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Do Web Usage Trends Impact on Web Design?

Published on October 28, 2011
Tags: Web Design London, Internet Communication

Questions relating to human behaviour are always interesting and human behaviour in relation to the internet is no different. It’s always intriguing when surveys are released detailing how we tend to spend our time online – but what use do these surveys actually have? For most people, such things are largely for interest only; they provide a good snapshot of what is happening when and offer some entertainment (and possibly validation for our own internet habits).

But what about web designers? Can web usage trends have an impact on web design? Does knowing the percentage of people who use e-retail sites, for example, filter into ecommerce web design?

There isn’t really an easy answer to these questions, as the factors that impact on web design are numerous and so are not just based on how many people like to watch funny YouTube videos of cats (millions of them, if video viewing figures are anything to go by). Specific target audiences have to be kept in mind, as do the needs and wishes of businesses and others looking to start websites. Various regulations and rules have to be adhered to and the limits (and possibilities) of technology have to be explored.

So the issue isn’t simple, but arguably knowing how people like to use the internet can have some effect on certain aspects of website design. For instance, a 2004 survey found that people aged 18-29 were much more likely than people over 30 to use instant messaging services (59% compared to 33%). Information such as this can be used to influence the design of IM services: if you know that most of your users are aged under 30, it helps to focus your website design. Alternatively, it could inspire you to pitch your site design at an older, niche market.

Interestingly, the same study found that 65% of young internet users used the web to research new jobs, compared to 31% of older people. These figures are likely to be more equal now as more and more services move online, but they still provide an interesting insight into where people look for information – and could be useful if you were trying to decide how to pitch a new job vacancy website, for instance.

Of course, web usage trends are also interesting in their own right even without wondering how they might be able to help issues relating to web design. As an example, a 2011 US study found that 78% of adults (both men and women) use the internet. The study also found that people who earn more money are also more likely to be online: 96% of people with a household income over $75,000 had access to the internet as of May 2011, compared with 63% of those whose household income is less than $30,000. Young people were also more likely to be online (95%) than those aged over 65 (42%).

This also raises issues relating to the accessibility of the internet, as well as questions as to how people view it. For instance, are some people unable to use the internet because of how much it costs? Do younger people find it more relevant to their lives than older people?

Many studies have already been done on these important issues and many more are sure to be carried out in the future, but for now, let’s focus on changing web trends. In 2006, 2% of web users said that there was a video of them online. Fast forward to 2011 and that figure goes up to 10%. This also points us in the direction of other changes in web usage: social media is more popular now than it was five years ago and more businesses also have extensive online operations, both of which have helped contribute to the growth in videos online. The popularity of video sites such as YouTube also has a big part to play.

This suggests that there is a certain amount of responsiveness in the internet and web design; as trends emerge and start to become more prominent, they are developed further by designers and others keen to make the most of online potential. It also suggests that web users themselves are reactive and responsive to changes instigated by web design in the first place. After all, web habits can’t change and trends can’t start without someone creating them in the first place.

Overall then, web design and web trends are largely dependent on each other. They are both interesting to look at in their own right, but are arguably most useful – and most interesting – when seeing how they impact on each other and how one can spark a reaction in the other. As web usage continues to grow and evolve, it will be interesting to see the changes that come about as a result.

By Chelsey Evans

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The EU Consumer Rights Directive and Online Shopping

Published on October 21, 2011
Tags: Web Site Law, Internet Communication

Back in June, the EU Parliament passed something called the Consumer Rights Directive. This Directive has since been approved by a meeting of EU ministers and has now become law. Nations have got two years to comply with this new legislation – but what exactly is it?

As the name of it suggests, the Consumer Rights Directive is aimed at protecting consumer rights. It isn’t exclusive to online consumer activities, but this is one of the areas where it is set to have an impact. One of the main points of the directive is to stop websites from ‘pre-ticking’ boxes on online order forms, on the grounds that this can often lead to consumers signing up to things that they didn’t know they were signing up to. Web designers should take note, as there may be an obligation in the client-supplier relationship for the designer to give best advice on such matters.

One well-used example of this is company newsletters: you buy a product from an ecommerce website, but fail to notice the pre-ticked box agreeing to sign up to the online newsletter and future updates about the company and its products. Subsequently, you get inundated with advertising material you never wanted. Some pre-ticked boxes can even cost consumers money. The example given by the European Commission is the way the travel insurance box or an option for car rental will sometimes automatically be pre-ticked when customers are purchasing airline tickets.

Now all of this is going to have to stop, as pre-ticking boxes on order forms has been banned. Another aspect of the legislation is that it stops customers from being liable for charges they weren’t properly informed about when they made a purchase. They also get a fourteen day ‘cooling off’ period on purchases during which they can withdraw from their contract if they wish.

This isn’t the only thing the EU have done recently to try and protect consumers’ rights: the Privacy and Communications Directive does something similar in relation to internet advertising and online cookies, requiring users to give their consent before certain cookies can be used to stop sites from collecting so much information about them.

This brings us back to the eternal struggle between the rights of the consumer and the need for businesses to survive. It also brings us on to issues of implementation, something that is causing a bit of a headache in relation to the Privacy and Communications Directive, as countries have interpreted the legislation differently. But national interpretations and philosophical arguments aside, what does all of this mean for ecommerce websites? Will they be penalised by these recent EU directives?

On the one hand, you could argue that they are being penalised as the Privacy Directive makes collecting useful data more of a burden and the CRD stops them from taking action that may have bought in more business or helped them to get their message out to a larger number of people. However, protecting consumer rights is important and so these directives are largely positive. It also helps to make websites more honest as consumers will now have to specifically state whether or not they would like extra services rather than ending up with them regardless – something that the customers are sure to appreciate.

For example, in a recent press release, the EU details ten benefits of the new Consumer Rights Directive. The first of these benefits is that customers will be protected against ‘cost traps’ that trick them into paying for services online that ought to be free. Another benefit is that hidden charges and costs are not allowed, and consumers will have to confirm to say they understand the price they are being charged. This suggests that the only sites that will be losing out are those that probably shouldn’t be in business anyway.

Also, ecommerce is an area that is growing strongly, bucking the trend as many other areas of the economy continue to struggle. It doesn’t seem likely that these directives will stop this growth: after all, they strengthen the rights of the consumer, so if anything, they will help ecommerce even though online businesses might not like everything within the directives.

This is especially true in the UK. Figures from the IMRG tell us that the UK is the leading e-retail economy in Europe: if sales for 2011 stay on track, they’ll be worth €81billion by the end of the year.  Ecommerce is also growing at a rate of 18% per annum and more than 1 billion packages are shipped out across the UK as a result every year. It seems safe to say that a couple of Directives from the EU aren’t going to stop the online shopping juggernaut.

By Chelsey Evans

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5 Ideas for Integrating Social Media into your Web Design

Published on October 14, 2011
Tags: Web Design London

Everybody knows that social media is a great way for businesses to interact with their customers and help to add a ‘human’ dimension to their online operations. Done successfully, social media could even boost your business. However, get it wrong and you might end up doing more harm than good.

One important consideration is integrating your social media into your web design. Essentially, this means making it a part of your online operations and linking it in to your main website in a joined up, rather than fragmented, approach. Read on for five ideas for integrating social media into your website design.

Blog teasers on your home page

There are two main approaches to having a company blog. One is to include as part of your main website, such as by having a specific ‘blog’ tab alongside all your other website categories. Another approach is to have a separate blog with a separate domain. Generally speaking, the former approach is better from a search engine optimisation perspective.

But, whatever you decide to do, it can be a good idea to ‘tease’ your blog posts on the homepage of your website. For instance, if you have a ‘news’ section on your homepage, posting a small snippet of your latest blog post followed by a link to the main post so people can continue reading helps to make your site more interactive.

Also, some sites include a ‘latest updates’ section on the homepage of their web design: posting your latest blog titles and links there could be a good way of persuading people to read more.

Consider adding videos to your site

Another idea for integrating social media into your site is to add video content to certain pages. After all, it’s all very well having a company YouTube account, but if people can’t find your videos on your business’s website, it’s unlikely to have much of an impact.

For example, if you have a webpage dedicated to a certain product that you sell, an accompanying video demonstrating how that product works or videos including testimonies on that product could be useful. If you are interested in including videos on your website, you might like to talk to professional website developers to find out more about the best ways of doing this on your website, as the same solution won’t work for everyone.

Include social media buttons

As you might already have guessed, one of the main ways of integrating social media with your web design is to include social media buttons on your website. These are the buttons that allow people to visit your social media pages (such as on Facebook, Twitter or Google+) and also to share content that you have posted on your site. You can download a basic code sample to do this from www.addthis.com.

One thing to consider is the look of these social media buttons. The social networking sites themselves provide standard buttons that can be used on websites, but if you are trying to convey a particular image or sense of your brand, it can be a good idea to change how the buttons look so they fit in better with your web design. This is something a web design company will be able to help you with (such as by changing the colour of the buttons so they go with the rest of your design).

Consider additional content

As well as integrating your social networking content with your web design, there are other aspects you could consider. One example is the QR code. This is a relatively recent development that works a little bit like a barcode. These can be placed on websites and other forms of advertising, and they can be scanned by smartphones with cameras (and the right app).

These codes then take the person using the smartphone to a particular webpage on their phone: this could be a page offering more information about a product, a special offer, your social media page or a mobile version of your site. As more and more people start to use smartphones to browse the internet, it makes sense to start considering developments that could help you access the mobile internet market.

Keep it fresh

Finally, if you are serious about integrating your social media with your web design, you need to make sure you keep your social media fresh. Update your Twitter and Facebook accounts on a regular basis and make sure they’re full of appropriate, useful content that is relevant to your business. If your Twitter feed then updates on your website’s homepage as well, this helps to keep the content of your main site fresh, which in turn can help with your SEO strategy. This makes social media a useful tool for building your presence and engaging with customers, so it is definitely something worth thinking about.

By Chelsey Evans

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London Olympics 2012 What Can You Do For Your Business?

Published on October 7, 2011
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

2012 is set to be a big year for London and the rest of the UK. Not only is it the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June but, not long after that, it will be time for the 2012 London Olympics. Ideally, businesses should already have started to prepare for the big event so that they can make the most of the visitors coming to London: it’s thought that around 500,000 people will be visiting the country during the event.

It’s also likely that many of those people will be doing some research online before they come to find out what services are available in London. So, if you run a London business, now is definitely a good time to start thinking about your strategy for the Olympics and beyond and to be ready!

What’s Your USP?

If you are hoping to promote your business online for the Olympics, one thing to consider is your unique selling point. What sets your company apart from the rest? Why should people use your services rather than those of your competitors? These are things that should always be taken into consideration with your web design and content, but issues such as your USP become more important than ever at a time when the majority of London businesses are likely to be competing with each other (maybe they could include it as an extra Olympic event).

Are you going to do anything special for the event? If so, how will this be different and better from other businesses efforts? Last year, a survey for Deloitte found that while 95% of businesses wanted to assess the impact of London 2012 on their businesses, but most had yet to start. If you haven’t started to think about it yet, now is the time to do it.

Brush Up Your Branding

Once you’ve got your USP and aims for the Olympics, you need to make sure your online branding is as good as it can possibly be. With many foreign visitors having little more than websites to go on when they’re deciding what to do and where to stay in the UK, your website needs to stand out.

You might like to consider using the services of a web design company in London to brush up your branding. This doesn’t necessarily need to mean a complete overhaul of your web design but some fresh, up to date graphics and content could well make a difference.

Start thinking about SEO

Search engine optimisation is something else it pays to think about. Of course, it’s always important for your website, but the Olympics may well inspire you to target a specific or new audience. This is something that will need to be taken account of in your SEO strategy; getting the advice of a London web design and SEO company will be useful in helping you identify likely markets that you could target for the Olympics.

For instance, are there any keywords you could target that might catch people’s attention? One example could be foreign languages: with many foreign visitors coming to London for the 2012 Olympics, it could be a real selling point if your business is multilingual and you could build this into your SEO.

Location, Location, Location

The whole of the UK can benefit from the 2012 Olympics but, with London at the centre of things, there’s no harm in shouting about your London-based business. After all, how are visitors meant to find you if they don’t know where you are?

Targeting ‘London’ keywords in your SEO could be one option for increasing your online impact. Local search can also be useful. For example, social media sites such as Facebook allow people to ‘check in’ at local venues. You could set up a social media campaign where you reward people for checking in at your business by giving them discounts or extra services. This way, they benefit for using your business and you benefit from the advertising and their custom.

Registering with Google Maps and other services so people can easily find your address and directions to your business could be another part of your Olympics online strategy.

Sustainability of Strategy

Finally, what about the sustainability of your strategy? Getting your business ready for the Olympics through having a great web design, developing online promotions and SEO is one thing, but where do you go from there? Like any business plan, your online Olympics plan shouldn’t stop at the end of the event.

Thinking about how you want to carry your work forward and capitalise on it in the future could well benefit your business in the long run. One of the reasons London was awarded the Olympics in the first place was because of the focus on sustainability. This sustainability shouldn’t be confined to things such as the Olympic Park and getting more young people involved in sport. 2012 looks set to provide some great online opportunities for London businesses; don’t let them go to waste.

 

By Chelsey Evans

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