A pencil and paper is still your mightiest web design tool

2 min read
Watb Team
Pencil drawings on paper

As a web designer and developer, I’m often asked what are the best tools for the job and I’m always trying out the latest innovations. I try to be open minded and give everything a chance. Recently myself and WATB’s senior designer Jonny have tried to improve our wire framing process by experimenting with different wire framing tools to see which one was the best.

Despite good attempts though (most notably with the web design sketch tool wireframe.cc) we ended up with a big roll of paper, pencils and pens.

Web Design Paper Advantages

Pens and paper offer too many compelling advantages over online tools.

  • Fast – it’s far quicker transforming an idea from your head onto paper than through a mouse and a piece of software.
  • Flexible –  Many wire framing tools use pre-defined boxes and UI components. But with a pen, we can draw anything we like, allowing greater freedom of expression.
  • Collaborative – It’s much more of a team effort to sit around a big table sharing ideas and sketching out your thoughts.
  • Fun – There’s less frustration, we already know how to use a pen so there’s no learning curve or having to get around a tools short comings. It just works, so it’s more enjoyable as a result.

“But I can’t draw!”

I hear you cry.

It doesn’t matter. Wire frames are not, and do not need to be, works of art. In fact, they can be quite rough scribbles. The point is, they communicate an idea and allow you to quickly visualise it in an easily digestible format. The image above shows how rough a wire frame can be – it took Jonny only 25 seconds to sketch out but as the front-end developer coding the layout, it gave me all the information I needed.

So, when it comes to quickly mocking up ideas and wire frames, I’m adamant at the moment that a pen and paper is your mightiest tool. It’s the quickest, fastest and most fun way to communicate ideas and from my experience, online tools are yet to match it.

If you disagree or know of a tool that you think does the job better, then let me know.

Social Media Management Software

In order to promote your business and reach consumers that spend an entire 24 hours a week online, you need to make sure that you have a viable social media strategy in place.

By posting unique and interesting content on your social media platforms, and by actively engaging with followers, you can start to turn this into a funnel for generating leads.

In order to stay on top of your social media strategy, it’s important to have some form of social media management software to do some of the heavy lifting. Software such as this is imperative for scheduling, tracking and monitoring social media content.

At its best, social media management software can help you not only plan your content months in advance, but also remain reactive by letting you tune into ongoing news stories or trending topics.

Screenshot of Hootsuite's homepage

We recommend: Hootsuite

There are a whole bunch of social media management companies out there and all of them offer roughly the same sort of package but Hootsuite is the only one that offers an actually free service (as opposed to just a free trial period).

They do try to hide it on their website though so make sure you follow this link in order to get to the right page.

The free version of this software lets you:

  • Manage up to three social media profiles from a choice of channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Schedule up to 30 posts in advance at any point in time
  • Track follower growth, likes and comments
  • Integrate two RSS feeds in order to find and share compelling content
  • Access Hootsuite’s online help center and community forum

Of course, there’s also a number of paid-for packages that you can buy from Hootsuite that give you access to a great number of services including higher ad spend budgets, automated post scheduling and custom analytics.

But if you’re a small business looking to get started, the free version of the software should be comprehensive enough to allow you to get your social media strategy in motion.

Website Tracking Software

We’ve said before that the secret to a successful lead generation strategy is to keep analysing and refining your methods. Well, website tracking software is the best way to conduct this analysis.

By digging into the analytics of your visitors’ actions, you can start to gain a better picture of why people come to your site, what they want from it, what they dislike about it and how you can improve upon their experience next time.

There are a wide variety of services that can fall into the category of website tracking software, including heatmaps, funnels, user polls, surveys, visitor recordings and more.

Basically, any kind of software that collects data about the ways in which your visitors interact with your site can be considered website tracking software.

Screenshot of Hotjar's homepage

We recommend: Hotjar

Whereas there are a multitude of smaller software companies that focus in on just one website tracking service, Hotjar offers an array of useful tools.

Hotjar tools include:

  • Click, move, scroll, download and share heatmaps that can also be split by device type
  • Visitor recordings that allow you to replay sessions of real site visitors
  • Conversion funnels that identify on which page and at which step the most visitors are leaving your site
  • Form analysis that can help you to discover which fields take too long to fill, which are left blank and why your visitors abandon your form and page
  • A customizable widget that allows you to create pop-up feedback polls
  • Responsive surveys that can be distributed through web links and emails, or featured your site just before your visitors abandon the page in order to discover what their concerns are
  • The ability to recruit test users in order to get instant feedback on your site

Hotjar’s free service is able to collect data from 2000 page views a day and will give you access to up to 300 visitor recordings and 3 heatmaps, forms, funnels, polls and surveys. Unlimited users can be added to your account and Hotjar will also store your data for a full year.

While we’d normally recommend free services when possible, it’s probably worth paying for Hotjar’s Plus plan to begin with.

For just under £25 a month you can collect data from 10,000 page views a day and have unlimited services and reports. Plus there’s even a 15-day free trial for you to test out whether you like their software or not.

Remember

Lead generation doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour.

What’s important is that you put real effort into all of your interactions with potential leads - whether that’s through educational and informative blog posts, social media interactions or even just a chat on the phone.

If you believe in your business’ ability to help its customers then all you have to do is let that shine through.

Ultimately, these tools are just there to help you meet potential leads on their level. The rest is up to you.

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