Comments and observations on business, marketing and life: by Martin Donohoe

Category: web design (Page 1 of 2)

Web design and local media sites

The design, functionality and commercial success of newspapers in the online space is a subject dear to my heart! I’m particularly interested in the dynamics of local media and the sometimes painful transition that local papers are undertaking as they work to find a viable way of profitably developing their online presence.

I saw two articles today that have different takes on this subject:

Redesigning And Re-Thinking The News is a thoughtful look at the recent redesign of the NYT site and raises some valid criticisms of the newspaper industry’s approach to putting content on-line.

The Brads

Brad Colbow - why your newspaper is dying

This is Why Your Newspaper is Dying raises some valid points, but is (in my opinion) mis-titled should really be “This is how to improve newspaper web design”.

Both articles (in common with many other articles on the topic) are quick to criticise the advertising that inevitably accompanies newspaper site pages – from a design or aesthetic perspective this is valid. But, given that the successful implementation of paywalls is at best, a long time away, how else should a local media organisation be financing itself?

That isn’t to say that there aren’t different solutions that perhaps aren’t widely adopted yet or are still being developed, but right now I’d say advertising is a critical component for local media sites.



Site built by xyz web design ltd

It’s long been customary for web design companies to stick a small piece of text on the bottom of any homepage that they’ve done some work on. If you don’t already know why this is significant, read on, you might be unpleasantly surprised! In simple terms, every link that goes from your website carries with it a vote (some call this linkjuice) that says to search engines – see this website at the end of this link – I’m endorsing it. The net effect of this is to increase the authority of the domain that you are linking to – which in term helps them to get higher ratings in the search engine results pages (serps).

Some argue that web design companies that do this (without discussing it with their clients) are behaving properly as it is just like car dealerships putting a sticker in your back window advertising where the car came from. I (and lots of others) think this isn’t okay – unless it has been specifically discussed with the website owner and they’ve given it their blessing. Why? Well, it’s more than free advertising, it also gives the web design company a commercial benefit. If they have discussed it, or reflected it in the price – all well and good.

There has been a persistent and long running debate as to theĀ  ethics of this and you don’t have to look too hard to find fairly passionate responses for both sides.

I think this is a good example of the sort of thing that website owners or those commissioning new sites need to be aware of. It seems to be the nature of the web that sharp practice is more prevalent than other walks of commercial life.

So, if your website has one of these links and it wasn’t discussed with you or put in your contract, go and talk to your developer. If they want to advertise on your website, they must be prepared to pay!

Haven’t I seen you somewhere before … microstock photography

A commonly found microstock image

Something that has just grown and grown in popularity over the past few years has been the use of low-cost stock photography in both online marketing and lots of offline work as well. These so-called ‘microstock‘ sites have grown and multiplied and one of the best known ones is (although seemingly more expensive to use of late).

Whilst using images like these can be a quick and cost-effective route to developing good marketing materials, there is a side effect that any marketer or web designer should bear in mind. I think of it as the ‘haven’t I seen you somewhere before’ effect. The most popular photographers and the models they use seem to appear just about anywhere, take the image shown for example (screen grab of comp image from Istockphoto). I’ve recently seen this model used as the image on a web control panel, a web service site and advertising an opticians in Bradford!

However, the ubiquity of these images can cause unexpected problems. Competitors can use the same model as you (accidentally or deliberately), people might think they’ve already seen your ad (when in fact they’ve seen a similar image) and so on. Plus, it’s just plain annoying to see the same model or image in common use. Take a look at the classified ads in the back of most magazines and odds on, you’ll find the same or very similar stock images being used.

Microstock is cheap, convenient and used correctly, a powerful device. But, don’t fall foul of overexposure!

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