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website design

The cost of designing a website spans everything from very cheap to very expensive.  You've certainly seen examples of both!  How much should you spend ?

Firstly, it depends on your starting point.  Do you already have a logo or a brand ? If not, it really depends on your business - but design is always key to how you are perceived and if you're just a very small business, it's worth spending on a nicely designed logo, bigger businesses really do need to think about their brand, how and where it will be used.  We can put you in touch with a suitable designer or a selection of designers based on your needs, style and budget.  Get in touch first for a quick chat.

When it comes to your website design, a simple gallery site is a lot less work than a full e-commerce site but whatever kind of website you need, don't skimp on design costs, set a budget and see what you can get done for that budget.  Design is the single most important way that you have to distinguish yourself from your competitors as well as by far the overriding factor for your website visitors when deciding whether they should trust you.  Website development costs tend to be a fairly fixed expense so, knowing this, allow as much as you can for design and marketing.  Please feel free to contact us and we'll give you some initial ideas on a suitable design budget based on your needs.

Yes, we're always happy to work with new designers.  We have a list of deliverables that a competent graphic designer will be able to create, so please put your designers in touch with us and show us your ideas.

Yes - but it does all depend on the design!  In general we use applications like Pixel Perfect to ensure 100% compliance with the design mockups.  Some designers are better than others at producing designs that are suitable to be produced on the web.  The restriction is never Drupal but always understanding how fonts, graphics and changing page styles and dimensions affect rendering of your design on the web.  While we give designers a free hand to push creative boundaries and challenge us as much as possible, we are also available to consult on design - particularly with a view to usability, accessibility and SEO.  Designers who we work with like this approach and it's mutually very satisfying to improve each other's work.  We often find we're discussing interesting ideas with designers about how to make websites work.  At the same time, we know you want your designs to be perfectly replicated; if you'd like a demo, including comparisons with live sites and design mockups, please get in touch.

There is one main technical challenge in coding a website - to make your site look like the mockups on every computer, no matter whether it's Mac, PC, Linux, an iPhone, an HTC smart phone with a small screen, a high definition TV, a games console........ viewing with Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera.....  the list goes on.  In a perfect world, a website is designed so that it will view correctly on all computers, all devices, large and small.

But, in an imperfect world, we decide which browsers we will ensure your site works for.  This decision and subsequent testing is called cross-browser compatibility testing.  It is a long process of testing and fixing because, naturally, a website will not display correctly on all these devices, browsers and screen sizes.  When we create a site, we try to work with the designer to ensure "graceful degradation".  This is the principle that if one graphic element does not display correctly, it is replaced by something that might not look quite as good as intended (but still not ugly) and that this should not affect the display of the rest of the site, nor its functionality.

As standard, we ensure compatibility with a standard range of browsers:  Firefox 3.x, Internet Explorer 7,8, Opera, Safari and Chrome, latest versions.  Each of these are tested on Windows XP, Vista, 7, Linux, Mac.  Further device compatibility and testing is carried out at additional cost.

As standard we make our sites compatible with:

  • Internet Explorer 7, 8
  • Firefox 3.x
  • Opera (latest version)
  • Safari (latest version)
  • Chrome (latest version)

The above are tested on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Linux, Mac OS.

We offer Internet Explorer 6 compatibility at a small additional cost.

Further compatibility testing can be carried out at extra cost.

In particular, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, iPad are all operating systems for which we are routinely being asked to ensure compatibility.

As standard, we code websites to work on a certain set of browsers and operating systems.  Mobile devices are optional and cost a little more to test and ensure that your site displays correctly.

There are so many mobile phone types with different means of displaying websites that we review with you which ones, if any, should be supported.  Having said that, we find that our sites tend to work perfectly on iPhones and Blackberries even without specific coding and testing.

See our standard and optional list of browsers and operating systems for cross-browser support here.

Drupal is great for SEO.  In fact, it's one of the main reasons to choose Drupal over any other CMS.  We work with designers to help them understand what makes a website good for search engines so that great search performance can be designed in right from the start.  We provide SEO training to our clients and can also give training to designers so that they keep on top of the ever-changing state of SEO.

Flash is a very useful technology.  It is a browser plugin that you're probably familiar with and allows you to view all kinds of interactive content on a website such as videos and animations.  It is very popular with almost all desktop users (estimates vary from 95% to 99%) having the ability to view flash content and over 90% having the latest version.  It certainly can add motion and life to a website and is much liked by many web designers as, visually, you can do almost anything with it.

However, increasingly, many devices do not support Flash.  Notably Apple's iPhone and iPad will not display Flash content and Apple is committed to not providing this in the future.

Moreover, Flash has many drawbacks - it can be very slow to load, is generally very poor for search engines and poor for accessibility.  It's use for video once seemed quite ubiquitous but looks set to lose favour as video is natively supported in HTML5.

All this means that for any business related site, you should avoid a Flash website.  It will almost certainly not get the results you're looking for.  We use Flash sparingly and think that this is the best aproach.  Use it only when there is no other way of achieving the desired result.  In general, most animations can be done with javascript and this works much better across all devices.

The biggest challenge when coding a website is to ensure that it looks the way the designer intended whether viewed on Mac, PC, Linux, iPhone.... in Explorer, Safari, Opera, Firefox or Chrome....

One particular problem the web designer and coder face is which font to use.  When a web page is shown on your screen, the text is displayed using a font that is already installed on your computer.  There are only a very few fonts that are (nearly) identical on all popular operating systems.  That's why, when you look at web pages, they tend to use just a few fonts, Times, Arial, Georgia, Verdana, Courier, Helvetica, Geneva, MS Sans Serif, Lucida, Tahoma, Trebuchet and (dare we say it) Comic Sans.

Often designers wish to use other fonts on a web page - it can certainly look a lot less nondescript.  There are different ways of doing this depending on the use and the amount of text.

Instead of using text, a graphic image of text can be used
One has to be careful doing this as it cannot be edited by the user and it brings up various accessibility issues (text cannot be resized, special precautions need to be taken to ensure it works with screen readers for the blind).  Additionally, search engines cannot read text images so, unless you use some clever methods, there are disadvantages for SEO.

You can use SIFR or JITR
SIFR can often be a good compromise if not too much text on a page uses a non-system font.  It takes text which is in a system font and uses Flash to render this text on-the-fly within a small flash file and then scale this to fit the available space.  It's a pretty good technique that's not bad for search engines or accessibility (although not perfect either) and can be used if there is not too much non-system font to render on each page.  Best of all is if Flash fails or is not installed, the text displays using the default system font.  JITR is a very similar technique to SIFR but uses Javascript instead of Flash.  In our experience, both are good techniques but SIFR is more reliable, more widely deployed and performs better.  Neither are particularly good when it comes to menu items, links or anything requiring mouseover effects.

You can use Typekit
It's a neat solution that allows your browser to load fonts on-the-fly from typekit's own servers.  There is a good selection of fonts to choose from and fonts are licensed so this isn't a free solution but it's fast, scaleable and can work well.  It does not, however, work on older browsers.