Web Design Industry Blog

Blog Rss Feed

eCommerce overtakes the high street as the King of Retail

Published on November 14, 2012
Tags: Web Development London

For the first time, internet shopping has overtaken the high street as the UK’s favourite way of shopping. New research from Tealeaf has shown that 83% of adults were pleased with their online shopping experience, compared to only 81% being in favour of visiting a bricks-and-mortar shop.

Surprisingly, it was not the youngest age group which preferred online shopping over traditional high street shopping, but the 34-44 age group which saw 85% satisfaction with online shopping and only 78% for traditional shopping. The survey was carried out online, but the results were weighted in the direction of high street shopping in order to eliminate any sample bias towards online shopping.
Signs of the high street slowly dying out have been apparent for some time. Only one in five consumers visits an high street travel agent when researching or booking a holiday, compared to the 80% of people who now book their holidays online or otherwise independently. This is symbolic of the general shift in attitudes with regards to retail and is backed up by this most recent research.
Increasingly, the mobile web is being used to make purchases online - a sign that perhaps the PC and laptop may have only a very short reign as the King of Retail. Tealeaf’s research showed that smartphones were used by almost a quarter (24%) of UK consumers to research products, with half of these making a purchase directly using the mobile web. Those aged 25-34 were most likely to have made a purchase using their mobile phone with 29% responding affirmatively, with only 19% of those aged 18-24 saying they had purchased products using their smartphone.
A recent Tradedoubler survey showed that a massive 71% of smartphone owners had researched products using their phone, with 32% doing so on a weekly basis. These people, however, mostly (38%) chose to complete their purchase using another method with only 25% choosing to complete their purchase on their smartphone. Interestingly, smartphone apps still lag slightly behind the mobile web in terms of the percentage of people who actually complete a sale, with only 12% making a purchase using a smartphone app. This is a trend which is repeated across the different age ranges.
When it comes to product research, 39% of 18-24s admitted to having used their smartphones to research products which they may be interested in buying, with 19% of them having used a smartphone app in order to do so. 19% also opted to purchase through the mobile web, which is significantly lower than the 12% of those who chose to buy a product through a smartphone app.
Whichever way you view the figures, it is clear that the retail sector is changing enormously. Only time will tell which methods of buying emerge as the King of Retail, but it seems that an air of change pervades throughout the industry. 

By Chelsey Evans

Submit Blog & RSS Feeds 

  0 Comments | Post Comment

Custom software; what are the indications that my business needs it?

Published on October 22, 2012
Tags: Web Development London

Custom software is widely available for businesses small and large, but it is one of those products for which can be notoriously difficult to assess the benefits. After all, how do you know if your business needs custom software? We’ve taken a look at the major features and benefits in order to help you decide whether or not custom software could be beneficial for your business.

Do you or your staff find yourselves reentering similar data into various different pieces of software? Or do you distribute a large amount of printed material - something which could be replaced electronically? These are both major signs that your company could benefit hugely from custom software. Any time-consuming manual work can be easily automated, saving your business time and money. Even time spent doing boring and tedious calculations in order to gauge sales and profit levels can be easily clawed back through software automation.
Many companies and employees keep data in spreadsheets. This is incredibly inefficient and will be losing your company time and money, eating into your profit margins. If you’ve found yourself using similar workarounds because there doesn’t seem to be an off-the-shelf software package which suits your needs, it’s time to have a custom software system built just for you. You’d be surprised: it’s actually not that expensive and is quite an easy process to go through.
Custom software increases your company’s efficiency by automating routine and laborious activities, which leaves your staff free to deal with real tasks which will directly benefit your customers. Office material costs will also be cut due to the dwindling need for paperwork and manual administration, making your custom business software even more profitable for you and your company. You’ll no longer need to employ people to send out invoices, emails or manage appointments - this can all be done using custom software.
These days, time is money and the incredibly huge savings which can be made in terms of time translates into pure profit for your company. There are also benefits to be made in terms of security, which may sound strange considering the fact that much of your company’s data will be held in one central system. However, the size of this system is to its advantage in terms of security. Your current system of spreadsheets, Access databases and printed paper is possibly as unsecured as it could be. Storing this information in a central database accessed by custom software allows it to take advantage of a specifically-built security system which will ensure that your data is kept safe from prying eyes. The UK’s Data Protection Act does, in fact, make securing data a legal obligation for your company.
So, if you’re looking to cut the costs of administration and the tedium of recurring and laborious tasks, along with the added advantages of increased security and rising profits, it seems that custom software really could be the answer for your business.

By Chelsey Evans

Submit Blog & RSS Feeds 

  0 Comments | Post Comment

HTML4, HTML5 or HXTML? A web development dilemma

Published on September 21, 2012
Tags: Web Development London

HTML, or hyper-text mark-up language, the building block of the web, has been evolving ever since its initial introduction. There have not been any major differences between different versions of HTML, each incarnation simply improving upon the previous one as new technologies and website requirements come into play.

However, with the introduction of HTML5, the playing field looks set to change. The majority of new browser releases now support HTML5 and it is being used increasingly regularly amongst web developers. But is it necessarily the best mark-up language to use in web development? We have taken a closer look at all three mark-up languages in order to form an opinion.
HTML4, it may surprise you, was first developed in 1990 - over twenty-two years ago. Syntax is generally very loose, with closing tags being optional and upper/lower-case syntax being entirely optional. This made it very difficult for browsers to accurately render pages and, as a result, many websites appear completely differently across different browsers and platforms. On the plus side, though, it is very easy to learn and adopt.
In order to counteract the negative downsides of HTML4, XHTML was introduced. Technically, XHTML is a dialect of XML, adapted for website markup. It standardises much of HTML, including stating that opening tags must be closed and certain tags cannot be nested within each other. These restrictions tend not to be prohibitive, but instead make for a more professionally coded website. XHTML is now the language of choice for most professional web developers for this reason.
HTML5 is a relatively new markup language, which is becoming more and more popular all the time. The updated markup language gives new functionality to web developers in terms of designing for the mobile web and even going so far as to replace Flash and other multimedia plugins with an inbuilt multimedia platform. It also supports geolocation and canvas imaging for graphic designers. The markup has been kept simple - even the DOCTYPE has been simplified to <!DOCTYPE html>. Compare this to the XHTML 1.0 Transitional DOCTYPE, which looks akin to this: <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> and you can see how the new markup language might be more convenient.
Older versions of HTML are also supported in HTML, and it is entirely up to you as to how strictly you write the code, rather than having to choose a level of strictness in XHTML. Combined with the addition of dynamic image creation, multimedia encoding and new accessibility attributes, it certainly seems as though the future is bright with HTML5. For this reason, we would recommend that new websites be developed using HTML5 as opposed to XHTML or, definitely, HTML4.

By Chelsey Evans

Submit Blog & RSS Feeds 

  0 Comments | Post Comment

How a content management system could help your website

Published on September 13, 2012
Tags: Web Development London

When you come to have a new website built for your business, it is important that you are aware of the various options available to you in terms of the structure of your website. If you are looking for a simple advert-style website then a flat-file system is a straightforward and cost-effective of getting your company on the world-wide web. However, if you need a little more advanced functionality then a content management system could be just the thing you’re looking for.

A content management system, or CMS, does exactly what it says on the tin. Broadly, it is a system which is designed to help you to manage content on your website. Content management systems come in all shapes and sizes, from blog management systems to eCommerce packages, simple page-updaters to dynamic content generation systems. The term is all-encompassing. What they have in common, however, is the way in which they are able to store, retrieve and manage data with ease.

A content management system will consist of the front-end system, enabling you to manage your content and the end user to view it and utilise it on your website; the back-end system, which retrieves data and manipulates it in such a way that it can be easily utilised by the front-end; and the database, which stores the data and allows it to be retrieved by the back-end system. Common database formats include MySQL for Unix-based systems and Microsoft SQL Server for ASP-based systems.

A common use of content management systems is that of blog management. Blog management systems, such as Wordpress, have a wide range of uses nowadays - far beyond that of maintaining a blog. Wordpress, in particular, is very popular as a generalised CMS, allowing users to create simple text pages and interlink them in a way which makes maintaining their website much easier than it otherwise would be. Widgets, plugins and themes make setting up and maintaining a website with Wordpress a breeze, and it is an increasingly popular option as a generalised CMS.

Of course, blog management systems such as Wordpress are the best option if you are looking to set up a blog-based website. The management of blog posts is fully taken care of, from category management to sorting and ordering, archiving and commenting. Although your website may seem impressively complicated, a high quality content management system can make the whole process a breeze.

If you are looking to sell products through your website, you will almost definitely need an eCommerce system. Popular eCommerce packages, including osCommerce, make it easy for you to set up an online store and integrate your products with a payment acceptance solution. Services such as PayPal and WorldPay are relatively simple to set up and will allow you to accept payments safely and securely through your website in order to begin selling products and making money through the web. An eCommerce content management system will allow you to add, remove and update products with ease and makes managing your online store incredibly simple.

Whether you are looking to launch a blog, an online store, or even if you are just simply looking for a way to update your website’s content with ease, a content management system could be just the right solution for you. You do not need any particularly advanced technical expertise in order to operate a well set-up content management system and can administrate an advanced form of website with relative ease. All content management systems come with easy-to-use front-end systems which will make updating your website, adding pages and tweaking products a breeze.

Content management systems do tend to be more expensive than simple flat-file websites due to the time they take to set up and calibrate, but the power which lies behind a good content management system is truly unbeatable, and you’ll have a website which can maintain products and content easily for many years to come. If you’re looking for a more powerful solution than a simple website, a content management system might be just the thing for you.

By Chelsey Evans

Submit Blog & RSS Feeds 

  0 Comments | Post Comment

How a database-driven system can help your website

Published on September 6, 2012
Tags: Web Development London

The vast majority of businesses now have their own website, but many are flat-file websites consisting purely of text and images. However, have you ever considered a database-driven website designed to store large amounts of data with ease and security?

Most people will at least be familiar with the concept of a database; a system of linked tables in which data is stored in a logical format, ensuring that it can be easily managed and retrieved. Databases need not be desktop-based, though – there are many uses for databases in websites which can lead to your site being far more powerful than it currently is.

Updating and maintaining a flat-file website can be quite tedious. Having to go in and edit the text directly on each page can take a long time and be quite expensive if you are paying a company to do this for you. Having to change the styling and coding on each individual page is cumbersome, at best. Having an incorporated database on your website will help do away with this hassle, making maintaing and updating your website far simpler. Not only does it make things easier, but it can make your website far more powerful than it currently is.

Databases give you far more power in design, even allowing you to customise your design and content for individual visitors. A database ensures that only a handful of static web pages need to be designed and maintained, with the database itself generating thousands or more individual, dynamic pages. These pages are also fully searchable, due to the content being stored in a logical database. The inherent organisational capabilities of a database-driven website are hard to beat, with static pages vastly limiting what your website can do for you.

If you run an eCommerce website, for example, a database-driven website is absolutely essential in order to be able to handle large numbers of products. A content management system – a blog, for example – would also be another good example of a website which requires a database system in order for it to run effectively. In essence, any form of web system which requires large amounts of data to be stored, retrieved and manipulated will need a database behind it in order to run as it should do.

There are, of course, some disadvantages to using databases, but these are few and far between. Having a database-driven website designed does require a programmer with a reasonable level of skill and experience and the costs of having a website such as this designed are usually more expensive than a flat-file website. In terms of ongoing costs, however, these tend to be much lower. You will also need to consider the technological requirements which will need to be addressed by your hosting company. The vast majority of hosting packages will offer some form of database administration capabilities, but you may need to look at moving to a new hosting company if the support isn't adequate.

There are a couple of different options to choose from in terms of what type of technology will drive your database. Two of the more popular options are Microsoft SQL Server and mySQL. Choosing one of these types of database will ensure that you are able to find support in terms of programming much more easily than if you use a more esoteric database system.

To conclude the matter, if you want your website to be dynamically driven and to be able to cope with processing, retrieving and storing large amounts of data and information, a database system is absolutely vital. Although the costs may be greater in the first instance, this is due to the complexity of the system and the specific skills and programming knowledge required in order to set up this sort of arrangement. However, ongoing costs will tend to be much lower as the database will tend to maintain itself. You will not have to keep contacting your web design company or developer in order to get them to make changes to the website as the dynamic aspect of the system will allow you to make changes simply and easily and with minimal effort. Whether you're looking for ease of use, simple updates or simply to store large amounts of data in a more complex website, it is well worth looking at database-driven technology in order to drive your website.

By Chelsey Evans

Submit Blog & RSS Feeds 

  0 Comments | Post Comment

<<First < Previous 1 2 3  4 Next > Last >>

Follow Us: Follow us on Google+ Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn

Disclaimer: The contents of these articles are provided for information only and do not constitute advice. We are not liable for any actions that you might take as a result of reading this information, and always recommend that you speak to a qualified professional if in doubt.

Reproduction: These articles are © Copyright Ampheon. All rights are reserved by the copyright owners. Permission is granted to freely reproduce the articles provided that a hyperlink with a do follow is included linking back to this article page.