Simple pointers for effective ecommerce design

As e-commerce explodes through the development of technologies, increase in faster internet connection speeds and the wider access of the internet to all, so too does the level of competition that your e-commerce store will come up against.

With that in mind it is essential to plan, design and build your e-commerce website for optimum effect.

Here are a few simple pointers for effective e-commerce web design:

Mike It Clear

Your e-commerce website design should make it perfectly clear WHY your visitor should purchase from you.

Use big, bold yet simple messages and images to portray that communication.

Do you offer low prices? Is your dispatch service fast? Do you have a wide selection of products to choose from? Do you offer a set of specialised products that are hard to find?

Understand what you offer that will make the lives of your prospective customers easier and more enjoyable, and then tell them!

Make It Easy

Give your visitors lots of ways to find what they are looking for.

A top level navigation could give them the section that a product falls into, whilst a secondary navigation could give them a list of specific product categories.

A simple and advanced search option can help them locate the items that are a little harder to find, and a popular products list can help to encourage additional purchases.

Make It Convenient

By simplifying the process, speeding up the time it takes from landing on your site to making payment, you can significantly increase conversion rates as this makes your site much more convenient for the shopper to use.

Every last little pixel of your site should be scrutinized from the perspective of the customer, with a view to continual improvement of process. Don’t simply finish your site design and say “great, we’ll never have to do that bit again”.

Make It Engaging

Grabbing the attention of your visitor is obviously essential for making conversion, but you can go the extra mile through the use of advanced approaches including things like gift-giving options, order tracking abilities and a customized user account where they can view past purchases and make quick and easy repeat orders.

No Surprises… We Hate Surprises!

Make all your information available to the visitor quickly and easily including your Privacy and Security Policy, Additional Charges Policy, Returns/Refunds/Exchanges Policy and Shipping & Handling Policy.

Consider the use of a FAQ’s sections and keep it updated regularly.

Summary

A well thought-out, professionally designed and trustworthy e-commerce website will significantly improve your online business performance.

Remember, your website is your shop window, so make it as clean, tidy, attractive and engaging as possible to achieve that much desired conversion.

Want to know more about e-commerce web design? Get in touch.

Keeping your website legal

For most of us building a website is a really exciting time in the business lifecycle. It’s our opportunity to add a little bit of creative flare into our business image, and it’s a way of introducing our business to the wider world.

Something that we often forget during this process though is the legal side of things. Keeping our web presence on the right side of the law, both here and in other countries is essential. It may not seem like anything to worry about at first glances (you are probably thinking that there are so many websites online that the chances of being prosecuted are minor) but the liability that you face is potentially huge should you not take some simple steps to protect yourself and your business.

Copyright

The first thing you need to understand is that all content both offline and online holds a copyright. Images, text and design are all examples of content that can hold copyright.

There are two ways you can ensure that you do not breach anyone’s copyright.

  1. Ensure that your content is your own work and unique to you. That means using your own words, your own images (taken by you or for you) and ensuring that your website is designed from scratch and uses unique code.
  2. Ensure that any content you use that is not rightfully yours is licensed for you to use, and that you use that content exactly as per the terms of your license. That means that if perhaps you don’t have your own images you may consider purchasing stock images from an online site. When doing this ensure that you check the terms of the license agreement and ensure that you retain proof of purchase and your granting of license. If you want to use other peoples text, designs or even want to link to their content then ensure that you first seek permission to do so, and keep a record of that permission just incase you are ever challenged.

Trademarks

Sometimes you can infringe registered trademarks without even realizing it. There are lots of different things that people trademark including images, words and phrases.

It’s not only the actual content of your site that you need to think about when it comes to this, but also the domain name (web address) that you register where your website is displayed.

You should carry out thorough checks before purchasing domain names, using straplines and so on, to ensure that you do not breech registered trademarks – be it intentional or not.

Defamation

Making false statements about someone or some organization that could be damaging to their reputation means that you could be held liable for a defamation claim.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t mention people or businesses online, but it does mean that you can be held accountable for what you say.

As a basic form of protection you should ensure that if you do have a need and a reason to pass comment then that comment must be based 100% on fact – the truth!

Linking

Without links the World Wide Web would not be World Wide, nor would it be a Web. However, there are a few no-no’s when it comes to linking.

Do not use an IMG link, which shows the images located on someone else’s website on your own. This is a form of copyright breech as you are using their work as your own. If you wish to do this you should first seek the copyright owner’s express permission to do so, and retain a record of that permission.

Using frames within your website to display external content. This again runs the risk of breeching copyright, than less of course that content belongs to you. If you wish to do this then again ensure that you first seek and gain permission, and have a record of that permission.

Usage Policies

Every website should set out clear guideline for use of the site in the form of a Terms of Usage or Terms and Conditions style document. The document should be easily viewable online and in some cases it could be worth providing a printable copy too.

A Privacy Policy should be in place to explain to visitors how you treat their privacy. This is especially important should your site collect information from them, sell products or services, or use cookies to track their browsing habits whilst on your site – even if you use external services such as Google Analytics rather than your own on-site service. And, as per new EU Legislation you must also seek to gain a visitors permission to use cookies prior to them using your site. A simple pop-up window that asks them to either agree to the policy or not use your site should protect the average website.

Accessibility 

The Disability Discrimination Act here in the UK means that if you own a website you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that it can be accessed by everyone, regardless of their ability.

In order to adhere to this legislation you should ensure that your website is built inline with W3C standards and you should regularly review your website design and performance to ensure that it remains compliant as technologies change.

Protection

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to stay totally within the law. It could be that the use of a single word could breech someone’s trademark, and potentially no end of research would flag that breech up.

If your website is commercially based (used for business rather than pleasure) then it would be strongly recommended to think about some form of insurance cover should the worst happen.

Many standard insurance policies for business now include a clause regarding the running of a website, or at least have add-in’s to cover for such things. If however you run an e-commerce site the it would be advisable to look into full e-commerce insurance to ensure that you are fully protected for all eventualities.

Summary

We are by no means experts on the law. We are not legally trained, nor should our advice within this post be taken as gospel.

Wherever possible, should you feel that your website requires it, you should consider seeking out professional legal advice.

However, hopefully this article will serve as a rough guide to help you make informed decisions.

Easy website design accessibility tips

Web Accessibility is an essential area of focus for everyone commissioning a website design. It doesn’t matter whether you design and build the site yourself or commission a web designer to do it for you, web accessibility is essential and the responsibility rests with you, the site owner.

You may not think that making your website accessible to all is a key priority, but if you do not ensure that the bulk of your site can be accessed by all, including those with disabilities such as the blind and deaf then you may be falling foul of the Disability Discrimination Act (UK).

Luckily, there are some key steps you can take that are easy to implement:

MEANINGFUL TITLES

You should ensure that you use meaningful title attributes that are descriptive of the link the user will be clicking on. Do not simply mirror the description of the link against the title of the page.

For example, if the page you are linking to is the “Portfolio” page then do not use a descriptive title attribute of “Portfolio”, instead use something along the lines of “View some of our most recent work”.

PLACE IMPORTANT ELEMENTS TO THE TOP OF THE PAGE

If you are unable to use a conventional point-to-interact device such as a mouse then accessing interactive elements such as “click here” buttons can be much harder than for those who do.

As such, ensure that your key interactive elements are placed as close to the top part of the page as possible, making it easier for the user to select links etc.

DO NOT MIRROR TITLES ATTRIBUTES

It may seem OK to label all your pages with a title attribute that starts “Click here to view the ________ page”, but this can cause problems with CMS configuration and can cause problems for people using screen readers.

When you mirror title attributes this way it makes it much harder to use the search functions that are built into these screen readers.

USE CORRECT HEADINGS

A headings tag allows a reader to jump straight to the section they are interested in, and is essentially an outline of the web page they are viewing.

When using headings a <h2> tag straight after a <h1> tag tells a reader that they are viewing a subsection of preceding section.

It may not seem like a big thing, but by using headings correctly it can make the accessibility of your content so much better for those with visual impairment using screen-reading software to aid them.

USE MEANINGFUL PAGE TITLES

The very first thing a screen reader will come across is the text included within your title tags.

The worst thing you can do is to not even have a title tag for a specific page. The second worst thing is to have every title tag the same.

The title tag should be different for every page of your site, and it should be descriptive of the pages content. For example, do not give pages titles such as “Page One”, but rather something along the lines of “About Me” and “Contact Us”.

LABEL FORM ELEMENTS

When someone interacts with a website, lets say by filling out a contact form, they are interacting with an HTML web form.

You should label the input elements of your web forms with meaningful and descriptive text that makes it clear to the user what information they should be providing.

TEST WEB PAGES WITH CSS AND JAVASCRIPT DISABLED

To discover how accessible a web page is it is best to access each page with css and JavaScript turned off.

The reason for this is simple. With CSS we are able to position elements wherever we want on the web page, and with JavaScript we can manipulate the elements of a page by hiding, removing and showing them depending on a users action.

When you disable these two technologies it allows you to see whether the actual content of your page is accessible to al, including whether the content of each page is organized correctly.

SUMMARY

Sometimes the only real way of fully understanding what it is like to use a website when you have accessibility issues is to visit your site using the very assistive technologies that others will be using.

There are also some great simulators online that can help you to gain a better understanding of the user experience.

It is a general misconception that achieving a good level of accessibility in web design costs the earth, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When you build your website around these basic accessibility standards it is easy to make things work as they should. It is when accessibility is an afterthought that it costs the time and money, as you are essentially trying to fit a square shape into a round hole.

To find out more about web accessibility and the various guidelines that are in place to help manage this subject please visit the W3C website.

8 Kick-ass ways to improve website engagement

Website Engagement and Website Conversion to some appears like the same thing, but it is in fact much different, or at least in our eyes anyway.

We see a Conversion as a visitor that takes a specific action that you pre-planned. It may be a sign-up to your mailing list, it could be the download of a free resource, or it could be a physical purchase of a product.

When it comes to engagement we view things much differently. We want a visitor to be engaged with our website the same as a school child would be engaged with the lesson they were in.

We want visitors to our website to spend lots of time browsing our site and getting to know us, and we want them to enjoy our content. A visitor freely navigating our website based on their own choices is an engaged visitor, but a visitor navigating our site in a specific way – the way we push them around our site – is a converted visitor, because they are doing exactly as we want them to.

So, thinking more along the lines of Visitor “Engagement”, here’s 8 kick-ass ways of helping to increase it for your own website:

SOCIAL DÉCOR

Practically everyone is using social media in one way or another. In fact, some people say they don’t like the idea of social media but then unknowingly are using a service that is exactly that!

Now, by adding social décor to your posts and pages, such as sharing buttons, you are speaking to a visitors sub-conscious and asking them to help spread the word.

POPULAR CONTENT

Suggesting great content that is popular with other visitors is a perfect way to improve engagement. You are providing them with options that allow them to make up their own mind as to the action they take, at the same time as promoting your on-site content, keeping them on YOUR site for longer, in turn helping to build a relationship with them.

Building a relationship is the sole aim of engagement, as it is this relationship that will eventually flower into a conversion.

PROMINENT OPT-IN BOXES

Using an email mailing list opt-in box is a great way of keeping your visitors connected with you off-site, and generally speaking an email visitor is 5 to 20 times more engaged than other visitors.

People tent to treat their email address like gold and only give it out if they trust you enough. An opt-in box means that they are physically giving you their permission to contact them via email, and a nice large prominent opt-on box will help you to make the “conversion” in order to keep your visitors engaged.

SLIDE-OUT CONTENT

Simple slide-out boxes that appear at the end of your content, perhaps activated when a visitor scrolls to the bottom of the page, can help to keep your visitors engaged by providing additional options for them to choose from – usually suggested related articles.

RELATED POSTS

Offering your visitors links to other content on your site that is related to the content they are currently viewing is a good way of keeping your visitors on your site for longer, thus helping to build a better relationship with them.

Keep your related post suggestions to around 3 or 4, and where design allows try to feature a thumbnail and title.

USE ANALYTICS

Not every chunk of content performs the same as others, so use your analytics data to discover what is working and what is not.

By increasing output of the stuff that works you can significantly improve your engagement, whilst doing more of the stuff that doesn’t will kill it instead.

SURVEYS

Analytics data can only tell you so much. But wouldn’t it be powerful if you could find out exactly what your visitors were thinking and be able to provide specifically for that.

A simple online survey can help you to better tailor your content to ensure a more satisfied, and as such a more engaged visitor.

BRIBERY

Sometimes you can bribe your visitors, but in a good way of course. How many times have you had to part with your email address in order to access a specific chunk of information online?

By doing something such as this – say requesting that a visitor signs up to your email list in order to access a blog post or download a free report – you can not only gain the engagement of the visitor at that exact moment in time, but you also then have their permission to email them… and email engagement as we said before can be up to 20 times that of a normal user. Win win.

CONCLUSION

The aim of every successful site should be engagement, because with excellent visitor engagement there ultimately comes a conversion. So, rather than focusing on making money why not change your approach and focus on building relationships first.

Not only does it grow a solid base of loyal potential customers but it also helps you to grow that base too… and it can be extremely satisfying to create those relationships during the process too.

Building an effective mobile strategy

Sometimes it is hard as a small business owner to know exactly what will work for your target audience. We often have our own concept of marketing brilliance implanted within our own minds, but when we deliver that vision we are surprised that it doesn’t have the effect we thought it would.

Developing your digital communications is no exception to this rule. Just because you think that you have a great idea does not make it a great idea. Instead, you need to develop that idea to suit what your target market is saying they want.

Something that is happening as we speak is the emergence of the mobile web. It took ages for most smaller businesses to realize that they needed a web presence, and following the exact same pattern it is also proving equally is difficult for them to start a mobile friendly version of their website.

As a small business owner would you be interested to know that within the next 3 years many top executive at leading web companies such as Google are predicting that desktop computers will simply be irrelevant?

More and more people are taking to using the web via their smart phones, making it increasingly more important to ensure that you have a mobile optimized web presence.

If you are still not fully convinced then here are a few facts and figures to give you a little food for thought:

Why the Mobile Web & Why Now?

  • There are 5.5 billion current mobile device subscriptions
  • 48 million people with mobile phones don’t have electricity
  • 8 trillion SMS messages were sent during 2011
  • By 2015 there will be almost as many mobile devices as there are people in the world
  • 788 million mobile-only Internet users are predicted by 2015
  • $20.6 billion in mobile revenue is expected to be generated by 2015
  • $119 billion spent by mobile shoppers by 2015
  • Most mobile devices today can access the Internet, and
  • Mobile browsing will surpass desktop browsing by 2014

Why You Need a Mobile Website

  • By 2013 browser-enhanced mobile phones will exceed 1.82 billion
  • 40.1% of mobile device users access browsers
  • 39.5% of mobile device users access mobile apps
  • 90% of smartphone searches result in an action
  • 24% recommend a brand or product as a result of a mobile search
  • 77% have contacted a business with 61% calling and 59% visiting
  • 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information
  • 79% of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping
  • 88% take action within a day, indication these are immediate needs
  • 74% of smartphone shoppers make an online or in-store purchase

Mobile Apps

  • One million mobile apps in the marketplace
  • Two thousand apps added every day to the marketplace
  • 31 billion mobile app downloads in 2011
  • 66 billion downloads predicted by 2016
  • Mobile users spend 20% more time using mobile apps than browsers, but of that “app” time 80% is spent on games and social networking

More Than Just Sites and Apps 

  • 71% of smartphone users search because of an ad seen online or offline
  • 82% of smartphone users notice mobile ads
  • 74% of shoppers make a purchase when using their smartphones to help with shopping
  • 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day
  • QR Codes bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds
  • SMS (text) Messaging can get results
  • Augmented Reality can help sell products to a mobile audience
  • Location-Based Marketing can drive a lot of traffic to your local business
  • Mobile Search Apps can help you reach a very targeted audience
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) may be the future of successful m-commerce

Summary

The mobile web is far more than just websites and apps. There are a host of tactics and tools you can implement that will allow you to promote your business on the mobile web including QR Codes, Augmented Reality and Near Field Communication.

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