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Digital Economy Act 2010: The Internet and the Creative Industries

Published on April 25, 2011
Tags: Web Site Law

A few days ago, Justice Kenneth Parker ruled against an appeal bought by internet service providers BT and TalkTalk over a case involving the Digital Economy Act 2010. The ISPs argued that the Act was incompatible with EU law as it, among other things, stipulated that people who download online content illegally can have their accounts suspended.

The Act has been controversial since it came in, but Justice Parker ruled in its favour and most components of it are now being implemented. The thinking behind this particular case is that illegal downloads – of music, films, TV shows, books and so on – damages the creative industries and violates rights relating to copyright and intellectual property. The ISPs tried to argue that web users have the right of free expression, but this was rejected in favour of protecting industries that have already been damaged by the extent of online privacy.

Without getting into a debate on net neutrality and whether web users' 'freedom of access to information’ is more important than the protection of creative content, this is arguably a growing problem with the internet. Lots of people download content illegally and expect to be able to obtain such information for free, which is a huge issue in creative circles. After all, creative content – no matter what it is – costs money to produce and so, especially when so many of these industries are already struggling, to then have so many people obtaining content for free through often less than legal means is massively damaging.

This issue is also highlighted by another recent case, this time involving Google. You may be aware that Google wants to create the world’s biggest online library and eBook store. The publishing industry has been dreading the possibility of this for quite some time: for a while, it seemed inevitable that Google would win the right to continue with pursuing this goal and the already struggling publishing industry would suffer even more. To a lot of people’s surprise, though, on 22nd March 2011, a US federal judge ruled against Google and announced that the Google Book Settlement would have given the company a ‘de facto monopoly’ and that it wouldn’t be allowed. 

One of the big issues here is copyright. Setting up such an online library would involve Google copying books that are still within copyright and therefore still owned by someone else. The Google Book Settlement also made it so that it was up to publishers to find out whether their books had been copied and raise it with Google, rather than the other way around, which was also considered to be a major issue with the proposals. It would also have given Google a stake in future proceeds, among other things, which would have created the ‘de facto monopoly’ that was ruled against by the US judge.

Google said that the purpose of the Book Settlement was to open up access to books that currently might not be available to everyone, including out of print books. The issue, though, is that when some books are out of print in some countries but not in others, and when some books are censored in some countries and not in others, it raises international issues that are the preserve of the government, not a private company. Needless to say, the publishing industry was relieved by the ruling of the judge, but Google is still estimated to be in possession of 12-15 million copied books, which, under current rulings, have been copied illegally.

Both of these examples show the conflict between the creative industries and the internet. They also show that, while when we think of online piracy and illegal downloading we immediately think of individual web users, they are not the only ones involved. The explosion of the internet and other digital platforms may have made it much easier for the creative industries to get their material out there and seen by more people, but it has also made it much more vulnerable to exploitation at all levels.

A lot of this is down to the freedom of the web. In many ways one of its biggest selling points, it also has the potential to create conflicts, especially when internet self-regulation is held in such high regard. It works to protect itself, which is admirable, but in doing so it poses real world problems that increasingly require action from governments and judiciaries.

The internet has, for a long time, been in something of a world of its own. Now it is coming to maturity, however, and as the above examples illustrate, it is starting to come to the fore in the real world and it’s posing issues that definitely need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Whatever your opinion of both these cases and your opinion more generally on online content, it seems safe to say that this issue isn’t going to go away any time soon.

By Chelsey Evans

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Successful Online Marketing: 10 Free Tips

Published on April 15, 2011
Tags: SEO

Last week, we bought you a blog post on some top tips for building an ecommerce site. This week, we thought we’d look at online marketing. After all, this is an increasingly important area of business as more and more people look to the internet to find information, research companies and conduct their personal business. So, if you own a business and are thinking about running an online marketing campaign, what are the most important things to think about?

1. Have a good website

Before you even think about developing specific campaigns, you need to make sure you have a good online base. As one of our clients once told us ‘if you turned up to a meeting in a shabby or homemade suit, how could you expect to be taken seriously’. This means it’s really important that your website is of top quality, is informative, easy to navigate and appeals directly to your potential customer base. All of this is something a good web designer will be able to help you achieve and it will lend your online operations a feeling of quality, which your customers and clients will value and trust.

2. Have a blog

Having a company blog is important for online marketing as this can be a good way of promoting your message, particularly to your core audience who are more likely to read your blog on a regular basis. As well as your own blog to promote campaigns, you can link with other blogs or even pay for others to write blog posts for you to get your message heard all over the web. This is important, particularly if you are trying to promote a particular product or service, as people often look at third party websites to read reviews and check that you actually do what you say you do. A few well-tailored blog posts, with important keywords targeted, will help you to achieve this.

If you link your blog post with your social media and search engine optimisation efforts, you can find that your site will take off in ways you’d never expected, reaching new readers and potential clients effortlessly.

3. Use social media

Social media is another growing online trend and offers a good way of disseminating your message to a wide audience, particularly if you are hoping to engage young people or a specific section of the online market. Remember, though, that social media isn’t just about the obvious things such as Facebook pages and Twitter; you should also look for industry-specific forums where you can target your marketing to a particular audience. Other countries might also have local social media sites, which would definitely be worth tapping into.

4. Tailor content to your audience

As with so many things online, content is really important as this is one of the main ways of selling your online marketing campaign. Think carefully about who your audience is and the best way to engage them. Do you need to split your campaign into strands and produce different content for different groups, or are you just targeting one key group?

5. Search engine optimisation

You also need to make sure your online marketing campaign can be easily found on the internet. This means thinking about the key search terms that relate to your marketing and promoting them in articles and blog posts. If you post marketing material on other forums or blogs, make sure they have links back to your website as this is not only good for offering people more information, but links are also important for SEO.

6. Network with other companies

Networking is also important. Identify companies who might be able to help you promote your online campaign. For example, if you have any partnerships with other businesses, they might be able to write you a blog post or include a link on their website that links back to your site, getting your message out there and into new networks.

7. Build your customer contacts

Of course, your customers or clients (current and potential) are the ones you are hoping to market your campaign to, so it helps to make your contact base as wide as you can. Do you have an email newsletter to update your customers with news and information? If not, this might be something you could consider to build your list of contacts and maximise the chances of your marketing being a success.

8. Have a hook

Whenever you’re marketing anything, whether online or offline, you need to make sure you have a hook. Why should people care about your campaign? What’s your selling point? How are you going to draw people in? One way of doing this is with promotional material and perhaps a specific graphic or logo that people can identify with your campaign. This is something a web designer will be able to help you with and you can use it as a base to build an interesting, innovative campaign.

9. Analyse results

Once your campaign is underway, you need to analyse the results to make sure it’s working. Consider using software such as Google Analytics to work out how many people have viewed your campaign, how they found it, how long they spend reading about it and so on. This will give you a good idea of how successful it is and whether you need to make any changes.

10. Make changes and be flexible

Finally, if your analysis tells you that something isn’t quite working, do something about it. Use the information you’ve learnt to build on what you’ve got and make your campaign, bigger, better targeted and more accessible. While you should never stray from your core message, constant updating and revision will help keep your content fresh and relevant and maximise your chances of achieving the results you want.

By Chelsey Evans

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10 Tips for Building a Good Ecommerce Site

Published on April 8, 2011
Tags: Web Design London

An ecommerce website is a really good way of managing a business’s online operations and, if it’s done properly, it can boost trade, make your business more efficient, and bring more customers your way. For the uninitiated, an ecommerce site is one that allows things to be bought – displaying products and accepting payments (Amazon is probably the most famous example of this). Read on for 10 of our top tips on building a good ecommerce site.

1. Sort out your web hosting

As with any website, when you’re building an ecommerce site, you need to have web hosting. If you are employing a web designer to build your site for you, this is more than likely something they will be able to sort out on your behalf. It ensures that your site will actually be there to view when people search for it and stores all of your content. Make sure your hosting is in the country where you intend to do the most business, and try to use a domain name that has the country’s extension too (for example, .co.uk for a UK-focussed site). You should also make sure the hosting is fast and reliable (at least 99.98% uptime on a regular basis), and you can check this using sites such as Web Page Test and Web Hosting Stuff.

2. Get a good web design

If you are trying to sell something through an ecommerce site, then your site needs to appear worthy and trusted enough for people to part with their money. This means spending time getting the perfect site design, one that reflects quality, trustworthiness and your brand. Again, this is something a good web designer will be ideal for helping you with, as they know what works and what doesn’t and will be able to capture your vision in a quality design. Whatever you do, unless you’re already a really good designer don’t try this at home! Internet consumers are highly experienced now and can spot the difference between a company that’s invested in their web site with a professional design and build, and one that hasn’t. And good design conveys a far higher level of trust in a company than one that has poor design.

3. Make sure the site is easy to navigate

You also need to make sure it’s easy to get around your site; if you’re trying to encourage people to buy things from you, then they need to be able to do it with a few clicks of the mouse. If you’re building a large site, then you could incorporate a search engine to make it easier for web users to navigate, but no matter what sort of site you’re building, all the pertinent information needs to be accessible within a couple of clicks from the home page with the ability to move around the site without having to use the Back button on the browser.

4. Focus on your target market

Your target market is where a lot of your business is going to be coming from, so making sure your ecommerce site caters to them is vital. It’s a good idea to talk to your web site developer about the type of people you’re hoping to target with your site, so their needs and preferences can be built into the website design. Whatever you do, don’t try and build a ‘one size fits all’ site; first focus in on a specific market and build the design and navigation to that market’s requirements then if that’s successful, look to expand your brand and offering.

5. Find the right shopping cart software

Obviously, with an ecommerce site, the ‘commerce’ part is extremely important. You need to integrate shopping cart software into the site early on. This works to process orders, issue invoices, and calculate VAT. There are several off the shelf packages to choose from although they do cater for all needs so can sometimes be unwieldy and difficult to manage. Some are also not suitable for gaining good search engine positions. Additionally, if you’ve got specific requirements for your product display or checkout process, you may find that they are lacking or too inflexible to cater for your needs. That’s where a custom ecommerce site comes in to fill the gap where off-the-shelf online stores cannot work as you need them to.

6. Know how your payments work

Linked to your shopping cart software is the matter of payments. The focus and size of your website will probably play a part in how you handle payments received through your site, but you need to have an understanding of how it all works no matter what type of site you’re building. There are two basic concepts; an online payment provider that integrates direct with the site such as PayPal or Google Checkout or a bank and payment gateway arrangement where the bank provide you with a merchant number, this is integrated with payment gateway system, that in turn integrates with the web site. The most common UK system right now for this approach is SagePay (linked to any bank’s merchant number), followed by Barclays ePDQ (naturally, linked to a Barclays merchant number). Each of the two approaches comes with different costs which will be dependant on your business model, so it is worthwhile investigating both routes to decide which is most appropriate for you.

7. Write appropriate, catchy content

As with any website, it’s important that your ecommerce site is populated with appropriate, catchy content, as it is this that will help to sell your products and bring in businesses. Remember that you are writing for the web so you should also consider search engine optimisation when writing content in order to maximise your chances of ranking highly in search engine results. Bear in mind that Google doesn’t like lack of content or repetition, so if you simply use short product descriptions or copy description from other sites, such as the manufacturers’ sites, you are unlikely to do well on Google. Unique content of at least a couple of hundred words per product is the ideal.

8. Know how to market online

Linked to the point above is knowing how to market your ecommerce site online. SEO (search engine optimisation) plays a big part in this, so think carefully about the keywords you want to promote in each article or blog post, and on each product and information page. You also need to think about how you intend to attract business to your site, particularly from beyond your target group. You could, for instance, think about affiliate programmes, linking with blogs and developing your social media presence to disseminate your message, or possibly looking at paid advertising such as Google AdWords pay-per-click marketing. All of this is part of building a strong, identifiable, trustworthy brand that consumers instantly associate with you and your business.

9. Expand your networks

In order for your ecommerce site to be a success, you need to know how it fits into the wider market. Before you begin building the site, research your competition and investigate how they do things. Think about what works well and what you’d like to change, as well as where your site could fit into existing services. It can also be a good idea to network with other sites, as suggested above, in order to boost your publicity and, hopefully, your traffic.

10. Grow your business

Finally, when you’re building your ecommerce site, it’s not quite enough to think about where your business is at present; you also need to think about where you want to go in the future. Your ecommerce site is something that you should build into your wider business plan so that it can be expanded upon and developed as time goes by. Having a vision for your site is important, as this can make all the difference between a growing, dynamic website and one that just stays still.

By Chelsey Evans

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