The six principles of influence in web design

I recently attended The Neilson UX Week’s Persuasive Web Design Course and was introduced to The Six Principles of Influence from the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini. Katie Sherwin applied the principles to website design and it was really interesting to see how they could be used to improve the usability of your website to make your customers happy and spend more.

Here’s a brief overview:

The Rule of Reciprocation

The Rule of Reciprocation, in its simplest form, is the principle of feeling an obligation to repay someone when they have provided us with something.

A real life example of this in action is the Hare Krishna. They adopted a technique of giving flowers as gifts before asking for a donation. Having received a gift, it subsequently made it much harder for people to refuse a request for a small donation.

How does this rule apply today on the web? Examples include offering free whitepapers and instructional videos. However, companies often get this wrong by requesting something from the user before giving them anything at all.

Don’t ask for too much too early. For example, presenting a user with a ‘sign-up to our email newsletter’ pop up before they have even viewed a page of your website is only going to result in a negative feeling towards your brand.
Avoid asking for personal data before allowing access to content or requiring subscriptions or credit card information for ‘free’ trials.

Start by giving your customers something and ask for as little from them as possible. If you request information later on, your customers are more likely to reciprocate by doing business with the company.

Read more on the Reciprocity Principle in user experience.

The Rule of Consistency

People are driven to be consistent in all areas of life – in what they say and do and their attitudes, opinions, beliefs and values. Once a person makes a decision, takes a stand, or performs an action, they tend to strive to make all future behaviour align to this.

Consistency makes thinking easy, because there’s little thinking needed. If you can get someone to make a commitment, you can trigger the Rule of Consistency and the commitment can be small and seemingly inconsequential.

This can often be seen when consumers stick with brands that they have bought before and trust, even if they are more expensive.

The Rule of Social Proof

The rule of social proof is a fairly straightforward and one we are exposed to a lot on the internet.

Essentially, it’s the act of following others without thinking and can be described as a shortcut for making decisions. If we see others doing something then we often assume that it is the right thing to do. The more people we see doing something, the more likely we perceive it to be correct.

This principle is magnified if the person or people we are following seem similar to us or look like they have similar values, in which case we trust them more.

We see retailers online using this principle in the form of product reviews and trust icons. If you want someone to do something, show others doing it.


Read more on Social Proof in web design.

The Rule of Liking

The Rule of Liking can best be explained using the example of Tupperware parties. Tupperware struggled to sell in store, but when sold in person by people who knew each other, the products then became a success.

People prefer to say ‘yes’ to people they know and like, with the actual product often taking a backseat in the process.
Organisations and brands, both established and start-ups alike, can benefit from this principle and studies have shown the following to be key factors:

  • Similarity – We like people who we perceive are like us
  • Familiarity – Positive interaction with an organisation or person encourages liking
  • Cooperation – We like people who want to help us
  • Association – We like people who share our values
  • Praise – We like people who compliment us, even if we know it isn’t completely without alternative motive

Simple ways to improve the likability of your website include using photos of real people which can help customers remember that they are talking with a human being which may encourage them to be more polite and tolerant.

Including in depth company history and an ‘about us’ web page can also help a customers feel an emotional connection to a brand and not just see it as another website.

Where other rules such as social proof and scarcity can have an instant impact on a user’s action, liking is much longer term and can encourage customer retention.

More on the Liking Principle in website user experience.

The Rule of Authority

There have been many studies that show how people react to symbols of authority such as titles, clothing and reputation of source and users look for similar trust indicators when reviewing a website.

These symbols of authority that are often enough to gain compliance in real life situations aren’t quite so easy to apply to your website.

To establish your organisation or brand as an authority you must first establish genuine credibility through expertise and trustworthiness. Only then can you gain the benefits from clearly displaying ‘as seen in’, ‘awards’ and ‘accreditations’ on your site.

The Rule of Scarcity

People assign more value to opportunities that are less available. Things that are difficult to attain are perceived as more valuable. An example of this in the real world in retail can be seen with the emergence of Black Friday. A limited number of products at discounted prices can send customers into a frenzy.

People fear loss and studies have shown how losses are twice as painful, as gains are enjoyable.

The Rule of Scarcity can be seen in action on product pages highlighting limited stock, another person viewing that product, a sale ending soon, or through invite only social media and flash sale websites.

2 in stock

Read more on the Principle of Scarcity in UX

In conclusion

When looking at your website and business, review with these rules in mind and where possible look to take advantage of them.

The key to effectively employing any of these rules is user research. If you don’t know your users well enough, it is much more difficult to anticipate what will and won’t work.

Common mistakes online retailers make in website user experience

Many retailers know their websites inside out and can become blind to potential issues that the site may be causing visitors. One opinion isn’t always enough (or necessarily right) which is where user testing comes in.

Often people think that usability is very costly and complex but research by Jacob Nielsen, one of the world’s leading usability experts, has shown that user-testing with just five users is all you need to reveal 80% of a website’s usability problems. Go above that number you do not add significantly more insight. Here at Leapfrogg we regularly undertake user testing on our clients’ retail websites and ensure they are providing the best possible customer experience. Here are just a few of the most common issues our testing has highlighted.

Page speed

Slow websites frustrate customers and may cause them to abandon a task altogether. Running your website through online page speed testing tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great way to identify any technical issues that are affecting the speed of your web pages. However this isn’t always the full story. Until you see how your site actually loads for your customers, insight to their experience is always going to be limited.

Modern day web users expect a seamless, even instantaneous experience navigating a website and any form of perceived delay can cause dissatisfaction. Tests often capture users repeatedly clicking links on slow loading pages.

As well as making sure your website passes online page load speed tests with flying colours, make sure it’s performing for your real life customers through user testing as well as Google Analytics.

Poor product descriptions

Users need to be able to quickly locate and find information about products. From our past tests, we’ve seen common themes of what information users want to find including information such as questions about use, benefits, care, sizing or measurements.

Although users often scan website copy, it’s a common misconception that they do not read or value the content. Product information is often too brief and hasn’t had the attention it deserves or is constrained by the page layout – often hidden in a tab or buried down the page. These are common gripes that we find in user tests.

If you are expecting someone to part with their hard-earned cash for something they have not seen in real life then you need to go that extra mile in terms of describing the product.

Product imagery

As with product descriptions, the lack of physical contact with a product makes online imagery hugely important in persuading a customer to buy your product. Customers can pick up on details of a product from a quality image; after all, you can’t include every detail of a product in the description.

A common mistake retailers can make is to have small, low resolution images limited to just one or two manufacturer’s stock photos. Employing a quality photographer and spending a bit of time taking high-quality shots of the product in context and adding them to your site at a decent size can do your products the justice they deserve.

Toyella is a great example of an online retailer doing this well (they don’t do a lot wrong) with great bespoke product imagery and descriptions:

Toyella have always utilised full width product imagery which is an increasing popular trend:


Hard Graft use full width photography on both the category and product pages, as you might imagine, the imagery is pretty important when you want a customer to part with £100s for a bag:

Hard Graft

You need to find a fine balance between the image size and page load speed but careful use of large, quality images which are optimised for the web should see improved conversion rates.

Lack of delivery returns information

A major barrier when buying products online is the concern a customer might have about buying something they have not seen and that if it isn’t right, they’ll be lumbered with the hassle of returning it.

Key to removing this barrier is to offer free returns and make your returns policy clear and easy to find. If you want to encourage repeat purchases, you’ll need make it as simple and straightforward for customers to return the item. Therefore include return labels and packaging and if you can’t pick it up from your customers then allow them to return it to store or drop it off at Collect+ location for example.

It goes without saying, if you offer free delivery, make sure potential customers know about it. If you don’t, be upfront about delivery costs and don’t hide it in a tiny link in the footer of your site. Customers will only find out at checkout, get annoyed, abandon and probably never come back.

Essentially, make things as clear and simple as possible to remove doubt from the buying journey – don’t give the customer a reason not to buy from you.

Warehouse has clear messaging of both free delivery and returns on product pages:


Checkout security

Checkout security is a serious concern for many online shoppers. Make sure your secure signals and logos are prominent on your website. Simply renaming the checkout heading to “secure checkout” or displaying your SSL certificate prominently can help reduce checkout abandonment rates dramatically.

Allow guest checkouts

It is still a common occurrence to find ecommerce sites that require the creation of an account before the customer can complete their order. The theory behind creating an account so it saves customer details is of course sound, however there will always be customers who for many reasons want to check out as quickly as possible and are not expecting to ever come back.

Use guest checkout as the default option, then offer the option to customers to create an account or save the customer details after the purchase is complete and inform them of the benefits of creating an account.

In conclusion

Don’t just rely on your perception when assessing the experience your website provides. Regularly check your site against some of these common causes of frustration by running a series of user tests to identify any issues. As well as highlighting any issues or problems your website has, user testing acts as clear evidence to reinforce why these changes should be implemented. After all, resolving any of these common site issues can have an immediate impact on website conversion rates.


Applying philosophy to User Experience

One of the aims of The UX Brighton conference I attended towards the end of last year was to show how philosophy could be used every day in the approach to work of those in in user experience field.

Being an Oxford Scholar of Philosophy, Marianne Talbot’s talk was perhaps the most academically focused talk of the day, offering a challenging introduction to those unfamiliar with the philosophical ‘action theory’. Her talk examined the distinction between inductive and deductive reasoning, and how they interact in our everyday thinking. So better understanding this theory should help us to better understand our customers’ right? I have attempted to make sense of the thought provoking talk for those of us who are slightly less academic.

Marianne starts with the action of humans, highlighting how the aim of a website is to stimulate action, often several, actions which could include buying, following, liking, clicking through, recommending and reviewing.

Action is something philosophers apparently know a lot about. To highlight this, Marianne asks the question, distinguish “tripping over a carpet” and “pretending to trip over a carpet” – which is the action and why?

Easy? Maybe not, Pretending to trip over a carpet is an action because it is chosen; it’s performed intentionally and for a reason. When humans act they make choices, when they make choices, it’s for a reason.

If we want to understand action and how to stimulate buying, liking etc., it is necessary to understand reason. Make sense so far?

Reason driven behaviour (an action) is a behaviour caused by a combination of desires and beliefs. Desires and beliefs are both mental states but differ considerably:

Desires motivate action
Beliefs guide action towards its goal
• It is not possible to reason someone into a desire
• It is only beliefs that can be reasoned into

So how do desires and beliefs fit in with User Experience?

Marianne summarises how UX (User Experience) was born from the aim to ensure websites provide users with whatever they want (desires), this is however only half the picture as the user’s beliefs about how to fulfil their desires are the other half.

So since there is little we can do about users’ desires, the main aim should be to give your users belief that by using your website they can fulfil some of their desires.

So to give users the belief we can fulfill their desires we need to better understand beliefs. Marianne describes how all beliefs have contents, the contents of this consists of:

• Concepts
• Every belief is related to every other
• Beliefs admit truth and falsehoods
• Beliefs are expressed in sentences
• Humans care about the truth of their beliefs

Relations between beliefs can be rational, irrational and non-rational. All arguments are relations between beliefs and consist of deductive and inductive arguments.

Deductive reasoning is the process of reasoning from one or more statements (premises) to reach a logically certain conclusion. Deductive reasoning links premises with conclusions, goes from general to specific and gives us certainty, the relation between beliefs are rational, for example:

All apples are fruits
All fruits grow on trees;
Therefore, all apples grow on trees

Inductive reasoning is reasoning in which the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion. It takes us from observations about the past to predictions about the future; this is important to humans and central to science.

A real world example:

Robert is a teacher.
All teachers are nice.
Therefore, it can be assumed that Robert is nice.

Inductive arguments can be good and bad however, take this example:

Women who drink this brand of vodka are beautiful, rich and attract the most handsome men.

If I drink this vodka I will become beautiful, rich and start attracting the most handsome men.

Where it gets even more confusing is whether inductive reasoning is rational? Marianne highlights how Scottish Philosopher David Hume noted that the inductive argument is based on the faith that nature is uniform, the future will be like the past, arguing this is non-rational, just because the sun has risen every day of your life doesn’t mean it will tomorrow.

SO, back applying this theory to user experience, we need to not only think about a customer’s desires, but their beliefs and behaviours, whether rational, irrational or non-rational. How do we do this? With customer insight at the core, of course.

Marianne summarises:

• Actions are reason driven
• For an action to be reason-driven is for it to be:

o Motivated by desire
o Guided by belief

• It’s not possible to reason anyone into a desire
• If you want to satisfy a users’ desires it is their beliefs you need to address
• Users beliefs can be changed and brought into being rationally, irrationally or non-rationally

“If you want to inspire trust it is always better to change someone’s beliefs by rational (deductive) means”

You can see Marienne Talbot’s talk at UX Brighton here.

Image via 10ch on Flickr.

It’s not too late to maximise online sales this Christmas

Christmas is a key time for many retailers and brands. Therefore, it is important to ensure your website is up to scratch in order to maximise sales.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) underpins the success of a website and even a few small changes now could have a positive impact on conversion rates and sales over the festive period.

So where to start? How about with the following:

Carry out some quick A/B tests

Many tools such as Optimizely allow you to test smaller changes against the current design to determine which perform better than others. You can then serve the better performing page variation to a higher percentage of users in the run up to Christmas. This means that even if you do not get statistically significant results quickly, you can still divert more traffic to your higher converting page variation.

Conduct a user test

This will help you quickly identify any changes you can make immediately. If you have specific problem areas you want to test, What Users Do is a cost effective online tool that can top line key issues users’ face.

Conduct a short survey

Tools such as Google Surveys or Survey Monkey allow you to gain some quick, free insight into what users might find frustrating on your site. By focusing on getting something up and running now, you can run it for a month and implement any quick-win changes in time for December.

Identify problem pages in Analytics

Look for pages that drive a good amount of traffic but have low conversion and/or high bounce rates. In addition, review page speeds and work through priority recommendations from Google Page Insights. You will typically find the same problems across a number of pages, so some site-wide changes to improve load time could have an immediate, positive impact on user experience. It will also improve optimisation of the site.

Go through your checkout process

Identify any issues or tweaks you could make to simplify or streamline the process. Look out for unnecessary form fields, enable guest checkout (if you haven’t already,) auto populate address fields where possible etc. Try and be objective, as if you were a customer yourself.

ASOS checkout

Check your online enquiry forms and customer service channels

Ensure they function as best they can. Forms should be quick and easy to fill in and should let customers know that their enquiry has been received. Any queries should be answered promptly in order to try and maintain the attention of the customer and ideally their loyalty to buy with you.

Check your website’s search function

Many people know what they want and will search specifically for gifts at Christmas. They also usually want to view and compare products and prices quickly. Therefore, ensuring your site search functions well and provides relevant, useful results should help support conversions. If you are using Google custom search, you should explore marking up for a Google sitelinks search box which would enable a search box directly in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs.)



Review which products were popular last Christmas

Use this insight to ensure they have good visibility on your site this season. Use popular product imagery to promote email sign ups too (e.g. email / newsletter/ catalogue sign up boxes.)

Offer a price match

If you can, offer a price match offer in case customers have seen lower prices elsewhere. Price is even more important to customers at Christmas, therefore you have to ensure you remain competitive. Ensure price match messaging is in a prominent position across product pages and provide details for customers to contact you to honour the price match.

John Lewis price match

Free delivery

Where possible, offer free delivery as standard. Alternatively, consider awarding free delivery if people sign up to your newsletter. By doing so, you will benefit in the long run by growing your email list.

john lewis

Abandon basket emails

Make sure your abandon basket emails are working effectively in the run up to Christmas. These emails are really effective to bring people back to purchase.

Basket abandonment email

As you can see, it’s not too late to make some fruitful changes to your site that could boost your sales this Christmas. Look at your website with fresh eyes and prioritise any ‘quicker win’ changes so you don’t lose sales to your competitors. But don’t hang around too long – your customers certainly won’t!


The Weekly Shop (26th – 30th May)

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Leapfrogg’s Weekly Shop. This week we feature articles about why people don’t trust your website, Twitter advertising, key takeaways from SheerLuxeB2B and the EU’s privacy ruling on Google.

44 reasons why people don’t trust your website

To kick us off this week, Chris Lake from Econsultancy has explored the reasons why people may not trust your website using insight from a post on reddit. Reasons range from content, design choices and the usability of a website and is well worth a read to make sure you’re not guilty of any of these.

Top 5 Learnings from Twitter Advertising

Earlier this year, Twitter launched Twitter Advertising which allows UK businesses to advertise on the platform. We’ve been running Twitter ads for a number of our clients for several months now, and our paid search analyst has provided his top five tips for using the platform over on the Froggblog.

Silos, Cycle Teams and Chief Customer Officers: Key Take Aways from Sheerluxe 2014

A few weeks ago, we were proud to speak at the SheerB2B – a conference which brings together experts from the world of online retail to help premium etailers successfully grow their online businesses. Ometria have written a round-up of their key takeaways from the conference, which includes our MD’s talk on five of the major challenges faced by retailers in trying to meet customer expectations and staying ahead of the competition.

5 Fast Facts about the EU’s Privacy Ruling on Google

On May 13th, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against Google in a landmark privacy case, asserting that EU citizens have a “right to be forgotten.” This article from Search Engine Watch dives into some of the facts to provide some insight into what this means.

Thanks for reading! Remember you can sign up to receive The Weekly Shop via email every Friday by signing up in the footer below.

The Weekly Shop (19th – 23rd May)

It’s Friday so that means a new edition of our Weekly Shop! This week, we look at insights from Social Media London, ugly websites, Google’s release of the Panda 4.0 algorithm and insights from Econsultancy’s new Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report.

Real-time Twitter marketing & personalisation – top takeaways from #smlondon

This week, Alice Reeves, our senior social media and content consultant attended Social Media London’s May event, which was focused on how brands can make the most of ‘real-time’ Twitter marketing and personalise their social channels to boost engagement. You can read her key takeaways from the conference here.

What if Your Ugly Website is Holding Back Your Marketing Efforts? – Whiteboard Friday

Last week, in Moz’s weekly Whiteboard Friday series they discussed the subject of ugly websites and whether they can actually hold you back from the kinds of levels of engagement and progress that you could be making.

Google Begins Rolling Out Panda 4.0 Now

This week Google’s Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that they have released version 4.0 of the Google Panda algorithm which is designed to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results. It sounds like this update will be a gentler Panda Algorithm and lay the groundwork for future changes in that direction.

Five key insights from our Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report

This next article from Econsultancy highlights five of the key insights from their Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report which contains a comprehensive analysis of the UK search marketing environment. The report, covering search engine optimisation (SEO or natural search), paid search (PPC), social media marketing and display advertising, is based on an online survey of more than 700 client-side digital marketers and agencies and reveals some interesting insights.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

The Weekly Shop (17th – 21st Feb)

In the Weekly Shop this week…three reports yielding some interesting stats around retail spending, poor tablet experience and the state of digital on the high street, plus what Facebook’s latest algorithm updates mean for your brands Facebook page and ways in which search is evolving.

Three quarters of retail spending in UK comes from just 18 per cent of shoppers

A new study from Deloitte has found that nearly three quarters of the money spent shopping in Britain comes from just 18 per cent of consumers. These ‘Super Shoppers’ are increasingly making purchases using their mobile and account for a massive 70 per cent of all UK retail spending which is the equivalent of more than £200billion in 2013.

Audi to Apple: who is using digital on the high street?

A recent report by Eccomplished assessed over 40 leading retailers in the heart of London’s shopping district on their use of digital technology to evaluate how good retailers are at delivering a multichannel shopping experience. Econsultancy have rounded up some specific retailers from the report who are using digital technology successfully to engage customers in-store and also retailers who are doing otherwise.

77% of shoppers say a poor tablet experience could change the way they perceive a brand, study finds

Our final report this week has revealed that more than three quarters of consumers say a dissatisfying shopping experience using a tablet would impact their opinion of a brand. Furthermore, 67 per cent of shoppers stated that it would make them reluctant to recommend the retailer to family and friend highlighting the fact that retailers simply cannot afford to neglect tablets as shopping devices.

6 Ways to Make People Love Your Brand

In order to gain customers and retain them, you’ve got to do more than introduce them to your brand, business, or products – you’ve got to make them fall in love with it. Mashable have produced an insightful infographic telling you just how this can be done.

Websites Need to Become as Personalised as Email

Marketers have become very sophisticated at personalising emails based on their data to ensure their campaigns are as targeted and engaging as possible. Websites, on the other hand have lagged far behind when the tools exist to make websites as targeted as emails. This article from Clickz looks at four ways you can segment and target visitors on your website to provide them with a more personalised experience.

What Facebook’s latest algorithm updates mean for your brands Facebook page

If you manage a Facebook Page for your business, you’ve probably noticed that your content isn’t reaching as many people as it was a few months ago. In this blog post our senior social media and content consultant, Alice, has explored why this has happened and how allocating a small amount to Facebook Advertising can provide a huge benefit to your Facebook page.

Five ways in which search is evolving

This last article from Econsultancy looks at five noteworthy ways in which search is evolving and what digital marketers need to be aware of including mobile, content and user experience signals.

See you next week!


The Weekly Shop (10th – 14th Feb)

In the Weekly Shop this week…online sales get off to a flying start this year, how small retailers can compete against their big brand stockists and the user experience signals that Google are using to rank websites.

Online sales grow at strongest rate for five years

According to figures from the British Retail Consortium, online sales grew by almost a fifth in January as the sector turned in its strongest start-of-the-year performance for five years, demonstrating the increasing importance of online in the retail sales mix. Read more over on Internet Retailing. 

How Small Retailers Can Compete Against Big Brand Stockists

If you’re a small retailer, one issue you may be familiar with is when your online competition is actually one of your stockists. Our website optimisation manager, Suze, has written a really helpful blog post on how smaller retailers can hold their own against big brand retailers. 

Customer experience is the most exciting opportunity for marketers [infographic]

According to Econsultancy’s 2014 Digital Trends Briefing, Customer Experience represents the single most exciting opportunity for businesses this year followed very closely by mobile. They’ve produced an infographic which presents some of the key findings from Trends Briefing. 

What kind of user experience ranking signals does Google take notice of?

Here’s another interesting article from Econsultancy which looks at how user experience signals are increasingly being used by Google to rank websites. The article looks at how UX ranking factors such as site speed, mobile user experience, button sizes, readability and many more can all add up to help you optimise your website. 

We Love Google, We Love Google Not: 6 SEO-Inspired Valentine’s Day Quotes

Lastly, seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day, we felt inclined to include these 6 SEO-Inspired Valentine’s Day Quotes from Search Engine Watch. 

We’ve also rounded up a couple of our favourite Valentine’s Day inspired digital marketing campaigns over on our blog, which includes Not On The High Street, Evian and Ted Baker. Read the post here.

Happy reading!

The Weekly Shop (11th – 15th November)

In The Weekly Shop this week…we have some Christmas ecommerce tips, a study into customer service expectations on Twitter and the ten most common mistakes of blogger outreach.

Seven out of ten would spend more online this Christmas if websites were ‘better’

A study by PEER 1 Hosting has found that seven out of ten online shoppers in the UK will be put off spending online this Christmas because of the quality of the websites they are browsing. They questioned over 1,000 British adults and found that nearly 70% would do more of their seasonal spending on the Internet if websites were better.

20+ Christmas ecommerce tips from the experts

Following on from the above, it’s probably too late to be making any substantial changes to your website before Christmas, but there is still time to make a few tweaks for improvement. Our friends over at Econsultancy have put together the views on the best Christmas strategies from a number of ecommerce and UX experts. Topics include last minute changes that could aid conversions, the importance of mobile, and how retailers can sell right up to Christmas. Our commercial director also put together a similar post with his top tips for Christmas for the Froggblog last week. Read it here.

72% of customers expect complaints on Twitter to be answered in one hour

Nowadays, disgruntled customers are more likely to flock to Twitter to voice their queries and complaints rather than write letters or make expensive calls, which if not dealt with correctly can easily spiral out of control. A new study from Lithium has found that 53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within the hour. If a customer makes a complaint then that figure goes up to 72%. They also found that 38% of people feel more negatively towards a brand if they don’t get a response within that time frame. Definitely something to bare in mind with the busy Christmas season just around the corner.

The 10 most common mistakes of blogger outreach

The practice of blogging or influencer ‘engagement’ is one of the most widely-used tactics in marketing these days, yet as relatively new industry, people are still getting to grips with it. This article from Henry Ellis at Econsultancy hits the nail on the head with his round-up of examples of painful blogger engagement.

So that’s it for this week! Remember that we will soon be sending out The Weekly Shop every week by email. If you’d like to receive it then please do pop your email in the footer below.

Planning a new website? Don’t forget these five key elements

It’s always exciting when clients are developing a new site. It is the perfect chance to sort out any issues and build advanced functionality that will help set their site apart from the competition.

However all too often, crucial elements are not factored into the initial scope which can be costly to re-address after the platform and CMS have been chosen and developers appointed. It is therefore vitally important that you think carefully about what you want, and need the site to achieve first and map your requirements from this.

Below are the top 5 elements you need to consider when getting the project scoped:

1) Analyse your current site to inform the new
What is working well? What needs improving? What are the opportunities? What do your customers think? It’s so important to understand the status of your current site so you can figure out exactly what you need the new site to achieve.

2) Ensure the navigation is search engine friendly
Textual navigation is important for the search engines to be able to easily spider the site. Therefore avoid JavaScript, Flash or image based navigations as these can be problematic the search engines.

3) Plan your site architecture
Having a good site architecture is important as it will ensure the search engines can index and rank all relevant pages on the site. Ensure that the category structure is logical and you have landing pages that match how people search. Make sure product filtering produces unique URLs so that ranking and traffic potential is maximised. (These pages should provide a better conversion rate.)

4) Specify device agnostic design
Responsive web design is the best option to allow the site to render well on different devices. If not, a separate mobile site should definitely be considered to ensure you are providing a seamless experience across devices to help further encourage conversions. Allow your customers to buy where and when they want!

5) Allow for good CMS functionality
It is important to ensure the CMS allows easy optimisation and ongoing management of the site. My colleague, Ben Adam, recently put together a much more exhaustive list of e-commerce features that will be driven by the choice of platform / CMS. Those that are pretty fundamental are as follows:

  • Logically structured, search engine friendly URLs that follow the structure of the site (avoid dynamic URLs, spaces or symbols in the URL, uppercase letters, etc.)
  • Ability to add page-by-page 301 redirects (in case your URLs change, which if you are changing platform they almost certainly will)
  • Ensure HTML tags are customisable to allow for targeted optimisation. The main ones are:
    • title tags
    • meta descriptions
    • h1 headers
    • alt tags
  • Maintain areas for copy on every page and keep this copy integrated into the design (web copy seems to be a dying component but it is still very important to the search engines, particularly if you want non-brand, search term exposure)
  • Support for the following:
    • breadcrumb trail
    • editable robots.txt
    • instructional meta tags (including rel=canonical, rel=prev / next, rel=author)
    • microformats to allow us to mark up the content directly for the search engines (e.g. price, stock, review markup etc.)
  • Allow for an XML site map, automatically generated would be best case (this means that any changes or additions will automatically populate the XML sitemap)

In most cases, the budget available for a re-build will help determine features and functionality somewhat; however you must plan and be clear about your objectives and requirements from the very beginning. Otherwise you risk spending money on a new site that doesn’t achieve what you want, and need it to.