Website law and best practice – does your website comply?

responsive website designBusinesses’ credibility can be affected by the smallest things, especially online, and among them is whether they comply with the law.

Who has not visited a company’s website and to check out the company behind it? Often the contact details only list an email and a mobile phone number but no physical address. Many websites don’t have privacy statements, a cookies policy, terms & conditions or disclaimers and some of those that do don’t include the company name, its registered number or a registered address.

It is not the sort of thing that inspires confidence and, if yours is a Limited Company, it is actually breaking the law, which applies not only to printed materials but also to websites.  On both, the company name, its registered number and its registered address must be clearly displayed.

Another legal website must is that if you are gathering data from website visitors, either for Google Analytics or to build a contact list, you must display a notification that the website uses cookies to gather information, for what purpose and offer an opt-out option.

Website good practise

Government guidelines make no mention of telephone numbers, but it makes sense to give website visitors confidence by including a number of contact options, including a landline, email and a trading address.

Following on from the legal requirement on cookies it can also be good practice to include a statement on the company’s privacy policy.

Equally, if it is appropriate, for example for a business to consumer product site and particularly for an e-commerce site or where providing a service, consider including terms & conditions.  This may not be appropriate where contracts are negotiated individually, however having them on the website makes it easier if you ever end up in court arguing about terms & conditions.

Finally, a business can win itself bonus points by ensuring that its website is designed to be clear, readable and avoids annoying features like pop-up messages and videos that have no “off” button!

As more people have become used to checking company websites to see who is behind them, they have also come to expect conventional and easy navigation whether they are viewing on a PC, a tablet or a mobile phone. Indeed, Google now gives less prominence to websites that do not render on smaller and mobile devices.

Furthermore, there is a growing requirement to cater for people who may have sight or hearing issues. This is achieved by including descriptive text behind pictures and a textual version of what is being said in a video and removal of dazzling or flashing visual displays.

It is no surprise that the ‘bad guys’ have impressive looking websites but hide their identity, so being aware of the above can help distinguish between form and substance.

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