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- Why Responsive Design Matters
Published on January 20, 2012
Tags: Web Design London
We’ve known for quite a while that UK consumers are very keen on online shopping; even as high streets have been struggling and well-known names are worried about bankruptcy, online spending has been steadily growing. Now, with the figures for 2011 coming in, it’s clearer than ever before that, increasingly, we are a nation of online shoppers – and that isn’t about to change. If you haven’t yet got yourself an ecommerce website, now could be the time to invest.
A recent report from Kenshoo, a software provider, has found that paid search ads resulted in 50% more transactions in 2011 than they did the previous year, leading to significantly increased revenues. In terms of year on year growth for sales revenue, 26% of it came from search advertising in 2011, suggesting that this form of advertising is more popular than ever – SEO professionals might want to take note of this. Also, in the last couple of weeks of December, conversion rates were up by 75% and sales transactions were up by 66%.
Interestingly, even though UK consumers are shopping online more and more, the value of the average transaction has actually gone down, largely because people are looking for the best deals – and perhaps also because more frequent online shopping leads to smaller purchases on average. Despite this, the total retail sales generated in the UK last year managed to top a massive £50bn, which accounted for around 12% of all spending, and is the highest figure in Europe.
This means that, last year, online shoppers spent just under £1500 each on average, spread out over 39 items. One estimate from Kelkoo calculates this to be a 14% growth in the online retail market. Another point of note from the 2011 studies is that consumers in the UK are much more willing to make purchases online than people in the US, with UK retailers seeing a significantly better return on their search advertising when compared to US data.
So what are some of the reasons for the increase in UK online shopping? One arguably, is that this is a trend that has been growing for a while. Another is that it is often possible to get better deals online than it is on the high street; for example, note the disparity in price that can often be found between buying books on the high street to (cheaper) Amazon. There is probably also an argument of convenience to be made; it’s simply often easier to go online and do a quick search for what you want to buy rather than going round the shops.
However, we can also put part of the growth in online retail down to developments in technology. In particular, smartphone apps and mobile versions of sites have played an important part in the growth of online shopping – at the beginning of 2010, purchases using mobile phones made up just 0.4% of all retail sales, but by the second quarter of 2011, this was up to 3.3%, and by the end of this year it is expected to top 12%-15%. One of the benefits of apps, for both consumers and retailers, is that they often allow for greater levels of personalisation. Also, a study by online retail authority IMRG found that nearly a quarter of smartphone users have used their mobile to access websites while they’re out shopping, suggesting that the internet can have an influence on purchases even when it is not directly used to make those purchases.
What can you do?
If you are wondering what you can do to benefit from the recent trend towards online retail, there are a few things you can do as a business. For example, a good quality ecommerce web design that’s easy to use, search and is attractive to consumers is a must-have in this day and age.
Also, as mentioned above, apps and mobile sites are becoming more prominent and more important in the world of online shopping. They can also be important for marketing, so developing an app or mobile site for your business is worthwhile especially as by the end of 2012 over 25% of searches are predicted to be carried out on a mobile device. Considering the above figure concerning people accessing websites on their smartphones, an emphasis on mobile web design must also surely be something to investigate.
Other recent developments, such as QR codes and mobile vouchers, are also interesting possibilities. A study from LinkShare also found that more than 40% of consumers had purchased something online that they would never have bought otherwise due to a well-timed offer or voucher. And, of course, don’t forget your marketing. The internet provides more options than ever before in terms of marketing and promotion; if you want to take advantage of the potential of online retail and in particular mobile ecommerce, then now is the time to do it. Contact us for more information.
Published on December 16, 2011
Tags: Web Design London
As another year draws to a close and the Christmas party season starts to warm up, we thought now would be a good time to pause and take stock of the year before everyone heads off for mulled wine and mince pies. Specifically, let’s have a look at some of the key themes that have impacted on web designers during 2011 to see if they can give us any indication of where we might be heading throughout 2012.
Diversification of platforms
A few years ago, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had by far the biggest share of the internet browser market. It’s still at the top of the pack – but not by as wide a margin. Also, Google’s Chrome has recently overtaken Firefox as the number 2 browser for the first time, continuing the rapid expansion of the Chrome browser and neatly reflecting wider changes that are going on in how we use the web. Recent figures suggest that Chrome has now got a 25.69% share of the browser market (up from 4.66% two years ago), compared with IE’s 40.63%.
As well as more of a split between the browsers being used, people are also going online in increasing numbers of ways. Notably, 2011 has largely been about mobile web design and working out how web designers can cater their sites to the rapidly growing smartphone market. Elsewhere, this has bought us developments such as the QR code, as well as new challenges to cater for an increasingly broad range of platforms.
Google keeps us up at night
One of the most influential web design factors of 2011 has got to be Google. Looking back, we’ve written quite a few blog posts about it, covering topics from changes to Analytics impacting on how we access data to wondering whether the Google Plus business pages can compete with Facebook. One Google-related event, however, stands out above all the rest.
Google Panda/Farmer. This was the algorithm update that was first released in the US back in the first quarter of 2011 and has since been rolled out elsewhere and also received a few updates since. Almost as soon as this update was released, it had an impact on around 12% of searches in the US, showing just how powerful and influential such changes can be in the world of web design and SEO.
The aim of Google Farmer was to weed out low quality content sites in order to promote the search rankings of sites filled with high quality content. It seems as though it has certainly succeeded in having an impact, although some sites have had to make significant changes in order to ‘beat’ the Farmer effect.
Privacy versus analytics
2011 has also seen many issues to do with privacy coming to the fore. Staying with Google for a moment, they recently upgraded their encrypted search feature, which secures the searches of those users logged in to a Google platform (such as Gmail). This is designed to protect the data of users, but it has also had an impact on web analytics teams, who have found that up to 10% of their previous analytics data simply isn’t there anymore (unless you’re paying for certain services).
The EU has also had a lot to do with the privacy debate, with recommendations regarding internet cookies and the ‘pre-ticked’ box phenomenon. Arguably, the directive that affects internet cookies – the Privacy and Communications Directive – is the more significant of these in terms of web design as it limits the amount of information websites can collect on their users before having to ask them for permission.
The EU privacy directive has caused some issues due to varying interpretations of it across different member states and the fact that hardly any countries have actually taken any meaningful action on it yet. However, it is still an important example of the on-going debate between the privacy of web users and the needs of businesses that depend on web analytics for their revenue.
Where next in 2012?
With all of this in mind, what can we expect to see in 2012? At the time of writing, it seems safe to say that all of the above issues will be continuing on into the New Year. As more and more people start to use the internet on their smartphones and web users make use of a growing range of browsers, compatibility issues are set to carry on for the time being.
We also predict that Google will be making more waves in 2012, whether this is due to exciting new services or algorithm updates that have a knock-on effect for months afterwards. Privacy will also continue to be debated, as will other related issues such as piracy, especially if the Stop Online Piracy Act in the US and other similar directives continue to cause controversy.
Elsewhere, seeing as 2012 is an Olympic year, you can probably expect to see lots of Olympic-themed web design and online campaigns, at least in the run up to the Games. 3D is a phenomenon that seems unstoppable and has been having an increasing influence on web design, so that could be another area to watch.
Whatever happens, though, the world of web design at the end of 2011 is exciting. There’s a lot going on and a lot of potential for further development. We look forward to whatever 2012 may bring.
Working out the return on your investment is one of the key jobs in an online marketing campaign; without understanding the impact of something, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t or, crucially, whether you should fund similar projects again or focus resources elsewhere instead. Since websites are usually central to these endeavours, a couple of key questions need to be asked to help answer.
Simply put, how do people end up on your website? And, once they’ve found their way there, what do they do?
Understanding issues such as this is behind the recent launch of Google’s Flow Visualisation. This is a new feature of Google Analytics and, as the name suggests, the aim of it is to visualise your visitor flow. Essentially, it maps out where they’re coming from (such as direct or Google.com) and what they’re looking at. It also measures your drop-off rate, so you can easily see when people click away from your site.
Google also describes Flow Visualisation as ‘interactive’. A key feature here is the ability to hover your mouse cursor over various listed pages to see more information on them, such as how many people visited a particular page and how they came to be there. There is also a feature known as ‘Goal Flow’, which allows the site owner to identify various goals (for instance, URLS) and then measure results in relation to particular highlighted goals. This also works retrospectively, which is an interesting development for Analytics.
Therefore, we can split the new Flow Visualisation into two separate developments:
Goal Flow, which measures conversion paths and drop-offs. Google are apparently looking at extending the capabilities of this, too.
Visitors Flow, which details where traffic comes from and where visitors go once they’re on your site. This feature also contains ‘nodes’, which group together likely pathways through the site and allow you to follow through on various site connections.
This all sounds very well, but does Google Flow Visualisation have any practical applications, or is it simply an alternative way of looking at data you’ve already got?
Retrospective Goal Flow
Probably one of the most interesting – and practical – developments of Flow Visualisation is the ability to look at retrospective, historical data through the Goal Flow feature. This means that if you set up a new goal, as well as being able to use it to analyse future data, you’ll also be able to take a look at past conversion rates for that particular goal.
This can help with issues such as comparisons and reporting. The retrospective component applies only to your current goal settings, so this is something to keep in mind but it’s still potentially a very useful and nifty tool. Also, it’s something that wasn’t available before so it’s definitely a welcome addition.
Measure Campaign Impact
As suggested above, measuring the impact of campaigns is hugely important. Interestingly, Flow Visualisation can help you measure the impact of Adwords campaigns. You do this by selecting ‘Campaign’ (rather than ‘Source’) as your flow report dimension. This then allows you to highlight a particular section of traffic and measure how well your campaign is performing.
Identify Useful Content
This is something that we’ve been able to do using Analytics for quite some time now, but Flow Visualisation arguably makes it easier to see where our most useful site content is placed. For instance, we can make use of the Goal Flow tool to see where most users head while on the site, which can be a useful indicator of where our most popular content is. This can then feed into future developments such as site content overhauls and new campaigns.
Flow Visualisation also has some potential benefits for ecommerce websites in the form of a backwards traffic visualisation. This is a component of the Goal Flow and it allows you to see where your web traffic has ‘looped’. For example, it means you are able to see if someone has been on the checkout page of your site but then clicked back to have another look at the relevant product page.
This could be useful for ecommerce campaigns such as ads on the checkout page detailing other products that might be of interest to the customer, as it can allow you to see the effectiveness of these. It could also help you gain some insight into why some customers abandon their baskets before making a purchase.
Overall, Google Flow Visualisation is an interesting Analytics development. Some of the features are, in essence, new ways of looking at existing information, but the Goal Flow feature in particular has the potential to be very useful. We’re also interested to hear that Google Analytics has some more developments on the way, so we’ll be looking out for those to see how they add to the Analytics experience.
Published on November 25, 2011
Tags: Web Design London
As we come to the end of 2011, now can be quite a good time to think about what you’d like the New Year to bring. This is especially important if you’ve got a business, as a brand new year can often mark a turning point and provide a new focus for your company. It can also be a good time to think about the issue of website design – or more specifically, website redesign.
No matter how great your current web design is, if you have had it for quite a long time then you might well be able to benefit from a site reboot to reflect the changes your company has gone through recently. You don’t necessarily have to have a complete site makeover, although this is an option, but an upgrade and assessment of where things stand can make a big difference. To give you a helping hand, read on for six things to consider when contemplating website redesign - all courtesy of Ampheon Web Design London.
The current site – where it stands
It helps to have an idea of where your website currently stands, as this can give you a better idea of where you want to go. For instance, look at issues such as how much traffic you get to your current site, how well you do in the search engine rankings and whether the content on the site still matches your purpose as a business. Do you have an ecommerce website? If so, how well has this been performing in terms of sales?
The current site – what needs improving
Once you know where things stand, you can start to think about what needs improving. This is something it can be a good idea to chat to your web designer about to make sure you’re on the same page and to pick up any technical issues you may have missed. However, even without any technical know-how, you’re more than likely to be able to highlight the issues you’d like to address through your new web design. This could be something as simple as adding a couple of new pages or updating your graphics.
Your business – how it’s changed
It’s also worth reviewing your business before altering your website design. For instance, have you started running any projects or services that perhaps aren’t on your website yet? Have you changed your focus to a different target market? Have you expanded your outlook? These are all things you might like to take account of in your website design, so jotting down a few thoughts will definitely help the process.
Your new site – what you want to achieve
Now we’re getting to the fun bit: what you’re actually looking for in your revamped web design. Think about what you’d like to achieve through your website in the coming New Year. This could be goals such as getting to the top of the search rankings for a particular key term, or getting more traffic through to the site or making more sales through your ecommerce site. It could also be goals related to the look of your site, such as the colour scheme or how the content is laid out.
Your new site – content
Before you get your web designer onto the task of updating your site design, it helps if you have a think about what you’d like to do in terms of content. It can really boost the look of the site if we know beforehand how much content there is likely to be and how you’d like to set it out. So, just as you probably did when the site was designed in the first place, sit down and go through all the content you need to have on the site, making sure it’s all relevant and there for a particular purpose.
Your new site – SEO and marketing
Finally, as well as issues relating to content and design, you also need to consider the issues of SEO and marketing. After all, if you’re going to the effort of upgrading your website design for the New Year, you want people to be able to find it. If you’ve already got an SEO strategy, you might like to review it to make sure it still reflects the purpose and goals of your business. This is something else you could talk to your web designer about to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
Overall, there’s no hard and fast rule to tell you what to do with your site when it comes to redesigning it. However, businesses do change over time and the New Year provides a perfect opportunity to start thinking about how you might like to reflect this in other areas of your operations – including your website. A website redesign could well be what you need to get your company off to a great start in 2012.
One of the things that web designers often come under fire for is advertising. Many (probably most) sites these days feature advertising in some form: it can be a good source of revenue for businesses – including both the website on which the ad is displayed and the company displaying the ad, if it is done properly. However, web designers are sometimes criticised for the way these ads make the sites look – there’s an argument that ads make a site look messy and so detract from the overall design, no matter how well the website performs in other areas.
There is something in this argument, and any good web designer will tell you that there’s a fine line between advertising on a website being okay and it becoming overwhelming to the point where something needs to be done about it. But is it really the web designers fault at all?
After all, the counter argument would run that when a web design company creates a website, they are simply following the brief given to them by a client. If a client asks them to include space for advertising then this needs to be incorporated into the web design. Of course, the way it looks is still important as ads that look out of place or having too many of them can reduce their power and render them useless when compared with one or two well-placed, relevant ads on a page. But if a site relies heavily on advertising revenue and asks for this to be built into the design, there’s not always a huge amount of room to manoeuvre.
This is one of those debates where both sides have a point: some websites do look bad because they have so many ads on them, but many others are actually good examples of web design that successfully integrate valuable and useful ads into the site. It’s also a debate that is gradually becoming more prominent as the way we view the web changes.
We have discussed before about how smartphones, tablet computers and other devices are slowly starting to creep up on traditional web platforms such as PCs and laptops. This is changing lots of aspects of web design, from how you navigate sites (touchscreens versus mouse pointers, for instance) to the content you include on mobile websites (is it practical to simply copy the ‘regular’ website into mobile form?). Another aspect of web design it has an impact on is advertising.
Displaying ads on mobile sites doesn’t work in the same way as for laptops and desktops. Essentially, the screens are too small and so they can’t take the same amount of style or advertising. However, as more and more people start to use mobile web devices, the need to address this issue is growing as it seems unlikely the desire to generate revenue through online advertising is going to disappear.
Arguably, mobile websites provide interesting web design opportunities both in terms of their overall design and how they incorporate advertising. The specific challenges provided by the range of different operating systems and varying screen sizes means designers and developers have to be more inventive – and it’s possible to argue that this is working. For instance, take a look at some of the most popular apps, or tablet editions of newspapers. They’re changing the way they display information and making it appealing to the people who use these devices.
Developing specific and better mobile websites has the potential to make web designers, advertisers and companies think more carefully about the issue of advertising. It isn’t that hard to see why people find it so frustrating on traditional web platforms such as desktop computers; even now pop-ups have mostly disappeared, there is still a high concentration of ads on many sites.
Smaller screens and improving technology, though, means that mobile sites tend to include fewer ads overall – but the ones they do include are better targeted and, hopefully, of greater value to all concerned. It’s a development borne of necessity but one that’s sure to be welcomed as it continues. One good ad could potentially be worth a lot more than one hundred ill-placed ones. Decreasing need for multiple ads can also help to free up web design, leaving more room for innovation in design and bringing the focus back to content.
Overall, the issue of online advertising is one that’s set to stay. However, it seems that recent developments and the growing awareness of web users means that changes are coming – and with any luck, they’ll be changes for the better.
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