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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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.

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.

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.

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Why the big brands love WordPress

WordPress logo

We’re only just back from a trip to the Netherlands for a European conference for people who work with WordPress – known in the community as a WordCamp.

What did we learn? Well lots actually and we’ll be putting a lot of it into practice in the coming months, but for now we’re just going to share this presentation which details how WordPress is fast becoming the top choice for big business, never mind small business websites.

WordPress, which is Moghill’s favourite website tool, now powers more than 20 per cent of the web.

The presentation is by Sara Rosso of Automattic, the company that runs Wordpress.com and leads the WordPress project.

 

This presentation and another nine from the event are available on the WP Tavern website

Website contact forms: Why you must keep them short

Screenshot of contact form

Ever given up on an online transaction – like filling in a form – because it took too long? You and just about everyone else.

Web contact forms play a big part in every day web use. If your business has a website, chances are there is at least one contact form on it.

Many people visit business websites to get a phone number, but others will want to contact you using your form.

But instead of making it easy for people to contact you, that contact form could be acting as a barrier.

Are you asking for too much information?

Screenshot of contact form
Do you really need to know all that?

Often businesses and organisations use contact forms as a way of prioritising how quickly to get back to them – or whether to respond at all.

Sometimes forms ask for totally irrelevant information, or at least information that isn’t needed at this early stage.

But if you want potential new customers to contact you via your website, you need to make it as easy as possible for them, and that means asking as few questions as possible.

You may have to deal with more people you can’t help, but form submissions will rise too, as will the number of conversions.

There have been plenty of studies that back this up.

Why keeping forms short helps sales

Holiday company Expedia discovered it was losing $12 million in sales thanks to one extra form field on their website. The field asked for the visitor’s company and people filled it in wrongly, causing the transaction to fail.

A study by Kevin Hale, co-founder of online forms company Infinity Box Inc showed that site visitors are more likely to fill out shorter forms because they require less effort. The number of questions on a form correlates closely with the rate at which people abandon the form.

And a study by US web company Imaginary Landscape showed how reducing the number of fields in their forms from 11 to four resulted in a 160% increase in forms being submitted and a 120% increase in their conversion rate.

The smaller 4-question form resulted in a significantly higher number and ratio of submitted forms.  In addition, the quality of the submissions remained the same, even with the reduction in submitted information.

Also, the quality of submissions stayed the same.

How to keep your website forms short and efficient

Ask for essential information only – only what you absolutely need to progress.

On a simple contact form this often need be no more than a name and a means of contact – an email address or phone number, of preferably both.

Once you have these then it’s all you need, though it helps to have a comments form that people can fill in if they like.

If you are looking to trim an existing form then ask whether everything you are asking for is really necessary for a first contact. Do you really need to ask for company information? You will find it out soon enough.

More information

ZDNet: Expedia on how one extra data field can cost $12m

Six Revisions: 10 tips for optimizing web form submission usability

Smashing Magazine: An Extensive Guide To Web Form Usability

Inman News: Increase online conversion rates

Imaginary Landscape: Contact Form Case Study

Don’t use ‘Under Construction’ pages

Don't use Under Construction Pages

There’s possibly nothing more disappointing when browsing a website than following a link only to be met with the message: Page Under Construction.

Although Under Construction pages are not as common as they used to be, they are still with us,  and often used by businesses who should know better.

Page Under Construction graphic
Nice graphic, but you could have spent time on your content instead.

Often they are accompanied by nice graphics, as if to somehow make sloppy look professional.

They could have used the time it took to make the graphic to put some information in the page instead!

Frustration and disappointment are the main reasons people give up on websites, and finding pages under construction is a great way to do both to your website visitors.

It also reflects badly on your business.

Customers

In many cases your website is the first contact your potential customers have with you.

You have promised but not delivered. They followed a link expecting information, only to be disappointed.

It looks like you can’t be bothered.

An obviously incomplete website could indicate a business that is disorganised – even a business about to go under.

Page Under Construction
Some sort of graphic involving roadworks – an old favourite on Under Construction pages

Under construction pages tend to stay that way a long time, if not forever, and most people will not check back soon, if at all.

Even the phrase Under Construction is negative – apart from being a little pompous and unhelpful in its language.

There are better ways to say it.

How to avoid using ‘Page Under Construction’

The simple rule is if your page isn’t ready, don’t put it on your website. And don’t release an incomplete website.

Don’t tell visitors what you don’t have – focus on what you can do here and now.

If the information is important to your website then put some brief useful information there. You can always go back later and add more.

Better to have something than nothing at all.

It’s part of the beauty of the web: You can change anything on your website at any time. Your website should never be finished.

Don’t say ‘Coming Soon’ without giving a date

Another under construction graphic
Not what you want to see on a web page

Often alongside Under Construction messages is an invitation to check back soon to see a completed page.

These almost never have an indication of date, so what does soon mean: In the next few minutes? Next week? Next month? Next year?

To the website visitor, ‘soon’ doesn’t mean anything without a context. So rather than ‘soon’, commit to a date and stick to it.

But still it’s easily avoided – and you’re still talking about what isn’t on your site.

Do you think there’s a place for Under Construction pages on websites? Have your say in the comments.

More information

Sitepoint: Top 7 Usability Blunders Of The Big Players

Openglobal.co.uk: Don’t display ‘under construction’ pages

Jakob Nielsen: 113 Design Guidelines for Homepage Usability

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