Forest Software

Web, SEO and IT & Business Advice for the Smaller Business

Computers

Silver Surfer : © Yuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.comIf you read the press you may often have come across the term “silver surfer” that is used to describe the older Internet users. Indeed there are stories in July last year about the death of the then oldest twitter user Ivy Bean with much being made of her age.

While 104 year olds may be the exception, as a small business you need to think about the older internet user – for example the second and third fasted growing categories of users on facebook are males and females aged between 55 and 65.  This indicates that there are a lot of people that are older than the typical view of the online community that could be visiting your website and buying your products or services.

What does this mean to you as a small business with a website?  Well, it is fact that eyesight tends to deteriorate once you get past your mid 40’s so have a look at the content of your site – is it easy to read, is the font big enough and is there enough contrast between the text and the background colour?  How many of you have visited a site where the background is black or very dark and the text is a light grey – this is proven to be a bad combination with the best colour combinations for text and backgrounds being a light background and dark text.

One idea to improve this could be to allow your visitor to change the colours of the background / text and even the size of the text on your pages, this is done by allowing a change to the style sheet that controls the look of the page (and is something that we are actively considering here at Forest Software).

Another factor that you need to consider is the language used on the pages, the older person tends to appreciate well written and grammatically correct content without any spelling mistakes.

If you are using an external designer to produce a new website for you remember that the vast majority of designers are under the age of 30 and tend to think that they are the typical internet users, point out to them that there is a large proportion of the web world that does not have 20/20 vision or even fine control over mice and that this needs to be taken into consideration, for example I have visited sites where you have to hover over the navigation to allow sub-menus to slide out and the hover seems to be very sensitive.

And finally…

The main reason you need to consider silver surfers when you are thinking about your website is the profit motive.  As a small business you will find that by opening your website up to the older generation you are increasing the number of possible customers  and therefore increasing the turnover and profit.  Oh, and I should declare an interest in the whole subject – on my next birthday I will officially be in the silver surfer category having been working with computers for the whole of my working life (and in the web field since the mid 90’s).

Last updated on March 25th, 2011 at 05:32 pm

Having just taken a good look at the small office that we use here at Forest Software I recognised that there is a problem with electric and data cables laying across the floor – like many other small offices ours has sockets on the walls and desks in the middle of the room.

Cable tidy : © Ragne Kabanova | Dreamstime.comFortunately we have not been in the position of having anyone trip over the cables (they are taped to the carpet where they cross the floor) but I have decided to look at sorting out any possible hazards on the next day or so.

There are two elements that I plan on addressing, the first is to get a rubber cable bridge so that the cables are safely tucked out of the way between the sockets on the wall and the edge of the desk.  The next element is one that many small business owners might forget about, and to be honest it’s not something that has occurred to me until recently when my foot hit a cable under the desk – this is the idea of bundling the cables together into a single “string” using a cable tidy.  I have seen these in several hardware shops in the past, normally sold for AV equipment, but looking online it seems that I can buy a cable tidy from Amazon, one of my favourite online shops (as you may have realised from previous posts). 

Researching a little more online it seems that to be ultra-safe it is best use two tidies, one for the mains cables and a second for the data cables (monitors, network, usb etc).  By doing this it reduces the risk of the mains cables generating interference in the data cables – I would have thought that all the cables would have been shielded, but in my view it is better to be safe than sorry.

So, it’s out with the company card tomorrow and place an order for several cable tidies ( at least two for each desk depending on the length ).  This will have two benefits, the office will look tidier with the cables bundled together and it will also be a safer environment to work in.

I may even suggest this to a client that has a phone and data patch panel where the cables are always in a mess – a short length or two of cable tidy could sort out the wiring leading to their panel and make it easier to use.

Last updated on January 5th, 2011 at 08:32 pm

Last year the EU introduced new cookie legislation that is due to by implemented by the UK government by May 2011.  This new legislation (covered by Article 5(3) of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive) states that the users consent must be given before businesses are allowed to place cookers on a web users computer or retrieve any cookie information that is already stored on the computer.

There are several versions of when “consent” could be considered to be given depending on who you speak to, some trade bodies and Internet marketing experts think that if a browser is set to allow cookies then this is (or should be) good enough to comply with the need for consent.  An opposing, and much  more dangerous view from a UK Internet websites point of view, is that every time a site wants to place a cookie or read an existing one the user will have to be asked (in a pop up window for example).

As far as I can see there are several drawbacks to having to ask the visitor to a page on a website (note, possibly not just the site itself) if they want to allow cookies.  These range from the inconvenience to the user – can  you imagine having to say “yes” or “no” to cookies when you visit a site (and having to do so each time you visit the site), through to the problems that the UK will then be under a severe disadvantage to sites based elsewhere in the world where such consent is not needed (for example in the USA).  If you are faced with sites that become unusable because you have to answer questions about cookies every time you visit what are the chances that you will start to visit other sites that do not ask the questions and make the browsing experience much easier?

You may be asking what a cookie is and why you should be worried.  In the vast majority of cases, the role of a cookie is to make a user’s interaction with frequently visited websites smoother by eliminating any extra effort on their part. Cookies might record how long you spend on each page, what links you click, and even your preferences for passwords, page layouts and colour schemes. They are often used to store data on what is in your ‘shopping cart’, adding items as you click allowing you to buy more than one item at a time. Cookies do not exist to ‘spy’ on consumers. They are there to make the process of surfing the web easier.

If, as a website owner you feel that having to change your site to ask about cookies is a bad thing – for what ever reason, be it lack of usability, reduction in earnings once online advertising is hit by the requirement, loss of business overseas – I suggest that you publicise this upcoming change to your customers and visitors, contact your local MP (you can find their details here) and write to local and national papers.  The more people know about this the more chance there is that the legislation will be “sensible” in its requirements.

Last updated on September 5th, 2010 at 06:07 pm

Building a website, and keeping it up to date, that has a professional look and works well can help your company generate interest in its products and services and hopefully, either directly or indirectly, increase sales. On the other hand, a poorly designed website can harm your business by putting people off by presenting a bad impression of the business before they ever get a chance to talk to you.

Before you start developing the online part of your business, you should consider the following common misconceptions:-

1. Building a website will not automatically draw in customers – the so called “if you build it they will come” idea. The problem here is cost –  advertising on search engines like Google can get expensive if you are paying for every visitor. You need to find more economical ways to draw people to your site probably on a local level but this could be on a national or even international level.  Options include off-line advertising, business cards, email marketing (but be careful to avoid spam mail) and even affiliate marketing where you pay people either for a lead or commission on sales.

2. Try to keep your product range simple.  Unless you are a Tescos’, Sainburys or one of the other big stores do not try to sell everything to everybody. The presentation of a specific line of products that is targeted to a particular market segment will help you distinguish your company from your competitors and draw in interested customers. Become a specialist in your market, someone that people know understands the product or service very well and you can compete with the bigger players.

3. Be different, imitating the competition will not help your business and if you imitate them too much may cause your problems. When you copy what others are doing, you will not stand out to your potential customers but will just be seen as one among many others. You need to present yourself in a unique way and blaze your own trail through innovative presentations and the overall look of your website.  Having said this do not go too far from “the norm” in your chosen market segment.

4. Your home page should not overwhelm visitors with content. You have a very short amount of time (about 12 seconds) to grab the attention of your visitors or they will go elsewhere. Layout your home page attractively and explain just enough about your business that makes the visitor want to look at other pages of your site.  Remember though that not all visitors will see your home page, if your site is attractive to the search engines people may arrive at the site on any page.

5. Websites full of gimmicks are counterproductive. These may look great but they often load slowly.  You may think that it looks cool to have images that flash on  your site but often this turns people off, in the same way that music that automatically plays when a web-page is loaded can be a turn off if your visitor is working in an open plan office.

6. Despite what you may read, building a good website is not easy. There are many factors involved which you will not be aware of until you are well into the process. Whether or not you can do it yourself depends on the type of site you want and your own experience and skills. For instance, you will need to become proficient in HTML, CSS and demonstrate an artistic sense. You may also need to understand databases, PHP or ASP and Javascript for advanced websites.  Hiring a web designer that specialises in business websites might be your best move.

7. A website that has no real focus or purpose has little value for a business. You might be tempted to get one going “just because everyone has one”, but you should work out what the purpose of your website is, do you want it to :-

  • sell products
  • increase awareness of your business
  • provide information to drive local sales
  • add credibility to your business

8. You should be prepared to keep your website up to date and add content on a regular basis.  For example, if your business is a shop and your website advertises your products do you have opening hours on the website – if so do they change at bank-holidays etc.  You may run a bed-and-breakfast and need to update room availability, or you may run a bigger business and need to update product ranges.  Think about having a news section on the website that will allow you to update news (new contracts, new staff etc) but if you do this make sure that it is updated regularly, there is nothing worse than seeing a news page that was last updated 18 months ago.

About this blog

Over the years we have published many articles based around the questions that we get asked from small businesses relating to marketing, SEO, general business advice and other subjects.  You can find a list of related articles grouped by subject below or can even search for a word or phrase or browse our recent articles.

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Other sites of interest

The Crafty Kitten, a local craft and gift shop.

Welsh Dragons made from polymer clay.

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