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?

Your prospective customers will be reassured by a well-sorted ‘About Us’ page

Piranha Designs - Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What’s the first thing that a visitor to your company website will want to know, besides the products or services that you offer? It’s who you are, of course.

By that, we don’t just mean your company name, the sector in which your business is active or even the name of the founder. What we mean, are all of the other things that will actually ease the anxieties and doubts of your potential customers.

What anxieties and doubts are your site visitors likely to have?

Let’s imagine that a person ends up on your site through Google, because you’re selling something that they’ve been looking for. The likelihood is that if you’re reading this, your firm isn’t Amazon or Coca-Cola, so the visitor in question may well have never heard of your brand.

So, it’s the basics that they will want to be reassured about. Is your site a trustworthy one, where they can complete a purchase by entering their credit card or other payment information and be sure that their order will be delivered in good time?

Can they also expect the items that they receive to work properly, and if there are any issues with the product, will you be responsive to their complaints and work hard to resolve their problem?

As much of a habit as online shopping has become for so many of us, the fact remains that online shoppers can’t pick up and feel the merchandise, or try on items of clothing. You will therefore need to do everything possible to quickly establish trust with your audience – and your site’s ‘About Us’ page can be an invaluable tool for this.

A well-crafted page will do much to give you credibility

Given how unlikely it is that the average scammer will go as far as building an intricate ‘About Us’ section complete with detail on company values and original photos, it’s fair to say that original and unique content will go a long way to establishing a sense of reputability among your site visitors.

That might manifest in such details as why and when you started your company, as well as what motivates you to provide the products or services that you do through your site. It might also mean filling the visitor in on your staff, including their full names and own interests.

There’s so much else that you can do beyond this. You could describe exactly how the products or services that you offer are made, or how you manage to keep your prices competitive without compromising quality. What about ‘behind the scenes’ of your company, such as your work culture? You might also want to include details on media coverage that your brand has received.

In summary, when you get your site’s ‘About Us’ page right, it can be such a brilliant part of your site for showcasing and enhancing your company’s identity. It’s all about communicating what makes your brand unique, interesting and relevant, so that your prospective shoppers’ nerves will be calmed and they will feel confident to order products or services from you.

Could Piranha Designs be your crucial partners this year in helping you to get your website to the next level of success? We offer a broad range of up-to-the-minute and proven web design and other services, and would be delighted to hear from you.

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.

Don't forget to encourage post-Christmas reviews

Piranha Designs - Thursday, December 21, 2017

Survey suggestion opinion review feedback concept

It only takes a few minutes of Googling to unearth statistics showing just how important customer reviews can be to your company. One recent survey found that 60% of consumers look at online reviews at least once a week, with 93% stating that reviews influence their purchasing decisions.

Links have also been made between customer reviews and improved ecommerce conversion rates - and it's thought that they play an instrumental role in making your site's product pages easier to find in the search engines as well.

All of this, combined with the natural rise in ecommerce sales volume that greets Christmas, makes it an obvious step to do everything possible to encourage the posting of customer reviews as an aid to your post-Yuletide marketing.

Customer reviews have strong value for ecommerce sites

There are plenty more statistics like the above that firmly signal just how much customer reviews could bring to your online business. Did you know, for example, that 82% of consumers say the content of a review has convinced them to make a purchase?

However, it's also vital not to underestimate the SEO dimension of customer reviews, with Google believed to favour sites that have received positive reviews over those with no reviews when using them as a factor to determine search engine rankings.

Customer reviews also often contain long-tail keywords, which could further assist in making your site easier for casual online searchers to discover.

So, what can you do to boost how many reviews you receive?

The greater number of visits to and sales at online stores during December means that now is definitely the time of year, of all times of year, to encourage customer reviews. But how can you do that?

The most straightforward and obvious way is to simply ask for reviews. You may do this through marketing emails that also give you the opportunity to signal how much you appreciate your customer’s purchase, and your interest in receiving honest feedback that will enable you to improve the products your business sells.

You could make a similar request in a social media update, asking those of your followers who have shopped with you whether they would be kind enough to provide a review.

Given the greater impact that reviews for more expensive items may have, it might be a good idea to go further here, perhaps by sending a handwritten card to those who bought such products from you, thanking them for choosing your store and asking them to post a review.

But what if you attract negative reviews?

It’s almost certain that your company, product or service will attract a bad review from time to time. Nor is that always a bad thing, given that the occasional poor review amid the five-star reviews you hope to receive will probably help to make your wider body of public feedback more believable.

Indeed, one study a few years ago showed that ecommerce sites could expect to gain the best conversion rates when their average product review scores hovered between 4.2 and 4.5 on a scale of one to five.

All in all, post-Christmas reviews can definitely be a big part of your firm’s marketing mix as you head into the New Year, so don’t underestimate them! Remember, too, that here at Piranha Designs, we can provide the website design and other services that will help your business to get 2018 off to the best possible start.

3 big ecommerce website design trends for 2018

Piranha Designs - Thursday, November 30, 2017

The world of ecommerce web design doesn’t stay still – there are always new techniques and technologies coming on stream to guide the site design process.

Here are just some of those that you should be aware of for the coming 12 months.

1. An even greater emphasis on video

Could we possibly have any more video online than we’ve had for the last few years? You might not think so, but with the amount of video on the web continuing to edge upwards, it’s a medium that still hasn’t been explored to its full potential on ecommerce sites.

Expect the coming year to be characterised by the ever-greater prevalence of videos in the background of websites or as hero images, as well as on product pages to provide greater insight into how specific items may be used by the customer.

2. Guided selling

Guided selling involves asking shoppers questions about what kind of products they’re looking for, what features they need and how they intend to use such products, so that the customer can be directed to the items that are the best match to their needs.

It’s not an entirely new phenomenon – the chances are that you’ve already seen sites incorporating ‘selectors’ and ‘finders’ to help to narrow down the products that suit you most.

However, there’s a strong likelihood that you will see much more functionality like this on ecommerce sites as 2018 wears on.

3. More microinteractions

Microinteractions are those little details that help to make the design of a website more satisfying for the human user – the ‘like’ function on Facebook is a great example of the original microinteraction, and they’ve become ever-more numerous since then.

On an ecommerce site, a microinteraction may also occur when a user writes a review for a recently purchased product, in the form of a small animation that thanks them for the submission and encourages them to write a review for any of the other items they’ve bought from the site.

According to Dan Saffer, who wrote the book Microinteractions: Designing with Details, a microinteraction consists of four key parts. These include the trigger that initiates or begins the microinteraction, the rules defining or determining what happens in that interaction, the feedback that communicates what is happening or has just happened, and the loops and modes governing the microinteraction’s content.

Microinteractions may only just be becoming ‘big’ in the ecommerce space, but you can expect site designers to be peppering their creations with them throughout 2018.

Would you like to equip your brand with the complete feature-laden, but effortless-to-use ecommerce portal in the coming 12 months? If so, get in touch with the Piranha Designs team now to discuss how our experts in ecommerce website design can help to make it possible.

How can your small retailer get involved in ecommerce for the first time?

Piranha Designs - Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Some of you with widely-held views of the situation between small firms and ecommerce today may be rubbing your eyes at the title of this piece. After all, isn’t every retailer selling online these days? Are there even any genuinely successful brick-and-mortar retail businesses around these days that have no ecommerce presence at all?

The answers to those two questions are no and yes – you probably only need to look around your town or city to see some retailers still exist that apparently do just fine without an equivalent ecommerce portal. 

Such a firm may continue to thrive on account of the standard of customer service that it provides, an enviable local reputation or simply the lack of an alternative retailer for its given products anywhere in the immediate area.

So, does every retailer even need to become an ecommerce business?

Alas, while companies fitting the above description may seem to be doing perfectly well for now, there’s no guarantee that this will remain the case forever. Indeed, pretty much all of the relevant statistics point to online sales still growing at a much swifter pace than general retail sales.

Yes, your average neighbourhood pet shop or hardware store may have fared alright outside the ecommerce world until now, but their task of competing is probably getting stiffer every month and year.

However, it’s also understandable that if you are such a retailer, you will likely have legitimate concerns about the wisdom of developing an ecommerce presence at all.

You obviously won’t have the resources of the big enterprises to give you the luxury of incurring losses or taking on the additional financial burden of ecommerce staff as you get your ecommerce site up and running. Nor may you necessarily have the low overheads and agility of the start-ups that begin life as ecommerce firms while never having to maintain a high-street presence.

There are many feasible ways to get started

Even simply the costs of delivering goods across the country or beyond can seem crippling if you are a brick-and-mortar retailer looking to enter the ecommerce space for the first time. So why not simply offer a ‘click and collect’ service to begin with, whereby customers can order from you online and then collect their purchased item in person from your store?

Alternatively, you may be able to get some of the suppliers from which your retailer already purchases to deliver their products directly to your online customers on your behalf. Or what about starting out on an existing trusted online marketplace, such as Amazon.co.uk Marketplace? This will enable you to select just a limited number of products to sell online initially, as you get to grips with the basics of ecommerce and as a result, minimise the risk of poor customer service.

Would you like to gain a more in-depth appreciation of your retailer’s many options for venturing into ecommerce? Here at Piranha Designs, we have professionals in ecommerce website design that will be more than happy to speak to you, taking into account the specific circumstances and needs of your business.

How catering for clueless shoppers can help you to amass more sales

Piranha Designs - Thursday, August 31, 2017

Given how long online shopping has been a routine element of commerce, you could be excused for thinking that most people know exactly what they want, and how to get it, when they arrive at an online store. However, you should be wary of any unwarranted complacency about how informed your store’s customers really are.

RAM - no, not a misspelling of a 1980s pop duo

Even decades after the World Wide Web came into being, you can't entirely rule out the possibility of your company's online store attracting people who have never previously shopped online. However, there is another, quite different kind of uninformed shopper...

Whatever your store actually sells, there could still be too much jargon attached to your product descriptions. If you sell smartphones, for instance, you shouldn’t be too quick to assume that all of your shoppers know what "GB" and "RAM" mean. If, on the other hand, it is flooring that is on offer, not everyone visiting might understand what "laminate" means in relation to certain products.

How confusing terms could be explained

How can you assist shoppers who might clock particular descriptions in your product listings, only to leave because they can't comprehend the vital terminology? One option is inserting brief explanations where a description uses what could come across as bewildering jargon.

Still, when you use this tactic, the descriptions could become too wordy if each one has more than two points that require clarification. If this is indeed the case, you could instead put together a separate article to list and provide definitions for potentially problematic terms.

It's a matter of SEO, too

Another reason for you to widely use easy-to-understand words and phrases is that this could make it easier for potential customers to find your site and its product listings through the search engines.

This is because, when conducting searches, many people are likely to use such simple terms as "memory" rather than "RAM" or "shiny" instead of "laminate". That doesn't mean you have to do away with specialised phrases or acronyms completely - just add the simpler terms as well, which is one of the many ranking-boosting measures that we can help you to implement as part of our renowned SEO services here at Piranha Designs.

Great product descriptions help you sell more online.

Piranha Designs - Thursday, July 03, 2014
We have all had the negative experience of buying something online and receiving something completely different than what you ordered from the net. And we all know how it feels! 
These sorts of experiences are normally the type that as a online seller you want to avoid because it damages your reputation both with individual customers, and more importantly with search engines like Google. Be aware that product descriptions and photos are normally the only reference point your potential clients will have for your products so make sure you do it properly from the start. Don't fall into the same trap as so many others by copying and pasting manufacturer's descriptions or using the same collection of words for all your products. If you are serious about e-commerce check out these tips we have prepared for you to write a good product description from the start.

 Think before you begin
Before putting pen to paper, pause for a second and meditate on what you are selling. Put down the main points that make your product useful and how you can describe them to a potential buyer. By going through this slightly longer process you can ensure that you include everything you want to get across to the public in one piece of text, so nothing important is omitted and you can feel satisfied you have done the best job possible. Style and tone should reflect the audience you are are trying to reach, so make sure you have done your market research.

 Innovate, don't imitate!
Whatever you do always make sure that you don't plagiarize what someone else has already written, even if it is the manufacturer. All text must be freshly conceived in its entirety and therefore never published beforehand on the web. While reproducing previously drawn up descriptions for the product can sound like a really quick and easy shortcut, it is the biggest mistake you can make. The first thing that will go out of the window will be its SEO value, quickly followed by your ranking in search engines. It is better to round up the best ideas from other reviews of your product or those in the same bracket and develop your own words from that material.

 Keywords are the key
Keywords are the mainstay in any product description so make sure you do not forget to include them. This will do two things at once – give you a better SEO ranking and make a client feel they have reached the place where they want to be. At the same time, don't overdo it. If you go overboard with keywords your description will be unreadable and you will be downgraded by your search engine. Most of the time keywords will appear naturally  in your text if you just write what you feel about a product, thus giving the reader an impression that you are having a dialogue with him or her.

 Be seriously funny
The most important thing about product description is that it is accessible and user-friendly. Humour and emotion play a big part in giving these pieces of text life and imagination, but always remember to tailor it to your target audience. As part of this identification with the reader you could also use colloquial terms and cliches which make a connection with your reader. In particular if what you are selling are luxury products, wow as many of the the customer's senses as possible so that they will feel it will really make them feel better.

 Put yourself in their shoes
Ask yourself what the person searching for your product is thinking. How could you make it sound so irresistible that they would not hesitate to proceed to checkout? Which things are imperative to include? Examine what characteristics could be asked for in a buyer's mind and deliver them. When you have written them all up check with someone else to see if they would have anything done differently or if they need more answers than what you provide.

 Improve your layout
Web-users don't normally have much time when they are looking to buy things online so the best thing to do is to avoid is long chunks of prose. Write up stuff clearly and concisely, so information can be examined easily and follow it with tidy bullet-points that summarise the product features to a potential client. 

 Include client feedback
While it would make no sense to point out what could go wrong with your product, it is valid to be able to show that a neutral observer like a past client has had a positive experience both with your company and more specifically, with the product in question. This can be presented in the form of product reviews or as a link to an article written about your product making sure it is recent and fits in with your description. Such a ploy could corroborate your own product description, affirm that your company is open to criticism and virtually confirm a sale. You can find product reviews all over the internet which will boost your e-commerce no end and additional modules can also be purchased online.

 Create a narrative
You want the customer to be captivated by the product and for the description to translate that emotion. One way of doing this by telling a story of the product's journey. Below are some things you could include:

Where it was manufactured
The manufacturing process and what it is made from
Who designed it
The influences that led to the product being created

A product story like this can read more like warm advice from a previous buyer than a cold description from a sales-orientated company, which, when accentuated with colloquialisms, can really create a sense of confidence in the product. A narrative like this can really give you the cutting edge over your closest rivals and will make people take more interest in what your brand has to offer.


• Show why yours is top dog

Nowadays, the harsh reality of the market is that every product has a replica which is could be cheaper than the one you are selling. Additionally, the amount of companies getting acquainted with the Web and its commercial advantages is increasing everyday. This is why your product needs to be a cut above the rest. And the best way to prove that is by contrasting it positively with other brands and using rich vocabulary like superlatives to strengthen your argument. Special offers or free services are always a great way to make your client get over their reservations and order the product immediately.

Examine the advice above to ensure your product descriptions are a real hit which will bring in more sales than ever before. When presented alongside quality images of the product and attractive web design, the results will mean you can just sit back and start taking orders.

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.

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?

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