Freetimers Blog » Web Development

Effective use of Technology Key to Competitiveness this decade

One of our Directors recently found this write up by the Information Technology Telecommunications and
Electronics Association on their website:

“Intellect strongly believes that the effective
exploitation of technology is critical to the UK achieving robust
and sustainable economic growth in the future. If the UK is to
compete in an increasingly competitive global economy, it must be at
the forefront of exploiting technology to accelerate productivity
growth and unleash innovation.

The global economy in the rest of this decade will be much less
benign than it was in the long period of demand-led expansion that
ended in 2007/8. As over indebted developed countries and emerging
new economies struggle to grow in a demand constrained world the
race for global competitiveness will become much more intense.
Competitiveness is determined by a range of factors, but perhaps the
most fundamental in the 21st century global digital economy is the
ability to make efficient and effective use of technology to drive
innovation and accelerate productivity growth – what we term in this
report tech-excellence.”

Their conclusions are very similar to ours in our blog from a year ago: Website Programming is a Key to Future Internet Competitiveness.    Have a read; it’s important stuff!

Business and the internet effect

The following article was recently published in Business Matters online magazine.

Greg Poulson of webdevelopers and SEO specialists Freetimers (www.freetimers.co.uk) looks at how advances in internet technology have
affected businesses, offering an insight into the future.

It’s hard to imagine how a business could function effectively in 2013 without the
internet. Yet the development of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and his
team came about relatively recently in 1989, whilst internet giants like Amazon
and Google first appeared on the scene in the 1990s.

As one of the pioneers of early web design, I have seen huge changes in the
industry. Initially, the internet was much
like an empty street – not much traffic and it was easy to get people’s
attention. In fact, when my company F reetimers built its first client ecommerce
site in 1998, there were only 400 competing sites worldwide. However, times
have changed and that figure is now several million, meaning that whichever
industry you operate in, your business now has to work much harder to be found
– and to attract potential customers.

Are you easy to find?

A website is of little use if it can’t be found, which is why search engine optimisation, or SEO, is such a
vital part of site development and maintenance. With ever increasing
competition, business owners need to face the fact that they have to commit
time and resources to ensure that their website remains competitive. Some of
these rising costs can be attributed to Google’s behaviour, as well as the
success of social media sites. For example, in order to rank well on Google, a
site needs to be highly relevant with good quality back links, whilst also playing
an off-site content competition game, churning out reams of fresh articles and
blog posts every month.

Over the last five years, an increasing number of companies have realised the necessity of integrating
internet technology with their business processes, making it an essential part
of the organisation rather than a desirable extension. We advise our clients
that the needs of their business should drive the website design, programming
and marketing – not the other way round.

Good design comes at a price

Design has moved on since the rudimentary designs of the early millennium. As download times have improved, further enhanced by the advent of broadband,
design has become increasingly important – and complex. The design bar has been
moved substantially up, so in 2013, creating a good visual impact with relevant
product or service information is an essential part of any company website.

 

So much more can be done now that download times are quicker, enabling the use of interactive features such as
virtual tours, 360° images, web chat and online ordering. And, whilst keeping a
site up to date with the latest user experience enhancement technologies comes
at a cost, the question is, can you afford to not to?

 

Social media – opening up a new arena

The phenomenal success of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
opens up a whole new competitive arena for a range of businesses. Furthermore,
Google’s latest ‘Penguin’ updates to its ranking algorithm are starting to
embrace the importance of key social media sites.  Basically, assuming everything else is equal,
if your competitors are proactively engaging in social media, for you to
compete with them successfully, you will have to do it too. It also facilitates
greater customer interaction, crucially enabling businesses to listen to what
their customers want – and then give it to them.

 

Making a commitment

My experience developing
and maintaining websites over the last 15 years has proven that the       most
successful sites involve a high level of engagement, requiring the commitment
of time and an adequate budget to continuously improve the site, SEO, social
media and general internet presence. As a third party developer, we encourage
this engagement to involve the site owner as this is more likely to result in visitor
and sales increases.

Having a high ranking on Google is achievable if you know what you are doing
and where the website owner is prepared to commit to make it happen. Unfortunately,
too many web companies build sites and then move onto the next project with clients
often complicit in this because they view their website as design driven,
instead of business driven.

However, as the ‘shop front’ of a business and often the first point of contact and interface between the site owner and
customers, the initial website is just the beginning. The real work comes
after, both in terms of SEO and in improving value, including integrating and
automating business processes.  In fact, we spend more time and money helping clients to automate and improve business
processes than we do on design – with the result that some clients have
achieved website visitor growth in excess of 7000% over a period of several years.

 

Moving with the times

When you work with technology, you have to accept that it never stands still. To stay current, an important part
of what we do is predicting trends well in advance. For example, the explosion
in popularity of smartphones over the past five years means that websites will
increasingly need to become mobile friendly. However, very few websites have
yet to properly address this next essential phase of technology.

Having a strong internet presence is a vital part of your commercial success and growth. However, due to the speed
at which technology evolves, these changes need to be incorporated into your
site to take advantage of the benefits that new technologies offer. No matter
what industry you work in, if you want to stay competitive, you need to take a
proactive approach to your website and keep up to speed with all the
opportunities and facilities that it offers. Because if you don’t, you can be
sure that your competitors will.

Author background

Greg Poulson is founder and Managing Director of web developers and SEO specialists Freetimers Communications (www.freetimers.com). Set up in 1997, the business works with organisations
from across a range of industries, making long term strategic partnerships with clients a focus of the company’s practice.

Google fights to protect the open internet

A meeting of the International Telecommunication Union on 3rd December has
motivated Google to create its ‘Take Action’ microsite www.google.com/takeaction to
protest against and educate web users about the dangers of a government
regulated web.

Google has always been at the forefront of the fight for a free and open
internet. Google co-founder Sergey Brin explains why: “The kind of
environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to
develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules,
that will stifle innovation.”

The Take Action microsite explains: “A free and open world depends on a
free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should
not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the
Internet should have a voice.”

Greg
Poulson of Freetimers comments: “When we first set up Freetimers in 1997, the
internet was much like an empty street – not much traffic and it was easy to
get people’s attention. Now, search engine optimisation is a vital part of site
development and maintenance, and the most important search engine by far is Google.  Sadly, Google appears to many to be quite hypocritical when it talks about a free and open internet.  Presently Google, more than any other single organisation, is the one imposing rules on everyone else.  It whimsically throws its weight around like the monopoly it is.  Whilst for our part, we would agree with the open internet idea, it would be nice to see Google take a bit of its own medicine, and stop its concerted and continuous attempts to forceably segment online markets in its own interests, specifically to make SEO too difficult to maximise its Adwords income. These ‘fiddles’ Google undertakes are actually against everyones’ interests, except for Google itself.”

The Office for Fair Trading (OFT) has warned online retailers to check they are not breaking consumer laws.

The OFT has found that more than a third of UK online
retailers could be breaking consumer laws by adding unexpected charges to
orders. They have warned retailers to change their websites before Christmas.

 

62 of the UK’s 156 most popular websites were found not to be complying with current laws. They
found unreasonable restrictions on refunds and compulsory charges being added
at the checkout.

 

Nearly two-thirds of all the retailers checked failed to
provide an email contact address, as opposed to a web contact, which is a
breach of the E-Commerce regulations.

 

“The OFT recognises that most businesses want to play
fair with their customers and to comply with the law,” said Cavendish
Elithorn, a senior director at the OFT.

“We encourage all online retailers to check their
websites so customers can be confident their rights are being respected when
they shop online.”

 

With Christmas shoppers hitting sites in the coming weeks
the OFT has warned retailers to make sure they are not ignoring their legal
obligations.

Website Programming is a Key to Future Internet Competitiveness

Being able to compete on the Internet is tough and increasingly costly.  In the history of the internet and ecommerce it used to be that having a reasonable price, a good looking site (not always the rule!), and being found on the search engines was enough to generate considerable success.  Businesses who had deep pockets but were failing at search engine optimisation were able to get around the ‘getting found’ issue by using pay per click services like Google Adwords (at considerable extra cost I might add).

But the internet never stands still, and one of the key features of its effects on our world is that it eventually puts all the competitors for a product in one easy place for consumers to look at, effectively creating an online high street where prices and product specifications can be easily checked.  Probably around 3-4 years ago experienced ecommerce practitioners like Freetimers starting noticing a clear change in consumer behaviour that put this process into sharp relief. Instead of just searching for a general product description using a ‘generic’ search phrase, and then buying the product from the first couple of sites they went to, people were now starting to use the generic searches for finding out information about the product, and then only buying after a very specific product search.  (more…)

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