Web design — all blog posts

Our predictions for web design trends in 2020

Oct 2019
WordPress page titles - for SEO website basics

As a web design agency founded in 2006, we know that website design trends change all of the time, and not always for the best. Here are Peacock Carter’s predictions for web design trends for 2020.

Asymmetric web designs

Asymmetrical website designs are one trend we may see more of in 2020 – typically, modern website designs are built from a grid which translates to both mobile and desktop versions of a website; moving away from this grid it’s possible to create more visually interesting content.

The trade off with the use of asymmetric website design is whether this can render content harder to read for your visitors, and whether it impinges the easy navigation of your website.

Bold, simple colours

The use of simpler blocks of colour has been around for some time, but we think it may be due to make a come back for websites in 2020. The benefits of bold simple colours for website design are more impact visually, though there’s potential for issues with contrast making content inaccessible for a small or larger portion of your website’s visitors.

More animation on websites

Historically, websites have been fairly static in nature, serving content to visitors interested in certain topics, products or services. Animation techniques came along, and in the “MySpace” era of the web, animation was done to death, with big, in-your-face sequences distracting from websites’ true purposes – to see your product or service.

We think web animation is likely to make more of a come back again in 2020, with subtler animations introduced – we’re seeing this already on some websites built in the last year or so. With mobile traffic accounting for around 50% – or more! – of web traffic in many industries, modern animation techniques such as CSS animation can be coupled with older techniques like GIFs to create a mobile-friendly experience for visitors.

As with any animation use on your website, beware of overuse – less is more! – as they can become distracting to your visitors.

Of course, one of the things that makes web design so enjoyable is that things change rapidly, so no doubt 2020’s web design trends will end up looking very different to our predictions above!

If you’re looking to update your website design in 2029, get in touch with Peacock Carter – your Newcastle web design agency!

WordPress North East events for web designers

Oct 2019
WordPress logo

Come and join us every second Thursday of the month at Head of Steam Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne for an informal evening of WordPress talks and community discussion at WordPress North East.

The group meets from 6pm each month in Newcastle upon Tyne for a talk or demonstration on a WordPress related topic, and a chance to talk to others about your current issues and experiences.

Who is WordPress North East for?

As organisers of the event and WordPress developers ourselves, we love to see WordPress users (website managers, self employed business people, and content manangers), web developers and designers of all abilities coming together to learn and share their own knowledge and experiences. We usually meet in Newcastle upon Tyne, but the group’s remit extends to North East England, attracting attendees – and speakers! – from Northumberland up to Berwick and the Scottish border, County Durham, Teesside (including Middlesbrough), and Cumbria including Carlisle.

It is free to attend WordPress North East events (RSVP to future events on the Meetup group here) – we organise the events for free as a way to give back to the WordPress community (after all, WordPress is built by the community and free for all to use, and as a WordPress web design agency we work with it daily!), and since the meetup began in Newcastle in July 2013, we have run over 40 events.

The lovely people at the WordPress Foundation also help to cover our running costs to make this event free for all to access.

Upcoming WordPress events in Newcastle 2019

This October 10th, we have a speaker from Canada coming along, discussing plugins and themes in WordPress, and the distinction between them. An important topic to understand for both WordPress users and developers, as there’s often a lot of overlap here.

November sees a talk on Custom Post Types in WordPress – something that can make WordPress really powerful for managing larger websites’ content.

We hope to see you at a WordPress North East event soon!

Three ways to speed up your WordPress website

May 2019
WordPress logo

Do you have a self-hosted WordPress website which is taking a while to load?

This can be a common issue, particularly with self-built WordPress websites using off-the-shelf themes and websites with lots of plugins installed. Here are three things you can do to improve the speed of your WordPress website, courtesy of the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter:

1. Check your WordPress hosting service

Free hosting services tend to have a higher number of websites sharing their resources, meaning your website may be affected by other websites. It’s worth paying a reasonable amount for hosting (even £5 a month) to ensure optimal up-time (the amount of time your website is online for) and for improved website speeds.

For WordPress websites, we recommend hosting companies such as Siteground.

2. Compress your website’s images and photographs

Modern websites often make use of large, hi resolution photography and images to showcase their products and services. They can provide a huge boost to a website’s design, and yet large image file sizes can also have a large impact on your website’s loading speed. Of course, there also isn’t a huge amount of point in having a first class hosting company for your website if your website doesn’t make an effort to minimise the size of images files for your visitors!

Large images are perhaps not such a big deal as they used to be if you’re connected to a modern Internet connection, but many web users use their mobile and tablet devices to browse the web these days, and they may be connected to 3G or 4G connections rather than high speed broadband. We recommend minimising your image file sizes with a WordPress plugin such as Smush It to compress your website’s images and reduce your page load times.

3. Cache your website for extra speed!

By default, each page loaded by a visitor makes a lot of requests to the server to fetch files and content need to create your WordPress website. Caching minimises these requests by creating a single version of your page with all of the information and content it needs to be served as a single file. There are many WordPress plugins which can provide caching for your website, but we recommend the Speed Booster Pack plugin for ease of set up and the results we’ve seen on client websites.

In addition, hosting companies such as Siteground also provide an additional layer of caching which can be beneficial for your website’s site speed; just be sure to test heavily before enabling as this can potentially break some plugin functionality!

Still need help to improve your WordPress website’s speed?

If you’re still in need of help to improve your WordPress website’s loading times, get in touch with the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter; we’re happy to help!

Questions to ask your next web designer

Apr 2019
WordPress web development agency

For businesses of all sizes, commissioning a new website can be a daunting process. A badly built or designed website can damage your business irreparably, but often it can be the smaller details which are missed and create tension between you and your new web design agency.

Here are key questions you can ask prospective web design companies before you commission a new website. They should help you to clarify the services you’re getting, and ensure a smoother transition to your new website for all.

1. What does the website support package offer?

Having a new website designed and built is just one step for most organisations – you may need ongoing support to keep your website secure and up to date. Asking about the website support packages will help you to get a clear idea of what is and isn’t included from your new website design company before you sign on the dotted line!

Ask your prospective web designers:

  • How much website hosting is, and what is included?
    You’ll need website hosting to ensure your website is online (typically annually). You don’t have to use the website hosting your web designer suggests, but every website will have requirements that need to be met.
  • Whether a security certificate (SSL) is included.
    SSL certificates help to secure your website by encrypting information sent between a visitor’s computer and your website. You can now get free certificates via organisations such as Lets Encrypt, though these aren’t necessarily suitable for every type of website and organisation.
  • What do you charge for changes once the website is live?
    Ensure you know what future potential costs are for the next phase of your website plans, such as new features, or amendments to anything you can’t change on your new websites.

2. Can we manage our own website content?

WordPress logo

Content managed websites give you or someone within your company the ability to add and edit content on your website. Without this functionality, you could potentially spend a lot of your marketing budget having small changes to your website’s content over the years, rather than on specific campaigns.

Proprietary versus open source websites

There are hundreds – if not thousands – of content management systems in existence, each designed for a specific purpose. Our general advice, particularly for smaller businesses, is to avoid proprietary content management systems, as these can tie you in to a particular web design agency.

Open source content management systems (such as WordPress and Drupal) offer your web designers a basis to build your website on a platform which doesn’t tie you in to a specific agency. This is because the system running your website is “open source” – ie, free to anyone to use and amend. The benefit of these is:

  • The more popular open source content management systems have a world-wide community of web designers and developers who have experience with the platform, meaning you’re less likely to get tied down to a specific provider.
  • One open source CMS, WordPress, is currently the world’s most popular content management system, and with good reason – it provides a relatively easy administration panel to manage your website’s content, as well as a variety of features in the form of “plugins” which can be added to your website and customised to your needs.
  • Your website’s code is yours once you’ve (subject to the contract with your web design agency, of course! Worth checking).

As a web design established in 2006, Peacock Carter have seen our fair share of content management systems; we now work with the WordPress content management system on a daily basis, which we believe gives us as web designers great control over website functionality and how we build websites, and also gives our clients access to manage their own content.

3. How future proof is my new website?

Website design is quite a fast-paced sector, and technologies can come and go within a few years – or event months! – which could leave you with a website which no longer functions as you expect. Questions worth asking are:

  • How long do you expect this website to last before it requires a full overhaul? The answer can vary quite widely to this. It may be quite possible to have the same website “core” for years – even decades – and simply redesign (sometimes known as “reskin”) the website and refresh the content to keep the website competing with your competitors.
  • Will the website cope with new smartphones and tablet devices as they’re released? (It’s hard to guarantee all of these will work given the huge variety of mobile devices these days, but the core of the website – being able to view content clearly – should be able to function on all devices at a basic level).

If you’d like help commissioning a new website, talk to our web consultants who can put together a comprehensive specification and brief for you to release for RfQ (Request for Quotations).

Three ways to use Yoast SEO plugin to boost your WordPress website’s search engine friendliness

Mar 2019
Tips to make your WordPress website more search engine friendly with Yoast SEO

As you may have discovered by now, having a WordPress website probably isn’t enough to start crawling up search engine rankings for relevant phrases for your business; there is a lot of competition out there, and your website will need time and effort to start bringing in new customers.

This handy guide from the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter gives you three ideas on ways to use the popular Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to improve your website’s search engine friendliness.

1. Create an XML sitemap with Yoast SEO

A sitemap provides a list of content on your website, to ensure that search engines were able to find it all to be considered for inclusion in their rankings. These days, search engines are much more adept at finding content, but XML sitemaps can help to ensure – especially for websites with a lot of content – that they are aware of the content.

A XML sitemap does exactly this, in the “XML” format – designed for search engines to read. To enable this feature in Yoast, you will need to specifically enable it under the General Settings > Features screen (documented in the guide linked below).

Yoast SEO has a guide on how to add an XML sitemap for your WordPress website here.

2. Make use of structured data in Yoast

Structured data provides additional information to search engines about your website and your business.

Yoast’s structured data tool takes the form of a wizard, which walks you through the information it requires to add the relevant structured data to your website; see Yoast’s free guide here. Specifically, adding your company name, address, telephone number and logo is recommended to help confirm this information for search engines, and it can sometimes be used to populate Google’s Business Listings, as seen below:

Structured data in search results of WordPress website

Structured data can be used for a huge list of other improvements to search engine friendliness for your website, too, including:

  • Navigational breadcrumbs – great for helping search engines to create a hierarchy of your website’s content
  • Integrating your website’s own search feature in to Google’s search listings

3. Change your page titles with Yoast to be more relevant

By default, most WordPress websites will use the title of the page you have provided as the title of the page for search engines (also known as the meta title). This is usually fine, but Yoast SEO plugin allows you to fine-tune your website’s page titles to be more effective in search engines.

For example, a page with a title of “WordPress training courses” in your website might create a page title of “WordPress Training Courses – Peacock Carter” for search engines, but with Yoast you could amend it to say “WordPress training courses and workshops in the UK – Peacock Carter”, which provides a little more context both for the search engines, and potentially for users who are searching for your products or services.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, try our Yoast SEO workshops.