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Digital Democracy: Putting Politics Online


4th July 2018

Matt Western’s promise on his election literature was clear: ““I will work with all constituents to improve our community and not be afraid to speak out on your behalf.” It helped win him the Parliamentary constituency of Leamington and Warwick in the 2017 General Election. Funny this is, it’s now more or less our motto for working with him.

The win for Labour in the constituency, which neighbours our home city of Coventry, was something of a political earthquake: leafy Leamington had last been coloured red on the electoral map during the days of Tony Blair. Matt Western winning the seat was one of the moments that signalled the 2017 General Election was going quite according to plan for the Conservative Prime Minister who had called it.

We’re running to keep up with the changing political weather now: Matt, who used to work at one of our automotive clients, Peugeot, got in touch with us to ask if we’d be interested in building his website for him. In other words, we’ll be working with him to improve his communication, and in so doing will not be afraid to speak out on his behalf.

See? Seamless stuff.

To be serious for a moment, as Matt deserves: the design of every website, of course, is dictated by its purpose. Of course, a site’s messaging and methods must match its audience; but, just as crucially, a site should match the individual, company or brand whom it seeks to represent.

An MP’s website is primarily a channel of communication. It should provide information, of course, but also offer as many ways as possible to interact with your elected representative.

Websites are perfectly capable of being tools of two-way interaction – they can incorporate social media, video, chat functions and more. Ten years ago, MPs keeping a blog was seen as innovative and unusual; today, those few MPs who still haven’t signed up to Twitter are very much the exception.

What next? How we conduct politics – where and in what ways – have already been changed a great deal by web technology.

There’s a lot of talk in political circles about “digital democracy” – forms of government which utilise the power of contemporary technology to open up and out our politics. This is a much wider project, of course, than a single website for a solitary MP … but innovation is happening everywhere, and always starts somewhere! We’re excited to start building some that can help Matt serve his constituents.

Keep your eyes peeled for Matt’s new website in the near future … especially if you live in the Leamington and Warwick Parliamentary constituency!

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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Tips for a Great Responsive Web Design


16th May 2018

One of the most important things you can do when building a new website is to commit to making it responsive. In 2018, people view websites on all sorts of screens and platforms – equipping your site with the ability to flex to any requirement on any device is crucial if it is going to be used – and enjoyed – by as many people as possible.

This is what we mean when we talk about responsive web design: deploying the tools and even tricks now available to web designers which can allow a website to query a given user’s device and software, understand the requirements thereof, and alter its own display properties to find a best-fit particular to that user.

For example, a mobile phone screen is far smaller than a desktop computer’s; your website cannot render identically on those two platforms, so how can it change its appearance to fit those two radically different environments? What should it look like on a tablet versus a laptop?

Does one of its features work great in Chrome but poorly in Firefox? These things matter if your bounce rate – the measure of how many users leave your site within seconds – isn’t to go sky high. Make your site as responsive to an individual customer’s needs as your other elements of customer service.

 

Navigation

For example, think about navigation. The adoption of responsive web design has had a huge impact on site navigation. Since you’re designing for smaller screens, your design needs to work within these limitations.

Long, collapsible menus might be fine on a big screen, but on a mobile, they’ll swallow up all your space; you might get away with devoting a lot of permanent screen space to a navbar on a 14” screen … but what about a 7” one? Consider the famous hamburger icon – hide the menu unless that is tapped or clicked. Give space to your content, not your waymarking.

 

Usability

On which note … really concentrate on the usability of buttons. Your call to action buttons should pop out from the page, both in colour and style. The size and shape of your buttons are just as important as their colour, especially for those with disabilities.

What do I mean by this? Simple: your buttons are where the action of your site is. The Pay button, the Contact button … these are the points of interaction that really matter, that convert eyeballs into customers. Don’t let the, float off a mobile screen; don’t allow them to be lost in a sea of stuff on a desktop. Consider them the stars around which your whole site orbits – the central points around which your responsive website shuffles the rest of its content. The technical term here is the visual priority, and your buttons should have it.

 

Imagery

Beyond this need to orient your site around your key buttons, content remains king – so use responsive imagery. One of the problems people run into with responsive design is that while images visually scale on smaller devices, they may still be large in file size and take a while to load. If your user is connected via a mobile data connection poorer than 4G, that can be a pain. Responsive images offer a powerful and effective workaround but can take a long time to hand code.

It’s a good thing you know a team of experts, then. Give us a call to discuss all these issues: there’s a lot more for us to discuss beyond these tips for a great responsive 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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Tips for E-Commerce Product Photos


30th April 2018

Imagery is at the heart of your website. At the dawn of the internet, the rule of thumb was to keep pictures to a minimum – dial-up internet connections (remember those?) meant that too many photos many too much time waiting for them to load. But that’s all over now.

Crisp, engaging imagery looks great and grabs eyeballs: people will stay on your site based on how it looks. High-quality photography is, therefore, an essential element to any successful web experience – so getting the imagery right is just as important as understanding how navigation works or as writing a good tagline.

All this is especially true for e-commerce. On sites trying to make a sale, photos become critical. In the absence of a bricks-and-mortar experience, e-commerce companies rely on great images to seal the deal. So – how do you make your site, and your products, look their best?

 

  1. Set up a photography space.

Don’t just snap your product in any old place. Carefully tailor the area in which you take your photos to give them the edge. If you’re shooting smaller product photos, then having a space with the right background and lighting can make a huge difference to the quality. Avoid brightly coloured rooms and fluorescent lights, as they can add a tint to your photos. It’s important to remember too, that shiny products will reflect the room. Think about your product’s surroundings as you snap the shutter.

 

  1. Consider equipment.

First, the good news: to take high-quality photos, you don’t need an expensive camera. Many modern smartphones have high-quality cameras with a range of features, such as depth of field, to make your products stand out. Going beyond your smartphone, you can find relatively inexpensive cameras which can improve the quality of your photos. The key is to ensure that the resulting image is of a high resolution – eliminate blur and fuzziness so that your product looks as crisp as it does out of the box.

 

  1. Editing photos.

It’s time for us all to admit it: editing cannot make a bad photo look good. But Photoshop has a reputation for a reason: you can make a decent picture even better with very slight editing. You can add a light colour correction, contrast changes, brightness changes, etc. Don’t airbrush your image to death – your users are sophisticated consumers of imagery, and will know when something looks “off” – but don’t be afraid of helping your photos be their best. Beyond of Photoshop, there are various free photo editing tools which provide a range of useful features for this sort of simple editing.

Always think of the basics: maintain aspect ratio (the relationship between the vertical and horizontal of an image) to avoid a squashed or stretched look; crop cleverly, so that the main element of your photo is always at the centre; and consider orientation (portrait or landscape).

Humans are visual creatures – we respond strongly to things we see. Your e-commerce site needs photography that plays to that preference. See the difference a good pic makes, and make a start with these tips for your e-commerce product photos!

 

Contact Image Plus for Photography Services

If you need high-quality product photos for your e-commerce website or professional team member photos for your website, then speak to our friendly experts. Our photographers are based in Coventry, Warwickshire and are always ready to provide photography services. Please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our expert photographers.

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

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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 the colour response theory have demonstrated how important colour can be too 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

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 particularly good choice for UI design because, where monotones offer clarity, duotones create atmosphere.

 

Duotone Designs

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, the soft contrast will seem serious and sober, while high contrast will seem a little more dynamic, even exciting. Where the monotone lets the 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

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

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