Friday, May 25, 2012

Dealing with the new cookie directive

A year after it was first announced and this weekend sees the deadline for businesses to implement the new law governing use of cookies on their websites. From Sunday onwards, all sites will be required to obtain informed consent from visitors before saving cookies onto a machine.

Just to refresh our memories, what exactly is a cookie? To put it simply, they’re pieces of personal data that are stored when users browse the internet. They’re often used for the sakes of remembering user names and passwords, targeted advertising or analytics and so on. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) breaks them down into three categories;

Session Cookies

These are short term cookies, usually only lasting during a single browser setting, they might be used for example by an online bank, and then forgotten when the browser is closed and the session ended. These are deemed to be less intrusive as they are only stored for a short period.

Persistent Cookies

These last much longer, and are remembered between sessions. They might be used by a browser to remember login details for a website, or by marketers to make use of target advertising.

First &Third Party Cookies

First party cookies are set by a site being visited and usually relate to web analytics. Third party cookies are issued by a server different to the website currently being visited, for example it might be used in third party advertising to target advertise through banners or adspace on a site.

The new legislation is aimed at tackling privacy issues, which relate to the growing use of cookies by websites without the user realising it. As briefly summed up by our Technical Director last year when the legislation first came out;

  • Tracking cookies need permission before they can be used. 
  • Session cookies and “remember my login” cookies are okay. 
  • So basically, consent is required when the cookie is not required for a service.

The ICO has been decidedly vague about how exactly businesses should go about informing their visitors about cookies. On the plus side, this means that businesses are free to analyse their site and look at how best to interpret the new regulations to suit their audience and website. However on the negative side, it also means that some businesses are throwing themselves into it in such a way that it might have a negative knock on effect.

Many sites still have yet to adopt the new ruling; even the government has admitted it won’t be up to speed by the time the deadline ticks over. Fortunately it seems the ICO has no plans to chase rogues straight away, instead they are hoping companies will become more focused finding the most suitable form of implementation.

We’re already helping our clients with work on meeting the new cookie legislation, so if it’s something your business is keen to look into, why not come in for a consultation or talk to our Sales Team about how we can help you out.

Author: Alice Cheetham

Monday, May 14, 2012

Geek Video of the Month

 It's early days yet, but last month, Google released this video of Project Glass, perhaps showing a taste of things to come?

Looking like they've come straight from a science fiction flick, the concept of these augmented reality specs show us a wire-framed glass with a small display over the right eye. Also included is a camera, microphone, GPS and one would assume a wireless connector to make the whole thing work.

Project Glass emerged from the Google X Lab, responsible for other interesting technologies such as Google's self-driving car. Apparently, the glasses are rumoured to cost around the price of a top range smart-phone and hope to be out by the end of 2012.

Whilst I think the idea behind it is great, I'm not sure our current hardware is quite up to it! But fingers crossed!

Author: Alice Cheetham, Andy Clarke

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Optimising landing pages

First impressions are important; as the quote goes “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. The first impression a potential user has with your website could decide whether they stay and look around or dive straight for that backwards arrow on their browser window.

Your sites landing pages could be one of, if not the, most important page of your site. Here’s a few simple Do’s and Don’ts with the aim of helping lower bounce rates and up returning visitors.


Have a clear call to action:
The aim of a landing page is to clearly prompt towards a certain action or results. Whether it’s purchasing an item, registering or signing up for a newsletter or even simply encouraging visitors to explore your site more, it’s important to stay focused on that goal.

Your aim is to make the trip for your visitor as simple as possible, the easier or more enjoyable you make it for your customer to get to the end of their user journey through your site, the more likely they are to stick to it.

Use brand validation:
If you’ve got some big clients on your list, don’t be afraid to name drop and put their logos out there. Association can be a powerful tool and increase trust in a company, and as we mentioned when looking at site usability, trust can be a very important factor online.

Most people are familiar with social media, the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and such. Based from the common mantra that the easier something is to do, the more likely people are to do it, putting in social share icons will help spread your site around. Statistics dictates that more likely than not, the more visitors to your site then the more conversions you’ll make!

Keep coming back to your analytics and looking at your sales conversions, you might find that certain keywords are pulling in customers and others less so. Of course these can change constantly, so it’s important to keep doing it! After a while you’re sure to find the combinations that work best for your market, so keep reviewing.

Be design and user conscious: 
Of course, with scroll bars on windows, your site can technically be as ‘long’ as you want it, but resist the temptation to go crazy! It’s fairly well acknowledged that most people don’t pay much attention to content ‘below the fold’ (anything that users have to scroll down to view). So don’t hang around and get straight to the point at the top of your page.

Keeping basic aesthetics and consistency is important throughout your site. A design that looks cheap and obnoxious doesn’t help a company’s credibility, and a poorly built site will not encourage users to stay and look around.

Cater for different platforms:
Smart-phones are everywhere, and now tablets too! Of course this can depend on your target audience or what your aim is for your landing page, but with more and more people browsing through their mobile devices, it’s something many companies need to take into account. There are plenty of different approaches you can take with this; from responsive design to a completely optimised website, or even a mobile application.


Go overboard:
Simple designs are best; furthermore make sure your page loads quickly. An image heavy landing page may look great on paper, but in practice anything that takes longer than a few seconds to load is going to lose visitors.

Whilst we’re on the topic of design, try and keep a smooth consistent flow from page to page on your site, whether its colour palette or visual elements, you don’t want to confuse your visitor by convincing them they’ve stumbled into something entirely new the moment they stray away from your landing page.

Make it too complex:
Depending on the aim of your landing page, you might have some kind of simple functionality on it, such as a form to sign up for a newsletter and so on. Keep it simple! The quicker and easier it is the better, let the user tab between fields, use check boxes rather then drop down menus and auto-populate where you can. Avoid asking for too much detail if you can, it might be a deal killer.

People love kittens (or puppies, if you prefer) but you don’t need one on your landing page (unless maybe you’re selling kittens? In which case I guess you could get away with it...), a bit of creativity isn’t a bad thing, but you don’t need to distract your customers from their goal.

Furthermore you certainly don’t want to give your user the wrong impression; nobody likes to waste their time. Try and avoid content on your page that doesn’t ultimately point towards the visitors intended destination.

Now of course there are plenty more odds and ends that you can incorporate when looking at optimising landing pages, this is just a quick overview. Even then some of these points may be more heavily weighted then others, depending on the aim of your particular landing pages. If you'd like to read more about optimising and usability from an e-commerce point of view, then take a look at last month's light hearted take on it.

If you're interested in learning more about how Rocktime can help you, from sites to search marketing or mobile to bespoke development then why not get in contact and drop our sales team a line.

Author: Alice Cheetham