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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

New WordPress Website offers

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

We’re offering a couple of new deals for those who want to get a website cheaply without all of the hassle and cost off getting one designed and built

WordPress is the world’s most popular website platform – allowing you to build and edit a website, blog or online store without needing any knowledge of coding.

Have a look at the two options below:

Please Contact Us if you have any questions.
 
 
 
 

Common SEO Mistakes with Small Business Websites

Friday, June 29th, 2012

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a dark and mysterious art to most people. As a result there are a few mistakes that crop up time and again on small business websites.

  • Keywords. Most people seem to understand the idea of keywords and they often compile a list of them that they want to rank for in search engines but they tend to do this as a separate task to writing the copy for their website. As a result they often want to rank for keywords that they haven’t used, even once, anywhere on their website. Google  cannot guess what you have in mind; you have to provide content that is clearly relevant to the keyword someone is searching for.
  • Overly general keywords. Small businesses can easily be squeezed out of the rankings by large corporations or websites with national or international scope. With the odds stacked against you it is foolish to challenge the big boys in their own back yards. Everyone is fighting for the general keywords like ‘marketing’ but if you are a small business only providing marketing services in a distinct geographical area then you don’t need everyone who is searching for ‘marketing’ coming to your site. So, rather than take on the impossible task of ranking for ‘marketing’, choose a more specific keyphrase instead. ‘Marketing services [your town]’ might be a more reasonable target to set yourself and a cheaper one too.
  • Keywords meta tag. There is still a widely held belief among non-web designers that you just have to cram all of your favoured keywords into the keywords meta tag and you will magically rank in the search engines. This hasn’t been the case for some time and Google takes no notice of what you put in the keywords tag. Others may take some notice but are still far more interested in the content of your page. Again, if a keyword is important enough for you to put in the keywords tag then it should be in the main copy somewhere.
  • Not enough content. Many small business owners seem to treat a website like a printed brochure and plan their site as if someone is going to read it from start to finish. As a result they try not to repeat themselves and keep things as concise as they can. However, as we saw earlier they need to mention all of the keywords that they want to rank for (and more than once!). Keywords that are used in title tags and h1,h2 tags etc. are considered more important than in the body text so it makes sense to devote a whole page to each major keyword you want to rank for. You can also mention them elsewhere and then link to the specific page too.
  • Static Content. Unfortunately for small businesses Google likes regularly updated content. This doesn’t often make a lot of sense to small business sites that may still contain relevant content even if they haven’t been updated for a couple of years or more. To get around this we have to force things a little and create a News section where updates about new products or services, special offers and advice for customers can be posted. These news posts then need to link back to the existing content. Pushing this content out to Twitter, Facebook and other social networks can also be useful. This process can be automated so it doesn’t add any extra work.
  • Splash pages. A splash page is a home page for a website that contains little or no real content and usually offers a pretty picture and a ‘Click here to enter our site’ type link. They, again, assume that visitors are going to view the site like a brochure, start to finish. In reality, if they are coming from a search engine, they are going to be directed to the page that is most relevant to their search term. Splash pages offer no value and can also put off visitors that do see them. The Internet has conditioned visitors to want their content immediately. If they cannot see what they want straight away they often choose to go elsewhere. Strange as it sounds some people just can’t be bothered to click a link that says ‘Click here to enter our site’ and you’ve lost them.

So, there you have it.  These are not complex issues but they still crop up all over the place. No amount of off site SEO and promotion is going to make up for these basic errors so it is essential that you get them dealt with before you try anything else to increase your search engine rankings.

If you would like your website checked to see what mistakes need fixing then please Contact Us now.

We’re looking for a new web collaborator/partner

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Hi are you a web designer, developer or general web/social/seo person?

We’re looking for someone to join our web design collective/partnership. We have a number of projects that we would like someone to collaborate with us on.

Ideally they would be in the Sevenoaks area of Kent, UK as we would like to be able to meet up face to face and discuss/plan things etc. However, we are always keen to hear from people further away who would like to collaborate on projects now and then.

Motivation and interest in the web is more important than experience. The web is constantly evolving so as long as you are willing to learn and keep up with things that is enough.

This is not a job. We are looking for someone who wants to supplement the work they are doing by collaborating with us. You will receive your share of the profits but you will be self employed.

We have a lot of exciting projects on the go and we can’t keep up with all of them without some extra help. This would suit someone reasonably new to the web design industry or a freelance web designer who has been working on his/her own and would now like to team up for some things.

If you have ideas or projects that you would like help with we’d like to hear about them too.

If you are interested or would like some more information please Contact Us.

Is Your Website Now Illegal?

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Most people seem unaware of the new EU regulations regarding the use of cookies on websites that came into force on May 26th.

This is why we’re offering a Cookie Audit Service for only £25 where we will check your website for cookie use and give you a clear report on the cookies used, why they are being used, if they are exempt from the regulations or not and what you need to do to comply with the regulations.

Third Party Tools

Statistics tools like Google Analytics and Social Media sharing buttons are widely used but very few website owners know that they are using cookies behind the scenes. These are exactly the types of things that breach the new regulations if you don’t offer your visitors the option to opt in before placing cookies. YOU are responsible for compliance not the third party tool providers.

 

See our Cookie Audit page for more information and sign up for your audit. You definitely don’t want to get caught out with an illegal website.

Are you losing page rank and visitors when you change the names of your pages?

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Without thinking about it you can easily be creating links from search engines and other sites that go to missing content. Make sure that when you rename pages, images and other files on your site that you tell everyone what you’ve done.

A .htaccess file is an essential tool for any website. It has many uses like setting default pages, 404 pages, indexes and URL rewriting but what we need it for here is the 301 redirect.
A 301 redirect is a way of telling the web server that you’ve moved or renamed a file but you still want links to the previous name or location to keep working. For example: if I have a page titled ‘products.html’ that I decide to rename ‘new_products.html’ I can use a 301 redirect to make sure anyone following a link to ‘products.html’ gets to ‘new_products.html’ and not a 404 page.

Where’d my Page Rank go?

There is nothing worse than having lots of people linking to your site and finding that it doesn’t go to the page you want it to. It also means that any Google Page Rank that you would have received is lost.

A 301 redirect tells people that the page has moved permanently. Search engines can use this to update their indexes and ensure that Page Rank is passed on to the new page name.

The syntax for a 301 redirect is really simple:

Redirect 301 /oldpagename http://www.yoursite.com/newpagename

Just create a new line for each page that you have renamed or moved. You can even redirect a page to one on another site if you have moved it that far.

You probably have a .htaccess file in the root of your website. If not you can create one yourself, it’s just a normal text file.

In summary

So when you next change the name of a file or an image on your site don’t forget to add it to your .htaccess file as a 301 redirect. You can check if you have any broken links on your site with Google Webmaster Tools. The 301 redirect also helps if you haven’t managed to update all of the internal links on your site too.

jQuery Rejuvenated by @rem

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I must confess that I tend to shy away from jQuery and javascript in general. I know that javascript can do amazing things and I know it can really enhance the user interface of a site but I tend to avoid it. In my defense part of the reason comes from the historical problems with javascript prior to the advent of the modern libraries. Javascript could cause problems and was an effort to implement and maintain. As a result I kept things deliberately simple to ensure browser compatibility and for my own sanity.

Nowadays there is no excuse to avoid javascript and, when necessary, I use jQuery plugins to provide what I need in a site. However, I haven’t been moving beyond using plugins and the initialisation code provided by the developers on their websites. Other than changing a couple of variables I’ve not been writing any code. That’s not programming, it’s copy and pasting!

Something has happened to change everything. I recently stumbled across jQuery for Designers which is a site by Remy Sharp (@rem) with a whole load of great tutorials on using jQuery to achieve real world tasks.

It is the real world nature of the tutorials that has made the difference to me. It is not suitable for absolute beginners as it doesn’t introduce you to the basics of jQuery. I know the basics, I’ve watched and read tutorials about them before, but what I needed was some more concrete examples of jQuery in action.

What’s good about jQuery for Designers is seeing how you can use the various selectors and functions built in to jQuery to achieve things quickly and simply. Remy does a great job of making you want to get coding. As a result I threw together a little animated carousel in only a few lines of code. Previously I would have searched the web for a plugin that exactly matched my requirements and would probably ended up with more code when you added together the plugin code and the initialisation code that goes with it.

So, all in all, I’m feeling both inspired and empowered. I’m looking forward to taking my designs to the next level with what I’ve learnt. If you want to do the same head on over to jQuery for Designers and get started!

Using Copyrighted Images: Don’t Risk It!

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Using copyrighted images that you don’t have permission for can cause you serious trouble. What seems like and easy way to avoid paying for images can end up costing you a lot more.
Using Copyrighted Images
Every image is copyrighted by default. The copyright is owned by the person who produced that image. They can sell the rights to that image in many different ways or they could license it for use for free. Just because a website doesn’t have a copyright statement doesn’t mean that you can use their images for free.

I found this image on a website…

Clients often come to us with images that they want to put on their website that they have found on other peoples websites. Sometimes they find them by using Google’s Image Search.

These images all belong to someone else and if we were to use them we would be stealing them and passing them off as our own.
Don't Hotlink Images

Hotlinking

It is possible to show an image from another website without actually having it on your web server. This is called hotlinking. Your web page displays the image directly from they other website’s server. This isn’t an infringement of copyright but it is still a very bad idea.

Using images like this uses bandwidth from the other person’s website. It may actually be costing them money to show images on your website. This is known as bandwidth theft and is considered a very rude thing to do on the Internet.

The other problem with this is that you are always at the mercy of the website that is hosting the image. If they remove the image or block your site the image will disappear from your website without notice. Sometimes website owners like to get their own back when you hotlink to them. Some do this by changing the image to a notice that says something like ‘Don’t Hotlink!’ but others have been known to be more extreme and swap them for offensive images and pornography. Do you want that on your website?

Penalties for Copyright theft

If you are using someone’s images without permission they can send a takedown letter to your ISP. Internet Service Providers like to avoid the legal complications of copyright and often comply immediately with takedown notices without contacting you. The first time you realise there is a problem is when people start complaining that they can’t get to your site anymore. The ISP has probably pulled your entire site due to breaching the terms and conditions of their hosting agreement.

Beyond this you could be sued for your use of copyrighted images depending on whether doing so made you money or caused the copyright owner to lose money. However the potential loss of your site (even if for a short time) should be enough to make you avoid stealing images.

Alternatives to using copyrighted images

There are a number of sites on the web that will let you use their images for free. Some of them will do so on the understanding that you link back to them but they don’t often have very many or very good images in their collections.

Another option is images that have been licensed as Creative Commons (CC) by their creators. These can be found on both Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. There are different types of Creative Commons license that allow you to do different things with them. Make sure you check the details of the license before you use an image.

Royalty Free Images

Royalty Free Images are not free. You have to pay an initial fee to use the image but you don’t have to pay a royalty every time the image is used. The good thing about royalty free images is that you don’t have to include an attribution to the image creator on the web page.

Lately we have been getting Stock Photos from 123rf.com who have a large catalogue of images that are available in different sizes and very reasonable prices. This is a much quicker option than having to trawl through free images sites and Creative Commons sites for the image you want.

Never, ever, ever

So there you have it. There is never a reason to use copyrighted images. It is illegal, can cause you loads of problems and there are much better alternatives available.

Psychology in web design

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Design is all about psychology. We must understand how people are going to respond to what we show them. We know that a website for a daycare centre that uses only the colours red and black and is covered with pictures of skulls is not going be received well. This is quite obvious but there are more subtle things that we shouldn’t overlook.

A simple mistake that I used to make when I first started designing websites was to not use photographs. I used graphical images to add gradients, curved edges and any number of nice looking touches but I often left out photographs.

So why is this a problem? Any design without photographic images tends to look quite impersonal and as a result some of my designs ended up looking like sites for soulless corporations rather than the small businesses they were actually for. Something as simple as a photograph of the building the business is in or some of the products they provide can counter this.

The next step is to add some photos of real people. Showing the visitor a picture of a person engenders trust. We are a very visual species and we like to look at the person we a dealing with. A smiling face is even better because that keys into our natural psychological responses. A smiling person means they are our friend and mean us no harm. We also respond to smiles with one of our own (or at least a relaxing of our frown). This causes us to release some of our happy brain chemicals and makes us even more likely to trust the site.

You will tend to see that the photos of people displayed on websites tend to match their target audience. A site for teenagers will show pictures of teenagers rather than old people, a Chinese site is most likely going to show those of Chinese ethnic groups and a site for new mothers is going to show women rather than men. When we see an image of someone that we feel is like us then we identify with them and, again, are more likely to trust them.

This can present a problem for sites that have general and/or worldwide appeal. It isn’t possible to show photos that equate to everyone who is likely to visit a site and often those that try to be too PC and multicultural end up looking totally contrived. We all have our own preconceptions, likes and dislikes when it comes to gender, race, ethnicity and age. However much we’d like to be able to treat all groups the same (especially when it comes to generalities and stereotypes) we don’t. Remember this is occurring mostly on a subconscious level and is not something we are always directly aware of.

To get around this problem of bias towards and against certain groups there is a surprising solution. Cartoon images can achieve all of the positive aspects of smiling faced photos without the problems of bias. The reason for this is that a cartoon image is very simple and lacking in detail. We supply the detail in our minds and superimpose our expectations onto the cartoon. This could be a simple stick figure or even an animal or bird.

Twitter is a prime example. A smiling anthropomorphised bird works as well as a human face. It also has the benefit of being cute and non-threatening. The choice of animal can also be used as statement about the company. A bird may be fast, a dog dependable and so on.

the psychology of smiling faces

Even a stickman can trigger our automatic responses to smiling faces

So photos are essential to key into our natural preference for seeing who and what we are dealing with. Smiling faces set us at our ease and engender trust. A single happy cartoon character can be more use than a slew of varied human images. We are programmed at the deepest levels to look for faces and we see them everywhere.

Cutting out the Middle Man – Part 1

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
The Internet: Cutting out the Middleman

The Internet: Cutting out the Middleman

The benefits of the Internet seem self evident:

  • it provides easy access to a massive amount of information. Like an enormous library that is open 24 hours a day and is available where ever there is an internet connection.
  • It makes communication easy via free email. It is now cheap and simple to stay in contact with friends and family no matter where they are in the world.
  • Shopping has been revolutionised. You can choose from any number of suppliers and get the cheapest price and the goods are delivered to you. It has made supermarket food deliveries possible. Books can be bought online with ease and be delivered to you door or even supplied as an ebook.

All of these points take an existing thing and make it easier and cheaper for use to do it but what is more interesting is the ways in which society is changing due to the internet.

Wikileaks

The internet so often cuts out the middleman from tradition transactions. We have seen this most strongly recently with Wikileaks. Ten years ago an individual with sensitive information would find it very difficult to release it to the public. They would have to risk a great deal to cultivate a relationship with a journalist and hope that the journalist was willing or even allowed to print it. The media is heavily controlled from the top and publications have strong political and moral leanings that effect their content. There is also only so much of an impact that one publication in one country can make. If the news isn’t picked up by others then it is quickly forgotten about when the next thing comes along.

The internet made Wikileaks possible. It provides a platform for them to communicate. Email and a website have allowed Wikileaks to promote themselves so that people know who to send things through and also provided a platform to publish the information they have received. As we’ve seen with the attacks on the Wikileaks site that alone wasn’t enough. The international nature of the internet and its cheapness to use meant that the information could be easily distributed across many sites thus making it impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

The internet cut out the middleman for Wikileaks. They could provide information directly to ordinary people without being stopped or censored by the mainstream media and/or governments. The media were involved and did publish stories but they we only part of a web of information. No single outlet had an exclusive and everyone was free to check their information against the data online.

Fighting oppression

Politically we’ve seen the internet remove the middleman a lot lately. From China to Iran, from Burma to Tunisia we are seeing people circumvent the controls put on the flow of information by using the internet. It has enabled ordinary people to tell their story to ordinary people in other countries. Without the involvement of government diplomacy and media sensationalism people are finding common ground with those from far away. Their plight has driven people to act or demand action from those in charge.

The general populace is now more aware of global affairs due to this free flow of raw uncensored information. Governments are now finding it hard to cover up their dirty little secrets due to the eyes of the world being upon them. Accountability like this may counter corruption in a way that no previous methods could.

As we’ve seen with the Wikileaks saga nothing is clear cut. Opinions are divided as to whether the cable releases were right or wrong and whether or not anyone was put in unnecessary danger by the revelations. What we can say, however, is that there is no going back. Society is changing as a direct result of our ready access to information. It is now in the hands of all of us and we’ll have to see what we decide to do with it.

Guest Posts

Friday, January 21st, 2011

I’ve been writing a few guest posts lately and the first one has been published over at Netchunks.com.

The link is: http://www.netchunks.com/essential-tips-to-ensure-site-visibility-for-webmasters-and-designers/

I’d like to thank Shiva Chettri for giving me the opportunity.

I’m also looking into getting a few guest writers to add a couple of blog posts here.