Don’t over think your website

The number one most common problem we come across during the website design and build process is that customers massively overthink their website.

They want too much from it (and usually without paying for it).

Imaging a shop window. Let’s say it’s the shop window of your favourite high-street retailer. They use eye-catching design to grab your attention, they feature new and fashionable products, they use simple but effective graphic design, and that’s about it.

It’s highly unlikely that as part of that display you will find every scrap of detail about each individual product – barcode, product name, item description, sizes available, conversion chart for sizes, colour choices, price range, etc.

Instead, that minimalist but well thought-out window design has the sole purpose of grabbing your attention and getting you to go into the store to find out more.

Your website needs to take exactly the same approach.

Your website is in fact your shop window. It is the place where you need to grab the attention of passing visitors, and make them want to contact you to find out more.

Less, as they say, is more.

Provide your potential customers (visitors) with enough information to wet their appetite, and give them easy ways to get in touch with you to find out more.

The getting in touch part is essential. Why? Because once they contact you they have taken the first step in creating a relationship with you. And it is relationships that make money.

So, think about your website. Have you made the fatal mistake like so many others and shoehorned every last scrap of information onto your web pages?

If you have then it may be time for a rethink of your strategy.

ASA regulations also cover websites and social media

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is well known for governing the advertising campaigns of UK Businesses such as print publications and TV advertising.

However, many smaller business owners were not aware that the ASA also govern the use of advertising on digital platforms including websites and company owned social media accounts.

The announcement made by the ASA explains the extent of which their regulations cover is “Advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts, or which consist of direct solicitations of donations as part of their own fund-raising activities”.

This guidance is fairly clear cut, but there are some key points that every small business owner should take note of.

1. All communications on your website are subject to the ASA regulations. These regulations aim to control communications that are designed to mislead, harm or offend. Particular focus is placed on communications relating to alcohol, health and beauty claims, children and young people, medicine, finance, environmental claims, direct marketing, prize promotions and gambling.

2. Social Networking Sites are included in other non-paid-for-space, and are subject to the same regulations as your own website. Interestingly, if you share a line of text on a social media account that is actually an advertisement then you should include a statement that tells people it is an advertisement, such as using the hash tag #Ad on Twitter, or placing an “Advertisement:” or “Ad:” warning on Facebook and other such sites.

3. Any comments posted by a 3rd party, such as a customer, will not be your responsibility. Only those communications that are posted by you or a representative of your business/company are subject to the regulations.

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.

Increase your on-site conversion rates

Designing a stunning website is only half the battle for most small businesses. Growing traffic to the site and converting that traffic into paying customers is where the real fight is.

Luckily there are a number of easy steps you can take to significantly increase the chances of making an on-site conversion.

HIGHLIGHT THE DESIRED CONVERSION

It may sound simple, but actually telling your visitors what you want them to do is the easiest way of actually getting them to do it.

A nice big, bright, bold and simple call-to-action will work wonders. A well-designed header with an embedded “Buy Now” or “Click for More Info” button will get those mouse buttons clicking almost without your visitors even thinking about it.

SUBSTANTIATE YOUR CLAIMS OF SECURITY

You can take two steps when taking payments online to substantiate your claim that your site is secure.

You can protect your store using SSL so that all sensitive data, such as credit card details, is transmitted with no risk of interception from fraudsters.

You can also show your customers that you take security seriously by signing up for and displaying the various security accreditations that are available, such as VeriSign, FSC and WebTrust.

VALIDATE YOUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Real customer feedback made public is the best way to build trust in what you offer.

Allowing customers to leave reviews and award star ratings can significantly boost your chances of achieving a conversion.

You should also consider including policies such as Privacy, Terms of Use, Refunds ad Returns, and Shipping and Handling. These all help to validate what you are offering and make your site appear more trustworthy.

OPTIMIZE YOUR PAGE SPEED

Slow to load web pages loose valuable traffic. People don’t like to wait, and if your web page is loading slowly then you are loosing potential customers before they have even had chance to see what you offer.

You can decrease the size of your pages by optimizing images and using images sparingly, and by cleaning up your page code to reduce the number of processes the browser has to go through in order to load and display the page.

USE ON-SITE PROMOTIONS

Promotions are the perfect way to get people buying and to start to build a long relationship with your customers.

Offering free shipping can significantly increase the likelihood of someone purchasing a physical product, whilst free trials are a great way to get people signing up for specific online services.

USE WEB 2.0 FUNCTIONALITY

The web has changed massively, and there are some great tools and features now available for you to use to help improve your on-site engagement and conversion.

Offering simple features such as a section for “Customers who bought this item also bought…” can help to cross-sell and up-sell, as well as improve site engagement.

USE IMAGES THAT HAVE BEEN CAREFULLY CHOSEN

Don’t rush to get your products and services online. Take the time to choose images that will present a professional image and if it is a specific product image then make sure it is of good quality and actually does the product the justice that it deserves.

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.