Web Design Trends and Inspiration for 2017

The web is becoming increasingly beautiful and interactive. From videos to illustrations and vectors, media is more rich and engaging than it was only a couple years ago. How we engage with websites has improved immensely, from touch controls to autofill and more. What’s more is that we are seeing better and better design and interactivity almost daily. As a web developer and designer, I can say that this is both exciting and intimidating, because I see trends that excite and amaze me, and in turn that can make me feel behind the curve. At the same time, we motivated developers/designers take what we see and learn about it, trying to fine tune not only our existing skills but also build on them and create something better, every single job.

Exciting Web Experience for 2017 and Beyond

Web experience continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Development and design are becoming great partners (rather than separate entities) due to advanced programming, internet speed, mobile access, advanced typography, video, and more. A number of articles have already been written about what we can continue to anticipate in web design—Adobe, The Next Web, and Creative Market have published their own lists—so let’s take a brief look at what’s trending.

Video Is Continuing to Succeed

Step Inside Japan website screenshot
Step Inside Japan’s website makes good use of background video and stunning visuals.

A lot of websites use video to tell a story. Whether it’s a design agency providing a glimpse at their process, or a movie website using background video to display dramatic scenes, video is a powerful tool in marketing your brand in a beautiful way. While a slider with static images can highlight a business’s products, a video can provide users with an intimate look at the business itself, as well as its people. Having the right video can help sell your product before your visitors even fill out a form or view your store.

Content Is King, and “Complements” are Less Necessary

It’s been common practice for quite some time that websites contained headers with navigation, sidebars with additional navigation and complementary content, and footers with even more navigation and useful information. This practice is still completely okay and, in many cases, a great way to sell your product. Yet what still remains most important is content. Sometimes it’s best to strip away all (or most) distractions and clutter and focus on what you are selling and why your visitors are on a page. The folks at No Sidebar took this very concept and applied it to not only their website, but also to a healthier lifestyle.

Papazian website screenshot
The Papazian site is elegantly displayed, as if inspired by print, with minimal clutter.

One way I have been trying to think about how to apply this to my designs more is to keep mobile first design in mind. Phones simply cannot and should not display content with sidebars next to them. Because mobile first design requires one to think small and work up to large screens, the most important elements in the design are often considered first, rather than going by a standard template or wireframe. Granted, with the available technology, we are becoming more flexible in how content translates between devices and window sizes, but minimalist design on the web is continuing to produce better and better sites.

Signature International website screenshot
The Signature International website pages flow like print, but without the need to turn the page.

If your website is still not responsive and you rely on it to drive traffic to your business, you are missing out. Google has made efforts to favor mobile friendly websites. If you want a fresh, mobile friendly site to cater to today’s market, contact us today to get started.

Web Typography Is Gorgeous

KIKK Festival website screenshot
Type on the KIKK Festival website is presented as part of the design, not just the content.

For a long time, web designers often felt limited to using a handful of fonts in their designs. This is because we had to focus on what fonts we knew existed on most systems. That time is long gone, and free web fonts, as well as licensed commercial fonts, have become available for use, opening the door to limitless opportunities. Sites can now look as stunning as print, but with the added bonus of being interactive and responsive. With advances in CSS, designers can feel free to use type as part of their design rather than apart from it. Type provides a personality and sparks an emotional response, and that helps visitors take action. Check below for great examples of type used in design.

Animation Moves In

SVG and CSS3 are just two examples of how animation continues to become more popular on the web. An animation can often provide a quick and meaningful explanation for a product in the way that video or text cannot, and it often doesn’t require the amount of load time that an image might require. Illustration along with animation can provide easily understood visuals that also speak to the brand, so having your product marketed in this way can be highly effective.

Panic website screenshot
Panic’s logo bounces in upon load, evoking a playful and creative message.

True Photos of Your Brand Matter

Have you visited a website and swear that the family in the photo is one you’ve seen before? Does that woman you saw on a university’s website also happen to be the same woman who practices safe bike riding techniques? Stock photography is something we’ve all seen our fair share of. When it comes to design and SEO, stock photography is often dull. A web designer/developer is supposed to provide text along with a photo in order for search engines to understand it, but what do we say about a photo of a woman smiling, holding books, and standing in front of a university building?

Gentlemen Barber Clubs website screenshot
Photography is crucial to the brand presented on the Gentlemen Barber Clubs website.

Photos of your brand and products matter a great deal. They, just like video of your brand, tell of your signature quality. More and more businesses are launching their websites with tailored photography, and we recommend you do the same. We’ll ask you about photographing your business, team, and products before starting the job. Contact us to schedule a photo shoot.

A Great Design Matters

There are so many more parts to a great website design. The small list described above is a fraction of what you can expect to see in the coming years. Columbia Marketing Group also will see a redesign by spring 2017, so check back often to see what’s in store!

Websites that Inspire Me

Now for a fun way to burn through some of your day. I’ve bookmarked a number of sites over the years, and it’s pretty amazing to see in that short time just how much better the web has gotten. Some of these websites are best experienced on the desktop, while others do an impressive job of translating to mobile.

Rally Interactive Studio

Rally Interactive Beta website screenshot

Because Recollection

Because Recollection website screenshot

Step Inside Japan

Step Inside Japan website screenshot

Spotlight Film

Spotlight Film website screenshot

Signature International

Signature International website screenshot

Microsoft Story Labs

Microsoft Story Labs website screenshot

Papazian

Papazian website screenshot

Sweet Magnolia Gelato

Sweet Magnolia Gelato website screenshot

Panic Animation Studio

Panic website screenshot

Grain & Mortar

Grain & Mortar website screenshot

DIGITECH

DigiTech Web Design Austin website screenshot

Green Chameleon

Green Chameleon Design Agency website screenshot

Gentlemen Barber Clubs

Gentlemen Barber Clubs website screenshot

Kontra K — An Deiner Seite Video Site

Kontra K - An Deiner Seite -

Snowbird (by Rally Interactive)

Snowbird website screenshot

Beat Box Academy

Beatbox Academy website screenshot

Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy's Tacos website screenshot
I might be a little biased with Torchy’s because I absolutely love their food.

Kitty Kommercial: How digital video wins engagement

A good creative concept can go a long way. When you pair that with an effective online medium like video, the results can be mind-boggling.

Take Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelters’ recent viral phenomenon for example. Since its upload date two weeks ago, the video has garnered more than four million views on Youtube and filled TV and radio spots around the world.

Staff and volunteers at the animal shelter in Atlanta, Georgia got together to create a funny, effective “Kitty Kommercial” promoting the adoption of its cats. Since the video went viral, the shelter has received a plethora of donations, gifts, volunteer applications and most importantly: adoption inquiries.

What can local businesses learn from “Kitty Kommercial”?

Your campaigns don’t have to be perfectly polished to win results.

There are plenty of high-quality, expensive commercials that don’t win the same results as this low-budget idea. This online video was hosted by Paul Preston, the brother of a shelter volunteer, who also came up with the idea and produced the video.

Preston is no bigwig TV producer. He actually works in property management. But one creative spark and some novice video recording/editing put him and Furkids in the Internet spotlight.

Strong creative reaps rewards.

Furkids’ witty campaign resonates well with viewers, probably because it takes a drastically different approach than ASPCA’s famous TV ad featuring Sarah McLachlan, who also cannot bear to watch the depressing commercials.

In contrast, Furkids’ “Kitty Kommercial” is light-hearted and adorable. Watching Preston exaggerate over-used sales tactics is entertaining. And as we see time and time again, the Internet will reward you for good entertainment.

Video = high engagement and great website content.

Video can stretch across multiple platforms, from TV to Youtube to your website. Strong multimedia can be your most compelling marketing tool and ought to have powerful placement on websites, social media and in search results.

If you haven’t considered spreading your TV ads or videos across digital channels, you’re missing out.

On Furkids.org, the viral campaign sits front-and-center, accompanied by the heading “Hello World!” Engagement will likely drop as the next trend takes over, but Furkids’ cheap, innovative “Kitty Kommercial” shows us just how effective digital video can be in 2017.

View the “Kitty Kommercial” here:

5 Things You’d Never Think of that Mess Up Your Website Data

I love digital marketing in part because it is so trackable.  But incorrect data can lead to uninformed decisions, bad choices, and lost revenue. Here are five common but rarely considered scenarios that could cause an irreversible period of inaccuracy in your website data.

1. You move content or change your URLs.

Like being able to do year-over-year comparisons? This becomes a manual process if you move content or restructure URLs in anyway. Give it some thought before changing your URLs or moving content. (And if you do: implement seo-friendly 301 redirects. WordPress site? You can implement 301s with a plugin.)

2. A change is made that breaks your internal/external filter.

Say you work for a large organization with hundreds or thousands of employees. You may want to filter internal visitors or create separate profiles to view external (customer) and internal (employee) data separately.

If your organization gets a new internet service provider or makes a similar change that affects internal IP addresses, then all internal traffic will suddenly be tracked as external, giving you a false spike in customer data.

Clean website data requires a good relationship with your IT department. Make sure to get a heads up before a major changes happen.

3. Google Analytics is tracking lower and uppercase versions of your URLs separately.

Website URLs are not case sensitive; users can type in mydomain.com/about or mydomain.com/About and arrive at the same web page.

But, without a lowercase filter, you can wind up with traffic to the same page tracked separately. This makes it hard to get accurate info on page paths, visit duration, bounce rate, and more.

Force Google Analytics to track all cases together by applying a lowercase filter on the request URL field. Here’s how to do it (see #3).

4. You launch a new site or a redesign, but forget to implement tracking code from Day One.

Want to track your heavily promoted site launch? Get your GA code in place! Don’t forget! WordPress site? Here’s a beginner’s tutorial for installing Google Analytics.

5. Tracking code is incorrectly placed.

Some developers place Google Analytics tracking at the very end of body content to help the page load more quickly – which is a misconception. Google Analytics tracking doesn’t affect page load speed. GA code should go just before the closing head tag. WordPress site? Place it in your header.php file.

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Problems with Google Analytics code can mess up long-term comparisons forever. It’s important to get it right from the beginning! Contact us today for a consultation or for more info – we’re happy to help.

Tips for Running Online Contests

With our three publications under one roof, we strive to give our readers quality content they’re interested in. In fact, we love our dedicated readers so much, we like to do special things for them whether it’s throwing a party (hello, free food and adult beverages!) or giving away awesome prizes. It’s a win-win situation for everyone – we get to make our readers happy, local businesses get promoted and a few lucky people get free stuff!

It’s nearly impossible to run a contest or promotion without doing it online. We’re so connected and on our devices anyway, why not enter your name or email for a prize, right? What do you have to lose?

Running contests online is a great way to increase your fan engagement and enthusiasm for your business. However, it requires a lot of initial planning so that the contest runs smoothly.

Here are a few steps for running a winning online contest:

1.HAVE A GOAL IN MIND

Running an online contest is a perfect opportunity to gather information that could benefit you. If you aren’t collecting information, you should be! What is the purpose of the contest? Are you trying to get newsletter subscriptions, expose certain products, gain Twitter followers or Facebook fans, or increase brand recognition? Knowing what your desired results are will help guide the planning process.

2. DECIDE WHAT THE PRIZE WILL BE

Does your prize encourage your demographic to enter? Nobody needs more cozies and branded clickable pens.

3. CHOOSE WHAT KIND OF PROMOTION YOU WANT TO HAVE

Our favorite platform to use for running any form of contest online is Woobox. It has the capability many types of promotions. When creating a contest, it’s important to know what kind of promotion you’re wanting to do. Check out all of the options here. We typically like to run sweepstakes for giving away prizes and polls for anything that involves voting.

4. MAKE A LANDING PAGE

Create a landing page to direct people to. This could be a Facebook app landing page, a post on your website, etc. The landing page should house all of the information about the contest – what it is, how to enter, the timeframe, and the rules.

5. BE CLEAR

Include Terms & Conditions outlining the contest rules. Include a privacy policy stating how entrant information will be used.

6. PROMOTE

No matter how great the giveaway, your content won’t promote itself. Consider using paid options on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to help spread the word.

 

NAP errors: a common problem for Mid-Missouri businesses

NAP – what the heck does that stand for?

In the world of web, NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. Over 50 online directories list business names, addresses, and phone numbers and affect what comes up when individuals search for businesses. Two of the most popular and important directories are Google My Business and Yelp.

NAP errors happen when inconsistent or incorrect name, address, or phone number information appears in these directory listings.

A Common Problem in Columbia and Jefferson City

We’ve found that NAP errors are extremely common in Mid-Missouri. Many Columbia and Jefferson City businesses experience 30%, 60%, or even 100% error rates.

Why worry about NAP errors?

Here are 4 reasons:

  • Today, 4 in 5 consumers search for local businesses online. Being found in local searches is critical to your success.
  • When consumers find incorrect information online, 73% lose trust in that business.
  • Incorrect information online causes small businesses to lose potential customers.

Fixing NAP Errors

How easy is it to fix NAP errors on your own? Not as easy as you’d think. It can be tricky to prove ownership and claim listings. The process is normally slow, laborious, and sometimes ineffective.

But, it can be done – just check with each directory to confirm the process for claiming and updating listings.

Here’s a list of the top 50 local directories.

Remember to keep an eye out – if listings aren’t claimed, they can be changed by competitors, and sometimes the directories change without permission if they detect new NAP information from another source.

A More Efficient and Effective Option

If you don’t have time to monitor 50 local directories on a monthly basis – then consider a power listing option. CMG offers a power listing service that due to unique integrations, can correct your NAP errors in one click.

In addition, you can add featured content (like special offers, photos, or menus) at any time. Small changes to directories each months helps boost your local search visibility.

And, as part of an overall reputation management offering, this system monitors online reviews and allows you to respond or share them with one click as well.

Interested in CMG’s power listing service? Contact us today or call Jamie: 573-480-1319.