A few steps you can take to make your site more accessible

Piranha Designs - Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Accessibility can be a tricky subject for many online business owners to get to grips with, what with all of the complexity inherent in how screen readers and voice command applications work.

The good news, though, is that you don’t necessarily need an in-depth appreciation of accessibility principles to tweak your site to be usable by as broad an audience as possible. In fact, the following steps can go a long way towards accomplishing that.

Make your buttons standard HTML

Buttons are vital for triggering actions on your site. Such actions may include sending messages, saving progress and opening panels, among other things, but it’s important to remember that it is buttons that make such actions possible.

It’s therefore also vital that the broadest range of visitors to your site can make use of its buttons. That’s why you should ensure your buttons are always standard HTML buttons. These are the buttons that are natively usable from the keyboard, with the browser and operating system already knowing what to do with such a button element.

Ensure your site’s links are only ever links

Links serve a specific purpose on your site, much like buttons do, although that purpose naturally differs: they take you somewhere. You can also use them natively from the keyboard – again, just like buttons.

Does that mean it’s a good idea to use a link to perform some of your site’s button-like actions? The short answer to that is “no”.

While a sighted user may not be able to differentiate between an actual HTML button and a link that merely resembles a button, the screen reader will tell its user exactly whether the element is a link or a button. The user may therefore expect the element to behave like a link, rather than a button, and if the response they get isn’t what they expected, this can make your site frustrating to use.

Provide labels for everything on the site

Take a look at one of the forms on your site – if there is one. Is there text next to the form fields, to make clear what each of those fields is for? Then, click on the text – by which we do mean the text, rather than the field itself. If your cursor automatically moves into the input field, you can be sure that the field is appropriately labelled.

An unlabelled form creates problems for a screen reader user, who won’t be able to tell what belongs in each field except by exploring the rest of the site for any other helpful text.

Even if you implement all of the above tips, you won’t necessarily have a perfectly accessible website – but such advice should nonetheless serve as useful inspiration for when you do come to design or alter your site specifically with accessibility issues in mind.

Why not ask the Piranha Designs team today about the custom web design solutions that we can provide for you, in accordance with your most demanding requirements?

Great tips for taking your own eye-catching product images

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

If you have spent any time running an ecommerce site, you may have at least been tempted to take your own images of certain products being offered on your site. However, there’s more to impactful self-made product photography than simply setting up a camera and tripod and snapping away at subjects on a white background.

That’s because, as important as the time-honoured product photography rules are, it also helps to subtly break them occasionally if you are to produce the most memorable images. Take a look at some of our below suggestions to see what we mean.

Hang products

You may well be quite accustomed to seeing products pictured hanging when browsing ecommerce sites, so this isn’t necessarily a hugely distinctive tip. However, there are so many ways to creatively hang products, ranging from hanging them upside down and sideways to suspending the item from wires and ropes that also serve as an integral part of the photo.

Don’t be afraid to show a sense of humour and experiment with approaches. The lighting of your images has to be consistently impeccable too, of course.

Macro shots

‘Macro photography’ refers to the practice of taking extreme close-up shots of what may actually be very small items, and there’s no question that these can be very impactful. However, we would also urge you to use such images next to more ‘standard’ product shots so that the viewer has a good sense of what the item really looks and feels like.

Again, lighting is really important here, as macro photography is at its most impressive when even the tiniest and most intricate details are visible.

Keep the background in focus

The conventional wisdom in product photography is that when you have an off-focus background, the viewer’s eye is naturally drawn to the main product in the foreground.

But there’s little to stop you preserving a clear background while also still placing your product slightly in front. You may, for example, place a food product alongside similar items to indicate how it may be used.

Make use of reflection

You can make an otherwise boring image more interesting by applying a reflective effect. This can be done with a mirror, but there are also other ways of doing it.

You might place the product in a shallow pan of water, for example, combined with interesting lighting effects. Or what about using image-editing software to show reflections in water and other surfaces? The result can be more subtle – but still interesting – than you presume will be the case.

Combine these product photography tips with our far-reaching know-how in ecommerce website design here at Piranha Designs, and you can give your brand an impressive online presence that belies the relatively little you might have spent on it.

Responsive website design - what is it?

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Mobile usage is continuously growing. Websites are finding it hard to keep up with all the different devices and screens.

Responsive website design is a solution to this problem.

In simple terms it means that the website 'responds' to the device screen size it is on. This website is responsive. If you view it on a desktop with a large screen you will see that it expands to fill the whole screen. If you then try the site on your ipad you will find that it looks very similar but has condensed the content a little to fit perfectly within the screen. Now when you switch to an iphone or Android smart phone you will see that the site has changed quite dramatically. The menu across the top has become a menu icon which can be expanded on tap. The overall layout has become much more vertical, one column rather than a few columns. 

The important thing with responsive design is that there is only one website with all the content in it, but it responds cleverly to the users device. 

It is a lot more work for web designers like us, but the end result is really worth it. Stats show that over 70% of mobile users switch to a competitor if they find the site they are looking at is not mobile friendly.

Is your site responsive? Is it mobile friendly?

6 things that must be on your homepage

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Your website is often the first port of call for a potential customer, when they get to your site you only have a matter of seconds to make an impact. There are a number of things that people look out for and are proven to make a huge difference on the relationship with the website visitor.

I have been very surprised to find huge businesses failing on these basic principles, so even though they sound incredibly obvious they aren’t.

Here is the list of 6 key things that must be on your homepage:

1. Clear contact information
Many people visit your website just to get in touch with you, make it as easy as possible to call you or email you directly from your homepage. Don’t make the visitor search around for your contact details, put them clearly on the top right if possible.
Stats show that by having a telephone number clearly on your website you instantly increase customer trust in the site.

2. Your unique selling proposition

If you have a USP then make it clear on your homepage, if you don’t then at least explain what you do clearly and concisely. Remember to speak to the visitor with simple words that they will understand.

3. Clear navigation
People need guiding around your site, so help them. Give them the 3 or 4 most popular options. I normally recommend clients to think of the top 4 reasons someone would visit their website, make those options clearly visible as soon as they get to your site.

4. Good images
Images can make a massive difference on first impressions of a company. You should have good quality and well taken photographs showing what it is that you do.

5. Call to action
Ideally you should have some call to action that includes the visitor giving you their email address in exchange for some information, eg. a free guide, a newsletter or some other free gift.
This means that you can begin to convert your visitors into leads.

6. Social media links
A recent experiment showed that a florist who displayed their facebook likes on a prominent section of their website increased customer trust by 44%. If you are using social media (you should be) then make it easy to connect with you by displaying this on your homepage.

Make sure your site is doing as much work as it can, so you don't have to.

Does good graphic design affect website success?

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Imagine you enter a shop, the logo looks like it was designed by a child, there are sheets of paper stuck on the walls with hand written text on them. The tiles are all misaligned on the floor. The walls are painted in bright contrasting colours which almost hurt your eyes. The display units are huge, but the products are tiny. None of the products have clear labels or prices. You look for a shop assistant but can’t find any. After a few minutes you give up and leave.

No business owner would ever want to have a shop like that one, and no client would bother wasting time in that store. However, when it comes to the online store/website it is often forgotten that we are dealing with the same person and the same issues.

Some excellent businesses have terrible websites. Badly designed, disorganised, difficult to navigate and just not user friendly at all. The Stanford Web Credibility Project found that 47% of users make buying decisions based upon the site itself. This implies that if the site looks professional and has good graphic design it can heavily influence sales. So much so that nearly half your customers can make a buying decision without having to shop around, or doing off-site research.

This seems extremely obvious in the physical store example explained above, but for some reason it is often disregarded when creating a website. Whilst in a physical store you may have up to a few minutes, on the web you only have 10 seconds to make an impression.

 

10 Seconds

In the first 10 seconds of arriving at your site many users will have already made a decision in their minds. In this time visitors gather a large range of impressions: company quality and size, product range, product offering and price. They either connect and feel they are in the right place or leave.

Website owners need to look at their websites objectively and ask this type of questions:

  • Does my site look attractive and professional?
  • Does my website properly reflect what we do?
  • Would a complete stranger know how we can help them within 10 seconds of visiting our site?
  • What is the overall message my site is sending?
  • Do I have clear calls to action?
  • Is it easy for someone to find what they are looking for?
  • Is my contact information obvious?

In my experience I have seen some incredibly convincing results that good graphic design can positively increase sales. One particular ecommerce site is our best example of this:

The site was consistently selling around 6000USD per month before we took it on.

Without any further advertising or increases in traffic, but just by applying a totally revised look the site sales shot up to 10,000USD per month instantly.

The second redesign of the site, after extensive user testing has again increased sales to 13 – 15,000USD per month.

Don’t forget that your website can say a lot for your business. Make sure your site is saying the right things.

Choosing a good business name

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Names are very important, some people believe that you are defined by your name. There are plently of books which explain the meaning of each name and a lot of parents use these books before naming their children ( I know we did). With a business it is very common to use your own name or something to do with Gibraltar. That can be good but can also mean you get lost in a large array of businesses with similar names. Here are some tips to help you select your business name.

1. Keep it simple.If you company name is too hard to spell, or difficult to pronounce or remember you are making things difficult for yourself. At the beginning it is best to have a simple name that people can remember.


2. Describe what you do.Your name or at least part of it should describe what you do, an easy test is to tell someone the name and ask them if they know what the company does. As in all marketing keeping things simple and clear is the best way. 

3. Choose the right tone.Is your company very corporate and serious? Or youthful and fun? The name should help to set the tone of the work that you do, this helps the right people to identify with the company.

4. Don't limit yourself too much. Although describing what you do in your name is good, it can also limit what you offer in the future, try and choose something that is descriptive but quite open for future business expansion.


5. Sleep on it. Once you have decided a name, sleep on it and look at it freshly the next day. This is a great test for any creative ideas. Having a good rest will help you to look at it from a more neutral point of view.

6. Add something memorable. If your business tone allows you to, you should try to add something a little different. In our case we chose Piranha Designs. Piranha is not something common and is quite unusual, people remember it. The Designs part describes what we do without limiting us to one particular area of design. 

7. Be careful about using your own name. It can be very good to use your own name for the business but you need to try and think long term. Maybe you want to sell the business in the future, or things don't go so well and your name is always associated with the company. It is best to be very sure before connecting yourself in such a powerful way.

There are always exceptions to these rules, that still work incredibly well. Google, Yahoo etc are perfect examples of this. These are just some thoughts and suggestions for smaller businesses, that have proven to be useful. If you have any other ideas or things to add to this list, please let me know, or add a comment below.

Top 10 New Year’s Resolution for Small Business Owners

Clare Earle - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It’s the start of the New Year and millions of people around the world are reflecting on 2011 and are making New Year’s resolutions that will make them better, slimmer or healthier. As a small business owner you can also make a ‘corporate’ new year’s resolution for your business. In our next blog entry, we will share with you what Piranha Designs has promised to achieve in 2012. But now, let me share with you, what I believe, are the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for small business owners:

  1. 1.Support Other Small Businesses

As a small business owner yourself support other small businesses by switching one of your current providers or suppliers to a small business!

  1. 2. Focus on the Growing Mobile Community

It is a known fact that more people are using their mobile phones to surf the internet and that this is a growing trend. You need to make sure that all your online marketing strategies are mobile-friendly. Have you ever tested how easy it is to navigate through your website via a Blackberry, iPhone or Android?

  1. 3. Put yourself on the Map

It is also true that more and more people are using the internet to source out local businesses; so make sure you can be found easily on Google Places, Bing maps, and Yahoo maps.

  1. 4. Share the Workload

As a small business owner your time is precious so reflect on where your time and effort is most fruitful and focus on that! Then pass on all the other tasks (admin tasks, blog updates) to other staff members or consider outsourcing. 

  1. 5. Socialise More

Chose a social network that will be used to market your business, there is a wide selection (blog, facebook, twitter, google+, LinkedIn) so make sure you pick the one that best suits you. If you are already using one of these social networks either commit to utilising it further to promote your business or chose a new network to take full advantage of.

  1. 6. Refresh Your Website

Do not fall into the trap of focusing on your facebook account and neglecting your website. There is no point in having an up-to-date facebook page that leads to an out-dated and inaccurate webpage. Remember to keep the content and look relevant and engaging!

  1. 7. See Your Staff as Your Customers

If you see your staff as your primary customers you will start to praise them and treat them even better than you are now. This will have the knock on effect of having a happier and more motivated workforce which will lead to higher productivity and improved customer service!

  1. 8. Prepare for the Tax Time

Make a commitment to yourself that you will have all the relevant paperwork in an organised fashion at least 3 weeks before the tax deadline; this means that you can avoid the mad rush and stress of getting all the paperwork ready at the last minute.

  1. 9. Socialise in the Real World

Online socialising should not replace real world socialising; instead they should complement each other! You can find very valuable clients or providers by socialising outside of your normal circles. Perhaps attend a conference or join an association. 

  1. 10. Treat Yourself to Some TLC

As a small business owner it is very easy to work yourself too hard and reward yourself too little. So make sure you treat yourself regularly with leaving home early one day or treating yourself to a day at a spa.

Remember to look at our blog over the next few days so that you can find out what Piranha Designs New Year’s resolution is for 2012.  

4 reasons to use Facebook to promote your business

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Facebook is taking over the internet. It is transforming the way people behave and interact online. Even if you don’t like Facebook or the idea of social media, it is fast becoming a necessity. Here are four reasons why you should consider using Facebook to promote your business.

1. Communication

It can be very difficult and expensive to communicate quickly with your clients and prospects. Maybe you need to print something out, or send emails. With Facebook you can spread a message extremely quickly and totally free. The best thing about it is that your Fans/Friends can also share that with their friends.

2. Awareness

Facebook have an effective and very affordable advertising system. You can specify exactly what type of person you wish to target, their location, age etc. Then you only pay per click, so you know every penny is being spent wisely. This can be a great way to build brand awareness.

3. Listen to customers
Listening to customers is something we all know we should do, but very often don’t find the time to. With Facebook it is easier to encourage feedback and listen to what your customers are saying. As Facebook is a more relaxed environment you may find that customers will actually tell you the truth!

4. Increase sales
If your customers are receiving communication from you, you are listening to them and responding this will, in the long run, have a very positive effect on sales.

There are currently 17,280 facebook members who live in Gibraltar. Are you speaking to them? Or are your competitors?

How customer reviews can boost sales

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, July 06, 2011
When you are using Amazon to find a product what do you do? You search, read the short description perhaps, and then probably the most important thing is you look at the reviews. How many good reviews has the product had? What are the bad reviews saying?

People like to buy things based on what others are saying about them, we automatically trust the buyer more than the seller. The seller will always sing their own praises, but the consumers will tell you the truth.

Very often people will simply buy products because they have high reviews, even if they are more expensive than a similar item with no or poor reviews. I know I do. I like to read the reviews to see if the product does what it is supposed to and if it is any good.

Studies have shown that the effect of having reviews on your site can be tremendous.
NetShops, which uses PowerReviews services ran a study which determined that reviewed products experienced a 26% lift in sales.

Using reviews on email marketing has lead to some astonishing results. Golfsmith International Inc. used some tests which showed that emails with reviewed products generated 42% more revenue than ones without.

It is important to note that consumers can read through fake reviews, also just one or two reviews are not enough. PowerReviews say that a minimum of 20% of products on a site need to have at least 3 to 5 reviews each in order to have any real social effect.

For some businesses, like mine, product reviews are not really possible, in these cases testimonials or case studies do the same job. Have you read our testimonials?

Our Piston Commerce software includes product review functionality, are you using it to its full extent?

More people buy from the experts. Are you an expert?

Piranha Designs - Thursday, June 09, 2011
On the web there are some websites that sell everything. Amazon and ebay are the biggest ones. These sites are hugely successful.

However there are also a large number of businesses that seem to offer a load of different services. This can be rather confusing and not as beneficial as it sounds. As business owners it seems good to have as many bases covered as possible, but as a customer this is not always the case.

Let’s imagine you are looking to buy a fountain pen.

Now you search online and you find many different websites selling fountain pens. One of them is a stationery site that sells thousands of products, it has good prices and looks interesting. Now you check another site and see that this one is a fountain pen expert site. It is a store focussed on fountain pens. They have a lot of information, good prices but above all they know their stuff, and that’s all they sell.

Who would you most likely buy from?
The stationery site that happens to sell fountain pens? Or the fountain pen expert?

On the web it pays to be an expert. There are many people out there who claim to do everything. It is often better to claim to do very few things and do them really well.

Can you focus your website a bit more? Can you perhaps make multiple sites each of them concentrating on one area of your business? Analyse your site, do your visitors know what you do straight away, and are you portrayed as an expert?

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to buy from the experts.

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