Kristine Neil

Web Design

Meet the Community — Kristine Neil

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

How did you get into the industry?

Like most designers, I didn’t necessarily embark on a direct path to a web design career from the start! Where I am now is a mash-up of all my past experiences, and I am lucky to have been able to shape my own job description as my interests and skills have evolved. In some way or another, I’ve worked in and around the intersection of technology, business strategy, communications, engineering and creativity for the past 20 years and for the past 5+ years have used those skills almost exclusively in the web design and development space which is where I feel like I was meant to end up.

Why do you work with Squarespace over other platforms?

My first experience with Squarespace was out of necessity. As an entrepreneur and small business owner myself, I needed a website. I needed it to look amazing, of course, and I didn’t have the patience or time to build it on Wordpress, which is what was de rigueur for the time. It didn’t take long to realize the power of Squarespace to allow other small (and not so small!) businesses to create an online presence in an accessible way. That first experience in building something for my own company turned into doing a few sites for some select clients, which snowballed into doing more and more web work. Markon Brands, the creative studio I own, now exclusively designs and develops on Squarespace for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small teams.

What makes your business unique?

At face value, we don’t do anything magical. There are lots of people who are experts in web design, Squarespace, development, strategy, etc. Where we are different is in our ability to tackle projects from both a creative and a business perspective — things have to look good, but they also have to make practical sense. Collectively, our team can cover both of those areas which can often have divergent or competing priorities. Clients are often surprised when we offer simple solutions to seemingly complex challenges. This may be because they have had poor past experiences with other designers who left them wanting more or with developers who made managing information unnecessarily complicated. Whatever the reason, what we hear most from clients is that working with us was a refreshing experience. (Best compliment ever, BTW!)

What services do you offer?

Most of our larger projects fall into two main categories: new web designs or website redesigns. Basically, you either already have a website or you don’t. We like both types of projects. Working with startups on a new site is exciting because it’s a blank slate and we can put some great foundational elements in place to help them succeed as they grow. Website redesigns are very rewarding both creatively and professionally as well. These clients typically come to us because something in their business isn’t working as it should and they’ve attributed the problem in some way to their website. What we discover in working with these clients is that there may be a systems or organizational problem that we can solve at the same time as we give their website an aesthetic facelift. It could be something as simple as helping route forms to the proper departments to reduce admin headaches or more technical solutions like streamlining the way online orders are handled and processed or how blogs are tagged and categorized to improve discoverability.

What work are you most proud of and why?

Markon Brands recently celebrated its 7th birthday which I think is a huge accomplishment! Sadly, most small businesses only last a couple of years so to be able to say we’ve made it over that hump is something to be very proud of. I attribute this success to our ability (and willingness!) to continuously evolve and adapt to changing market conditions. We are always learning and invest a lot of time on professional development and ongoing education, continually pushing ourselves professionally and creatively, so things don’t feel stagnant or boring.

What are your preferred industries to work with?

We don’t work in a specific niche. Our style and strategies can be adaptive to any type of content from service-based businesses to e-commerce experiences. We do work best with entrepreneurs/solopreneurs or with small dedicated teams like nonprofits since we tend to work very collaboratively with clients through our design and development process. We’ve found these clients more willing to push boundaries than larger organizations with many levels of bureaucracy to navigate.

What is one piece of advice you would give clients?

Find a designer or design team that you trust and then truly hand over the reins to them. We are students of our industry and work hard to stay on top of trends, changes, and challenges that the layperson just doesn’t have time to master. We call our process collaborative because we need the input and experience you have about your industry, but it’s not your job to come up with design or technical solutions to any perceived problems — that’s what you hired us to do!

What inspires you?

Personally, I am always inspired by travel, and I do my best to travel as often as possible even if it’s just getting away for the weekend to explore something new. Getting outside your comfort zone, seeing things from a different perspective, learning about other cultures — all of these things inspire my work and push me to help clients communicate better online.

What do you do to overcome creative blocks?

We’re lucky that our office is located in the heart of the city we’re based in so creative blocks are often overcome by walks around the neighborhood to get some fresh air or sometimes taking our laptops to one of the many local coffee shops to work with a change of scenery. Music also helps, and our office is always pumping with something, typically electronic, pop or hip hop.

What are you working on at the moment?

We have several open projects at the moment, and they are all pretty different from one another! Right now, we have new websites in the works for clients from California to Australia to Ireland to just down the street and in industries as diverse as travel, wedding, photography, real estate, and food.

Why did you join Sixty as an expert?

We love that Sixty loves Squarespace as much as we do and that they are building a place to connect pros and clients specifically for the platform. There is a focus on creating a positive experience for all parties involved that you often don’t see; on some other platforms either creative work is devalued, or customer service is lacking. Sixty has proven to take care of both sides. As professionals, we feel valued and respected, and clients are also reporting very positive experiences with the Sixty team and interface. Win-win!

What do you love most about On Demand sessions with Sixty?

What’s great about Squarespace as a platform is that clients do find most of it very intuitive and accessible, but it’s also easy to get overwhelmed or not know exactly how to achieve what you want to do. It’s gratifying to be able to share some of my knowledge and expertise in training sessions or to be able to quickly fix a problem that a client’s been stuck on for a while. One of my favorite things is when clients start with “I know this isn’t possible on Squarespace but…” and then for me to be able to show them that it is! (It’s also fun to get to work with people all over the world every day!)

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’m excited to see how this industry continues to evolve and change over the next few years. There’s a lot about what we do as web designers that is affected by things like what social media platforms are popular, what devices people are using, how people are accessing information and the dreaded algorithm. In five years, I’ll still be working in this industry, but at the rate things are changing in tech and online I have no doubt that it could look and feel very different. What will stay the same is that business will still be about connecting humans with other humans so even if we’re using artificial intelligence to do the matchmaking it’s still all about relating to and connecting with others.

https://blog.usesixty.com/meet-the-community-kristine-neil-a0bc9e3f7ba3

How Small Businesses Use Websites in 2019

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

Working in web design, it’s difficult to imagine a business owner who thinks our products and services aren’t necessary for business but in a recent survey and report from Visual Objects, a surprising 40% of small businesses choose not to invest in a website citing concerns over cost and relevance.

Brand-building opportunities aside, the benefits of having a website for your business are tremendous and done right, the return will far exceed the cost over time. The following is an excerpt from that report which I was happy to contribute to. Be sure to click the link at the bottom for the full article!


Website-building software still costs money and often requires time and manpower that small businesses may not have. Some agencies like Markon Brands, however, work within website builders to create beautiful products for their clients using existing frameworks.

Kristine Neil primarily develops high-quality Squarespace websites for small businesses working with limited resources.

“The cool thing about working on a platform like Squarespace is we’re able to offer a high-caliber product to a client with a smaller budget,” said Kristine Neil, Markon Brands’ owner and creative director. “We hand [clients] a website where they have some modicum of control, but they had professional help to take care of all the backend settings – the things that were a little overwhelming from a DIY standpoint.”

Squarespace and other platforms, with professional help, provide a greater ROI for small businesses with limited budgets. Agencies like Markon Brands help small businesses create a beautiful website with a high-quality UX and empower clients to manage the day-to-day aspects of website maintenance.

Although hiring a web design agency often feels daunting for small businesses looking to launch a simple website, partnering with a qualified team is a worthy investment for building an online presence.

https://visualobjects.com/web-design/top-web-designers/small-business-websites-2019

More Than One-Third of Small Businesses Have No Website, Survey Finds

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

More than one-third of small businesses (40%) choose not to invest in a website, according to a new survey from Visual Objects, a portfolio website that showcases work from top creative firms from around the world.

In addition, the survey found that 28% of small businesses are unlikely to create a website in the future.

Graph - resources small businesses use to maintain their websites

Graph - why small businesses do not have websites

In contrast, most small businesses (60%) do have a website, primarily to establish brand legitimacy and authority.

The survey of 529 U.S. small businesses found that quality websites are affordable and accessible for small businesses. Most small businesses believe a website is a necessary component of any successful digital marketing strategy in 2019.

Some Small Businesses Consider Websites Irrelevant

Nearly a third of small businesses that choose not to have a website (28%) say a website is irrelevant to their company's needs. These companies tend to leverage their personal networks and traditional marketing strategies, such as email and PR, to generate business.

Industry experts, however, are skeptical of businesses that rely on word-of-mouth marketing strategies without websites.

"At some point, businesses get into the outer reaches of that word-of-mouth network," said Jackson Fox, director of user experience at Viget, a full-service digital agency near Washington, D.C."Without a digital presence in some way, people who don't know you may not trust your business."

Cost and the use of social media for a web presence are other reasons small businesses gave for not creating a website.

Most Small Businesses Spend Less Than $10,000on Their Websites

Websites have become more affordable for small businesses: 65% spend less than $10,000 to design, build, and launch a website.

Website builders such as Squarespace and Wix help small businesses establish a basic website presence quickly without budgetary strain. However, the ability of these website tools is limited, and the advanced design features are often beyond the average small business owner's skill level.

Kristine Neil, owner and creative director at web design firm Markon Brands in Vancouver, Wash., says website builders tend to establish unrealistic expectations for amateur web designers.

"Those [platforms] really oversell and underdeliver when it comes to the lay person's ability to execute or recreate the samples that they're seeing," Neil said.

Web Design Agencies Help Small Businesses Meet Strategic Goals

Nearly 20% of small businesses use a web design agency to maintain their websites. Most small businesses (52%), however, keep website maintenance in-house and may not have the necessary expertise for complex website features.

Web design companies can save small businesses time and effort by creating a high-quality product that empowers clients to take over day-to-day maintenance of the final version.

Roxana Colorado, creator of the LatinaNomad business blog, hired a developer after attempts to build her own website came up short.

"The hours spent trying to figure it all out were insane," Colorado said. "The learning curve on the development side was huge. I would have been better off hiring someone."

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/more-than-one-third-of-small-businesses-have-no-website-survey-finds-300803983.html

SEO & Squarespace

Strategy, Web Design, BusinessKristine NeilComment

Highlighting Features & Busting Myths about SEO and Squarespace

As web designers & developers, we naturally get a lot of questions about SEO or search engine optimization. As Squarespace designers & developers, we also get alot of questions about how choosing the platform itself affects SEO. This can be a complex and confusing subject with lots of information out there meant to confuse and conflate things and there are plenty of myths that we love busting whenever possible. Let’s jump right in! 

THE BACKSTORY: SQUARESPACE & SEO

Somehow, way back when, Squarespace got a bad rep when it comes to SEO. This may have been relevant in the early days of the service and could still apply if you’re still operating off the now deprecated Squarespace 5 platform which does not have the same SEO features that the current Squarespace 7 one does. The current platform, which all new websites are built on, features a robust toolkit when it comes to SEO. The best part is that no third-party apps are needed to be able to work on the SEO features of your site and you don’t need to get into any super-technical code either. 

BUILT-IN FEATURES

  • All Squarespace sites are optimized for mobile and all templates have been scanned with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool to ensure that they are mobile friendly. Google prioritizes mobile-optimized sites in search results. 

  • Areas where you can edit the search engine and page descriptions on both a site-wide and per-page basis. No third party plugins are needed for this!

  • Sitemaps are automatically generated and itemize all of the URL and image metadata on your site. Everything is given proper priority and is ready to index regardless of the template you choose. 

  • SSL Certificates are included in every domain that is connected to a Squarespace site. SSL-secured websites may rank higher than those that are not secure. 

  • Squarespace automatically generates clean HTML markup that can be read by search engines when your site is indexed without the need for any extra code or tags.

  • The tags that improve search engine indexing (alt, title, meta and link tags) are automatically included. 

  • Clean URLs for all primary pages that are easy for search engines to read and index.

  • If you have multiple domains or use a custom domain on your Squarespace site, automatic redirects ensure that search engines will only see your primary domain.

  • Easy enabling of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to create lightweight versions of every page on your site so that they can load faster when people view your website on their phones. Sites with AMP may rank higher in mobile searches. 

  • Products on Squarespace are structured so that data like the product name, image, description, price and URL so that Google can display this information as a rich search result

  • Automatic and easy integration with Google Search Console so that you can see Google search keywords analytics directly in your Squarespace analytics platform. 

The Secret to Getting Seen: CONTENT

One of the greatest misconceptions out there is that SEO is as easy as adding a plugin (something like Yoast if you use Wordpress). The real truth is that plugins like Yoast are nothing more than a checklist. You’d be just as well off printing an actual to-do list and putting it on a clipboard next to your desk. These plugins do nothing for your SEO just by being connected. The secret to getting noticed is having great content, something that is completely independent from what platform your site is on or what SEO tools you may be using. That being the case, we know that people love checklists so here’s one you can work off of: 

  • Site Title (less than 60 characters, include keywords)

  • Site Description  (50-300 characters, make it a readable description)

  • Location Info (i.e.  a map and business contact information)

  • Use a Custom Domain 

  • Connect Your Social Media Accounts

  • Add SEO Descriptions (for each page, 50-300 characters) 

  • Page & Title Formats (for all individual pages, home, blog, shop)

  • Custom 404 Page 

  • Clean Blog post URLS (include post title in URL)

  • Clean Page slugs (use real words and make it relevant)

  • Verify site with Google Search Console

  • Index your site with Google

  • Verify your site with Bing Webmaster Tools

  • Connect your site to Google Analytics

  • Regularly check Google analytics search keywords panel and update content as needed

  • As content updates and changes over time, be sure to redirect or fix any broken links using URL redirects

  • Update your site frequently by blogging

  • Use keywords strategically 

  • Use Squarespace’s built-in features for creating headings

  • Add alt text to images

  • Add social sharing images to every page

  • Give images readable file names 

  • Use tags & categories on blog posts, products and galleries

  • Link to other relevant content on your site 

  • Keep images under 500KB

There you have it! Print that list out and you’ve got yourself an SEO plugin 😛 

WHAT IF THINGS AREN’T GOING WELL?

If you’re searching for yourself on Google (who doesn’t routinely do this?!) and not liking what you see, there may be a few culprits. If you’ve worked through all of the items in the checklist above, it may just be that your site is too new or that it was just moved from another platform. You’re just too new to the neighborhood! Google & Bing are crawling sites all the time but it can sometimes take a few weeks for your new site to be scanned. If your site does show as being indexed already in Google and you’re still not seeing the results you’d like, we recommend taking a look at the keywords that you’re using on your site. Like we’ve said before, content is king

We know that SEO can be an overwhelming subject so if you’d like to learn more about this topic, you can also check out our SEO Guide. It’s specific to the Squarespace platform that we create all our sites on but the principles are universal so we think it would actually be helpful to anyone who’s wanting to learn a little more on the topic or feel more empowered when it comes to discussing the subject with a pro. 

https://markonbrands.com/blog/seo-and-squarespace

Making User Experience a Priority

UX, Business, Strategy, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

When it comes to designing websites the most significant tension is not what most clients would expect. Finding the perfect combination of fonts - not a problem. Incorporating a stunning color palette - easy. Working with custom code, integrating a third party feature or organizing a robust content system - bring it on. Striking a balance between user experience and the needs of the client when it comes to ongoing website upkeep - surprisingly tricky. 

Understanding the push and pull that happens when it comes to this topic can be challenging as well. What do we mean when we talk about making user experience a priority? Moreover, why does something have to give when we’re confronted with a challenge between the needs of our visitors to have a pleasant time on our websites and our own need to make things easy to take care of behind the scenes? Ultimately, when it comes to user experience, why can’t we have our cake and eat it too? 

Before we jump into how to make user experience a priority, we have to understand that the way most people talk about web design is fundamentally wrong. We talk about users and visitors (i.e., your potential clients and customers) as the only demographic we’re designing for or the only ones who’s experience matters on your site. And this isn’t really true. In reality, websites are as much for us (i.e., the business owners and employees) as they are for them. Website structure is often very strongly linked to the physical systems used in your office or place of work. Sure, we want the client-facing portion to be appealing and intuitive but we also strive to create organized and robust back-end features that make managing your site less intimidating then it may have once been. This is where the tension begins.

Read the full article on Medium.

https://medium.com/markon-brands/making-user-experience-a-priority-66c510b59591

Technological Illiteracy is a Real Problem

Business, Web Design, UXKristine NeilComment

We’re at a place in history unlike any other when it comes to access to such a large amount of information at the tips of our fingers. So much of what happens in our real lives, in our communities, in our classrooms, in our town halls, and in our boardrooms is affected by or has the power to be shaped by the information that we get first online. Unfortunately, technological illiteracy is a real problem and those of us who work every day online and with technology often forget how overwhelming it can all seem to those that don’t. Teaching everyone how to use, manage, evaluate, and understand technology and information online is as critical a subject as reading or math. I believe that we have a civic responsibility to make sure that not just our students but other demographics that are routinely marginalized online have the tools they need to access information and engage in the conversations that will shape our collective future.

https://medium.com/authority-magazine/technological-illiteracy-is-a-real-problem-and-those-of-us-who-work-every-day-online-and-with-102bb9ba509d

Creative Studio Markon Brands Helps Brands Tell Cohesive And Compelling Stories Online

UX, Web Design, BusinessKristine NeilComment

Below is our recent interview with Kristine Neil, Owner and Creative Director of Markon Brands:

Q: Kristine, can you tell us something more about the company?

A: Markon Brands is a small, creative studio based in the Pacific Northwest. We specialize not just in designing websites but in helping brands tell cohesive and compelling brand stories online. We are first and foremost, communication experts and it just so happens that in 2019 nearly all communication is digital! Our best clients are small to medium businesses or nonprofit organizations that want to communicate better with their target demographic. They may not realize that poor messaging or inconsistent logo usage or an outdated web design layout is costing them money; they may only feel that something is off about their current site or know that they can do more. We also do a lot of work with new companies that are in the startup phase so for those clients the goal is to anticipate the needs of an audience that doesn’t entirely exist yet and build in room for growth and adaptation.

Q: Can you give us insights into your services?

A: Of all the projects we work in during the course of a year, I would say that 70% of them are website rebuilds and the remaining 30% are entirely new sites. Whether we’re working with a client that has an existing site or not, our process remains pretty much the same. After working on so many websites over the years, we’ve honed and refined a method to make things easy for our clients who may not be as familiar with technology or the ever-changing demands of search engines like Google. Our services are designed to be holistic treatments of the entirety of a brand’s digital footprint, with the foundation being a beautiful, user-friendly, modern website. We also provide ongoing website support services for clients whether we built their original site or not. For us, it’s not just about getting a client to launch day; it’s about allowing them to have a website that can grow and change for them as their business does.

Q: No one in your studio has ever taken a dedicated UX design course? Is that true? Why?

A: This is true! That’s what happens when you’ve been at this game for as long as we have; what used to be taught under several different disciplines has now been modernized under the singular “user experience” banner. So even though neither of us has ever taken what is now billed as a UX design course, we’ve unintentionally been training and building our UX knowledge and skillset over decades of real-life education and experience. User experience as we define it is really just an amalgamation of the theories and teachings of many different fields. From understanding things like buyer psychology and color theory to what actions convert and how environmental conditions affect buyers, user experience design has been given life through all the new ways we interact with brands – online and IRL. Creating great user experiences pulls equally from the fields of psychology, art, economics, design, information sciences, and linguistics, and these are all areas we’re lucky to be able to translate into a digital medium such as web design.

Q: What is the best way to create readable web pages, and why is it important?

A: Most pages need to be way more straightforward and simple than the average business owner imagines! Most of us can probably differentiate a great website from a mediocre one when we land there as a visitor ourselves, but the problem we see most business owners have is that when it comes to their own site, they get bogged down by their personal knowledge and passion for their industry. They forget that visitors don’t share their same level of skill or expertise in their field and end up providing too much of the wrong information when, in fact, pared down copy with a highly targeted call-to-action helps create a highly readable web page and more enjoyable experience. Putting yourself in your client’s shoes is the best first step in this process. Try to understand what they know, what they don’t know and when it’s appropriate to share different types of info with them. Clearly defined sales funnels like this convert at higher rates and have the side effect of being more readable by search engines as well!

Q: From your perspective how can search engine optimization change a business owner’s life?

A: SEO is a very tangled and complicated topic, and there are definitely people who consider themselves “experts” in this field that see things differently than we do at Markon. We tend to feel that there’s a lot of over-promising and under-delivering that happens in this segment and it’s unfortunate because many of the victims of sometimes predatory practices are otherwise pragmatic business owners that are just trying to improve their web positioning so that they can stay open another week. Search engine optimization best practices change faster than most companies can afford to respond to so, at best, most businesses are just playing catch up in a game that they are never going to win. We would recommend that for SEO to be truly “life changing” that business owners should focus on organic content creation that builds relationships and reinforces their position as an expert in their field. All of the fundamental elements (things like proper page or content formatting) should be taken care of as part of your web design experience. To us, great design is the foundation of great SEO. Growth happens as a result of the everyday activities that come after launch.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: In 2019, we plan to focus more on creating intentional user experiences and integrating more personalized elements into the sites we build for clients. This means being even more thoughtful about the placement of essential items on the page and increasingly conscientious about what motivates people to connect. On the personalization side, we’re discovering new apps and integrations every day that are at very accessible price points for even the smallest of businesses, and we’re excited to see how those features help our clients better connect and engage with their own customers. Designing for a great experience and staying ahead of trends is what sets us apart from ordinary web designers.

http://techcompanynews.com/creative-studio-markon-brands-helps-brands-tell-cohesive-and-compelling-stories-online/?fbclid=IwAR39gO1JgkkqQn_YCY_gtZf2cD4g2lzaIUXi79auwNdnwRkMhIxtxdeLaOg

17 Experts Reveal the Ecommerce Trends Set to Fuel Serious Sales Growth in 2019

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

Innovative ecommerce retailers will push the current limits of personalisation in 2019. This means going beyond passive product recommendation models by integrating conversational features that actively recommend products to consumers based on demographics, purchase history, locality and any other actionable data.

“The idea will be to create an online shopping experience that feels like it comes with the support one would find from a human associate in a store. Imagine logging into a favourite clothier’s website and being greeted by a bot that knows your dimensions, colour and style preferences, and can actively assist you in shopping for a new item.

https://www.veeqo.com/blog/ecommerce-trends-2019

Your Personal Aesthetics Don’t Matter in Web Design

Strategy, UX, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

We may primarily work in web design these days but our roots are in brand design and building cohesive identities for small to medium businesses still lies at the core of what we do. The best part is that a website offers so many ways to expand and really have fun with a brand; underscoring our belief that a brand, like a website, should never be a static thing. It needs to grow and evolve as your business does. The problem that we find most small business owners having when it comes to this concept is wanting to infuse too much of their personal aesthetics into their branding, and therefore their websites. But here’s the thing - your branding isn’t about you. It’s about what you can do for your target demographic, or what your products and services will do for your client and it’s about how to compel them to take action and connect with you.

What does this look like IRL? Let’s take a look!

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Our job as designers is not just to make pretty things but to make functional (pretty) things. We know that design has the power to appeal to the emotions, desires, and psychology of your potential buyer and we select design elements like colors, fonts, and photos with intention because they can all convey very different emotions. If a client tells us that they want to look sophisticated and upscale, we’ll most likely want to stick to things like muted tones, classic serifed fonts & very refined photos in a complementary palette. Pragmatic business owners know to put their personal aesthetics aside and go with what the experts say works, even if their own preferences would be to go with bold, primary colors, crazy script fonts, and bouncing illustrations. Nothing says sophisticated like a carnival!

UX/UI 

We all have preferences when it comes to how we interact with our technology. Some people love hamburger menus (those three little stacked lines indicating a menu is available to pop out on mobile), and some people despise them. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how you feel about these elements because what we know is that they work. You may not like a button in a specific place or how a form has been positioned on a page, but the way you feel about it (sorry for the tough love here) doesn’t matter. You are not your client. When considering how to position items on a page, designers think about things like where the user's eye will be drawn to first and what motions and actions are most likely to get visitors to convert. 

MESSAGING

Any designer will tell you that they are notoriously their own worst client; even the best graphic designers out there often have a colleague take over working on their personal branding for them. It’s because sometimes we’re just too close to the work to be able to see things objectively. We know that the jargon, insider information and technical knowledge we have is likely to negatively affect our ability to see our own work the way a potential client would. The same is true for pretty much anyone in any industry. It’s like how sometimes having a sympathetic friend to talk to when you’re having a tough day is just what you need; they are able to see your situation separated from the emotions you’re feeling. As web designers, we’re that sympathetic friend. Our job is ultimately to make sure that you feel heard and that all of your best ideas are communicated in the most effective way possible to your target demographic - separated from the emotion of the day-to-day involvement in the business. 

This isn’t to say that your personal aesthetics can’t creatively be weaved into the design solutions we provide. They may be more subtle or gentle than you would have done if left to your own devices but let’s just say that with the additional revenue generated by appealing to your client’s desires instead of your own, you’ll be able to afford to have us design you your very own carnival-themed personal website. 

https://markonbrands.com/blog/personal-aesthetics-dont-matter

What Successful Websites Will Look Like in 2019

Web Design, Strategy, DesignKristine NeilComment

Here at Markon, we love this time of year because it’s time to forecast what trends we think will define the shifts in branding, web design and marketing in the year to come. In 2019, we are expecting subtle, yet significant, changes in web design. The new year is a time when many businesses are thinking about new goals, so if updating your website is on your list here are some trends to keep an eye on.

First, a note on why it’s important to pay attention to trends – even if your business has a more traditional aesthetic and you don’t plan on implementing anything too crazy or boundary pushing. We don’t need to remind anyone with internet access that things move fast in the digital world and some of the trends we see are actually indicative of more profound, fundamental shifts in how customers are changing the ways they react and engage with online content. Right now, there’s a real push and pull between all of the tools that are becoming increasingly available to personalize experiences, for example, and also helping people feel that their information is secure and their privacy respected.

Other trends are rooted in just how much time we all spend staring at our screens and understanding just how overwhelmed consumers are by the massive amount of new content that’s published online every hour of every day. The reality is that consumers take just a few seconds to determine if the website they are visiting will be of value to them. That’s an eternity, and barely a blink all at once, and in that timeframe consumers are scanning for keywords and calls-to-action to help them decide whether to stay or go. They just have too much to look at.

With those things in mind, here are four simple aesthetic and structural trends that we believe will improve the design and function of websites in 2019:

Simplified Content & Navigation Structures

In 2019, we’ll see content concentrated on as few pages as possible, each designed to be easily skimmable so that consumers can get to what they need quickly. In the past, we often saw content spread thinly across numerous pages (and clicks!) to make a site appear “meatier” than it was. The truth is that this is not only cumbersome for the consumer but potentially damaging for overall site performance.

Concentrating content onto highly targeted landing pages with clear CTAs (calls-to-action) helps send a clear message to visitors that the real magic happens once a personal connection is made. This simplification will also affect top-level and secondary navigation in a big way. Large, multi-tiered navigation structures (i.e., drop-down menus that have drop-down menus) just expend more of the consumer’s time and eat up space at the top of every page. We’re not sure why this navigation style was ever popular but are looking forward to seeing sites with simplified content organization and plain language to improve user experience.

Improved Calls-To-Action

Speaking of CTAs, favorite page layouts of the past often meant that they got lost in the shuffle, despite often being the most crucial element on the page! To increase the usefulness of websites, we’ll see a renewed effort to intuitively place calls-to-action where they make the most sense from both a design and a user experience perspective. Web design experts are combining their understanding of attributes such as color, typography, and even animation, with studies that show us where visitors are most prone to move their eyes on a page, meaning that a great CTA really is part art and part science. This trend is heavily impacted by that idea that people are feeling very fatigued and overwhelmed by information online. Improving CTAs on your site is the first step in helping visitors feel like your job is to make their life easier, not harder!

Personalized Everything

Advances in machine learning and AI mean that incorporating personalized functions, like a chatbot, more accessible than ever. What that means for business owners is that some of the initial interactions with leads on your site (or social media accounts) can become automated, allowing you to focus on other things while potential customers consider your services. Customers are coming to expect instant personalization whether that’s that your bot knows their name or is able to look up their order history or understand their shopping preferences. The trend here is that consumers will continue to expect more and more of these interactions and businesses that fail to implement systems to manage experiences will quickly feel outdated. In the long run, we also see the creation of highly personalized on-page content that caters, if not specifically to a person, to at least a specific buyer persona to make them feel like your site exists to speak only to them. We’re expecting to see a focus on micro-interactions like these to help sites feel even more engaging and less static.

Bold, Monochromatic Design

Will this be the year that soft, subtle Millennial Pink finally dies? Maybe! We see some hints that the internet’s new favorite colors will be much bolder in 2019. What takes bright colors and bold typography from shocking to amazing is that this aesthetic will be paired with a considerable simplification in the amount of content and other design elements on the page (see trend one!). Creating evocative experiences through the use of color and type is not a trend, of course; but we’re expecting to see designs that feel fresh by focusing on monochromatic palettes that make minimalism feel luxe. Crisp, bright colors won’t feel overwhelming when balanced with plenty of white space, simple shapes and subtle animations.

Even if you’re not looking to make any significant shifts with your web presence in the coming year, it’s always smart to understand what updates and changes are fueling the trends so that you aren’t caught off guard by what you see in your analytics panel. These trends are indicative of a modern need to build simple interfaces with gentle user experiences, allowing consumers to learn more about businesses and find the things they need in environments that are pleasing to the eye and straightforward in their organization. You may not see your business as a trendsetter or follower, but adopting the trends described here are what will make your website successful in 2019.

https://www.vbjusa.com/opinion/columns/marketing-strategic-communication-column/what-successful-websites-will-look-like-in-2019/

The Nightmares of Web Designers [Stories About Difficult and Unsolved Cases]

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

In our years of working with businesses to build successful online experiences, the projects that have presented the most friction are the ones where clients try to micromanage the design process despite having little-to-no experience or authority in the world of design. As designers and UX professionals we bring our best to every project, so when a client is attempting to steer the project in another creative direction that we don't think will help them achieve their goals, it can grind the project to halt. It's an unfortunate scenario considering the client has paid for our expertise. In these cases, our job becomes helping clients see beyond their own design bias to what is best for their target audience.

https://www.templatemonster.com/blog/web-designers-nightmares/