Focus on usability to improve your website’s results

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Usability is a massive problem for many online business owners, marketers and web designers – not least as they can be so blind to it. So, how can you spot and fix those usability issues with your website that could be stifling your business’s growth? 

That’s a broad subject to attempt to cover in one blog post – but what we can do is deliver some key insights. 

Usability tests can be instrumental in improving your website 

If you were able to watch a random person – or maybe a not-so-random person, such as a member of your target audience – use your website for the first time, do you think they’d find what they were looking for straight away? Or do you think they would struggle to find what they want, scratch your heads and then leave your site? 

All too often, marketers and designers suffer from what is known as ‘the curse of knowledge’. By that, we mean that they’re so close to, and informed about, their own website that they can barely imagine what it must be like to be someone without any of that knowledge, trying to use their site for the first time. 

Such a phenomenon only makes it all the more crucial to take steps to ensure that your site can be used by even the busiest, laziest and most drunken idiots. If you are successful in accomplishing this, you can bet that even a lot of sober and hard-working geniuses will appreciate the benefits in the form of a much more usable website. 

Only usability tests can be truly depended on to help you to achieve this, as only they – rather than your own intuition – will really show you where you’re going right and wrong with the usability of your site. 

How can you recruit people for your website usability tests? 

It might seem the obvious thing to recruit individuals from your online business’s target demographic – for example, those looking to buy or sell a house if you’re an estate agent, or the kind of people who may wish to volunteer for your charity. 

However, they aren’t necessarily the only valid people on which to test your website. You could also speak to your existing customers about participating in usability testing, or even directly invite people via your site. Even a completely random person could provide useful insights that you may not have gained if you had only tested your site on one person or a single group of people. 

Usability is undoubtedly a tricky subject for even the most conscientious of online business owners, marketers and designers – after all, the most usable sites are often defined by what they don’t have, as much as what they do have. 

Creating a truly usable site can be an extremely difficult endeavour when you are attempting to do this on your own, so don’t hesitate to talk to Piranha Designs about our acclaimed custom web design services that really can make all of the difference. 

We are now firmly in the era of resilient web design

Piranha Designs - Monday, May 08, 2017

It’s easy to get bogged down in current-moment considerations when you feel that the time has come to revamp or refine your company’s website. What are the latest web design trends? However, you might also ask: which of those trends are likely to still be relevant in a year’s time, or five years’ time, or even 10 years’ time? 

This, in turn, might lead you to what is, in many ways, the philosophy of our present era of web design: resilient web design. 

How has web design changed down the years? 

That’s a very grand question to try to answer in the confines of one short blog post, but one thing that is certainly noteworthy is how our appreciation of the constraints of the medium of website design has changed. 

When the web first came to prominence in the 1990s, for example, web designers were generally those who had previously designed magazines, newspapers and other printed publications. They made the transition from print to pixels, but in the process, brought many of their old assumptions, preferences and biases with them. 

It was only natural, then, that they tended to treat the browser window much as they had the printed page. But there was a flaw with such an approach: whereas a newspaper or magazine page had a fixed ratio, a browser window could be any size. 

The journey to our present age of universality 

It was impossible for web designers to know in advance of the size of a given person’s browser window. What duly began over the decades was a struggle to impose order on this new, exciting medium – the web page – on which it was often much more difficult to impose order than had been the case with printed pages. 

So, we got web designers creating pages in ever-greater widths as people’s monitors got bigger – in the web’s early days, most monitors were 640 pixels wide, so they created layouts of the same width. But over the years, this ‘standard’ jumped up to 800 pixels wide... and then to 960 pixels wide. 

Similarly, in the early days of devices capable of fully accessing the web – as ushered in by the iPhone – the ‘answer’ seemed to be to design separate mobile-only websites on domains like m.sitename.com. 

But what happened when the lines between mobile and desktop devices blurred – when we started getting tablets like the iPad, and ‘phablets’? At this point, it became clear that even this segmented approach to web design would not be very resilient to the ravages of time. 

For truly resilient web design in 2017, choose Piranha Designs 

Today, of course, web design tends to be governed by very different principles, of serving exactly the same information in exactly the same representation across all of the devices through which one could conceivably access a given website. 

We are now in the age of not just adaptive web design, or responsive web design, but resilient web design, embracing the idea of just one World Wide Web. 

It’s a philosophy that our own web designers are proud to embody here at Piranha Designs. With all of the above in mind, we’ll leave you with a quote from the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, in an article for Scientific American on his most famous creation’s 20th anniversary. 

“The primary design principle underlying the Web’s usefulness and growth is universality. The Web should be usable by people with disabilities. It must work with any form of information, be it a document or a point of data, and information of any quality – from a silly tweet to a scholarly paper. And it should be accessible from any kind of hardware that can connect to the Internet: stationary or mobile, small screen or large.” 

Contact Piranha Designs today for more information about our complete web design services

Even if your site is attracting visitors, are they coming back?

Piranha Designs - Thursday, May 04, 2017

We couldn’t help but think that a natural follow-up to our earlier blog post on how to boost your site’s conversions if it doesn’t receive many visitors would be to look at what happens when your site does receive visitors, but they don’t necessarily get ‘over the line’ to converting. 

More specifically, we’re thinking of the times when ‘real life’ intervenes for your visitors – when they’re thinking of purchasing from you but then have to take the kids to school, or they have to mop up some spilt liquid at home when in the middle of completing your email newsletter signup form. 

Real life is distracting, and once your visitors are distracted away from your site, there’s no guarantee they will ever return. So how can you boost your brand’s chances?

Being memorable certainly helps 

One of the most old-fashioned tricks in the book when it comes to keeping your visitors coming back is to simply make your brand memorable. Even just a quirky name, rather than an overly bland or corporate one, could help to keep your brand in your prospective customers’ heads. 

Then, there are all of those brands that have risen to prominence on the basis of an amusing viral advertising campaign or something else a bit crazy. Just consider the especially famous example of Lingscars.com, which is surely one of the most garish sites you could ever expect to see – and yet, behind it is a multi-million-pound success story. 

Continual customer communication is also vital 

A perhaps more sustainable approach for most businesses than the Lingscars.com one is to ‘capture’ the customer in some way – whether by getting them to subscribe to an email newsletter or social media updates – so that there’s no longer so much pressure to get them to buy in a single session. 

It may be as straightforward a task as getting them to follow you on Facebook or Twitter, or you could attempt to persuade your visitors to return through ad retargeting or a shopping cart abandonment campaign. If a visitor fills up their shopping cart, for instance, they are highly likely to convert, so a well-timed email with a suitable offer or discount could be just enough to get them over the line. 

Any or a combination of these methods could make an appreciable difference to your site’s ability to get more people coming back. It’s an essential plank of any strategy designed to boost your site’s resilience, and when you talk to Piranha Designs about our expertise in web design, we can help to build you a site that is effective, chimes well with your brand and assists your business’s growth.

3 email subject line phrases that work, and 3 that don’t

Piranha Designs - Thursday, April 20, 2017

Attempting to get responses to your marketing emails can feel like a very hit-and-miss effort at times – and yet, it’s not doomed to failure. Just take a look at these email subject line phrases that have been shown by research to work or not work. 

Three that do work... 

  • “Next steps”: these two words set up an expectation – specifically, that there are next steps to your relationship with this recipient. When one person sets up an expectation, it drives other people to act in a manner in line with that expectation.  
  • “Thank you”: sending a “thank you” email is far from the superfluous activity that many people imagine it to be. Such an email acknowledges to the recipient that their time is worth something, and when you show your gratitude for that, they tend to respond positively. 
  • “Today’s call”: the more immediacy the language of your email subject line communicates, the more opens you can expect to attract. If you give the recipient an easy excuse to shelve any reading of your email until later in the week, there’s a good chance they will never read it. 

...and three that don’t

  • “Can we chat?”: people lead busy lives, so as with a cold call, so often, the answer is “no”. “Check in” has been shown to achieve much greater open and reply rates. 
  • “Something of interest?”: this kind of language screams “sales email” and therefore isn’t something that attracts reads – people just don’t think you’ve made an effort. There should at least be some attempt to tailor the subject line to the value your email provides, as you can do by indicating what the recipient could achieve by reading it or taking advantage of the advertised product or service. 
  • “Invitation to join”: you might think that your use of “invitation” makes you seem welcoming, someone with something to offer. But an automated invite from a stranger is hardly the same as a party invitation from a friend, and that’s reflected in the open and response rates. Maybe something like “Meeting...” or “Introducing...” would be much more effective. 

Even the most seemingly minor changes can make a big difference to the impact made by your email subject lines. Here at Piranha Designs, we offer an assortment of design and marketing services to help your brand achieve a big impact across the breadth of its online activities.

How to boost conversions if your site doesn’t receive many visitors

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

As the saying goes, we all need to start somewhere, and if you have a small or start-up business, the likelihood is that your current website – if you have one – won’t be receiving much traffic. 

This presents various issues in terms of improving your conversion rate – after all, when you have no or very few visitors, it is difficult for you to gain a sophisticated understanding of those visitors and determine what does and doesn’t work in terms of attracting and engaging them. 

So, what techniques can you use? 

If your website is a low-traffic one, it may be difficult to undertake the A/B tests that your high-traffic competitors do, for the simple reason that it is difficult to measure any statistically significant differences when changes are made. However, a lot of the other techniques used by high-traffic websites can still be used by even the smallest online businesses. 

Possibly the most fruitful of these approaches is user testing, which doesn’t need to be any more sophisticated than asking a friend – or anyone else you can get hold of – to try out your site while you observe them, noting any issues that arise. 

You may even go as far as having usability tests carried out on the websites of your industry competitors and comparing the results to those for your own site. You may find through this process that there are certain issues on your own site that the competitor has found a good way of addressing on their site. 

Another potential approach for boosting feedback on a low-traffic site could be to increase the incentives for visitors to complete surveys to attract a higher percentage of responses. In addition, you could place your phone number in a prominent position at the top of all of your site’s pages to encourage a greater number of calls, and even possibly charm some of your callers into carrying out long-term usability testing for you. 

Testing doesn’t necessarily need to be out of the question 

Business owners with low-traffic websites often presume that testing isn’t the right way to determine what does and doesn’t work with their site, because it would take too long to generate genuinely significant results. 

However, that isn’t necessarily the case. By testing only the major pages of your site and testing the biggest and boldest possible changes, you often can get meaningful results, even from testing on a low-traffic site. In any case, it is good to get into an early habit of frequent A/B testing, so that you can also realise its benefits at the earliest possible stage.

Don’t allow yourself to be too fatalistic about your low-traffic website! Get experimenting with and testing your site on a regular basis, and you may well see quicker-than-expected results. With our own in-depth expertise in website design here at Piranha Designs, we are well-placed to cater to your needs in this area, including if you need a site to be designed from scratch. 

3 of the key trends in ecommerce site design in 2017

Piranha Designs - Friday, March 17, 2017

Ecommerce website design is expected to see considerable continued change this year – not least the move to a firmly ‘mobile-first’ approach. Web design may be a slow-moving discipline, but we certainly expect significant evolution – at the very least – in how designers think about the design process. 

Here are three of the trends we anticipate. 

  1. Web design becomes mobile design 
  2. Articles about web design written a few years ago frequently mention the importance of creating a responsive or adaptive design for your site, so that a site intended to be viewed on a desktop computer can be accessed and used easily on a mobile device as well. 

    That idea is increasingly being turned on its head, with many ecommerce sites being designed to be mobile first and then made responsive for larger screens, in acknowledgement of the tendency for many customers today to shop on the mobile rather than desktop versions of online stores. 

  3. Hamburgers head left  
  4. A hamburger menu, in case you aren’t aware, is the button or icon consisting of three horizontal lines that can be clicked or tapped to open up a side menu with various navigational options. 

    While a hamburger menu can appear on either the far left or far right of a page, there is an emerging tendency for Google and other leading sites to prefer the left. This makes the menu one of the first things a user notices about a site, even when they are using an assistive device such as a screen reader.   

  5. Long scrolling and continual loading 
  6. When you are designing a site for mobile users, it can sometimes make the most sense to have objects added to the current view as they scroll down, instead of loading a completely new page or view. 

    This is increasingly leading to web designers creating pages that scroll to considerable lengths, with portions of a page only being loaded as and when the user scrolls down to them. 

    In the case of your own ecommerce site, you may do this with your product category pages, having 100 or more products on one page but only loading 10 products at a time to keep page load times short and site performance high. 

    With these and so many more ecommerce website design trends likely to affect how you should approach the creation of your own new site, here at Piranha Designs, we can advise you on the most relevant of them when you take advantage of one of our ecommerce site design packages. Simply enquire now to find out more. 

3 characteristics of the perfectly designed icon

Piranha Designs - Monday, March 06, 2017

Whether it is to be used on your website, social media profiles, printed marketing materials or somewhere else entirely – perhaps more likely a combination of the above – an effectively designed icon or logo can make a bigger difference to your organisation’s success than you might imagine. 

As the most seasoned icon and logo designers know, there’s also a thin line between a perfectly designed one and one that’s merely “OK” or “sort of good enough”. 

Here are three of the attributes to be guided by when designing an icon or logo.  

Form 

This attribute can be defined as the icon’s underlying structure, or how it is made. If you ignore the icon’s finer details and merely draw a line around its major shapes, what forms emerge? Are there circles, squares, triangles? 

Primary geometric shapes like the above provide a visually stable foundation for the design of your logo. It is on such a foundation that greater detail can be provided, but we would advise against any more detail than what is needed to communicate what you need to communicate with your logo. 

Aesthetic unity 

The elements contained within your icon or logo together determine its level of aesthetic unity. These elements may include the likes of square or rounded corners, the size of the corners, the line weights, the colour palette and more. 

Aesthetic unity may be a factor of particular concern to you if you wish to design a set of icons tied together by a consistent visual language – for example, a tendency towards rounded corners or ‘earthy’ colours such as browns and reds. 

Recognisability  

This attribute is about the ease with which the viewer can identify the object, action or idea that the logo is supposed to depict – in effect, the essence of the logo as a whole, rather than merely its component parts. 

You may design a logo that most viewers would recognise as representing an animal such as a fox or an owl, for example, due to the inclusion of the visual elements that would generally lead them to this conclusion. 

Are you anxious to ensure that your organisation’s logos and icons represent a good fit for your desired visual identity and wider objectives? If so, contact the Piranha Designs team today about our highly rated brand identity and graphic design services and expertise.  

How ecommerce sites can tap into the potential of user-generated content

Piranha Designs - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

While most online business owners today recognise that we are in the age of the empowered customer, many have not yet properly considered the merits of the customer doing their selling for them. 

User-generated content – otherwise known as “earned media” or UGC – comes in a broad range of forms, including social media posts, blog posts and online reviews, and can make all of the difference to the achievement of greater awareness and sales for your ecommerce site. 

What are your options for making use of UGC? 

Some of the increasingly popular ways of incorporating user-generated content into a brand’s online presence may seem contradictory to the traditional means by which ecommerce sites have invited users to participate in their story. 

Displaying unmoderated customer reviews on your homepage, for instance, may seem risky, but it also helps to engender greater trust among your visitors in what is presented on your site. 

Similarly, you might launch a product review programme, whereby you supply expert bloggers with free products of yours to review. This method doesn’t merely expose your brand and its values to the readers of those blogs, but also helps to create a stream of organic search results that users will feel they can trust, and which will guide them in their buying decisions. 

At the very least, it assists in creating the impression of your brand as one that is well-known, popular and trusted. 

Hashtags and incentives can also work nicely 

Another approach may be to include social media hashtags and ‘calls to action’ (CTAs) on the packaging of your products to encourage social media users to share content related to your brand. 

Sometimes, it only takes such modest prompting to push social media users into sharing content that they may have been tempted to share anyway. 

Alternatively, you may choose to give the customer an incentive to share content about a particular new product or service that you have just launched. You may, for example, enter them into a prize draw that will enable them to win free or discounted use of the given product or service. 

There are plenty of possibilities and platforms out there 

While platforms like Olapic and Curalate give you various interesting and easy options for incorporating “earned media” into your ecommerce site, it’s also important to bear in mind certain ‘etiquette’ for the use of UGC. These include always giving fair credit to your customers who share content and not ignoring dissatisfied customers. 

After all, if expressions of discontent are not dealt with sensitively and promptly, you may find yourself with a wider reputation management disaster on your hands. 

Is now the time to set up an ecommerce site that will push your online retailer firmly into 2017 – and beyond? Simply contact the Piranha Designs team today to learn more about our full breadth of experience and know-how.

10 Differences Between A Good And A Great Landing Page

Piranha Designs - Friday, January 27, 2017


10 differences between a good and a great landing page 

What came first, the mega-successful landing page or the mega-successful company that features such a landing page on its website? You can bet that in many cases, it’s in large part due to the former that the latter exists. 

Here are just 10 ways to turn your landing pages from good to great. 

  1. Compelling icons 
  2. Yes, even the icons that you use on your landing page – such as graphical exclamation marks or pointed fingers – can help to induce that much-needed urgency in your landing page visitor. 

  3. Make it look educational, not salesy 
  4. If your landing page is geared towards providing guidance on a particular subject, make sure it actually lives up to that promise, instead of immediately shoving sales content into the visitor’s face.

  5. Include a ‘Johnson Box’ 
  6. A ‘Johnson Box’ is a staple of direct marketing emails, containing such details as the page’s key message, contents or even a quote. It may be used at the top or further down the page. 

  7. Refer to positive press you have received 
  8. It might be easy to forget that time your business was favourably mentioned in The Guardian or a local or industry publication, but your visitors will certainly be reassured to know of it. 

  9. Offer several buying options 
  10. Providing a choice of packages or subscriptions at different prices helps to switch the reader’s focus from “Should I buy?” to “Which one should I buy?” 

  11. Publicise ‘risk reducers’ 
  12. Settle the nerves of those dithering over whether they should buy from you, by prominently mentioning a ‘risk reducer’ – such as the option to cancel at any time with no minimum term. 

  13. Show the logos or photos of past clients 
  14. If you’ve catered to brands or people that visitors may have heard of (or even ones that they haven’t), it really helps to build your reputation if you include their logo or photo, not just their names in text.

  15. Focus on benefits, not just features 
  16. Sure, you can’t avoid talking about the features of your products or services, but this should be done in a way that is expressly aimed at answering the potential customer’s ‘pain points’. 

  17. Put the emphasis on “you” and “your” 
  18. Even when faced with a seemingly relevant landing page, many visitors will still think “But my situation’s different”. So, emphasise that whatever their specific needs, you can cater to them. 

  19. Appeal to the visitor’s need for immediacy 
  20. We all like a bit of instant gratification from time to time. Leave the visitor in no doubt that if they buy or sign up now, they can expect an instant benefit – and be sure to define that benefit clearly. 

There you go – just ten ways in which you can transform your good landing page into a truly great one. Don’t be afraid to contact Piranha Designs’ experts today to discuss in greater detail how you can make your own company’s landing pages as effective as they can be.

Embrace Google AMP

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Now is the time for your mobile website to embrace the Google AMP format

Google has recently unveiled Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which it now considers its flagship format for mobile websites. Here at Piranha Designs, we would urge you to move your company's mobile site to Google AMP. 

Here are several reasons why making this move can make an appreciably big difference to your company's fortunes.

An introduction to Google AMP

Google AMP is a standard of design and coding that, when employed for websites, can substantially boost the speed at which their content loads for user viewing. Not only is Google AMP lighter than its predecessors, but it also makes use of caching for a faster and more fluid experience when the user repeatedly clicks through to different pages of a mobile site.

Nonetheless, Google has certainly put the cat among the SEO pigeons, as the search giant has revealed that when it crawls a site, the basic index it now focuses on is the mobile index. This means that if you have long followed a particular SEO strategy for your company's mobile site, you might want to rethink it in light of Google's changes. 

The biggest implications for your company

With Google now declaring AMP its best format for mobile sites, more and more businesses could opt to integrate it into their sites and so enjoy the speed benefits. This could make your own site's loading speeds an even greater influence on its success – after all, you don't want to fall behind the competition because their AMP-based sites load noticeably quicker than yours.

You also need to consider the implications for SEO. Here at Piranha Designs, we offer search engine optimisation and marketing services through an array of packages for different priorities and budgets. Whichever package you choose, our team will draw upon its knowledge of AMP and how it changes the game when it comes to SEO.

Don't fall behind in the mobile space

Even before you consider our knowledge of AMP, our website design services include the delivery of mobile-friendly designs that can help you to reach out to avid smartphone users. 

You must not underestimate how big a strategic blunder it can be to neglect the optimisation of your mobile site – so why not get in touch with our team today to ensure that your own organisation’s mobile presence is truly ‘2017 ready’? 


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