It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and the day this blog celebrates its 2nd Anniversary!
To mark the occasion I asked my good friend, men’s fashion blogger, and website developer George Hahn to redesign my blog to be cleaner, easier to read, and more engaging as I enter my 3rd year blogging.
I got George to sit down with me to discuss why updating my web presence was so important: I’m sharing our conversation so that you might better understand why it’s crucial to update a website in our rapidly changing, technology driven world.
CJ: Why is it important to regularly update blogs and websites?
GH: Websites are our interactive calling cards, interviews and pitch meetings. It is often people’s first contact and impression of us or our company.
If the site doesn’t look amazing or operate as perfectly as possible – on all devices – it’s a red flag that the company doesn’t have its act together or care about details; inviting the visitor to go somewhere else with a single mouse click or screen touch. These days, it doesn’t take long for a site or blog to look neglected or abandoned.
In terms of content, old copy or photos that are no longer relevant are killers. Photos and bios of people who no longer work for the company are common. Even something as simple as an out-of-date copyright in the footer is a red flag that no one is home.
In terms of the design and development, common indicators of neglect are the use of outmoded and mobile-unfriendly features like auto-playing multimedia, overwrought animations or Flash, which no one should use. Ever. These days, the most common signal that a site is neglected or abandoned is its incompatibility with smartphones and tablets. Responsive web design is the way to go.
CJ: Can you explain what is meant by ‘responsive design’?
GH: Even the industry’s top developers aren’t in total agreement on this. Put most simply – I think – a responsive design is one that provides an optimum experience for users on any device.
It’s a single web design that resizes, reshapes and reconfigures to create the best experience on all devices and screen sizes, without compromising content, function or brand identity and style. My site is 100% responsive. This new site redesign is completely responsive and on-brand. The blog I built for Glenn Gissler is a “responsive hybrid,” if you will, and is also completely on-brand and offers a terrrific user experience on any device.
CJ: What else is happening technologically that’s impacting the way people interact online?
GH: There are so many different screen sizes and dimensions. Between desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones – all with different sizes within each of those groups – there are more and more users using different sizes to consider. Also, people are going more mobie. Look around. See how people are using their iPhones, iPads and iPad Minis? That’s not the future. It’s now.
And unless the U.S. gets on board with every other developed country with fiber optic technology, we also have to consider the balance of screen size, connection speed and load time. People want their stuff now, if not sooner. The time of putting EVERYTHING on the screen is over. Stick to the essentials, or parse everything out sensibly. The website isn’t for our ego. It’s for the end user. Economical and efficient design is smart design. “Less but better,” to quote Dieter Rams.
CJ: What should I do if I’m on a budget?
GH: Fortunately, there are great tools out there for people on a budget. Squarespace, Tumblr and WordPress; Shopify for online stores and Koken for photographer portfolios offer not only superlative, search-optimized page structure right out of the box, but they also come with some really nice pre-designed templates. All are relatively easy to use (or learn) and range from free to very reasonable in price.
My only word of caution about DIY services like these is about professional design. While they put some nice designs and great features at your fingertips, they don’t know you, your needs, your goals, your audience, your style, your preferences, and so forth.
Professional designers take all of that and more into consideration when working closely with you to design everything from logos, graphics to full-blown websites. Without the services of a professional designer to make more refined customizations with both design and function, the only real risk with budget-friendly DIY is that the end product could end up looking a little generic and impersonal. But, if you’ve got a sense of design and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and learn some new tricks, you can do it. That’s how I built my very first website in 2000.
If you know me well, you know that I’m given to superlatives; so it might seem natural that I’d say George is a phenomenal web designer who masterfully interpreted my ideas into this new design.
But he really is the best. I recommend him to anyone who’s interested in updating their web presence.
You can reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org