Blog: Website Development

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You know how they say ‘when it seems to good to be true, it probably is’?

We know that many people will look at our low prices, and indeed our free websites promotion, and assume that there simply must be a catch.

When one considers the following points, you can see their point:

  • A good web designer will charge approximately £40.00 per hour (and of course, we only use good ones).
  • The average five-page website takes us approximately 20 hours to produce – so we should be charging £800 already, and that’s even before we’d make any kind of profit. Yet, our typical website costs just £300.
  • We recently acquired 1,000 inbound links for a client’s website, and charged him £1,000 – but a link-builder will ordinarily charge £5 per link.
  • One of our popular packages requires 276 man-hours to implement. It’s work that most companies would put at £15.00 per hour. We charge £499 for this package.
  • Then there is the small matter of those FREE websites. What company could possibly afford to give its products away for nothing?

So, have we messed up our maths? Performed some wizardry that somehow turns deficits into profit?

Nothing so exotic, we’re afraid. The answer lies in our business structure. Take a look at our About Us page, and you’ll see a number of Indian nationals. As you’ll know from the many companies who outsource to India these days, labour, and the cost of living, is substantially cheaper in India than it is here, and that is our ‘secret’.

Unlike those telecoms giants, power suppliers and IT support companies, however, we do not outsource. We employ, train and manage a permanent team of well-paid professionals in India. The crucial difference is that this team are all Notting Hill Internet Services employees, with all the rights that this status entails.

This set-up gives us a unique advantage. Suddenly, that five-page website comes in at £300, and yet it both provides us with a profit margin, and gives a wholly respectable wage to the designers working on it. Those inbound links? £1 each, and the link-builder is very happy to receive it.

The exchange rate, and our differing costs of living, mean that we can offer websites and web services at prices that small businesses and start-ups really can afford. Those free websites? Well, yes, we lose out a little, but the publicity we get means that we can absorb these costs into our marketing budget (and, while we’re exercising complete transparency here, we should mention that of course we hope you’ll also purchase some of our other – equally competitive – products. No obligation).

We believe we have a win-win situation for small businesses – and for our employees in India. Don’t forget, too, that some of the world’s brightest minds are found in this vast subcontinent – a fact that Google and Microsoft, with their Indian HQs, have been quick to notice.

We hope that this post goes some way towards explaining how we keep our prices so low, and that they really are not too good to be true.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
Posted in Posted in News, Website Development

The news that the new government has revised plans to roll out broadband by 2012 may affect small businesses and their online marketing. We’ve mentioned before on this blog our anticipation of the greater functionality that all businesses will be able to include on websites once the whole country is enjoying a fast connection… well, if you had great plans for an all-singing, all-dancing site, better put them to one side. The target is now 2015.

One remarkable fact that comes from the reports of the new government’s back-down is that as well as the two million homes in the UK who cannot get speeds as high as 2Mbps, about 160,000 households still cannot get any form of broadband at all. These are homes in remote and rural areas, who were presumably without a power of any sort not terribly long ago, but it is certainly worth remembering that you may still have customers on dial-up… if they have internet access at all. Others may be accessing via cyber cafes and community centers, meaning hurried visits as the clock ticks away on a paid-for slot.

The low-tech solution? If you happen to have rich content such as videos or Flash, offer a pared-down site with the essentials on it too. Plus, you might want to give a phone number you can be contacted on, alongside your email address. Two million households represent a lot of potential customers, and they will be grateful for your concessions.

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Posted in Posted in Website Design, Website Development

With the announcement that the beta version of Firefox 4 has been released, it’s that time again. Time to check how your own website looks on it, that is.

While the browser is only in beta (ie, a work in progress), it is currently available for download – its developers are hoping that users will report any bugs they discover before the official launch.

The new version, Mozilla tells us, contains “dozens of new features and improvements” (see them listed here) – each one of which might affect the display of your site. Of course, one hopes not – but it is always as well to check, especially with Firefox having a 46% share of the browser market as of June 2010.

Sounds complicated? We’d be delighted to do it for you: just one of the many services we can offer.

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
Posted in Posted in News, Website Design, Website Development

You may currently be preoccupied with thinking about how you’re going to optimize your website for the oncoming mobile web explosion. Well, if you want a break from that, we’ve got news for you – it looks like we’re also in line for a massive rise in Internet-via-TV.

Announcements this week point towards a new generation of a set-top box, allowing for Internet access directly through the TV, without a computer. Presumably, this will lead not only to programme-watching on demand but a blurring between TV and online advertising. There’s every possibility for an ad to give a link, inviting the viewer to switch modes and visit a website for time-restricted special offers, for example.

While mobile Internet users present the challenge of making your website navigable, attractive, clear and comprehensible on a small screen, TV Internet will, of course, bring the opposite issues – especially with the current trend of ever-larger plasma screens. Resolution may also be different.

Project Canvas, the BBC’s name for the new set-top box, isn’t expected to launch until next year, but it’s definitely worth thinking about it now.

We all know the benefits of having a presence on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and so on, but the fact is that any interaction you have on there may not be seen by visitors to your main website.

We’ve been looking at a neat piece of code that you can add to your own site and encourage interaction on the spot: it’s called Echo.

Whether you’d like to encourage feedback or ratings on your products, or simply aggregate questions and answers, this auto-refresh software gives your users their own space. Neatly, it integrates with a number of social networks, so you don’t lose the viral benefits of those platforms.

To us, it looks like an easy way to key into all the advantages of having peer reviews and ratings on your site, with the minimum of development. We’d be happy to help you add it to your own site if you require – or talk about other options if this one doesn’t seem quite right.

Following my own advice on this very blog, I was updating a company’s presence on Google Places today (previously Google Business Centre; basically, the interface that you update if you want your business to appear on Google Maps).

The company in question is a language school which offers exam courses, including a well-known (in the TEFL world) product known as IELTS. As this is a unique selling point of the school, of course, I wanted to mention it.

Well, it turns out Google wasn’t having it. “Excessive capitalization is not allowed”, it told me, in a strident error message, clearly mistaking the well-known acronym IELTS for a SHOUTY MESSAGE IN CAPITALS. Well, I’m as opposed to poor style as the next pedantic apostrophe obsessive, but frankly, Google, I thought, I’ll be the judge of what constitutes excessive.

It was a small moment, and I overcame it by referring mysteriously to ‘exam courses’ in the end – but there’s a message there for us all (isn’t there always?). Examine your interface, because what seems a reasonable restriction to you may well be a serious impediment to trade for your customers. If you can, get a user group to try out all your website’s functionality, and feedback their exasperate – and do so regularly.

Having said that, I’d be pretty sure Google does much the same. Maybe they just can’t account for every eventuality; maybe they’d rather alienate one language school, but still, have the benefit of cutting down on listings which use capitalized, shouty imperatives to BUY NOW SALE ON TODAY, or whatever. Your customer base, however, is smaller, and almost certainly more uniform. Make sure you aren’t inadvertently annoying them.

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

It’s very tempting, sometimes, to have all the latest bells and whistles on your website. Everyone likes novelty, which is probably what led to the many sites that used to play music as soon as they started up, back in the last decade. Thankfully, that’s a trend that has largely now gone the way of the dodo, but, human nature being what it is, there is always something else to replace it. Heavy animations, videos, or just tricksy fonts – they can all add to a site’s “weight”, and you might not even notice it.

The chances are that you visit your own site often, and your browser will be caching certain elements to make them faster to load. What’s more, you almost certainly visit predominantly on the same browser and the same operating system, so you simply might not be aware that what takes a few seconds to load on your own set-up is taking an unacceptably long time on someone else’s.

If you market abroad, stop to think about the distance between your server and your customer’s machine. Not everyone has broadband, and, globally, there are many users who may be used to long page loading times, but still unwilling to wait for your snazzy animation to load.

Not long ago, Google announced that page speed had become one of the many factors in their increasingly-complex ranking algorithm. In other words, it’s no longer just a courtesy to your customers that your site loads quickly, but a real business imperative for those who rely on top search engine rankings. Fortunately, at Notting Hill Web Design, our best practice policy means ensuring, among many other things, that your site is always as streamlined and efficient as can be. Why not follow the Google link given above, where you’ll find some tests you can do on your website – and if you find it lacking, give us a call.

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Posted in Posted in CMS, Website Development

As the new government takes its place, the BBC reports, there is a frenetic dash to update the official Whitehall website.

Any owner of a website will be well aware of how even the most innocuous-seeming content can date. Did it seem like such a good idea to announce that special promotion tied into the World Cup, didn’t it? But nothing beats the feeling of foolishness when you come across a page several months after the championship has ended, and realize you forgot to remove it.

What with a turnover of personnel (an issue the government knows keenly), discontinuation of stock or the arrival of new lines, there’s always something that needs updating on a website, and that’s before you’ve even considered the matter of keeping the homepage fresh with news or up-to-the-minute content.

For many, the answer is to outsource – and we’d be happy to talk to you about that. In the meantime, if you do come across a dusty-looking page that should have been updated months ago, take heart: the government is probably sharing the very same experience.

Friday, May 7th, 2010
Posted in Posted in Website Development

When was the last time you looked at your site on a browser other than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer?

With the news that Chrome is expanding its user base and Firefox usage remains steady at approximately 21%, it’s high time you took a look.

Sites that were built to display perfectly in Internet Explorer – which up until now has been so heavily dominant that less diligent developers may ignore any alternative – may well throw up faults in other browsers. Unless you wish to alienate an ever-growing number of your site’s visitors, we strongly advise you to download Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, in all their most recent releases – and visit your site.

If you’re not pleased by what you see, never fear. Give us a ring and we’ll have you a cross-browser compliant site in a jiffy.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

anatomy-of-a-tweet

The best websites are those which appear simple – the most-often cited example being, of course, the Google website, with its plain search box. Of course, like the duck (serene on top; legs paddling frantically below the water), even the barest sites can have a lot of code beneath the surface.

Here's proof. Twitter, often praised for the way that with its 140 character limit it forces users to be succinct, might be thought of as one of the simplest sites of all. This week, the BBC reproduced the image above, showing the huge amount of code required by a single tweet. Pretty, isn't it?

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