Category Archive: Web Design

  1. Working hours

    Leave a Comment

    The subject of working hours within our industry has always been a hot topic, with long hours and “hustling” common place. There seems to be a perception that working late nights and weekends is normal for working within the web industry and within web agencies. Whilst this is often seen as a badge of honour to put in extra hours, I’ve always thought that it was a sign of things going wrong that extra hours were needed.

    Working hours came to my attention again recently after reading an article by a project manager within a web agency, in which he states that:

    Working with a rapidly growing web agency means that you are required to put in late nights and weekends.

    before going on to say that as a result of these hours he will have to enjoy his hobbies and interests outside of work in moderation as a result of his work.

    Whilst that may be his situation, and I don’t personally know the individual or the circumstances within his organisation, my immediate reaction was to think that there was something majorly wrong for that to be the situation that he finds himself in.

    Regularly working past the end of the day suggests that either that too much work has been taken on or that there is a lack of organisation that has left the project in such a situation that requires late working. Either situation is not sustainable and must be addressed before major issues appear. Studies have consistently shown that shorter working hours produce better results and that once an individual has worked more than 40 – 50 hours per week the gains are negligible and often have a negative effect on their work.

    As well as reduced benefits from longer hours, working so much is not good for the long term health of employees who regularly undertake 50 – 60 hour weeks and prolonged exposure to that environment will lead to good employees leaving.

    I’ve personally worked in organisations where you were just expected to work long hours as and when requested, often at short notice. On one occasion I received a phone call in the evening at home asking me to come back to the office as I was working with one of the company bosses on a project and he would have preferred me to be there with him. There was a distinctly frosty reaction when I explained that I had plans and couldn’t come back and would see him the next day. As it turned out that was one of the catalysts that started me searching for another role, but I could see other individuals within the organisation consistently obliging and there quickly became two tiers of employees.

    The ones who would regularly stay behind and work,were handsomely rewarded with overtime pay and more flexible hours compared to those of us who preferred to go home and see our friends and families who received no such perks. This created division and resentment within the business, which is not good for any organisation.

    If you find yourself in the situation of regularly working late, then it’s time to take responsibility and address the issues. Try to organise yourself and projects better to allow more time to complete them, or reduce the amount of work that is taken on so that you can avoid the situation. If you’re not directly responsible for project management

  2. Why MotoGP should embrace SnapChat and open up motorsport

    Leave a Comment

    Dorna Sports, the management company behind MotoGP – the premier class in motorcycle racing – recently advertised for a Social Media Coordinator with the role being responsible for all social media output from the organisation for the MotoGP World Championship. Social Media is something that I am close to having previously worked for a social media agency who trained and advised clients on the services, as well as working in-house for a North Sea company and was involved in the marketing side of the business as well as working on the web every day for the best part of the last decade.

    Social Media has exploded over the past decade and with Facebook having over 1 billion active users, Twitter has over 300 million and Instagram and SnapChat also boasting users in their hundreds of millions. These tools have become an essential part of the marketing mix and name any business you can think of and chances are they either have a Facebook page or a Twitter profile.

    MotoGP is currently active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus and Instagram with over 14 million followers across these networks so have built up a very large audience and shows the potential of the sport to build on this in the years to come.
    They haven’t asked for my opinion ,but if I was in charge of the social media accounts for MotoGP this is what I would do:

    SnapChat

    SnapChat is the fastest growing social network at the moment and is gaining followers at a very high rate, amassing up to 100 million daily users in December 2015, just 4 years after launch. Recently brands and influential celebrities have bought into the network and begun posting content their on a regular basis.

    Snapchat is a network where users share pictures and videos which are shown for a limited period of time (up to 10 seconds) before they are deleted. Users can send snaps to other users of the network, and there is also a chat section where users can send text messages between each other. As well as communicating with other users, all snaps are saved to your story which makes all snaps available for 24 hours.

    Brands such as Sky Sports, MTV and Buzzfeed have started making dedicated content for the platform and I would invest heavily in this network if I was in charge of MotoGP’s social accounts. Images and videos from behind the scenes would give fans a greater insight into the sport and MotoGP staff would have access to all areas of the paddock. I would dedicate an entire team specifically to Snapchat content and leverage this opportunity to get a foothold within the platform whilst still in it’s infancy.

    Live stories is a feature of Snapchat which any user can add their images or videos to related around an event. If each race weekend became a live story on Snapchat throughout the season, this would provide multiple angles and perspectives from users who were actually at the circuit. Other users at the circuit would be able to view live imagery from other parts of the complex, as well as giving users at home much greater access.

    By creating exclusive video and image content for the platform, this will grow a larger audience for the sport and potentially a new audience as Snapchat users are younger in general than other social networks. By tapping into this younger audience, MotoGP can attract and maintain this audience that will hopefully follow the sport for many years to come.

    Twitter

    Twitter is a micro-blogging service where users post small updates of up to 140 characters, and has grown significantly over the last few years. MotoGP have been active on the site since 2009 and have built up 1.6 million followers since then, so they have a large following. Despite this large following, there are many more ways where the organisation could improve their activity on Twitter, with the biggest and most obvious one being that they should start engaging with other users.

    Looking through their feed, they are currently using Twitter purely as a broadcast medium when it is designed, and much better used, as a conversational tool. Whilst over 1.6 million followers is impressive, I think it’s a relatively low number compared to the more than 10 million followers on Facebook. A simple way to gain more followers and brand recognition on Twitter would be to begin interacting with their followers.

    In order to do this, they should aim to reply to each and every tweet that is sent to them. Whilst this may seem like a fanciful idea, that should be the mentality in order to expand their reach and increase their interaction. A dedicated team committed to Twitter should be empowered to take charge of the account so that there is someone replying 24 hours a day, with each  individual responsible being allowed to respond in a way they see fit at the time. Too many organisations send tweets and status updates through marketing departments and committees, and Twitter is far too fast paced an environment for that.

    Race weekends offer a great opportunity to use services such as Periscope, a Twitter owned service, which allows live streaming across the web. Imagine watching a live stream from within the garage of Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez during a practice session, or hearing from riders such as Danny Kent as soon as he steps off the bike. This would provide viewers with a previously unseen angle of the action and all that is required to achieve this is a smartphone and someone willing to record the action.

    This combined with increased interaction on Twitter would lead to much higher brand recognition and awareness, with their follower count sure to increase. Whilst an increase in followers is desirable, the ultimate aim should be to increase the number of fans of the sport as well as entertaining the current fans.

    Data

    Data in motorsport is a closely guarded secret which teams and organisations like to keep close to their chest. Data is what teams use to develop their prototype motorbikes and clearly the teams don’t want to share that with anyone. The data I’m talking about has nothing to do with that aspect of the sport, instead I am talking about the data surrounding lap times, top speed, number of laps, top speeds etc at public tests and race weekends.

    The data I would release if in a position to do so wouldn’t be anything sensitive, and would only be data which is in the public domain and released to journalists at each event. A couple of years ago I contacted Dorna to enquire about the release of data and any APIs etc that would allow access in order to build websites and apps with it, and was told that this wasn’t possible.

    By creating an API that allows up to date access to data such as this would open up the sport and allow developers to use that data in hundreds of different ways and create a lot of content around the data and the sport, which will in turn increase awareness of the sport. With MotoGP and motorsports in general there is great interest in looking at the extreme data surrounding the races and equipment, and by allowing the raw data to be accessed and updated then it opens this up to a much wider community.

  3. Preload web fonts

    Leave a Comment

    Custom web fonts have been around on the web for a number of years, and became much more popular with the advent of services such as Typekit and Fontdeck.  In addition to these font services, there are a number of sites that allow downloading and hosting of custom fonts such as Font Squirrel and Google Web Fonts.

    What they all have in common is that the fonts are all lazy loaded – which means that the fonts are only loaded and rendered when a CSS selector has a matching @font-face rule.  In order to download these fonts, the browser has to download and parse all HTML and CSS to search for any matching rules before applying the font changes.

    This response is intentional, giving the advantage of only downloading font files as and when they’re needed and requires no superfluous connections initially. This approach represents poor performance as the amount of web fonts being used has increased significantly over the last few years.

    Support/timeline

  4. Do you have a social media strategy?

    Leave a Comment

    Social media has exploded over the last few years, and has transformed not only how we interact but also how we do business. As a result of this massive explosion in interest, many businesses opened accounts with almost every social network that was popular, and a lot of the times this was done in order to be seen to be relevant – and not as part of a long term social media strategy.

    How many times have you seen a poster in a small business saying “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” and when you visit that page, you see minimal content and nothing that will entice you to press that like or follow button? I’ll bet it’s a lot. It’s important to embrace social media, but only as part of a wider marketing strategy and only after having researched where your audience is.

    One of the common mistakes with social media is to create an account on every platform which seems popular, and then try to figure out later what to put out there. Whilst it is tempting to open a Snapchat account and start advertising that presence – but there are a few things to consider before opening accounts.

    Social media should form an integral part of any marketing strategy, and it is vital that this is thought about and planned as much as any other aspect of your marketing actions. Careful research should consider the following aspects of any social media site before deciding whether to maintain a presence there:

    • Who the active members are?
    • What type of content is needed?
      • Text?
      • Videos?
      • Images?
    • Who will be responsible for updating the stream?
    • How often will it be updated?
    • Who are you trying to reach?

    All of these factors should be taken into consideration before launching a new presence on a network, as well as the impacts on your wider marketing mix.

    The benefits of this holistic approach to social media is that your marketing messages are consistent across all channels, and your message receive maximum impact. When planning a marketing campaign, give careful consideration to which social media channels you will utilise and in which way.

    For example, if you’re launching a new project – social media can be used in the following ways:

    YouTube:

    Post videos to your blog using YouTube, Vimeo or other online video site of pre-launch teasers, and behind the scenes footage of manufacturing, decision-making or anything that will draw users in and excite them. These can be embedded onto your website as part of a wider post about the upcoming launch. Staggering these different posts across the days and weeks before launch will help to generate interest. By having these videos in two different locations it helps to create two different discussions around the videos as users can comment on the blog post as well as the YouTube page.

    Twitter:

    Use Twitter to communicate directly with customers as well as talking about products. Twitter is not a place for the hard sell approach so topics to tweet about should be centred around general fashion news and tips to create a perception of authority. Log in several times a day in order to check any replies and respond quickly to these, Twitter is not a medium to wait several days before replying. By communicating efficiently with customers it helps to build a relationship.

    Follow relevant people within the industry to gain an insight into the current trends and issues facing the industry and use these to guide the topics of tweets. As well as following influential people within the industry, it is important to engage with them by replying to tweets and having a discussion about issues. These could then influence a blog post around a particular topic.

    Facebook:

    A Facebook page is another way of communicating with customers directly about the product launch, using the site to post teaser details and information about the launch, as well as the launch itself.

    Due to the nature of Facebook, it is an ideal platform to create a gallery of people with the new product as people regularly post photos of social events so a community could be created around the photos and videos of users receiving and using their new product, as well as a medium for feedback.

    It is important to respond quickly to any comments and messages to keep users engaged and to show that you care as a brand.

    Overall, social media has now reached such a saturation point that it must be a significant part of your overall marketing strategy. If you can, have a dedicated person within your marketing team who is responsible for social media marketing who will ensure that that side of the business is working well and who will report back to the head of marketing. By embracing these networks, it provides an opportunity to speak directly with customers on a one to one basis which will provide the best marketing opportunities for your product or service.

  5. Small Business Newsletter

    Leave a Comment

    As part of my redesign and re-branding I am launching a newsletter aimed at small to medium sized business owners with the aim of helping them to improve their online presence.

    There are lots of resources aimed at business owners and how to improve their websites but these are often scattered around the web and hard to keep track of. As a web developer, it is my duty to keep track of significant developments in best practice around web development, online marketing, social media and analytics to ensure that the sites I create are the best they can be.

    Having access to this information means I can pass it on to ensure the overall standard of the web keeps on improving.

    The newsletter will provide a summary of news related to small business websites and how to make the most of your online presence. Covering topics such as social media, analytics, design and development the newsletter will provide a handy bite size email with a number of tips on how to improve your organisational website.

    If this is something that interests you, then please complete the sign up form at the bottom of this page to be added to the mailing list and never miss an issue.

  6. New Start

    Leave a Comment

    As I move into taking in more freelance projects, I felt that this site needed to reflect this new focus and as such has become much more business focussed. My aim with this version of the site is to showcase the work I have done for clients and how I can help with your organisation. I specialise in working with clients within a framework of a long term strategy aimed at improving their online presence, of which a web site plays a major role.

    New Design

    With a new business focus, the site has been dramatically re-designed from the previous incarnation which focussed mainly on the blog. The blog is still available on the site, but I wanted to showcase my recent work and services to both existing and potential clients. I have included an image of myself on the homepage as it is ultimately me that I am selling, and I aim to provide the best service as I possibly can.

    The site now is more similar in style to an agency website than previous designs have been, and this is the approach that I will be continuing with as time goes on. My long-term aim is to move into full-time freelancing and I needed a site that reflected this aspect and helped me move towards that goal.

    New Start

    My long term aim is to become a full-time freelance web developer, and my focus is now on achieving that by providing excellent customer service and beautiful websites to a number of clients. My passion lies in creating long term strategies with my clients and helping them to implement and achieve a long term online strategy. A beautiful, easy to use website is an excellent weapon in an organisation’s armoury but that is only the start of the journey.

    Business Services

    As well as a freelance designer and developer, I am keen to work with organisations in a long term capacity to really deliver improvements to their online offerings. I have experience working in-house with organisations, and doubled traffic to a number of sites as a result of strategic improvements I was able to propose and deliver on. If this is something that interests you, then please feel free to get in touch.

  7. New Designs

    Leave a Comment

    Since starting as the in-house web developer at the National Hyperbaric Centre, I’ve been responsible for designing sites as well as building them. Design is something that I’ve always enjoyed and am really happy I now get to work on live sites that are responsible for generating leads for the business.

    Towards the end of last year, two more sites that I’ve designed and built went live and I would like to share these here.

    nhc Training
    nhc Training is a mini-site solely focused on the training department at the National Hyperbaric Centre, whose main purpose is to advertise our upcoming courses and attract users to book on those courses. The old site had a list of courses but was built with a JS table which meant that the courses were not indexed by search engines, and as a result traffic was fairly low.

    One of the main aims of the site was to increase enquiries and to also increase awareness of the courses that we run. This is monitored in a number of ways, including the number of booking and enquiry forms that we receive and also the increase in traffic from improved search engine performance. I’m pleased to say that since launching the re-design in November we have seen a significant increase in both traffic as well as enquiries. We’re also seeing an increase in traffic coming from search engines which we see as a good statistic.

    DiveCert
    DiveCert is a certification and planned maintenance software package designed for the diving industry, and plays a valuable role in maintaining dive systems. The previous site had been left dormant for a while, and during the course of it’s rebrand it was necessary for a new site to be created. We decided to ditch the previous multi-page layout in favour of a one page design as this allowed us to present the information in the best way. Making use of HTML5 video, this site definitely stands out within the industry.

    I’m pleased with both of these sites and am working on a few other redesigns currently which I look forward to sharing here upon completion.

  8. New C-Tecnics site launched

    Leave a Comment

    When I began working at the National Hyperbaric Centre in May, one of my immediate priorities was to redevelop the website of our sister company, C-Tecnics. The company manufactures and distributes subsea equipment such as underwater camera and video systems, and the main aim of the site is to raise awareness of both the organisation and the product range that they possess.

    The redesigned site was launched this week with many more features than the previous site, and I was responsible for all design and development of the new site. Coming up, I will write a series of posts outlining how the site was created and some of the reasons for the decisions that were taken over the next couple of weeks.

    The redesigned C-Tecnics site can be viewed here, and check back for the series of posts.

  9. New Beginnings

    Leave a Comment

    Well after 3 great years working for mtc, this week saw me say farewell to everyone there and begin working for the National Hyperbaric Centre as the web developer.  I enjoyed my time at mtc and was privileged to work on a large number of different sites, which presented a number of challenges. I learned a lot over the time I was there, and will be eternally grateful for the opportunity I was given there to earn experience within this industry.

    However, all good things come to an end and I was delighted to accept an offer from the National Hyperbaric Centre to become their web developer, and work on redeveloping the portfolio of sites they have under their control. Now this is a very different role from what I was used to at mtc where I worked primarily on the front end of websites for a large number of clients, where as I will now be working on a much smaller number of sites but undertaking all aspects of the site from content strategy, visual design and development. It offers a chance to look at the long term strategy of the sites and the ability to develop them over a longer term timescale. The chance to watch a website grow over time and see the real benefit it will bring to a business was one I could not afford to miss and I’m really looking forward to the challenges over the months and years ahead.

     

  10. Responsive is the future?

    Leave a Comment

    Today sees the 20th anniversary of the web being made freely available to all, and thus the beginnings of the Internet revolution. Without this step, life as we know it would be very different today. The first website is still live today at its original URL and one thing that struck me is that it is a responsive site.

    There has been much debate about how the future of web design will be responsive, and that we should be moving towards responsive design for all sites, whereas this shows that the web was originally responsive and provides further evidence that we were the ones forcing it to be a fixed width medium in order to make it easier for ourselves.