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or would like help delivering your business objectives,
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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Favourite Albums of 2014

The year draws to a close and the world needs another best of 2014 list. Fortunately, I am in a position to provide one - my favourite albums of the year. 

Get yourselves down to a record shop and buy these:

This is all Yours by Alt-J

Built on Glass by Chet Faker

Warpaint by Warpaint 

Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn

Zaba by Glass Animals

Total Strife Forever by East India Youth

Present Tense by Wild Beasts

St Vincent by St Vincent 

Romantic Works by Keaton Henson

Lost in a Dream by War on Drugs

In a Dream by Juan Maclean

The Take off and Landing of Everything by Elbow

Love Letters by Metronomy


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The role of social media buttons on websites

Many interesting points are made by Paul Boag in this excellent article about the role of social media buttons on websites.

He argues, very sensibly, that we should reconsider putting them on every page on your website. The reasons he cites includes:

1) It may divert your customers from pursuing the primary call to action for the page.

2) If you embed 'follow' or 'like' buttons, with code hosted on 3rd party servers, it can slow the page load times and perhaps have validation or security issues.

3) The button may not be the simplest way for a user to share your content.

You can read the full article here including suggestions on how to best use social media buttons.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Google have launched 'mobile friendly' labels.

It's official - Google have launched labels which advise people who are searching on mobile devices whether the website is mobile friendly.

This will be rolled out internationally over the next few weeks and it will look like this:



What constitutes a mobile friendly website? According to this post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, mobile friendly websites:
  1. Voids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  2. Uses text that is readable without zooming
  3. Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  4. Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can easily be tapped.
You can check to see if Google consider that your website is mobile friendly here.

The implications are clear. 

If you do not have a mobile friendly website, it is now time to prioritise it.

Your share of visitors looking at your website will only increase; and now your rankings with Google are likely to be adversely impacted if you do not have a mobile friendly website....

Our own Content Management System

I am often asked why we have developed our own Content Management System (CMS) to support our websites and why we don't simply use Joomla, or WordPress, or any of the other available systems.

There are a number of reasons...

1) Most businesses have unique requirements.

Your web presence needs to deliver specific functionality to suit your business objectives.

We find many publically available systems are not as good at matching our clients specific requirements.

By developing our own system, we can build functionality to suit you rather than trying to change your business behaviour to suit a third party CMS.

2) We have control over the destiny of the system

We don't have to wait for a third party to build a new module; or use an untested plug-in found in publicly available directories. So, if you want to add, for example, a client log-in area, or a Customer Relationship Management system at a later date, we can do this for you.

3) Competitive advantage

Because the CMS is built for you, it can help you stay ahead of the competition. It supports you, rather than confining you.

4) Easily modified and updated

We know the nuts and bolts of the system. We have written the code from the ground up and so we know how to best modify the system. Because we have invested time in developing the system, we are always looking for ways to improve its functionality and make it easier to use.

Moreover, we have a number of clients, including websites funded by Wiltshire Council, who rely on us to keep the system up to date and bug free.

5) Less costly in the long run

Businesses grow and businesses change. Our CMS will grow and change with you. You will not be investing time and money in a system that cannot move with you. Moreover, there is no licence fee - you pay us for the work we do to build the CMS and that is all.


If you would like further information on our options for keeping your website up to date, then please do get in touch.


Thursday, 9 October 2014

8 years

According to LinkedIn, I am celebrating an eight year work anniversary today. I knew I started this business some time in October 2006 but I didn't realise it was today.

After spending over 15 years working for well known brands like Kodak, Thorntons and Courage Brewery, I took the opportunity of taking redundancy from an ever decreasing Kodak business and trained myself in the art of web design.

Why? Well I always liked design. My Art O Level grade wasn't the best (although I did pass, still life wasn't my forte). However, I did do well in the design modules. It may be in the blood - my Grandfather, Father and oldest brother are all architects.

In addition, one of my favourite projects at Kodak was working in the Category Management role. It involved understanding consumer behaviour in store via data analysis and observation. The objective was to make the complex category of photography easy to understand for consumers which in turn encouraged them to buy more.

This was ideal training for web design. Making websites that are easy to use, easy to find what the site visitor wants and to deliver on the objectives of the site.

My initial three objectives are still relevant today:

1) Focus on the person looking at your website

2) Keep the design simple

3) Clear, concise content

So, thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me.

I have some very loyal clients who go back almost to the start. Thank you Berkeley Castle, Spetchley Park Gardens, Land Rovers UKPeter Moore Lets and From You To Me. Thank you also, to all my clients. For those that have been around for a couple of years, I hope to be still working with you in five years time too!

For From You to Me, today is doubly special as it is their Big Boss Man, Neil Coxon's birthday too. Happy Birthday to both of us!

For old times sake, here is my very first website. The Straight Hair Company used to be run by my good friend Darren. He has since fled to New Zealand but he assures me it had nothing to do with the website....


Thursday, 7 August 2014

SEO - it's about good content and not second guessing algorithms

SEO is changing. 

Two recent articles caught my eye and explain what is currently happening.

In the first article, Econsultancy argue that SEO is not as complicated as you think:
"Google is very public about why it keeps making its search algorithms more complex; it wants to serve the best, most relevant content to its users."
Secondly, this article from Mashable questions whether we are coming to the end of SEO:
"SEO is not going to get easier. It's going to get harder and eventually will most likely be next to impossible - because Google's algorithms are always a step ahead of the marketers trying to game them. And with no keyword reporting, a major support system for SEO has been, quite simply, taken away."
And if you want to hear it from the horses mouth, please read this article in the Google Webmaster Tools blog entitled 'Create Valuable Content.'

I'm happy about these changes. They mean we have to focus on our users and not on anonymous search engine algorithms. It's time to relax and concentrate on writing great content. This in itself will encourage more people to visit your website and more people to share it.

I suggest creating a medium term month content plan (e.g. six months) for your website and social media channels. This plan should be aligned to your business and marketing objectives and should play an integral part in delivering these objectives.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Website behaviours in China

This second article on China online is an introduction to website behaviour in China.

The first article about online market trends in China is here, while the next one will focus on social media.

China presents a massive opportunity for UK businesses; but at the same time presents many challenges. Business is done differently and online behaviours are also different....

E-commerce in China

Currently 250m of the population shop online. This is less than 50% of active internet users.

There is less trust for retailer websites and most consumers prefer using a third party platform (such as Amazon although it has very low market share in China).

Popular  websites include:

TMall - this is the largest website (over 50% market share) and due to the high set up costs is only for more established brands. Businesses need to be registered in China. TMall stock a lot of well known fashion brands including M&S, Asos and Burberry.

Alternatively, if you do not have a local Chinese office, you can sell on TMall Global. You can ship from the UK but a deposit, annual fee and commission are still payable.

Taobao is the equivalent to Ebay. No deposit is required to gain listings and so can be a cheaper entry to market.

VIP.com, Jumei, jd.com, and yhd.com are other third party platforms.

Amazon is present in China. Although this provides the simplest way to list brands and test the market in China, their market share is low at around 2%.

The most important day in the e-commerce calendar is Singles Day on 11th November. It started as a day for giving gift to single people but it has grown into much more than that.

Practicalities

Given the high entry costs, it may be simpler and more cost effective to test the market by having your own Chinese focused website, hosted in the UK.

The firewall used to make this option impractical, but speeds have improved and this is now a viable option. You will need to check if your speeds are ok. If not, hosting in Hong Kong can be an alternative option.

You won't be able to register a .cn domain name unless you have a business registered in China so a .com will have to suffice.

Aliplay can be a good payment gateway. The Chinese currency is not traded on foreign markets and so they will collect funds for you and pay you periodically. They also take care of import duties.

Cash on delivery is normal in China as not everyone has credit cards.

There is no Google Analytics in China but they do have an equally good service called Baidu Tonji.

Website usage

Users in China interact with websites differently to the West.

The average age of internet usage in China is currently 25 (much younger than the average age of 42 in the USA).

Eye tracking studies show that users in China will spend longer on each page and like to see detailed information. They need to be reassured, they want to know who you are, what you do and the benefits of your products on each and every page. Minimalism should be avoided.

Users are willing to scroll and scroll down pages; provided the information is useful.

Consumers are sceptical and suspicious. Consumer advocacy is key and goes a very long way in building your brand. Product reviews are taken very seriously.

After-care and trust are very important in China and details of your customer service needs to be prominent. Websites commonly have Live Chat as a sign of trust and availability.

Consumers are used to freebies and discounts. In fact, the more generous you are, the more your brand is considered a success!

For mobile usage, Android is far more popular than iOS.

I hope that you have found this article useful. My thanks to the UKTI for hosting the recent event from which much of this information was gleaned.





 

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