The Importance of Branding For your Business

Being your brand could mean that you proudly represent the business logo, name and brand that fronts your organisation, or it could simply mean being yourself – representing your own integrity and lifting your personal brand and reputation to new heights.

According to Forbes, some of the most reputable companies in 2014 included The Walt Disney Company, Canon, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, The Coca Cola Company and Amazon, the list goes on! These are companies with brands that many of us feel we can trust. These forward thinking organisations have created and maintained their profiles to a level where for us, thinking about their brand generates positive feelings. In short, we trust them to provide what we want - and that’s a part of what a brand is right? It’s a feeling that we have toward a company when we see their logo or products, and even a feeling we have toward a person when we hear their name. A reputation must be made, but if carefully cultivated it can always grow and change.

"Though a reputation evolves behind a brand, it is also what precedes it."

What feeling do people have about your brand? You may have to ask around to know for sure, or you may have a feeling about your own brand already and know some areas that you wish to work on and evolve.

PICK 5 CHARACTERISTICS THAT BEST DESCRIBE YOUR BRAND:

  • Trustworthy
  • Hardworking
  • Reliable
  • Flexible
  • Confident
  • Commitment to customer care
  • Ensuring clarity in all aspects of services offered
  • Excellent communication
  • Passion for what you/your team provides
  • Strong focus on the job at hand
  • The work of a master craftsman and expert in the field
  • Always going the extra mile
  • In touch with modern styles and trends
  • Offering modern equipment and techniques
  • Down to earth, approachable
  • Excellent quality control
  • Positive, friendly and approachable
  • Creative and adaptable
  • Intuitive and Inspiring
  • Undertaking the work on time and as quoted
  • Thorough and accurate in plan and action

From your 5 chosen characteristics - does your brand present these factors to the world? If your brand correctly represents your integrity and values AND delivers on these things, people are more likely to remember you and mention you to others.

If your business brand is dated, we can work with you to incorporate your values into your brand, promoting more than just a business name. We can work with you to give your brand IMPACT, so it stands out from the crowd. We can evolve your brand so it reflects your business in 2015. Read more about branding here.

Whether you are a business brand or you are maintaining your own personal brand, a good starting tip for ensuring your brand is consistent would be to check your online personal or business profiles to ensure you are presenting yourself professionally and consistently. Your online presence may need to be lifted and updated on sites such as GooglePlus, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even your own website may need some new images to bring it up to date and re-freshing or completely re-writing your content is a good way to make a fresh start for the year. Click this link to find out more about our content writing services.

  • Maintaining integrity and good manners, even through challenges
  • Making the extra effort to maintain a clean work vehicle or tidy office
  • Taking pride in your talents, skills and team
  • Making time to update your online presence and provide examples of your work
  • Giving more than was asked and going the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction

Brandberg_400These some of the qualities that work for you to promote a good reputation. A lot of companies I have done content writing for often tell me their biggest reward is the moment when the client comes home and sees their new driveway, or their window installation, or the new feature wall that has been built. I have been assured by many business owners that a positive reaction from their clients is the best thank you they can receive, and the best motivation to carry on to the next job, and the next.

It’s one thing to do a job for the money, and another job completion for your portfolio. It is quite another to do a job because your enjoy and are good at something, and have a confidence that what you can offer will be a benefit to someone who may be overjoyed with the final result.

I will leave you with an example of one of our customers who comes to mind as an excellent example of Being Your Brand: Diane Watson from Hair Therapy. I mention Diane because when I met her she had the light of enthusiasm in her eyes the whole time she talked with me about her team and the services they offer as medical wig specialists. Diane lives her brand, and I know that she gives 110% to each of her clients because she knows how they FEEL. She knows how they feel because Diane herself was a client for 7 years before buying this business that had already made a positive impact on her life, for the purpose of doing the same for others. Diane IS her brand, through living her own values of care and understanding, and going the extra mile to give her customers a quality product and an experience that makes them feel comfortable and welcome.

Because of the excellent representation of her brand that she advertises through her character and enthusiasm, Diane inspires confidence in her abilities and trust that she really does look after her clients. I have recommended Diane's business to quite a few people without having experienced her services myself. That is the power of Being Your Brand.

A BRAND IS A SET OF VALUES. IT IS A STORY.

A BRAND EVOLVES WITH THE TIMES AND YOU ARE YOUR BRAND.

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Posted in Branding

The Pros and Cons of Using Infinite Scrolling Web Design

Infinite scrolling is a web design trend that is Web Design Trends: Infinite Scrollingmaking waves in todays website landscape. It is simply the ability of a page to infinitely produce more content so that the user can scroll down the page uninterrupted. No more clicking. If you’re a social media buff or a Pinterest personality you will have come across this tool, perhaps without even noticing.

A technology that has grown from the increasing amount of tablet and smartphone users, infinite scrolling provides an easier way to navigate through websites on all devices. It has even progressed to being used as a complete navigation system in websites dubbed as infinite scrolling websites. It is fabulous for some websites but has suffered some teething problems with others. Though it appears simplistic and sleek, endless scrolling can result in confusion and frustration for users when applied inappropriately to websites.

To start with the positives, infinite scrolling can be a powerful tool that when executed well can expose users to more content and improve their experience. Infinite scrolling is hugely effective on websites that specialise in low engagement content (content that does not require active engagement or encourage interaction). Social media sites benefit hugely from this technology because as a rule, the content is taken at face value and every piece of content has the potential to be interesting to the user, meaning that scrolling through a lot of content is not a problem. It provides a more efficient and intuitive way to navigate through a ton of content that requires little action. When done well, the user experiences a truly responsive website that caters for their needs seamlessly.

However, for other sites that require the user to actively engage in their content, to click a button and interact with it, infinite scrolling can cause problems. The endless amount of content can overwhelm users and decrease the value of each piece of content. This can then inhibit user engagement and take away from what the website has to offer.

Infinite scrolling is seen to take the control away from the user, something that is an instinctive need for humans. With the alternative, a user has a defined amount of pages to search and can pick and choose when they have seen enough. With infinite scrolling, the user has no idea when the content is going to run out, or how relevant it is to them and requires the user to simply continue scrolling. If you leave a website feeling that it wasted your time you are unlikely to have a positive response to it.

This is where we are faced with a problem; how do you balance usability on devices, expose the user to more content, and keep them actively engaged? A good compromise is hybrid technology that relinquishes control to the user, yet allows them to scroll through websites using any device, with ease. To achieve a hybrid website all that is required is to predefine the number of pages before a prompt appears asking the user if they would like to see more content. It’s as simple as that to give back control to the user and maintain a consistent data load on the server.

Whether you choose to make a full-blown infinite scrolling website or a hybrid, there are a few things that can help make this tool more effective.

To ensure that the website is seamlessly infinite, Lazy Load content ahead of the user. However, despite the use of this technology, you can’t help when some users skip ahead faster than the preloaded content. In this situation it is essential to provide the user with a visual cue to tell them more content is loading. This way you can keep the user in the loop, letting them know that the site is still working and deter them from leaving. Although this ‘loading’ cue is necessary, it should hardly ever be seen.

The largest issues with infinite scrolling are down to navigational ease. Problems arise when the user navigates away from the infinite scrolling page. Often they will lose their place and when they return the site bumps the user back to the start. This is extremely annoying and can be enough to turn away users from your site as they are forced to spend time scrolling their way back. To remedy this problem, make sure you keep back button functionality so that the user can redirect themselves to the correct spot with just a click of a button. This is also useful to help the user maintain a sense of perspective and control, two things that are important to achieve in order for the website to be comfortable and intuitive to use.  An alternative is to program content to open in a new window when clicked. This option has been the cause of much debate as it is said to take control away from the user, and can also cause discomfort on smaller devices.

Infinite scrolling websites can lose their basic navigation systems all together which makes it very hard for a user to access the different regions of the site. The navigational bar is often lost as the user scrolls down the page, and the footer can never be found because of the constant stream of content being uploaded. Making sure the navigation bar at the top of the website is maintained despite scrolling down the page is wise, the user can then make their way to another part of the website without having to scroll all the way back to the top of the page. Having a footer, and being able to access it, is extremely important as it is there to provide important information about the site. The footer is often the last resort for a user to locate a specific topic. If the user can’t find the footer then they are likely to give up and discontinue using the website. A hybrid website can be the solution to this problem, as the prompt and footer can appear simultaneously, giving the user a chance to utilise it.

Lastly make sure you filter, filter, filter. Program the most relevant content to appear at the top of the page. Then hopefully, the user will be able to recognise when content becomes less relevant and can stop scrolling. This gives them the control over the amount of content they are exposed to. It’s best to try not to waste the users time as it will cause them to avoid using your website in the future.

This trend is growing and with more insights on how to use endless scrolling technology to its best advantage, it can only continue to become more effective. To see some examples of successful infinite scrolling websites, click here.

 

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Posted in Infinite Scrolling

New Email Spam Marketing Trends In NZ You Should Be Aware Of

DON'T BE FOOLED BY ALARMIST CLAIMS ABOUT YOUR WEBSITE!

Current marketing trends you need to be aware of include bulk emails (spam)
 and cold calls that use scare tactics to prompt investment in arbitrary services. arbitrary - adjective: capricious; unreasonable; unsupported.

faceless_callers350Companies Are Targeting Website Owners...

Many of our customers are calling us after receiving unreasonable and unsupported claims from agressive cold callers. These claims have sofar included:

  • suggestions their website is outdated
  • false or unsupported claims that their website is ranking poorly and missing out on traffic
  • vague offers of design updates and pressure to undertake SEO campaigns

Due to the nature of these cold calls and spam emails, we believe the companies targeting New Zealand businesses are canvasing the industry, using unscrupulous tactics to panic people into investing in unrequired services.

We are hearing from an increasing number of our clients who have wisely contacted us before agreeing to undertake services from companies using these tactics, such as YellowPages, Fatweb and search engine optimisation companies in India. We welcome the opportunity to disprove these negative claims and reassure you.

A Recent Example...

We were recently contacted by a client who was alarmed after receiving a cold call from Fatweb, who claimed they were missing out on thousands of online searches each month and that they ought to get a new website through them. However, doing a simple google search showed that their site is actually ranking 3rd for their product term. A very good result considering no significant search optimisation has been done.

The claims being made are consistently unfounded. As we receive these types of contacts ourselves on a regular basis, we know that most blanket callers are not even looking at the website first (let alone undertaking a technical invesitigation) to see exactly whom they are in contact with. If they had, they would surely realise we are direct competitors who know our stuff and could easily disprove their claims.

An Invitation To Contact Us For Professional Advice...

If you are concerned about any aspect of your website or search rankings as a result of contact from any of these aggressive cold callers or spammers, we encourage you to contact us before making any hasty decisions.

If required we do offer search engine optimisation at competitive rates. Our SEO services are performed using a measured, targeted campaign, and we will be happy to discuss this service with you.

Contact us using our online form or give us a call today on 0800 30 8996.

 

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Posted in Social Media

Doing Typography the Wrong Way: Common Mistakes To Avoid

Typography MistakeTypography may not seem the stuff of rocket science, but don’t be fooled by its seeming simplicity. Essentially, typography is the style, arrangement and appearance of text, and can hold a whole lot of power over the aesthetics and communication prowess of your website.

For those of you that think typography is boring and inconsequential, let me tell you - it can be a very interesting communicative tool! You can follow typography trends, collect typography design boards, and typography can even be the cause of very strong opinion; the ‘comic sans’ typeface is often subject to endless criticism and ongoing debate.

Surely your website should be about the content not how it looks? But if you consider how typography can drastically affect how content is communicated it becomes just as important. You can think of typography as including the nuances of speech; to soothe someone you could speak to them in a quieter tone, and the same effect is created in copy by using a lightweight font or smaller typeface.

Proof of the power of typography can be seen in the John Maeda TED Talk, where he shows a number of ways in which alternate typography for the same content can send different messages to the reader.

Typography contributes to your websites first impression, so here are some things to avoid to ensure you make a great first impression with users:

TYPOGRAPHY WEBSITE FORMATING MISTAKES

Typography is not only how the text looks but also how it is positioned within a website. Some of the most common typography mistakes occur during website formatting.

  1. Leading

Leading is the space between two lines of text. The name originates from the strips of lead that secured each row of lettering on typewriters, but nowadays it is more commonly known as line-spacing.

The mistakes with leading occur when there is not enough space between two lines of text, or too much. Not enough space makes the copy seem clumped together and causes the reader to lose their place while reading it. Too much space forces the readers eye to jump down the page at a pace that is uncomfortable.

A nice amount of leading has been calculated to be 140% of the font size. For example for a 20pt font size should have 26-28pt spacing.

  1. Tracking and Kerning

Tracking is the space between each letter within a word. The higher the tracking value, the larger the space between letters. Kerning, though similar, is the space between two specific letters in particular.

If the tracking is too large or small, words can become illegible. Your best bet is to use the pre-set value as they have been specifically calculated for readability. However, this is where kerning comes into play; some letters naturally have too much space around them and others not enough, so you can use kerning to ensure even spacing throughout your text. An example of these letters is the W which often encroaches on the letter A’s space due to their complimentary angles. To make sure you have the tracking set correctly, you can type VV or AV together, and if you can discern them from a W then tracking is fine.

In some cases you can use smaller tracking to your advantage; when used in headings it can help the text seem heavier and more dominant.

  1. Line lengths

It is possible to set character limits per line, and this is something that every designer should take advantage of.

A long-line length can make it difficult for a reader to maintain concentration. Like small leading it can cause users to have to re-read the previous line in order to gain understanding of the content. In saying this, short lines can be uncomfortable to read as it forces the eye down the page at pace.

Luckily, the optimal line length has already been calculated. Between 50-75 characters long is deemed comfortable to read. Both newspapers and magazines abide by this rule and they have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t.

  1. Centering Text

The centered formatting option is the Raggedy Ann of formats. As a rule, never center text unless there is an obvious reason to. The symmetry on either side of the text can be distracting and the uneven edge messy. Avoid it if you can.

  1. Contrast

Contrast is simply the difference in the colour or the tone of the text and the background that it’s set on.

It may be tempting to create the text in a lighter or darker version of the background colour and this can look extremely slick, however, it is also possible to get this wrong. Too much contrast is jarring, and too little is hard to see.

An easy way to see if your contrast is legible is to look at your work with squinted eyes. This reduces your colour perception and can help you ensure that the text stands out from the background.

  1. Full stop conventions

In the times of typewriters, the convention was to double space after a full stop. This was to ensure there was enough space between the start of a sentence and the end of the last.

With the word processing systems of today, this is an outdated convention as the technology has already taken this into account.

Double spacing makes the passage of text look disjointed and you will essentially be doing something that has already been done for you. You wouldn’t do the dishes after the dishwasher has already done them would you?

Here are some websites that have been commended on their use of typography; http://www.awwwards.com/websites/typography/

TYPOGRAPHY FONT MISTAKES

Typography font mistakes are easy to rectify using these simple rules.

  1. Don’t use too many typefaces

The typeface is the style of text, for example ‘Cambria’ or ‘Arial’, and sets the tone for the entire website.

The problem occurs when too many typefaces are used in one site. The brand becomes confusing and there is a lack in cohesion throughout.

It is best to have no more than three typefaces in one piece of work.

  1. Complimentary fonts

The next step once you have chosen your typeface is to ensure your fonts are complimentary to differentiate points of reference within text. You may be thinking; “What’s the difference between font and typeface?” Font is simply how the typeface appears on the page, whether it is bold, italic, or underlined and what size the characters are.

Choosing complimentary fonts throughout the website creates a seamless navigation from point to point.

Here are the 100 best free fonts: http://www.creativebloq.com/graphic-design-tips/best-free-fonts-for-designers-1233380

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Posted in Common Mistakes of Typography

How Responsive Web Design Could Help your Business

Responsive_Web_DesignThe amount of websites that utilise responsive web design is growing with the increasing amount of devices people can access the web from. We want to tell you all about responsive web design so that your website doesn’t get left behind in the dust of this rapidly adopted web designtrend. With people using laptops, tablets, smartphones and varying sized desktop screens, it is important to ensure that your website responds to the technology it is accessed from. A non-responsive website sticks out like a sore thumb in the quickly evolving web-world.

Responsive web design is simply the ability of a website to change its format to correspond to the device it is accessed from. On a more complicated level the tool can enable web designers to provide different content for different users; for example, by accessing the user location a website can tailor information to them on a geographical basis.

The growth in smart phones means that more often people are using websites on smaller screens and if the website is non-responsive it makes navigation around said website extremely difficult. For example; a traditional fixed width screen can cause a user to have to scroll horizontally to view content that was intended to be seen at first sight. If you can believe it, the current attention span for humans using the web is now less than a goldfish; meaning webpages must be both engaging and easy to use to be effective . A non-responsive, ill-fitting format will cause frustration and repel many users, meaning that the crucial messages websites need to transmit to users are not received.

If you don’t believe us, check out your websites stats on Google analytics; you can find out how many users are accessing your website via their cell phones by selecting the ‘Audience’ option, then ‘Mobile’. The time is now to change your website design as the amount of people accessing the web from different devices is only going to increase in this technology driven world.

The good news is, transforming your website into a responsive design is not as complicated as it sounds! There are two options for implementing responsive web design; creating an adaptive website with multiple fixed width layouts set for common devices, or, using multiple fluid grid layouts to achieve a truly responsive user experience. Most web designers will use fixed width layouts if they want more control over how the website will look on different screen sizes, however, this approach does not respond to change in browser size - a common practice of web-users who want to view multiple browser windows at the same time. Fluid grid layouts work on the basis of proportions rather than pixels and the content changes according to browser size. Web content is given a percentage of the browser or screen to take up; as the size of the viewing window changes the content continues to take up it’s assigned percentage of the browser responding to it’s viewing environment. You can even utilise both concepts with a mixed approach to responsive design; having some fixed width layouts for certain devices and some fluid grid layouts for others.

In implementing responsive design there are a few things to think about. The first is that graphics can cause a website to be slower to load on certain devices, so when designing a web-platform to be accessed from cell-phones or tablets with lower capability, it might be wiser to remove or downsize on images, graphics and advertisements. The popularity of touch screens means that there are now two navigation routes to consider; touch and mouse. What may work well for the click of a mouse could be a nightmare for somebody with not-so dainty digits.

It’s that simple, and with the populations’ increasing reliance on technology and high-speed culture, being able to access the information you need, on the go, is a luxury many aren’t willing to live without. The integration of laptops, tablets and smartphones into everyday life has made Responsive Design a necessity for websites that want universal exposure.

Now you may be thinking all this talk of cell-phone and tablet usage means that you should be thinking about creating an application, and this is indeed something to consider. Our take on this decision is that a responsive website may be the better option in terms of universal compatibility. This is because the application world is fickle; often certain brands will only work with apps from certain platforms. With the iOS and android faceoff going down, to allow both apple and android users access to your app, double the work may be required. Having a responsive website guarantees that all devices that have access to the Internet will be able to use your site. Wonderful! No more taking sides.

While vamping up your website it might be a good idea to consider including some other current web design trends. Long scrolling is the new thing in website navigation; the effort exerted through clicking can sometimes be too much! Websites that take the user on an intuitive narrative journey through scrolling; up, down and side-to-side are sought after and savvy. Where the bold and bright colours may have been hip and eye catching yesterday tomorrows request is light and subtle hues. With so much time spent staring at a screen nowadays it can be nice to find yourself looking at a website that is not an assault on the senses. Lastly to get personality into a website and make meaningful connections add simple animations - you might even make somebody laugh!

Responsive web design is a win-win tool as it means ease of use for users and better communication from website beneficiaries.

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Posted in Responsive Design

Top Web Design Practices in 2015 You Would Love To Use

Are you as excited as we are? We’ve scoured the web for the best web design trends that will be transforming the internet in 2015. Some of them you may have heard of already, like responsive design. Others just might blow your mind. Either way, the future looks bright and we’re excited to be a part of it.

Responsive Respect: responsive_web_design

I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but if responsive design isn’t the future then I don’t know what is. Have a look around you on a given day. People are on their smart phones, iPhones, tablets and iPads all the time. The future is in mobile friendly design. In the last few years responsive design has secured itself as the new standard for web design to the point where it has ceased to be a trend and can now just be considered the norm. If you’re not on board then you’re very behind.

Who Ya Gonna Call?...

…Ghost Buttons! Ghost buttons are a prominent design feature in many web designs and it’s no wonder. These buttons are not only minimalist and stylish but they’re a blast to use. Hover animation?! Yes please. As they pair well with the bold and beautiful backgrounds that we’ll see popping up over the next year, these ghosties are something to keep your eye on and to get acquainted with.

We’re Bringin’ Sexy Back

It’s one thing to have hot content, another to present it beautifully. In 2015, there’s going to be a bigger focus on typography. Web kits for type are notoriously expensive until now. Type kits are becoming more affordable or sometimes even FREE with Google Fonts. This means there’s a lot more freedom for designers working with smaller budgets to bring their mad typography skills to overflowing and ever-competitive the web design table. This also means that WordPress theme designers will focus on making stylish type-centric design possible for anyone with a well-designed WordPress theme. Whoop!

Pretty Hurts:

Savvy web designers will be saying a lot with big, bold and beautiful background images and videos. It’s one of the easiest ways to make your site stand out so make sure you’re featuring excellently written content against a powerful image. This future trend is an elegant way to strengthen your brand/style/philosophy.

Scrolling with da homies:

Scrolling is imperative to a positive user experience on the web, so say goodbye to clicking. Scrolling allows a more dynamic interaction to occur between users and websites. It’s more intuitive and really, it’s just easier to use for navigation. You’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

Hey Flatty

Aw! Look who’s growing up! Flat design is being touted as Google’s new direction for mobile design and everything else really. Only they’re calling it ‘Material Design’. Let’s have a quick look at the main principles:

1. Material is the metaphor: The first principle is an attempt to ground our digital experience in tactile reality. The material metaphor is moving away from skeuomorphism while embracing ink, paper, shadows, and depth. Material Design will reinvent and reimagine objects that exist in the physical world without breaking the laws of physics.

2. Bold, graphic, intentional: The second principle deals with print design. Visual elements can’t just look pretty, they have to create meaning. Material Design emphasizes deliberate colour choices, large typography (yes!), and the intentional use of white space to create an ideal user experience.

3. Motional provides meaning: The third principle of Material Design emphasizes the movement. Motion needs to provide visual feedback without being distracting. It feels authentic and needs to respect the physical reality of mass and weight. Objects will use swift acceleration and gentle deceleration to provide the user with a believable sense of motion.

Material Design is a mostly flat design that uses very subtle gradients, layering, and animation to retain a sense of the tangible world while still achieving all the advantages of flat design. Sounds amazing to me.

Think Micro not Macro

Good things come in small packages.  So, what are these micro-interactions that so many people are talking about? They’re pretty cool: Micro-interactions are contained experiences or moments within a module on a website that revolve around a single use basis. For example, take the email sign-up box that pops up on a website. It’s moving which gives it a playful personality to a graphic that would otherwise be static and maybe a little boring. Micro-interactions like this serve to increase user engagement.

Tell Me a Story

The combination of everything I’ve mentioned so far has one collective goal: Creating a better platform for telling compelling stories and narratives. I’m not saying that every web site should have a story, but a brand is constructed from a series of values and everything from font choice to web copy embodies this. You’ve heard it before: Content is King. There’s a reason why this saying is constantly thrown around on the Internet. People are smarter and busier. They don’t have the time to sit around on a website that has boring content. If you can create a story using well written content combined with incredible images and design elements, you can be sure your website will stand out. Getting noticed is the game. So get amongst it.

It’s a Wrap

One of the best things about being a web designer is how fast things move. To be excellent in this game, you’ve got to be willing to adapt. When we look at future trends, we get excited for several reasons. One, it’s pretty fun trying out new techniques. Two, it’s great to be learning new tricks on the job. But most importantly, it makes us better designers. We’re pretty lucky to have a fluid arsenal of web design theories and skills: they allow us to create anything. Our only limitations are ourselves. If you’re interested in applying any of these new web design features to your current site, get in touch. We’re excited to put the future to use.

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Posted in Web Design

responsive web design welcome future business

The late/great Albert Einstein once said “I never think about the future, it comes soon enough.” True enough for some, Al, but when it comes to web design and business, we think it’s smart and necessary to think about the future in order to succeed. As we all know, change happens fast, and in the worlds of web design, business and technology, it happens even faster. To be good web designers and business operators, we need to stay on trend and stay current. To be excellent at what we do, it’s necessary to identify trends before they hit.  MobileSitesx6+600dpi

With the advance in mobile technology in the last few years, it’s no surprise that more and more people are using their mobile devices to access the Internet. How is it then that the vast majority of businesses are still not mobile user-friendly? Can I be frank? If you’re a business owner and you don’t have an online presence that is accessible via mobile you’re missing out on major business opportunities. There’s nothing complex about having a mobile presence. The answer is so simple:Responsive Web Design. So, what is it exactly?

Responsive web design is a web design style that crafts websites with the aim of providing an optimal viewing experience. These websites are easy to read and even easier to navigate across a wide range of devices by being coded in a way that uses a minimum of resizing, panning and scrolling, thus making it a very user-friendly style. Happy users are happy customers and happy customers spend more money. This is what we call conversion. So, how do you get the most out of your responsive design?

Ring! Ring!

When it comes to creating a mobile website, you have two options: Responsive Design and Mobile Templates. Responsive design is easier in that it requires only one website that is coded in order to adapt to all screen sizes and therefore accessible through multiple devices. Mobile templates aren’t as friendly. They require an entirely separate mobile-only website. You can see why this is a problem! It’s more work, more money and more hassle.

Consider this:

  • More people are using their mobiles for Google searches
  • 25% of Internet users access it on a mobile device
  • 25% of all emails are opened on mobile phones
  • 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a good mobile experience

Keeping customers happy is paramount to a successful business so providing a positive user experience should be a top priority. If someone lands on your mobile website and doesn’t find what they’re looking for easily they’re likely to leave your site for your competitor. A positive experience on mobile devices can translate into more profits as the customer is 67% more likely to purchase your services or products if it’s fast and easy to do so.

Keeping Google Happy

It’s a well-known fact that Google prefers responsive web design over mobile templates. Just like your customers, Google wants to be able to navigate your site and organise the content with ease. With responsive design your site has one URL and the same HTML across any device making it easier for users to share and engage with the content compared to sites with different pages for mobile and desktop users. Google knows that unhappy customers will go to other sites which then results in an increase in bounce rates and lower ranking on mobile searches. Beware: Google’s external link algorithm then gets cranky and this can have serious consequences for your SEO.

Back to the Future

One of the best characteristics of responsive design is that the size of the template is designed based on screen size and not specific devices. Technology is in a state of flux at all times. New devices are dreamed up and created faster than you can say “Eight Track Player”. Your responsive website won’t be made obsolete with the advent of new technology. It will stay current and beautiful which saves you money because you won’t need to tweak it. Speaking of money…

Responsive Design: How Much Does It Cost?

Depending on your current website, changing it to a responsive design may cost a few hundred dollars or a few thousand. That’s assuming the existing design lends itself to becoming responsive. If you haven’t redesigned your website in the last several years it’s quite probable that you’ll need to go through a complete redesign process. As designers we know that the cost depends on how much work you want to get done.  If you’re interested in converting your existing site to responsive design, we can help. Just get in touch with one of our designers and they can talk you through the process. If you’re looking to stay competitive in the marketplace, you’re going to have to make the leap to responsive design.

Call me: The Future Is Mobile

Going ‘responsive’ can present challenges for website owners but without a mobile-friendly website the future of your online presence is bleak. If you’re not providing a mobile-friendly experience for your customers, they’ll bounce off your website and go to your competitor whose website is easier to use. Haven’t you ever done that before yourself? I know I have. The future, as we all know, is mobile. People prefer their mobile devices over desktop and laptop computers. Consider this fun fact: by 2017 5 billion people will use mobile phones. Can you afford to stay in the Dark Ages of web design? Nope.

There are, however, some exceptions to the rule:

  1. Your business doesn’t depend on your website to operate. (Lucky you!)
  2. Your business has absolutely no competitors in the marketplace. (Um, really?!)
  3. You’re totally familiar with responsive design, you know that it’s not the right fit for your business and you have an alternative mobile strategy. (Fair enough.)

If any of these 3 points resonate with you, then you have nothing to worry about. If not, get in touch. We’re here and we’re ready to update your website to be responsive. Welcome to the future.

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Posted in Responsive Design

Three Ways Small Businesses Can Grow With Social Media

Social media is one of the most powerful tools on the entire web to get more exposure and credibility. Some small businesses have used it to go from having no audience to havingsocial_media hundreds of thousands of followers. However, there are many small businesses that are struggling to grow their social media audiences. Some small business owners are putting in hours of work but getting little results from their social media efforts. These three tips for small businesses trying to grow on social media are aimed to stop stagnancy and spread your message to a larger audience.

  1. Interact with your followers. There are so many people who are focused on growing that they forget to interact with the followers they already have. Some of the people I have interacted with on my social networks have become returning customers who frequently buy my books and leave reviews. In addition, as you connect with more people, you will get more opportunities. I have been able to write for numerous guest blogs because some of the connections I made on social media wanted my content on their sites. Here are some tips you can use to start more conversations.
  2. Identify your targeted audience. There are three types of followers. There is the fake follower (which you don’t want at all), the real follower (which is okay), and the targeted follower (the one you want). Your targeted audience is the audience that will help you be successful. In order to identify your targeted audience, ask yourself two questions. What do I do? Who would benefit from it?
  3. Go after the people in your targeted audience. You want to follow and interact with as many people in your targeted audience as possible. Targeted followers are more likely to share your content and buy your products and services than any other type of follower. Interacting with these followers and gradually building your audience (a targeted audience in particular) will allow you to grow on social media.

Those are the three ways small businesses can grow with social media. It all comes down to identifying your targeted audience, growing that audience, and interacting with the people in your audience. Then, you will be able to grow on social media.

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Posted in Social Media

Why your email should use your personal domain not a generic provider address

Using your domain for your email address is professional and, equally important, allows your more flexibility in choosing where and with who your host your email accounts.

Do not underestimate a simple email address for it’s power of reflection on you and your personal or business brand.

Your email address is usually used everywhere; listed on your website and email signature, and probably all your printed marketing material as well including business cards and letterheads. Your email address may also be included on sign writing; which could be car signage, signage on your building, or any signs or banners you use for business expos, etc.

email_imageryYour email address will either make a good impression of you as a well rounded business, or cause people to wonder why you have a professional business but an outdated, sometimes untrusted email provider. Possibly you are even using a personal address such as (catlover@yahoo.com), which will reflect badly on your business. You would be surprised how may job applications are dismissed because they use a similar personal email address when applying for a serious position. Consider this a valuable tip for anyone applying for a job - if you have a portfolio website, setup an email address using your portfolio website’s domain. Don’t use a personal, unprofessional email address if you're serious about making a professional impression and getting the job.

An domain email address advertises your website address.

Another reason for using a domain email address is to direct people to your website. Most people will know when they receive an email from, for example: (tony@carpartpeople.co.nz) that Tony's website can be found at: www.carpartpeople.co.nz. Another handy hint is if you’re selling on a site such as Trademe, use your email address as your identification. On Trademe you cannot advertise yourself by including your website address, but if Tony’s username is (tony@carpartpeople.co.nz), then viewers will know that he has a website and can see what the domain name is from his email address which uses his domain.

Your email address establishes credibility.

A professional email address will go a long way to establishing credibility in your industry. For example, Tom has a car towing business. He uses the email address: (tomtowing@yahoo.com). His website is www.tomtowing.co.nz. He would be far better to use a domain email such as: (help@tomtowing.co.nz), or (service@tomtowing.co.nz), rather then the yahoo address. As another example, Anne runs an accounting business. Her email address is (anneaccounts@hotmail.com). Annes website is www.truthaccounting.com. Anne would be much wiser to use an email address such as; (anne@truthaccounting.com), or (office@truthaccounting.com).

A domain email gives you freedom to choose your email provider and to move providers (or "clients") without having to change email address.

With whichever email provider you currently use, whether it’s Hotmail, Yahoo! or even Gmail, there is the possibility that you may not want to stay with them in future. They may close down, they may merge with another provider, they may start charging more than you’re prepared to pay for their service, there may be something better. Whatever the case if you want to move, you usually can’t. Unfortunately if you have an email address such as (tomtowing@yahoo.com) you won’t be able to move that account, it’s locked with yahoo. It IS yahoo.

email_options_smartphoneWhat you should have is an email address that is as mobile as your cellphone number, meaning you can keep your same number but change providers as you choose. With a default email account that’s simply not possible, with an email account using your personal domain, it is.

Sure, some of these services may be accessible using other email clients (or ‘programs’) but you have a lot more options for importing and forwarding when you control your own domain. And you never have to email everyone to tell them to change your email address - ever again!

With the new .NZ domains, your email address can be even simpler!

Now that .NZ domains are available, your email address can be even simpler. Why have a .CO.NZ domain when you can just have a .NZ? One of the reasons that we now have .NZ domains is for more representative domain names, ie. many people have a .CO.NZ domain name even though they are not a business. You can have both or either, there is no limit to the number of domain names you can register.

Have you ever thought your email address might be a bit long? I have advised many of our clients who registered a domain name with us, to register an additional shorter domain name to use specifically for emails. For example (and yes, I’m making these examples up), Nicki at Mountain Climbing Guided Tours could register the domain: (mountainclimbinguidedtours.nz). That domain is going to create a huge email address, but it’s a must-have domain because it tells people exactly what her business is. Nicki could also register (mountainclimbingtours.nz) and/or (mcgt.nz) as shorter options. That last domain will make email accounts a breeze. Nicki can now have nicki@mcgt.nz as her email address. What happens here if she owns two domains is that Nicki’s website address can still be (mountainclimbingguidedtours.nz), with the additional domain (mcgt.co.nz) also pointing to the same website. We can setup an email forwarder so if she is emailed at (nicki@mountainclimbingguidedtours.nz) or (nicki@mcgt.nz) these emails will go to the same inbox. Simple right?

Email and technical support, email hosting, troubleshooting and peace of mind.

Here at Activate Design we can host your domain email account on our secure, New Zealand-based server. If you have a website hosted with us, then email hosting using the same domain becomes complimentary. How easy is that? Keep your website, emails and domain management all in one place and we have friendly, knowledgable staff here to help with setup, queries, ongoing support and assistance to ensure your brand is supported by secure, professional hosting services.

Visit www.activehost.co.nz for email setup and support.

We have a excellent support website providing assistance with email setups for a variety of email clients, including outlook, mac mail, webmail and more. Our support site also has guides on troubleshooting and how to use our website content management system, with which you can update your own website content and images independently.

Visit our ActiveHost Support Site for more information on website hosting and costs, to contact us for assistance, or if you’re an existing customer you can login to view and pay your hosting invoices, renew your domain names with credit card or internet banking, send support tickets for your website, and order new hosting or domain services.

If you have any queries about setting up a new email address, purchasing a new or shorter domain or a new .NZ domain, or anything other ID queries, we'd love to hear from you.

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Posted in Branding

Important Things to Look for in the Best SEO Company

There are many companies out there that offer SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), so many infact, that the market is flooded with them. The blanket email spam sent out from these companies can become very frustrating, believe me - I know. For myself, I get multiple emails every single day from companies and individuals both in New Zealand and overseas (mainly India) offering SEO services for our Activate Design website.

Many of these emails start with: “I have viewed your website and believe I can improve your rankings by the following methods...” Another may say: “I have conducted a thorough analysis of your site and believe we can give you #1 rankings by …”

white hat seoMy first issue here is that if indeed these companies had actually viewed our website as they say they have, they would have seen that we ourselves offer a full SEO service. We also offer mobile sites, responsive websites, full website design, development and more. What I mean to say is; there’s no use offering window cleaning to a window cleaner right?

So I must conclude that these emails are spam being sent out without any real research having been done.

My second issue is are these companies using good "white hat" seo techniques, or agressive "black hat" techniques that rarely obey search engine guidelines and put your website at risk.

Is there any way to tell? My advice would simply be to use a well reputed provider of SEO. A good bet would be a company such as ourselves who don't soley offer SEO, but specialise in a host of other website related services.

My other advice would be to choose an SEO specialist in your country, that way if something goes wrong you know you can reach them easily to discuss and are not limited by electronic communication and time differences.

THE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ASK FIRST IS: CAN I TRUST SEO SERVICES FROM AN UNKNOWN COMPANY?

As a recent example, we were contacted by one of our Clients who had been intrigued by an offer of SEO that seemed too good to be true, yet also seemed quite legitimate. This initial email offer outlined a lot of points that appealed to our Client and the third party company seemed to know their stuff. Our Client had then spoken with this unknown company, (a wise step), although the company was not based in New Zealand, and decided to proceed with the service.

When they contacted us it was to forward an email requesting top-level access to their website to be passed on to the third party company. Our client had been informed that code would be added to their to site increase rankings. Without knowledge of SEO techniques themselves, our Client would have no idea what was being added to their site, and what could be hidden in the code that they would never find out about.

AT THIS POINT IT NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED: HOW MUCH ACCESS TO MY WEBSITE SHOULD I GIVE A THIRD PARTY COMPANY? HOW MUCH ACCESS TO MY WEBSITE SHOULD AN SEO PROVIDER NEED?

The answer, in fact, is none. If you do decide to take a risk on an unknown search engine optimisation company either based in New Zealand or overseas, they should not need access to the background workings of your website if it is just some code they are adding to your site. As we suggested to our Client, they would be wise to have us check and add the code into their website for them, ensuring it is 100% legitimate and that their website, which is such a large marketing investment, is kept safe.

In this particular case, once our client contacted the company to inform them to send the code to be added independently, they never heard from that company again. Rather suspicious don’t you think? That code could have contained any number of things from links to other sites or improper and outdated SEO practices that would have had a detrimental effect on rankings.

YOU NEED TO KNOW: WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF USING AN OUTSIDE COMPANY FOR SEO?

There are many, and I’m not scaremongering here - I genuinely believe that a website is such an asset that we are more than happy to ensure it's continued security. After all, we take pride in our websites and want to ensure the optimum effectiveness of the websites we create for every business, individual or organisation.

The dangers you face of using an unknown SEO company are that your website could be made vulnerable, hacked, deleted, or simply undermined. What I mean by undermined is that there are many, many methods of SEO to increase your rankings, and the effectiveness of these methods changes constantly. SEO techniques change as search engines get smarter, for example, Meta tags were once extremely effective but are rarely used anymore.

An HTML Meta Tag is a form of data tag that is not visible on the site itself, yet still communicates to search engines about your web page. Meta tags were popularly used to convey information like page title, description and keywords. What occurred to change this was that dishonest websites were adding keywords to their meta tags that did not in any way relate to their website content, effectively luring people in to their website through dishonest means. Thankfully, search engine technology is constantly evolving and once it was determined that Meta tags could be manipulated to gain undeserved rankings this technique became less used if not completely redundant. A good SEO provider must be constantly updating his or her skills using "white hat" techniques to stay ahead of trends and avoid penalisation for using outdated techniques.

FIRST CONSIDER: WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY WEBSITE IS COMPROMISED DUE TO SEO SERVICES FROM AN ILLIGITIMATE PROVIDER?

What should I do if an SEO provider damages my rankings or results in my site being banned through "black hat" seo techniques?

If your site does not improve in rankings or actually goes down in rankings, there may be things we can undo to reverse the downward spiral and restore your website’s integrity. Contact us immediately!

If you website is banned from Search Engines, which happens more than you realise, we can re-create your website, making it much improved and more effective by employing good SEO techniques right from the start.

We work with SEO specialists who keep up to date with all the latest SEO techniques and developments to ensure any SEO results in a growth in rankings, not penalisation of rankings due to dishonest or outdated practices.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY WEBSITE IS HACKED OR DELETED?

Give us a call. If you have one of our websites then unless you have given someone access to your website background, your site will be very secure. Our CMS (content management system) is unique in that it has been developed by us. Most websites that are hacked are created in open-source Content Management Systems, such as Wordpress and Magento. Open-source cms are available for anyone to use, so unfortunately there are more people working on ways to compromise them.

If your website has been compromised then in most cases we can repair it for you and get it working again with minimum down-time. If your website has been created in an open-source CMS we have a lot of experience with a range of issues that can occur, and on several occasions when the corruption is too wide-spread, we have re-created complete websites in our more secure CMS.

I think it’s important to note that with our CMS you can still host the site where you like. We do not lock you into hosting with us as some other companies do. Having freedom of choice is for your simple peace of mind.

Our unique CMS was created in response to the fact that most CMS available were created for programmers to use, not people (not that er, programmers aren’t people…). So our CMS is very, very simple and straightforward to use, giving you greater control over your content and images, and allowing you to add, hide or remove pages, add links and much more.

So if you’re thinking of SEO services to improve website rankings, or if you’re have concerns about the ongoing security of your website - do feel welcome to contact our team at Activate Design. We have designers, developers, service support technicians, and just friendly helpful people like myself here to assist you whenever needed.

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Posted in Graphic Design