

The aim of this article is to help introduce rationale into the decision, some factors to consider when hiring a designer for your business. And that, is where we will start.

This is a business; yes – i often need to remind my customers that this is their business they are thinking of building a website for… i then ask, how much work that you need done do you outsource, followed by how much of it is outsourced to inexperienced, untrained, unprofessionals?

Very often, the answer to that is we outsource quite a lot, but even our garbage is collected by a company we vetted to ensure they properly dealt with paper waste – we don’t want our private documents blowing around.

So, here is a question, if the guy collecting your trash has to prove to you that he can properly dispose of your trash and that shredded material with your logo will not end up on highways, why would you entrust, the one place people will look for your logo, to someone who hasn’t gone through the same checks?

Lets move on to the key factors that should affect your decision:

Experience
Experience means evidence of scope of ability in various aspects. That means you should ask your potential designer what projects he or she has worked on. Be careful not reveal the reason behind your question, just ask it.

In the answer to this question keep an ear out for the differences in the projects that are mentioned to you. Does every site have the same basic features? what differentiates them? Also listen out for how well your designer can explain what it is that makes each site unique, how well s/he makes you understand complex features.

This research can also be done by looking at a portfolio before hand so that you can visit the sites and see for yourself how they work.

Expertise
We have different people doing different things, designers, programmers, copy writers and client service. This allows us to give you the very best of all worlds depending on what you need.

When you are working with an individual its hard to believe that they have mastered all the skills, from design, programming, animation and content generation.

Taste
It is important that the designer you are working with has the same taste as you, to often you work with a designer who is developing a truly beautiful site, but just not for you, maybe your taste is bolder, quieter, more typographic or less, the list goes on… I would recommend you search fro a designer whose work you like.

An easy way to do this is browse a designer’s portfolio, if the majority of work you find pleasant is to your liking you have found the designer for you… I say this because a designer would only put his best work on his portfolio and this is often synonymous with least client interference – hence the designer’s style comes out, and s/he is happy with it.

Communication
How many times will you say the same thing differently, louder, write it or whatever before it gets done? We encourage you to actively test your designers through questions or requesting a brief back in order to make sure you are working the right people. Making sure you all understand each other ensures you save time and frustration.

Or you can just stop worrying about who to hire and hire us!! 🙂

What iTunes needs

Its pretty obvious that as one works they listen to music, but after years and years of being a designer i have somehow come to have a massive music collection – i am sure this is not a situation unique to designers.

I am certain all of you reading this now have at least a couple of thousand songs on your iTunes, collected over years of unwise use of your credit card on the iTunes shop and the import button on your iTunes.

I think iTunes needs a regular report that tells you you have the following files as duplicates – delete one copy?

Another feature i am convinced iTunes needs is a feature that finds songs never played and rondomises play of these, or more controls to the itunes deejay – that lets you not play some categories of music and etc.

Anyway – just miscellaneous ramblings that i feel i need to get out because i can’t work while they burden my mind – lol, back to work now i guess.

Where is design going? I have no idea, but here is my opinion

In a world where you can get free templates and your Macintosh can create killer brochures in no time flat, where are businesses like ours going? I have given this much thought over the past few months and these are my thoughts:

1. everyone has become a designer
Many of my clients are now coming to me with layouts they mocked up on their macs and telling me this is what i want, don’t change anything, just make it seo safe and add a cms.

This is not bad because [for now] cms integration is still quite a technical field and optimization and seo really need someone that knows what they are doing. So on this i am not so negative, it is also a plus when your client doesn’t waste your time butchering your beautiful template.

2. Free templates and logos
Many sites are now offering free templates that just bolt on to various cms’, no technical expertise required…

On this i am not so negative because this type of client is the type that takes most of your time and pays you least, i consider this a loss of margarine, it wasn’t the source of your main income anyway (bread and butter).

So I am wondering where we are going, we have ten times as many folks saying they are designers, half as many real customers and half as many again who really are looking for quality designers…

We are going to a time where, to be honest, design is going to get really good – a lot of competition leads to high quality and niche and such – then it will get really bad – anyone with enough time to be innovative will soon decide they can make better money on other things…

anyway, these are just ramblings… design is forever where quality matters, i worry because quality is mattering less where clients are paying and even then they are paying less… i’ll stop here and think about my current project instead 🙂

What search engine optimisation means to you as a website design customer

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is serious business, it makes the difference between  your website design being seen by folks or not being seen by folks. I hear you say “but they will get the website i have had designed from my name or my business card!” There is a great deal of truth to that, but what if they forgot you? What if they have never heard of you? And somehow they have this massive job and are looking for you or even someone like you on a website like google but don’t know how to find you?

In this article i will help you with the basics of SEO for your website design, the details leave to to your website designers and developers. In fact, let me just list out a number of things you should make sure your developers do: 1. ensure you have a good title tag; 2. ensure you have a good description tag; 3. ensure there are no tables in your design; 4. ensure there is minimal use of flash on your website; and 5. ensure all images have an alt description tag filled. AND ENSURE THIS IS DONE FOR EVERY PAGE.

Those are technical things and those generally you just need to make sure your website designer has done. Now to the things you can do to really make the process of website design worthwhile, I would break them down into three things, 1. keep the website fresh; 2. make sure there is enough content volume on the website to justify a high rank position; and 3. make sure the content is themed throughout your website design. What does this mean and how it is done?

1. Keeping the website design fresh
To do this frankly all you need to do is put new content regularly on your website. When i say regularly i say at best every day or so and at worst every two weeks. How is this done, if you have website designed by aksent, you will have a php news module on your website.

The aksent php news module allows you as a website owner to regularly update your website design without much technical knowledge, we create a system through which you update you news on your website design your self.

2. Website content volume justifies position
Website content volume is essentially judged by the length of time you can spend talking about a given subject, the more specific a subject the better your rankings will be. The idea is this: if your information is original, accurate and good you will naturally or organically end up with people linking to your page, in other words quoting you. The more people quote your website design the better respected your website gets. So, keep adding good volumes of content to your website, we would say you try for about 500 words per entry.

3. Make sure the content is themed throughout your website design
Themed content is pretty straight forward, keep your website about one topic –  this means that if your website is new and it is about hardware in kenya, don’t talk about your safari last week, that ruins the theming on your website. If the website is small especially – less than 200 pages, this truly negatively affects your search rankings, so stick to your topic, if you want to bring up your safari, you better mention the hardware used in the buildings and safari vehicles you show photos of, and you can then stick the occasional lion in there.

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