Designing a Travel Website

Travel websites must evoke a certain atmophere about a place. Web design can utilize Flash movies and animation as well life style photographs to capture this aspect of creating a good travel website. Another important issue is decide the purpose of a website. If the travel website is intended to make money then the design must focus on getting a high conversion rate. The other major consideration in a travel website is good content.

Balancing all these needs in a travel website can be difficult. Too many sites seem to be focussed primarily on getting bookings for hotels, resorts and other accommodations. The sites typically feature a large call to action box that prompts the user to choose dates and a location. These travel websites often look good but they lack much content. The descriptions are all about the accommodation not about the location, its attractions, its history and travel tips. If the user just wants to book a place to stay in Koh Samui (for example) then that is fine. If, however, the user wants to know which is the best beach in Koh Samui or the times of boats to Koh Phangan then these sites can be irritating.

Similarly, the temptation to impress the visitor to the site with graphics and movies can lead to a lack of informative text as well as making page load times slow. People with poor internet connections are likely to give up on sites that take too long to load. Also Flash is not available for people browsing through iPhones. A balance needs to be struck between ’bells and whistles’ and providing good content.

Finally, many people are itnerested in first hand experience when it comes to travel websites. Incorporating a blog or reviews section allows visitors to the site to read first hand accounts of places rather than purple prose about a hotel or a beach. This is important for establishing the authority of a site. It will also encourage people to return to the site to look for updates.

Web Graphic Art

If you’ve been studying the HTML and CSS, you will know how to embed a graphic image into a web page. That is web graphic. Logos are one of the most common uses of web graphics.

Most websites have a logo on every page. Logos are usually created using illustration software, such as Adobe Illustrator, then exported to GIF format. Photos are becoming increasingly popular too, especially with so many digital cameras and camera phones available these days.

Photos are usually either scanned into the computer, or imported directly from a digital camera. Once the photo is saved on the computer, you can make adjustments, re-size it, and then save it in JPEG format. Take a picture of your beloved cat beside her fancy best automatic cat litter box, edit it a bit and voila! you a beautiful header image for your website. Icons can help a website look more professional, as well as help users quickly identify the purpose of a link. Icons are usually created using illustration software, such as Adobe Illustrator, then exported to GIF format.

Decorative images are often used to do the bits that HTML and CSS can’t do. For example, diagonal lines and rounded corners. Decorative images are also commonly used for repeating backgrounds on web pages. Depending on the image, a decorative graphic can be created using illustration software such as Adobe Illustrator, or image editing software such as Photoshop or GIMP. It is then exported to GIF format.

Keeping Safe on Social Networking Sites

It’s certainly not a simple subject but being secure on social networking sites has never been as relevant as it is today.  But despite it’s complexity there are some very basic rules that can help you become much more secure online.  Here’s just some of rules you really shouldn’t ignore.

Passwords – one of the most dangerous things you can do is to use the same password across all your sites and logins.  Online hackers and cyber criminals know that this is what people tend to do.  They won’t waste time targeting professionally secured sites like Facebook and Twitter but instead hack into forums or other sites.  They will then test these usernames and passwords on the bigger sites like Paypal and Facebook.  Of course when they have access to one of these sites or your email they’ll be in business.

Information overload – it’s tempting I know to get carried away with posting on you facebook page or Twitter. Of course you want to tell your friends you’re jetting off to Barbados for three weeks.  But I urge you to thing again – what you’re basically doing is announcing that yoru house will be empty to potentially thousands of people.  Similarly be very careful posting too many personal details, addresses, phone numbers – all are gold for the cunning identity thieves who can make your life a misery with enough details.

The final point I’d like to raise is that of how long your information stays online.  The answer is potentially forever, so next time you want to post something online think carefully.  That post or tweet could be visible in twenty five years, will it still look the same?  It’s especially important to stay away when you’re angry or have had a few drinks.   

It’s not easy to stay secure online there are so many potential dangers however common sense goes a long way.  It might also be worth consdering using a VPN or proxy server which also further secures your connection.  The added benefit of these is that it enables you to hide your real IP address too, this can help you access content and sites normally blocked by location.  Check out some of the technology involved on this site –   http://www.theninjaproxy.org/tv/how-to-use-a-bbc-iplayer-proxy/ , it’s got some useful information on how the technology works and what you c an use them for.

Using Video to Sell Gift Baskets

I think a lot of us have started to see a change in the way things are sold online.  To start, there are more personal brands being built rather than companies.  The question becomes, do you want to be the next Apple, or the next IBM?  Do you see the difference, Steve Jobs was the face of Apple and has continued to be the face of the company even after his untimely death, while IBM has faced a series of years with falling share prices and no real draw.

For those selling products via ecommerce, web design, graphics and the use of video is becoming even more important.  For example, a company selling wine gift baskets could theoretically show scenes from each of their suppliers while talking about why each of those suppliers was chosen.  It’s an exciting way to show off your products and really sell what you do well!

BBC Iplayer – One of Life’s Essentials

Whenever I’m in the United Kingdom there’s one thing I enjoy more than anything and that’s the TV there.  Watching a show for an hour without it being interrupted every ten minutes for endless adverts is simply bliss.  It’s not something you can do in many places and even fast forwarding recorded shows on a Tivo is not quite  the same.

But the BBC is complete bliss and not only are there no interruptions but the quality is generally superb too.  Of course the BBC has huge advantages in being centrally funded and not commercially driven however it’s certainly my favorite broadcaster bar none.  Nowadays the BBC has invested heavily in it’s online presence and was a pioneer in transmitting it’s content online using the Iplayer application.  You can watch pretty much all the shows online for a period of a few weeks or live whichever suits you best.

There is one drawback though – the BBC Iplayer application is not actually available outside the United Kingdom.  The web site checks the location of your computer by looking up your IP address – presumably to restrict the BBC shows to British license payers, although this seems rather mean.  Fortunately I found this useful post which shows you how to watch the BBC Iplayer abroad.  Apparently all you have to do is connect using a fake UK IP address and you’ll get access as normal.

I have tried this method out and it works fine, although make sure  you disconnect after or all your browsing will be routed through  the United Kingdom.  It’s kind of sad that we have to use these methods – the US media sites are no better, can you believe I can’t access Hulu on my laptop either when I’m out of the US.  The internet didn’t used to be like this and I for one miss the times when everything was accessible to everyone.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afz-QXrkar8

Winery Web Design

Selling web design services is one of the most difficult aspects to the industry isn’t it?  After all, how can you really differentiate yourself from all the other operators out there based only on past work?  At the end of the day, anyone wanting to do website design or even simply web graphics has to have a solid understanding of marketing and how to sell yourself and your business.

I couldn’t help but think of the online wine club that I’m a part of when I was writing this simply because they face many of the same challenges.  I guess that’s one of the really positive aspects to the web design business, you should be able to take parts of each business that you work with and blend them into your own project.  That’s both liberating as well as being really good for the long term health of your small web design business.

Why I Set up VPNs on my Ipad2

Why would you want to do this I might hear you ask.  Well it’s mainly due to a practice called geotargeting and it’s extremely annoying.  You’ve probably come across it before – perhaps you’ve clicked on a particularly interesting video on Youtube, you click to play but just get a message about ’this video is not available in your area’.  Rubbish eh.  But there’s more – loads of web sites do it.  When I’m abroad I’ve been blocked from my online bank account as I’m in a different country, can’t access Hulu or Pandora on holiday as their US only.  Literally more and more incidents being blocked or filtered from websites I use to access without problem.

 

 

Now a VPN is a Virtual Private Network and it’s just a little tunnel between you and another computer.  So for example I could set up a VPN to a USA server, or an Australian proxy, check this out.  The beauty is that I now appear to be in the location of the VPN server not my actual physical location – so I can connect to  the country I need to access a particular website.

I’m actually quite lucky as the company I work for has lots of VPNs all across the world.  This means I am able to access the one I need at any given time.  The ones I use most are the UK one for BBC Iplayer (blocked outside UK) and the US one for when I’m travelling.  I really wish the web sites wouldn’t do this – it just seems against the spirit of the internet.  However as usual money making seems to have overtaken ideals once again.

Web Design for Wine

Wine is one of the more difficult things to sell online for a number of reasons.  First, there are major, serious reporting issues.

Secondly, to deal with those reporting issues you almost have to use a 3rd party company to help keep track of every applicable law on the books.  For a wine a month club there are monthly sales tax reports as well, for up to 30 states!

Does that sound like a business you’d like to be involved in?  For a web designer, it’s important to know some of these type of issues before taking on a project!

Great Wine Images

Wine is certainly a food which gives us its fair share of incredible images isn’t it?  From pictures of vineyards to those of wine gift baskets, there are tons of different ways to see the image of wine in photography.  Clearly standing in a vineyard and hanging out on a website are two different things, but if you really want to do a great job selling wine…they can’t be.  Web design and graphics need to bring people into your vineyard if you own one and let them experience wine country and the lifestyle that it creates.

vinyards

A Simple Sort of Style

If you want to make an impression with your website one of the most important factors to consider is simplicity.  If your website is cluttered and full of text and content, it will simply look to difficult to read and your visitors will disappear with a click of the ’back button’.  I always remember one website I visited some years ago – it was a site about running PPC campaigns and making money, stuff like that – fairly boring.  But the reason I remember this site is that it was coded simply in very basic HTML – no graphics, adverts – just text in a plain style.   It was incredibly basic but it stood out simply because it was different.

Sometimes less can be more – look at the Apple web site:

 

Their focus is the new Ipad and it’s image speaks more that a hundred pages of text.  There’s no need to burden you home page with text when you have something as beautiful as the Ipad to look at.  Apple is selling style and an image transcends words in that department.

Sometimes very basic templates and design help you to focus on the content.  Blogs should generally have as little clutter as possible on them, the words are the important bit on the blog.  You can of course use relevant images – so stay on theme – this page uses graphics to demonstrate how to use an Ipad proxy to watch the BBC.  Notice how there’s very little in the borders which also helps speed up loading of a page as well.  Video works well on these sort of minimal sites too as they don’t distract from the video itself.

So don’t be tempted to overload your visitors, web surfers have extremely short attention spans – if your site looks too detailed and involved it will not draw the visitors in.