Building effective small business websites using the Top Tasks approach

An effective website can be an asset to any business, but many small business websites end up hard to use disasters that never fulfill their potential.

Many business owners see their website as a cost and a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Why you should avoid using homepage sliders on your website

  1. Never say ‘Click here’ on your website
  2. Don’t use ‘Under Construction’ pages
  3. Why you don’t need an FAQ page
  4. Why pop-up light boxes are a bad idea
  5. Why you should avoid using homepage sliders on your website

When planning a website homepage, a slider or carousel seems to be a perfect solution, but there are many reasons not to use them.

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How to blog on your business website

Blogging on your business website can bring all kinds of benefits – especially to your bottom line – but getting going is easier said than done.

This post is for you if you’ve wondered whether you should blog, have been told you should, or if you’ve always intended to, but never got going.

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Online shops and consumer law – what you need to know in 2015

There were big changes to the law covering online shops and consumer rights in 2014 – and many online shops are breaking the law and don’t know it.

The new laws demand consumers get more information and rights than before, and for the first time imposed legal standards for online shops, and penalties for those who don’t comply.

When was the last time you checked to see if your shop complies with the new laws?

Consumer rights law 2015 – the basics

We’ve put together a quick guide that covers the basics, but if you want to be sure your shop complies we recommend you see a specialist lawyer.

This short summary will give an idea of what’s required and the infographic below adds a wider context.

Information you provide

You have to be upfront about everything, especially:

  • Provide full contact information, including your address and a non-premium phone number
  • Provide information on all payment options, your returns policy and delivery charges before checkout, including any extra charges
  • Provide receipts including all of the above

shopping cart photo

Everything must be in clear, easy to understand language, with no hidden charges or other shady practices such as automatically adding products to shoppers’ carts are all banned.

Much of this is common sense if you want anyone to buy from you, but it’s amazing how many online shops still don’t have this information, and it’s one of the main reasons why online shops fail.

Returns and cooling off period

In short, a customer can return a product bought at your shop for any reason, within 14 days of receiving it – until last year it was seven days.

You must have a simple, clear policy on returns and things like who pays for postage, as well as a returns form and these must be easily found on your website.

The rules are quite detailed on how this should be done, and there are exceptions for things like perishable goods and personalised goods.

Who do the new laws apply to?

The law applies to anyone who sells anything online, from physical products, to e-books, to appointments, courses and subscriptions. Selling online means where transaction takes place on a website.

The rules, especially for subscription and membership sites, are very complex and need to be looked at in depth. There are links to resources at the bottom of the page.

This infographic comes courtesy of Reflect Digital, on behalf of their client Waterfront Solicitors

Consumer Rights law UK and online shops infographic

Where to find out more about the Consumer Rights Directive

This post is only intended to provide a flavour of the law and the main points you need to look at and should NOT be taken as legal advice.

If you want to know the full detail, you’re going to have to do your homework and we strongly recommend you do, so here are some resources.

  • Waterfront Solicitors – Consumer law is changing – 5 key pointers for online businesses

Official guidance from the EU and from the UK Government

The EU guidance document (in PDF format) is a massive 79 pages!

The UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills guide is a mere 26 pages: Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation, and Additional Charges) Regulations (PDF format)

If you still need help with how to comply

Then ask us for help. We can audit your site pointing out areas for attention.

Contact us to find out more.

If you use WordPress, you should get involved with the community – here’s why

We just came back from WordCamp Europe, a gathering of more than 800 WordPress professionals from 51 countries.

The National Palace of Culture, Sofia, venue for WordCamp Europe 2014.
The National Palace of Culture, Sofia, venue for WordCamp Europe 2014.

Most, if not all the countries of Europe were represented, with strong contingents from the Netherlands, the USA and of course, this year’s host nation, Bulgaria.

Thankfully for us, proceedings were entirely in English.

For those who don’t know, WordPress is the software we use to build all of our websites, but it’s more than just a collection of code.

It’s a community – and one that welcomes anyone who uses WordPress, from the small business website owner to advanced web developers and agencies who build highly customised WordPress websites for international companies.

Welcome to WordCamp Europe. Photo by Vladimir Kaladan Petkov
Welcome to WordCamp Europe. Photo by Vladimir Kaladan Petkov

WordPress also supports a whole ecosystem of companies providing products and services. It’s becoming big business, but people remain at its core.

So what happens at a WordCamp?

WordCamp Europe is one of those places where the WordPress community comes together to hear more than 30 talks over two tracks and two days, covering every subject from security issues, to business and even health. A full list of speakers and talks is available on the WordCamp Europe website.

WordCamp is a place where people all come with the same philosophy: They are there to learn, to improve what they do, but also to share.

The various talks are only part of the picture, as everyone there is eager to meet new people and forge new connections – both personal and professional.

It doesn’t matter who you are, WordPress is a friendly and approachable community and even among the leading lights there are no egos.

In fact you can often find yourself suddenly in conversation with them at the after party!

The ethos of self improvement extends to those who provide services to WordPress users, such as plugin developers.

At WordCamp we were able to connect with many developers whose products or services we use, provide valuable feedback and develop a relationship that helps them improve what they do, and helps us improve our service to our clients. Everybody wins.

WordPress Lead Developer Andrew Nacin. Photo by Vladimir Kaladan Petkov
WordPress Lead Developer Andrew Nacin. Photo by Vladimir Kaladan Petkov

It continues with the WordCamp speakers, many of whom can command high fees to appear at other conferences. At WordCamp they don’t get a penny, yet the likes of Chris Lema, Mark Jaquith and Tony Perez not only gave their time but flew in from half way around the world.

To share their knowledge.

And that extends to the organisers, who put months of hard work into setting up everything to make WordCamp Europe a slick and well-organised event – all on a voluntary basis.

Between the talks the halls were buzzing with people of all nationalities getting to know each other, helping each other, sharing information. Collaborating. With people who are essentially their competitors.

This mindset was best summed up in the talk by Simon Wheatley, of one of the UK’s top Wordpress agencies, Code For The People.

Code For The People lives by WordPress’ collaborative principles, sometimes competing with others in the same space, but sometimes working directly with competitors to help WordPress move forward as a whole.

We are not normal, he told us, yet collaboration can be married with solid business principles that not only help us and our clients, but the wider world, too.

Code for the People, by the way, have donated the skills of one of their top developers, John Blackbourn, for three months to lead work on the next version of WordPress.

It should come as no surprise that this is the approach adopted by the WordPress community, and in particular Automattic, the company that guides WordPress and its development, among other things. Automattic, led by WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg (another speaker at WordCamp Europe) has working practices that are unconventional to say the least. The WordPress system is open source, and contributing to it on a voluntary basis is encouraged through the Contributor Day that takes place after the two day conference. After all many of us make a living through WordPress, and it’s great to be able to give something back.

You don’t have to be able to write code to contribute to WordPress, as everyone is split into groups according to skills and what they want to work on.

More than 180 turned up to the Contributor Day, which was held at the Sofia offices of SiteGround, a managed hosting company that offers specialised services for WordPress – so they gave something back by sponsoring the WordCamp.

Some went to work on improvements coming in the next version of WordPress, others on fixing reported bugs, others still on translating WordPress into yet more languages, while another group answered support requests on

Although we’ve been to five WordCamps before, we’d never taken part in a Contributor Day. We ended up volunteering for a mini project that suited our skills perfectly, under the leadership of Sara Rosso of Automattic.

There were eight of us from five different countries, working together to create an outline for the project that we will all continue to collaborate on remotely – something that will be of use to the WordPress community worldwide. That’s the spirit of the Wordpress community.

If you’ve never been to a WordCamp

If you work with WordPress, even if (especially if) you don’t get involved in the geeky coding side, then you should go to a WordCamp at least once. You will be made to feel welcome.

You will benefit in all sorts of ways. Here in the UK, the next one will be in London in March 2015. Here’s all the info you need.

If you can’t spare the time for a WordCamp, then why not try a local meet? And this brings us on to…

So why don’t we do this here in Shropshire?

But if we can do this in Bulgaria, why can’t we do it here in Shropshire?

There must be dozens of companies using WordPress and hundreds of people running their own WordPress websites, yet there’s no WordPress community like you’ll find in other areas – Cumbria for example.

And while we have the excellent ShropGeek for all in the tech industry, we have nothing dedicated to WordPress alone.

In our experience, most of the companies in the Shropshire area who build websites regard each other with suspicion. As the competition. That’s a missed opportunity.

Most business people who run their own WordPress websites do so in isolation here. There’s no need for that.

We don’t share ideas, inspiration, knowledge or experience with each other – but if we did we would all benefit.

Many of use owe a lot to WordPress, and you can give back by sharing with others, even collaborating on work to help move the software forward.

The first step could be many things – a LinkedIn group, a local meetup, even our own website, but if you want to help build a WordPress community in Shropshire and the surrounding area then please get in touch.

Leave a comment or contact us privately via our webform.

Read more

For a well-rounded re-cap of WordCamp Europe, see Sarah Gooding’s article on WPTavern.

The WordCamp Europe site also has a list of individuals’ blog posts and photo galleries from WordCamp Europe 2014.

And here’s our very own Fiona’s take on WordCamp Europe.

Photo of the National Palace of Culture by Jorge in Brazil

Photos of Wordcamp Europe by Vladimir Kaladan Petkov

The new WordPress admin area

New WordPress dashboard

If you’re logging into your WordPress website for the first time in a while, you’ll notice things have changed. Here’s a quick guide to setting things up the way you need them.

The old WordPress dashboard (click to enlarge)

The old dashboard, where you ended up immediately after you log in, was looking a little tired, so it’s had some improvements as part of the latest upgrade to WordPress 3.8.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the menu on the left is now black, but that’s just the start.

Improvements include:

  • A fresh, uncluttered design that is clearer and easier to use
  • New typography optimised for desktop and mobile viewing
  • Better contrast and higher definition graphics
  • A fully responsive (i.e. mobile friendly) admin area
  • Further improvements for site administrators

It may come as a shock at first, so the purpose of this post is to help you set up the admin the way you want it.

How to set up your admin colour scheme in WordPress 3.8

Your profile page in WordPress 3.8
Your profile page in WordPress 3.8 (click to enlarge)

The new admin area gives you the option to use any one of eight different colour schemes.

You can stick with the standard black, or go for blue, red, purple or coffee tones. Here’s how to do it.

From the Users menu, select Your Profile. You can also select this from the dropdown in the top right that says Howdy, (Your Name)

Under Personal Options you’ll see an option for Admin Colour Schemes. Click the button next to any colour scheme and you’ll get an instant preview.

Your changes are instant so you don’t need to save the settings.

And that’s it!

A note about WordPress updates

If you have a website with Moghill Web Services, you will find the updates have already been done for you as part of our managed hosting service.

If you manage your own site, or your designer does it for you, we urge you to upgrade as soon as possible. It’s a simple process, as long as you take a back-up before running the updates. If you have any questions or need help, then please contact us.

Why you need to update your WordPress (and its plugins)

See this blog post to find out why you need to keep WordPress up to date.

Why pop-up light boxes are a bad idea

Pop-up light boxes are taking over the world
  1. Never say ‘Click here’ on your website
  2. Don’t use ‘Under Construction’ pages
  3. Why you don’t need an FAQ page
  4. Why pop-up light boxes are a bad idea
  5. Why you should avoid using homepage sliders on your website

If you spend any time looking around the web, the chances are you will have come across the latest craze that’s pretty much guaranteed to annoy – or at the very least confuse website visitors: Pop up light boxes, also known as interstitials.

Read more

Why you don’t need an FAQ page

FAQ pages are often used as a sticking plaster for a hard to use website

FAQ pages are quite possibly one of the laziest crimes in website usability. If you have one on your site, you need to get rid of it. Here’s how.

Frequently Asked Questions. This is traditionally the place that website owners dump the content they don’t know what to do with – or really can’t be bothered giving it enough thought.

They are about the convenience of the website owner but never, never are they about making things easier for the website visitor, which should always be your focus.

FAQ pages are often used as a sticking plaster for a hard to use website
FAQ pages are often used as a sticking plaster for a hard to use website

In short the FAQ page is a sticking plaster solution for poor information architecture. In the early days of the web they were useful, but things have moved on and the FAQ page has been left behind.

Take the name: How does a random visitor to your website know whether these questions are asked frequently or not? It’s as if we are expecting visitors to sort out our content for us.

What does FAQ even mean?

Many website visitors don’t even understand what FAQ means, therefore they ignore it. User testing indicates those who do know what it means only ever use it if all else fails.

It’s neither useful nor helpful, unless you’re the person putting the website together. But then you might as well just take all the information from your FAQ page and put it in a new page called Miscellaneous. Or Information. Or even Page.

Website visitors – or to use their proper name: customers – deserve better treatment than this. We should be making it easier for them, not harder.

But FAQ pages are a nightmare, usually presented in a question and answer format that makes them difficult to read or take in.

That’s because everything you find on an FAQs page belongs somewhere else, if only someone would spend the time thinking about where it should be.

If all else fails then make it up

In one large organisation where I worked the various website authors were obsessed with FAQs. Every time a new section was launched, there would be an accompanying FAQ page. Sometimes it would run into hundreds of words, sometimes it would only be a couple of forlorn questions.

My job was (to try) to filter out the worst content before it made it onto the website, so I would always begin by asking if anybody had ever asked any of these ‘Frequently’ Asked Questions.

Nearly always the answer was: ‘No but we had to put something in the FAQ page…. And we must have an FAQ page…’

So these questions were not frequently asked or even asked at all.

And this is often the case as FAQ pages are filled up with imaginary, sometimes off the wall, questions that nobody ever asked. Things like ‘Who built this brilliant website?’

How to get rid of your FAQ page

The secret behind making your website work for your customers – and turning visitors into customers – is in understanding that all web content should be about answering the questions of your website visitors.

Visitors arrive at a website with a task in mind and questions they need answering. These are the real Frequently Asked Questions.

But the answers should not be tucked away and hard to find, they should be obvious and easy to spot: Don’t make your website visitors work for the answers they need.

If your website has an FAQ page start by reviewing it.

Are the questions and answers really things your customers want to know or are the questions just made up? Are some of them so important that they need to be given greater prominence? Should they even be on the website at all?

If the questions/answers are useful to visitors they should be –  usually with the other information on the same topic.

Some FAQs may be pointing at a more serious issue – something on your site that is so hard to use that people need instructions. In this case it would be better to look at fixing the original problem than challenging users to work it out with the aid of instructions. Few have the patience to do this.

For example, if one of your FAQs is ‘How do we contact you’ then obviously you need to make it easier for people to find your contact page, or make it better so people don’t have to ask.

And here’s the point: Websites are becoming more customer focussed these days. If your site serves its visitors properly you don’t need an FAQ page.

If you have one you need to question whether your site is serving your customers the best way it can, or whether you are just using your FAQ page as a crutch to make up for poor design.

More information

Gerry McGovern: The problems with FAQs.

Six Revisions: Stop the FAQ page bandage.

More Website Sins

Things to avoid saying and doing on your business website.

  1. Never say ‘Click Here’
  2. Don’t use ‘Under Construction’ pages
  3. Why you don’t need an FAQ page
  4. Why pop-up light boxes are a bad idea

Photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc