We have just developed a fancy dress costumes ecommerce website for Freeda Promotions. It's the latest in a series of ecommerce websites for the growing online retailer.

The costumes website was actually great fun to develop and we really enjoyed putting the design work together for it. The client is extremely pleased with the results and has provided very favourable feedback for the Designer Websites team who worked on the website.

The website contains automated feeds from costume suppliers as well as allow the owners to add in their own products and products from other suppliers. The ecommerce website has a fully automated ordering process for some of the suppliers of costumes and a semi-automated ordering process for other suppliers. The website is very optimised, very sophisticated and actually looks pretty good.. we think anyway!

If you are looking for a fancy dress costumes website then we highly recommend these guys.. check out Zule at Fancy Dress Costumes.

On the 26th May 2011 the EU took the decision to change the way that websites use cookies, laying out a set of regulations which all European websites are required to comply with. A year’s grace period was given to allow Euro web-users time to get to grips with the new cookie policy and implement the required changes. This grace period will expire on Saturday 26th May 2012, so it is more than time to get your cookies sorted!

In response to the EU changes, the UK based ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) have compiled guidelines for all UK sites, to ensure that everyone is compliant by the deadline. These guidelines are not entirely clear and can be a bit confusing. If you’re not certain what your next step should be, read on for our guide to getting cookie compliant.


Why the change?
Cookies are small text files which collect information from visitors to your website and store it for later use. There are many reasons why cookies are used. Some cookies have very basic functions which help remember details like a visitor’s shopping cart contents whilst other cookies keep track of information such as user’s demographic or the information a visitor has previously viewed on the web.

So some cookies are good for users, some cookies are good for websites and some cookies fall into a grey area between the two. It is the more ‘predatory’ variety of cookie which gathers lots of information from visitors in order to aggressively tailor advertising towards them, which the EU is targeting with this new policy.

Another reason for the crackdown is the lack of user awareness out there. Research has shown that the vast majority of internet users do not have the first clue about cookies, what they are, what they do and how to turn them off. 


As many internet users’ understanding of cookies is limited, the more aggressive cookies are able to take information from visitors without their knowledge or consent. This is exactly what the new legislation is hoping to tackle.


Cookies: The good, the bad and the grey
If you’re going to implement a compliant and responsible new cookie policy, you’ll need to perform a thorough cookie audit of your website. Find out which cookies you’re using and then assess whether their beneficial to your visitors or to you. If you discover you are using cookies which are not useful to users but are very helpful to you, you will need to either remove them or start providing information and requesting permission as we’ll explain later.

As a broad rule of thumb, the ICO categorises cookies into the following groups:

  • Category 1: Strictly Necessary

These are ‘good’ cookies. They are vital to the operation of a website and to the experience of the user. They store things like shopping basket references, anti-forgery tokens and user account sessions. The new regulations will not affect your use of these cookies.

  • Category 2: Performance

Category 2 and 3 cookies are grey areas in terms of whether they’re in the interests of the user or the site owner. Category 2 cookies help with the performance of your site. They store information which will show a particular version of a site to the relevant visitor etc. You’re not likely to need consent but you should mention these cookies in your website’s terms and conditions.

  • Category 3: Functionality

These category 3 cookies store information from visitors to your website which can be used to remember user settings such as colour and font preferences. They can also be used to analyse web usage which will help you to develop your website and online marketing strategy. In terms of SEO and PPC advertising, Google Analytics cookies are defined as category 3. You will need to attain the permission of users before you can download category 3 cookies to their browsers.

  • Category 4: Targeting/Advertising

These are the ‘bad’ cookies which the EU and the ICO are trying to regulate.  If you’ve ever browsed for shoes online and then found that every subsequent site you visit displays adverts for your favourite shoes then category 4 cookies are at work. Unfortunately for affiliate websites, their cookies work in this way too.

These cookies keep track of users’ browsing histories and allow websites to provide specifically targeted advertising. For many this use of cookies seems like an invasion of privacy. You absolutely must notify visitors if you are using these cookies and must obtain their permission before they are used. 


The Analytics problem
For any website hoping to boost its web presence and traffic through search engine optimisation or pay per click advertising, changes to cookie law are a concern. Google Analytics relies on all visitors using category 3 cookies to provide them with vital information like:

  • Where your site is viewed from
  • What technology is used to browse your website
  • When and how regularly previous visitors return
  • Your most popular pages
  • & lots of other indispensable information


More than 15 million websites use Google Analytics and this 15 million includes more than 60% of the top 10,000 websites on the net. If forced to ask permission from visitors before using Analytics cookies, many users may choose to opt-out. This could seriously affect how reliable and useful any analytic data is. This, in turn, could be detrimental to the development and online marketing of your website.
Should I be worried?

The ICO has threatened to fine websites up to £50,000 for every non-compliant cookie, but before you freak out, remember the scale of the operation. There are millions of websites out there and there are far bigger fish to fry than small online businesses. ICO are much more likely to be looking out for repeat offenders and large companies who wantonly flout the new guidelines. Unless a complaint it made against you, you are likely to be safe, especially if you have made some effort to educate your visitors in a clear, easy-to-access terms and conditions section.

Of course, here at Designer Websites, we are expert website developers, not legal experts. If you want to make sure your approach to new cookie regulations is watertight, get an experienced legal advisor on side.


How do I get cookie compliant?
So now you know all the ins and outs, it’s time to decide how you want to approach these cookie changes. After your cookie audit, if you have found any cookies of category 2 or above, it is smart to take action. Either remove the cookies you do not need or make some changes to your website.

Here are a few examples of how other sites have done it…

  • The ICO themselves have used a very simple opt-in policy (opt-in is more compliant than opt-out) and a link to more information. No invasive cookies will be used on this site until the visitor accepts them.
  • The BBC and John Lewis have met the ICO halfway by adding very comprehensive cookie information and guidance on their websites – yet there is no clear or immediate information or options available.
  • BT has taken the changes very seriously. They offer reams of immediately accessible information as well as an up-front choice about whether users want to use cookies or not. These options are, however, opt-out. Cookies will be used unless the visitor actively chooses otherwise.

There are many problems with up-front choices and notifications. They can look so scary that people may simply bounce from your website, or people may choose not to use cookies which will be detrimental to your Analytics. If you are going to go down this route, we’d recommend split testing a few options so you can see which have the best results.

If you’re not going to use a pop-up or immediate cookie system, we’d recommend making extra-sure your terms and conditions contain a thorough run down of the cookies used on your site, along with all the information required to let users know how they work, what they do and how to turn them off.

We've just developed a portfolio website for Freeda Promotions Limited. This company have an rapidly expanding group of ecommerce websites, selling everything from promotional products and garments to gadgets and fancy dress costumes.

It might all sound like pop-psychology and hocus-pocus, but there is real psychology at work in how colours affect the way users approach your website design. This isn’t as simple or powerful as “red=angry” or “blue=calm”, but the tones, hues and saturations used in your website design can certainly have an impact on your browsers. In this article we’ll be looking at the effect that colour has on your website design and whether or not it’s worth keeping colour in mind when putting your site together.

Saturation

The saturation of the colours in your website design is one of the most measurable factors in the world of colour psychology. As a rule, the higher the saturation of a particular colour, the stronger the viewer’s emotional and physical response will be. Bold colours will generate a far stronger response from users – whether that response is positive or negative can depend on the colour in question.

This makes using highly saturated colour in your website design a risky move. If it pays off, you could generate a really positive, excited response from your user but, if you pick an unfortunate shade, you risk putting them right off!

A smart, bold colour choice will create a really strong, memorable impression on your visitor, which is great for your brand. Equally, too many very highly saturated colours can create a kind of colour overload, making your site feel hectic, stressful and more confusing than it really is – the key is to keep it simple and use just one or two bold colours.

The colours themselves

So, if this is the case, which colours are going to create the impression you want from your website design and which are going to send your visitors sprinting in the opposite direction? It’s really all down to our everyday associations and, if you take a little time to think about it, it is all common sense.

For example, brown is a warm, natural colour. It brings to mind wood – which is both natural and used in furniture. It is a safe colour which suggests warmth, sincerity and comfort. Meanwhile, black is typically associated with sophistication, power, sexuality, seriousness etc.

A load of old nonsense?

Well, not really. It is possible that the real power of colour in website design gets overstated from time to time, yet it does have an effect and it is well worth bearing this in mind when you create your site. Sticking to a few basic tips will help you to use colour to your advantage:

  1. Keep it simple
    Overcomplicating your colour palate is a sure-fire way to put visitors off. It looks messy, confusing, overstimulating and will completely distract your users from the real purpose of your website.
  2. Use your common sense
    Before settling on a colour scheme just have a quick think about all the possible associations your selection might conjure up. For example, if you’re selling toothpaste, brown, black and yellow are probably not the best colour choices.
  3. Create a strong theme
    Use one or two strong colours to your advantage. A memorable theme will keep your website design fresh in your visitors’ minds and help you create a strong brand image.

We've just launched a new website for John Lewis Access Hire; they provide a cherry picker hire and access platform hire service in the Cardiff and the South Wales area. We know that the company is very professional, keep all of their cherry pickers in tip top shape, carry professionally trained operators with insurance, and extend a very friendly service, so if you need a cherry picker in Cardiff or anywhere Wales or the South West then we thoroughly recommend these guys.. Cherry Picker Hire Cardiff

Cardiff Airport Taxis - Bay Cars

These are the 2 websites that we have recently launched for a Cardiff-based taxi and executive cars company. We actually developed the first version of websites for the taxi company way back in 2005, so this time we have just refreshed the websites to make them look even better than before!

We have all personally used the company for taxis and can vouch for the professionalism of the company. They are very reliable and extremely courteous and professional.

So if you are looking for a taxi in the cardiff area or need a taxi from cardiff airport, then look no further..

Cardiff Airport Taxis - Bay Cars 

Here at DW we dont just design and develop amazing websites all day, we like to take regular breaks to keep our creativity flowing. We've created some infographics to illustrate just how we "wisely" spend our spare time!

We have just launched a fantastic new ecommerce website called Gadget Inspector and this has been one very distracting site to build! As nerds you can probably appreciate that we love gadgets and gizmos, so we've probably spent as much time admiring the gadgets and toys on this site as we have building it. We have an office full of rc helicopters and iPhone toys.. well, we simply had to test these gadgets!

I know these guys are only just building their online catalogue but I think they'll be the next big gadget site on the Internet.

Many companies believe that a choice must be made between usability and website SEO, with many people believing that one element has to be sacrificed for the sake of the other. Needless to say the goals of website SEO and usability are polarised, but that doesn’t mean they have to be mutually exclusive. With keen eye for functionality an experienced website developer will bring to the table, it is simple to produce a website that satisfies customers and search engines alike.


In days gone by pages produced for the purpose of website SEO were filled with text that contained a high density of keywords which often made the copy a little disjointed. Website SEO has changed drastically over the years, and now, with the assistance of a professional SEO copywriter it is possible to merge keywords with punchy text that attracts rather than deters your customer base.


So what elements should you consider when balancing usability with website SEO?

 

  • Title tags and headings – this is one of the most important factors to get right to strike the perfect balance between SEO and usability. The title tag plays an integral part in website SEO, but it is also the first thing a user is going to see, so it has to be readable and explain accurately what the page will do. A good title tag should focus on only one to two keywords, and still make sense to readers. Every page of your website should have a different title tag.

 

  • Usability testing – this plays an integral part in determining the user experience and how simple it is to navigate your site. Any findings which illustrate the poor usability of your site should be addressed immediately, even above website SEO considerations. If the usability of your site falls below the mark, the amount of traffic SEO helps you to attract will be for irrelevant, as poor usability will quickly lead visitors to look elsewhere.

 

  • Keyword use – keywords should be used in the right places in the meta data as well as throughout the body copy of your page. However, don’t be tempted to indulge in keyword spamming as this not only effects usability, it is also likely to be detrimentally to website SEO as the search engines will regard the page as ‘spam’, which will hinder your rankings for the targeted keywords. Anything around 3% is the sort of keyword density you should be looking to achieve.


This is only a brief insight into the intricate balancing act between website SEO and usability, with many other factors also playing a part. For further information about usability and website SEO, please call the experienced website developers here at Designer Websites on 0845 272 6813

We have just launched the all-new instrument comparison website Instrumania.

Originally the website focused on the larger music instrument retailers but now it has been re-developed and re-launched to fit in with both small and large musical instrument retailers. The focus of the website is to provide it's users with great deals and compare the prices of musical instruments from a wide range of UK based retailers.

Whilst the focus of the site is musical instrument comparison, it also contains useful instrument reviews and music industry news. If you are looking to purchase a musical instrument then take a look at Instrumania.

When asking the question, ‘how large a part does domain age play in website SEO?’ the answer you will receive, irrespective of who you ask, will be ambiguous at best. Even Matt Cutts, the most outspoken member of Google’s Search Quality team, remains unusually vague when put on the spot. When asked that very question just recently, Matt replied: “My short answer is not to worry about that very much, not very much at all in fact.”

Most people know that when it comes to performing website SEO, domain age does have an effect, and as far as we are concerned there are two distinct reasons why:

  • Older domain names are usually associated with better known, more established sites. On the whole, sites with older domain names are regarded as more relevant and trusted resources, thus boosting the website SEO.
  • Spammers are not usually interested in developing the website SEO of a site for a period of over three or four years as traditionally they quickly move onto different projects. For this reason, new domain names are more associated with spam.


It’s safe to say that most website SEO specialists will agree that domain age does have some bearing on search engine rankings; it is just the extent that they find impossible to agree on.

To overplay the affect of domain age on your website SEO strategy is, in the opinion of our SEO team here at Designer Websites, probably a mistake. It is important to acknowledge it as a factor, but not to consider it to be in anyway critical to your website SEO strategy, and below, in our view, are the reasons why:

  • Domains can sometimes lie dormant for years
  • Established and well known companies are acquiring new domain names all the time, often using a 301 redirect from a more established domain
  • Just because a domain is old it does not mean it has been subject to whitehat website SEO techniques.


Some companies will only look at buying old domains due to the importance they place on domain age. However, this is far from a fool-proof approach, as you cannot always cater for the website SEO strategy of previous owners. There may well be some goblins in the system that pose real problems for the success of your website SEO campaign.  

To conclude, we all know how hard it can be during the first six months of any website SEO campaign when working on a new domain, however, stick with it and build your link profile naturally and the results will come. Have a little faith and don’t panic!

With a question that has no definitive answer, experience counts for a lot. This is one reason why the website SEO team here at Designer Websites are the first port of call for so many companies looking to further their online presence.

Hopefully we’ve all seen social sharing buttons before; to be frank you’d have done well to miss them. But just why are they becoming so prevalent and how do they contribute to your website SEO?

Some of the most popular social share buttons are those for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, email and ShareThis. These social buttons can play an important part in the promotion of content you add to your site. The addition of social share buttons essentially allows the visitors to your site to do a lot of the website SEO work for you. However, although there seems to be no downside to such a strategy, recent research shows that about half of the largest 10,000 sites do not display any kind of social sharing link or buttons at all. However, doesn’t this oversight mean such websites are missing out on valuable website SEO opportunities, given that:

•    Social signals are becoming increasingly important in search engine algorithms

Over the past few years the search engines have openly admitted that social signals are becoming increasingly influential factors in rankings. This means that the more time an article or blog is shared using a social button, the greater the impact on your website SEO. By neglecting to include social share buttons on your site, your website SEO will not receive an extra push which might make all the difference.

•    You’re not reaching as wide an audience as you might

The internet is an extremely crowded resource, so anything you can add to your website which increases the size of your slice of the pie should be seriously considered. Social share buttons are an excellent method of increasing your exposure in circles outside of your existing network of visitors. This helps to attract fresh traffic to your website creating new opportunities.

•    User friendly content is more likely to be read

One of the main benefits of social share buttons is the fact that users do not have to leave your site to post your content. With the short attention spans of today’s internet user, keeping them on your site is tricky enough anyway without giving them a good reason to leave; by making your website as user friendly as possible, visitors will stay with you for longer, increasing the chances of a conversion.

If you’re interested in making the most of your website SEO, the team here at Designer Websites have the experience and know-how to help your website climb towards the top of the search engine rankings. For further information call our dedicated website SEO team on 0845 272 6813.

One crucial factor in successful website optimisation is the quality of the code itself. Many small businesses that employ website developers judge the site on appearance, without giving a minutes thought to how things look behind the scenes. The fact of the matter is, without clean code your search engine rankings are likely to suffer.

It is often the case that smaller companies, eager to save money wherever they can, will opt for a cheaper website from a team of website developers who do not possess the required technical ability, and over compensate with a lot of unnecessary code.

Many of the sites website developers design for start-up companies have been made fool proof so they can be easily administered by business owners who are not particularly internet savvy. However, this fool proofing will often take the form of a large amount of unnecessary code, damaging the potential rankings of the new site, even if all other website optimisation factors are accounted for.

The importance of clean code becomes clear when considering the importance of page load times on search engine rankings. Google recently announced that page load times are going to become a bigger factor in how they decide as website’s rankings, and have even provided some tools in Webmaster tools so that site owners can measure their page load times and take steps to improve them. Although, it is important to consider, many of the do-it-yourself- website platforms which are becoming quite popular at the moment will offer you little or no control over these factors.

The best way to ensure a website which benefits from clean code is to hire the services of an experienced and technically aware team of website developers, who can ensure your site not only looks attractive to visitors, it is also neat and tidy behind the scenes. This will go a long way to ensuring the visibility of your website on the search engines.

If you are looking for a website which not only looks good, but which is also not held back by unnecessary code, contact Designer Websites. Our expert team of website developers have many years of experience producing ecommerce sites and websites for small businesses. Give us a call today! 

We have recently finished a redesign for the TimberTech website. We have worked with TimberTech for a number of years and they recently asked us to design a totally new look for their composite decking website, which we of course were happy to do.

When we completed the design concepts for the new website TimberTech were absolutely delighted with our proposed layout/design. Based on these new concepts we developed a new, more modern, more responsive website, which also contains some clever tracking functionality and a very good level of search engine optimisation.

Take a look at TimberTech - Composite Decking Website and see what you think.

We have recently launched a new website for the leading training company Olive Strachan. Olive Strachan are a global training company with headquarters in Manchester; they have a wealth of experience in management training, leadership training, customer services training and other similar business centric disciplines.

We first worked with Olive Strachan back in 2006 when we developed a site called Training Manchester (Training Manchester)for them. This site is still useful if a little dated, but now Olive Strachan wanted something a little more up to date and more in tune with their current business model, particularly as it has changed over the past 5 years. We designed a new website for them and it can be found at Olive Strachan.