Christmas is often a highly stressful time for businesses and customers alike, which makes it an ideal opportunity to earn year-round loyalty, by going the extra mile for clients and consumers during the festive period. Whether you’re a retailer or B2B service provider, we’ve put together a few tips to keep in mind before and during the Christmas holidays, which point out ways in which you can use your marketing channels to be a helpful business this year:

Christmas Gift Guides & Quizzes

Gifts are one of the biggest Christmas dilemmas for most, which means that it's highly likely that many of your existing and potential customers will be actively looking for this type of content. This can be provided in the form of blogs, infographics, quizzes and more, depending on your resources and how creative you'd like to be. Gift related content can work well for many types of businesses, but of course, is particularly effective for retailers who are looking to market a specific range of products. It can also see you through to the very end of the buying period, if you're able to target last-minute shoppers who are frantically looking to find a suitable gift.

Advice-led Content

Along with gift guides, there are many other ways that you can tailor your content and services to suit the festive season, whatever your business may be. To do this, you’ll have to consider how the Christmas period affects both your organisation and your customers, in order to create resources that are both useful and engaging. For example, if your business provides financial services, it may be useful to publish advice on topics such as spending and budgeting, which is a prominent issue for many during this time of year. This content can be tailored to suit virtually any sector, and will depend on both the services you provide, along with your target demographic. When properly executed, it can provide a welcome boost to your SEO efforts, and work to improve or renew customer confidence in your product/services.

Social Media Engagement

It's common knowledge that you should be using social media to extend your marketing efforts and customer service all year round, however, these efforts should be reassessed in time for Christmas. This relates to both your own outreach endeavours, as well as customer contact, both of which carry additional weight in the case of online retailers. In terms of outreach marketing and promotion, you should be on the lookout for relevant hashtags and commonly asked questions, in order to make the most of the useful resources that you’ve spent time putting together. You should also be keeping a close eye on your inbox and brand mentions, in order to address customer queries and complaints as quickly as possible. 

Email Updates

Email marketing is particularly important for retail businesses in the run up to Christmas, naturally in order to promote deals, but also as a direct means of sharing the resources we mentioned in our first point. In addition to it's value as a promotional tool, however, email is also vital to the process of aiding and informing your customers, allowing them to plan their holiday spending and activities efficiently. For example, email allows you to provide customers with stock updates, which inform them when an item is close to selling out, or is back in stock, allowing them to plan their purchases more efficiently. In addition to this, it's also the most direct way to share information about your closing times and altered Christmas hours,  to ensure that you make every effort to avoid confusion. 

Rewards

Christmas rewards are the most simple but effective way to make your customers feel appreciated at Christmas, and can be executed on almost any scale, depending on your resources and budget. One of the most simple way to reward customers is by providing free resources, much like those discussed in our first and second points, although this can also be extend further than tips and guides. One example, could be free printables, which can be offered as a one-off resource, or even as a daily offering in the run up to Christmas. This would work particularly well for businesses in the creative industries, as well as those targeted at families with children, who may offer craft and learning resources to keep little ones entertained in the lead up to the big day.

This also extends to gift vouchers and competitions, which can be integrated with both your social media and email marketing campaigns. The channel you choose, will largely depend on how exclusive you would like your reward to be, and whether you are simply using this as a gesture to all existing and prospective customers, or as a way to reward your most loyal followers. 

Would you like help with your content creation, social media or email marketing strategies? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today to find out how we can help, or follow us on Twitter for more digital marketing news and tips!

If you're having trouble generating relevant site traffic that will convert into paying custumers, then you should very much consider using infographics as part of your content marketing efforts. With a huge number of tweets and videos being uploaded to social media every day, getting your content noticed can be a difficult task, so what you need is something that will stand out and grab the attention of your target audience - something like an infographic.

Infographics are a way to visually represent information and data and make these things easy to comprehend. Rather than displaying a page full of written information, infographics break down that information into an image-based format, making it easier for the user to digest.

It's been scientifically proven that the human brain loves infographics. Your brain can process information very quickly when it's illustrated using an image - certainly a lot faster than when you're reading through lines and lines of plain text. And infographics aren't just great at displaying data; they're also a great way of gaining natural links. A well-designed, well-targeted infographic will be shared all over social media and on relevant websites. This is the type of link building that can earn big rewards from Google in the form of improved SERP rankings.

If you're thinking about incorporating the use of infographics into your digital marketing strategy, here's how you can ensure that your infographics will stand out from the crowd and provide you with plenty of engagements and conversions:

Keep it Simple!

The reason why infographics are so beneficial is because they display info and data that is easy for the user to consume. Therefore, it's extremely important that you create an infographic that is both visually appealing and easily digestible. If there is too much going on with your graphic, then the person viewing it will lose focus and they will not be able to understand the message you're trying convey.  Stick to one style, limit the number of colours and fonts, and ensure that there are clear visual connections between the various sections of your graphic. Above all, aim to keep things simple and clear.

Make it Stand Out!

Your infographic needs to stand out from the crowd - there are plenty of infographics out there, and consumers are unlikely to engage with it if it's similar to the hundreds of others they've already seen. Your graphic needs a design that will grab the user's attention and stand out from the rest; in other words, it needs to pack a punch. As with a news article or blog post, if your infographic's headline doesn't provoke the consumer's attention then they're probably not going to interact with it. If your graphic isn't unique and attractive, consumers and other websites are less likely to share it. Remember that the main purpose of an infographic is to display information and data that is easily digestible in a way that will attract the target audience's attention.

Be Relevant!

The infographics that are most likely to drive conversions are ones that appeal to the target audience's needs and concerns. One mistake that many people make is creating an infographic that aims to be universally popular rather than targeting a specific audience with specific interests. Your infographic should be interesting for your target audience, rather than for the whole world. Figure out what content your audience shared the most and drove the most traffic recently, and then you'll be able to come up with a topic that will interest your audience and gain conversions.

Make Sure it's Easy to Share!

An infographic works best when it's being shared across social media platforms (like Twitter or Facebook) and other websites. Of course, this can't happen unless you make it easy for people to share it. Once you've created your graphic and posted it to your site, you should share it across your social media accounts and make sure you're using a social sharing widget to allow readers to easily share it on their own accounts (this will help your infographic to reach people outside your own follower base). We also recommend that you make the graphics HTML code easily accessible so that other websites can display the graphic whilst linking back to your original post. This is an excellent way to build high-quality, mutually beneficial links - the website sharing your graphic will benefit from hosting your engaging content, and you'll benefit from the inbound link.

If you take all if these points into consideration, you should be able to create an infographic that is engaging and will result in a healthy number of conversions for your business.

Need help with your content creation or social media strategies? Whether you need us to create an infographic or an entire website for your company, we at Designer Websites are more than up to the task - contact us now to request a quotation!

ABC Designs are a team of signage and display specialists based in Barry but working with companies across South Wales and South West England. With more than 30 years of experience, the ABC team are capable of designing, manufacturing, and installing a vast range of different solutions, including:
  • External signage (shop fascias, outdoor banners, car park signs, engraved plaques)
  • Internal signage (desk wraps, large-format prints, wall vinyls, raised lettering)
  • Vehicle graphics (signs and graphics for cars and vans)
  • Exhibition displays (roll-up banners, pop-up display stands)
If the company's name sounds familiar to you, it may be because you read our recent update about our brand new meeting room - ABC provided some of the room's most eye-catching design elements, including these great 3D wall signs:

Meeting Room Signage

As you can see, ABC Designs are capable of truly outstanding work, and so when they asked us to design their new website we knew that the standard would have to be high. We're pleased to announce that www.abcdesignswales.co.uk is now live, and we hope you'll agree that it has a great look and a professional finish that's entirely worthy of this business.

The new ABC Designs Wales website is completely responsive, and its modern, image-centric look was specifically designed to show off the company's work in the best possible way. As you browse the site, you'll see myriad examples of what these skilled craftspeople can produce, and this will hopefully help you to imagine what they might do for your own premises.

If you need any sort of signage / graphical / display solution, we'd strongly recommend ABC Designs Wales for the job - their new website can be found here.

Need a website for your business? Designer Websites are the people to call - click here to request a quotation.
Google's New Mobile Index

We've discussed this rumour before, and now it looks like it's really happening: Google have confirmed that they are creating a completely separate index for mobile searches, meaning you may soon see two completely different sets of results for the same Google search on your smartphone and your desktop PC.

This revelation isn't completely out of the blue, of course. Google's mobile and desktop results have been gradually looking less and less alike for quite some time now - in fact, we're already at the point where many websites rank highly for their keywords on desktop but not on mobile (or vice versa). However, all results are currently still pulled from the same Google index, and the forthcoming split could have a big impact on the SERPs when it happens.

And that's not all. Google's latest statement included the assertion that, to quote Search Engine Watch:

"This mobile index will become the primary Google index. The newly separated desktop index will not be kept as up-to-date as the mobile one."

In other words, the new mobile-specific index will take priority over the current index. This may seem surprising at first, but it actually makes perfect sense; more than half of all Google searches now come from mobile devices, so of course the company would want to ensure the quality of their mobile results above all else. 

With that in mind, the question that SEO-savvy business owners should now be asking is...

How can I rank highly in Google's mobile results when the new index arrives?

Some people will be reading this because they've already got high mobile rankings and they're anxious to keep them. Others may be here because they've never had much luck in Google's mobile SERPs, and they're wondering if this new index could be their big opportunity to change that.

Whichever boat you're in, here are a few tips for making sure you don't get left behind when Google's mobile-only index eventually comes into play:

1. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

This is a no-brainer, but since a lot of business websites still aren't optimised for mobile users, it's worth stating anyway. The best way to ensure that your website will work well on smartphones is to plump for a responsive design that automatically adapts to fit the screen it's viewed on - more on that subject here.

Some non-responsive websites have so far managed to slip through Google's net and rank reasonably well in mobile SERPs even though they're not mobile-friendly. However, the forthcoming mobile-specific index will almost certainly put paid to that, so it's a good idea to upgrade now and use Google's own mobile-friendliness testing tool to ensure that you're giving smartphone users the best possible experience.

2. Minimise your page loading times.

If there's one thing that we all hate to see when browsing the Internet on a mobile device, it's a webpage that takes ages to load. Excessive load times discourage mobile users from interacting with your website, and if you don't speed things up, Google will quickly boot you out of their mobile rankings in favour of a site that doesn't force visitors to wait around.

In order to ensure that your website is loading as quickly as possible, test it using Google's PageSpeed Tools. This will inform you of any changes you can make to boost your site's load speed.

Google PageSpeed Insights

You may also wish to consider using AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages), a recent Google initiative that aims to make the web instantaneously accessible on mobile devices - learn more here.

3. Optimise for local searches.

If your mobile customers have their location services turned on, Google will serve them local results for certain queries. Here's what that looks like:


If this so-called 'local pack' shows up for your primary keywords, that's a good indicator that you need to be thinking about local SEO. You want your shop (or restaurant, office, clinic, etc.) to show up prominently in Google results when someone in the area searches for your service, and this can be achieved by:
  • Add your business on Google My Business. Add your opening hours and a short written description of your organisation; you may also wish to embellish the listing with images.

  • Ensure that your company name, address, and contact details are consistent throughout the Internet (i.e. on your website, your Google listing, your social media profiles, and any other listings you have online).

  • Encourage people to review your business on Google, as well as on other well-known websites that publish reviews of local businesses (e.g. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook).

  • Ask other local businesses to link to your website (but only if they are reputable, their website is of a high quality, and the link is relevant to your business - e.g. if you own a hair salon, a link from a grocery store may not benefit you, but a link from a wedding dress shop might if they're encouraging people to visit your salon for a haircut before the big day).

4. Use Google Search Console to stay on top of potential issues.

One final piece of advice (and this applies even if you're not interested in the mobile SERPs): add all versions of your website to Google Search Console and check the dashboard frequently to ensure that everything is as it should be and nothing is going wrong on your site. Of particularly relevance to today's topic is the Mobile Usability report, which can be found under Search Traffic on the left-hand side of the console.

Mobile Usability

This blog post highlights a few other reports that it's important to check regularly once you've added your site on Search Console.

* * *

If you want to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and fully-optimised for this upcoming Google change, Designer Websites can help! Click here to request a quote, or select one of the following services to find out more about what we can do for you:

Thursday marked the release of Google's brand new phone - the Pixel! This phone is crammed with plenty of great features, including the highest rated smartphone camera ever, a battery that lasts all day and charges fast, and we mean fast! And It also has an unlimited storage for your photos and videos, but the one feature the stands out the most to us, is the new Google Assistant

Google is taking on the likes of Siri and Cortana with its very own smart service called Google Assistant. Google Assistant combines all the features from Google Now and “Ok Google” with a new AI experience, to provide you with a virtual assistant that you can have an ongoing two-way dialogue; it’s basically your very own personal Google.

So with new advancements becoming available and with voice search becoming increasingly popular, we take a look at how this may affect how people search online and how you can adapt to benefit from it.

How Will Voice Search Impact SEO, & How Can You Adapt?


Voice search is becoming increasingly popular, with Google reporting that currently 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search every day! And it’s continuing to become a fast growing market, with the ratio of voice searches growing quicker than type search, and with Google Assistant just becoming available, voice search could become the new way of searching for content. 

In order for you to benefit from voice search, various SEO techniques should be implemented to allow search engines to extract answers from your content. 

Adapt Your Content

The rise of voice search has fundamentally changed the way people use search engines. People don't search the same way with their keyboards as they do using their voice. Voice search has led to people using more conversational queries when searching for something, which means the queries become less keyword based. In order to ensure that your webpage appears on the first page of Google's SERP's, it's important that you understand the consumer's conversational speech. Research what phrases and language people use, and adapt your content appropriately. You may find that consumers will be make queries that are unsuitable to have as a page title but you can use parts of it to help you create content to adapt with your consumers language.

Take advantage of Schema Markup


Schema is an add-on to the coding of a webpage, which provides the search engine with information that helps them understand the content of the webpage. This helps search engines return more informative results for consumers. Schema doesn't just inform the search engines what is in your content; it also informs them what it means. This enables the search engine to provide richer search results, making it easier for the consumer to find the relevant information. The more the search engine understands what is on your page, the better chance you have to appear for search engine queries.

Make the whole experience quicker

More than ever before, consumers want quick answers and immediate access to what they're looking for. Users are looking for direct answers to their questions, so it's vitally important that your content is optimised to allow search engines to identify quick answers from your content in order to answer the popular queries and questions.

If you're worried that your content isn't up to scratch to adapt to this incoming change, then Designer Websites are the people to call. Email info@designer-websites.co.uk or call 01446 339050 to discuss and SEO content strategy for your business.
Travel Booker System

Travel Booker is a UK-based company that sells ski holiday packages. The Travel Booker team have specialist knowledge of Andorra and its many popular ski locations, and they provide holidays to Arinsal, Soldeu, and several other resorts.

There are lots of different things to consider when organising a ski holiday in a foreign country. In addition to making hotel reservations and travel arrangements, skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts may also wish to book:
  • Lift passes
  • Professional ski lessons
  • Rental equipment (e.g. skis, boots, helmets, snowboards)
  • Transfers between the airport and the resort itself
Instead of leaving their customers to sort all of this out alone, Travel Booker wanted to offer an easy way to take care of all the bits and pieces online. To achieve this, they got in touch with the team here at Designer Websites.

Our experienced web developers constructed a sleek, user-friendly booking system that's perfectly tailored to the needs of Travel Booker's customers. This system has been incorporated into a number of websites owned by Travel Booker, so no matter which resort you're planning to visit, you can take care of all your extras with ease. Since the booking system has a responsive design (created by our expert web designers), you can even take care of everything on your smartphone or tablet - the user interface works equally well on all screen sizes!

Click here to visit one of Travel Booker's websites and see their new booking system for yourself. Alternatively, if you've got a web development project that you'd like to discuss with the Designer Websites team, get in touch now - no matter how complex your requirements, we're always excited to take on new projects!
We're huge fans of BBC's The Apprentice here at Designer Websites, and so we're obviously very excited for the start of show's twelfth series. Episode 1 airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One - we can't wait to see who's a pretender and who's a contender this time around!

Speaking of contenders, did you know that we've worked with not one, not two, but three winning candidates over the past few years? As fans of the show will know, the winner of each series receives a £250,000 business investment from Lord Sugar, and we've designed and developed the websites for three of the companies that have benefited from that cash injection - not to mention the guidance and wisdom of Britain's most successful self-made businessman.

Here's some more info about the websites we've created for Lord Sugar's business partners:


Recruitment company specialising in the science and technology sectors

Ricky Martin, with his biochemistry degree and years of experience in the recruitment industry, won the eighth series of The Apprentice in 2012. He used Lord Sugar's £250K investment to found Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS), a recruitment company that caters exclusively to the science and technology industries.

We worked closely with Ricky and the HRS team to create www.hyperec.com, a modern and professional-looking recruitment website that allows jobseekers to browse hundreds of science jobs and submit applications online. It also makes it easy for employers in the scientific sector to list vacancies online and find talented individuals to work for them.




Elite clinics offering rejuvenation treatments, fat reduction, hair removal and more

Ricky Martin was obviously very happy with our work on the HRS website, because he recommended our services to his successor, Dr Leah Totton. Dr Totton - a physician from Northern Ireland - became the ninth BBC Apprentice winner in 2013 and used Lord Sugar's investment to open her own cosmetic skin clinic in London. The Dr Leah Clinic proved to be a great success, and a second branch opened in Essex earlier this year.

The Dr Leah Clinics website, www.drleah.co.uk, was designed and developed by the team here at Designer Websites. We collaborated closely with Dr Totton and her team, working hard to deliver a high-calibre web solution on time and on budget. The responsive website allows users to browse the many innovative cosmetic treatments available at Leah's clinics and book appointments online with ease.




Gas boiler installers and providers of sophisticated SmartHome technology

And so we come to Joseph Valente, the latest BBC Apprentice winner and Managing Director of ImpraGas Ltd. Joseph actually founded ImpraGas in 2012, but the investment he received from Lord Sugar last year has allowed him to grow the business exponentially.

Joseph came to us because he was impressed with what we had done for Ricky and Dr Leah's businesses. We got to work once again, and the result was www.impragas.co.uk, an attractive and user-friendly website that allows visitors to get a free boiler quote in minutes by answering a few simple questions. The website's responsive design allows it to function perfectly on any device, be it a tablet, a smartphone, or a desktop PC.


If you're impressed by this hat trick of high-profile projects and you'd like to discuss your own online requirements with the Designer Websites team, please give us a call on 01446 339050 or click here to request a quote.

Don't forget to tune in and catch The Apprentice on BBC One at 9 o'clock tonight!
Built by our clients for our clients, Designer Websites' new meeting / training room is finally ready!

We've been struggling for some time with a single small meeting room, so we decided to reshuffle our premises somewhat to create a new room that's perfect for meetings, presentations, and training sessions. Work on the room is now complete, and as you can see, the results look great!

Meeting Room

Practically everything you see in the photo above was provided by one of our clients. These are businesses with whom we've worked very closely over the years, and we thought that explaining 'who did what' would make a great talking point within the meetings we'll be having in this space.

Who did what?

The first thing we did when renovating the room was install a luxury vinyl floor from Floormaker, long-time clients of ours who supply all kinds of high-quality flooring to homes and businesses throughout the UK. Here's what the stripped-back room looked like once the floor was down:

Meeting Room Floor

Then came the task of plastering and painting the new meeting room, which we split between ourselves. We also took care of hanging the blinds, rewiring the electrics, and sorting out the radiators.

After that, we turned to our friends at ABC Designs, signage specialists based right here in South Wales. They created a sign similar to the one in our main office, along with some entrance signs, door vinyls, and car park signs - all of which, in our opinion, looks absolutely awesome!

Meeting Room Signage

We also commissioned Printmet to build us a bespoke meeting room table (with a parquet insert from Floormaker, who we mentioned before) and a bespoke TV stand, which we designed specifically for the new room.

Meeting Room Table

Then came the pièce de résistance: a quirky, modern-looking partition with a hidden door. This was designed by the brilliant Modelmakers Ltd, who normally specialise in architectural and exhibition models but clearly have a bright future in this sort of work! We already had an idea of what we wanted, so after a few design concepts and discussions with the guys from Modelmakers, a plan was agreed upon and they installed this unique wall in no time.

Partition with Hidden Door

And with that, our new meeting room was finished!

New Meeting Room 2

Our meeting room has gone from being boring and run-of-the-mill to being exceptionally cool and contemporary, and everyone here at DW absolutely loves it. None of this could have been achieved without the help of our brilliant clients, so if you are ever looking for a superb signage company, an amazing model maker, a fantastic bespoke metal furniture supplier, or a high-calibre flooring company, you know who to call!
How to Bring Customers Back to Your Ecommerce Website
 
Previously on this blog, we shared 5 top tips for instilling trust in first-time customers and encouraging them to buy from your ecommerce website. Today, we'd like to look at the next step: enticing those customers back to your website for a second purchase.
 
Converting one-time customers into repeat customers is arguably an even bigger challenge for ecommerce retailers than securing that key first transaction. According to Entrepreneur, only 32% of ecommerce consumers placed a second order with an online seller within a year of their first. However, it's well worth making an effort to clear that second-sale hurdle; once a customer has made two purchases from your website, there's a good chance they'll make a third...then a fourth...and so on.
 
But how can you magically transform your one-off buyers into regular customers? Below are five useful tips from the ecommerce experts and marketing specialists who work here at Designer Websites - read on to learn how to bring customers back to your site time and time again!

1. Marketing Emails

The most obvious and most popular way to bring customers back for a second purchase is simply to email them. If the customer entered their email address at the checkout (and opted in to receive correspondence from you in the future), it's definitely in your best interest to stay in touch with them, and services like Mailchimp have made it easier than ever before to do this.
 
When constructing an email marketing campaign, it's important to strike a balance between silence and spam. If you don't email your past customers often enough, they may well forget all about your brand and the service you provided for them; send too many emails, however, and your customers may get annoyed and unsubscribe from your list altogether. Think carefully about how often you'd want to hear from a company like yours - once a month is usually a fairly safe starting point, although the ideal frequency will depend on the industry you're in and the actual content of each email.
 
Rather than including your entire customer base in every generic email campaign, you may get better results if you split your mailing list into segments (e.g. 'People who bought shoes', 'People who made a purchase near Christmas') and send tailored mailers to each of these segments.
 
Here are a few ideas, with specific examples given in bold:
 
Arrival of a new product that's similar to one the customer bought previously.
We know you love Adele - her new album is available now!
 
Special offer on a type of product the customer purchased previously.
25% off all perfumes and fragrances

One year on from a seasonal purchase the customer made previously.
Autumn is here again - do you need a new coat?
 

2. Social Media

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are perfect for keeping in touch with past customers and making sure you stay on their radar. Once a customer has followed your company on Twitter, for instance, all you have to do is tweet regularly and your brand - your logo, your company name, your latest news and updates - will keep appearing in their feed, reminding the customer that you exist and that your online shop is still very much open for business.
 
Of course, the tricky part is actually persuading people to follow you on Twitter (or Facebook, Instagram, etc.) in the first place. Here are a few ways to accomplish this beyond simply asking people to follow you when you send them the receipt for their order

Be easy to find.

Display recognisable social media icons prominently on your website and in emails, and make sure that these buttons actually go to the right URL when clicked. Far too many companies put the Twitter logo in their website header but forget to actually link it to their Twitter account!

Post well and post often.

In order to make your social media page an appealing prospect to potential followers, you need to demonstrate that you're a) active, and b) interesting. You'll have a hard time attracting new followers if your last post was six weeks ago, or if every single post is just a link to a product on your website.
 
You - or your social media manager - should be aiming to post frequently, and to post a good variety of content that is nevertheless consistent with your brand and the wants and needs of your customers. It's a bit of a balancing act, for sure, but get it right and you should find that your customers are far happier to follow you online.

Make your company's brand compatible with the customer's personal brand.

Individuals have their own 'brands' just like companies do, and if a person considers their social media account to be an integral part of their personal brand, they won't follow anyone who is inconsistent with that brand. Someone who sees themselves as being glamorous and trendy might be reluctant to follow, say, a pest control company on Twitter, even if they frequently use that company's services.
 
With this in mind, here's a useful exercise. Ask yourself who your customers are and how they perceive themselves; now, ask yourself how your business fits into that perception. If your customers are serious, no-nonsense business owners, then present yourself as a serious, no-nonsense business on Twitter. If your target audience mostly consists of stay-at-home parents, then tailor your social media posts to stay-at-home parents.
 
This isn't just a question of tone (although that's certainly part of it). Think of it this way: if, every time you liked a Facebook page or followed a company on Twitter, you had to put a bumper sticker on your car saying 'I ❤ [Company Name]', which companies would you follow? Which brands fit your personality well enough that you'd be happy to endorse them to the driver behind you at all times?
 
This may sound like an odd comparison if you don't really play the social media game yourself, but a lot of people curate their 'following' list very carefully as they consider it a reflection of their own personality. Your goal is to be the sort of company they don't mind associating themselves with.
 

3. User Accounts

Allowing your customer to register an account on your website will make it a little bit easier for said customer to come back sometime in the future and place that all-important second order. If, while finalising purchase #2, Mr Jones can simply enter a username and password instead of typing in all of his personal details from scratch, this will give him a better overall experience, thus increasing the chance that he'll both complete this order and use your website again the next time he needs a present for his mum.
 
A word of caution, however. While some customers will happily create an account in order to save time in the long run, others will resent you for forcing them down this route instead of just letting them check out as quickly as possible. The best idea is to let people decide for themselves: many of the ecommerce websites we've built let people register an account if they want to, but also offer an 'Express Checkout' option for people who want to go straight to the payment screen.
 

4. Personal Notes

If you want to turn a one-time customer into a customer for life, it's crucial that you do whatever you can to endear yourself to that customer. The most important part of this is just providing a solid service, both while they're on your website and afterwards; in other words, you need to make sure that your website is easy to use and that your courier delivers the goods on time and as described.
 
Ticking those two boxes lays a good foundation for consumer loyalty, but in order to really seal the deal, you need to go the extra mile - do something that will set you apart from the competition and make sure the customer remembers you fondly. The easiest way to win hearts? Include a personal note in package you send to the customer - not a generic form letter, but something genuine that's specifically for that one person.
 
There's no need to write an essay here, nor to hunt down your customer's Facebook page so that you can include specific details about their personal life. Simply thank them for their custom in a genuine way that makes them feel like a valued part of your business. Here's an example:
 
Hi Edward,
Just a quick note to say thanks very much for using our website. Hope you enjoy the book - I read it myself when it first came out and I have to say I couldn't put it down. Fingers crossed you find it just as compelling!
 
If there's anything else we can help you with, please don't hesitate to ring the office or drop me an email. You can also find us on Twitter, so feel free to say hello if you're on there too!
 
Best regards,
 
Signature
 
Georgina R. Owen
Managing Director of Great Reads Online
 
A note like this shows the customer you care and gives them a glimpse of the real people behind the company - often a sticking point for retailers who sell exclusively through an online storefront as opposed to a bricks-and-mortar shop that's staffed by smiling faces.
 
As an added bonus, these letters also give you another place to plug your social media accounts (as in the example above) and/or offer the customer another little incentive to revisit your website soon. What sort of incentive, you ask?

5. Loyalty Discounts

Here's another version of that note from Georgina R. Owen, the fictional boss of fictional company Great Reads Online:
 
Hi Edward,
Just a quick note to say thanks very much for using our website. Hope you enjoy the book - I read it myself when it first came out and I have to say I couldn't put it down. Fingers crossed you find it just as compelling!
 
In case you fancy exploring the rest of our crime section, here's a discount code for you to use next time you're on our site. Just type this into the box on the basket page and it'll knock 15% off the total cost of your order:
 
GR8RDZ123
 
If there's anything else we can help you with, please don't hesitate to ring the office or drop me an email. You can also find us on Twitter, so feel free to say hello if you're on there too!
 
Best regards,
 
Signature
 
Georgina R. Owen
Managing Director of Great Reads Online
 

Not only does this letter endear the company to the customer and encourage him to follow the company on social media, it also gives Edward an extra reason to go back for another purchase. Once he's finished his book and needs something new to read, he'll know that he can get his next page-turner for 15% less if he goes back to Great Reads.

 
If you need an ecommerce website that functions flawlessly and keeps customers coming back time after time, we at Designer Websites are the people to call. Click here to request a quote, or telephone 01446 339050 to discuss your requirements.

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 - How to Earn Customer Trust
 

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 customer 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.
 
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). 
 

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:

To request a free quotation for your ecommerce project, please click here.

 
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.