It’s one thing having to crisis-manage when your brand comes under fire for its own mistakes, but when your product is referenced without your permission, in a politically provocative and offensive tweet? Well, that’s a completely different ball game.

That’s exactly what happened to Skittles this week, when the son of controversial presidential candidate, Donald Trump, shared a meme comparing Syrian refugees to ‘poisoned skittles’. Cue pandemonium and uproar on Twitter; not to mention the fact that the original tweet received over eight thousand retweets and thirteen thousand likes (and counting)…

Yes, this is what the PR team at Skittles had to deal with when they noticed their brand name trending on Twitter, without warning, and with little time to prepare a response. In fact, there were even jokes trending about their unwanted position in this highly risqué, and ludicrous political statement:


It even brought up memories of another controversial, political event which the brand became unknowingly associated with; the shooting of Trayvon Martin:


With their brand name swirling around on social media as the butt of racist jokes, political rants and PR memes, it isn’t difficult to imagine the awkward position that camp Skittles found themselves in – so how did they navigate their way out of it? Well, their approach to this predicament actually highlighted the undervalued art of subtlety in social media, along with the importance of knowing when and where to place your comments. 

Of course, a tactfully witty response would have earned praise from some, but this also runs the risk of being seen as offensive, adding fuel to an already raging fire. A more sober statement, would also clash with their highly light-hearted social media strategy, which usually stays far away from the political sphere. Vitally, it’s also fully understandable that they’d want to avoid being overly provocative to the Trump social media machine, particularly during an election period that has seen its fair share of social media controversy. Trump calling on his supporters to boycott Skittles – is it really that hard to imagine in the current political climate? 

It all boils down to a desire to stay out of the news, without promoting a political agenda, and without being seen as milking any free publicity. It also has to be done with a view to maintaining their playful, adventurous social media brand, without it also looking like their business is completely ignorant. 

Skittles solved all of these problems in two simple steps.

Step 1 - Respond to a journalist from a high-profile news site, who makes a private, formal request for comment on the situation:


Step 2 - Watch as a screenshot of the comment earns thousands of likes and retweets, gaining a swathe of positive feedback in the process:


Even prompting people to profess their love for the product:


Just like their decision to remain respectfully silent in the case of Trayvon Martin, Skittles were able to preserve their reputation, without getting directly caught up in any high-profile arguments, or revealing any strong political leanings. They also managed to voice their disapproval for the statement in question, without overtly criticising Trump and his supporters, avoiding the possibility of an inevitably nasty comeback from the notorious Republican nominee.

All politics aside, this is a great example of intelligent brand preservation in the face of unwanted attention and appropriation. It also shows that while it may be impossible to prevent your brand from gaining negative associations, it is possible to take control of the situation and voice disapproval, without being a source of negativity yourself.


As far as brands are concerned, Twitter is one of the best “all-round” platforms for expanding your audience. It’s fast, easy to use, and is highly community-driven. While the user-base may be skewed towards the under 50s, it still counts for a large portion of social media opportunities for the vast majority of business, with a 100 million daily active users.

Regardless of how modest or ambitious your aims may be, Twitter provides a number of free promotional opportunities for brands, regardless of your market or area of interest. Whether you simply wish to give your business a more informal, human face, or have a larger set of plans for implementing a marketing strategy on the platform, Twitter gives you instantaneous access to a huge audience that is ripe for cultivation.

Part of Twitter’s great appeal is its ability to provide instant interaction and feedback, which is what makes it such a great tool for building your brand awareness and following, in a very organic, conversational way. To help you benefit from these attributes, and build an active Twitter feed which meets your goals, here are some easy-to-implement ideas for building an audience, and driving communication:

Reach Out to Industry Influencers, Enthusiasts and Experts

Wherever you fall in the pecking order of your industry, whether you’re a seasoned expert or a new face on the scene, interacting with fellow influencers can be a great way to position yourself as an engaging contributor, while also elevating your profile within your industry.

This could involve everything from a simple follow to more regular interactions, in which you make an obvious effort to share content, and get involved in conversations which relate to your area of interest. The most important thing to remember, is to keep things naturalistic, by avoiding robotic and repetitive behaviour. When introducing yourself, commenting or retweeting, always try to inject some personality into your language, and convey genuine interest.

*Tip* Think beyond the obvious in terms of who you connect with; could there be an untapped audience for your brand on Twitter?

Run a Competition

Whether you’re looking to increase the desirability of your product, reward your customers, or simply grow your follower count, running a competition can be a great way to boost your audience and interaction rate. 

The most important thing to remember, is to get your competition tweet seen, as there’s little point in running a competition that only circulates amongst your existing follower base. While you could run the competition outside of Twitter, I would suggest a simple ‘follow and retweet’ formula, if you want to earn the highest level of interaction. The truth is, many people will find it a hassle to fill in a form or navigate outside of Twitter, particularly those on mobile. Allowing them to remain on the platform and perform a few simple actions is more likely to encourage them to enter, and will help your competition circulate at a faster rate for further entrants.

Of course, if your aim is to get people to sign up to a newsletter or take another form of action outside Twitter, then perhaps this format alone is not suitable for your aim. This approach, like many, has its pros and cons, which you can weigh up when planning your competition. The fast and easy route is more likely to earn a higher number of low-value follows from serial competition participants, but on a positive note, it will also get more attention in general, increasing the likelihood of it reaching someone with a genuine interest in your industry.

Once you’ve thought through your format and aims, conduct a bit of research into the optimal post time for your audience (geographic/age/industry factors), and make sure to include #competition in your tweet, to give it the best chance at success.

*Tip* Hold on to your followers! Of course, you’ll always get a few people who are “just in it for the free stuff”, but a competition can still bring in lots of engaged followers who are interested in your products/niche. Maintain interaction with your new followers, keep posting quality content, and you should see the benefits of your newly extended audience

Watch the Trend

One of the things that makes Twitter such a great way of tapping into conversations, is the fact that it has a constant stream of trending topics, along with an array of commonly used and time-specific hashtags, which allow you to tap into collective moods, and keep up with relevant hashtags. 

Whether it relates to news, popular culture or simply a specific time, keeping an eye on the trending topics on a daily, even hourly basis, is the easiest possible way of keeping your Twitter feed active and engaging. This may seem fairly obvious as such a key element of the platform, but it’s surprising how underused the hashtag is in many instances, particularly by those who are new to the platform. 

While each individual account may have a tone and approach which relates specifically to their brand or following, it’s almost always a good idea to weigh in on popular topics, even when it comes to something as simple as the weather. Relatability and affinity are the arguably the driving forces of Twitter, so it’s important to keep this in mind in order to boost activity.

*Tip* ALWAYS check the hashtag! If you see a hashtag trending, don’t presume to know what this relates to, without checking the posts attached to it first. While certain hashtags won’t relate strictly to a particular use, others will be used specifically in connection with a certain movement or development, making their misuse blindingly obvious. Using a hashtag that has nothing to do with your content can not only appear irrelevant and somewhat desperate, it can also be deemed insensitive and offensive in the worst instances.

Be Visual

Countless studies have shown how visual mediums can enhance social media posts, so be sure to take advantage of this benefit wherever possible. Even without the statistics on how many more likes and retweets can be gained from a post with an image, it doesn’t take a social media expert to understand that these enhancements are bound to stand out in your Twitter feed. 

We’re by no means suggesting that text-only tweets are incapable of creating a significant impact, but it’s important to realise how useful these additions can be for boosting initial attention, as well as the appeal for further promotion. Social media has made us a generation of meme-sharers and gif enthusiasts, who are able to communicate using nothing but a set of emojis, making it a vital aspect of social media culture. Again, it comes back to the point of relevancy, combined with the ability to communicate clearly, and impactfully.

In fact, it’s about to get even easier to share images in your tweets as of September 19th 2016, thanks to the fact that these will no longer count towards your 140 character limit. This means that you won’t have to sacrifice words for visuals, or vice versa, so you can share infographics and vine clips to your hearts content.

*Tip* Know when to let an image speak for itself. In some cases, a brief caption can be more impactful then a longer, accompanying explanation, so keep this in mind if your visual content is the main aspect of the tweet, as opposed to an addition. This is also particularly true if the image itself contains text. 

Make Great Use of Third Party Content

Naturally, it’s imperative that you keep your Twitter original, but you should also consider how an efficient use of third party content can enhance your feed, and build interaction within your community. 

It may seem vital to have a steady stream of your own content, and of course that’s true, but a fully original Twitter page can become just as boring and repetitive as a constant outpouring of retweets. If your Twitter makes the mistake of becoming too focused on your own ideas, products and opinions, it runs the risk of being seen as overly self-promotional, which may alienate your audience over time.

Just as we mentioned in our first tip, engaging with fellow influencers is a great way to build relationships, and can also show your willingness to take an interest in your chosen community. If you’re pointing at a particular content creator as a good source of information, it’s likely that you may also receive some positive attention in return, as part of Twitter’s reciprocal spirit. The most important thing to remember, is always to @ your source in the tweet (if possible).

*Tip* Always read the content and understand it fully before sharing! Oftentimes, titles can be misleading, so don’t just share content without actually engaging with it. No cheats or quick fixes here I’m afraid!

Provoke Reactions

Although controversy sometimes has its place in online marketing when used intelligently, we aren’t talking about making your followers angry. What we mean, is starting up thought-provoking conversations, and encouraging your community to share their opinions with you.

In recent times, Twitter has made this much easier for users, thanks to the introduction of the Twitter poll last year. Perhaps it’s the anonymity factor or the element of curiosity, but Twitter polls hardly ever fail to drive engagement levels, making them a great way to improve activity on your page, whilst also learning something new about your audience.

In its most simple form, this could start with addressing a question to your audience, which is a great way to get community members interacting with your page. This could be employed in a casual way to inspire debate, but could also be used by businesses to involve their customers in the creative process. For example, you could post a preview of a new product, which could not only help you gauge its popularity, but could also help to generate a sense of anticipation ahead of its launch.

*Tip* Always treat public opinion/engagement requests with caution. If you think your conversation is at risk of bringing negative customer experiences to the fore, or could possibly be hijacked in a way that would reflect badly on your business, then stay away!

Pin it!

If you’re not using the pinned tweet feature on your page, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to show off your latest news and best moments to followers, along with any potential followers that you could be missing out on! Not only is this a great way to give an extra boost to a tweet you want noticed, it’s also incredibly useful for making a strong impression on those visiting your page for the first time, giving them a clear impression of your brand identity straight away.

From competitions to appearances at important conferences, pinned tweets can give an extra boost to posts you want prioritised, or would like to lend some additional exposure to. As the first thing a visitor sees when they click on your profile, you’ll want to make sure that you double check your tweet for any mistakes, and be extra discerning about the wording before you post. Once you’re confident, however, this makes a handy promotional tool, and gives you some additional control over the shelf life of your tweet.

*Tip* Don’t let your pinned tweet get out of date! Once you’ve pinned your tweet, don’t just go away and forget about it, or you could completely defeat its intended purpose. If your tweet is an expired competition or a piece of news that has long since passed, you run the risk of looking like you don’t check your profile regularly. Like all other parts of your profile, pinned tweets should be considered and updated regularly when required.

Be Helpful!

Another important aspect of your interaction with your followers and online community, is to provide useful information, and answers to any questions they may have. Of course, if a follower comes to you with a question directly, it’s more than evident that you should respond promptly and politely, but this should also extend to your wider social media strategy.

In fact, questions can be a great way to introduce yourself to a community member, and can also be used to promote a useful piece of content you may have written, if executed correctly. Keep your eye out for people on your own feed who are looking for solutions or advice, but also actively use the Twitter search bar to look up specific queries that people may be making. As with any social media interaction, you should always be cautious about making the response too self-promotional, and should consider whether your answer is appropriate to the situation before positing. You could even share a third party solution with them, providing that they are not a direct competitor.

*Tip* Use your insights gained on Twitter, to influence your wider content strategy. If you notice a pattern of common problems arising in your Twitter community, it could be time to address these. This could be as simple as creating an advice piece, or, if this relates directly to your business, it could mean making more impactful changes.

Post at the Right Time

While avoiding any cliché statements about being in the right place at the right time, Twitter posting should be carefully considered if you want to make the most of your opportunities. For the best results, you need to consider the data collected in your Twitter analytics in combination with general user insights, in order to plan your most important posts to go out at particularly active times of the day.

While it’s a good idea to post on Twitter over a variety of hours, in order to maintain activity, you should always ensure that your most important tweets are posted at points of peak activity, to avoid losing out on potentially valuable interactions. Naturally, this approach should be employed sensibly, and shouldn’t interfere with the impulsive nature of Twitter, which could even have the opposite of your desired effect. If a topic is currently trending, or there is an important event occurring, of course you should avoid this approach, which we will discuss further in our final point.

*Tip* If you have a good idea, but don’t think your timing will help you get the most from your tweet, you can use a tool like Hootsuite to help you schedule your posts. This way, you can prevent yourself from forgetting an idea or missing an opportunity, whilst ensuring that your tweet has the best chance of gaining attention and generating interactions.

Interact and React: Make the Most of Real-Time Events

Picking up from our last point, our final piece of advice concerns the value of interacting in correlation with real-time events, which is one of the most common uses of Twitter as a whole, but is perhaps one that could be adopted more by businesses. 

Naturally, the Twitter buzz surrounding high-profile conferences and business events is well-known, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be capable of hosting one such event, in order to make the most of the hype generated by them. In fact, this rule doesn’t just apply to events which have their own manufactured hashtag at all, but rather to the general live-reaction spirit of Twitter as a whole. It could relate to a television programme, popular culture, or even politics, but as long as you’re sure that it relates to your community, go ahead and make the most of these opportunities for extra exposure.

Naturally, some events and developments will relate clearly to your usual content and brand, but this doesn’t mean that they are the only events that you should be paying attention to. Think about your target audience, along with subjects that are closely related to your field, if not directly so. For example, a brand targeted at students would naturally be tweeting during high-profile events such as exam results, but could also benefit from tweeting about other events that would interest their audience, perhaps during the coverage of a music festival, for example. As always, the main aim is to strike a balance between being overly specific and focused on a single subject, and losing focus of your direction by jumping on every Twitter bandwagon that comes along.

*Tip* Always proofread your hashtag, and make sure you’re using the right one. 


If you'd like our help to create a thoughtful and engaging social media strategy, that will allow you to enhance your brand following and build relationships with your customers, simply get in touch with Designer Websites today!
Which colours should I choose for my website design?

Selecting a colour scheme for your company's website can be a tricky business - you ideally want something that not only looks good but also accurately reflects your brand and the work that you do.

In order to select the right combination of colours for your business, you need to have some understanding of colour meanings and the feelings that different hues evoke. Here's a rough guide to some common colours and what Western audiences tend to associate them with - which of these descriptions most closely resembles your organisation?

Red

Commonly associated with: love, passion, intensity, aggressiveness, action, danger

Red is the colour of danger - motorists see it every day on road signs and traffic lights, and it usually serves as a warning or an urgent instruction. Yet it's also associated with love and romance: think red hearts and red roses.

Red is a very attention-grabbing colour, and many websites use red sparingly to make one particular element (such as a call to action or a key piece of information) stand out above everything else. It is also commonly used in our neck of the woods to emphasise the company's close ties to Wales.

Blue

Commonly associated with: calmness, clarity, relaxation, understanding, imagination

Blue is a calm, relaxing colour that may be a good choice if you want people to feel at ease while browsing your website. It also carries implications of knowledge and an absence of limitations (you may be familiar with the phrase 'blue-sky thinking').

Blue is reportedly the most popular colour on the Internet. Famous blue websites include Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress, and many companies from all kinds of different industries use blue in their branding to suggest efficiency, clarity, approachability, and connectedness.

Yellow

Commonly associated with: happiness, energy, warmth, light, success

Yellow evokes sunshine and summertime - it's the colour of happiness, so if your company is all about making people happy then this could be a sound colour choice for your website design. One of the most ubiquitous logos in the world - the McDonald's 'M' -  is yellow, and that particular brand is entirely built around themes of joy, happiness, and customer satisfaction (just think of their motto: "I'm lovin' it").

Yellow's other connotations include energy (think yellow lightning bolts) and success (gold medals), so it's perfect if you want to present your brand as energetic, customer-focused, and determined to succeed.

Green

Commonly associated with: nature, the environment, hope, peace, good luck

More or less everyone understands the connotations of the colour green - even the word 'green' has long doubled as a synonym for 'environmentally-friendly'. If you want to bring your company's environmental credentials to the fore, or if you want your corporate branding to evoke the wholesomeness and harmony of nature, then you might want to think about incorporating some green into your colour scheme.

Orange

Commonly associated with: enthusiasm, creativity, determination, affordability 

Orange can be thought of as a somehwat friendlier alternative to red. It's still bright and eye-catching, but it doesn't have the same associations with danger and aggression. Orange tends to make people think of enthusiasm and creativity, making it a good choice if you want customers to view you as an eager organisation that's good at thinking outside the box.

Purple

Commonly associated with: glamour, power, royalty, luxury

Purple is the colour of monarchs; it makes people think of crowns, thrones and expensive jewellery. If you want to evoke glamour and luxury then purple may be the way forward - it suggests that you offer the most delux, high-end version of the product or service in which you specialise.

Black

Commonly associated with: professionalism, seriousness, wealth

This is an obvious choice for businesses who provide a service related to dying or mourning - funeral directors and bereavement counsellors, for example - but black isn't just the colour of death. It also evokes professionalism; businesspeople often wear black clothes and black shoes to look professional at work and in meetings, and this logic can be applied to corporate branding and website design as well.

Black says that you're serious about what you do, and it can also carry some of the same connotations as purple (specifically opulence and wealth - many luxury brands, including Rolex and Chanel, have bold black logos, and being 'in the black' means that you are financially solvent as opposed to being 'in the red'). 

Pink

Commonly associated with: sex, sweetness, femininity, love, nurturing

Pink and purple are both shades of magenta, and so this colour is sometimes used as a lighter, friendlier and/or 'cheaper' version of its darker counterpart. Pink still suggests a level of glitz and glamour, but it's less a night at the opera and more a night at the musicals. If purple is Madama Butterfly, then pink is Grease or Mamma Mia!

Obviously, pink is frequently used as a shorthand for femininity, and it's common to see it used on websites that specifically target women and/or girls. Pink is also the colour of sexuality, making it not just an appropriate colour for businesses of an adult nature but also a great way to subtly trigger the primal part of the brain that drives us to seek out sexual partners and reproduce.

Brown

Commonly associated with: dependability, earthiness, authenticity, tradition

Brown, like green, is a colour that's often associated with Earth and with the world around us. It suggests unrefined, non-manufactured authenticity, and it can be used to evoke environmental friendliness as well as personal health ('brown' foods such as brown bread and brown rice being seen as healthier than their 'white' equivalents) and a general sense of doing the right thing.

Brown also has strong ties to the past, and can be used by brands to play upon the consumer's desire for something traditional or old-fashioned. If you want to use nostalgia to persuade people to use your company, brown may be an effective colour choice both for your logo and for your website design.

Need help choosing the right website design for your business? Designer Websites can help - click here to request a FREE web design quote!
Ecommerce Tips

If you sell products online via an ecommerce website, one of the biggest challenges you'll face is convincing new users to take the plunge and buy from you for the very first time. It's common for e-shoppers (particularly those who are accustomed to huge online stores like Amazon and eBay) to be a little uncertain when using an ecommerce website that they've only just discovered; at this early stage, they probably have no idea whether or not you're able to provide a satisfactory service, and more cautious users may even worry that your online payment system isn't secure enough.

For this reason, establishing trust should be a key priority for any ecommerce website owner. If you don't do a good job of presenting yourself as a reliable and trustworthy retailer, the people who stumble upon your website may be very reluctant to actually purchase anything.

But what's the best way to earn that all-important sense of trust? Here are a few quick tips for helping customers to feel confident when using your ecommerce website:

Use reviews to demonstrate your reliability.

One of the most popular ways to instil confidence in online consumers is to show them reviews from people who bought the same item(s) from the same website in the past.

Five-star rating

Most ecommerce websites allow users to leave reviews, usually in the form of a star rating (one to five) and a few comments about the purchasing experience. If you want to do something a bit more in-depth, you could go further and allow users to rate different aspects of your service separately, like this:

In-depth review

However you choose to present them, populating your product pages with reviews from previous customers will really help new customers to feel less like they're venturing into the unknown.

Of course, the one drawback of this system is the possibility that customers might leave negative reviews, thus potentially making newcomers even more reluctant to purchase anything from your website. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to combat this problem. Some websites allow sellers to post public responses to customer reviews, meaning that anyone on the receiving end of a one-star rating has the opportunity to explain what happened and possibly redeem themselves in the eyes of future visitors. Alternatively, you might consider implementing a review moderation system that allows you to decide which reviews actually get published on your website (this is a good way to prevent people from posting abuse or lying about your company).

Still, if you provide a satisfactory service, you can probably depend on your customers to be kind in their reviews. And even if you do occasionally receive unflattering feedback, your site will probably still look more appealing to new customers than if you had no reviews whatsoever; a site with fifty positive reviews and five negative reviews will generally be seen as a better bet than a site offering no information at all on the experiences of previous customers.

Choose a trusted, well-known payment system.

For most of us, buying something online is now just as humdrum and as commonplace an activity as popping to the corner shop for some milk, and yet we're still very careful about giving away our financial information online. We're right to be cautions, of course - in 2014, fraud losses on UK-issued cards totalled roughly £479 million - but that caution can be hugely problematic for honest ecommerce retailers who need people to have faith in the concept of online payment.

The most straightforward way to convince customers that your checkout is secure? Use a well-known payment gateway like Sage Pay or PayPal. People tend to recognise names like these (in the case of PayPal, they may even have an account already set up), and this will help them to feel at ease when they're entering their card details on your website.

If you decide to use a different payment gateway, be sure to do your homework first. Find out whether or not the payment provider is trustworthy and reliable, and make absolutely sure that payments will be handled over a secure connection (HTTPS). 

HTTPS
This is what savvy consumers will be looking for when they reach your checkout page.

Show the human face of your business.

There are many reasons why consumers are generally more comfortable spending money in brick-and-mortar shops than on ecommerce websites, but one big reason is the lack of human faces. When you buy a book from your local Waterstones, the payment is handled by the person behind the till; they answer to a supervisor or manager, who in turn answers to someone at head office. There's a sense of accountability that's often absent when purchasing online, where it's easy to feel like you're buying from a machine with no human oversight.

Happily, this feeling is easy to dispel. It's a good idea to a 'Meet the Team' page to your website (here's ours) in order to introduce your customers to the people behind the machine; if you've got time, you may also want to consider sharing some photos from around the office on your blog and/or social media accounts.
Christmas Jumper Day

This is a great way to demonstrate that your online business is every bit as 'alive' as any high street shop, and that there are real people dealing with each order and reading each email.

Ensure that your website is functional and modern-looking.

A visitor's trust in your website will erode very quickly if they're encountering problems like these as they navigate the buying process:
  • Broken links that lead to 404 error pages
  • Pages that load slowly...or not at all!
  • Non-intuitive navigation (i.e. you've made it difficult for the user to find what they're looking for)
  • Missing (or low-quality) images
  • Poorly-written site copy that's rife with spelling/grammar mistakes
If you're raising any of these red flags, it will massively affect consumer confidence - after all, if you've made mistakes on your website, what's to say that you won't make mistakes with the orders you ship?

On a related note, it's important for any serious ecommerce retailer to invest in a clean, modern-looking website design. Your website is your shop floor, and if you don't make it look appealing, people will be markedly less inclined to stay and browse. This isn't just an aesthetic issue, either; a poor-quality design can be difficult to navigate, and if it looks particularly outdated, people may even get the impression that you're no longer in operation - they might think you've abandoned your online store entirely and moved on to pastures new, leaving the site to gather dust in some forgotten corner of the Internet.

We'd also recommend opting for a responsive website design, as this will provide mobile and tablet users with a far better purchasing experience. Millions of people now regularly use portable devices to shop online, so you're potentially missing out on a big chunk of the market if you stick with a non-responsive design.

Make yourself easy to contact.

Nobody's perfect, and even the best companies make occasional mistakes. It would be fantastic if you could eliminate all issues within your business, but in the first instance, it's more important to ensure that customers can easily report and resolve their issues when they arise.

So here's what you need to do: list your company's contact details PROMINENTLY on your website (e.g. in the site header, or on a contact page that's linked from the main site menu) and make sure that those contact details are up to date and active. You should ideally list as many different contact methods as possible; some people will want to send you an email, while others may prefer to speak on the phone. You might also consider listing office opening times, in case anyone is expecting you to answer the phone at 8pm on a Saturday.

Offering a live chat option is another great way to be there for your customers, but don't make this commitment unless you're actually prepared to answer all the chat messages that come through!

Live chat window
Live chat isn't email - when people see a window like this, they'll expect somebody to answer their enquiry straight away.

In summary...

People who shop online take a leap of faith every time they place an order. If a user gets to that point on your website, it's because you've done a good job of convincing them that:
  • Their payment details will be handled securely
  • Their order will be dispatched quickly and delivered within the stated timeframe
  • Their item(s) will arrive in good condition and match the description on the website
  • Any problems they happen to encounter will be taken seriously and resolved efficiently
In order to earn the trust of new customers, you need to do whatever you can to reassure them of those four things. We hope this blog post has shown you a few ways to do that - if you can think of others, please do let us know on Twitter!

How we can help

Designer Websites is an established web development company specialising in ecommerce websites. Over the past decade, we have helped countless businesses to succeed online - here are just a few examples of what we can help you with:

When it comes to commissioning a web design and development project, we understand that the process can sometimes be confusing for business owners, particularly those who are building their online presence from scratch. Perhaps the most confusing aspect of all, is the level of input required from the business owner, which can vary massively depending on each case. While some clients may have a very specific idea in mind that they are determined to stick to at all costs, others may want to hand over most of the work to the design team, as they feel that they lack the direction and knowledge required to make a truly informed decision.

At Designer Websites, we’ve helped a variety of clients over the years, and feel it’s important to inform those who are looking to commission a website, about the steps they should be taking both before and during the process. Here a few common mistakes that can be made when planning a website, along with some advice about how and why to avoid them:

Mistake #1 - Setting your sights on a design that’s wrong for your business:

A common problem that may arise at the very beginning of the process, is a request for a design that is completely wrong for the business in question. While it can be useful to browse the internet for design ques, in order to get a better idea of which direction your headed in, insisting on emulating a design that has nothing to do with your business, can only end in disappointment. While it goes without saying that your design should be visually appealing, this also has to combine with functionality and business aims in order to create a truly successful website. There is little point in having a website with an ultra-sleek design that fails to sustain the interest of your customer, or present any of the required information to promote your brand and services. Having a clear idea of what you want can be a big help to your design team, but be prepared for these ideas to evolve according to the needs of your business, and the purpose of your site.

Mistake #2 – Assuming that the design doesn’t need to perform on mobile:

Despite the hundreds of articles that have circulated in recent years, which insist on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website, some businesses continue ignore this vital element of modern web design. Whether you think that your target demographic are likely to search predominantly on mobile devices or not, there’s simply no denying the fact that mobile search has overtaken desktop, which means that regardless of your audience, there will be many people who arrive on your site his way.

If you deal in ecommerce, then this should be something of a no-brainer for you, although a mobile-friendly design can also present a range of benefits to sites who are not looking to target direct sales. The main reason, which applies to any and all websites, is that Google have openly said that they favour mobile friendly websites, using it as a ranking signal to determine how your site shows up in search results. 

Mistake #3 - Forgetting functionality:

Business owners can sometimes neglect the most important element of the entire project – the end user. If your design is based solely on what you think looks and sounds good, or you just take a ‘web design 101’ approach to the project, then you’re completely missing the point of a great web design. It’s absolutely vital that you think about how your website will engage existing customers, and also consider how to attract new followers to your brand. Your website has to be easy to use, and it also has to deliver what people are looking for when they discover your business. While there are best practices that apply to all web designs, you have to think beyond the basics if you want a website that both meets and responds to the needs of the intended user.

Mistake #4 – Coming to the table without aims, ideas and targets:

A flaw that can sometimes hinder the design process, is the fact that many business have realised that they need to appear online, but aren’t sure how to go about it. A website should not only compliment your business, but be an extension of it, allowing you to enhance existing services and attributes, while also generating new possibilities. Before you begin the design processes, it is important that you consider not only what you want the website to achieve, but also what is possible in the modern digital world. You also have to make sure that this aim is clear enough to be understood by the viewer, in conjunction with the last point about usability. Some points to consider include:

  • If I want to influence sales through my website, what is the best way for me to do this?
  • How do I want potential customer to contact me?
  • Am I looking to provide an extension of my services to existing/typical users, or am I looking to appeal to a different   audience?
  • What messages are most important to by business? What’s the first thing I want people to see?
  • What images do people in my industry respond to? Am I looking to correspond to certain expectations, or do I want to provide a new/unconventional experience?
  • Will I need scope to add new content and additional features in the future? How could this website potentially expand my business?

Mistake #5 – Stuffing in social media for the sake of it:

Using social media for business has become almost as important as the website itself, and for many businesses this may even prove to be just as influential for driving business. The problem with using social media within, or in conjunction with, your business, is that there is no universal approach to success with it, and not every platform will provide a positive result for a business. Having said this, choosing the right social media platform, and including this in your website in the correct manner, can provide tremendous results for your business. After thinking about which accounts you should have in the first place, your second thought should concern how these will fit into your website. Social feeds and icons need to enhance your website, not hinder it, so be very cautious about adding these in without careful consideration. Here are some examples of questions you should ask yourself, before rushing into the set-up of your on-site social media:

  • Which icons should appear? Do I need to provide every social media account, or just those which are most valuable to the business?
  • How should these social icons appear? How can I make them prominent, without distracting from the more important features of the website?
  • Is a feed right for my website, or will it just distract my users away from my site? Are my social accounts active enough to produce a feed which looks up-to-date and relevant?

If you’re have a web design project in mind, and are looking for the right knowledge and expertise to bring your vision to life, then get in touch with the team at Designer Websites! For more information, or to request a free, no-obligation quote, simply fill in our quick and easy contact form here.
With 85% of mobile search results now meeting Google's mobile-friendly criteria, the search giant has found a new battle to fight...

Intrusive Pop-Ups

Don't you hate it when you're reading an article on your smartphone and you're ambushed by an unexpected pop-up that takes up the entire screen? Well, it looks like the people at Google agree with you, because they've pledged to punish sites that use this technique by diminishing their mobile search rankings. This blog post (published last week on the Google Webmaster Central Blog) makes the following promise:

"To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly."

The announcement feels like the start of a new chapter in Google's ongoing endeavour to give users the best possible online experience. You may remember 'Mobilegeddon', that day in April 2015 when Google changed its mobile search algorithm to favour pages with a mobile-friendly design; some time before that, in November 2014, they introduced the 'Mobile-friendly' label, which sat alongside mobile-friendly websites in the SERPs and helped users to identify at a glance which results would function well on their smartphones.

Example of Mobile Friendly Label
Image from Search Engine Land

Interestingly, Google has now retired the 'Mobile-friendly' label, stating that "85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label". Since the majority of mobile results are now mobile-friendly (probably thanks in part to the 'Mobilegeddon' algorithm change), the 'Mobile-friendly' labels were starting to make things look cluttered, so Google has gotten rid of them. In doing so, the Big G has effectively declared this particular battle won: most of the pages listed in the search engine's mobile results are now mobile-friendly (i.e. you can read and use them on a smartphone without having to zoom in), so it's time to pack up and move on to the next fight.

And the next fight for Google is against pop-ups, or "intrusive interstitials" as the new blog post calls them. Pop-up windows tend to be pretty annoying no matter what device you're using, but they're particularly problematic for mobile users, especially when they fill the whole screen and effectively blockade the user from accessing the desired content. Even so, a lot of websites - including some of the largest, most well-respected media outlets around - use irritating interstitials for all kinds of different purposes, including:
  • Encouraging people to sign up to a mailing list
  • Telling users to install an app
  • Advertising
If your website uses pop-ups for any of these purposes, you may want to revise your strategy before the 10th of January, 2017. From that date onwards, Google will be penalising sites that use intrusive interstitials, meaning that your pages may stop showing in Google search results on mobile devices - and with mobile's share of total internet use increasing all the time, that's a loss that you probably don't want to suffer!

What kind of pop-ups will trigger a penalty?

Interstitials are used in many different ways throughout the Internet. Fortunately, Google has given us a pretty solid idea of which ones they're out to get and which ones will be allowed to slip through this new penalty's net. Here are a few examples...

Scenario #1: Sign Up Now!

Let's say you have a website featuring a variety of articles about all the latest movies and TV shows. When somebody reads one of your pieces, they can view everything above the fold without interruption, but as soon as they scroll down, surprise! A pop-up window appears containing a message like this:

SIGN UP NOW!
Join our mailing list and you'll never miss the latest news and insights from our team of talented writers.

Enter your email here...

Don't worry, we'll never send you any spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

The frustrated user now has to tap on the little 'x' in the corner of your sign-up form in order to carry on reading. It's highly likely that sites using this sort of tactic will be penalised under Google's new rules, so if you're currently using pop-up forms like the example above, you should strongly consider changing tack before the 10th of January.

(To be honest, this isn't a great way to encourage people to join your mailing list anyway, as it disrupts their experience of your site and possibly sours them on your brand as a whole. You'll make your users happier - and probably get more sign-ups in the long run - if you take a different route, e.g. placing a call to action at the end of each article rather than covering up the article itself.)

Scenario #2: Try the App!

Let's now imagine that your film and TV website has a mobile app that makes it easier for smartphone users to navigate and consume your content. You know that your website, while mobile-friendly, isn't as good as your app when it comes to giving smartphone users a good online experience, and so whenever a mobile user arrives on your main site, you show them this pop-up:

BROWSING ON YOUR SMARTPHONE? RIGHT THIS WAY!
Our app makes it easy to keep up with everything we post.

Download from the App Store >
Download from Google Play >

You might think that you're doing your readers a favour here by directing them to a more user-friendly platform, but in reality, most people will just be annoyed that you've put a great big pop-up in the way of the article they wanted to read. Sites that do this probably will be penalised in Google's mobile rankings unless they cut it out by the 10th of January.

Bear in mind that Google's goal is to satisfy each query as quickly and as smoothly as possible. If they send someone to your website, it's because the algorithm thinks you have the information or the content that person wanted; if you put up barriers between the users and that content, there's a good chance that Google - eager to achieve total user satisfaction -will send people somewhere else instead.

Scenario #3: How Old Are You?

Finally, let's look at an example of an interstitial that most likely won't result in a penalty come January 2017.

Imagine you own an ecommerce website that sells wines and spirits online. Because alcoholic drinks are an age-restricted product, you are required by law to ask each user to verify their age before admitting them to your website's content. One easy way to do this? A non-dismissable pop-up that appears as soon as someone lands on your site for the first time and prompts them to enter their date of birth.

PLEASE ENTER YOUR DATE OF BIRTH

DD MM YYYY
Click to select country...

To view this website, you must be over the legal drinking age in the country where you live.

Since this interstitial is in place to fulfil a legal requirement, your website should be spared when Google cracks down on intrusive interstitials in January. Another example of a legally mandated pop-up would be a notice explaining that your website uses cookies.

Google are also saying that they'll let you off if your pop-ups "use a reasonable amount of screen space". This suggests that site owners will still be able to get away with using pop-up banners as long as they don't cover too much of the content being viewed. An example would be a small banner that appears at the top or bottom of the screen prompting users to click a link or download an app.

Download the Google app
In fact, Google use this approach themselves!

Worried that your rankings will be affected by the forthcoming Google penalty? Anxious to remove the pop-ups from your website before they cause any problems? Get in touch with Designer Websites today - call 01446 339050 or click here to request a quote for a new, Google-friendly website design.
301 Redirects

If you want to manage your website effectively and provide a smooth, hassle-free experience for both users and search engines, the 301 redirect is one of the most important items in your toolkit.

A 301 redirect is a piece of code used to indicate that the requested piece of content has permanently moved to a different location. You should use a 301 if one of your old URLs is no longer in use, as this will automatically redirect the user (or search engine bot) to the new version of that page.

Example of a 301 redirect

Let's say you're the owner of www.my-bikes.coman ecommerce website that sells bicycles. You have a page dedicated to folding bicycles located at the following URL:

http://www.my-bikes.com/folding

Lots of people link to this page, but for whatever reason, you've decided to change its URL to something slightly different:

http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes

Once you've changed the page's URL, anyone who tries to visit the old web address (http://www.my-bikes.com/folding) will see a 404 error message, because that page technically no longer exists.

However, you can use a 301 redirect to ensure that anyone who visits http://www.my-bikes.com/folding is automatically sent to http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes instead. Here's how that works:
  • A user attempts to visit http://www.my-bikes.com/folding (perhaps they clicked an old link, or maybe they had it bookmarked)

  • Your 301 redirect tells their web browser to go to http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes instead of the defunct URL that was initially requested

  • The user is taken straight to http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes and, with any luck, they buy a new bike from you!
This is the correct way to handle a page that has permanently moved from one URL to another, so be sure to use a 301 redirect every time you change a page's URL. You should also use a 301 redirect if you're deleting a page and you think its URL should take visitors another to relevant page instead of an error notification.

Why use a 301 redirect?

301 redirects are handy for a number of different reasons:
  • Smoother user experience. If a page no longer exists but lots of users are still trying to access it, it's a good idea to redirect the old URL to a new, still-active page. Otherwise, all of those visitors will run into 404 errors - not particularly conducive to a satisfying user experience!

  • Prevents broken links. When you delete a page from your website, any links to that page will cease to work. Anyone who clicks those links will be greeted with a 404 error message...unless you use a 301 redirect to point the old links at a new page.

  • SEO juice isn't lost. When somebody links to your website, it's kind of like a vote of confidence; they're saying, 'yes, this is a good site that is worth visiting'. Those 'votes' can have a big impact on your Google rankings, especially if the linking website has a good reputation, because a link passes some of their authority on to you. However, if that high-authority website is linking to a URL that no longer exists, you won't feel the full benefit of the link unless you redirect the old URL to an active URL, thus passing the other site's authority (or 'juice') to a different part of your website.

  • Helps search engines to index your website properly. 301 redirects make it crystal-clear to Google and other search engines which of your URLs you want indexed and which are no longer in use. Also, if you change the URL of a page that already ranks highly in the SERPs, you should put a 301 redirect on the old URL so that you don't have to wait for your site to be re-crawled (failing to put in a 301 redirect will mean that anyone who clicks on your high-ranking page in the search results will be shown an error message, at least until your website is crawled again).

How to Add a 301 Redirect

The method for implementing a 301 redirect varies depending on a number of different factors. In some cases, it's possible to do it yourself, but it's generally a good idea to speak to your web developer or hosting company and ask them to put in any necessary redirect(s) for you.

If you need help managing your website and ensuring that it's fully optimised for user satisfaction and search engine success, get in touch with Designer Websites today.
JSM Responsive Website

JSM Models & Effects called up the Designer Websites office recently because they wanted to give their online presence an overhaul. JSM create all kinds of amazing models and visuals for projects large and small; however, their rather dated website wasn't really doing the company's work justice, and so they asked us to come up with an attractive, modern-looking design that would capture both the attention and the imagination of potential clients.

As ever, our web design experts were more than up to the task, and we believe we've succeeded in producing a website that's worthy of JSM's spectacular creations.

All images courtesy of JSM Model Makers

The new website has a responsive design, which means that it's easy to use and appealing to look at no matter what device you're using. The design automatically adapts to the screen on which it's viewed, resulting in a superb user experience for everyone.

It's always a joy to create a website like this one, because the visual elements (photos of JSM's models, in this case) do most of the talking. That being said, there are a lot of other things to take into account behind the scenes, and we all worked very hard to ensure that every element of the new JSM website was spot on. Our UI and dev teams concentrated on delivering a smooth, intuitive journey through the website, while our SEO specialists collaborated closely with the guys at JSM to make sure that the site copy was search engine-friendly while also appealing to the company's target audience.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable project to work on, and we hope that JSM are as happy with the finished website as we are. To see it for yourself, visit www.modelmakers.co.uk now.

Do you need a responsive website for your business? Whatever your industry, we'd be thrilled to hear from you - give us a call on 01446 339050 or click here to request a quotation.

We are repeatedly reminded of how important it is to enhance our online presence with engaging content, but what use is a great infographic or a highly informative blog tutorial, if no one clicks through in the first place?

A great headline can make all the difference when it comes to engaging your audience, so it’s important to get this right in order to give your painstakingly thought-out content the best chance at success. Of course, no two pieces are the same, and no ‘one-size’ approach will always be suitable, which is why we’ve put together a list of various techniques to keep you inspired.

No matter who you’re targeting, or what the piece aims to achieve, the correct use of the following techniques can massively increase the engagement rate on your content, making the hours you’ve spent creating it worthwhile:

Write With Authority 

If you’re able to generate a sense of knowledge and authority surrounding your piece, then potential readers will be more likely to regard this as a useful source of information, and consider it a worthwhile read.
Examples:
‘The Essential Guide to ______’
‘The Best Way to _________’
‘Everything You Need to Know About _______’

Take Advantage of Title Generator Tools

If you’re a stuck for ideas, or you simply want to shake things up a little, then title generator tools can be a great way to create unusual, striking and thought-provoking headlines. Used in reverse, these tools can also make a great writing prompt if you have a subject of interest or keyword that you would like to target, but aren’t feeling particularly inspired.

Target Your Intended Reader 

If your piece is targeted towards a specific audience or readership, then why not make this obvious in the title? Engaging with related communities and influencers is, as we all know, a vital element of content marketing, which means that getting the right eyes on your piece is crucial. If a tile actively calls out or mentions people in a certain profession, or with a particular interest/hobby, they are far more likely to feel a connection to your piece right away, increasing the chances of them clicking through.

Convey a Sense of Urgency 

We’re used to urgency being used as a sales technique, but it can also be remarkably effective when it comes to sharing your content too! Whether you’re delivering a warning, or suggesting a change in behaviour, encouraging your reader to act is always a great way to capture their attention and draw them in.

Use the Power of Lists 

They may be everywhere these days, but there’s a reason why the ‘listacle’ is such a popular format for blogs and online articles. If a piece of content is organised and assigned value by placing it into a numbered list, it not only provokes curiosity, but also suggests that the information will be presented in an easy-to-digest format. Both of these attributes combine to not only to make the piece highly appealing on initial appearance, but also make it compulsively readable once the reader has clicked through.

Use Sensationalism

This is one to be careful with! Readers are becoming more and more attuned to the ‘clickbait’ strategy of luring people in with a controversial headline, only to leave them disappointed with bland content, or a poorly thought-out sales pitch. Despite this, when used correctly, a controversial statement/provocative question can still be used as a great starting point, prompting readers to challenge or decipher the reasoning behind your opening statement. 

Experiment 

If you work in digital marketing, it’s highly likely that you’ll already be familiar with the concept of A/B testing, so why not extend this to your creative content? While you may not wish to edit the title of the piece itself, you can still make alterations to the copy used to promote your piece, as well as the title image used to accompany it. By comparing the results gained by these advertorial headlines, you can gain a better understanding of what is encouraging readers to engage with your piece, and use this information to get the most from your content.

Provide Solutions to Problem Questions

If your piece has a tutorial element, or aims to demonstrate an alternative approach to an existing practice, then you should definitely pitch your blog/article as a problem solving piece in your headline! Of course, you may find the traditional ‘how to’ to be a bit bland, which can be remedied by adding additional value to the information you will be providing. Inform your reader that you will not only be explaining how to do something, but will be highlighting the best, easiest or correct way to do it! 

Let the Facts Speak

If your piece is based on experimental research or even a single revelation, you should exploit the value of this in your headline. When presented with a figure, fact or statement, it stands to reason that the curiosity and problem-solving instincts of your reader will provoke them to discover more; an aim which can only be achieved by reading your article!


Find out how the team of copywriters and content marketing specialists at Designer Websites can help you to produce high-quality, attention-grabbing content here.

M-Commerce Tips

You probably knew this already, but a lot of people use smartphones to browse the Internet nowadays. The total number of mobile web users is almost constantly increasing, and if you have a website, you may well have noticed that more and more of your traffic is coming from mobile devices.

We'll use ourselves as an example. In April 2012, less than 5% of Designer Websites' total site traffic came from mobile devices. By April 2015, that number was up to 12%. Our total site traffic for April of this year was 32% mobile, meaning that roughly 1 in 3 people who visited www.designer-websites.co.uk this April did so using a mobile device such as a smartphone.

Mobile Usage Graph

Bear in mind that our website is primarily targeted at business owners, most of whom are probably sitting at their desks when they discover us; the spike in mobile use becomes even more pronounced when you look at a more consumer-focused website. Here's what that graph looks like when we take the data from www.gadgetinspector.co.uk, an ecommerce (shopping) website that specialises in gadgets and gifts:

Gadget Inspector - Mobile Usage
Thanks to the Gadget Inspector team for giving us permission to share this data.

Make no bones about it: mobile users are a segment of the market that you can't afford to ignore, especially if you have an ecommerce website. According to pymnts.com, over 18 million consumers in the UK alone are estimated to shop using a mobile device on a regular basis (that's 6 times the entire population of Wales!) and this is an audience whose commerce you may be missing out on if your website isn't offering mobile users a good online experience.

So how can I capitalise on the mobile revolution?

If you're ready to enter the m-commerce market and meet the needs of those 18 million mobile shoppers, there are a few important things you'll want to focus on. Here are our recommendations for ecommerce site owners who want to encourage mobile users to buy from them:

Get a responsive website.

The first and most crucial consideration for any budding m-commerce giant is developing a website that looks good and functions well on mobile devices. There are several different ways to approach this challenge, but we recommend using responsive web design techniques to ensure that your site can adapt smoothly to any screen size. A well-made responsive website will deliver a superb user experience across all devices, from PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets, and it will save you from having to redirect mobile users to a mobile version of your site (e.g. m.example.com) that's separate from - and potentially inconsistent with - the site you're showing desktop users.

Creating an app specifically for mobile users may be a viable alternative to creating a responsive website, but while many businesses choose to explore the app option, this tactic does come with a number of drawbacks. For one thing, forcing mobile users to download an app may put some of them off, as downloading an app (even if it's free of charge) constitutes an extra commitment to your business that many consumers may not be willing to make. It makes sense for an ecommerce Goliath like Amazon to offer an app, as they have many committed customers who will enjoy having that extra convenience, but if your primary goal here is to entice new customers to your business then you're better off letting them discover and access your services via their phones' web browsers instead.

It's also worth noting that, according to searchenginewatch.com, mobile users make more purchases via browsers than via apps anyway. For these and other reasons, we would always recommend creating a responsive website for your business instead of targeting mobile customers with an app, at least in the first instance. The time to start thinking about apps is when you've already got a large base of customers who use their phones to access your business - at that point, perhaps they'll be happy to make that extra commitment in exchange for the added ease of an app.

Keep loading times to a bare minimum.

Nobody likes waiting an eternity for a webpage to load, but long loading times are particularly toxic when your users are on the go. Smartphone users want their content right away, and if you take too long to deliver it, a sizeable chunk of your traffic will bounce back to the search results and end up on a competitor's website instead. This infographic from KISSmetrics contains lots of interesting stats about load times and how they affect user engagement, but perhaps the most compelling titbit is this one:

"A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. If your ecommerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year."

Every second counts in the world of m-commerce, so make use of tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights to ensure that nothing is slowing your website down.

Make the payment process as simple as possible.

Once the user has finished browsing your website and filling their basket with all of your amazing products, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to complete the checkout process and finalise their order. Remember, convenience is key in the mobile market, and just as people won't want to wait ages for your site to finish loading, they might not have the time or the patience to register for an account and fill out loads of little boxes in order to finalise what may have been a spur-of-the-moment purchase in the first place.

So how can you make the last part of the purchasing process quick and painless for your site's users? The key here is payment integration; for example, many people have PayPal accounts, so if you can offer PayPal as one of your payment options you'll potentially save a lot of customers a lot of hassle.

If you allow (or indeed force) users to create an account with your business when they place an order, you may want to review that system before you attempt to conquer the mobile market. The idea with this sort of thing is usually to make life easier for repeat customers; by creating an account, these people are saved from having to enter their payment and delivery details anew each time they buy from you. Registering for an account is inconvenient in the short term because you have to fill out even more boxes, but it's more convenient in the long term because it means that future orders can be completed by simply entering a set of login details.

But here's the thing: the majority of mobile users probably aren't interested in that long-term convenience. They're not planning ahead, thinking of the precious seconds they'll save later if they take the time to register now - they just want to finish what they're doing as quickly as possible and get back to scrolling through Twitter. With this in mind, you may decide that it's better to scrap the 'Create an Account' step altogether, or at least offer an 'Express Checkout' option for users who aren't interested in registering.

HenStuff Checkout Page

Here's an example from the checkout page of www.henstuff.co.uk, an ecommerce website specialising in hen night accessories and party supplies. Registered users simply enter their login details; new customers can either create a new account ('Register Now') or checkout without creating an account ('Express Checkout').

Review and improve!

Websites are often very different  when it comes to how users interact with them, and so it's unlikely that you'll nail the mobile shopping experience right away. That's OK, though - you just need to keep an eye on how people are interacting with your website and make ongoing improvements as necessary. Tools like Google Analytics are great for reviewing mobile use of your website and identifying areas that need work; for example, if a particular landing page has an abnormally high bounce rate on mobile devices specifically, you may want to reassess that page's design and alter it to ensure that your mobile users are getting the same great experience as your desktop visitors.

Need some help with your m-commerce efforts? The Designer Websites team are here to help! Here are some of the services we can provide:
by Joseph Valente, Managing Director of ImpraGas and BBC Apprentice winner 2015

Joseph Valente
I'm a big believer in doing things your own way. Here in the UK, you're told from a young age that there's a specific route you're meant to take through life: pass your GCSEs. do your A-levels, go to university and find a job once your degree's in the bag. But I didn't choose that path, and I doubt that my life would be as good as it is right now if I had. Things got off to a bumpy start when I was expelled from school at 15 years old, but this setback quickly turned into an opportunity when a local plumbing company allowed me to join their team. I agreed to work for free because I knew that the experience and the practical skills I stood to gain would be far more valuable than cash in the long run.

In 2006, I decided that I wanted to take the next step towards a career as a tradesperson and enrolled on a plumbing apprenticeship course at Peterborough College. After that, I trained in London and became qualified gas engineer. In 2012 - by which time many of the people I had known in school were graduation from uni and taking their first uncertain steps into the world of work - I took out a £20,000 loan and started my own business, ImpraGas. At first it was just me and my van, but the company soon began to grow, and now I've got a whole team of gas engineers, a fully-staffed office, a fleet of vans, and Lord Sugar as my business partner.

Joseph Valente and Lord Sugar

The reason I mention all of this is to illustrate that there's always more than one way of doing things. Tradespeople should be more aware of this fact than anyone else: I've spoken to countless people within the plumbing and gas industries, and many of them have stories that are very similar to mine. Taking up a trade often goes hand-in-hand with choosing not to go to uni, and if you were to ask the average tradesman or woman, they'd probably tell you that at some point they made a conscious decision to reject the 'standard' path that goes school > university > job.

And yet, for a field that's all about doing things differently, the trade industry is in many aspects surprisingly set in its ways. Most of the tradespeople I meet rely mainly on word of mouth to find new work, and those that do bother to actively promote themselves tend to stick with old-school platforms like newspaper ads and the Yellow Pages. While there's nothing wrong with any of these tried and tested methods (word of mouth in particular will always be valuable in this industry), it seems to me that people are potentially missing out on a lot of lucrative work by ignoring the possibilities the Internet has to offer.

We recently relaunched the ImpraGas site with some help from the team at Designer Websites, and I have to say I learned quite a lot over the course of this project. Now that the new and improved version of www.impragas.co.uk is live and we're starting to reap the benefits of all the hard work that went into it, I'd like to share a few suggestions with my fellow tradesmen and women on how they can grow their businesses on the World Wide Web:

Have a website.

Okay, this probably seems blindingly obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many plumbing and heating companies don't even bother to tick this box. Your website should form the foundation of all your online marketing efforts, so make sure you've got one and make sure it represents your business in the best possible light. With more and more people browsing the Internet on smartphones nowadays, it's probably also a good idea to go for what's called a responsive website (a site with a flexible design that changes to fit the screen you're viewing it on).

Get on Google.

Instead of leafing through the Yellow Pages every time they need a plumber, most people these days just go to Google. If your website's done right and properly optimised, you'll hopefully get some referrals from Google anyway, but the most important thing for tradespeople is to get listed with Google My Business. There's no fee for this; all you have to do is fill in some basic details about your company - what you're called, where you're based, what area(s) you cover - and Google will start including you in its local results when somebody nearby searches for the service you provide. You know when you Google something and the first thing you see is a map with local businesses dotted around it? If you want your company to show up on that map, signing up with Google My Business will give you a much better chance of getting there.

Google Local Results

Sign up for social media.

There are a lot of people on sites like Facebook and Twitter. A lot of them are probably located near you, and some of them could one day be among your most loyal customers. Set up a Facebook business page and ask all your friends to 'Like' it, then create a Twitter account and get involved in the conversations that are local to you and/or relevant to your trade. Both Facebook and Twitter are free to use, so what have you got to lose?

Get people to link to your website.

There are two reasons to ask people to link to your site. The most obvious benefit of a link is that people might click it, take a look at your site, and perhaps end up giving you a call or sending the link to their friend who needs a new boiler. But links are also important in the eyes of Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. As far as they're concerned, when somebody links to your website they're basically giving you a seal of approval, and the more seals of approval you get, the more confidence Google and the others will have in your company and its website. This will mean that you're more likely to show up towards the top of Google's results pages. That being said, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to links, and it's EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to make sure you're not getting links from websites that are spammy or low-quality as these can actually do more harm than good as far as your Google rankings are concerned. You ideally want links from popular, high-quality websites that are reasonably relevant to the field you're in.

Britain is still suffering from a skills shortage at the moment, so there's lots of work out there for skilled, qualified tradespeople. However, we as an industry need to realise that an overwhelming majority of people now use the Internet to find the right person for their job, and if we're not willing to embrace the online revolution and make an effort to be seen online then we'll quickly get overtaken by other tradespeople who are.

If you need a website designer or someone who can assist with your company's online marketing efforts, I'd strongly recommend that you contact the team at Designer Websites. They're friendly, they're professional, and they're exceptionally skilled at what they do - click here to request a quotation for your project.
ImpraGas website

If you watched the latest series of The BBC Apprentice last year, you'll probably remember Joseph Valente: he's the plumber from Peterborough who triumphed over dating expert Vana Koutsomitis in the final and won a £250,000 business investment from Lord Sugar.

Lord Sugar and Joseph Valente

Joseph's business - the one that benefited from Lord Sugar's £250k investment - is named ImpraGas, and we're pleased to report that the company's brand new website went live at the end of last week. ImpraGas offer an elite boiler installation service to customers right across the UK, and we believe that the website we have designed for them (www.impragas.co.uk) will help the business to scale new heights and reach countless new customers nationwide.

Among other useful features, the new and improved ImpraGas website boasts a sophisticated yet straightforward boiler quote builder that allows potential customers to get an accurate boiler quotation in minutes. This tool is incredibly easy to use - all you have to do is answer a few simple questions (e.g. 'How many bathrooms does your home have?' 'Whereabouts is your current boiler located?'), and you'll be presented with a quotation for your new boiler based on the information you've supplied. Easy!

Here's what Joseph Valente himself had to say about his company's new website:

"When I won The BBC Apprentice in late 2015, I knew that it was the beginning of a bright new chapter for my business. With this in mind, we decided that it was time to give the ImpraGas website a makeover; the old site had served us well, but it was clear that we'd have to up our game if we were going to achieve the results we wanted. I knew that Designer Websites had worked with a couple of BBC Apprentice winners in the past, and so they were an obvious first port of call for us – after one meeting, I was certain that DW were the company for me. Their previous work really impressed me, and it was great to meet people who knew how to be both professional and totally approachable.

"Collaborating with Designer Websites to create the new ImpraGas site has been a really great experience. They were always ready to listen to our ideas, and they paid close attention to all the feedback we gave them. One of my concerns going into this project was that our web designers would just churn out a site without really thinking about whether or not it suited the business, but I could tell very early on that Designer Websites weren't that sort of organisation – they really went above and beyond to ensure they understood what we were going for and how the online stuff would fit into our operation as a whole.

"Having seen the finished website, I have to say I'm over the moon with the job that DW have done. It's professional, it's modern, and I think our customers are going to find it a joy to use. I particularly like the boiler quotation system, which allows people to get an accurate quote for their new boiler by simply answering a few quick questions on the website. All in all, I'm completely satisfied with the new ImpraGas website and I'd be only too happy to recommend DW to any business looking to revamp their website."

- Joseph Valente, Managing Director of ImpraGas

Huge thanks to Joseph for such a glowing review. This is actually the third time we've developed a website for a BBC Apprentice winner - we also worked with science recruitment specialist Ricky Martin to create the Hyper Recruitment Solutions website, and with Dr Leah Totton to build a site for her cosmetic skin clinics. We're very proud of our track record, and we're pleased to say that both Ricky and Dr Leah were just as pleased with our work as Joseph!

If you'd like to us to design and develop a new website for your business, click here to request a quotation or give us a call on 01446 339050 today.
Google Search Console

Google Search Console (formerly know as Google Webmaster Tools) is an indispensable tool for site owners who wish to maximise their organic Google traffic. Search Console effectively allows you to view your site through the eyes of the search engine, so you can see which pages Google has indexed, which pages it thinks could be improved, and which potentially problematic errors it has spotted.

There are roughly two dozen different sections within Search Console, some of which deal with fairly complex stuff. For this reason, Search Console can be a little overwhelming when you see it for the first time, particularly if you don't know what phrases like 'structured data' and 'robots.txt' mean.

It's a good idea to learn about each section and check them all on a regular basis. However, if you're just starting out with Search Console and you only want to see the most important pieces of information for now, here are 5 key areas that you should be keeping a close eye on - we recommend checking each of these at least once a week to ensure that your website remains in tip-top condition.
Messages

1. Messages

If you only ever look at one part of your Search Console account, make sure it's the Messages window. If anything serious happens in any of the other sections - for example, if there's a sudden influx of crawl errors, or if Google's crawlers are unable to access your site - you'll get a message to notify you about the problem, and this is where you'll find it.

HTML Improvements

2. HTML Improvements

This part of the Console is all about your website's title tags and meta descriptions. Google will put a note in this section if it spots any of the following issues on your site:
  • A page's title tag is too long or too short.
  • A page's meta description is too long or too short.
  • A page doesn't have a title tag.
  • Multiple pages have the same title tag and/or meta description (duplication).
  • A page has a title tag that Google considers 'non-informative'.
  • Google finds some content on your site that it cannot index.
It's a good idea to stay on top of these issues and fix them as soon as they arise (this is usually a question of simply rewriting the title tag or meta description in question). Good-quality title tags and meta descriptions will benefit you in two ways: firstly, they will encourage people to click on your site when it appears in Google's search results, and secondly, they will help Google itself to identify which term(s) it should list your site for.

Mobile Usability

3. Mobile Usability

More and more people are using mobile devices to browse the Internet these days, so it's important to make sure that your site is providing a good experience for mobile and tablet users as well as for PC owners. In the Mobile Usability section of your Search Console, Google will flag up any issues that might affect your site's performance on smaller screens (if you have a responsive website design, this section should be clear at all times).

Index Status

4. Index Status

How many of your website's pages does Google actually have indexed? To discover the answer to this question, simply head to the Index Status section of your Search Console. You'll be presented with a number (e.g. Total indexed: 100), along with a line graph showing how your site's index status has fluctuated over the past 12 months.

Index Status Graph

If this graph shows a sharp drop, you may need to do some further investigation to find out why. If you've recently removed a lot of pages from your site, then the drop may not be a problem - it could simply mean that Google is no longer indexing all those old URLs that no longer exist. Conversely, it may be that Google has de-indexed large swathes of your site because it decided that a lot of your pages were too similar to one another, in which case you'll need to do some work on your site copy in order to get everything indexed again!

Crawl Errors

5. Crawl Errors

When Googlebot attempts to crawl one of your pages and something goes wrong, this is where you'll be told about it. Search Console's Crawl Errors section lists:
  • 'Not found' URLs (i.e. URLs on your site that go to 404 error pages)
  • 'Server error' URLs (i.e. URLs on your site that trigger a server error)
  • Blocked URLs (i.e. URLs on your site that Googlebot is blocked from accessing)
  • 'Soft' 404 errors (i.e. URLs that don't exist, but don't return a 404 error for some reason)
When an old URL shows up in the Crawl Errors section, it often means that there's still a link to it somewhere, even though the page itself has been taken down. You may also see misspelled URLs here if somebody typed your page's URL wrong when they linked to you. This is another section that it's really important to check frequently, especially if you have a large ecommerce website with a large, ever-changing range of products on it - errors can pile up very quickly on sites like these, fast becoming totally unmanageable!

Sitemaps

6. Sitemaps

Once of the first things you should do upon logging into Search Console for the first time is head to the Sitemaps tab and submit the URL of your website's sitemap file (e.g. www.example.com/sitemap.xml) to Google. This will help the big G to index all of your pages a little faster. You should also update and resubmit your sitemap file every time you add or remove pages on your website - resubmitting in these cases is a good way of notifying Google that there's something new to see, or that some of the pages they've currently got indexed are no longer in use.

Google may occasionally spot an error in your sitemap file, and if this happens they will notify you in the Sitemaps section. Sitemap errors most commonly occur when you delete a page but forget to remove its URL from your sitemap file. Errors can usually be fixed by simply regenerating the sitemap file and resubmitting it in Search Console.

Need help looking after your website? Struggling to figure out why you're not showing up in Google results? Our search engine optimisation experts can help - get in touch today!

All roads lead to mobile search - that's certainly been the story for some time in the world of SEO, but it looks like Google could be taking this one step further. 

Speaking at SMX, Google's Gary Illyes announced that they were still working on a mobile-only search index, which could mean big changes in the world of SEO if and when the project develops. As things currently stand, there is little difference between the ranking signals used for desktop and mobile searches, which means that there isn't a huge disparity between the search results for desktop and mobile.

To test the validity of this claim, we used Rank Tracker to assess the desktop and mobile search rankings some terms associated with one of our client's sites. We ran searches on 56 terms in total, and found that only 5 of those showed up in the same position on both desktop and mobile. While this would suggest that there is, in fact, already a notable difference in how pages rank for terms on both devices, the lack of diversity in these results helped to support the original claim that mobile and desktop results are not very different at all.

On average, there was only a difference of around 3.5 positions between searches conducted on either device, which proves that while mobile and desktop results are rarely identical, there is also very little chance of them being completely different either. It would be interesting to witness how much a separate index would alter these results, but there's also no denying that it would also be a somewhat daunting prospect from an SEO perspective, if webmasters are attempting to compete in a completely separate set of search results simultaneously. 

Of course, we've experienced a similar set of speculations and worries in the lead up to last year's 'Mobbliegeddon', AKA Google's mobile friendly update, which while having some impact, was vastly over-estimated in its ability to alter search results. Despite this, it's clear that if a mobile-only index does become a reality in the next few years, it would almost certainly be capable of altering results far more dramatically than any current or future mobile updates.  We're all aware of the fact that mobile search has officially overtaken desktop, and a mobile-only index could be Google's first move towards officially cementing itself as a 'mobile first' service.

Currently, it is almost impossible to assess  how this will alter how we implement SEO and adapt websites for mobile, due to the fact that we have no idea how different the ranking signals used for this separate index will be. We also have no idea of how this new index will be set up in analytics and webmasters, and whether or not it will be integrated into the current system, or be kept as a completely new and independent set-up. What we can be sure of, however, is the fact that having a mobile-friendly online presence is becoming increasingly important for businesses and organisations, regardless of how much time and effort they currently spend on SEO.

If Google is planning to prioritise mobile search, this could not only impact the existing requirement to provide a positive user experience on mobile websites, but could spark the need to develop completely new online marketing strategies, which are focused solely on mobile audiences. It may no longer be a case of providing an equally useful and positive result across platforms, but could mean that marketing and SEO for mobile becomes entirely its own territory. 

If you'd like to improve your website's performance on mobile devices, or if you require a tailored SEO strategy to help you succeed in the search results, Designer Websites are here to help. Whether you're looking for a professionally designed responsive website, online marketing expertise, or both, get in touch with our team today, either by calling on 01446 339050 or by requesting a free quote.
Does the Fold Still Matter?

The last few years have seen some major changes in the way people consume information online. Most notably, mobile devices are now the most popular means of browsing the Internet, and that's a fact that web designers cannot afford to ignore: if your client's customers would rather shop on their smartphones than on desktop PCs, then you're making a huge mistake by designing primarily for full-size screens.

One big debate that's popped up as a result of the mobile revolution concerns the fold and whether it's still a useful concept for web designers to bear in mind. Today, we're going to take a closer look at this issue and find out if the fold still matters in a world where most people view the internet on mobile devices.

What is the fold?

When you first arrive on a webpage, the fold is the line that separates the stuff you see right away from the stuff you don't see until you scroll down. If content is 'above the fold', it's visible from the moment the page loads; content that's 'below the fold' is not visible until you scroll further down the page.

How do we know where the fold is?

Back when desktop PCs were the only option for people who wanted to surf the web, it was fairly easy to identify whether a given piece of content would be above or below the fold, because you could assume that your website would look more or less the same on every monitor. It's trickier nowadays because internet-capable devices come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes: content that's above the fold on a laptop may be way, way below the fold on a smartphone or tablet.

Unfortunately, it's not even as simple as a desktop/tablet/mobile trichotomy, because different phones and tablets often have vastly different screen sizes (for example, the fold is unlikely to be located in exactly the same place on both an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy). Shrewd use of responsive web design techniques will ensure that your website looks good and functions well on every device, but this doesn't change the fact that parts of your homepage will be above the fold on some screens and below it on others.

But is this a problem? That's the question we're really here to answer today: should you be worried when a critical piece of content falls below the fold, or has the entire concept of the fold become outdated and irrelevant?

Here's why the fold isn't as important as it used to be

The argument against the fold having any bearing on modern web design hinges primarily on the idea that present-day web users are happy to scroll down in order to find what they're looking for. And when you think about this, it makes sense: smartphone screens are relatively small, and it's rare to see a webpage that fits the entirety of its content into that limited space. When you read a news article on your phone, for example, you often can't see anything beyond the headline until you scroll down a little:

Not shown: 900+ words about Donald Trump and 'battleground states'

As we mentioned earlier, the majority of Internet use now takes place on mobile devices, and as a result, there's really no reason to be afraid of forcing your users to scroll down any more. Unlike the PC owners of yore who didn't even have mouse wheels, mobile users generally don't mind scrolling to reach the meat of your webpage; in fact, their daily online experiences have arguably conditioned them to expect it. Whether you're scrolling through your Twitter feed, a Spotify playlist, or a list of products on an ecommerce website, it's plain to see that scrolling, not clicking, has become our primary method for interacting with the Internet. Heck, you've probably seen at least one website that consists of just one page and is navigated simply by scrolling through the entire thing.

(If you haven't come across a website like that before, www.tacklestore.net is a good example - note that clicking an option in the header menu simply causes your browser to auto-scroll straight down to the relevant portion of the page.)

So, given that your customers' thumbs will be poised to start scrolling as soon as your website loads, there's no need to worry about the fold at all, right? Even if your Enquire Now > button is buried all the way down at the very bottom of the page, all those hours spent flicking through Facebook posts have left people perfectly content to scroll more or less infinitely, yes?

Well...not necessarily.

Here's why 'above the fold' still matters

While the fold is no longer a Bermuda Triangle-esque vanishing point for user engagement, it's still important to think hard about what's at the very top of your webpage. It's true that most users in this day and age don't mind a spot of scrolling, but you have to give them a reason to scroll or they'll just go away and visit somebody else's site instead. And when Google spots that its users are consistently leaving your website almost as soon as they've arrived, your rankings will disappear faster than the last bacon-wrapped sausage on Christmas Day.

The key here is to think about your website from the perspective of a hypothetical user. Look at your page on a variety of different devices (desktop, mobile and tablet) and ask yourself these two questions:
  • Is this what the user will be expecting to see? If your website sells laptops, and you're primarily targeting people who want to buy laptops, then the topmost thing on your homepage should NOT be a blog post about how to use Google Docs. It may be a brilliant, insightful read, and it may even be of interest to some of your customers, but the main reason they're on your website is to shop for laptops. Your above-the-fold content should first and foremost aim to welcome users to the page and confirm that they're in the right place.

  • Are we giving the user a reason to take further action? Reassuring the user that, yes, your website is the one for them is half the battle. The next thing you have to do is encourage them to take action. That doesn't have to mean buying something or telephoning your sales team, at least not right away. But while it's no longer necessary to place your main call-to-action at the top of your page, you at least need to entice the user to go further with their investigation. The first thing users see on your site should be something that makes them want to read more, or click through to view some examples of your work, or follow you on Twitter because you're clearly the greatest wit of your generation. Be sure to bear this in mind when you're thinking about your above-the-fold content.

Examples

Here are a couple of websites that, in our opinion, have managed to get their above-the-fold content just right:


Access Training Academies

This company delivers accredited trade training courses across the UK.
  • Is this what the user will be expecting to see? Yes - the heading immediately confirms the company's name and gives a rough summary of what they do ("Electrician Courses, Plumbing Courses & More"). Whether the user was specifically looking for Access Training Academies or simply researching potential training providers, the above-the-fold content makes it clear from the off that this site has what they're after.

  • Does this give the user a reason to take further action? Again, yes - the 'Course Finder' tool makes it easy for budding tradespeople to find the area they're interested in and skip straight to the relevant course(s). The telephone icon that appears in the top-right corner of the page when it's viewed on a mobile device also makes it apparent that customers can contact the company directly if they require any assistance.

Floormaker

This is an ecommerce website with a wide variety of flooring products on offer.
  • Is this what the user will be expecting to see? Almost certainly - there's confirmation that Floormaker is a "flooring supplier" directly under the company's logo, and references to the likes of laminate and solid wood flooring give customers further reassurance that this website is likely to feature the type of product they're after.

  • Does this give the user a reason to take further action? Yes. Visitors to the Floormaker website are presented with several options right off the bat: browse the laminate or solid wood ranges, use the search bar to find something specific, or use the live chat software to speak with someone who knows what they're talking about. Note also the icons underneath the search bar (free samples, free delivery, 5 star reviews, etc.), which offer the user some very good reasons to stick with Floormaker and investigate the company's website further.
If you'd like a business website that's designed by professionals with a firm grasp of all the latest web design techniques, please call Designer Websites on 01446 339050 or click here to request a quotation.