Get Insight on the Effectiveness of your Website

Onwards & Upwards for Optix

Your website might look great, but if your customers find it hard or confusing to navigate and use, chances are you will lose them to one of your competitors. After all, they're only a click away.

The average visitor length of stay on a web page is just eight seconds. If a visitor can’t quickly find what they are looking for, or are not able to seamlessly navigate to the particular product or service they are interested in, they will end up looking elsewhere.

When we work on our own websites every day it becomes harder and harder to be objective about how it is to be a visitor to the site. We get too close to see the flaws.

At Optix Solutions we employ the very latest analytics technology to map and evaluate the user experience of clients’ websites. We task a focus group of users with navigating their way to a particular product, service or page on a website, while a specially designed internal computer programme captures every on-screen action, every keystroke and button pressed. At the same time a camera records the website visitor’s facial expressions, actions and anything they say while they interact with the site.

Finally, the focus group go through the same process on a competitor’s website. Their experience of navigating the two sites is then compared, providing invaluable insights into the strengths and weakness of each and what changes could be made to give your site that all important edge.

“It is really easy to make assumptions about how people use your site,” says Optix Key Account Account Manager Kristen Sousa, “but what seems crystal clear to you may not be to the visitor. We recently looked at a line of core products that were being promoted on a business’s site. While to the business owner each product had a slightly different offering they felt would appeal to different audiences, the truth was no one could understand what any of the products had to offer. Invaluable information for this business to act on."

For more information on Optix Website User Experience Analytics services, contact us.

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Don’t get left behind by the mobile revolution

In the fast moving world of web marketing and design it is often a struggle for businesses and organisations to work out which latest industry innovations are game-changers and which are merely desirable extras.

If you think optimising your website for mobile falls in the latter category then it is time to think again. This year it is predicted that smartphones and tablets will supersede desktops as the most commonly used devices to access the web in the US, a trend that is being mirrored in the UK. And last month, Google finally confirmed what industry analysts have been predicting for some time, namely that they will be penalising websites that are not mobile-friendly in search rankings.

So what are the issues with websites that are not optimised for mobile?

Tablets and Smartphones all feature browsers that allow the user to surf the internet, but due to the limited screen space available a standard desktop site simply does not fit. Most smartphone and tablet users will have experienced the frustration of having to scroll repeatedly across or up and down a site, zooming in and out to find the function they are looking for while the rest of the content is rendered invisible. This is exacerbated, particularly for smartphone users, by the lack of a mouse to hover over certain functions such as drop-down menus.

Simply making a desktop site mobile compatible is not a complete solution either. Most users will abandon a search if a site takes more than 5 seconds to load, and the average sized website already pushes that patience threshold to the limit. Factor in larger sites, sites that feature lots of images and variations in network coverage and you are likely to leave your audience – and potential customers – frustrated. With a myriad of online companies offering different advice and off-the-shelf packages it can be difficult to tell which is the best route to take.

At Optix Solutions we pride ourselves on getting to know our customers’ businesses and then, and only then, designing bespoke online marketing and web design solutions that truly meet specific needs and budgets.

There are inevitably short-term cost implications in gearing your website up to make the most of mobile, but the benefits of ensuring clients and customers can access your site via the platform of their choice make it an investment well worth making in the longer-term.

If you are still in any doubt about the importance and growth of mobile, just take a look at these two contrasting picture of crowds gathered in St Peter's Square, Rome, for the announcement of the last two popes:

Capture

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Why you can’t ignore mobile web in 2013

The mobile web rapidly expanded to the point where it cannot be ignored any longer. This transition has caught many organisations by surprise, and good advice is hard to find.

We’d like to help dispel the mobile web myths and address many of the questions you may have.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"] St. Peter’s Square over 8 years, Source: NBC News Facebook[/caption]

What is mobile web?

Tablets and Smartphones all feature browsers that allow the user to surf the internet. Limited screen estate means that the typical “desktop site” cannot fit within the device efficiently. Other limitations include the iPhone’s inability to render Flash or certain “mouse hover” effects (due to lack of a mouse).

Is mobile web usage really that high?

In 2012, mobile web traffic accounted for 20% of all web traffic in the US. In 2013, it is projected that mobile devices will take over desktops as the most commonly used device to access the web.

Source: Kissmetrics infographic http://blog.kissmetrics.com/mobile-is-changing-business/?wide=1

Statistics may vary by industry. If you’re wondering how much of your site traffic is from mobile devices, you can check through your Google Anayltics account (don’t forget to include Tablets!). Chances are mobile traffic will continue to account for a large percentage of your visits, and that number will only increase in the next few years.

What are the cost implications?

The short term costs of optimising your site for mobile are far outweighed by the long term gains.

A mobile optimised site will ensure that you are able to reach potential clients and customers on the platform of their choice, ensuring that your message is delivered effectively to them.

Whether you choose to “go mobile” now or wait another year is a matter of choice. However, if you are in the process of developing a new website we strongly urge you to consider a mobile site. For a small amount more you can build a mobile optimised website alongside an initial build, rather than pay a premium to optimise your site at a later date.

What are my options?

Optimising Desktop Site For Mobile

Depending on the structure of your current site, chances are it may already work on mobile. The most common problem we see for optimisation of existing sites is “drop down menus.” Most menus require a mouse to hover over, in order to drop down. Since mobile devices do not have a mouse, changes need to be made. In addition to drop down menus, problems arise from flash or elements designed as “pop ups.”

Simple Compatibility Isn’t Enough

The average website has now increased to 1mb in filesize. Many sites out there are significantly more, with some of the more image-heavy ones exceeding 6mb!

As we showed you, most users will abandon a site if it doesn’t load within 5 seconds. The UK average speed for 3G is 1.5mbps, which puts a 1mb site exactly at a 5 seconds download time. If you also factor in network coverage and time taken to render elements, this could take a lot longer to load on a mobile device using the 3G network.

In addition to poor loading times, compatibility doesn’t ensure mobile usability. Calls to action need to be large and easily clicked with a finger, content needs to be displayed in a way that it is easy to scroll, and the entire site needs to behave more efficiently due to lower performance of mobile devices in comparison to desktop computers.

The Ideal Approach

There are two (well, actually…three) options you can use to build a mobile optimised site that are user friendly and work for you.

Responsive

You’ll hear a lot of people mentioning responsive– It’s a current trend in web design that we’re seeing used more and more, but it carries its limitations.

The exact technicalities of what responsive is, are disputable, but generally it means reformatting and repositioning the same content to different screen resolutions

The advantages of responsive design are that it is cheaper from a design perspective, and also content on the site is loaded from only one point of entry, rather than two separate platforms.

The big disadvantage of this however, means that you still have to load in the same content (meaning page load times suffer, see above about abandonment rates).

Design elements will also suffer, as the page has to be kept simple, due to load time.

We’d recommend Responsive design if your site needs little written content, and has a simplistic approach to branding.

Building a responsive site is relatively easy, and many agencies will recommend it as a result.

Adaptive

An Adaptive site is built separately from a desktop site, and structure/content must be loaded separately onto each in most cases.

In some cases, some companies will build a desktop site, a “tablet site” (when we say this we mean the typical tablet dimensions of the iPad and not the smaller tablets such as the iPad mini) and then finally a mobile site. It is an expensive solution, and with screen dimensions on mobile devices changing all the time, can be an inefficient as well.

The Perfect Solution?

We believe that the perfect solution is a combination of responsive and adaptive, with one version of your site for desktop and laptops, and another “responsive” version for mobile that scales between smart phones and tablets. The desktop version would be more visual whereas the mobile version might have a more simplified and streamlined design.

If you use a Content Management System, you don’t necessarily have to enter the content twice. Systems can be built in such a way that you can use the same content for both, with the site handling all the complexities of how to display the content optimised for mobile.

Only certain, more complicated content such as large tables may need to be laid out differently when it comes to mobile.

The BBC approaches it this way on its newer sites and has received nothing but positive feedback.

This way, you create an experience tailored to the habits of mobile users, but don’t necessarily add considerable cost to the development of your site, providing of course mobile is considered when you’re building your site in the first place (retrospectively building it is still possible but can be a little more tricky).

Mobile Web is here to stay, and we hope we’ve provided you with some useful information to help you navigate the murky waters of mobile sites. As always, we’re here to help you with any mobile web needs you might have, and would love to hear your thoughts.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you decide which option is right for you.

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In Focus: Town and Gown 10k Website

Design of Town and Gown website by Optix Solutions.One project in particular which has been close to our heart this year is townandgown10k.com, a microsite for the annual races which support the Muscular Dystrophy campaign. The Town and Gown 10k races take place in Oxford and Cambridge and each event sees thousands of people turn up, taking over the University towns with their trademark orange t-shirts. Runners can choose between courses or, if they’re feeling energetic, enter both races to help raise money for the charity. The aim of the website is to not only encourage people to sign up, but also help them raise as much sponsorship money as possible. It also offers information on the individual events and ways to get involved, even for those that aren't running. We were honoured to be given the task of creating the site as it’s such a worthy cause. Several team members recently lost a dear friend to Muscular Dystrophy, so it is especially rewarding that the site has proven to be such a success. The website is a great example of what we feel we do so well, creating sites that turn visitors into customers, or in this case contributors to a great cause. A few key features include:

  • A clear link to the race registration form
  • Blog integration on the home page
  • A clean, user-friendly design which reflects the charity’s branding
  • Links to their social networking accounts and social networking buttons

All these elements combine to make a great user experience which anyone looking to increase visitor engagement on their site should pay attention to. While the significant increase in registration figures speaks for itself, a quick look at the blog reveals an active feed of information which its readers are responding to, and in a positive way. The blog entries contain a mix of updates on the races, personal stories of people who have run them and links to other sites which are covering the events. A clear navigation structure makes it easy for visitors to the site to find out what the races are about and what to expect, in addition to tips for fundraisers. There are more subtle ways it offers information to visitors as well, each time the homepage is refreshed a new tip is displayed for fundraising and training. It also encourages visitors to spread the word, with clear links to social networking pages at the top of the site as well as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ buttons below its content. What did Muscular Dystrophy have to say about working with us? “Optix Solutions have been a pleasure to work with. They are a friendly and professional team that are prompt in answering queries and supporting the charity’s needs. We are delighted with the website itself and since launching in January, we have seen our registration figures almost double in comparison to previous years” said Toya Champ, Challenge Events Manager. If you feel your site could be more engaging and dynamic like townandgown10k.com then it’s worth giving us a call. The Town and Gown 10k project is a prime example of how effective a well-executed website can be in helping a brand to grow. In this particular case it not only fulfilled the client’s expectations but exceeded them as well.

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Devon’s Wildlife on the Web

When you’re charged with celebrating and informing people about the outstanding natural environment of the country’s second biggest county, taking in moorland to coast, the creation of a comprehensive and creative website was needed to do it justice.

Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) recently brought Optix Solutions in to completely overhaul the charity’s six-year-old web presence, and create a resource that covered not just DWT’s extensive work in the county, but also offered a wealth of information on the flora and fauna that make up Devon’s unique habitats and the current issues affecting them.

Optix Solutions has a strong track record in working with local organisations and charities, providing engaging and simple to navigate websites allied to specifically tailored online solutions, designed to attract more visitors, increase visibility and generate volunteer interest and donations.

A particularly eye-catching and useful tool, designed and developed by the Optix team, is an alphabetical plant and animal search service which provides the visitor with pictures, species information and a guide to where and when to see it in the county.

Visitors can also now read a regular blog offering current snapshots of Devon’s wildlife, get wildlife questions answered through a new helpdesk area and find plenty of well-signposted information on how people can support the charity, from becoming a volunteer to leaving a legacy for future generations.

David Ireland, DWT’s Communications Officer, said ”It’s great to finally have a new website we can be proud of and which gives people interested in the wildlife on their doorstep a wonderful resource.”

“The way the website has been set up will give us much more flexibility to go on building the site in the future months and years, with much simpler navigation people will be able to find what they want quicker and easier than before.”

To have a look at the new website visit http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/

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What PCI compliancy means for your E-Commerce company

What is PCI Compliancy?

PCI-DSS compliancy (as well as PA-DSS for application development) has been around for a long time now, established by the leading card companies as a set of rules to govern the build, implementation and running process of any company who stores, transmits or processes card details online. Visit the PCI Security Standards Council for more information.

As of the 1st July, 2010 full PCI-DSS compliancy is required for ALL merchants accepting card details to be fully compliant or risk heavy fines, a costly audit or worse, to have their credit card processing privileges revoked.

What’s the big deal?

It amazes me, after reading up about 40 hours of various articles just how clueless the industry generally is on PCI compliancy standards. The larger companies out there are far more aware while the small ones still walk on, some not even knowing what it is. Furthermore, the documentation is very hazy and in general, companies just aren’t sure what they should be doing to make sure they are compliant. Every person I have spoke to has a very different view on what they need to be doing to be compliant. Some think it is essential to have several dedicated servers, while many argue that your site will sit comfortably on a shared server. I agree with the dedicated server route where you are storing or processing the card details yourself – but seeing so much variance concerns me.

What do you need to do?

At Optix Solutions we have endeavoured to make sure all our e-commerce clients are fully compliant and have done for many years now. Our dedicated servers are ISO 27002 standards compliant. Here are some of the other tactics you should adopt to make sure your business is fully PCI compliant (I am not a Qualified Security Assessor so please remember these are just my personal view):

1. Use a validated payment application. At Optix Solutions, we work closely with Sage Pay to out source the payment stage of the transaction, ensuring that compliancy is not necessary for us, as their certificate covers this (please note, we do code to the PA-DSS standards but don’t undergo an audit due to the costs being in the tens of thousands). The big drawback of this is that payments do have to leave your website to go to Sage Pay, but the costs associated with PA-DSS and a higher level of PCI compliancy just don’t make it beneficial (it will cost tens of thousands including 3 dedicated servers and regular audits!). Sage Pay also offer a new inFrame solution to make it look as though the customer is entering the details into your site – we are currently experimenting with it’s integration as there are some limitations but we will discuss these with our customers depending on their needs. Finally, a new tokenisation system that Sage Pay also offer means the customer can store credit card details for processing next time…a problem associated with using a payment application historically. This means that one-click or rapid checkout is easily possible without affecting your level of compliancy.

2. Install SSL. For the inFrame solution, SSL is required to ensure you are PCI compliant. For other integration methods this isn’t necessary but certainly advisable.

3. Take the online self assessment questionnaire. Available here, the online SAQ MUST be completed by ALL merchants. Failure to do so means you are not PCI compliant. If you implement the 2 stages above, you will only need to complete Validation Type 1.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that PCI Compliancy cannot be avoided and heavy fines will be imposed or card processing priviliges revoked if they are. By following the 3 steps above, you ensure that your e-commerce platform is fully compliant.

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