Video Backgrounds – Not Just A Fad

This was posted on July 4th, 2016

video-background

 

One of the reasons we, as a civilisation, are so obsessed with and enthralled by technology is due to the fact that it is always moving. Twenty years ago, nobody would have imagined that in the pockets of almost the entire population would sit a small device, connecting us to all the information in the world, every film ever made, every song ever recorded, every book ever written. The pace at which technology is moving forwards is as exciting as it is fascinating, and every year, new advances are made which change the game for the year to come.

High speed internet changed what websites were able to do, more or less overnight. Suddenly, we could expand the size of our websites. We could add more information than ever before, make fast and effective links to other related sites. We could push our message across with every colour in the rainbow, and additional extras like sound and music began to be bolted on to words and pictures, creating a more immersive, personalised and interesting browsing experience.

Moving into the future

The newest widespread step in website design has been the addition of video and animation – not just as a insert or a link, but as a fundamental part of the image of a site. More and more companies and website owners are beginning to implement video backgrounds to their websites, creating something truly effective and involving where before there might have been just a static, blank canvas on which to post information.

This has been carried out with great effect, particularly in the creative industry. Successful examples include:

  1. The websites of various bands. These have had moving images of atmospheric scenes floating across the screen on their sites backgrounds, adding the drama and linking images with sounds taken from forthcoming records and tours, etc.
  1. Promotional websites for movies. These have added an extra layer of intrigue to their teasing, by running slow-motion clips of key scenes behind cast lists and reviews. It’s a brilliantly subtle way of ramping up the ‘image’ of a film, and demonstrating cinematographic skills and heightened dramatism.
  1. Industry giants such as Spotify. Many large music websites have used video backgrounds highly effectively, creating a sense of calm and a positive vibe for everyone who browses their site.

How to make the most of video backgrounds

The thing that seems to work best, when it comes to video backgrounds, is subtlety. Video backgrounds seem to be at their most effective when they are not blasting you with information or distraction, but are instead heightening the atmosphere and ambience of the browsing experience. Think peaceful woodland scenes, leaves blowing in the wind and lovers strolling hand in hand in the distance – this has a subtle, psychological effect, which can encourage casual browsers to spend more time on the site, and feel comfortable doing so.

As websites have become more sophisticated, web users have become more discerning and perhaps more influenced by the appearance of the site – nowadays, the difference between an attractive, modern site with video backgrounds, and more old fashioned, clunky, static site is enormous. As such, increasing the impact of your site in those crucial first few seconds that somebody clicks on your link has never been more important.

Video backgrounds are also a great way of increasing the effectiveness of your brand. Once upon a time, branding meant little more than sticking to company colours and placing a big company logo on the corner of the screen. Today, branding is all about identity and association with specific lifestyle choices. Bringing video backgrounds and well-chosen music onto your site is an easy and highly effective way of reaching out to your customers and letting them know what you’re really about.

Imagine you’re inviting a date over for dinner. You want to make a powerful first impression, and give your prospective partner a taste of what to expect for the future. Are you going to leave your home exactly as it normally is, or are you going to pull out a few stops, change the lighting, put on some mood music and wear your most expensive perfume? In a similar way, video backgrounds are seductive, they’re dynamic, they’re another tool to demonstrate that you care about your company’s image and you’re willing to go the extra mile to make the customer’s visit to your virtual home and a pleasant and memorable one.

No need to cast doubt

There is always going to be a certain amount of scepticism when it comes to things like video background. After all, the internet is full of fads and passing trends – things which catch on for a short while, then go the way of the virtual dinosaur. However, because of the way the internet’s usability, speed and general performance is going (up and up and up, it seems) we can expect video backgrounds and more dynamic visual appearances to become the norm, relatively quickly. Unlike other fads, video backgrounds seem to have a genuine positive effect, as long as they have a level of subtlety which does not interrupt or disturb the overall browsing experience, and as long as the video itself is well chosen to fit the brand as a whole. As such, this is a bandwagon it really could be time to jump onto.

Furthermore, you don’t need to be a film maker or creative artist to make video backgrounds work for you. Thankfully, stock video can be purchased and used in much the same way as stock photography. As such, there is a staggering wealth of video out there to browse through and choose from, so you needn’t sweat about creating or finding one with any difficulty.

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The Vital Importance of a Good Website

This was posted on June 27th, 2016

good-website

 

First impressions count for a lot in life. When you’re going for a job interview, you make an effort to look sharp, put on your best suit and comb your hair. We agonise over what perfume to apply when heading out for a first date, and we are taught to smile openly and make eye contact when meeting a client we haven’t met before. This all happens for simple, scientific reasons – our evolutionary biology has an ingrained ‘stay or go’ mentality, and this has led us to making snap decisions within seconds of meeting somebody. It may not be nice or fair to judge so many books by their covers… but we all do it, all the time.

The exact same principle can be, and should be, applied to websites. When a potential customer or client opens your website, they too are going to judge it initially by appearances. As the world gets faster, business becomes more competitive, and now that every company has a site of their own (which probably processes the vast majority of their custom), it has never been more important to have a snappy, good-looking, modern and impressive website.

We’ve all been there – we click on a google link to a site we feel will suit our needs, and we’re immediately faced with gaudy colours, inappropriate fonts, poor formatting or confusing banners and subheading that look as though they belong in the 1990s… and what do we do? We immediately click the ‘back’ button, and choose the next google listing that suits our requirements.

 

Common and deadly errors

  1. Keeping up with the Joneses

Probably the biggest error a company can make nowadays, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, is to have a website that seems to belong in the distant past. This is more common that you’d think, and usually comes about due to the owner of the website simply not giving enough thought to what consumers expect, or what impression their website makes on potential customers.

Perhaps the manager rarely visits their own website, and has other priorities. Perhaps they aren’t aware that their site – and therefore, their brand – is outdated and clunky. Perhaps they don’t care, or don’t feel they should care.

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of your website

A website is just a tool, just one aspect of a business, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. Nowadays, a website is your ‘front-of-house’ staff. It’s your virtual reception. It’s the place your potential clients will go to not only to get information about your services and products, but also the ‘feel’ of a company. An outdated website can make a company look out of touch and out of step with the modern business world. It could even look shifty and untrustworthy to those who need to feel safe, should they be making financial transactions through the site. In short, it could be disastrous.

  1. Keep your customers in the know

Other common (and easily fixable) mistakes also include having few or no updates on the website. Let’s say you have a blog, and when the site was launched, you diligently updated your information and the comings and goings of the company on a regular basis. Over time, you became more relaxed on this front, and the next thing you know, you haven’t posted anything for a year or two. A customer might see this, and (reasonably) presume you’ve gone out of business. Bang. Another paying client goes elsewhere.

  1. Take Pride

On top of this, a good website, carefully constructed with the customer in mind and which creates a positive image and brand, is a reflection of the care and pride the manager has in their company. If you were invited to someone’s house for dinner, and when you turned up you found that their home was dusty and old, things hadn’t been cleaned or spruced up for years, you’d come to two conclusions: Firstly, that the owner takes no pride in their home, and so cannot expect anyone else to, either, and secondly: I’ll stop at a takeaway on my way home, thanks very much.

Websites operate in much the same way. You want to exude pride and care through the image you set of your company. The easiest way to do that? Get somebody to help you bring your website bang up to date.

 

New World, New Expectations

The simple fact is that there is more competition than ever before. Companies providing services of all sorts are no longer relying on local customer bases, the old women down the road, or the regular customer who pops in for a chat on their way home from work. Today, companies based in rural England are as much in competition with similar business in London, as they are in Delhi or San Francisco. The internet has connected the world – a great thing for consumers, but a wake up call for the complacent and those slow to catch up. Constructing a decent, approachable and stylish website has never been easier, and there’s no longer any excuse to be left behind.

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Are you 5 times more likely to lose customers?

This was posted on June 17th, 2016

mobile-update

According to Google themselves, people are five times more likely to leave a web site that isn’t mobile-friendly. Hence why last month, Google has been making yet more updates to how it views and lists web sites in its search results. So what do you need to do?

Google’s official statement highlights that its latest update is aimed primarily at non-mobile-friendly web sites, which means there are likely to be more significant penalties for sites that do not offer a good mobile experience to people who visit them.

This could be good news though. If your competitors’ web sites aren’t mobile friendly and yours is, then your site could show at the top of the mobile search results, which means you’ll receive many more visitors.

Some key facts
The update only applied to searches on mobile devices, so desktop and tablet searches were unaffected.

However, in 2015, over three quarters of adults in Great Britain used the internet every day, and a similar proportion (74%) accessed the internet “on the go” (away from home or work).

In April last year Google made an update that became a ranking factor in mobile searches alone. So if Google were to choose between two pages of similar relevance and quality, it will choose to display the mobile-friendly page in mobile search results.

What do you need to do to make your website mobile-friendly?

Responsive Design
You need what is called a ‘Responsive’ web site. This is a flexible design that automatically adapts to the size of a user’s screen. It means that a page will display properly whether your visitors access that it via a desktop browser or a mobile browser.

Avoid unplayable content
Ensure that all content works on Mobile platforms. When users visit a page on your site with content that is not supported on a mobile they will see an error. For example a video that requires Flash, will not work on mobile.

Slow mobile pages
Don’t lose visitors because your site is taking too long to load. According to Google, nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds.

Optimise for touch
Pay extra attention to navigation on small screens. Instead of showing the desktop site’s navigation, have a clear ‘thumb-friendly’ menu and buttons.

Remove unnecessary design elements and content
Space is at a premium, so take a good look at all the elements and content on your page. Are all of them necessary to send your message across? If the answer is no, then remove them altogether.

Remember, it’s not just all about Google. When people visit your web site you want them to have a good experience so they contact, or buy from you.

If you want to find out how mobile friendly your web site is and what you need to do to contact in.house.media.

Visit www.ihm.co.uk/getmobile or call 01604 790 007.

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Prove the naysayers wrong with the secret weapon for gaining new customers

This was posted on June 1st, 2016

 

naysayers

 

Social media was once solely a vehicle used by millennials to connect with friends and share amusing videos of cats. Now, it is a marketing powerhouse, fuelled by the fact that 57% of consumers say they think more highly of a business after seeing positive comments online.

 

On social media, word travels at light speed. People may be discussing your business on Twitter, right now. Equally, they may be wondering why you don’t respond to tweets when they experience a problem with your product, or why there is no ‘Like’ button on your website linking to a Facebook profile.

 

If you are still reluctant to devote a significant portion of your marketing effort and budget to social media, we’ve got 6 reasons you should do just that.

 

Here’s why social media ‘just works’ for business.

 

  1. Develop a public persona for your business

Social media presents a unique opportunity to develop an engaging and approachable public persona for your business. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a B2C or B2B industry – you can give your company a voice people will warm to and interact with.

 

  1. Improve customer service

Social media’s greatest asset is that it functions in real-time. From a business perspective, it gives instant feedback from customers and an insight into the way they view your company. It doesn’t always make pleasant reading, but you’ve never had a better chance to monitor and react to murmurings about your business (good or bad!).

 

  1. Build relationships, generate leads

Don’t listen to the naysayers who’ll tell you that social media can’t generate leads – it absolutely can. It just takes time. The more time you invest in your followers on social media, the more you’ll build those relationships and turn observers into prospects.

 

  1. Increase brand awareness

Just like email marketing, social media is a very affordable way to increase awareness of your brand. You just need a computer, internet connection and a little bit of inspiration. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are just some of the platforms on which you can make a real name for your business.

 

  1. Amplify your website content

If you’re blogging regularly – fantastic, but posting a blog containing a few keywords and expecting Google to start sending new visitors your way will leave you somewhat disappointed. You need to amplify your content and get it in front of people and social media is a brilliant delivery mechanism for your hard work.

 

  1. Reach a new audience

There are now over 2.2 billion social network users worldwide. Get your strategy right, and there is a simply colossal audience waiting to engage with you.

 

Summary

Social media marketing is about one thing: establishing your business as a thought leader within its chosen industry. Get it right, and you’ll draw people in and build a layer of trust which will, eventually, convince them that your products and services are worth spending money on.

 

You may have already dipped your toes into social media marketing, but struggle to find the time and expertise to make the most of it. Fret not! Fill out the form below and we’ll provide a completely free social media audit and tell you what you’re doing right and the areas in which you could improve.

 

 

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What you need to know for mobile website success

This was posted on May 23rd, 2016

mobile-web-sucess

 

The times, they are a-changing. The days of having a simple, straightforward website is long gone, it seems. Increasingly, companies are having to keep up with the trends and changes being rolled out on the internet in order to maximise their viewability and usability. Google are at the forefront of most of these changes, and have been for as long as they’ve dominated the world of online searches. In April 2015, they set about boosting their mobile-friendly algorithms for web searches and website viewing, and have a second key update planned for May 2016, with the aim of encouraging business to make their websites as mobile-friendly as possible.

What does this mean? Well, if you haven’t checked to see if your company’s website is mobile friendly – that is, easily viewable and browsable on a mobile device, phone or tablet, you need to get your act together quickly and start making some changes. If you are unsure as to whether or not your site passes Google’s latest criteria for mobile-friendliness, then check out their Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool and find out for yourself today. The success of your business may well depend on it.

 

Why is it so vital to have a mobile-friendly website?

If you think this isn’t very important, then think again. Google have begun transforming the way their search engine (now the most widely used website on the entirety of the internet) works. As such, if an individual is searching for two similar businesses, and one of those businesses has a mobile-friendly website and the other does not, then the mobile-friendly site will have a considerably higher ranking. Appearing as close to the top of a google search page as possible is a key factor for any business – this sort of visibility is something people pay good money for – and if you are missing out due to these new changes, well, you’ll have to get your act together quickly.

The simple fact driving all this is that the way people search for information is something which is constantly evolving. Since the advent of smart phones and tablets a few short years ago, fewer and fewer people are using laptop or desktop computers to browse the internet, and for many people, the majority of web browsing is happening on the go. This can be seen on any bus or train in the country, and in cafes, airports and on the high street – people are glued to their mobile devices, either to kill time on social media, catch up with the latest news, or to gain specific information.

If your business does not yet have a mobile friendly site, the chances are, your ability to reach out to your target audience, customers or clients is being reduced. Think of how advertising messages spread; they can be passed by word of mouth, from one person to another. They can be picked up through traditional advertising methods, such as billboards or flyers. Perhaps they’ve come directly from your shop, headquarters, or from a representative of your company. If your customer wishes to find out more information quickly, or follow up on something they’ve seen or heard, the likelihood is they’ll whip out their smart phone, and quickly google what they need to know.

 

Get yourself to the top of the search page

Now, if you’re not up-to-date with a good, mobile-friendly website, you not only aren’t going to be near the top of any search results, but also you’re going to be frustrating your potential clients with a badly-loading, badly-fitting website, which isn’t going to fit properly on their mobile device. You’ll be putting people off before they even have an opportunity to see what you offer.

Making your website mobile-friendly isn’t necessarily a difficult process. If you approach it from the perspective of a customer or browser, then you’re going to know what is going to work, and what isn’t. Most web design professionals nowadays would advise you to go for what is called ‘responsive’ design – essentially, a website which automatically adapts itself to fit onto the screen of the device it is being viewed on.

This will ensure nothing is cut off, everything is in proportion, and your clients and customers can see what they need to know, and press and click happily as they navigate your site on their mobile. There are other options available, but seeing as google prefers responsive design, it would seem nonsensical not to follow this lead.

 

Get ahead of your competitors with a mobile-friendly website

The most important step to take when making your website mobile friendly, either by yourself or with the help of one of many available tools and templates, is to test, then test, and test some more. There are many, many things which can potentially go a little wrong, and while these may not seem significant to you, again, you have to approach it from the perspective of a customer.

The internet has made business monstrously competitive – a small fault or non-running page or video on a mobile site could prompt the viewer to simply click their ‘back’ button, and try a different, competing site. As such, it’s of vital importance you’re viewing your mobile-friendly site on as many devices as possible, and clearing up any faults or niggles that arise along the way.

So, if you’ve been putting off building a mobile friendly website for some time, you no longer have any excuse. Your competitors have mobile-friendly sites, google is essentially demanding that all listed business have one, and your customer base is expecting to be able to find the information they need, whenever they need it, be that at home or on the go. Mobile devices are the present and the future, and now is the time to get cracking, and give your business a chance to enter the latest age of mobile internet technology.

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Our Predictions for the Biggest Web Design Trends in 2016

This was posted on December 15th, 2015

2016-trends

 

 

Well, 2016 is almost upon us. Yet again, the year has flown by and we’re looking forward to what the biggest web design trends will be in the coming year. It’s been a busy year in the design world, with a number of new trends coming in but we’re already preparing ourselves for what’s still to come.

So, with no further ado, here are our predictions for the biggest web design trends in 2016.

Custom illustrations and design
Up until now, imagery on the web has been largely focused on reused or derivative imagery, but there’s been a definite change in the tide recently. More and more, the focus is moving towards having custom illustrations or vector designs created. In fact, there’s a booming trade in new web illustrators creating a whole new sub-industry which looks set to become even bigger and more vital to web designers in the coming year.

Micro experiences
These have really come into their own in 2015 and look set to grow even more in 2016. Micro experiences are events which happen on the page without you having to leave or go anywhere. Even something as seemingly innocuous as adding a product to your Amazon basket could count as a micro event, as it allows you to trigger off an action without leaving the page. In the new web 3.0 in which everything must be instantaneous and done with the minimum of effort, micro experiences look set for growth.

Typography
Fonts and typefaces are big business, and more and more research goes into it all the time. The fonts you use on your website can massively influence a visitor’s likelihood of getting in touch or buying your products or services. Custom typography is also big business, and as more and more users move towards mobile and retina screen displays, your choice of crisp, easy-to-read typography is going to become more and more important.

Animations and cinemagraphs
Animations on websites are becoming big business again, and this time we’re not talking about animated GIFs. This time we’re talking about moving infographics and interactive animations which enhance the user experience rather than just simply showing off the fact that we’ve got an animation package on our computer. After all, everything we do in web design should be focused towards enhancing the user experience.

Semi-flat design
Whereas the design trend of the past couple of years has been towards skeuomorphism — something which was pioneered by Apple in earlier versions of iOS and MacOS — the trends are following Apple yet again, but this time it’s semi-flat design. It’s more or less what the name suggests: simple flat design with minimal shading or detail, keeping things simple and effective.

The continuing evolution of responsive design
This is something which is set to continue in much the same vein, mainly because responsive design isn’t something which will ever be fully achieved due to its very nature. Instead, websites will become ever more adaptive to the growing range and variety of devices on which we view websites, again helping to boost the user experience for everyone.

So, there you have it — our predictions for 2016 in a nutshell. We’ll be back in the New Year with a more in-depth look at these elements and how you can incorporate them in your website.

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What Are Landing Pages and When Should You Use Them?

This was posted on November 9th, 2015

landing-page

 

 

Landing pages can be an incredibly valuable way of converting visitors, but what’s the best way to use them effectively and what impact can they have on conversions?

The vast majority of businesses and websites don’t use landing pages, but the ones who do are the ones picking up the business. So many companies throw so much money at SEO, Adwords and other forms of online marketing to send people to a static website, where they can get lost, mooch around looking at different things and then disappear. You don’t want that. You want visitors to convert into customers, and the only way you can do that is to convince them in the same way you would a conventional shopper.

If you ran a shop on the high street and a customer came in, would you leave them to wander around the shop looking at items, staring at the ceiling, reading the posters on the wall and then leave? No, you’d ask them what they were looking for, help them find it and convince them to buy it. That’s sales.

What landing pages are

Landing pages are web pages specifically designed to convert a visitor into a lead, by ‘squeezing’ them onto a single page which convinces them to provide you with their email address, phone number or other details in exchange for a high-value offer.

From the visitor’s point of view, they’re getting something great for free or are going to benefit in some way, and for that they’re willing to allow you to sell to them in the future. These are pretty warm leads and they’re next to free to obtain, so why would you not make the most of them?

Where landing pages come into their own

You want people to buy from your website. That’s natural. However, 96% of first-time visitors on your website aren’t going to buy anything. That’s what all the statistics say. So why lose the 96% to potentially go and buy elsewhere? You can get a large number of those in your contacts book or on your mailing list and sell to them in the future — when they’re ready to buy.

It’s often the next best thing from a sale, and can quite often be even better. If you’re looking for returning, loyal customers, this can be a great first way to build up that rapport by offering them something and engaging in a two-way transaction. Funnelling people into leads and then sales is a prime sales tactic and one which should never be understated.

What should a landing page contain?

Above all else, your landing page should have most of the content above the fold, have a strong call to action button and be direct and easy to read. It should also:

  • Have an exciting, compelling title which tells people what you want them to do
  • Use short, concise sentences geared towards generating interest
  • Use bullet points and short features to break up content and focus the eye
  • Have an exciting and compelling image which is relevant to what you’re offering

Driving users to your landing page

Users can be driven to your landing page using Google Adwords, Facebook or Twitter advertising or even scannable QR codes on posters or leaflets. A simple ‘Scan this QR code for a free copy of my book’ can go a very long way to generating long-term customers.

If you’ve got a promotion running, make it an exclusive promotion to people finding you either through Facebook, QR codes on posters or on Twitter. If you’re running an event, offer discounted tickets to people scanning the QR code to get to your landing page. You need to offer them something. Simply saying ‘visit our website’ won’t do a thing.

 

In summary, landing pages can be enormously beneficial to website owners in terms of creating leads and generating future business. Building up an email mailing list in this way is absolutely vital to ensuring the future of your business and giving you a pool of relatively warm leads to work from in the future. After all, those people would’ve just gone elsewhere — likely to a competitor — if you hadn’t got their contact information, so what have you got to lose?

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Should All Websites Be Designed Primarily for Mobile?

This was posted on November 2nd, 2015

 

primarily-mobile

It’s been obvious for a long time now that designing websites for mobile usage has been extraordinarily important. Mobile usage has been growing exponentially and for a good couple of years it’s been vital to have a mobile response version of your website for people to visit on smartphones and other handheld devices.

Now, though, the tide has changed. Mobile devices account for the vast majority of web browsing, with laptops and desktops now beginning to languish in obscurity, relatively speaking. The stats say that mobile sites should no longer be a secondary consideration, but the primary one and that a desktop version of your website should come second.

Let’s have a look at some stats.

There are 1.2 billion mobile web users around the world. In the United States alone, 25% of internet users use mobile only, rarely or never using a desktop machine. Over 85% of new handsets sold have mobile web access, and seeing as virtually everyone owns a mobile phone this a potentially huge market.

The statistics say that the majority of users will only ever see the mobile version of your website. For that reason, then, it needs to work and work well.

Desktop is still an important medium, but it’s now secondary to mobile. It shouldn’t be forgotten, but we have to accept that the online world has moved on and that not only the future but the present is with mobile usage. However, that doesn’t mean the end of the web as we know it.

It’s all about adapting. Ensuring that your website is progressively designed for mobile usage is vital, and a properly responsive website design will respond to the device that’s requesting it, regardless of whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or 40ft-wide projector. Allowing your website to scale gracefully and remove unnecessary features as screen real estate becomes tighter is now a vital part of website design.

Your main efforts should be put into mobile design, whilst still being able to take advantage of all of the benefits of the desktop version of your website (primarily the extra screen space and capability for Flash and other plugins). For this, you need to ensure your website is properly responsively designed. That’s where we come in.

To make sure your website is fully designed for mobile usage and therefore able to accommodate the majority of your potential customers and website visitors, call us today to speak about responsive website design and mobile usage.

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