Which method for creating a mobile-ready website is best?

This was posted on February 27th, 2013

The debate continues over which of the three methods of creating a mobile-ready website is the best one, responsive web design, dedicated mobile sites or responsive design and server side components. There are advantages and disadvantages for all three methods and I have listed some of these below:

Responsive Web Design (RWD)

The advantages for using this method is that the content and HTML markup is the same which provides all your users with a similar experience regardless of which device they are using. As more people become Smartphone owners using their phones to access the Web, content parity will become more important. A single URL for website pages in RWD makes it easier to link and share the content, needing no redirection on devices to obtain an optmised view.
However, the disadvantages are that the content isn’t fully optimized for mobile devices. Your website pages will contain the same content as the desktop PC unless you use a mobile-first approach. The average speed performance of a web page is approximately 1.3 MB and although it is possible to prevent unnecessary downloads using RWD, in reality the majority of responsive web design sites are much bigger or the same size, resulting in slower performance. Many mobile users perform different tasks to desktop users and unless the navigation is customized for each device, navigation problems can result in usability problems.

Dedicated Mobile Site

This is when a website is created for mobile users and when a desktop can redirect them to a sub domain. The advantages of a dedicated mobile site are that it is easier to make separate changes to the desktop and the mobile site. When creating the site for mobile devices loading times tend to be much faster, and navigation is much easier because the navigation structure and content is customized solely for the mobile users.
Redirection will add to the page loading time and is one of the disadvantages; also you would need multiple URLs for each page. The desktop users may click the link and get the mobile version resulting in SEO issues. Because the site is created specifically for mobile users, content and functionality could be cut out and as you will have two different sets of content and this could cause content strategy problems.

Responsive Design and Server Side Components (RESS)

This method of creating a mobile-ready website uses server-side programming to render custom CSS and HTML for different devices. Mobile users would get one set of codes, while desktop users would get a different set of codes. Navigation can be customized for mobile and desktop users. Faster loading time can be achieved by removing unnecessary Java Script from the HTML. Using RESS can you can reduce the data download and speed up the load time. One of the disadvantages is that you will need more server resources as this method increases the server load. Another is that mobile devices need to be detected and this can be unreliable.

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Web design: abide by the three S’s

This was posted on February 26th, 2013

Creating a personal website or blog affords some experimentation with style and content. A business website, however, needs to appeal to a specific audience and convert visitors into sales whilst still being visually pleasing, engaging and, ultimately, functional.

Quite a tall order.

There’s nothing like whittling down a big to-do list into a few key areas, and you’ll be glad to hear that many believe web design is centred around just three. Happily, they all start with the letter ‘s’, which helps us all recount them whenever we set foot on a new web venture for our business…

1) Style

There’s no escaping it – we humans are, at base level, shallow creatures. In order to be instantly engaged, we need to see something attractive. That sounds incredibly pathetic in the real world, but it is a mantra you must live by on the web. For a business website, you want to ensure that visitors are immediately attracted to your site. Maintain brand consistency with the colours and images you use. Don’t be afraid of white space, either, as that leads us onto the next ‘S’…

2) Simplicity

KISS is an acronym often used in the office, and it is something which should absolutely be abided by in web design. We’ve already established your site needs to attract, but it doesn’t need to bamboozle. Keep the path to purchase clear and uncluttered. Ensure you only include content that is needed – strip out any rambling passages or ‘album filler’ images. Most of all, make sure your site navigation is as easy to use as possible. Confused people will disappear elsewhere very quickly.

3) SEO

The crowning glory of all web design. A beautiful, easy-to-use website is nothing if Google doesn’t like it. It is all to easy to consider SEO to be entirely separate to web design, but it is intrinsically part of it and needs to be incorporated from the start. Use search friendly URLS. Ensure page headings and content title tags are relevant to your business. Avoid flash and include social media links. Overall, seek advice from a professional. SEO isn’t the dark art some would have you believe, but it pays to speak to those who are in the know.

We’ve only scratched the surface above, obviously, but hopefully we’ve got your brain ticking. Abide by the three S’s from the start, and your web design project will serve your business well for years to come.

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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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