Adding video to your website

There is a lot of buzz about video backgrounds at the moment. These short repeating videos either make the design amazing or ruin its overall look. Thinking beyond these backgrounds, videos are a great marketing tool. Short explainer videos that introduce a product or company can have far more impact than words and images.

Why Use Video?

Video is just another design feature, right? It’s the same as you use images in web design: some of them are small, others huge; some are placed in the header, others take the entire page space; there are images that evoke emotions, and there are some that hold your text, etc. There are tons of video applications in website design too.

Introduce

Video is a good practice to introduce users to your product or service. This form of content introduction is more user-friendly than a long features list. When you describe a certain feature in the video, you automatically make it more alluring for users. It allows them to notice things they would never see in the wall of text. Video uses both visuals and audio to present the content, so you can reach a bigger audience.

Explain

Explainer videos are very popular online. These are short 2-minute videos explaining mostly the company’s goals and objectives. Using such video on a website, you explain to users what you do and what you offer them. By means of nice visuals and high-quality audio you give site visitors a nice understanding of your business. What you should do is answer a few questions your potential clients can ask. This will help users to avoid extra efforts to search for information on your home page, and even make decisions without going to the ‘About Us’ page.

Excite

Video is a sufficient attention-grabber. You can add interest to your website by incorporating a short video to your home page. This is a whole different design item as compared to images and icons but it excites users more. Video adds value to your design.

Tell a Story

There is nothing new in storytelling, but it remains highly powerful. As it gets more difficult to catch your user’s attention and make them listen to you, videos becomes a useful tool to tell a better story. Storytelling is the heart of a website design, so it is better to do it in an original and influential manner. Video is a confident step to take storytelling to the next level with a website and so improve the user experience.

A bio video is a good solution to introduce the head of your organisation and allow them to explain their position and the business they are running. It's a great chance to ‘meet’ people you are trying to convert. Video is much more compelling than written words, because it also conveys voice, intonation and body language. Video helps to express personality, energy, your passion about the product and sense of humour, which are all able to make your video viral and spread the word about your brand.

Are you using your apostrophes correctly?

The apostrophe must be the most misunderstood and misused piece of punctuation in the English language. This is made worse by the fact that most people simply fail to understand what it does, and make it unnecessarily complicated. The result is that many people, in an effort to appear correct, use a scattergun approach, dropping in apostrophes every time the letter "s" ends a word, for plurals, possessives and contractions alike.

Incorrect use of an apostrophe

Incorrect use of an apostrophe

It's easy when you know one rule

Using apostrophes correctly is easy - once you know the rule! Yes, that's right. THE rule. 

Despite what you may have heard, there is just one place where an apostrophe is used. Just one. And it's really easy to remember.

Use an apostrophe when letters are missing.

But "How can this be true?" I hear you cry. 

How can there be just one rule which covers all uses of apostrophes? Well it's true. Use an apostrophe when letters are missing. It is as simple as that.

Contractions

When we deliberately shorten a word or phrase we use an apostrophe to show that letters are missing. For example, "do not" becomes don't, "cannot" becomes can't and "you are" becomes you're. Simple enough, right?

Plurals

Misuse often occurs where plurals are involved. Plural simply means more than one. So we see a sign that says "Parent's are asked to supervise their children". No letters are missing in this sentence; it is a request to more than one parent to look after their kids. The correct form is "Parents are asked to supervise their children".

But the children belong to the parents, you say. True no doubt, but the two words are not together in the sentence and the message is directed at parents, not children.

Parents children would need an apostrophe, but before or after the "s"?

To understand this we need to go back to old English. In the times of Chaucer, words that show belonging would end in "es" as they do today in modern German. For example, the English "The man's coat" is "Der Mantel des Mannes" (The coat of the man) in German. Note the -es ending on Mann to show possession. 

The old -es possessive form in English is now missing but we use an apostrophe when letters are missing. 

So to refer to one parent and his or her children, the old English would have been "parentes children". In modern English it is "parent's children".

To refer to all parents and all their kids the old English would have been "parentses children". The correct modern form being "parents' children".

Its and It's

People are often confused about this but the same single rule applies - Use an apostrophe when letters are missing.

If you are contracting "it is" then it becomes "it's" because the "i" is missing. For every other situation, there's no apostrophe. The other "its" is a genitive form of a possessive pronoun like his or hers. It does not have an apostrophe.

Do you really need an exclamation mark?

Writing for the web isn't easy. You want to get your point across. That goes without saying. But what you really want is to spark people's interest, engage their emotions, maybe even generate some real excitement about the stuff you're writing about. After all, you're excited about it. Is it so much to ask that others might get excited, too?

Not at all. But we tend to get into trouble when we try to make punctuation do the job that words are supposed to do. Words are what we should use to get our readers excited about our content, not punctuation. That's what language is for, after all. It's an amazing tool for communicating ideas, conveying emotion, and yes, even stoking the fires of excitement in others.  

The trouble is, words are hard work. Even professional writers struggle to find the right words when we want to persuade, to energise, to drive others into action. So it's not surprising that we often fall back on using punctuation to lend us a hand. 

But it's a trap. And exclamation marks are the biggest trap of them all. Overused all over the web, these hardworking little symbols are the smiley faces of the punctuation world. We rely on them far too heavily when what we really need to do is go back to our words and try to make them convey more precisely what we're trying to say.

Don't ask punctuation to do a word's job, is what we're saying. It dilutes your message, makes you look unprofessional, and leaves you with nowhere to go when you actually do need an exclamation mark.

So do you need that exclamation mark? Probably not.

Photography, Photography, Photography

Anyone in the property business will tell you that the three most important things are location, location, location.

For a website in 2015, it's not quite photography, photography, photography, but it's getting close.

As web designers, we know that one of the most important aspects of a website is great photography; one of our biggest challenges is convincing clients that investing in good quality professional photography is a key component in the success of their website.

You can invest in impressive design, carefully crafted written content and seamless user journeys but if your photographic images aren’t up to standard, you might well be wasting your time and money. The internet is a visual environment and online imagery is one of your most powerful tools to communicate with your audience, yet it’s so often an afterthought and then becomes a sticking point for the whole design process. Your website is your storefront to the world, treat it as you would treat a real shop window, make sure it is visually stimulating, enticing and a reflection of your business in the best possible way. If you are about to embark on new website or a website refresh in 2015, here are a few things to think about when considering your photographic content.

Invest in professional photography

Use Professional photographers who have experience in shooting photography specifically for web design and are up-to-date with the latest technology. Check out other websites they’ve worked on and ensure that their style matches your business image.

Get your web designer involved in the shoot

Include your web designer in the photographic shoot. This will avoid having to compromise the design to fit the images later on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the designer has to be present at the shoot but having a conversation about how the images are to be used can be very useful. Consider sharing wireframes or designs with the photographer in advance to give an insight into the types of shots that are required, for example, wide portraits of staff members with ample space to the left could be necessary for a particular layout over close up shots. 

Be cautious with stock photography

Stock photography can be incredibly useful and has its place in some web projects BUT always use it with caution. In an online environment, gaining the trust of the user is crucial if you want them to engage in your business. Real photographs, of YOUR people and YOUR products will go a long way to creating user trust.

Stock photography often lacks personality, whereas using genuine photography of your products or business will allow you to portray your brand’s values. So while it can be cheaper to buy stock over hiring a photographer, the benefits of using authentic photography to your business and your brand will out-weigh the potential cost. 

A worthwhile investment

Professional photography can seem like an expensive additional cost at the outset of a web design project but it will be a worthwhile investment in the long run. At Soundfocus we don't just design and code websites, we take care of the photography too. Talk to us about your requirements.


Parallax Scrolling: A technique to bring your site to life

Parallax scrolling is being used more and more as a web design tool to make websites more engaging.

What is it?

Parallax scrolling is where, as you scroll down a web page, the background images of the web page move more slowly than the text in the foreground. This gives the page a sense of depth and, if the web page is well designed, a sense of exploration that ordinary webpages don't offer.

Telling a story

There are two advantages with parallax scrolling. The first is the ability to tell a story. Storytelling is becoming increasingly prominent when marketing products, and many companies want to use storytelling to endear customers to their product. Parallax scrolling can help with this through a relatively simple process. By using parallax scrolling, a website visitor can take control of their own interactive journey as they view one of your web pages. As the scroll down the web page, they can be shown all manner of things as the story associated with the product unravels. This web design technique is a brilliant way of retaining audience attention.

Scrolling not clicking

The second advantage is that it's mobile and touch friendly. Scrolling through webpages is far quicker than clicking when you're on a mobile device. It helps us convey masses of information without slowing down the experience for the user. This is a very natural and intuitive way to view the information and is much easier than clicking on menus to move from page to page.

Parallax scrolls give you more control over a visitor’s journey too. By using this technique you can lead customers to a specific call to action at the end of the page so, once the scrolling has enticed them, a link will be there letting them buy your product or service. 

A different approach to user experience design

A digital experience cannot be delivered without the use of technology, but all too often this means an over-emphasis on technology. Yet technology is just a means to an end; it's what we do with it that is important.

So forget about LinuxDrupal, Wordpress and Joomla! and let's concentrate on that magic ingredient. Meaning.

One of the most exciting areas of digital is a process known as User eXperience Design (UXD). It focuses on our interactions and the experiences they generate. Let's imagine visiting a new website. The amount of time it takes for you to ‘get it' and know what to do is critical in determining whether you continue using it. Therefore, 'getting' the design and instinctively knowing what to do will depend on the level of meaning you experience.

Meaning makes a design feel good

Meaning is the overarching concept under which all other user experience factors naturally sit. Meaning is the apex and represents our highest need.  However, there is something extraordinary that can happen when we feel meaning.  There is a level of meaning we can attain that offers a moment of significance so real it is capable of changing the way we think, feel and perceive the world.  This is a ‘peak experience’ – a moment of truth. A moment in which your senses are heightened and your awareness is optimal. 

The UXD hierarchy: meaning first

The layers of the user experience hierarchy are shown below, starting with technology at the bottom, content second and style third. When the three layers are combined in an effective way they generate a fourth layer: meaning.

How does meaning work in a digital setting?

We accept things that feel meaningful more quickly and we will rate them as more honest. We will perceive a site that is meaningful as easier to use. However, there are also drawbacks, because if we expect a website to be easy to use and it isn’t, our expectations are not met. If the site is well known, people will feel disappointed and rate the experience as negative. This creates an opposite reaction and we rate the site not as meaningful but meaningless!

Meaning is what we assign to every aspect of our lives from the simplest of actions to the most complex. The design of any digital experience that feels meaningful has to accommodate our basic human need for discovery. We like discovering - it makes us feel good. It satisfies our curiosity and desire to explore and learn.

Discovery and serendipity go hand in hand. Yet, discovery is more than intellectual fancy because we don't just think, we feel. Thinking and feeling are inextricably linked and cannot easily be divided. One affects the other and vice versa.

Why bother with meaning?

Some people would argue that meaning cannot be designed because it is too subjective and our behaviour too unique, too diverse and too complex. However, I disagree. Good design is about building in the right clues to make it meaningful when we interact with them. It's a matter of perspective. Let's make it meaningful!