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Are Spelling and Grammar Important on a Web Site?

Published on July 14, 2011
Tags: SEO, Usability, Web Design London

An interesting news report this week suggests that poor spelling and grammar on websites is costing internet businesses millions of pounds a week. It seems to be common sense that if you are publishing anything on the internet, you should – at the very least – run it through a spellchecker first to make sure there are no glaring errors. It appears, however, that lots of people fail to do this and it’s having a massive impact on businesses.

A large part of the issue here is about trust: if people are going to part with their hard-earned cash online, they need to feel as though they can trust the website. If there are lots of spelling errors and basic grammar-related mistakes, they might feel as though the site is not particularly professional and is therefore not worthy of their business (this is the point where we frantically read back through this blog post to make sure we’re not guilty of the same sin).

It isn’t just ecommerce sites that are affected, either. It seems fairly safe to say that the vast majority of businesses have websites so they can promote their work and grow their company; even if they’re not directly touting for business online, their website still forms an important part of their marketing portfolio. Plus, as more people turn to the internet to research businesses before they use them in the ‘real’ world, it is more important than ever that websites offer a good first impression.

The source of this news story about the revenue lost by online businesses is Charles Duncombe, an online entrepreneur. He makes the point that websites have about six seconds to grab someone’s attention, and that sounds about right. Web users can tell extremely quickly whether or not a site is of good quality. The overall look of the website obviously plays a part in this, but so does the quality of the content – if there is a stupid mistake in the headline (other than perhaps in a clearly ironic manner), it’s bound to put people off.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that internet sales in the UK are worth around £527m per week, which demonstrates just how big a business this is. Additionally, an online experiment by Mr Duncombe found that online sales were twice as high once he had corrected an error on a website. This goes to show how much money is being lost thanks to bad spelling.

There is also the potential for websites to be negatively affected in search engine rankings thanks to spelling mistakes and other indicators of poor quality content. We have previously written about the Google Farmer update, which has had the effect of pushing lower quality sites down in the search engine rankings – proving that it’s not enough to just target keywords: quality matters for all sorts of things.

It’s also worth noting that the reputations of businesses are at risk, here. A company could offer a fantastic service, but if it doesn’t sell it properly or it gets something fundamental wrong on its website, it could stop that company’s success in its tracks. Mr Duncombe makes the point that when you sell something on the web, 99% of it is down to the written word.

It’s vital to get it right, especially when you consider that things such as bad spelling and dodgy grammar are traditionally taken as indicators of an online scam. It seems safe to predict that every single person reading this blog will have been the recipient of multiple scam emails that have been riddled with basic written errors. It also seems safe to predict that you will all have immediately deleted the emails as a result (well, we hope so, anyway!). Imagine if people did that with the website of your business, simply because you didn’t proofread it properly or put quite enough thought into the copywriting.

So, don’t let your business’s website lose out because you’ve written “it’s” instead of “its”. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure the content on your site is of a high quality so your readers will trust it and – hopefully – give you their business as a result. They include:

  • Use a spellchecker. It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t.

  • Remember your audience. It is fine to write in ‘text speak’ when you’re actually texting, but remember that your website is supposed to be a professional pitch as to why people should use your services. Imagine you’re a customer: would you be convinced by your site? If the answer is ‘no’, then you may have some work to do.

  • Get a copywriter. There’s no shame in admitting you need some assistance to help your website pack a punch for the right reasons. A professional copywriter will be able to make sure there are no grammatical slip-ups on your site and that the content is relevant to your business.

  • Proofread. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Even if you’re confident in your ability to write good copy, don’t post it online without checking it first. You never know when errors might have crept in without you realising.

By Chelsey Evans

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Which Comes First in Web Design - Design or Content?

Published on July 8, 2011
Tags: Web Design London

When you have a business, chances are that at some point you will want a top quality website to help market your work and provide your clients with more information about your services. The temptation at this point can often be to jump straight in to the web design process and start thinking about what you want the site to look like.

Of course, aesthetics are important as they are what web visitors first see when they click onto a page, and they do make a difference as to whether the visitor decides to stay on your website, to read the information there and to contact you or buy your products. So what your website looks like is very important, and it’s something that web designers spend a lot of time making sure to get right.

When you are creating a website, however, it often helps to start from a different point: the content. Graphics and colours may come first in terms of a web visitor’s viewing experience, but in terms of what goes into your website, it really helps if you know what you want to say first. This often helps to guide the web designer too as the quality and length of the site content can determine the structure and layout of the design.

This is why planning is such an important part of the web design process; when we design websites at Ampheon Web Design London, for instance, we always like to know exactly what the client is looking for first. This includes matters such as the nature of their business and what they are hoping to achieve with their website, as well as how they would like it to look. This helps us to create a much better website with the aim that it will be more successful at generating traffic and business.

So, if you are thinking of creating a new website for your business, what are some of the things you should be thinking about before you turn your thoughts to the aesthetics of web design?

In a lot of cases, it can help to get right back down to basics. For example, what does your company actually do? Having a really clear, conceptual idea of what your business is about can help to shape your vision for your website. Secondly, who is your target audience? This is likely to vary depending on the nature of your company and whether you are looking to produce an ecommerce site or an informative one.

It also pays to think about what content you are going to be putting on the site. What articles do you think you will need to include in order to sell your business to people? What categories do they fall into? This helps to break your site down into distinct sections that will make it easier to design, navigate and understand. It also helps if you have at least some content written before you turn your attention to the look of the website, as the tone of your writing will help to inform where the site goes from there.

And don’t forget: your  web site content should be written with the visitor in mind; how what you are offering can benefit them.

Once you have a very clear idea in your head about the content of your website – the meat of it, if you like – you can turn your attention to the design. What kind of colours do you want? What feelings to you want the site to invoke? Do you want interactive features? What sort of graphics? How do you want to go about branding it? These are all questions that your web designer will be able to help you answer if you aren’t sure, but the more you know beforehand, the more the designer will be able to create an accurate reflection of your vision.

One of the most important things to remember about web design – and websites in general – is that if they are going to be good, they need to be dynamic. This means you should regularly review the content on your site and update it to keep it fresh and relevant. This is not only sensible from the point of view of keeping your readers up to date, but it also helps in terms of SEO (search engine optimisation). At longer intervals, you might also want to review the aesthetics of your site to see if they need updating to keep up with where your business is going.

Overall, then, web design is not static. It’s not just a case of designing an attractive website. Of course, that’s part of it, but it’s also about the quality of the content that forms the core of the site, so the aesthetics will complement what you have to say, not overwhelm it. Web design is not just about creating pretty webpages: it’s also about conveying a message. Knowing what that message is before the design process starts will definitely be of benefit to your business.

By Chelsey Evans

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Browser Statistics 2011: Market Share and the Effect on Web Design

Published on June 30, 2011
Tags: Usability, Web Design London

If you were asked to guess which web browser was the most popular, which one would you choose? It probably comes as no surprise that Internet Explorer is still the most widely used web browser, although it isn’t as popular as it used to be: in 2004, it had around 95% of the entire market to itself. Now, all of the different versions of IE put together add up to around 44% of the market, meaning that while Internet Explorer is still dominant, it is not the force it once was.

But why is it so important to know this? Why should we be bothered about which web browsers people choose to view the web? Simply, web browser trends matter because they have an impact on web designers and developers. As web developers in London, we spend a lot of time making sure our sites are compatible with a whole range of browsers, so users won’t experience any display or other problems while they are viewing the sites. This can often be a time consuming task, especially as there are now so many web browsers on the market and people are often reluctant to upgrade their browser of choice.

This means that knowledge about which browsers are the most popular can be extremely useful when it comes to ensuring site compatibility. Data from StatCounter shows that during the first half of June 2011, the combined versions of IE had 43.72% of the web browser market. It also shows that Firefox had 28.57%, Chrome had 20.26%, Safari had 5.09%. Opera had 1.74% and ‘other’s had 0.62% of the web market.

You can’t make too many pronouncements based on combined data that ignores the fact that each web browser also has multiple versions that also need to be accounted for, but a couple of things stand out. One is that, as mentioned above, while Internet Explorer still has the most users, it has nowhere near the market dominance it once did. The other noticeable issue is that of Google Chrome: it may only have been released around three years ago, but with a fifth of the market share it is doing extremely well. It will be interesting to look at the figures again in a year’s time and see the extent to which it has grown by then.

There are also some interesting things we can clean from the more specific data from StatCounter that relates to the use of individual web browsers. For example, despite the fact that Microsoft have long since moved on from IE6, it still accounts for 3.77% of web browsers in the world. This is especially interesting when you consider that the market share of Safari 5.0 – Apple’s browser that is mainly used on Macs – is only just above IE6 with 3.84%. It shows that even though the influence of Apple has grown hugely in recent years, it is still very hard to shake the influence of Microsoft.

As you might expect, it is an IE browser that is the most widely used in the world – in this case, IE8, which has a 27.98% market share. This is interesting given the fact that IE9 has already been released (it’s currently on 5.89%, which is below IE7 on 6.07%). We can expect to see use of IE9 increase in the coming weeks and months, but this is a good illustration of the fact that just because new technology is available, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all web users will adopt it. 

Several reasons can be given for this. One is, simply, that people are often resistant to change until it’s absolutely necessary. Another reason is that some browsers, such as IE6, are associated with particular operating systems and so a lot of people won’t upgrade their browser until they upgrade their operating system. This can make the job of web designers and developers a bit harder, but there are some things to bear in mind that can help the situation.

  • Different audiences use different browsers. It helps to know which browsers the users of your own website are using, as if they are overwhelmingly IE users or Firefox users, you can make allowances for this. For example, a website that focuses on online technical issues is more likely to have readers that use browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

  • Forewarned is forearmed. Statistics such as the ones given above are useful when it comes to working out what to do with your own websites as it helps to identify current trends. Data compiled over a period of time can also help you to make projections about how browser use might change (such as the massive growth of Chrome in a relatively short space of time), which can be very helpful.

Overall, while it is hard to make any concrete predictions about what is going to happen in terms of web browser use, browser owners are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that people don’t always upgrade just because there is a new version of the browser available. This means that they are increasingly running campaigns to persuade people to upgrade and these seem to be catching on – it’s unlikely that the situation is going to be resolved any time soon, but as Google starts to wind down its support for old browsers and other developments start taking shape, things seem quite a bit more hopeful than they might once have done.

By Chelsey Evans

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Using Wordtracker to Boost your Business

Published on June 17, 2011
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

Here’s a scenario for you: you have a new company and, naturally, you want to build a website to promote it. Let’s say that this company is a health food retailer. You know that you need to promote keywords and get other people to link to your site so that you can improve your search engine rankings, but… how do you go about doing that? Unless you are an SEO expert, it’s going to be fairly hard to get what you’re looking for and even if you are an SEO expert or champion web designer, there’s still a lot of competition out there.

This means that you need a targeted, focused strategy to promote your new health food business. A lot of people might, at this point, turn to Google’s keyword tools. These are free and so they’re very appealing to use. Yet with so many people doing exactly the same thing and the fact that, no matter how good they might be, Google naturally have their own interests at heart, it’s unlikely that this will be enough to ensure success across all platforms. This is why we at Ampheon Web Design London are big fans of Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com), which offers a much more comprehensive experience when it comes to keywords, link building and strategizing.

After all, if you are a health food retailer (or pretty much any other business you can think of), you are likely to have a lot of competition. With more than 2.1 million enterprises in the UK alone, it’s practically a given that you are going to be facing some competition, even in a niche market – and that’s without taking account of growing international competition as the internet expands and becomes more important to businesses everywhere.

One of the best things about Wordtracker is that it can help you target not just keywords, but what are known as long tail keywords. To take the above example, while some people will undoubtedly do internet searches for ‘health food’, more people will search for longer, more specific terms such as ‘health food shops in London’ or ‘local health food retailers’. These sorts of key terms are much more valuable to you in the long run as there is likely to be less competition for them and they will also be more specific to your business: it might be next to impossible to get to the top of the Google rankings for ‘health food’, but you might be able to get there for a term such as ‘health food retailer London.’

Wordtracker will be able to identify keyword searches for your terms and will offer you lots more results than a free tool will ever be able to. This makes your investment more than worthwhile as picking up increased, targeted traffic is important when it comes to translating site readers to sales. It will also be able to identify related searches that are still relevant to your terms. For instance, for the term ‘health food’, other related terms could include ‘nutrition’ or ‘children’s health’, ‘diet’ or ‘healthy eating’. These are all keywords that could help to boost your search rankings if you incorporate them into the content on your site and you are more likely to have success with them than if you just target one generic term.

Another thing that we love about Wordtracker is its tools that help with link-building. This is an important part of SEO and any SEO expert or web designer will tell you how crucial it is to get quality inbound links in order to boost your site. Not just any link will do, though. They need to be relevant to you. For instance, if Ampheon were to ask a women’s fashion blogger to link to our site, it probably wouldn’t offer much in the way of link value. If, however, we got one of our clients – someone with credibility, a good search engine reputation and good levels of traffic to their site – to provide us with an inbound link, that would be much more valuable.

This is the sort of help that Wordtracker can provide: using their link-building support service allows you to identify where your competitors have got their links from, which is really useful as it allows you to work out where you should target when it comes to organising campaigns. So, even though our health food retailer might be best friends with someone who works for a law firm, a link from them might not be ideal. Instead, the Wordtracker tool might suggest blogs related to the subject or local companies who might have an interest in promoting other businesses. For instance, universities often have sections on their websites that tell students what’s in the area. Here, they could include a link to the health food retailer’s site to highlight the fact that there is a health food shop in the area.

Of course, you might think that you could sort all this out yourself – and maybe you could, but it would take a long time to do, eating into valuable resources that you could be directing elsewhere to better effect. Using Wordtracker to do the hard work for you will cut down on the amount of time you have to spend identifying both good link opportunities and important keywords for you to target. You’ll benefit from better, increased levels of traffic and a better understanding of how you can promote your online business in the market you’re operating in.

This means that Wordtracker is useful for all companies: whether you are the biggest health food retailer in the land or just setting up in a little shop on a road off the high street, it can help you to identify likely avenues that will bring you more and better business. We here at Ampheon have considerable experience when it comes to web design and all things SEO and we are definitely of the opinion that Wordtracker is pretty nifty. Yes, you can get Google tools for free, but they’ll never give you the depth of information or level of detail that Wordtracker will give you. And, at a time when the internet is increasingly competitive, that sort of tailored support is invaluable.

By Chelsey Evans

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Schema.org, Microdata Formats, Rich Snippets and Better SEO

Published on June 10, 2011
Tags: SEO, Usability, Web Design London

They may spend most of their time as rivals, but Google has recently joined forces with Bing and Yahoo! to create schema.org. This is a new website that aims to improve the quality of the internet through the creation of a more robust data mark-up system for webpages. Until now, all of the search giants have had their own systems for this, which has often made it tricky for web designers and webmasters to decide on an exact mark-up schema, but it is hoped that having a shared system will not only make these decisions easier, but also improve search results.

Schema.org uses a microdata format that will be familiar to most webmasters who have previously marked up webpages for rich snippets. For those unfamiliar with this, rich snippets are those pieces of information that help to identify what your site is about and provide a large amount of information in a short space (such as an item that comes up on a search engine with not just the page title, but a picture, description, reviews and other data). Using the microdata format across the whole of schema.org is designed to make the process of marking up rich snippets more consistent.

One of the main benefits of schema.org is that it uses a vocabulary across all participating search engines, so there is less chance for confusion over double meanings or unsupported jargon. It also helps to identify sites more easily and, therefore, means that websites benefit from the categories they choose. For example, under the Schema vocabulary, a restaurant would be – in the broadest category – a ‘thing’. This would allow the web designer to include a name, description, URL and an image in the mark-up information.

The restaurant, however, is not just a ‘thing’. It’s also a ‘place’ a ‘localbusiness’ and a ‘restaurant’. All of these add extra detail to the mark-up information so it can be located in different – yet still relevant – categories. There are lots of other common categories that can be used for different webpages, depending on the content that is included within them. For instance, if you were writing a webpage about a celebrity, they would fall into the ‘person’ category, while a charity could be a ‘place’, ‘local business’ and ‘organisation’. When it comes to creative works there are options for ‘book’, ‘recipe’, ‘TVseries’ and more.

Generally speaking, the more categories you are able to select when you are marking up a webpage and the more information you can provide for each of your selected categories, the better as it provides a richer range of data for the search engines to utilise when they are searching for relevant results. Schema also allows you to view sample HTML for many of the categories so you can work out which ones would be relevant for your site and how you might need to adapt it in order to properly fit in.

Once you have selected all of your categories, filled in all of the information that you are able to and have completed your coding, schema.org recommends that you test your webpage mark-up using a code compiler so you can make sure it is all working properly and will have the intended effect. One thing to bear in mind is that when you use schema.org, you can only mark-up the visible part of your webpages – the bits that your readers will see – and not any of the hidden page elements.

Schema also works to take the ambiguity out of other parts of websites: as well as offering a common vocabulary for webmasters to make use of, there are also standard formats for time and date. This is important when you consider that different countries often use different formats when it comes to the date, so that while 10/6/11 in the UK would undoubtedly be read as the 10th June 2011, in the US it might be interpreted as the 6th October 2011. The standard format offered by Schema means that the inputted information is unambiguous and therefore easier for machines to understand. Something similar can be done with time.

This can be useful if, for example, you were promoting an exhibition or a concert that was taking place at a particular time and date. You would obviously want it to be very clear when the event was taking place and for the information you give to be understood by any machine – and therefore web user – that picked it up. You can do something similar with, for instance, recipes or anything else that might take place over a specific period by using the Schema format to specify how long something will take (such as a recipe that needs cooking for an hour or an event that lasts for four hours).

There is also a meta tag option, which can be used for web content that you can’t mark-up in the normal way due to how it is displayed on the webpage. For instance, if you have a product review on your site and the information is displayed through a five-star graphic, then you could use a Schema meta tag that includes details of the graphic so it is incorporated into your mark-up of the rest of the page. You can also include link data to third party sites to make it clearer to search engines the sort of information you have described on your page (such as linking to an encyclopaedia reference that contains further details).

Overall, schema.org helps to standardise the process of marking up webpages by introducing a common format for Google, Yahoo! and Bing. This has the effect of making life easier for web designers and other staff in charge of the process as they will be able to be much more specific in their coding, rather than trying to come up with a solution that works for all the different search engines.

While Schema is not specifically designed to improve web ranking, including rich snippets in your mark-up can help your search results to display more prominently, which is always a good thing. Plus, as the features of the site develop and more options are included in it, it makes sense to make use of it now so you will continue to benefit further down the line as new developments are made and new features added.

By Chelsey Evans

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