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Personally, I would say yes!.

Let’s start by explaining some things.

Back in the day we accessed the internet via a desktop computer, or maybe a laptop, screen sizes and computer speeds were pretty low, slow and inconsistent. But at least we knew roughly a few things about our potential visitors.

They would probably be viewing our sites either at 800×600 or 1024×768 (and there are some here who actually remember 640×480!), or as screen sizes increased and TFTs became common place, most users began to view our sites using 1280×1024 screens, this was fine. I could design my site to fit.

Now, things have moved on, once a mobile site would and could only be simple text, maybe a little colour and a couple of tiny pixelated images. Now mobile is here, tablets, netbooks and other strange net connected devices are cropping up. So where does that put me when designing a new site?

Now we  have to cater for a whole range of devices. Previously there was no choice in the matter, M.website.com or www.website.com. One pretty basic site and another rigid one.

We’re talking websites here, so if you’re wondering about when to make a mobile site or app, you’ll have to come back for that.

This is where Responsive Web Design comes in. Instead of developing a website specifically for one screen size, we can now detect the browser/device/tablet/phones viewable space, and adapt the design to fit.

Take a look at our new site built in this manner.

On my beloved 27″ iMac, instead of seeing a postage stamp, I see it in its full glory, then on my mobile I get the full experience, just nicely folded down.

Same site, same code. But with a little thinking it scales up and down gracefully.

Should we?

So, when you are next developing your website, think about the bigger picture, as well as the smaller one. If you have no need or the budget for a native app, I would say build a responsive site.Check out this website, pop in the address for your site,  or ours :) and see how it renders at different sizes http://www.studiopress.com/responsive/

Just been having a look around some of our friends sites and I am still surprised at how many don’t get the basics right when it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO).

I think the trouble is most people think that SEO is hard and takes a lot of work. Well, it can be time consuming if you want to go the whole hog, but basic SEO is fairly simple. Don’t think of it as just getting up the rankings on Google, think of it as a service to those who want to see what you have to say. What you are trying to do is make it easy for them to find you and decide to pay you a visit – that second element is the oft forgotten part of the process.
So what can you do that doesn’t take huge amounts of time? Here’s 4 things you can do:

1. Treat every page as a landing page: When you think about it what is the liklihood of a saerch result returning your homepage? If someone searches for your organisation by name, then probably your home page is what they are looking for. But if the are searching for some information (say a play or a ballet or some artefact or other), then the chances are that information is not on your home page – it is going to be deeper into your site. So you need to think of the best way to let people find that page – so treat it as if it is its own home page.

2. Give every page a unique title: You’d be surprised how many websites have the same title for each page – this is not good, although it is easy. Not only important in SEO terms but it is the page title shown in a Google search result. By the way, Google uses the first 69 characters so make them count: it is your way to grab the readers’ attention. more on page titles…

3. Give every page a description:  Another metatag that is often missed is the description. This gives you a chance to say what the page is about in a succint way. Google uses the first 156 characters in their search results, so it is this which will bring people to your site – no point of appearing high up the lists if they don’t click through. more on descriptions…

4. Give your pages real names: there are differing views on the importance of this in the SEO world, but I think it is good practice and a great help to your visitors. Even outside of search it is much easier to refer someone to a pagename that describes the content than a random stream of numbers and letter. more on page names…

For more SEO ideas take a look at Masque Arts Search Engine Optimisation.

Further to my post the other day about David Bintley’s incredible new version of Cinderella, we find that BR are actually producing a second version!  The same score, on the same scale and with the same ambitious production values… but with a very different choreographic team.

Following on from the hugely successful Ballet Hoo! project, BRB are working with local youth groups in the exciting project “Ballet, Birmingham and Me” (or BB&Me for short) to create this second version of Cinderella.

Follow the trial and tribulations of this amazing projects at BB&Me.

Working with CMS: Content Management System

In today’s web world any kind of design, which is going to be continually updated with content, needs a CMS. This database stores your site content and allows the site admin to work with an interface which means you can then add, modify and remove content at your will.

Although a CMS can be designed and programmed specifically for a site it is necessary for you to first consider the type of CMS you are looking to work with. Free website platforms such and Drupal, Joomla and WordPress are available. Although a cheaper option maybe attractive you must match the best CMS available according your requirements – just because it looks cheaper in the short run doesn’t mean it will be over time.

The Relationship Between CMS and Design Brief

A problem we often come across when designing and working with clients is the relationship between the CMS and your design brief. I have begun to think why you shouldn’t specify your CMS as part of your design brief. With some potential clients we can sometimes find the first problem we come across is that the amalgamation of the brief for the technical side (content management system [CMS] and the customer relationship management [CRM]) with the design itself. To solve this problem you should assess these as two separate items and each should be approached separately.

A good CMS will support just about any design that it is thrown into the mix and any designer should conversely also be able to work with most CMS. In regards to implementation, we would always carry out all of the associated work anyway and it should be our main job to make sure the CMS templates correctly implement the design.

Of course it is also possible that over time we can see multiple designers working on a project, even on different parts of a sites design. So by having the technical infrastructure independent to the design company itself can give you much more flexibility. If you are attempting a much larger revamp of the site, why switch your CMS?

Keep the CMS at the Top of the Design Process

We should always put the CMS at the top of the design process; it is imperative that this is done first, before any of the design work. Lay the groundwork of the project with your CMS from this the rest of the design should flow. This is so that the CMS forms the foundation of any website allowing the website process to be much more productive.