Web redesign: Why bother?

Starting a website redesign project before establishing clear goals and objectives, is a bit like driving a 1987 Ford Fiesta through a mountain range with iffy brakes and no steering wheel. The road will be bumpy and before long you’ll have a sore head and be rusting in the forecourt of a Little Chef. If you can’t confidently answer ‘Why bother?’ then a web redesign is probably only the tip of your problems my friend.

Compare the meerkat

Compare The Market’s recent (and still current) ‘Compare The Meerkat’ campaign has undoubtedly become engrained in the minds of the UK public. On a recent trip to London Zoo, guess what everyone was saying near the meerkat enclosure? Three months ago, would we have been able to buy meerkat garden ornaments? 

The reason why it’s a success: 

Ceefax predicts mobile web: Jakob Neilsen declares BBC world’s best headline writers

The latest article by Jakob Nielsen, the living legend of usability who publishes regularly on a web developers’ treasure trove and graphic designers’ nightmare of a website, declares the BBC News website as the epitome of great web writing. This is true, and a well established fact, that the headline writers at the BBC succinctly encapsulate a story in such clarity in the space of four words that viewing their RSS feed you never need to read a newspaper again (sort of). What I found more interesting though was the off hand reference to Ceefax as the historical evidence that the BBC has always been good at writing effectively and efficiently.

Curve of clarity: Picking the right keywords

Choosing the right words to fill your webpage, or keywords for your ad campaigns can sometimes be hit or miss. Using the ‘curve of clarity’ as an idea, you should be able to choose appropriate keywords to maximise seo efficiency and also the readability and relevance of your site.

Key principles

  1. Words in common usage have high numbers of search engine results.
  2. Words which are specialist have lower numbers of search engine results.
  3. Marketese words, or words which mean one thing but are given a different meaning for marketing, business lingo or general jargon, have high search engine results when searching those terms, but low search engine presence when searching for the term those words actually mean in plain English. (See also: Plain English to help SEO and note that marketese increases bounce rates)

Examples

  1. cat: 905,000,000 results.
  2. abyssinian: 985,000 results.
  3. lap warmer: 62,800 results.

Curve of Clarity

 The curve of clarity has an arbitary scale, but you’ll get the general idea:

Their news, us news, me news: newspapers are old news

The speed at which news is classed as ‘new’ has changed. Newspapers simply can’t keep up with the pace of life that the current Internet age provides. The scope of news has changed dramatically too, especially with the concepts of Twitter and (as one example) BBC News ‘Have Your Say’ feature on web stories.

SEO long tail: use it to your advantage

One of the keys to a successful web presence has nothing to do with search engine optimisation. Though SEO techniques can certainly benefit the exposure of your site, what really counts is making sure the site has direction. Indeed for most websites, paying good money for a SEO consultant would be about as productive as posting junk mail to yourself. Search engine algorithms are being more aware of over-optimised sites and penalising those who attempt black hat strategies. Giving a specific direction, making sure your site stands out will help more than SEO for a generic direction. 

Usability and SEO of hyperlinks and link text (Reflections on Jakob Nielsen)

Jakob Nielsen is proclaimed as the guru of web usability, analysing and writing about usability and SEO methods any web designer, developer or author can apply to their site. He is both adored and panned by the web community for his insightful and informative, but hideously designed website*. Ranked very highly in the community, his work (when you ignore the shameless promotion of his pricey conferences, reports and books) quite often presents a particular argument followed by a very short counter-argument.

Quick steps to improving readability (Reflections on GCD post)

As well as a couple of simple steps to take to improve readability of sites (below), this is just a short post to flag up an article I found recently by Gail Diggs at GCD Marketing: When “Bad Writing” is Good. Essentially, the old rules of copy writing are “thrown out the window” because of the way that users read text on screen in short, scanning ways and are often impatient to find the next web page to read. This compared to the paper-based format of ‘leisure reading’.

Beware the fold – Designing for netbooks

Web designers need to be more aware of the popularity of netbooks as cheap, low-tech, laptop notebooks. This popularity has suggested that a significant proportion of web users are quite happy with low-power processing (hence longer battery life) in order they can check their email and favourite websites on the move. This has spelt an end, or if not an end then a fork, in the ever increasing screensize theory.