Do I Really Need To Redesign My Website?

Recently we took a call from a prospective client who was unsure if he needed to have his company’s website redesigned. The company’s clients have recently started to complain about the website – issues such as slow load times, information was becoming hard to find, and the website wasn’t responding well to mobile devices. We asked the client when the last time the website was redesigned, to which he responded, 2009. Yes, he definitely needed a redesign.

Every year there are significant advances in website functionality. That’s not to say you need a website redesign every year, but you should be aware of what new functionality and features are available to you. At Rebel Trail, we always keep our clients informed of what’s new in the world of website development, and how the new functions and features may be of benefit to their website. Often, upgrading to these new features does not involve a full redesign, usually it’s just a tune up or ‘face lift’. However, if a client lets many years of these new functions slip by, then it can be more difficult to implement them, and a full redesign may be necessary.

On average, you should consider a redesign every 3 – 6 years depending on the size, popularity, and functionality of your website. This will keep the design fresh and the functionality current. You always want to stay one step ahead of your competition, so it’s a good idea to schedule a review of your competitor’s websites at least every quarter. Your potential customers will be looking at your competitor’s websites so you should always know how your website compares.

If your company goes through any kind of re-branding initiative, or even changes their logo, this is a good time to revamp the website as well. You always want to ensure that your marketing is consistent through all your platforms, so if a change is made on one platform, it should be made for them all. Certainly, if your website is not responsive you should immediately seek a redesign initiative. Responsive websites are those that automatically change their layout depending on the device that views it. In this case a website will look different on a desktop computer versus a mobile phone. Even Google now penalizes websites that are not responsive, so potential customers will have a harder time finding you if your website does not have this feature.

If it’s been over 5 years since your last website redesign, you’ll also want to look at your hosting – specifically if your web server has not been upgraded in that time. Web servers do have a limited shelf life, and the older they are, the more susceptible they are to performance issues, slow load times and crashes. Each time you redesign your website you should upgrade your hosting as well. Make sure you are on a modern web server that’s fully secure and uses today’s platform standards. Not only will this provide you with more functionality for your website, but your customers will enjoy the boost in speed and security.

At Rebel Trail, our websites are designed to stand the test of time, but that doesn’t mean they should! Your website should grow with your business and automate manual redundant tasks. It should attract customers like a super magnet, and streamline your communications and work flow processes. If it’s not, then perhaps its time to consider a redesign. To explore the benefits of a website redesign project, contact Rebel Trail today!

Toronto Web Design Strategies That Work: The Flowchart

Have you ever tried to build a house without a blueprint? How about constructing Ikea furniture without instructions? Or better yet, have you ever tried driving to Mississauga without a map or GPS? These are all challenging tasks, but without the proper guidance or planning, they can all become downright impossible. The same could be said for developing your web design project without a flowchart – sure it can be done, but the end result will not be pretty. In fact, the flowchart is the most critical part to your website development project, and without it, there’s very little chance your website design project will be a success.

At Rebel Trail, whenever we are welcoming a new client, we are always curious to know how their last Toronto web design firm treated them, and what were the issues that led them to contact us. Most of these new clients will cite problems during both website design and development stages. The problems range in type and complexity, but almost all of them can be traced back to a lack of a flowcharting stage. In fact, when we ask these new clients if their previous designer ever developed a flowchart, the answer is almost always ‘no – they went straight from the contract to the design of the website’. Clearly an important website development stage has been missed.

Using the house construction analogy, could you imagine a house being built without a blueprint? Imagine the construction crew haphazardly building large sections of your home with no forethought, strategy, plan, or coordination. Would you want to live in the end-result knowing that it could collapse at any point? Now imagine how much it would cost to fix all the mistakes that were made. Unfortunately, we see this kind of development in the web design industry all the time. Some website foundations are so bad that we must start from scratch.

Rebel Trail uses five basic development stages for any website project, and these stages are always customized to the client’s unique needs. In order these stages are: contract, flowchart, design, development, deployment. The flowchart stage comes immediately after we have signed a contract with the client – it is always the very first stage. The website development flowchart is a document that maps out every webpage in your website and shows how they link together. The navigation of your website is clearly defined in this document, and graphically shows you how a user will navigate from the home page to any other page on your website within one click. Further, all functionality of your website is fully documented in the flowchart. Even if your website has simple functions like online contact forms, we will document what information these forms contain, and how that information gets to you instantly. For more complex functions such as custom applications, this functional documentation is invaluable as it charts the information flow precisely.

The flowchart forces you to think of the website from the user’s perspective and streamline the processes for them. Functions that may look good in a photoshop design can sometimes fall apart when applied to a live website, so the flowchart helps us avoid those mistakes. We also document your admin system, or content management system, in the flowchart so you can see exactly how information you input into the website will be presented to your users. This allows for unlimited client customizations so that we develop a system that works perfectly for the client’s unique needs. Further, we provide you with unlimited revisions to the flowchart with no alteration in the website price. You can take as long as you’d like to make sure the flowchart perfectly accomplishes your goals.

It normally takes about 2 weeks to complete a website development flowchart. This process is guided by one of our professional website consultants and Rebel Trail does all the work. We will consult with you every step of the way and present you with unlimited revisions. The flowchart stage is only complete when you, the client, are thoroughly satisfied with the results. We then have a solid blueprint for your website and can confidently proceed to the design and development stages.

Of course, this question always comes up: “What if I want to make changes after the flowchart is complete?”. Having been in business for over 22 years, we know that even with a completed flowchart, new ideas can arise during design and development, and we want to do everything possible to encourage those great website ideas. Website development flowcharts should not be ‘carved in stone’, rather they should have the flexibility to accommodate new ideas and growth. A good flowchart attempts to see into the future and predict what future website development phases may include. New ideas that arise post-flowchart phase should be welcomed and easily integrated into the overall project scope.

If you are considering a Toronto web design project, make sure the project plan includes a flowchart stage. It may add a week or two to your development timeline, but the time and costs it saves from a poorly development website is invaluable.

What to Expect for Web Design Companies in 2019

2019 will be an exciting year for the Toronto Web Development industry. There are so many innovative functions and tools coming this year that you will immediately want to redesign your existing website to incorporate all that 2019 will have to offer. So let’s take a look at what will power your website project this year.

The mobile website development market will continue to gain ground this year, which is good news for any website that features a responsive design. If your website design is not responsive, then you can expect a significant slide in your Google page rankings. In 2018, the mobile website viewing audience surpassed its desktop counterpart, and Google started to reward mobile-friendly websites with higher placement in the search engine rankings. Now more than ever, you need to have mobile compliance with your Toronto website development project- it will be the single greatest contributor to achieving top results with the search engines.

The mobile-first website development in Toronto will usher in a new style of design that is already starting to dominate the market. That trend is single-page website design where the majority of a website’s content is on a single long-scrolling page. This is to accommodate the mobile device with less clicking and more scrolling. The long-scrolling web page offers a number of new design features such as parallax design where dynamic content scrolls over static imagery creating a subtle yet interactive effect.

We also expect to see full-screen video start to dominate the Toronto website development market. Already many dynamic websites are starting to use full-screen video as either a background or in place of the typical slide show that so many homepages use. Video is naturally more engaging than static imagery and is a natural fit for your website development project.

You’ll see more micro animations on Toronto website development projects this year. These are small animations that make content and transitions more engaging to the user. The key is to not overuse these animations as you don’t want your website development project to start to look like a pinball game. Tasteful use of these micro animations can add a very smooth effect to the overall website interface.

On the not-so-good side, we can only expect website security to be continually tested by those who would seek to exploit it. website and data security was all over the news in 2018 with a new hack reported on a weekly basis. All Toronto website owners should be constantly testing their websites for vulnerabilities, and should all be using SSL security. If your website doesn’t start with ‘https’ then you may be looking at a security problem this year. Talk to your website developer to ensure 2019 attracts more visitors and not more hackers.

 

Web Design Companies in 2018 – A Review

As 2018 comes to a close it is timely to look back at the year and contemplate the trends and technologies that dominated the web design company landscape.  It is this reflection that may give us a glimpse into what 2019 has in store, and what new trends may be worth investing for your Toronto web development project in the new year.

Website security was continually at the top of the news cycle with major data breaches reported by almost every industry sector. From Facebook to FedEx, it appeared that no one’s data was safe as countless companies admitted to lapses in cybersecurity. It is for this reason that Rebel Trail doubled its investments in securing our client’s data at both the local and Toronto datacenter levels and is committed to being on the forefront of Toronto website development security.

Speaking of security, is your website SSL compliant? When you visit it in a browser, is there a little lock icon beside the URL? If not, this is the year that Google started to penalize sites that won’t offer this extra layer of protection. It’s actually quite easy to get this certification for your Toronto web design project, and usually just a matter of requesting it from your hosting provider. If you’re unsure about the process, just give us a call and we’ll walk you through it.

The mobile market continued to gain ground and in 2018 has surpassed the desktop computer as the largest website viewing market. This means that more people will be viewing your website on their phone, than on a desktop computer. So, if your website isn’t mobile compliant, you’re likely going to be penalized with your search engine rankings. Luckily, every website produced from our studios is fully responsive – meaning that the website design will reformat itself for the small and large screen alike. Google is known to give websites with a responsive design a bit of a boost in their rankings.  If you are contemplating a redesign of your Toronto website in the next year, be sure to plan for a responsive website counterpart.

Social media stats climbed even higher this year, even with the controversy surrounding Facebook and your personal data. Every solid Toronto website development project includes a social media plan that outlines the need to keep content current and pushed to multiple platforms. A good website content management system will allow you to easily push new content to all of your social media sites with the click of a button. If you’re still manually updating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn you should look at an upgrade to your content management system. In 2018 you should input once and output to multiple platforms.

 

What is the Difference Between UI and UX?

In the Toronto web design creative and technical environment, the terms “UI” (User Interface) and “UX” (User Experience) are being used more than ever. While they seem new, these terms  are referring to specialties and ideas that have been around for years prior to the introduction of the acronyms in the Toronto website development market.

But the issue with these acronyms is more than just letters. Unfortunately, these terms are quickly becoming dangerously interchangeable when in fact they are quite different. Using these terms inaccurately is a constant problem for a growing number of professionals involved in Toronto web design, including: web designers in Toronto, application developers in Toronto, and website development specialists in Toronto. Understanding the difference is vital to a successful website project.

The most common misconception that you will hear in the Toronto web development project workplace is the mistaken interchangeability of the two terms. Many times, the incorrect expectation is that a Toronto interface web designer naturally understands user experience because their past work with users. The truth is that user interface is not user experience. It is often confused because both acronyms begin with the letter “U”.  While they are related concepts, many Toronto web designers can be experts in both.

Despite the apparent similarities, both concepts are inherently different in both their overall goals and usage. Toronto web design user interface is pertaining to the website elements that interact with the user – this normally refers to the methodology of input and output. Think of it as how information is delivered to the user, or from the user. UI is about mechanics and delivery of chunks of data be it in online input form, mapping system, or LMS test.

In Toronto web design, user experience (UX), when it pertains to website development, is more about the web design and branding. In its most basic form, it is how the data and information from the UI is presented to the user. However the user experience extends past the design of the website to the overall brand of the principal. In web development in Toronto UI takes into account the design flow from the brand to the website in a seamless experience.

Toronto Web Design – 4 Signs It’s Time For A Website Redesign

With the current landscape of Toronto Web Design it’s difficult to tell when its time to give your website a fresh new design. There are also many factors to consider such as your current Toronto web design versus that of your competitors as well as the overall functionality your website utilizes. Upgrading the functionality of your website is just as important as keeping the website design current. Further, there are always new technologies that can vastly improve your website’s performance, and if left ignored, these can benefit your competitors rather than you. At Rebel Trail Web Design, we have complied the top 4 signs your Toronto Web Design is in need of a refresh.

It’s Not Responsive

Responsive websites are commonplace today, and if your website is not responsive, you’re missing out on a great deal of potential business. Responsive websites change their format depending on the device that’s viewing them. This means a standard computer screen will display your website in one format, but a smartphone or tablet will display your website reformed to perfectly fit the smaller screens. By Toronto Web Design standards, responsive websites are an absolute must. Not only do search engines like Google gives your site a boost if its responsive, but half of your audience will be viewing your Toronto website through a mobile device – why not cater the website experience to them?

You’re losing search engine placement

If you notice that your search engine results are starting to slide, its time to consider a redesign. With a professional Toronto website development company, they will build your new website to all of the latest Search Engine standards. If your website was built several years ago, then it is missing out on all of the updates the search engines normally apply several times a year. This usually results in a gradual slide down the index until your website coding is made fully compliant again.

Objective Comparison With Your Competitors

You should be checking your competitor’s websites at least 2 – 3 times per year – but do so objectively. Sometimes this is difficult as you are so entwined with your own business. Think of getting an informal group of objective individuals to look at your site as well as your competitors – and ask them to provide honest feedback as to which site they would go to, and why. It is easy to lose objectivity with your own Toronto website design, so a fresh perspective will identify shortcomings and help your prepare for a website redesign.

Performance Issues

A website design that is slow to load, or worse yet, contains errors is a big sign that a redesign is required. Customers will naturally assume that a buggy website reflects on the service they can expect from your business and this closes doors pretty fast. You need to ensure that your Toronto website design loads quickly and is completely error free. A good Toronto website designer will fully test the website before it launches and will guarantee to fix any post-launch errors as well.

 

WordPress and Toronto Web Design – 3 Things You Should Know

Hardly a day goes by without web design Toronto companies receiving a call from a prospective client that is looking for a ‘WordPress Website’. Every web design Toronto firm should know this platform very well and should also have a number of web development projects that have been exclusively designed for this system. WordPress provides the environment for simple content management as well as a host of other display and functional tools for the Toronto website designer. However it does have it’s limitations – and that’s something your website designer Toronto should let you know.

Web development Toronto has evolved a great deal over the past 20 years and there are a number of options that are available to you. When selecting web development companies you should find a firm that has experience in all areas of webdesign, not just WordPress. Solid web design companies Toronto will thoroughly analyze your web development project and should provide you with an honest assessment if WordPress is right for you.

If your Toronto web design project contains very simple content management requirements, such as editing the text and graphics of a webpage, then WordPress may be an ideal solution. However if you require any kind of custom functionality or application development, then your website designer Toronto should let you know about the limitations of WordPress.

Like any ‘out of the box’ software, it cant do everything – and if your web development Toronto project requires a unique database, function, or application you will likely hit the limits of WordPress rather quickly. With WordPress and its associated plug-ins, you generally need to work within their parameters, and rarely do those parameters precisely match your web design project.

An experienced Toronto website designer may use a hybrid solution. This is where the website development content is controlled by WordPress, while any other functionality is custom developed. This is a perfectly acceptable solution for most web development companies and can give you the best of both worlds with no limitations for the unique functionality you require.

It should be noted that content controlled by WordPress is also very easily indexed by Google and the other major search engines. If having high search engine placement is a priority then WordPress may be a good match for your web design project. Web design companies Toronto should take the time to review these requirements with you and make recommendations on the best platform to use based on your online goals.

Toronto Web Design Trends For 2018 so far

We’re over halfway into 2018 and it’s once again time to see what trends are at the forefront for the Toronto website designer. 2017 ushered in a number of new tools for Toronto web development, and this year we have seen the evolution of those tools, plus some exciting new technology as well.

Responsive Design

Responsive design was not new to 2018 for web design Toronto, but we certainly saw a huge increase in its use and that should continue throughout 2017 as well. Responsive design is the ability for a website to adapt to the device that is viewing it. Your Toronto website design, should be able to have a unique format and maximize the available screen space on several different type of devices whether is a PC, Tablet (in portrait or landscape mode), or mobile device. If your website is not yet responsive, you need to have a talk with web design companies Toronto as it has an impact on your Google search rankings.

Wearables

2017 may be the first year that wearable tech becomes mainstream with the advent of the AppleWatch. This will pose a new and exciting challenge for the Toronto website designer to develop a website interface for the super small screen and we’re looking forward to seeing great innovations here. We may also see a number of headset display interfaces start to evolve as manufactured start to bring their products to market, including Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, and Oculus Rift. This may finally be the year where Virtual Reality is fully available.

Things Are Getting Bigger

We are starting to see design elements get bigger with web designer Toronto, much bigger. Surf the web for a while and you will notice web design trends such as very large, high-impact, background images as well as very large and engaging typography. The limits are being pushed with web design companies Toronto and the results are a highly engaging, interactive user experience. If you are still using boring fonts and imagery with your website, then again, you should have a talk with your Toronto website designer to shake things up.

Goodbye Click, Welcome Scroll

One of the latest Toronto web development trends is to reduce the number of clicks a user makes in favor of scrolling. You’ve probably seen a host of new Toronto website designs that contain this new feature in which a user will scroll down to obtain more information, rather than clicking on various links. This new interface style is in recognition of all of the touch screen devices available in today’s market and is likely to set a new standard in 2015.

Does your Toronto website development project need a blog?

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by our clients is “How important is it to have a blog on my website for web design in Toronto?” A blog is considered to be a section on your website that is updated frequently with informal news or information on your company, products, or services. The answer differs from client to client, but generally if search engine placement is a high priority, then a blog is a must have for your Toronto web design project.

They key to an effective website design in Toronto, and subsequent high search engine placement, is content that is updated on a frequent basis. Once your Toronto website design is launched and indexed with the search engines, it will be monitored on a daily basis for changes by every search engine that ranks it. While the algorithm of each search engine differs, it is widely accepted that frequently updated content is a major factor in how the search engine determines the placement of your Toronto website design. The more frequently content is updated on your site, the better the chances your site will rank higher within the index.

Your company or organization may not have new products, services, or information to post on a weekly basis which can result in stagnant content on your Toronto website design project. However the informality of a blog can circumvent these issues as there can always be content to post that does not directly relate to products or services. Many business blogs will focus on the lifestyle or culture within the organization, or simply provide friendly advice that pertains to the industry sector of the company.

The content of the blog should always consider two audiences: your customers, and the search engines. Content should be written to provide valuable information to your customers – this can include insights, trends, and other relevant industry information. However when writing your blog, you also need to think like a search engine. Consider the main keywords that you are using to index your website and make sure to add those words to your blog article. Caution should be taken here; if you use the keywords in your article too many times, you can actually be penalized by the search engines and your results will suffer. A good formula is to take the top 2 – 3 keywords in your website and use them organically a few times within the blog article. This should help to reinforce your keyword placement within the search engines, while providing comprehensive information to your target audience.

If you would like more information on the best practices for today’s website blogs, just contact Rebel Trail today.

Should You Meet With Your Toronto Website Developer Often?

Before you sign a contract or agreement with a Toronto website developer, it is always a good idea to inquire about their onsite meeting policy. Many Toronto web design firms have a minimum and maximum number of meetings per client that they find appropriate and knowing this information can be critical to the success of your website development project. The length of these meetings, location, and content require a time commitment from both parties and will have impacts on deadlines and deliverables.

If a Toronto website development firm is unwilling to have any onsite meetings, then this could signal a ‘red flag’ on their business practices and you should proceed with caution. If a web design company is going to build your online presence, then they should visit your business to gain a greater understanding of your products, services, and the overall business environment. After all, a good Toronto website design firm will become your internet partner for years to come – shouldn’t they at least visit you from time to time?

There can also be the other extreme – where there are too many onsite meetings. This can put unnecessary time demands on you and your staff as well as inefficiencies in regards to project management. Professional website design companies in Toronto will know how to effectively manage a project while respecting your valuable time. They can provide superior communication in the most time efficient manner possible.

Toronto web design companies that are experienced in client relationships will leverage today’s online collaborative technology when it comes to meetings. These firms will often hold online meetings, where you can audio or video conference with the client, while a demonstration of the project status is displayed on your PC. Toronto web design firms often prefer this type of meeting as it provides a number of benefits to both the client and developer.

With online meetings, you can schedule them at a moment’s notice, and not have to wait for days or weeks for an acceptable time for all parties. There’s also no travel time involved, or booking of boardrooms or other resources, which is far more time efficient. Problems or issues can be resolved instantly, rather than being postponed until the next physical meeting.

In addition, online meetings will allow your Toronto web development firm to have all of its resources available to you throughout the meeting – something that may not be possible with an onsite meeting. This allows the meeting to be far more productive with all of the tools readily available.

In the end, the frequency of meeting with your Toronto web developer all comes down to your own comfort level. A solid web site project plan will identify the milestones within the development of your website, these milestones could be focused on design, databases, development work, project deliverables, etc. Meeting, whether onsite or online, at the start or completion of these milestones is a good guideline to follow and will ensure that your project is both on time and on budget.