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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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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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Does Your Business Need an Ecommerce Website?

Published on September 23, 2011
Tags: Web Design London

A recent study from the Institute of Direct Marketing reportedly found that Amazon has an 80% market share when it comes to buying books online. This is in contrast to high street chain Waterstone’s, which has only an 8% share of the online market. These figures help to demonstrate the power of ecommerce, especially when the big players such as Amazon are involved.

They also raise an interesting question: should you have an ecommerce site for your business? After all, if the only major high street book chain in the country is finding it hard to break into double figures in terms of the online market share, should you consider ecommerce web design or focus your efforts on growing your business elsewhere?

It’s an interesting dilemma for many and one for which there isn’t a clear answer. While many businesses may well benefit from an ecommerce site, others may prefer to focus their efforts on building up their online identity in other ways. For instance, an authoritative blog on the industry or aspect of the industry your business works in also has the potential to be beneficial for your company’s revenue by helping you to stand out as an expert in the field.

However, for many companies, ecommerce web design could well help them. One of the reasons sometimes given for having an ecommerce site as opposed to an ‘identity’ website is that it’s a relatively simple way of helping businesses operate continuously. You might not be able to keep a shop open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, but you can easily do this with an ecommerce store.

Also, as more and more people start to shop online, it increasingly makes sense for businesses to think about adding an ecommerce aspect to their website. Figures for the end of 2009 show that, month on month, there was a 25% increase in people shopping online. The fact that these figures are from 2009 make it even more significant: even during a recession, when the high street was struggling, online business was still growing. This suggests there is definitely potential for businesses interested in ecommerce web design to develop their online operations.

Once you’ve made the decision to have an ecommerce site, you need to think carefully about how you want to execute the plan and what the aim of your site is going to be. Of course, one of the main aims of any ecommerce website is going to be to ‘increase revenue’, but how are you planning to do this? A good website design company will be able to help you create a site that’s appealing to web users, easy to navigate and simple to make purchases, but the selling strategy has to come from you.

This means thinking carefully about your business: what do you sell? What is your existing offline market share? What is the competition like online? For example, if you sell books, the figures above show that it’s going to be virtually impossible to beat Amazon. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t steer clear of that particular market, though, it just means you need to be savvier about how you go about ecommerce. Perhaps your business has a particular niche that it could work in, such as rare first editions of out of print books, or something comparable in your own industry.

This suggests that ecommerce web design is about much more than just ‘putting your products online for people to buy’. You also need a good, long term strategy, just as you do with all other aspects of your business. Increasingly, websites are something that need to be incorporated into business plans as they form an important part of many companies’ brands and identities. This is even more important when the websites in question include an ecommerce aspect, as your online sales projections will need to be incorporated into the rest of your financial projections.

Overall, in answer to the question ‘should you consider an ecommerce website?’ the short answer is ‘yes’. The qualified answer is consider it, but be clever about it. Don’t launch in without a plan, and don’t forget that while a website design company will be able to create you an exciting, appealing website, that by itself isn’t going to be what increases your revenue. Don’t forget the other aspects of your online business: blogs, social networking and your main website all have an important part to play in backing up your authority and building up trust with your potential customers. Without this, you may have an ecommerce site but not necessarily increased revenue. If people trust your business, however, you should have a much better chance of success with your new ecommerce website.

By Chelsey Evans

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Should You Use Videos in Corporate Web Design?

Published on September 16, 2011
Tags: Web Design London

It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but is this always the case in corporate web design? There is clearly a massive appetite among web users for video content; the huge audience of YouTube and other video-sharing sites is testament to how popular online videos can be, as well as the impact of the messages they can convey. This suggests that videos do have a place in corporate web design, but as with anything else, there are a few things to consider.

The Corporate Brand

A brand is more than just your company logo or trademark. It includes your customer’s entire experience and expectations as to how you conduct business with them. So, in the quest to include video you should be mindful of the entire brand experience.

At the highest, visual level one thing to keep in mind is that your website is a strong visual identity for your brand. Just as when you are designing logos and other graphics, any videos you include on your site need to fit in with the rest of your web design.

However, at the experiential level, any video you include should also meet with your brand message; that is to strike the right tone for you company and present it in a way that is consistent with the way you want your customers to experience your company. For example, if you’re in investment banking, a humorous video of a cat playing a piano is unlikely to appeal to your target audience.

Brand consistency is important, so choosing or creating videos should ensure that the design, customer experience and customer expectations all match.

Browser Capability

Including videos in a site’s web design often sounds like a great idea – in theory. In practice, it can be a little more complicated. For instance, not all web users have fast connections and so they might have trouble viewing the video properly. Also, if the video makes use of Flash, it might not play for all users, either.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid videos: it just means they shouldn’t replace other means of imparting information to the people who use your site. Most websites aim to sell something, whether it is a product, service or an idea. Web users need to know what you are selling no matter what their browser capabilities; videos are great for embellishing existing content, but they shouldn’t be the only content.

So, if you are going to use a video, try to have a text alternative, or perhaps a PDF download that offers the customer another means of reaching the same, or similar, information.

Video Quality

Another rule of using videos in corporate web design has to be that if you are going to include videos on your site, they need to be of a fantastic quality. Essentially, they need to sell the image and brand you no doubt want to portray. Uploading a video to a website might only take a few seconds and so it can seem, on the surface, like a fairly simple thing to do. Behind the scenes, however, it requires time, effort and money to get your video absolutely right.

You’ve probably seen videos on the websites of other businesses: some of them are fantastic while some can leave you a little disappointed. A good video doesn’t necessarily need to cost a lot to make, but it does need to be well-thought through.

For instance, what is the aim of your video? How can you best convey that aim? Are you going to use people in front of the camera or rely on a voiceover? Does the plan for your video fit in with the rest of the branding and image of your business?

Added Value

As mentioned above, videos in corporate web design shouldn’t replace the written content of your site entirely, as you need to take account of the fact that not everyone can or wants to access video material. However, you should always aim to add value with your videos. If you are thinking of putting a certain video on a site, watch it back and ask yourself what you got out of it. Even if you didn’t get any new information from it, did it leave you feeling positive about your business? Asking focus groups or selected contacts for feedback to questions like this can help you to create a better video that users will appreciate more.

Why use them at all?

But why should you think about using videos at all? Your corporate web design might have been perfectly fine all along and you might not see any reason to change it – and that’s fine. There are, however, a few good reasons to consider using short videos on your site if you decide they might complement your online activity well.

  • It’s another way of getting your message out there, adding to your presence on the web and giving you another means of communication with your audience.

  • A video showing your products or services in action might be the thing that convinces someone to use your business.

  • Videos can complement the existing content on your site, helping to keep it fresh and potentially help you appeal to a wider audience.

Overall, there is no hard and fast rule as to whether you should build videos into your corporate web design. You might decide that you want to pursue other interactive content instead. However, using high-quality, clever videos can make a difference to your site, adding another layer of interactivity to hook people in. So if you think you have material that would make a good video for your site, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go for it.

By Chelsey Evans

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