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5 Upcoming Web Design Trends of 2018


16th April 2018

We’re already a quarter of the way into 2018, which is as good a time as any to pause, take stock and looking around us: what are the emerging web design trends of 2018? How has the year gone so far for designers, and what lessons and latest fashions can we take from the front-end of the year? In short, what should your site be doing to look like it’s keeping up with the crowd?

Web design trends should, like any fad or fashion, be used sparingly. It’s important to know what the latest developments are, but not necessarily essential that you use them all at once. Understanding the general lie of the web design land is crucial; being a slave to fashion will, in design as in life, only ensure you date yourself faster.

So take instruction and inspiration from the latest trends, but don’t make your site dependent upon them. Add accents to your current site by tapping into the newest design thinking, but at the same time don’t abandon the lodestars of usability and clarity that define good design whatever the year.

All those caveats given, however, what are the cool kids doing in 2018?

Web Animation

First and foremost, they seem to be into web animation. Flat design is being enlivened by subtle movement – and sometimes not-so-subtle! Animating transitions, or featuring animated characters throughout your design to add a little spark or interest, is the new normal.

We’re seeing more and more uses of web animation because they make ideas and interfaces easier to understand. Animation can direct and channel a user’s attention in helpful directions, enhancing their experience of a website, as well as also adding personality to it and its brand.

Bold Colours

Indeed, adding personality is a big element of recent design trends. Bold colours are increasingly a “thing”, which exciting and unusual hues standing out more and more from designs and replacing the once dominant whites and cool greys that defined a more minimalist approach to design.

There will continue to be more uses of adventurous colour in 2018 because getting out the paint pot can likewise help draw your users’ attention to specific areas of your site – and make the whole look and feel of your online home memorable and quirky.

Creative Typography

Adding that additional layer of character is probably the reason behind the explosion in creative typography, too. Don’t hide behind Helvetica – we’re seeing increasing experimentation in the realm of type, with all sorts of interesting and attractive fonts deployed to hold a user’s attention and add emphasis to key elements of a site’s copy.

Semi-Flat Designs

All of this is moving away from the revolution of a few years ago: we went from skeuomorphic design trend, which sought to make websites look and feel like their real-world equivalents, to a flat design fashion which emphasised the artificiality and sleekness of the online environment. Now, we’re in a “Semi-Flat Design” stage, in which sites are still sleek but gradients and shadows are being used to add nuance to a website.

Used in moderation, those gradients and shadows – like animation, colour and typography – can provide better aesthetics to a site. The final trend for 2018, however, is all about functionality: the increasing flexibility of mobile websites.

Priority on Mobile Browsing

Mobile phone browsing has now overtaken desktop browsing, which means that developers are focusing more and more on the mobile audience. That means more intuitive microinteractions and gestures will be incorporated into every design, to improve the browsing experience of mobile websites. Form and functionality: enhancing both is what defines the upcoming web design trends of 2018.

Contact Image Plus for Web Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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How To Speed Up Your Website


26th March 2018

We’re all very busy – modern life seems to move at an ever-increasing speed. The internet is often seen as part of this trend – an information superhighway that facilitates a quicker pace of life. We access websites for convenience – and expect them to load swiftly and smoothly.

The truth is, however, that like anything else websites can slow down over time. For various reasons, load times can lag. The experience of using a slow website can be frustrating – and always contributes to a high “bounce rate” (the rate of people leaving your site after just a few seconds).

If your website is slow, it will fail to engage users, who demand a seamless experience online. If it fails to engage users, it will fail to represent your business appropriately – and convert users to buyers.

The good news is that there are several techniques that can speed up your website again and make it more enjoyable to use. Ensuring that the experience of visiting and browsing your website is pleasant and pain-free is key to making good on the investment you’ve made in building a website in the process.

So what are those tools? The first is simple: upgrade your hosting. We’ve blogged about this issue before, but essentially cheaper hosting packages store your website alongside many others – giving each less bandwidth to play with, and therefore making all more prone to slowing down. A better hosting package will give your site more headroom to handle higher traffic volumes.

Similarly, you should choose a fast Content Management System (CMS). These are “back doors” to your site which enable you to keep the text, images and other content elements of your site up-to-date. The faster this system works, the quicker your site will be able to compile all those elements – and display them to your users.

Content has other implications, too: you should optimise your images (that is, compress them for use on the web) so that they load more quickly; you should also host only the number of files you need – the more you have, the slower your website will become. Consider a Content Delivery Network (CDN) – these save images and pages to different servers around the world, meaning users will load content from the nearest server, saving significantly on loading times.

In short, you don’t have to stick with a slow website anymore than your users do. Talk to us here at Image+ about how to speed up your website.

 

Contact Image Plus for Web Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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5 Benefits of Using WordPress for your Business


19th March 2018

WordPress is one of the most used web design platforms in the world. As of January 2018, nearly a third of the world’s top ten million websites were WordPress-based. In a world so full of digital options, that’s a huge market share – and there’s a reason the platform is so popular.

WordPress began life as a humble blogging tool, a quick and easy means of setting up a website online that could play host to all your posts. What made it special was that it was totally open source – in other words, users could access the code that made the platform work, and alter it. Before long, WordPress had, through the contributions of its users, grown far beyond its basic beginnings.

WordPress is now a system for building websites of infinite variety: from blogs to brochures to portfolios, the platform is now incredibly versatile. Users have created innumerable themes to alter and customise the look of websites, and countless plug-ins to add functionality and features.

Most of all, it’s incredibly easy to use – once set up by your web developer, the basics of updating your pages and products is intuitive and takes seconds. Businesses have adopted WordPress readily for this reason – it takes up less staff time, and its ubiquity often means that only the lightest of training is necessary … because staff are already familiar with it!

Ecommerce websites, of course, can be different beasts. They have very specific requirements and need to inspire total confidence in their users. But the truth is that WordPress has come so far from its beginnings that it is often the smartest choice even for ecommerce.

Extensive Plugin Marketplace

For one, it has an extensive plug-ins marketplace. That means that your site is potentially extremely powerful – because simply installing a new plug-in can make it capable of whole new things in seconds. From security to sales, plug-ins will offer your customers all the services they need.

 

Wide Selection of Themes

Secondly, that variety of themes puts thousands of different looks at your fingertips. You sell online because customers enjoy their experience on your website. WordPress themes look great and load seamlessly – that’s the best way to inspire confidence in your clients.

 

WordPress is Search Engine-Friendly

Thirdly, WordPress is astonishingly search engine-friendly. The system has been perfected over years to appeal to search engines, and that means your products will be found by people typing their phrases into Google, Bing and the rest. This is key to developing new business.

 

Highly Customisable

Fourth, WordPress sites are highly customisable. This means you’ll never be stuck with a site past its sell-by date – as you expand, or your customers’ expectations change, you can simply retool your WordPress site. Voila! You have a whole new home on the web.

And finally, don’t forget: WordPress is for blogging. Don’t ignore the system’s core functionality – reach out to your clients and create a lasting connection with them!

 

Contact Image Plus for Web Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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5 Tips for Improving Your Website Design


13th March 2018

Tips for improving your website design might at first glance seem too good to be true: like every other “weird trick” online – from how to lose weight to how to grow a better beard – web design tips can have the air of the con. Surely no complex issue can be boiled down to a few cute shortcuts?

Of course not. Web design is an art and a science, and you’d be best off engaging an expert (like us!) when considering building a website for your business. A few “weird tricks” won’t build you a proper website; it’ll barely help you understand how one works.

That said, there are some basic principles which underpin all good design that can help even a layperson perceive how their website might look better – and which, in the hands of a professional, can make a massive difference.

Websites are, of course, ten a penny these days – if they’re to stand out, they need to look good. That’s where some rules of thumb can come in really hand. Think of them as ways to avoid common errors which undermine websites that might otherwise have been rather more impressive.

1. Simplify your site.

Clutter is the enemy of good design. A page packed with unnecessary elements might feel like one which imparts a lot of information, but in fact, it will do the opposite – because no one will bother to read it. Be ruthless with what you include; make your web pages clean and lean.

 

2. Reduce colours.

Who doesn’t love a pop of colour, a splash of vibrancy? You can, though, have too much of a good thing. Try to use one or two colours with neutral hues which can complement each other. Loud Hawaiian shirts offend because they’re too busy – don’t let your site make the same mistake.

 

3. Stick with two fonts.

Typography adds character, but it can also be distracting. By limiting yourself to two typefaces, you’ll get the best out of your fonts: they’ll offer variation and visual interest without crowding each other out and making everything seem confused.

 

4. Don’t forget mobile.

This is a biggie, but it feels bizarre that in 2018 we still need to say it. Mobile browsing has been a thing for a while now, has never been more important than now – and yet you still see site after site which doesn’t work when you’re on the go. Stop it, designers! Make sure your site is responsive.

 

5. Have a plan.

Never, ever start a site without a clear sense of where you’re going with it. Know which pages are important, how your users will find them, and where everything is going to go.  Map your site so you know how it will be used. Only then should you start building … because usability is the goal of all good design.

These aren’t solutions to everything – there’s no such thing as a silver bullet in design. At the same time, there are simple mistakes you can avoid and basic principles you should always follow. And that’s why these are our top five tips to improve your web design.

 

Contact Image Plus for Web Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

 

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How To Ensure Consistency in Web Design


6th March 2018

Ensuring consistency in web design is crucial. Indeed, any area of design can succeed or fail on the level of how well its various elements sit with each other – and how consistently. Design is ultimately a form of communication, and if we are to get anything across effectively there must be an element of constancy in our delivery.

In design, this most often means achieving a certain harmony – between colours and elements, shapes and sizes. Whatever identity your web designer intends to create for your company, the consistency with which they apply and repeat each element will go a long way towards ensuring that they achieve their aim.

 

Repeat Layout Styles

For example, repeating layout styles is a common way to give each page a fixed and predictable form. Consistent layouts are important if visitors to your website are going to easily find what they need: skipping between pages is one thing, but if each one is different it can be time-consuming to maintain your bearings. Pick a layout and stick with it: it will pay dividens.

Your aim should be to make your visitors feel comfortable, even at home; consistency in web design is about achieving just this, so that your website comes to feel intuitive in its familiarity.

 

Consistent Branding

So keep your branding consistent. Just as repeated layouts can help users settle into a rhythm on your website, so branding – a stable of colours, typefaces, logos and even images to which you return throughout the site in regulated ways – can help a user orient themselves. The subtle cues of branding work because they remind us where we are – this works on a website just as much as it does in a branch of McDonalds.

Ensuring consistency in web design is about building an experience that your user understands on a subconscious level: if a button was red on page one and did X, then a red button should also do C on page two. Branding helps direct users to expect certain effects, and helps them navigate spaces virtual and physical.

 

Intuitive Navigation

On which note … use intuitive website navigation. All these cues and clues will be for nothing if your menu makes no sense. Your users should understand a lot about your website just from your header and navigation links: make your signposting clear and simple, and arrange your content clearly and concisely.

Of course, relevant and good quality copy and content is key here: your users won’t thank you for helping them find what they need if when they get there it’s not much good. But taking that as read, if your users can find what they’re looking for easily, arrive at it simply, and feel immediately at home with what they find … then congratulations: you’ve learned how to ensure consistency in your web design!

 

Contact Image Plus for Web Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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Is It Time To Upgrade Your Web Hosting?


27th February 2018

Whether it is time to upgrade your web hosting may not seem like as exciting a question as which colour to use on your homepage, or what exciting functionality you can provide to your users. The truth, however, is that web hosting is what can help make the most of all those other choices.

“Web hosting” is the term we use for the infrastructure which powers a website. The computers – or servers – on which your website’s files are stored will, like any other piece of hardware, have their own specifications and capacity. Those attributes will, in turn, affect how well your website, and all its associated functions, operate.

So, is it time to upgrade your web hosting? Well. Ask yourself these questions:

 

Does your website have slow site speeds?

You – and most importantly your visitors – don’t have to put up with slow site speeds. In fact, your users almost certainly won’t, and they’ll go elsewhere. Slow site speeds are usually a sign of a problem with the web hosting associated with a site; don’t lose your customers – lose your hosting provider.

 

Do you share a server with other websites?

Lots of lower-end hosting providers squeeze a score of sites onto the same hosting platform – this is good for them since it maximises their resources, but not for you. Sharing a server with other sites means that you can’t control your level of service as well – a spike for another site, and maybe one of your competitors, will mean slower speeds for you.

 

What’s the reputation of your host?

This one might sound strange, but some hosting providers have a poor reputation – and that impacts upon you. That’s not just about word of mouth about their customer service: poor hosting providers often wind up on blacklists for one reason or another, and that can mean your emails don’t get through when they should. Choose a host that’s known and respected.

 

Does your website slow down during peak times?

The more people accessing your site, the harder your server has to work … and, if it wasn’t particularly good to begin with, that extra stress will send it crashing down. If you’re noticing slower responses during periods of peak traffic, it’s a good sign that your server isn’t working as well for you anymore.

If asking any of these questions leads you to question your current provider, drop us a line for a chat about our web hosting packages – you might expect us to say this, but they’re top drawer. Not sure about your servers? Well, then: is it time to upgrade your web hosting?

 

Contact Image Plus for Web Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 7683 4780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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How Do Vibrant Colours Benefit UI Design?


20th February 2018

Vibrant colours benefit UI design in more ways than you might think.

Of course, decades of colour response theory have demonstrated how important colour can be to conditioning and shaping how a user interacts with a design – red attracts the eye better than any other hue, while blue promotes a sense of coolness and calm. But UI design has its own particular quirks which require a further understanding of how colour can act upon the eye.

For example, consider readability. Monotone designs are far easier to scan and read. Consider vibrant colours for your UI, then, because they will enable the text on your website to be quickly and easily digested … and therefore will support your messaging better than a melange of pastel shades.

Monotone designs user a single colour and mix in shades and tints. The bold clarity that this use of colour represents will provide an eye-catching focus on your content. Use it to direct your user’s eyes towards key calls to action and “take homes”. A website exists to communicate something to someone – monotones are an efficient and effective way of doing this.

Of course, not all sites have quite the same goals – and UI design should shape itself around a site’s strategic aims. That’s why we’d be remiss to evangelise monotones at the expense of, well, duotones. To risk contradicting myself, duotones are a particular good choice for UI design because, where monotones offer clarity, duotones create atmosphere.

As the name suggests, a duotone design will make use of two contrasting colours – or two shades of the same hue. Placing colours side by side enables you to elicit responses by being careful with your juxtapositions. For example, soft contrast will seem serious and sober, while high contrast will seem a little more dynamic, even exciting. Where the monotone lets content speak for itself, the duotone adds a language all its own.

Of course, contrast isn’t the only weapon in your colouring arsenal. Gradients – the gradual passage of one colour into another – can produce benefits from vibrant colour from the opposite of contrast.

Gradients can add a modern look to a website, offering a gentle and contemporary edge to your website which will inspire confidence but also make your site easier on the eyes. Modern gradients often use high-contrast colours and radiate their transition from various angles – not just along the vertical.

In other words, your choice isn’t just down to which colour: it’s also about how that colour is presented, and alongside which others. By making appropriate choices informed by your strategic goals, you’ll discover that vibrant colours really can benefit UI design.

Contact Image Plus for UI Website Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 76834780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk

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Coventry: City of Culture 2021 … and Us


13th February 2018

As Coventry is named City of Culture 2021, here in the Image+ offices we’re wearing huge smiles (and possibly a couple of party hats).

We’re proud of our Coventry roots – we’ve been based here for nearly twenty years, and can’t think of anywhere we’d rather base ourselves. Our offices at Electric Wharf on the city’s regenerated canal network are everything that made Coventry a successful candidate for City of Culture 2021: vibrant, buzzing, forward-thinking but with links to an incredibly rich past.

Coventry, City of Culture 2021 (yes, we like the sound of that): it has it all. Medieval heritage in the cathedral quarter, mid-twentieth-century modernism in its remarkable architecture, passionate grassroots commitment to arts of all kinds … it’s a genuinely exciting city, and the rest of the UK is about to find out why in spades.

The win for our city is doubly sweet because we had a small part in it. A while back, we competed to become the designers of the bid team’s website and digital presence – and won. So we feel we contributed in a small way to what was, of course, a fantastic pitch. (And a winning one – did we mention that Coventry is City of Culture 2021?)

It’s the diversity of Coventry that I think helped tip the balance in its favour: it welcomes everyone and has room for everything. At Image+, we have on staff huge fans of Shakespeare and massive football nuts, petrol heads and live music goers. Coventry and its surrounding area caters to us all.

The website we built for the bid reflected this vibrancy: bright and colourful and with plenty going on, it also crafted a single identity for the bid and sought to bring together an awful lot of fizzing activity. It used events, social media, videos and bold colours and graphics to really bring home the bid’s particular character and personality. We’re pretty proud of what we contributed.

Coventry has its own particular energy, and the challenge for the bid was bottling that to present it to the panel of judges in distilled form. The website we built was a part of that process, of course, and we are made up that we helped in a small way to win this prize for our city. But the real winners are the people of Coventry themselves – and we’re pleased as punch to be a part of that crowd.

In short: here’s to Coventry, City of Culture 2021!

We’re not going to get tired of saying that.

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 76834780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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How Can You Make Your Website Stand Out?


6th February 2018

Making your website stand out is ever more difficult. In today’s forest of web pages, how can your single tree ever hope to stand out from the crowd? What was once known as “surfing” the internet is more like “wading”; to mix metaphors, it can be hard to see the wood for all those trees.

The good news is that there are still plenty of ways to make sure that your website is a cut above the rest. A lot of this has to do with simple design principles. When applied well, good design simply makes a site look right – and it’s surprising how few sites, in truth, fully achieve this goal.

Layout & Structure

First and foremost, sort out your structure. Using a good layout is key to attracting and then retaining what we in the trade call “eyeballs”. If your navigation is clear and your site convenient to use, your visitors will like what they see – and make use of your pages again and again. In other words, you’ll stand out as a place to hang out.

Branding

Consistent branding can really help achieve this. A recognisable brand builds your reputation and inspires confidence. A good brand can provide visual clues, too, that can bind a site together like the egg in a cake mixture. Think carefully about colours, logos, and typography – make your site a uniform experience as much as a collection of pages.

Graphics

Indeed, using images and graphics appropriately can be a really powerful means of making an impact. If branding is the visual framework of a site, then photography and illustration acts as the decorative detail. Great imagery supplies visual flare and interest, making a site beautiful to look at as you use it – and every eyeball likes to be entertained!

Content

Finally, consider your content. The text and video you utilise to expand on and detail your messaging needs to reflect the identity of your brand. Your copy should be easy to read and characterful, but not distracting or overly wordy. Likewise, video is increasingly important on many sites, and offers a very dynamic way of supplementing your content.

Just remember to make sure that everything – video, photography, colours – are crisp and vibrant, the best quality you can produce. Muddy graphics or sub-standard video will reflect badly on you; however good the design of a site, if the content is wanting then you will only be able to stand out so far.

Ultimately, your goal is to stand out as much as possible – to be, at your best, head and shoulders above the other sites in your field. Clear design, consistent branding, and quality content are the best ways to achieve that. Get these basics right, and you’ll be amazed by the results.

Essentially, we’re telling you to get a good designer (fortunately, we know some!). It’s not rocket science: great design is how you can make your website stand out.

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 76834780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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The Benefits of “Breadcrumbs”


30th January 2018

Breadcrumbs are more useful than you think. Not only are they an essential ingredient in veggie burgers, Katsu curry and fish fingers … They can help you find your way home.

We all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, who were brave enough to explore the forest … and smart enough to lay breadcrumbs along their path. In this way, they didn’t get lost – useful when you’re running away from the evil inhabitant of a sinister gingerbread house.

In web design, his story has given a name to the tokens we leave throughout a website to enable a visitor to track backwards through their online journey. Often breadcrumbs appear as nested page names – Home > About > Our Company, for example – which situate a user clearly with the site’s architecture. They can take other forms, however, and always the aim is simple: to help your visitor to not get lost.

This is a good function to include, especially on a site which boasts a large number of pages. Resource-heavy websites are great, but once you’ve clicked one link you’ve clicked them all – and it can be very easy to become unmoored, lost amidst all these pages and unable to find your way ‘Home’ again.

 

Why Use Site Breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs – prominent indicators of where you are and how you can get back to where you were – greatly enhance the usability of a site. They make it easy to click on pages but also remain oriented; to find other content quickly; and to go back to content you found interesting once you’re done exploring.

In turn, this reduces the clicks or actions required to return to a given page – and this, too, enhances the user experience of your site. Making your content easy to navigate is a key means of making your site pleasant to use … And that will earn you return visits.

If you’re wondering why users can’t just click the “Back” button, you haven’t yet understood the power of the humble breadcrumb. Breadcrumbs aren’t just about going back: they’re about situating yourself within a site, and understanding how each of its pages relates to the others. You’ve worked hard on structuring your content – so make that structure clear. The “Back” button alone doesn’t achieve that.

Sites without breadcrumbs don’t get read as much as sites which opt to use them. Being able to find your way home encourages browsers, like Hansel and Gretel, to explore a little deeper; if you don’t help your users to find their way, they’ll stick a little more closely to the ‘top-line’ content – and never make the most of what you’ve built for them.

In fact, sometimes they won’t even read your top-line content: sites without breadcrumbs suffer from higher bounce rates, meaning essentially that their visitors leave those sites much more quickly. Today’s internet users are savvy and impatient – if they can’t find what they want quickly and easily, they’ll go somewhere else. Breadcrumbs encourage them to stay.

In other words, think of breadcrumbs as a wayfinding system. Complex buildings often include coloured corridors and large maps to help visitors find their way around. Hardy fairytale explorers carry loaves of bread. And websites have the benefits of breadcrumbs.

 

Contact Image Plus for Website Design & Development

If you need web design or development, then speak to our friendly experts. Our web developers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to help. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our website design specialists.

Contact us on 024 76834780 or send us an email at info@image-plus.co.uk.

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