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How Social Media is Affecting Web Design

Social media is not a fad. It is not a passing phase. Elements will come and go (MySpace anyone?), but the concept of users interacting online on various platforms is sticking around. The playing field is shifting and with each new development web designers have to shift the way they design.

The smarts of social media

Let’s cover off the why. Companies seem to realise that they need to be ‘doing’ social media, know they should have a Facebook page and/or a Twitter account etc, but most don’t seem to understand why.

Although social media should be a tactic of a larger goal, here are some good reasons to get in the space:

  • Social media content (blogs, videos, images) when optimised correctly allow you to be found easier on search engines.
  • Allowing users to interact with your brand/site increases brand value.
  • Users that ‘like’ a Facebook page or tweet about a product end up more likely to buy or recommend your product.
  • Interacting with your users on various platforms increases your reach.

The above translates to an increase of influence for your messages, and more sales.

SEO strategy and social media marketing tactics should be combined. The diagram below sums it up well:

Social media roadmap
Social media roadmap, from Mashable.

The nature of social media encourages participation: sharing, voting, commenting and linking. The ‘why’ can simply be summed up as: exposure = traffic.

Designing for social media

Research shows that at 1/20th of a second1 a user can make decisions about your site that is lasting.
There are two things to consider here:

  • If a user has clicked through to your site from a social media platform they need to be able to find the relevant information discussed instantly. ‘False advertising’ your content on social media platforms to increase click-throughs will annoy users. And you won’t be seeing them again.
  • Your site needs to have well integrated social media icons, so first time users have an appealing design that encourages interaction.

We will focus on the second point, because there is only one way to say ‘if you are promising particular content from a click-though, put it on that page’.

Well integrated social media icons consider positioning, colour, style and size. There is a list of nice social media icons all fitting in with well the style of their website design here. We quite like the one below from Daniel Marques.

Well integrated social media icons

Your icons need to get the attention of the user at the right time, without getting in their way. The buttons should be placed either in the expected place, i.e. header or footer, or on the page next to the content.

Fixed elements, such as the one below, move along the screen with the user. It also uses elements from social persuasion to let the user know how many other people have already shared the item.

Fixed elements in social media

We’re now competing in an ‘attention economy’, this is a get in – get to my goal – get out philosophy to web design. It comes down to:

  • Load time – don’t leave me waiting.
  • Content – where is what I clicked through for – make it easy for me to find.
  • Social media – want me to share it? Better be there when I think of it.

If your campaign or business goals have a social media emphasis, make those buttons upfront and hard to miss. Don’t forget the importance of fun, making a button fun to click or creating a game will get the user’s attention. Here is a site that has a handy round up of the best social media icon designs in one place.

Getting the most out of your campaigns

We have had to shift the way that we think about websites, they are now the hub, not the destination.

Users will go where the conversation is happening. This may be on the comments of your website (that’s be nice) or may be on Twitter or another social media platform. Smart social marketing and website strategies allow for both outcomes. Your Facebook page won’t be left bare because too much of your attention was spent on the advertising campaign to get users there. Similarly, your 1,000 Twitter followers won’t click through to stale content with little to no relevancy. Map out the scenarios and work out where you weakest point is, because no start and finish points are the same anymore, and you can lose users at any point.

Social Networking Watch

Social networking watch utilises the much loved ‘share this’ pop up

Social media monitoring software has taken some of the mystery out of this for us. Six Revisions has done a nice sum up of 12 of the more popular tools. Through these tools you should be able to map where you are attracting and losing your users. You should also be able to work out your key influencers, keywords and where the conversations are happening.

Websites like Klout also allow you to see who you are influencing. The Klout score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. It uses data from social networks in order to measure reach, influence, amplification and your network impact.

Last thoughts

Social media campaigns are a tactic, not a goal and it’s important not to let the lines blur. Keep in mind your key goals and why you’re using these tactics in the first place.

If you can’t measure what you’re doing, and prove an increase in influence, sales or a behavioural change, then rethink your strategy. If your links aren’t being clicked on, and content is not being shared, look at your SEO and web design.

As web designers it’s important we understand not only where the conversation is happening, but how people got there and how that affects our key goals. Then we end up with a smart design, fitting in well with SEO, social media and the businesses objectives. 

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