Vine: is 6 seconds enough for your business to make an impression?

This was posted on February 19th, 2013

vine-logoAcquired by Twitter in 2012 and later released to the masses in 2013, Vine is the latest take on video-based social media. Solely a mobile app, it enables users to post short, six second videos for their friends and followers to view.

Combining a clever method of capturing snippets of video and audio via touch with a tweet-esque limit on the amount of content that can be published, Vine intends to spark creativity amongst it’s users and finally crack the seemingly dark art of creating a popular short-form social video service.

Despite ongoing concerns about some of the more questionable content appearing on Vine, it could yet prove useful for businesses. Here’s a ten ideas which might convince you to take note of Twitter’s new baby…

1. Use it to show before and after shots and the creation in between of your service or product.

2. Demo a really simple ‘how to’ which reveals a hidden gem in one of your products.

3. Brief, and enticing product ‘show-off’ videos. Six seconds will be enough to spark interest if you finish them on a cliff hanger.

4. If you’re a publisher of a magazine or newspaper, why not offer a six second flick though of the latest edition and post it on Twitter?

5. Trade shows. Perhaps one of the most ideal venues for Vine. Set up tablets running different Vines promoting your products and services. Their short, snappy presentation makes them instantly engaging.

6. Estate agents? Use Vine to briefly walk through each room of the house you’re trying to sell.

7. Help your customers view a product’s dimensions before buying.

8. Head shots of your team for the About Us page on your website.

9. If you’re a talent or artist agency, use Vine to display short head shots and introductions of the artists on your books.

10. Share the new design of your website on Twitter by videoing a six second run through of key pages.

It’s early days, of course, but video is an incredibly powerful medium. YouTube has demonstrated this on an epic scale, but it is almost limitless when compared to Vine. That’s Vine’s strength. Like Twitter, it has a buffer which forces you to think of the best ways to use those six seconds.

As always, experiment. You might be able to make those six seconds work for your business.

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Is the cookie law dead?

This was posted on February 12th, 2013

is-the-cookie-law-deadRegular readers of this blog will be aware that we have been keeping a close eye on the EU cookie law.

In 2009, an amendment to the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications effectively brought the cookie law into the public arena. Websites which used cookies would have to comply with the amendment to Article 5 Paragraph 3, which stated that consent from the user must be obtained prior to storing cookies. A notable revision in 2012 clarified the exceptions where certain websites could gain ‘implied consent’, depending on their use of cookies.

The much debated law was thrown into fresh scrutiny recently, when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) decided to stop asking for explicit permission to serve cookies. Some industry insiders have cited this as the ‘death’ of the cookie law, such is the high profile nature of the aforementioned website.

Ironically, the ICO is responsible for policing the UK’s cookie law. They claim the new rule change remains compliant with its own guidelines. Part of their reasoning for this is that the public are generally more aware of cookies, which is perhaps a fair point, such is the significant uptake of requested consent forms on big-brand websites.

But is it really dead or is this something of an overreaction? It is fair to assume that the ICO have revised their thinking on how intrusive the consent to store cookies needs to be. Despite some inventive and non-obtrusive implementations of acceptance forms, many businesses still see the need to include them as an often confusing addition to their website for many users.

At present, the law still stands, so it is advisable to seek advice from your web developer and, at the very least, ensure you have a page on your website informing people of its use of cookies.

We’ll continue to monitor the law and any amendments to it…

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Are you using Multivariate or A/B Split Testing on your website?

This was posted on February 6th, 2013

are-you-using-multivariate-or-AB-split-testingMultivariate testing is a better, more sophisticated form of A/B testing and is designed to test different combinations of your websites page elements to decide which is more compelling to your customers. Every time a customer visits your site you should be following and tracking their journey through the site. Their preferences should determine how to design and develop your site, not yourself or the advice and expertise of company members. Of course you need the contributions of ideas and advice from consultants, colleagues and company members but the real and precise information you need is the feedback from your customers. Multivariate testing allows you to make the right decisions based on what they want or don’t want, their likes, dislikes, preferences and favourite versions of pages.

Multivariate testing can operate without the customer’s knowledge as most individual customers don’t often get to see the different versions of a page, and more than often these differences are very small. The page that produces the right results i.e. Capturing an interested visitor’s email address, the most effective at the common goal, collecting sign-ups for a free trial, successfully selling a product etc..would denote this page becoming the final version, or at least a strong possibility. By using multivariate testing you are trying to ascertain which version of a web page will most appeal to your customers and perform best. The performance you require has to be determined before you start testing so you will need to define precisely the expected results. With this in place the chosen page version can be designed, remembering that each page should be designed to achieve the same common goal, accepting that maybe some may have small but significant differences.

Design decisions are often made by experts in the field and consultants within the company but the true design experts are in fact the visitors to your site. They are the ones who are providing you with their opinions and preferences every time they visit, or leave, your website.

A multivariate test can present great difficulties when trying to set up but there are tools available that make it a lot easier. Multivariate testing involves specific elements on the page and determines any changes that will improve and increase conversion rates. Maybe you are confident in the layout of your pages but not so confident in the text content. Or even the choice of using a red ‘sign up’ button as opposed to a blue one, multivariate testing will make the right choices for you. On the other hand if you just wanted a broad test of the general features of your website, like the layout of your main page, then a simple A/B test will suffice giving you two different versions of the page on a random basis proving which one leads to the most conversions.

 

 

 

 

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3 ways to ensure your business website is fit for purpose

This was posted on February 5th, 2013

3-ways-to-ensure-your-website-is-fit-for-purposeThe government’s annual survey of small businesses revealed that 4.5m of them employ nine people or fewer. Collectively contributing £600bn to the UK economy, it’s clear that small business is thriving and continuing to drive this country forward.

Setting up your business is no mean feat at the best of times, but in the modern world it is becoming increasingly difficult, such is the sheer volume of competition and the inevitable clamour for customer attention it elicits. It is therefore obvious that a good website is the number one tool all small businesses should have on their initial shopping list.

A recent survey of 10,000 British micro-businesses suggested that 81% are running a website. Unfortunately, a similar percentage – 80% – indicates how many of those sites are deemed not to be fit for purpose.

But how is that judged? Typically, such sites are only 4-5 pages deep and do not offer any form of dynamic content. The latter will usually come from social media feeds and news/blog pages, which are easily added to and updated via content management systems. As a result, websites without such features are poorly represented on Google, which devours relevant, regularly updated content.

With that in mind, here are three essential points to bear in mind when setting up your first business website:

1) Pro design

It may be tempting to do this yourself, such are the number of self-build website tools out there. First impressions count, though, and for that reason it makes perfect sense to employ the services of a professional web designer in order to give your site a unique and inviting look and feel. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

2) Dynamic content

We touched on this above, but it is absolutely essential to have a content management system (CMS) built into your website. This enables you to edit and add pages at will, without needing to work from templates or get involved in HTML code. CMS solutions will also include search engine optimisation (SEO) tools enabling your content to be as Google-friendly as possible.

3) Visibility

It may seem obvious, but the crowning glory of your website is for it to be recognised by search engines such as Google. Get that right, and you’re on the way to attracting more custom. As discussed above, a CMS will assist here, but some help and assistance from a professional will do wonders. SEO isn’t a dark art, but it’s one that needs careful attention. Your web designer or CMS provider will undoubtedly be able to help with SEO – don’t be afraid to ask!

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Three reasons your business needs a website

This was posted on January 29th, 2013

three-reasons-your-business-needs-a-websiteAs we enter 2013, and with the web a constant theme in business, media and our social lives, it may come as quite a surprise that a recent survey discovered 60% of small businesses in the UK have no web presence at all.

It seems that many sole traders and small firms view their businesses as entirely offline entities. In an increasingly IT-savvy world, this is a risky strategy and one which is likely to come unstuck as people continually turn their attentions online when purchasing goods of any kind.

Whether you’re a plumber, driving instructor or fitness coach, harnessing the web and building an online presence is vital if you are to reach out to as wide an audience as possible.

Here are three reasons why your business needs a website:

1) Accessibility. Think of your website as a digital shop door from which you never hang a ‘closed’ sign. It is there twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year. This enables your customers to interact with you at their leisure and when it suits them – this means they’ll engage on their own terms and will be more engaged as a result. Just ensure the important content on the website is easy to find and not too text heavy; you need to inspire them during their first visit.

2) Existing customers. A website is the perfect place from which to show off the advocacy people or businesses already have with you. Don’t be afraid to ask existing clients to contribute to a testimonials page. It’s also a good idea to feature a snippet of a quote from them on your homepage. Encourage customers to share their positive experiences with your company via social media and offer them incentives for doing so. This will impact positively on the number of hits your website receives and for very little effort on your part.

3) Local awareness. A website isn’t necessarily there to propel you into multinational stardom. In fact, quite the opposite; it can be the perfect tool with which you can build relationships at a local level. Consider local listings sites and building partnerships with other small businesses. The latter will be particularly helpful if they already have a web presence – learn from them and lean on their past experiences.

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What Makes a Good Website Header?

This was posted on January 24th, 2013

How effective is your website’s header? Many web designers argue that the header is the most important part of a website. It’s the first thing a visitor notices when they set eyes on your site, giving them their first impression of who you are and what you do. In order to keep visitors on your website, your header should be eye-catching and have a logical, user-friendly design. A good website header should have the following qualities:

Has a Professional Design

The aim of your header should be to invite visitors into the rest of your site. If your header looks amateurish, your visitors will assume that the rest of the content is of equal quality. Your header should have a clean, professional-looking design that will draw visitors in. Avoid cluttering your header with information. This will only distract your visitors.

Conveys What Your Site’s About

Your header should be relevant to what your site’s about. This doesn’t mean that it has to contain an obvious picture, but it should embody the mood and personality of your website. For example, if your site has serious content, the header shouldn’t contain amusing images or use a playful font.

Contains Your Logo and Contact Information

Ideally, your website headers should help your brand stick in your visitors’ minds. Logos are usually placed in the top left corner of a webpage as this is the area a visitor’s eye is naturally drawn to. The logo should also be clickable, linking back to your home page. Your header should also contain your contact information in a place when it can easily be seen by your visitors. It is also becoming commonplace to include links to social networks in a site’s header.

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The Importance of Good Web Content

This was posted on January 21st, 2013

website-contentThe importance of good design for websites is widely noted. Good design can draw visitors to a website, make it easier to navigate and, ultimately, get your visitors to make a purchase. However, a site’s design isn’t everything. Good web content is equally as important. It’s the content on your site that communicates directly to your visitors and encourages them to use your business. In order to make the most of your website, your content should be:

Informative

All content on your website should have the clear aim of delivering information to your visitors. Anything that doesn’t benefit your visitors, or means nothing to them, should be disregarded. The information that you include should be presented in a clear, easy to understand way.

Engaging

It’s no good just presenting a dry list of facts to your website visitors. As well as being informative, web content should also be interesting, entertaining and engaging. It should be written in simple, friendly language in a style that appeals to your visitors. Avoid being overly-professional with your tone or stuffing your content with jargon as this could alienate your visitors.

Concise

When people visit a website, they are generally looking for concise, easy to follow information. If they can’t find what they need quickly, or find it hard to understand, they will simply move on to another site.

Original

Your content should offer something different to other similar websites. Although your content has to remain factual, there’s no reason why it has to be dull. Even if what you offer isn’t particularly original, try to present it in a creative and appealing way.

 

 

 

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How Pinterest inspired web design in 2012

This was posted on January 17th, 2013

pinterestWeb design evolved greatly in 2012. As the impact of mobile marketing took precedence and new social media sites took centre stage, it meant that many web designers had to adapt accordingly.

As a result, web design has become much more ‘interactive’ and user friendly with wide screen design layouts. Pictures have taken on a window shop effect, as can be seen with the new Facebook photo design which has been inspired by Pinterest’s layout.

Some of the most inspiring web design layouts have kept their simplicity while creating something different and unique which makes their brand stand out from the crowd. Arguably, Pinterest is one website that has done just that. Twelve months ago it was virtually unheard of and now it’s one of the fastest growing social media sites with over 10.4 million registered users. The website allows users to ‘pin’ images of interest to their own boards, a bit like their own personal pinboard.

Web designers have been quick to note Pinterest’s popularity and along with optimising their web design layouts to make them more responsive and mobile friendly, they’ve incorporated various visual elements into their designs.

Pinterest inspired web design

Photo backgrounds are one of the new web design elements which look great for presentational purposes. Solid blocking is big too. This is where images and text are set against a backdrop of colourful blocks, making it both simple and easy to use.

Another trend is the ‘homemade’ design using subtle text and colours and drawn or handwritten designs – perfect for making a website look warm, inviting and friendly.

Oversized type is fairly new in web design too and its appeal is making web content appear compelling to the reader, although it’s more ideal for making a big announcement.

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