WEB design is the perfect blend of art and science. They are two sides of the same coin.
Every year, the web design industry sees a new batch of trends. The industry goes through some sort of evolution cycle to stay relevant and inspiring for users to get the best possible web experience.
As technology advances and becomes more ingrained into every facet of people’s daily lives, users are demanding more and more from their online user experience.
And to be at the top of the game as a web designer, it is vital to keep up with users’ expectation. In the field of web design, it requires more than just having the right equipment or a wonderful grip on design.
Karuna Sarawak, a web design agency based in Kuching, has won the Malaysia Website Awards (MWA) Commercial Website of the Month (Nov 2017) title as well as the Commercial Site of the Year Award 2017.
It is also the first company in Sarawak to win the MWA accolade, garnering a score of 89 per cent, the highest in MWA history.
The Malaysia Website Awards, organised by the Exabytes Group, presented some 40 awards in three categories at the CO3 Social Office in Puchong, Selangor.
The categories are personal — commercial and E-Commerce, several awards such as the Site of the Month Award and the Public’s Favorite Website Award and the grand prize — Site of the Year.
Karuna Sarawak chief executive officer Melvin Ong said it meant a lot to be recognised and the team is working hard to remain innovative.
The team members are John Law, Vincent Ngu, Nicholas Chong, Wendy Ong, Agnes Lau, and Lim Ee Ming.
Ong said the awards would serve as a validation of the team’s success as well as a motivation for them to continue pushing the envelope of what people expect and want to see.
According to him, the Malaysia Website Awards 2017 is the third in the series, seeking to recognise and reward the outstanding performances, talents and efforts of the best web developers, web designers and web agencies — at the same time encouraging creativity, sharing and improvement of overall web design quality in the country.
The awards ceremony was attended by several highly regarded industry experts, veterans and judges such as Leong Wai Khong, head of Multimedia Design Department of One Academy Penang; Rachel Tan, marketing lead of Shopee Malaysia; Muid Latif, lead project of Creative Commons Malaysia; and Susilan Kesavan, senior manager social media of Webe Digital.
Empower and enhance
Karuna features web design and development services for online shopping and eCommerce websites, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) services, logo design and online marketing solutions.
These web packages are meant to empower and enhance user traffic and visibility of online businesses.
Ong said Karuna is unique because the team is made up of experts in the core skills of marketing, digital, and design and this enables the company to build websites based on their experience and using SEO.
Some other aspects of Karuna’s services are Google Fundamental Setup, SEO, Google AdWords, Content Writing, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing and Whatsapp Marketing.
Karuna has also developed some special purpose software for specialised industry like IPMS (Intelligent Property Management System), an all-purpose paperless property management portal for real estate agencies, developers and property managers to manage their properties efficiently and effectively; eSECURI (Student Security System and App), a security and educational management system that helps monitor and record students’ overall safety and discipline, thereby enhancing academic results; and MR (Malaysia Runner System), an all-in-one management tool for marathon-race events that registers participants and issues T-shirt bib numbers and kits in a just few clicks.
Ong said they have been designing and building websites since 2009.
Humbled by award
Asked what winning the Award meant to the company, he said, “We have won the national title and we are humbled by the award. It’s an indication we’re on the right track in our business and constantly improving.”
His advice to Sarawakian designers is to make sure the website is designed to maximise user experience, saying a good website must have good legible contents and proper placements.
According to him, a good web designer must be practical when designing a website, based on the client’s needs, and a web designer must be willing to accept constructive criticisms to improve.
On how to continue producing industry leading work while moving forward and continuing to push the envelope of design and user-experience, Ong said, “We’re continuing our investment in human capital training on web design as well as online marketing.
“We believe in educating our designers to have marketing knowledge without which they will not be able to effectively capture the user experience.
“We have developed an assessment matrix for our website that benchmarks against the industry standards in terms of speed optimisation and searchability. Moreover, we have invested in industry leading servers to serve our clients better.”
Valued work culture
On the work culture and ethics practised at the company, he said they valued diversity, collaboration, creativity, consistency, pragmatism and hard work.
“Our team members come from different technical and educational backgrounds and we like the mix of designers, engineers, marketeers, business analysts and sales.
“Each individual’s diverse background contributes positively to the company. There is never a boring day at Karuna and you can see idea boards strung out through our entire office.
“Most importantly, consistency and hard work are important. We keep ourselves grounded and we work hard everyday to achieve our goals,” he explained.
Work weeks can be tough sometimes. In fact, each day seems to present a different challenge. So Ong and his team would look for inspiration online and from the client’s workplace.
He said sometimes, they would find their muse as they walked through their client’s workplace.
“We believe in understanding our client’s business thoroughly from various industries to find the best marketing angle to promote in their website,” he pointed out.
According to him, the website is an essential tool for business. Most people will search on Google as to where to buy certain things before asking their friends or parents.
Technology is shifting to place information at your fingertips. The most important criterion for good web design is SEO optimisation for Google, without which, regardless of how great the website is, customers will not be able to find you.
Ong said they do not believe there is a best website as improvement has to be continuous, adding that technology, trend and user expectations change every day.
He revealed that personally, he likes minimalist sites similar to apple.com that come with simple animated effects to highlight the marketing points.
“There’s no standard rule when it comes to web design, so designers just need to use their common sense. The problem is most web designers these days do not design websites based on best practices. They tend to do what the clients want and do not suggest their ideas to the client.
“Web design is our passion, so we must always try to educate the clients on best practices. Also, the common blunder in web design in impractical designs. Though a design may look good, it may not be suitable in bringing the marketing message across for certain industries.”
First e-commere company
Realising the Internet has become the new way to generate new leads and business opportunities, Ong quit his high-paying job in the US to start one of the first e-commerce companies in Malaysia which later evolved to web design and digital marketing.
In the beginning, his biggest challenge in Kuching was convincing the older businesses they needed a website, noting the older generation could be rather skeptical of anything online and technology, preferring to do things the old way.
However, he added, they had managed to turn around many of their clients’ businesses and helped them catch up with technology.
“Another thing about Kuching businesses is they like to ask for discounts. For web design, you get what you pay for, and we have turned down requests because we want to be able to perform the best for our clients and for the project request we received.
“Today, we tend to focus our greater business in West Malaysia as clients there are very receptive of our services and would pay handsomely for services and websites.”
Ong said the most important aspects of a website from a client’s viewpoint is that it must be able to tell people what their business is and where to find the business.
From his observation, he would say 90 per cent of the websites he has seen in Malaysia do not make the cut as a ‘brand’ website.
According to him, branding is a broad and specialised industry. The way we look at the logo, colour, content and company identity affects how people perceive your brand.
“Taglines too are important on a brand website as the focus message you’d like to bring across. Some websites have just too much information and too much information is not good,” he said.