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The difference between the internet and the world wide web

Answers to a handful of questions we're often asked about web design to help you get the most from your website experience.

Is it worth investing time and money into getting the web design of my website right?

One recent survey showed that on average, people will stay on a single web page for just eleven seconds, which is an incredibly short space of time for you, as a website owner, to grab someone's attention and convince them that your website is worth investigating further. In that length of time it is incredibly difficult to get that message across using written content alone, and so the design of your website becomes absolutely critical to the success of your site.

Another recent survey has suggested that two thirds of people, given a short time to browse a page (11 or so seconds) would rather read something that is well designed that something that is plain. The same survey revealed that 40% of internet users say they will click away from a website if the images are broken or if they take too long to load, while 38% will be turned off from a website if the site is poorly designed or not appealing.

How have web technologies evolved with time?

The web is built on several technologies working together to produce the dynamic resource it has become. But what are these, and how did they come about?

The basic building block of the web is a markup language called HTML. This enables content to be presented to the user in a particular way using 'tags'. Without it the web simply couldn't function. HTML was introduced as an experimental technology in 1992, allowing web designers to build a page using text, images and a basic framework to share information to users browsing remotely from their computer.

Mosaic was the first browser to be released, and despite it being launched eons ago in web technology terms, it is still recognizable to a user of a web browser today. Opera and Internet Explorer soon followed, as did HTML2, an evolution of HTML. In a relatively short space of time HTML3 and HTML4 were introduced, and included significant input from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in order to ensure that competing interests from involved parties wouldn't compromise the technology.

HTML4 would become recognized as THE version of HTML for the next ten years because of this, the '4' was invariably dropped in favour of just 'HTML'.

Meanwhile, Javascript, Java and Flash were developed and launched to allow greater complexity in the design, animation, interactivity and functionality of websites. CSS was then introduced to separate the content of a webpage and its styling. Several other browsers followed, including Safari, Firefox and Chrome, and small updates were made in the guise of XML in the following 10 years but it wasn't until 2008 and the introduction of HTML5/CSS3 that HTML made a serious leap forward. HTML5 gave the designer and the user even more scope for dynamic, interactive client side content, running natively in the browser, Flash having been long since phased out due to its reliance on a third-party plugin.

Maddison Creative web design Newcastle were founded in 2009

Today, the main driver of technology change is the increasing number of devices that browsers use to access websites - mobile phones, tablets, touchscreen devices - all dictate how websites are built, replacing the once ubiquitous desktop browser.

Why should my business worry about having a website?

There is an ever increasing reliance on websites globally, especially in the UK where over 87% of adults use the internet. Around 99% of adults aged between the ages of 16 and 24 are online, and as they get older, this internet savvy audience will replace the current crop of more traditionally internet-cautious middle-aged and elderly people who can find the technology confusing, having been brought up prior to its existence.

People now turn to the internet before exploring any other channel for a wide range of needs, including shopping, leisure activities, watching live streamed media, participation in online communities information gathering and gaming. Largely because of its convenience, availability, cost, versatility and adaptability.

You cannot get this kind of global exposure with any other kind of media. And if you're looking to target people in your area and surrounding areas (any area in fact!) you can target them using tailored advertising campaigns. If you marry this with Google's (other search engines are available) search algorithms, you can ensuring that only people who are interested in what you have to say/sell visit your site, so you don't waste their time, and they don't waste yours. And with great interactive design and functionality, once they're there, you can ensure they keep coming back!

With the increasing popularity of mobile devices, what are responsive websites and how is web design affected?

Two out of every three minutes spent online in the UK are users browsing on either a smartphone or a tablet. 13% of adults in the UK browse the internet exclusively using their smartphone, 2% more than browse exclusively on their desktop computer.

In the last two years tablet internet use grew by almost a third, and in the same two year period smartphone use grew by 78%, while desktop internet use has decreased.

The way people use smartphones to access the internet has revolutionized the way websites are built. Long gone are the days that companies were happy to have customers browse their full, desktop version of their site on their smartphone, causing users to zoom in and out of areas of the page that interested them, struggling to click on the tiny text links to navigate. If you're building a website for the modern internet user, the likelihood is that if they don't view your site exclusively on their mobile device, they'll at least check you out via their iPhone or Android phone before sitting down later at their computer to have a more in-depth look.

This is why most clients want a 'mobile-first' approach to their website, whereby you ensure that everything looks and behaves beautifully on a mobile device before considering a desktop version, and if something has to compromise, it certainly won't be the mobile site.

A 'responsive' website is one that adapts to the device it's being viewed on, whether that is a desktop computer, a mobile phone or a tablet. The content is then displayed in a way that is optimized for said device, improving user experience.

What's the market like for eCommerce and good web design?

The eCommerce sector in the UK is huge and steadily growing. UK online sales increased by an estimated 15% last year. 77% of people who went online made a purchase, with an average order value of around £78.

Around a third of e-commerce traffic in the UK is on a handheld device. In terms of mobile traffic distribution, a third is on tablets while the remaining two thirds is on a smartphone, which is a result of the increase in size of the screens on mobile phones.

Investments in digital advertising are also on the rise. Last year they represented almost exactly half of the total advertising spend in the UK, and this is expected to climb another 10% by 2020. Given the growth of e-commerce in the UK, it is normal that more and more advertisers are choosing to dedicate a more significant part of their advertising spend to online channels.

More answers to web design questions...

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