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Things to Consider for a Portfolio Website


11th December 2018

The rise of the portfolio website has gone hand in hand with the web’s increasing capacity for delivering high-resolution visual content quickly and efficiently. This is great news for businesses of many kinds – because it enables all sorts of organisation to show off their wares to great effect.

From freelance photographers and designers to larger manufacturers or production companies, the portfolio website comes into its own when you have a range of exciting products that you want to show off. Where the visual element of what you’re selling is key, portfolio websites help you make an impact.

They’re also fantastic for businesses with an ever-growing stable. Portfolio websites enable you to add items over time, building up an extensive archive – should you so wish – of photographs and descriptions which can operate as a catalogue for your business.

This flexibility of the portfolio website, alongside its directness and clarity of purpose, attracts many businesses to the design type. Portfolio sites offer a great deal to many, but their adoption also makes a few demands. Keep in mind these four things to consider when opting for a portfolio website.

 

Sell with Visuals.

The main purpose of a portfolio website is to showcase your work. Images draw attention faster than any words or graphics, so adding attractive visuals can help – make sure they are crisp and high-definition, too.

 

Add a Personal Touch.

Standing out from the crowd is important. Add a personal touch to your website by utilising your own photography. Add a bio; be visually distinctive. You could even add a background video for the hero image on the home page – grab people’s attention.

 

Clear Contact Details.

Portfolio websites are there to help you sell your work. This means that people need a clear way to contact you. Your contact details should be prominent, easy to access, and it’s good to provide multiple points of contact. Focus on the sales funnel.

 

Consider Being Minimalistic.

If you are struggling for ideas with your portfolio website – and even if you’re not! – consider sticking to being minimal. Let your visuals do the talking for you. Minimalism is often employed by designers because its clarity really works to emphasise content: people are familiar with how to interact with these sorts of websites, and often appreciate an absence of clutter.

So, there you go: make your portfolio striking, characterful and clear. Simple they may be, but these rules of thumb are the key things to consider for a portfolio 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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Tips & Advice for Small Business Website Design


27th November 2018

No single website, of course, is precisely the same. Each site has a different purpose and a different audience, and that means that each need to be different if they are to be a success.

In business, the separation between a website for a large corporate or a small enterprise can be small … but it can also be great. Most obviously, usually (though not always) a large corporation will have more content to share than a small business. But there will also be differences in tone and functionality which can make a big difference.

Web design is the art of communicating character – and encouraging conversions – through digital displays. No website, then, should come out of a cookie cutter. Instead, it should be carefully calibrated to the precise needs of the company to which it belongs.

So what are some good tips and advice for small business website design? Why, we’re glad you asked. Because, well, that’s what this blog is about.

 

Add Personal Photos.

Small businesses typically work on the local level and have a smaller team. This is a positive – it makes you accessible to your audience and gives you the opportunity to let a real personality show through.

When there’s not many of you, team photos can really improve the perception of your company and make it appear both professional and open. Adding a personal touch to your web design makes it unique. A corporate can’t list its many employees – take the opportunity to do what they can’t!

 

Add Product Photos.

Let that individual character bleed through to your product photos, too. Consider even a mix of personal photos and more polished product and service-oriented photos: that hybrid approach tends to work best for small business websites because it can again encourage a very personal buy-in from your audience.

Show off your previous work or products, and let them appear in “real” contexts. These bespoke, specific images are far more valuable than any stock photo.

 

Add Contact Details.

You’re small – that means your customers can get in touch easily. Make that a virtue! The importance of contact details is paramount. Small businesses often get work through referrals and searches on the internet, so it’s important that people can contact you easily.

It’s a good idea, too, to list the various ways people can reach you – such as email, phone, or even your physical address. Don’t just give people an email form. Let them engage with you.

 

Clarify the Homepage.

As a small business, which may not yet have full brand recognition, you want people to be able to understand what you do and how you can help. Don’t assume your audience know exactly who you are and what you do – fill in the gaps for them. The key is to clarify the intent of your business so visitors have a better experience of your site – and then your services.

In other words, keep your website as close to you as possible. People like dealing with businesses they can get to know – so let them in. Keep it clean and keep it personal: those are the best tips and advice for small business website 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 Single Page Web Designs


14th November 2018

As mobile web browsing increasingly eclipses its desktop cousin, and as the trend for flatter navigation and design takes further hold, more and more we are seeing the rise of the “single page” website.

Think of the site you land on which scrolls vertically almost forever – no additional pages to click through to, just content in sections as you scroll downwards. Often, these sections can be reached by navigation anchor points – but, always, the content is somewhere lower on the page … never further into a navigational tree.

This is a development that has been in train for a few years now – but it has recently moved from the realm of the novelty or the remarkable to those of the commonplace. In other words, enthusiasm for the single-page website has moved beyond its early adopters.

There are several advantages to the style: most obviously it’s great for mobile, where clicking through a lot of pages can be a pain. But, particularly for brochure and portfolio sites, it’s also an ideal way to display impactful content easily and quickly: the single-page format is a very visual and dynamic one. Finally, it helps you organise your content strategically: no more, “Oh, let’s just create another page for that”. Everything must fit together.

There are, though, challenges posed by the single-page design. These mostly revolve around navigation: how do you make sense of a sometimes very long page for your users? On most websites, content is distributed in bite-size chunks throughout its pages, and those pages are reached through a navigational menu and structure that are hopefully intuitive in layout. Single-page websites don’t have the dubious luxury of endless individual pages, but they can still be intuitive.

 

Side Navigation Labels

In this regard, Side Navigation Labels are your friend. These work like a typical navbar, except they’re a bit out of the way – as the name suggests, usually at the side (and on mobile often hidden until a small icon is clicked). This makes them unobtrusive and more accessible. These labels should scroll with the user, too – let them be wherever your user is, and they’ll never get lost.

 

Auto-Scrolling Nav Links

In this context, Auto-Scrolling Nav Links are essential. A common feature you may see on single page designs is this automatic scrolling navbar. Simply put, these links enable immediate scrolling to a given section of the single page: click on “About”, for example, and the page automatically scrolls to that content area. This saves wear and tear on the mouse’s scroll wheel, for sure! Not only that, but the custom animation scroll effect offers a very nice user experience.

 

Add Calls to Action

Finally, Add Calls to Action. On a big page, a user can be overwhelmed. Make sure it’s clear what you want them to do. This is especially important for ecommerce landing page designs. You should seriously consider placing your Call to Action “above the fold” – that is, visible on the first screen your users will see – with no other navigation around it. This will focus your user on the product. Using clean text and simple icons can help improve conversions, too.

In other words, single page sites don’t need to be without structure. In fact, they should be more clearly labelled, and more intuitively navigable, than traditional sites. Think of them as a way to put all your important content in one place, so your user can find it easily. Make your structure clear, and help your user through it; those are the best tips for single page web designs.

 

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 Designing Web Forms


3rd October 2018

The humble web form is often taken as simply a part of the online furniture. We use one most days – to send an email via a website, to register as a user of a service, or fill in a survey. They are so ubiquitous, though, that they can become a bit invisible.

But web forms, like any other element of a website, need to be designed. Web forms don’t just come into existence by accident or magic. There is instead a whole raft of good design practices worth considering when putting together a form for any purpose.

How people use forms differs according to their function, of course – but a user’s expectations must be paramount in any web form planning. Consider how they will access the form, and how easy you can make completing the form for every single user – the easier it is, the more sign-ups, contacts or sales you will encourage.

Consider these five golden rules for designing great web forms:

 

  1. Labelling Inside The Fields.

The greatest danger in using forms lies in their appearing cluttered. Using in-field labels is an elegant solution – and can also help with saving space. Instead of the label appearing beside the field into which a user enters data, it should appear within that space – and then move the label either above the field or to the side when someone clicks into it, so they are reminded of what information they need to put into the field.

  1. Consider Allowing Users to Sign In with Social.

Web forms are often used behind sign-in barriers, or even as sign-in mechanisms themselves. This can be a redundant step – and one which acts as an obstruction to completion. Try to reduce this potential. Almost everyone has a social media account these days, and allowing users to sign-in with their social details makes their lives much easier. They essentially have a key to most of the internet – and they’ll go through a lot more doors as a result.

  1. Use helpful ‘Invalid’ error messages.

Many web forms and contact forms may return an ‘error message’ when a field is complete incorrectly or contains a special character. Be sure to help your users in these cases: specify what they have done wrong in the message and provide a resolution. Otherwise, they are likely simply to give up.

  1. Consider Allowing Privacy Toggling.

Those privacy bullets that appear when you type sensitive information into a form – your password, for example – are there to provide more privacy. By hiding the characters you type, privacy bullets prevent anyone peering over your shoulder being able to steal your data. However, allowing users to toggle whether they want to hide their information is actually better for usability – what if they need to see their password to know whether they have entered it properly?

  1. Be Transparent with Information.

If your web form needs users to enter information in a specific way, then it’s a good idea to let them know. Perhaps you require a particular date format – DD/MM/YYYY or MM/DD/YY – or insist on particular characters in a password. Be clear about that. This can help streamline your users’ workflow, and lower frustration when they haven’t entered an answer that meets your requirements.

All of this measures will effectively increase your conversion rates – and that’s why, humble and unheralded as they might be, you should always follow these five tips for designing web forms!

 

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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What are the Benefits of Using a Web Design & Development Agency?


24th July 2018

There are as many ways to build a website as there are to skin the proverbial cat. You can develop your own, or use a service such as Wix; you can hire a freelancer or ask a friend; you can employ your own in-house developer … and you can engage a web design and development agency.

Of course, each of these options has its own pros and cons associated with it. Some have flexibility as an advantage, others full control; but disadvantages, too, are legion: sustainability and quality are key questions when commissioning a website, and how your choice of supplier affects those should be closely considered.

It perhaps isn’t surprising that, as an agency ourselves, we tend to think that engaging a web design and development agency offers the “golden mean” of all these pros and cons. An agency balances out the risk of engaging a jobbing freelancer with the commitment of hiring your own in-house team; it ensures that your website will be far better than the off-the-shelf ones offered by Wix, and give you greater control than you might have offered a friend doing you a favour.

Most importantly, however, an agency gets you a breadth of experience and expertise. By engaging an agency, you immediately benefit from the experience of more than one developer – and, in working for an agency in the first place, those developers are going to have a lot of experience, since they are constantly working on new sites.

Likewise, an agency’s size and set-up mean they will have clear processes in place to stick to deadlines and quickly fix any problems that may occur. This gives you peace of mind, and an obvious means of avoiding ‘project creep’ – a common problem when your site is built not within the clear confines of an experienced agency.

Equally, the depth of expertise in an agency gives you sustainability moving forwards: agencies can manage your website for you on an on-going basis, long after it is complete; freelancers often struggle to offer the same.

On the other hand, they offer more flexibility than investing in your own internal infrastructure might – agencies are a cost-effective option and yet deliver extremely high-quality work.

Like we said: agencies provide a fantastic balance of all the options. In this way and many others, they are a one-stop shop for all of your web design and development needs.

 

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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Why GDPR Matters – and What We’ve Done About It


23rd July 2018

Around the month of May, everyone’s inboxes were seemingly full with that stream of slightly begging emails from companies we might have bought something from ten years ago. “Let’s not lose touch!” they pleaded, like old pen-friends who had drifted away from us.

If you were anything like everyone else, you probably just deleted the message. We were all so heartless back then. All of these emails, of course, were about GDPR. This is the acronym applied to the new data protection laws produced by the European Union, which came into force at the end of May this year.

The founding principle of GDPR is privacy: that each of us has a right to decide how our data should be used by those companies and organisations which hold it. That’s why we all received those emails: without our permission, those companies couldn’t keep our details – and couldn’t contact us again about their products.

GDPR is a clear set of regulations which has replaced quite a confused status quo, and in that sense should be welcomed. It represents a great opportunity for companies to get their data house in order, and think more clearly about the information they collection … and what they do with it.

Of course, it also makes some new demands on data holders, and that’s where we’ve been working hard with our clients to help them become not just compliant with the letter of the GDPR law, but with its spirit – we think there are opportunities here, and have been encouraging our clients to grab them.

First and foremost, the new regulations simply require companies to be a bit more transparent and upfront about their data collection policies and procedures. This means new pages – and sometimes new functions – on your website. We’ve been taking our customers through the implications, and got every site updated in time for the deadline.

The most obvious change to make to all of our sites – and one you may have noticed on any you have visited since May – is the installation of a new Cookies pop-up. Online, a cookie, of course, is a little packet of data which a website sends to each of its users’ computers. This can help the site improve the user experience – helping keep them logged in, for instance, or to fill out repeat forms.

GDPR demands that we’re upfront about using cookies – after all, it is essentially a form of data-holding. Your site should have a pop-up message explaining that you use cookies, and offering the user the chance to read your policy. In fact, updating your privacy and terms of use policies are also a must – and we’ve been making sure our clients’ site have them, and in prominent places, too.

It’s also true that the data you hold can only be held for a given period without explicit permission otherwise. You need to think ahead, then – how will you collect that permission in the future? All this is easy to sort, but very important to have. Your agency should be helping you get ready.

If you’re not sure about GDPR, drop us a line for some help. You don’t even have to beg!

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 Long Does Web Development Take?


11th July 2018

Web design and development is a complicated process. That said, it needn’t take an age. Many businesses put off engaging with web development, however, because they become daunted by the time they fear web development might take.

Realistic expectations are important: understanding that web development takes time is part of properly planning for a project and setting meaningful benchmarks. There are two ways of being unrealistic, though: one can be too optimistic, of course; but one can also be much too pessimistic.

A good web developer will prioritise efficient working and timely delivery of a project. That said, a website can take a minimum of fourteen weeks from start to finish – not an insignificant period of time, however quickly a web designer works.

Starting with an understanding of the realities of web development, it’s entirely possible to limit any further delays – and ensure that fourteen weeks is all it takes. There’s no need to fear the dreaded “project creep”, or the endless web development programme … as long as some thought, and even some preparation, is put in place first.

Web development goes through five stages: discover, design, revisions, initial development and, finally, modifications. Being clear at each stage – ensuring briefs have real clarity and all parties are certain as to goals and KPIs – will ensure that no step needs to be repeated or take longer than necessary. Thinking about what you want before any work is undertaken will ensure that no labour is wasted.

Keeping each stage of the process clean in this way will make sure that the project isn’t slowed down by the web development equivalent of leaves on the line. Equally, you should ask three questions of each web design job: how soon can development begin, how long until the website will be ready for review, and when will you be able to launch the website?

The answers to each of these questions will be dictated by capacity: how busy is your designer, and how many resources are you – and they – able to devote to the project to ensure as rapid progress as possible?

Choose a developer who is able to respond to your needs, not one who is over-worked or bogged down; set project benchmarks so everyone is sure when interim stages should be reached; and devote yourself, too, to the timetable – often the launch date, in particular, will be all about when your own organisation is ready, as much as the site itself.

Ultimately, though, timescales will usually be most dependent on the complexity of the project. That brings us back to realism – be ambitious but don’t be a Pollyanna. A brochure site can be completed in weeks; an interactive e-commerce site is simply going to take a little longer.

Clarity can help grease the wheels; agreed timetables can keep all parties on track; but, ultimately, understanding the complexity of your project – and being honest about the implications of that for the length of time it will take to complete – is what truly decides how long your web development will take.

 

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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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 cater 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 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.

The latest from our blog


Dec 11

Things to Consider for a Portfolio Website

The rise of the portfolio website has gone hand in hand with the web’s increasing capacity for delivering high-resolution visual content quickly and efficiently. This is great news for businesses... More

Nov 27

Tips & Advice for Small Business Website Design

No single website, of course, is precisely the same. Each site has a different purpose and a different audience, and that means that each need to be different if they... More