The Do’s and Don’ts of Operating on the Web

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An exceptional website is one which exceeds your visitors’ expectations and provides a rich, rewarding user experience on any device (whether it be computer, tablet or mobile) and one which can result in increased traffic and business but the legal issues governing the operation of a website and trading online is of vital importance to consider.

Fundamentals

The E-Commerce Regulations 2002 is the fundamental piece of legislation which underpins those businesses that sell their goods and/or services online, by email or by SMS or merely advise via those means.  The Regulations impose requirements on businesses to ensure that they provide full details of their business such that they can be identified (including contact details).  Transparency is key and achieving this means providing details of the nature of what is being sold/advertised and exactly what that will cost the user – no hidden charges allowed!

In summary, a ‘common sense’ approach should be applied and in doing so it is important that all ‘commercial communications are clearly recognisable, state on whose behalf they are being sent and identify any promotional offers and special conditions.

Get Your Terms and Conditions in Place

Whether it be the terms on which your business provides its goods and/or services to clients, the basis on which you collect personal data, or the terms on which users are permitted to use your website, the beauty of operating a website is that you can set the terms.

Terms and conditions minimise risk and increase certainty in the sales process and will set out what happens in the event that something goes wrong.  It is important to be aware that different laws apply dependent on the type of business that you are and the type of customer that you sell to (e.g. whether they are a business or a consumer) and therefore a ‘one size fits all approach’ will not always work – implement your own bespoke terms.

Privacy policies are essential not only to ensure compliance with data protection laws but also to provide your business with the ability to maximise what you can get out of using a database of personal data.

Website Development

Identify specific website features and functionality that could be improved, and tackle them one at a time – or have a web development team identify and tackle these for you. Make sure you’re using the right tools and platforms for any development work and avoid over-engineering your site. Simpler is always better.

Don’t begin a digital project to upgrade your website until you’ve shopped around a few client portfolios, to see what results you can expect from each developer. Some developers are ISO9001 quality certified, though most aren’t. ISO9001 is your guarantee that your website project will be completed to the budget and timescale you agreed in the first place, with the results you wanted. Your choice should be made on factors like quality and potential return, not saving money short-term – often a false economy.

From a legal perspective in developing your website, ensure that you own the intellectual property contained within it and take steps to implement a website terms of use policy to protect this against users, whether they be competitors or your customers.

Showing your brand’s human side

Showcase your people, by using large images and a dedicated team page (or pages) to celebrate your culture. Your team’s passion, commitment, experience and standard of customer service are the true selling points behind your brand, so bring your people to the fore in your site’s design and on your social media channels.

Don’t hide your people away in smaller photos and lots of text, or resort to stock photos of strangers when you could use photos of your own team across your site. People are very visual in their browsing habits and can tell the difference between a genuine image and a cheesy stock photo.

User experience

Reverse-engineer your website, its content and its navigation from your intended audience and their needs, back to your brand and your own interpretation of your online presence. How you want your website to look and feel could be very different to what your visitors expect and would be happy to use.  Once built, utilise tools such as Google analytics to ensure your customers are getting a good experience.

Don’t be closed off to the thought of making considerable changes to your website, either through A-B testing or through a fresh project with a digital agency. A user-centric site overhaul could be the most valuable investment you ever make in your brand.

Summary

Ultimately a rich, rewarding user experience of your website is the combined result of up-to-date web design, expert development and high-performance hosting to power it. With your site’s legalities solid and up to date, and with the right design and features to do your brand justice online, your website is in a far stronger position to become an engine of growth for your company.  If any of the tips above are unclear, or if you’d like a qualified developer to take a look at your website’s potential for your business, just get in touch with NuBlue.

For any advice or assistance on the legalities of operating online in general, or the various sets of terms which need to be implemented in order to protect your business and ensure compliance with the law, contact John Pickervance, Associate Solicitor at Forbes Solicitors on 0333 207 1134, via john.pickervance@forbessolicitors.co.uk or through our Contact Form.

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