To our international readers, Thanksgiving day kicks of the season of holiday sales. The Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. Quite a morbid name for a Friday. But the name makes perfect sense – it is the day that retailers turn a profit (black ink on their books) for the year.
BlackFriday sales or BF sales are the big thing for large box stores and large online retailers. Small businesses are usually not a part of the big BF day sales. This year there has been a push to make Saturday the day for Small Businesses to turn a profit for the holiday season. It has been aptly named “Small Business Saturday”. Then there is Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is the first Monday after Thanksgiving and was primarily the big sales event for online retailers.
The big box stores or big brand online retailers have one thing in common, they have well established brand names. With this comes some well deserved credibility as well. As a shopper, I know that if I order an Xbox 360 with Kinect from Buy.com or Amazon.com – my credit card details are safe and I will end up receiving my super cool Xbox. That is, if they do not go out of stock. The big brands remove my online shopping anxiety. Unfortunately if you are a small online store, lack of credibility is the number one factor online shoppers cite as a reason for abandoning their shopping carts.
When I shop at a small business online store, the following comes to mind:
Are these guys legit?
Will they steal my credit card and sell it to the mafia?
Will my Xbox 360 actually make it?
Will it be under warranty?
Will it ship on time?
Can I call these guys?
How long have they been in business?
What have others said about their experience with this store?
Are they affiliated with any organizations?
What is their return policy?
The questions go on and on. For a small business website, answering the above can be a daunting task.
Here is a quick check list of items to help build Online Credibility
1) Toll- Free Number
Yes a toll-free number(TFN) makes a huge difference. I know almost all cellphone plans and some land line plans offer free minutes and calling a regular number is no big deal. Apart from the obvious statistics of domestic land line users, TFN numbers (preferably the 1800 ones) give the business a professional look. Keep in mind, international callers cannot dial toll-free numbers, so do keep the regular phone number listed on the contact us page or even on the footer of your site.
2) Contact Address
When people visit a brick and mortar business – they know it will be still standing a few months later, should they have any problems with their purchase (well maybe not in this economy, my neighborhood Blockbuster is closing down – who would have thought?) When I visit an online store I want to know where are they located? If you run a home-based online business get a mail box, rather than expose your home address.
3) Professional Web Design
This point is often glossed over. But it is crucial to have a professional website and e-commerce design. The entire shopping experience must have the same branding and look and feel. Imagine walking through Target and you stroll into the kitchen Isle and it has the Dollar General’s branding all over. Confusing to say the least. Select a web designer that knows how to either provide a complete custom e-commerce shopping experience or someone that understands third-party e-commerce tools and can integrate them into your site seamlessly.
4) Industry Affiliations
Display any industry affiliation logos, such as Better Business Bureau or similar reputable organisations.
5) Shipping & Handling Info
A huge pet peeve of online shoppers is lack of shipping information upfront. Let them know the shipping information as soon as they select a product. This can be done very easily by either having a popup question for their shipping zip code or have a mini cart summary on the right hand side with a button to enter their zip code.
7) General Terms and Conditions
Any additional legal conditions that must be stated up front.
8 ) Return Policy
Publish your return policy it will save you tons of time in responding to emails over and over about return policies.
9) Operating Hours
A no-brainer - important for customer service.
10) SSL Certificate
An SSL Certificate is a must have for e-commerce transactions or any other secure information transactions. If you sell more than $5000 per year of merchandise, get a Verisign SSL cert. It costs a lot more money than other SSL certs but the Verisign seal is synonymous with safe online shopping.
Testimonials show that others have had great experiences with the store and put users at ease.
12) Product Reviews
Product reviews can help buyers make informed purchase decisions. Amazon is the perfect example of how well it has used reviews to build its business. If you are confident about your product, you will get glowing reviews from customers. Occasionally you may get negative reviews if any, try to work with the customer to resolve their problems promptly.
13) Credit Card Security
Every online business has a legal and moral obligation to protect customers information, especially credit card information, social security numbers etc. Our advice to small businesses is to never store credit card information on file, either on a database online or offline at an office computer. However secure you may think it is, it is not worth the ultimate headache of admitting to your customers that their data has been hacked. Always pass on credit card details to a bank or merchant provider to process the information using their secure API’s.
14) PCI Compliance
PCI or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a set of rules & standards outlined to help prevent Credit Card fraud. Merchants that do small volume transactions do not necessarily have to comply with PCI standards. However we recommend merchants get an website application scanner similar to Trust Guard to ensure their e commerce app is PCI compliant.
This is not a final and absolute list, there maybe other items that help improve online purchase ratios. Let us know what you’ve done to improve credibility online.photo credits
The internet has certainly made the world a smaller place but that does not mean that the world is becoming more homogenous. Quite the opposite is happening in fact, as the more people that go online the more the web becomes culturally mixed.
SEO for businesses today must consist of much more than using the latest design trends. Designers should also be designing sites that take the full range of people viewing the site into consideration. The largest and most successful companies know that they have to offer different versions of their web content so as to appeal to everyone who accesses their websites.
We have developed a very efficient web development process, optimized to minimize time, cost and resource inefficiencies. Therefore we are capable of providing our clients with superior results and exceptional service at very affordable prices.
We are very confident that we can beat the price of any US based web design company by 10% based on an acceptable quote.
Terms & Conditions:
TEdxBrickell is just amazing. I am super motivated after hearing Chris Redlitz, Georgina Mitchell, Frank Nouyright, Brian Wong & Nii Simmonds to push our projects such as WikidForum to the next level.
Brian Wong(18yrs old) was super inspiring. He has some amazing perspectives on life.
TED who? That’s what one of my friends said.
If you haven’t heard of TED.com, it’s about time you did! TED.com is a conference that brings together the great thinkers of our time, to give the lecture of their life… in about 18 minutes!
Over the years, TED has almost grown a cult-like following and the free videos on their website are used in universities and schools all over the world. Whole blogs have been created around these vidoes and it would be safe to say that many have been inspired by the ideas that the speakers so freely share.
I’ve been talking to friends about SXSW and the cool things that have emerged as a result of it and the one question I get from many of my non-techie friends is “What is SXSW?”
So this post is not for those who are well acquainted with all things SXSW but for everyone else!
South by Southwest (the X is actually for ‘by’) is series of interactive, film and music festivals and conferences that take place in Austin Texas every year around this time. It started in 1987 and has become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage for a lot of people in our industry. Lots of cool apps and websites get launched there and well…you get to mingle with lots of celebrities. You can read more here.
This years festivities run from March 12th to March 21st.
Since we’re techies, we’re most interested in the Interactive Festival (March 12th to March 16th) – not to say the music and movie festivals aren’t any cooler.
Just to give you a taste, here are two sessions that were relevant to the areas I work in:
3/12/10 – 2PM - Beauty in Web Design (Great web design is all around us, but can we go beyond ‘cool’, ‘usable’ and ‘fun’ to create something truly beautiful? This session examines our changing attitudes to beauty, art and meaning, and why the web is ideally suited to become a vehicle for true beauty in the Information Age.)
3/12/10 – 2PM – The UX of Mobile (The term ‘user experience’ used to be an afterthought in mobile application design. The iPhone changed all that and has set a new benchmark for user experience on mobile devices. )
In case you’re interested, here’s the full sxsw schedule
Can’t make it to Austin? Don’t worry. Just do a Google blog search and you’re sure to find some interesting posts. The following WSJ blog is just an example:
Google is tracking some user actions on Gmail. Though this might seem obnoxious at first, it can prove to be a helpful for busy Gmail users when used appropriately. For example: Gmail can be set up to remind you to attach documents. This is triggered by the use of certain keyword combinations. See screenshot below.
(Click the image to expand)
This post is going to be the first of a series of posts on deconstructing CSS, HTML and XHTML for newbies.
HTML & CSS
HTML is a presentation language. Unlike programming languages like C# or JAVA, HTML is used to define the way content is presented in a web page. The primary tools for defining presentation characteristics of a web page are tags.
Ex: ‘<html> <title> <br> <p>’
There are open tags such as ‘<p>’ and ‘<l1>’ etc. But compared to the number of closed tags, these tags are comparatively very limited. All the other HTML tags need to be closed to make them meaningful and add the intended formatting.
However, HTML carries some basic limitations. One of them is that, styling has to be applied to individual tags. For example, though the H1 tags may appear the same in every page in a web site with 30 pages, the formatting has to be done individually. This is a tiresome and a time consuming task that can lead to many unforeseen problems. Also, this increases the size of the web page leading to much larger websites.
Cascading Style Sheets [CSS – a Style sheet language] was introduced to address this issue. CSS is intended to be used as a substitution for individual HTML style tags pertaining to attributes of HTML tags. For example, a single CSS script can be used to apply attributes for ‘<h3>’ tags throughout a website. These scripts can be called by a hyperlink or can be entered at the head of the web page or at the intended place of formatting.
Sample CSS script
CSS gives web developers much flexibility to address formatting issues. Also, a CSS can be altered and given the circumstances, [ex. Call the CSS via a hyperlink] the changes can be automatically applied to all HTML formatting done using that particular CSS script. This is considered to be a very important development in web developing.
HTML and XHTML
The introduction of Extensible Markup Language [XML] is considered to be one of better developments. It allows users to define their own tags and use them accordingly. XML needs an Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLT). Which is an XML-based language used for the transformation of XML documents into other XML or “human-readable” documents. The original document is not changed; rather, a new document is created based on the content of an existing one. The new document may be serialized (output) by the processor in standard XML syntax or in another format, such as HTML, .wmv, .avi or plain text.
Due to the ease of use provided by XML as well as the cohesion, orderliness and well-formedness, a new standard was adopted for web development as well. This is XHTML.
The Extensible Hyper Text Markup Language, or XHTML, is a markup language that has the same depth of expression as HTML, but also conforms to XML syntax.
Whereas HTML is an application of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), a very flexible markup language, XHTML is an application of XML, a more restrictive subset of SGML. Because they need to be well-formed, true XHTML documents allow for automated processing to be performed using standard XML tools—unlike HTML, which requires a relatively complex, lenient and generally custom parser. XHTML can be thought of as the intersection of HTML and XML in many respects, since it is a reformulation of HTML in XML. XHTML 1.0 became a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Recommendation on January 26, 2000. XHTML 1.1 became a W3C recommendation on May 31, 2001.
This is very important because most HTML validators use XHTML by default. To override this, specific script has to be added at the head of a HTML page.
Ex: ‘<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN”>’
‘<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd”>’
Most web development tools available in the market today such as Macromedia Dreamviewer have the ability to define the way web pages are presented as XHTML or HTML. The latest versions of such tools create web pages in XHTML by default.
The failure to define the presentation medium, [I.e. XHTML, HTML] can lead to an unprecedented number of errors when HTML coding is to be validated. Web developers need to take extra care to define the medium to prevent this problem.
Recently our team was at FOWA and saw a demo of Ubiquity from the Mozilla Foundation.
So what’s Ubiquity? In simple terms Ubiquity is purported to be a really new cool way to interact from your browser with your desktop applications by using natural language commands.
Watch a demo by Aza Raskin on Ubiquity. That’s probably better than me trying to explain how it works. Sometimes a video is worth a thousand words.
I read this article on the BBC [Malicious insider attacks to rise - link] It brought back memories of old times.
I was privileged to work for a start up during the dot.com hay days. I remember when things were great, massive sign up bonuses, gadgets and goodies galore. Then things started to go south. Every Thursday was a tense day, we would be guessing who’d get the axe on Black Friday. Then Black Friday came and lunch time was the designated Axe time! We’d see a supervisor walk into our department with a box or two, stand next to our friends/colleagues and give them the bad news. It was a terrible, gut wrenching feeling. The poor soul hurriedly packed up his belongings and was then ‘escorted’ to the front door – A Royal Thank You for all those many nights we stayed up doing amazing things for the company.