Technically Speaking With…Ben Hunt
When it comes to web design, Ben Hunt of Scratch Media, values simplicity – more specifically, using pixels wisely without sacrificing appeal. He’s even written a best-selling ebook that shares tips, techniques, case studies and tutorials, all centered around the philosophy of Simple Web Design. The ebook, titled “Save the Pixel” demonstrates that by simply reducing the amount of “stuff” on the screen, designers can make web pages that are accessible, pleasant to use and more successful as a result. In this month’s “Technically Speaking With” column, Ben shares insights on SEO, common mistakes to avoid and even gives us a glimpse into his designer’s toolbox.
Newtek Technology Services: How long ago did you launch Scratchmedia and what brought you into the web design business?
Ben Hunt: I’ve consulted under the name Scratcmedia since around 1999, and we founded the agency in 2005.What I love about web design is that it’s so varied and fun – what else combines art, psychology, and language with technical problem-solving?
NTS: What prompted you to write a book? What perspective do you bring that’s different from other authors who have touched on this subject?
BH: My approach to designing simple web sites seems to resonate with people. I’d been blogging on web design for several years, and had built up a following who appreciate the straightforward approach to effective design. I wrote “Save the Pixel” to sum up my design methods and make them accessible to anyone.
NTS: What are the top three common mistakes you see web designers make?
BH: 1.) Not knowing exactly who your audience is and what to give them in order for the site to succeed. 2.) Putting too much stuff on the screen, detracting from a clear path forward. 3.) Ignoring SEO. Without traffic, any site is dead. SEO is part of the design process, and often the first step in the user experience too.
NTS: What is one easy-to-implement tip you can offer to designers to entice their visitors to stay longer than 8 seconds and increase conversions?
BH: Make the most important things on each screen bigger, brighter, and bolder so they’re what you notice first. This lets you tell visitors immediately that they’re in the right place, and know exactly where to look to find what they want.
NTS: What golden nuggets can you share when it comes to SEO?
BH: Here’s the best long-term strategy with no down side…Simply write great content that’s really useful, sharing everything you know. This will build trust in each visitor, and won’t lose you one genuine customer.
NTS: What’s the coolest new web design tool you’ve come across lately?
BH: It’s probably ClickTale, which lets you snoop on real visits to your site and see where people click, pause, or scroll. It’s like a cheap way to running simple usability tests from your own seat, and can be very revealing! I also love Prezi, which generates cool and original animated presentations, and Trendly, which highlights trends in your site analytics.
NTS: What brought you to CrystalTech as your web hosting provider?
BH: I’m afraid I simply can’t remember! We went with CrystalTech back in 2003 or 2004, and the reasons are lost in the mists of time. I can tell you why I’m still with Newtek/CrystalTech today though – and why we recommend you to our clients – it’s because in 5 years I have not had one single failure or problem with my hosting. It has simply worked from day one.
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