Letting a website linger way past it’s sell by date will have a lasting, negative impact on your business but knowing when to start again can be tricky, so here’s some tips and signs that will help you to know when to invest in a brand new website.
Here are some of the most obvious signs that your website needs a redesign:
The web has moved on.
The online industry moves at an incredible pace and new trends, techniques and layout options appear almost on a daily basis therefor it is inevitable that your website will be out of date at some point in the future. There is no getting away from this. Sure, you can re-skin a site (this can often be more expensive in the long run – Ed) and patch it up but your essentially putting a plaster on it until the next time.
Web Design trends are a funny business. They can have the ‘wow’ factor but they can also date a website badly. I have a checklist which let’s me know if a trend is here to stay:
- Does it improve the User Experience?
- Does it improve website performance?
- Would the website be a success without it?
- Does it help the site achieve it’s goals?
Using this checklist I have been able to utilise existing a new trends which are of benefit to the site as a whole.
The site is no longer fit for purpose.
If your website is effecting your day to day running or you can identify holes in the online ordering process the site is already not fit for purpose. Your website should work with your business and not produce problems or extra work for employees. it can often be frustrating if you are constantly working around your site or having to change your workflow because of it.
Using a Content Management System (CMS) that is not intuitive can also lead to frustration. It is important that you are fully trained to use your particular CMS once the site is built and neglecting this can lead to struggles further down the line.
If your website no longer works for you but against you, it’s time for a redesign.
Your competitors are way ahead
This is a particularly tricky arena because sometimes following the trends of the market leaders can reap excellent rewards because your new and existing client base will already be familiar with the look and feel of your website and will reflect a professional approach to your business.
On the other hand, sometimes it is better to stand out from the crowd and put design first to help you achieve this. An example of this can seen with Apple in 90’s when they decided to produce desktop machines that looked totally different to the beige boxes that were on the market at the time. Apple pivoted to put the emphasis on design led products which reaped dividends.
This choice is normally dictated by what market sector your business is in so consult an expert on the subject to find the best approach for your business.
You’ve not updated in ages
The average lifespan for a well designed website is normally 3-4 years but in all honestly, if you had a website built yesterday and it was built poorly, it’s already time for a redesign! We get that your busy with the day to day operations of your business but your prospective customers want signs that you’re professional about all aspects of your business and a dated looking website is a surefire way of losing potential business.
Your website should be your statement, your first impression and if it’s dated or worse still, broken or not rendering correctly in modern browsers it will be harming your image and your reputation as a business.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “It’s only a website”. In most cases it’s the first place people go when speculating your services.
If you could attribute at least one of the following words or phrases to your existing website it’s time for a redesign:
- confusing to use
- not rendering correctly
- not mobile friendly
- hard to update
- Content Management System is confusing.
If you’re wondering whether having a new website will help you gain business via enquiries or you want more traffic to your website, the simple answer is no. In this instance I would advise you to read about Search Engine Optimisation before completely rebuilding a possibly perfectly good website.
If you can relate to any parts of this post then you already know whether or not to redesign.
Having a new website built begins with an aim, a purpose. “What do you want your website to do for your business?” is one of our first questions we ask and we go from there. Make lists of requirements, functionality, sitemaps and anything else you can think of! Be open and honest and set goals. Take advice and if it is inline with your website’s goals then go for it! Employ designers and developers that have a track record of delivering and for that reason alone, eSterling is a great place to start.
The new eSterling website has been a labour of love for myself for just over 18 months now and the result is so far removed from the original ideas and sketches I created back in the winter of 2015.
As we know everyone’s a critic so I knew my ideas had to be solid and without doubt, the right way to go. So with that in mind I set about tearing through the old eSterling website to find a more streamlined sitemap which focussed on three main elements:
- Who are we?
- What do we do?
- Evidence of our success
Once I got a defined page list I was able to begin sketching out the main pages which were to make up the bulk of the new website.
It quickly became evident that the copy from the old website did not have the tone I wanted for the new website – it was stuffy and very formal. So with the help of the beautiful people from our SEO department we were able to come up with more relaxed, engaging copy which reflected a more friendly approach.
After sketching out the layouts of all the main sections of the website and confirming the UI elements, I finally opened Photoshop to address the design’s look and feel. Once I’d selected the right design elements according to our branding guidelines and created some concepts from within Photoshop the home page began to take shape.
The home page dictates the style of the whole website and therefore, at that stage every design decision was pivotal in the make-up of the new site. Now, I would be lying if I said that this stage took a couple of days, it in fact took 3 months! The structure, layout, typography, imagery and individual elements had to flow and with this in mind I began to obsess over every little detail.
I had to draw a line in the sand and when I saw that my revisions were not as good as what I had originally designed I realised I had to move forward or risk the whole project going stale.
I then had a home page which I was (generally) happy with, the mobile and tablet versions were created alongside the desktop version using Photoshop’s lovely Art board feature.
So, do we need a CMS? If so, WordPress? What responsive framework do we use? Maximum grid width? Which font repository do we use?
In short I went with the following:
- No CMS – More light weight and we’re web professionals – we shouldn’t need a CMS to update our own website!
- A much scaled down version of Foundation – Light weight and simple to use
- Fluid grid system of 100% & 1200px – Why tie yourself down to just 1?
- Google Fonts – They have the right fonts and in the right weight
It’s these decisions that we make daily that are vital for any website we build, not just our own.
…It’s off to work we go
At this stage I was fully entrenched in Sublime Text trying to create the best website I’ve ever made. Beautiful, fast, informative, responsive, easy to follow, the list goes on! It was very challenging and a lot of fun!
I would often ask my fellow designers for their input and something which kept coming up was imagery. We lacked high quality images of the staff and premises so I scoured the web for Birmingham based photographers who could come in to eSterling Towers and take some beautiful pictures of the staff at work.
The name that jumped out was Ross Jukes. He was only in the office for what felt like 10 minutes but he produced some really amazing pictures for the new website. We hope you like them because we certainly do! Ross is available for commercial work so visit his website here.
When taking on positive/negative criticism it is important for any designer to keep the initial vision and aim of the site firmly in mind. If any advice or criticism deviates from the original plan, discard it with a polite ‘Yea, I’ll look into it’, but it is just as important to accept criticism when it works towards your original goals. Don’t be too stubborn to accept it with a ‘Yea, that’s a good shout’.
Once the team had taken a good look at the website and decided it was ready, we then set about launching eSterling.co.uk v3.0.
The website launched on Thursday 4th August 2016 and I really hope you like it.
Special mentions: Richard Locke, Wave White & Antoniya Darova for glorious PHP and copy that makes sense!
As ludicrous as it sounds, there are only 106 days left until Christmas and whilst the sane amongst us are still hanging desperately onto barbeque season and flip flops, the retailers amongst us know that now is the time to get ready for the festive season. The mince pies are in the supermarkets, the incidence of toy adverts on the television is steadily increasing and consumers, whether they know it or not, are being subtly herded towards the bright lights and ringing tills of Christmas shopping.
Now is the time to make sure your website is ready for the approaching season of madness, take stock, decide on any strategies or special offers and make sure your web development company has details of any changes you want to make sooner rather than later. Christmas 2013 is going to be tough for retailers but with a slight upward trend in the amount of consumer spending, for the well-prepared things are looking up. So, what to do to get your website ready?
1. Freshen up.
Have a good check through your content. It is always a good idea to change or add to your website, keeping your content fresh not only gives you Google points, but it keeps your customers interested too. If your site has a featured products section, start adding in your best-sellers or any new ranges. Make sure any photography is professional and shows off your products to their best advantage.
2. Special Offers.
Consider running some seasonal offers. Online purchasers love little extras like free delivery and that can make the difference between them choosing your site and someone else’s for their gifts. Most modern ecommerce systems will allow you to display linked products (customers who bought this also bought that). Alternatively a good old-fashioned BOGOF always goes down a treat.
3. Keep things simple.
Making your website hassle-free is one major way of improving your customer commitment. Look at how smoothly your search function works, and how easy it is for customers to checkout. Keep things simple and give good customer service and people will come back.
4. Don’t go mad on the tinsel.
Although you want to get ready for the festive market, don’t over-do the Christmas vibe. Gradually introduce changes to the site to get ready for the bells and whistles of December, but don’t go for it too early.
If you need to discuss any promotional changes to your website, or would like further information on website design, get in touch with eSterling today. We offer full design and development services to ensure your website is at the heart of your business.
Anyone who pays any attention whatsoever to the world of web design will by now be very familiar with mobile sites and the concept of responsive design (and if you aren’t, you can read more here).
Well, now there’s another reason to perfect your mobile presence – Google have now decided to take the smartphone-friendliness of a website into consideration when determining where a site ranks in its SERPS – meaning if your site can’t strut it’s stuff on the small screen, you could be losing even more traffic than before.
Google have announced in a recent blog post that they are planning to roll out algorithm updates that will penalise websites that are incorrectly configured for mobile browsing.
Here are a few of the most common errors made in mobile sites, and our advice for avoiding them:
Correct Your Redirect
A common strategy for providing a mobile site alongside your desktop website is to use different URLs to serve different pages. This tactic can work very well, as it allows you to lay out the content on your pages in a different format that is better suited for smaller screens and touch-based interaction. However, these redirects must be handled correctly in order to provide a consistent experience for the user with minimal frustration.
A mistake that often crops up with this sort of configuration is directing smartphone users to a set page (most often the home page), no matter which desktop page they are trying to access – requiring extra work from the user in order to navigate back to the page they originally attempted to visit in the first place! Naturally, this can be a source of annoyance for the user, and can result in them leaving your site in search of something less tedious to find their way around.
The solution for this issue is simple – make sure each page redirects to its own respective mobile-friendly page. If the content is not available in mobile form, then directing the user to the home page or other related page is preferable to serving a 404 page – but still not really ideal.
The difficulty that mobile platforms have with video content is well documented, and a topic for lengthy discussion in its own right. However, if you’re serving unplayable video content to your mobile users, pretty soon you can expect to see a drop in your search rankings.
The solution for this problem is (perhaps unsurprisingly) to avoid Flash content on mobile sites in general, as it is unsupported in iOS and Android version 4.1 and higher. To include video content, it is possible to use the new HTML5 markup
<video> tag, which should work without a hitch on all mobile platforms.
If you also provide a mobile app, it would seem only logical to promote this app to users browsing on a mobile device – and this can seem like a perfectly user-friendly move too, as your app may provide a better interface for your users to interact with similar content. However, advertising your app through interstitials or other methods which disrupt the conventional user experience of your site will soon start to have a negative impact on your site’s rankings, as well as annoying your users.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t try to entice mobile users with your shiny new app – as long as it is done tastefully. Google recommends using a “simple banner” displayed inline, alongside the rest of your website’s content. This can mean either a standard HTML image banner or utilising the support offered by the device’s native browser and operating system – for example Smart App Banners for Safari on iOS6.
More Speed, Less Haste
On top of these new rules concerning content, Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts has alluded to a site speed penalty for mobile sites, similar to the penalty imposed on slow loading desktop sites. Whilst not much information has been disclosed at the minute, it’s fairly safe to assume that as mobile users are often connected to the internet via low-speed cellular connections, the load time that must be achieved will probably be significantly faster than in the desktop speed test.
As is usually the case with Google’s algorithm updates, these new guidelines will help to make the web a better place – both for webmasters and users themselves. Here at eSterling, we welcome them with open arms, and look forward to the mobile web becoming more user-centric and streamlined.
If you’d like to read more on the issues which may cause your mobile site to lose rankings, Google has helpfully compiled a list of common mistakes in smartphone sites to help you out.
As always, if there’s anything in this post which you wish to discuss or would like some more information on, please leave us a message in the comments or email us here.
How often do you use your smart phone or tablet to search the web? If you’re anything like the rest of the population the answer is more than ever before. Figures show that mobile traffic is increasing month on month and data from Microsoft Tag suggests that:
50% of all local searches are performed on mobile devices
What this means for you depends very much on how your website has been built.
For those of you with older websites, the chances are that your site, designed with desktop browsing in mind, is not going to display well on mobile phones or tablet computers. In this convenience-crazy world we have created your dear browsers (who you have invested time and money to get) will not wait around to decipher your messy-looking web site, they will move on to the next one. This means you are potentially missing out on 50% of all search traffic for your product or service.
How to fix it? Instead of having a desktop version and a mobile version of your site, you need to ask you web design agency about responsive design. In this age of flexibility, having one single website that displays equally well on a variety of devices will maximise the potential of your web traffic and remove a potential barrier to them contacting you. Responsive design aims to make your site easily readable without layout or scrolling issues, giving you clarity, usability and style in one handy, flexible package.
There are loads of different ways your website designer can achieve a responsive design, but let them worry about the technicalities, email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs.
The introduction of Google Authorship into Google’s ranking algorithms could seriously shake up the SERPs – We take a look at why, and how you can start to prepare!
In-bound marketing techniques have made quite a large shift in the last few years, as I’m sure regular readers are aware by now – the importance of inbound link building has subsided to make way for a content and usability-based ranking system known as TrustRank.
This shift has, however, brought with it a new breed of unscrupulous strategies – poorly generated content with no real substance, article spinning (the chopping-and-reforming of articles in order to make them appear unique – often with less than perfect grammatical results) and article directory sites full of worthless content that is read by no one, created solely for the purpose of manipulating positioning on search engine results pages.
The Authorship concept was conceived a lot longer ago than you may first think; the relevant patent was approved way back in 2007. Originally dubbed Agent Rank, the patent has now undergone two continuations (the first in 2009), but the most recent continuation is the most significant.
This is the first claim in the most recent update:
“1. A computer-implemented method comprising: evaluating a document that is hosted on a site, the document including a content item to which a maker of the content item has applied a digital signature; determining whether the digital signature is portable; if the digital signature is portable, using a reputation score associated with the maker in calculating a quality score for the document; and if the digital signature is not portable, using the reputation score associated with the maker in calculating the quality score for the document only if the digital signature is fixed to the site.”
(I know, it made my head hurt too!)
The most important bit is the mention of a “portable” digital signature. This allows the author to create content for various blogs, websites and article directories, whilst carrying through their reputation from their other online content. The name of this portable digital signature? The big G’s very own social network, Google Plus.
This allows you to associate all the content you personally produce with your own Google account. Google can then use this to determine how useful your content is, by judging how well received your previous content has been. If you continue to write good, useful articles with meaningful content, then you can expect to see your Author Rank increase, and as a result, your articles will reach higher positioning in search results. If you write rubbish articles with spammy content that are of no use to anyone, then you can probably expect the opposite to happen.
Authorship works by utilizing a new tag introduced in HTML5: the rel=author tag. This tag can be added to any <a> tag to denote that the link refers to the author of the content. Using this tag in conjunction with your Google+ URL allows you to link your content to your Google+ account, et voilà! You’ve claimed your first piece of content.
Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. In order to verify your authorship of the article, you must first add the URL of your blog to the “Contributor to” section of your Google+ profile, in order to prevent people from claiming their content was written by any Google+ user that takes their fancy.
Being able to verify your content with your Google+ account will help your content rise above the sea of poorly written junk-content of the black-hat SEO practitioners and article spinners.
It’s important to remember that at present, authorship doesn’t offer any actual boost to your search engine rankings (although studies have found that the “rich snippets” that authorship can generate can increase your CTR by 30-150%, and there’s another hidden benefit of authorship too!); it is simply just a way of claiming credit for your work. However, Google have frequently voiced their intentions for a method of distinguishing and validating content in search results, so it is extremely likely to become a deciding factor in search engine rankings in the near future. Whilst the introduction of Authorship as a factor in deciding rankings isn’t likely to penalise sites, and it probably won’t have anywhere near the SERP-smashing effects we’ve seen from our furry friends Panda and Penguin, it’s going to carry some sort of weight, and it makes sense to begin preparing for it to come into swing now, as those that don’t are putting themselves at a disadvantage already. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
Image copyright is in the news again – but who has the rights to what we publish through social media?
In the aftermath of the horrendous helicopter crash in central London yesterday, images and videos were shared on social media sites, including Twitter. These photos were then picked up by major media outlets including The Daily Mail, The Sun, The London Evening Standard, The Guardian and Sky News among others, and used in breaking news stories covering the crash. Although there has been a historical acceptance in using so-called ‘user-generated’ content, rules about copyright of images posted on Twitter has changed the stakes.
According to Twitter rules, sharing images on the social media site does not constitute a free-for-all and the owner of the photo still retains the rights to it. News outlets are required to credit the owner and should not use their images without permission and most ethical agencies appear to have a policy which supports this.
So how does this affect you, a web site owner? How can you protect your images online and where should you source your images from in order to protect yourself from potential litigation?
Using your own images
Many companies choose to take their own product or general images for the company web site, either taking a hands-on approach or hiring a photographer to take and edit any images ready for use. This allows you to get exactly the type of image you require and negates the need for lengthy trawling of image banks or seeking permission from other image owners. It is important that if you do use a photographer (whether professional or casual) you discuss issues such as ownership and copyright from the outset. In some cases, you may be happy to share your images but once you do, there is the chance that they could be sold on, leaving you out of the loop. It pays to have a conversation about this and make some sort of formal agreement.
Using other people’s images
In a lot of cases, smaller companies may not have the time, funds or resource to take their own photos and may only need a handful of strong images to populate the web site. It is in these circumstances that you will need to look for images that belong to someone else. Good old Google images makes it possible for us to search for and find a ton of photos which may adequately fit our purpose but DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT be tempted to pinch these and use them on your web site believing ‘nobody will know’. Copyright infringement is big business and it isn’t something you want to get into. Instead choose a reputable design agency who will advise you about which images to choose and will source them ethically for you. Stock images can be bought relatively cheaply (starting at a couple of pounds) and the small investment you will make is pennies in the long run.
The internet encourages sharing, social media is ALL about sharing, but just be careful. Sharing doesn’t mean transferring ownership, so look but don’t touch.
Expanding your SEO strategy for 2013 and beyond.
2012 was a turbulent year for SEO and eMarketing professionals – amongst a slew of algorithm updates and tweaks from Google, we have seen several other game-changing factors that have really tested the adaptability of our dedicated SEO team here at eSterling.
Google have been working hard to negate any unscrupulous SEO activity, as well as reducing the effectiveness of scalable link building strategies such as mass directory submission or article spinning, giving many grey-hat SEO practitioners a major headache.
Google’s Penguin update, which was released in April 2012, focused on eliminating websites using webspam tactics such as spamdexing (squeezing a keyword into a site as many times as possible, often using nefarious tactics such as black-on-black text) and linkbombing (posting a link to the site using a keyword as anchor text in as many locations across the internet as possible) to artificially boost their search rankings, at the expense of website usability. The update penalised these sites by placing them lower in search engine results pages than they featured originally – or, in extreme cases, removing them from Google’s indexing entirely.
Exact match domains (URLs which directly match one of the site’s keywords, for example www.teethwhitening.com) have also felt the pressure, as Google introduced the imaginatively titled Low Quality Exact Match Domain Update. This update, whilst not sounding as cute or cuddly as either of the major updates Panda and Penguin, was no less important. It was an attempt to rid the SERPs of sites which are of low quality, but have used their exact match domain name to push their way to the top of the results pages.
So, if this is what Google has done in the last year to make our lives more difficult, where do we go next?
The good news for us is that this means it is now harder than ever to increase a website’s search visibility with these dubious tactics, leaving much more room for honest, user-friendly SEO strategies, and has shifted the emphasis from building as many links as possible to your site to being much more about the end user – the importance now lies with ease of navigation, increasing usability and offering informative, relevant and up-to-date content.
Google’s actions over the last 12 months could easily be misconstrued as disdain for the SEO profession – this is not the case. Rather, The Big G is trying to encourage webmasters and SEO professionals to remember that the content of their site, not where it appears in search engine results pages, are what is most important to the user – and, by extension of this, to the website owner.
This is not to say that search engine optimisation as a profession is on the way out – far from it, in fact. 6 out of 10 organizations expect to increase SEO headcount in the coming year. The industry is also becoming more widely understood – the same report details that 63% of executive teams are more familiar with SEO metrics than 12 months ago.
The shift has been moved away from SEO as an independent discipline, and it is now becoming a more integral part of constructing an internet presence. For an SEO campaign to be truly effective it must be integrated with other aspects of the business – marketing, sales, design, and social media – must all become one holistic package in order to establish a brand online, as opposed to trying to “pull a fast one” on Google.
To quote Trond Lynbø on Edgyseo.com:
“Many site owners want to do the minimum possible, yet expect awesome results. But the days of ‘quick fix SEO’ are numbered, if not already over. It’s time to see SEO from a different angle, with broader, wider focus. To step back, rather than blindly rush to implement new tactics. To decide where you want to go, and act on a strategy-driven plan.”
Having a strategy for your SEO is becoming more and more important, as simply building up link equity is no longer enough to get by. Social media is becoming increasingly important to every business – more than 1 million websites have now introduced Facebook integration in various manners, and social media now accounts for 18% of all time spent online.
If 2012 has taught us one thing about what lies in store for 2013, it’s that we as SEO professionals need to stay on our toes – major algorithm updates are pretty much inevitable, and they could pop up at any time with little or no warning – but rest assured, the team here at eSterling are ready to rise to this challenge and continue to provide you with a solid internet marketing strategy to see you through the year and beyond.
For more information on our eMarketing and SEO services, click here.
While Search engine optimisation and Conversion rate optimisation are certainly the two best, and well known techniques for increasing return on investment from your ecommerce site one often overlooked method of maximising revenue is increasing the average value of the orders customers place through your website. By increasing your average order value you can quickly increase your revenue streams without a reliance on the time investments required by traffic generation and improved conversions.
Here are a few ideas you can use on your website.
Conversion rate experts agree that free delivery is a great method of turning browsers of your ecommerce store into buyers but you don’t have to offer that as an option from the get go. One technique you can employ is to add a free delivery threshold and advertise that fact on your basket and checkout. By using this method you can encourage customers to add more items to their basket in order to “save” money on the delivery. Please don’t see this and other techniques as underhanded or tricking customers. This is simply a way of giving them extra value while encouraging additional purchases.
You might also think about offering free delivery on certain products. This is an especially good idea for seasonal or time limited products.
If you have the ability to cross sell items on your website you should use this opportunity to target higher-end products. Related items are often selected when you add your products for the first time and are rarely updated. While you should review and refresh these cross selling items as often as possible there is an opportunity here to use Google Analytics to your advantage. By looking at the various paths take through the website and which categories and products they view most often you can tie products which customers do look at in concert together. Say for example you sell clothing and accessories, through Google Analytics you notice that customers who purchase a certain dress then quite frequently look at shoes. Here is an opportunity to tie those items together as you know they are actually related. This helps customers by giving them genuine items they might want to purchase together without requiring them to browse about the site and not getting the sale.
Instead of selling single items you might try to offer product bundles instead. By creating a product that is actually a set of complimentary items you can offer your customers a bargain when they purchase these multiple items together. By bundling items that total £100 for £90 you can increase your average order value where a customer might previously have bought one of the items in the pack for say £30. You might want to label these items “Gift Packs” especially during a seasonal period.
The same idea can be used for multi-packs whereby you offer several of the same product for a reduced price. This might be an easier method to call upon when your ecommerce software does not actively support volume discounts.
Clearly some of these techniques are dependent upon what your ecommerce software can provide but if you need help with expanding upon those facilities or if you are even thinking of updating to a new package eSterling is here to help.
While we have been running the eSterling website and blog for some time we thought it would be handy for new readers and anyone looking at the services we offer to have a short overview of the company.
eSterling is a Birmingham web design agency made up of a team of 20 people covering all aspects of development, support and SEO. We operate as a full service web agency offering web design, web development and search engine optimisation.
We mainly build websites for companies based in the West Midlands. We pride ourselves on producing a bespoke solution that meets the needs of businesses rather than foist a website template solution on them. We won’t hand you a basic template website or an older design with a new logo placed on top. Our team carefully researches your brief, requirements and market you are in and from that creates a tailored web solution just for you. We have over 14 years of experience in the web development industry and guarantee a fresh, jargon free and professional approach to developing your website.
We have provided many hundreds of companies in the Midlands with various categories of web solutions from brochure websites to ecommerce websites. If you are looking to sell products online eSterling have many years of experiencing producing bespoke ecommerce sites. We can provide you with a secure platform with easy to use CMS software that puts you in control of selling goods through your website. Integration with payment services such as SagePay, Worldpay, PayPoint and Worldpay is no issue and we’ll even advise on ways we can help with building support for CRM or Sage accounts into your website.
For a free, no obligation meeting and quote contact eSterling on 0121 766 8087 today.