articles tagged with: web-development
Retail analysis from Capgemini has revealed that online retail has got off to a fast start in 2013 - with 16% growth on the same period last year. This against a background of traditional retail and the high street continuing to struggle in tough economic times.
The same report is predicting overall growth in online sales of 12%.
So what are the big trends and changes that online shop owners should be keeping an eye on for the coming year, to ensure they take advantage of this growing sector?
1. Mobile / Responsive Design
2012 was the year of responsive web design - and the stats show that retailers need to stay on top of their mobile offering during 2013. The same Capgemini report states sales through mobile devices were up 193% in January 2013 compared to same period 2012. "Mobile commerce is here to stay", it states. "No longer are customers shopping from their sofas at home, but instead spotting products in store and choosing to purchase online instead on the grounds of cost or convenience."
The goal of responsive design is to give shoppers the same user experience independent on what device they are using to access online stores: a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone or 55 inch TV screen. A responsive eCommerce store adapts itself to be viewed in an ideal manner on any screen size. Combined with Google's new Enhanced AdWords, targeting users with specific devices with pay-per-click ads has never been easier.
There's so much that goes into mobile commerce (M-Commerce) that it deserves a blog post of it's own - so that'll be coming soon.
2. Product Images and Videos
Customers are faced with massive choice; a store that can show them clear, fast loading images of their desired products stands better chance of conversion than using small, ineffective product photographs that reveal no detail.
Videos are increasingly important in helping customers decide that a product and a shop are for them. This is especially relevant where complex products are being sold, or products where it's difficult for a customer to view it 'in situ'. A demonstration video of a product working can be very useful. Videos also lend themselves for use in social media campaigns and platforms such as YouTube and Twitter - helping drive more genuinely interested traffic to your store.
3. Content, Content, Content
Keep it short - attention spans seem to be getting less and less all the time. Content should be benefit led, highly readable, SEO friendly - yet concise so that it appeals to visitors - tricky stuff!
But an effective content strategy that's followed throughout the entire store can really make the difference in conversion rates. Don't forgot to apply these principles to information pages - such as delivery details and how customers return items.
Collecting personal information has always been a sensitive topic - never more than during the rather strange implementation of new cookie laws in 2012 - but I'm not sure the average user is too worried about giving personal data in return for a more enjoyable and personalised online experience.
2013 will see agencies like Focus continue to see how personalised content can be implemented and presented - using the wealth of information gained from analytics, browsing and order history, user behavior and user preferences. Today, users have 'Amazon like' expectations from eCommerce stores, and advances in technology mean this functionality no longer out of reach for online retailers.
5. Conversion Rate Optimisation
CRO is nothing new - but in 2013 with competition never more intense, it's crucial that store owners don't waste traffic once it's arrived.
Made up of trends already mentioned - such as content strategy, mobile and personalisation - CRO adds the need to stay on top of technical developments and user expectations. For example: isolated checkouts have shown to have beneficial effects on conversion rate. Simple changes can make dramatic differences.
A/B testing and external user testing are more accessible as ever - store owners need to make an ongoing commitment to CRO, too much money is spent on acquiring new customers, only to lose them when they arrive at a store that doesn't work for them.
Created on Monday February 25 2013 11:13 AM
We've recently launched a new ticketing system for our friends at Barriers Direct (http://www.barriersdirect.co.uk), and it contains some interesting features, and some close integration with the rest of the back office systems, that I'll briefly outline here.
For those that don't know, a ticketing system is a little like a to-do list that can be shared amongst people, and records status as things change. For instance, if a client enquiry comes in, we can assign it to the most relevant person to deal with it. Perhaps they have to query something with accounts before responding to the client, so they can assign the query there. Accounts respond, and assign it back again -- and so on until the ticket is finally completed and marked as closed.
Every action is time stamped with who said what and when. Unlike email, the entire thread of activity is available to all relevant people at all times - it's not hidden away in people's Inboxes and Sent Items. For instance, there's no more thinking that you sent this task to Bob yesterday, but he's off today, and wondering if he did anything with it - you can check the ticket, and see that Bob forwarded it to accounts. Now, someone else can follow up in his absence.
As people do tend to check email very regularly, however, the ticketing system sends various emails to let them know there are things waiting for them - it emails people when tickets are assigned to them, and emails daily summaries of outstanding tickets, for instance.
The team at Barriers Direct use extensive reporting facilities within Quantum to keep track of their business, and tickets mean they can produce reports of how many requests come in, what the different types of requests are, and how long it takes to respond to them -- and how that all changes over time.
The ticket system is integrated right into Focus's Quantum website administration system, which manages the order system too, and that allows us some tight integration that wouldn't be possible with a 3rd party ticketing solution; lists of orders highlight those with tickets associated with them, for instance, and vice versa, from the ticket you can get to the full details of the order in just one click.
If you're interested in knowing more about a ticketing system, either for an existing or new website - please do give us a ring, or drop us an email and we'd be very happy to talk to you!
Photo copyright Andres Rueda, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Created on Thursday January 31 2013 10:18 AM
We're very excited to have launched a charity microsite for MS Ireland and it's been seriously good fun! The site is vibrant and energetic which perfectly reflects the excitement of MS Ireland's upcoming READaTHON.
The month long event kicks off on October 12th 2012 and is their biggest fundraising event. It was 25 years ago that the late, great Roald Dahl launched the first campaign. Ever since then the MS READaTHON has been encouraging young people to read while raising much needed funds for services to those living with Multiple Sclerosis in Ireland. The concept is straightforward; Children are sponsored by family and friends to read as many books as they can in one month, it's simple but extremely effective.
With the design theme focusing on monsters that eat books we've gone back to our childhoods here at Focus and let our imaginations run wild! We threw in scratches, claws and bite marks, adding character and a sense of chaos. We have also emphasized the fun factor and encouraged interaction by embedding videos and games.
The site, just like the event, appeals not only to kids and teenagers but adults too. So, why not enjoy yourself and do a great thing for charity by getting involved? You’ll be glad you did!
Created on Wednesday September 12 2012 09:06 AM
The next in a series of projects we've completed over the summer - and it's a big well done to Annette, Steve and Jordana from Team Focus for their work on the new Pace web site, launched in mid August.
Pace are a design consultancy based in Clevedon - managing creative projects for Lloyds TSB, the NHS, Clevedon School and Merlin Housing Society, amongst others.
The new site shows off Pace's refreshed brand and range of design services and also includes a blog that is regularly updated by the entire Pace team. We've also integrated the site with their Twitter profile so that it features latest updates - a nice touch in helping to send traffic both to their social media account and web site.
Nick Cleeve, MD at Pace says:
"We've found Focus to be so easy to work with right through our web site development. They had a professional approach,understanding our business and exactly the direction we wanted to take it forward in. As the business owner I'm not used to being managed, but Annette managed us well, keeping us focused on the end goal and working together as a partnership to achieve the final result.
We've had nothing but positive feedback on our new site since go-live, and I look forward to an ongoing relationship with the team at Focus."
See the new Pace web site at:
Created on Friday August 24 2012 11:15 AM
Last week we had the pleasure of launching (no pun intended) a new web site for our friends at Bristol Balloons. We manage 3 sites for the Balloons team and this year we were approached about providing an updated and refreshed design to the flagship of these 3 sites, Bristol Balloons.
It wasn't just the front end that required an update; we have to undertake a complete bespoke development upgrade of the entire back-end system as well.
We've been working long and hard over the last couple of months on developing a back-end system which will prove to be much more flexible and productive for the team at Bristol Balloons.
Design wise we've used the space available in terms of the width and also made key elements available 'above the fold'. The design is centred around striking images that really sell the experience of a balloon flight to users. The new clearer language, navigation and 'call to actions' will have a real positive effect on the conversion rates of the site.
We've also ensured that the new checkout process follows best practice techniques in order to reduce the number of drop-offs and ensure purchases are completed both quickly and easily.
In the limited time that the site has been live we've seen a reduction in both Exit and Bounce rates, which is extremely encouraging. Over the next few months we'll be monitoring the key analytics of the site with a view to updating the other two sites; Bath Balloons and Ballooning Network.
So if you're looking for a special treat, that once in a life time experience or just want to see our handy work, why not take a look at what Bristol Balloons has to offer....
Created on Wednesday June 20 2012 03:30 PM
More and more Company web sites are using ME. By that I mean they talk about themselves. A lot. "We have a great range of pipe cleaners". "Our business has been running for 250 years and we are brilliant". "Look at our interesting news all about us".
It's boring. And self-orientated. Even when including keywords and SEO-focused copy, the content itself still needs to be interesting and effective for the reader. Customer-focussed, if you like.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
We are WidgetWeb! We have a huge range of products including waterproof widgets. We offer good prices and are a well-established business of 30 years. Browse our site now!
Got a leaky sink? Need to fix it fast, and at a low price? You'll find a full range of waterproof widgets here. In a hurry? No problem. You'll love our super-speedy order process.
Why has your web visitor come to your site? They have a leaky sink and need to find some waterproof widgets - quickly - and for a good price. They’ve not come to hear about how long you've been running for and a load of flowery 'me me me'.
See how Apple are putting this in place - lots more 'you' than 'we' in this iPad piece.
The copy on your site needs to address your visitor and their needs, quickly and effectively. Keep them focussed and you'll have a better chance of them making a purchase, or making contact, or downloading your latest offers... Talk to your customers, not at them.
And finally... For every instance of we, try to say 'you', at least twice.
If you'd like to chat about your web copy with one of the team here at Focus, drop us a line here.
Created on Thursday May 10 2012 09:46 AM
Change Tracker is a new web tool that we’ve launched this week with South Gloucestershire Council . The Change Tracker tool has been developed to help parents, professionals, children and young people assess how support plans are meeting their needs.
Change Tracker has been developed as a tool for practitioners to use within their own settings and services in South Gloucestershire. It aims to support planning to improve outcomes for children and young people, and also to measure the progress that each plan achieves.
It is hoped that children, young people and their families will be involved in using Change Tracker as a means of engaging them in being a part of every support plan, and also to support them in objectively defining their own needs and desired outcomes. The tool has been designed to be used by a range of partners in a variety of settings and this website is just one representation of the information.
The functionality that we’ve developed for this site includes providing users with the ability to ‘browse’ the main question headings or use a ‘search’ function to create an assessment, with the added ability to re-order questions through a simple drag and drop facility. During an assessment if there are any responses given that may cause concern, a non-intrusive message appears with links to additional pages for where to get help.
The design of the website needed to be a clean, fresh and modern design that reflects professionalism and is also engaging for any young people using the tool. The final design is based around providing positive change and we think the cartoon sunrise captures this perfectly.
It's been a pleasure to be involved in such a worthwhile and fulfilling project, you can check out the site HERE!
Created on Wednesday March 28 2012 08:18 AM
I started to look into other features that we had implemented to help with accessibility and just to update my knowledge on the biggest problems for users with reduced access. There were several issues that you would expect to see high up the list, such as; missing alt tags, poor keyboard accessibility and inaccessible flash. The most problematic item however was captcha. Captcha is Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, you will often see it when trying to complete forms.
Captcha has the issue of needing to provide security against bots whilst allowing users to still gain access. On some websites I will get the captcha wrong several times so I can imagine a user with poor eyesight would find it impossible. W3 suggests logic puzzles, sound output and non-interactive checks such as heuristic checks (detecting bots using the volume of data the user requests and other background methods) as good possible solutions to solve adding security to websites without reducing access.
We have been implementing a logic captcha gem which produces questions such as "In the following list how many animals are there: cat, blue, red, lion, yellow?" This gives the user the chance to prove they are not a bot but does not need any extra features for text only or high contrast versions. reCAPTCHA also has improved accessibility from previous versions, adding better keyboard support and sound output. There are several other implementations with positives and negatives as well.
The accessibility and usability of the websites we create will always be a high priority however we can only keep up these standards if our knowledge of what users need is up to date. Our 'next text captcha' is an example of how we try to implement accessibility best practices across our websites.
Created on Friday February 17 2012 02:41 PM
Digital strategy is something which every company should be considering, but what is a digital strategy and how do you go about developing one?
According to Wikipedia a digital strategy is……'the process of specifying an organisation's vision, goals, opportunities and initiatives in order to maximize the business benefits digital investments and efforts provide to the organisation.'
At Focus we have worked on a large number of digital strategies for our clients as well as our own. If we had to explain a digital strategy to a client we would say that it is the initial and ongoing development of processes that will achieve set goals and aims using digital technologies and channels.
We’ve put together our thoughts on the process involved in developing a digital strategy.
The initial thoughts that need to take place when developing a digital strategy is reviewing your current processes and procedures, digital channels currently utilised and results of these activities over a period. Of course you may not currently be undertaking any at the moment.
Once you looked at how you’ve done things – it’s now time to look ahead. Working out a list of goals that you aim to achieve is key part to the process of developing a digital strategy. This may include some of your current business objectives.
It’s then all about understanding how to achieve these objectives, is it through SEO, social media, development of your website? Once you’ve understood what is it you want to achieve and how you’re going to do it – it’s about the process and procedures to achieve your desired objectives. Another key element to remember is measurement – you’ll want to measure your return on investment.
Once you’ve spent time implementing these ideas into practice you’ll need to continually evaluate the results and ensure you evolve your strategy over time – we here at Focus love the phrase ‘continuous improvement’. It a methodology which is extremely important in the world of digital.
Created on Tuesday November 22 2011 12:56 PM
There have been a large number of articles over the last few months on the rise of mobile internet with more people now using mobile devices to view websites. This is something which interests us a lot here at Focus Towers as we’ve always believed mobile phones and tablets would become a key way for people to access the web.
I also read yesterday about how social media is helping to maintain the interest in TV shows such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday. I would imagine the people using social media while watching TV are using a mobile phone or tablet to ‘tweet’ or ‘comment’ about what they are watching. I for one was on Twitter (on my iPhone) last night while watching Young Apprentice and chuckling at some of the comments which were made and observations made by people which I had also noticed.
“Almost half of UK internet users are going online via mobile phones, according to the Office for National Statistics.”
Source: BBC News, 31 August 2011
It’s not just TV shows, you can now use your mobile phone to check prices of items online before purchase in store or using your phone to find the closest coffee shop. There is a huge buzz around app currently and I have 100’s downloaded to my phone, but I’m using mobile sites more and more for things like banking, shopping, checking out the latest film or train times. I even used Heathrow’s mobile site to check on arrival times for a friend’s flight. I also use the Amazon mobile site rather than the iPhone app because I find that it’s quicker and easier to make a purchase.
A recent study commissioned by Barclays Corporate found that almost 63% of all mobile owners use their device during the online purchase process at present but that this still accounts for just 5% of total ecommerce spend (£26bn) for 2011. However, the research predicts that this figure will rise to £19.3bn a year by 2021 due to the growing popularity of smart phones and tablet devices, sales of which are set to hit 6m by the end of this year alone.
Building a mobile version of a web site isn’t complicated and doesn’t require extensive additional coding (as the same data sources can be used for both ‘standard’ and ‘mobile’ sites) - but it does require some thought due to the reduced processing power and screen real estate of such devices.
We find the key is to focus on your ‘call to action’ and ensure it can be completed easily within the given restrictions. One of the other main differences is that smart phones tend to rely on touch screen for interaction with the user - so the design should lend itself to big graphical buttons that can be viewed and ‘clicked upon’ easily with the finger - rather than a cursor.
If you want to see our own mobile site just type www.thisisfocus.co.uk into your phones browser and you’ll see how we have made our desktop site an easy to use and view mobile version.
Created on Tuesday October 25 2011 12:11 PM
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