Websites and Social Media tips for non-profit organisations and small businesses

I am involved in several groups and non-profit organisations and because of my involvement in the I.T. Industry, I’m often asked key questions about what are the right online tools to benefit non-profit organisations and small businesses. So here’s some insight and advice I'm passing on which I hope will be of some benefit to your group.

It’s certainly a challenge for small organisations to find the time to choose the the right online tools from the large selection available, and sometimes a bigger challenge to find the right motivated and dedicated people to manage them!

The right promotional tool for business and non-profits usually comes down to – What is the easiest solution? What is the most popular? Whatever you decide my most valuable advice is this - have a website. A website offers you control of your content, assurance of no hidden costs or changing rules, and a reliable place for members and the public alike to find you. Your website should be something that is straightforward and easy to edit, to avoid further costs for any small changes and updates as required.

With so many social media options available, it’s hard to know where to start, so here’s an introduction into what online tools would benefit non-profit organisations and small businesses, and how to tie them all together to make online social media easier…

youtube_craftvidYouTube

YouTube can be a great tool for non-profit organisations, as video is such a powerful tool for sharing and teaching skills and crafts in a huge range of topics; from woodworking to knitting, jewellery making to book-binding and more.

You can make YouTube work for you by showing what you do, and from there directing people back to you website to contact you, and/or view more information about what you can offer, including membership opportunities.

Emailing

All groups and individuals need to be aware that large amounts of emails being sent from one email address can raise warning flags. This may result in your email address being marked as a spam source and becoming blacklisted.

Emailing all your members is fine, and it can work well but - it can also backfire. Be aware of the danger of sending bulk emails to large list of contacts, especially as your member list is constantly increasing. Sending bulk emails can be risky.

twitter_cookiesTwitter

Twitter is an online networking service that enables individuals to send and read short messages of only 140 characters max. Using Twitter (or 'tweeting') is commonly known as “microblogging”.

For small groups this is a good way to get known, invite new members, as keep up with what’s going on in similar organisations. Ask us about having your tweets run through your website, or linking your Facebook posts to your Twitter account.

Newsletter Systems

I recommend to many groups to look at using a Newsletter System instead of bulk emailing. Rather than emailing all of your members, look at the option of using a newsletter system like ActiveMail. There are some really good, simple-to-use email systems available, that can complement your group identity and brand with a custom email template design. Click here for ActiveMail newsletter pricing.

For more information on sending beautifully designed email newsletters to your non-profit group members or small business customers, take a look at the ActiveMail Email Marketing System. This is a very easy to use and straightforward system with a variety of helpful tools available, including real-time statistics on who has viewed your email, what links they have clicked on, what interests them, and more.

facebook_pillowFacebook

I’m often asked; “It okay that I only have a Facebook page for my organisation?” Let’s just say, it’s not ideal.

Having a Facebook page can certainly be a good thing; it’s a great way for other Facebook users to find you and to send you messages, but it's not a reliable home-base.

The challenge with Facebook is that the rules are constantly changing. Where once you could post to all your follows, now it’s just not the case as Facebook continues to move away from supporting groups and businesses and focuses more on user-pays. My advice, use your posts to simply keep referring people to your website.

Blog

A blog is a great tool for sending updates, but how do you get it out to members? Usually people email it, and run across the same issues as above, with Blacklisting and email ending up in spam folders. At Activate Design we integrate blogs into our websites so that members can simply check your website for updates and view all of your recent and historical blog posts.

These days a website is simply a must, and if you don't have one you're missing out on wider audience and the ease of connecting to group member or new customers.

Contact us today to discuss how you can have a clean, modern and professional website for your business or organisation, and what social media and additional functionality would benefit your unique group.

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Posted in Website Design

The Benefits of a website blog

Many businesses today have discovered the value of a Blog as a way to offer information on what their business is doing. A blog can provide interesting news, free business information and free business tips on a variety of topics. You may wish to blog about what you offer, announce an upcoming event, report on a recent event, showcase a new product or service or let people know about any benefits or knowledge that can be gained by your niche business.

blog_imageA blog is an alternative to a loud and obvious advertising and marketing campaign, seen through the eyes of a discerning online audience.

A blog is something people find when they are looking for it, or are directed to it, which means your online audience actually want to know more about you!

If you look at it this way, you will see that when blogging, the value of the information you offer is greatly increased.

You can let people know about your blogs to boost your website audience, for example, a brief Facebook post stating that you've just blogged about an amazing new product will bring people to your blog page, and thus your website, to find out more.

A blog that runs through your website is also kept indefinitely, so you can keep referring people back to old posts that may be useful in an ongoing manner, such as instructions or explanations on a topic, or freebies like games or recipes.

A blog can be beneficial to business for many reasons, including:

You have the option to Blog to the public or exclusively to members only. A Blog can be for your whole website audience, or it can be only for members of your organisation. We can run a dual blog on your website which means you can decide which entries are provided to a group that must first log in to view them, and which are visible to the public. Managing control of your blog in our CMS (content management system) is very simple and straightforward, making your regular blogging experience an enjoyable one. An example of a recent dual blog we created was for www.christchurchrsa.og.nz. This organisation wanted to provide information to the public as well as information that was relevant only to members, which was achieved through a "member's login area".

Quick Q&A: What is a website members login area?

In our website CMS (content management system) we can create a members login area, an area where members of your group can access exclusive information such as a blog, forum, recent news feed, and perhaps your groups constitution and rules. Members would be able to post on the forum, and the forum itself can contain several different sections - for example: buy and sell, and events section, and perhaps a projects/examples or instructions section. We can tailor your website group forum to suit your organisation.

A blog can increase website search engine rankings. One of the ways that search engines connect your website to your audience through keywords so using your blog to write about your business, incorporating keywords relevant to you, is smart marketing.

Get people talking about you with a blog. If you are offering concise and relevant information to your audience, they will have a reason to tell others to visit your website to discover your expertise for themselves, thus increasing your online audience and potentially your customer base.

Encouraging interaction through blog conversations. Send out a welcome for people to contact you regarding your blogs. Ask them to send their project examples, questions, comments and issues so you can provide feedback and begin correspondence. Your correspondence may earn you respect as a knowledgable and helpful professional in your industry.

Use your blog to tell your story. People don't want to just hear your sales spiel. They want to know how you got to where you are. They want to know you are real by knowing your story. Use your blog as a platform to be real and honest, telling your story and proving the legitimacy of your status as an industry expert.

Inspire others through blogging. A website is a place that people often skim for information rather than reading in depth. A blog can be a place to summarise the different products and services that you offer, promoting them individually and with more information. A single topic outlined in a blog may inspire a potential customer to try that particular product or service and inspire them to take a new direction in their own business or personal project.

Have fun with your blog! Blogging can become addictive. Some businesses start off viewing a blog as a chore, but it can quickly become an opportunity to share what you are doing, further motivating businesses to put their boundaries. This may be with a new product, new project, sharing a recent event, or in response to correspondence with your website visitors and customers.

Get more attention and earn more respect for your business by making the most of a business blog on your website. Bring in a wider audience by writing about relevant topics to your industry, and it's even worth doing a bit of online research to find out what people are looking for and what solutions your products and services can provide to an online audience. The wording is most important so ensure you include lots of keywords that resonate with your business, but including images of what you do will greatly enhance your blog - keeping in mind that an online audience by nature, are skim readers so any imagery will generate further interest and keep them reading for longer.

If your blogs are genuine and provide a benefit to readers, you may earn the attention of the media - another great benefit of having your own business blog!

One more tip would be - ensure your blog posts do offer something of value, rather than being a sales spiel. Offering a "how to" or a bit of history on a product or service and how it came to be, is far more interesting than a simple "buy now because..!" I know of a company that includes recipes on their blog, which wisely enough, has their audience coming back again and again to see what's new. What can you offer your online audience to keep them coming back, and to tempt them into looking further into your business and industry expertise?

Quick Q&A: Should I use Facebook and Twitter and Blog?

I would compare these strains of social media thus - if Twitter is like a calling card, then Facebook is like a phone call, and Blogging is more like a conversation. It's not there to shout out a quick fire message, nor is it there to provide a blurb with accompanying image. A Blog is well intentioned and (hopefully) useful information.

You can use Twitter and Facebook to let people know about your latest blog topics. By adding a quick note to your other social media sites, you welcome an audience back to your blog page, and cleverly enough - to your website and the rest of your business information, product and services. Alternatively have a little faith in the quality of your blog posts, that through them your audience will find you.

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Posted in Website Design

Web Design Trends You'll Want to Use on your Website

This year is turning out to be a very interesting and exciting one in terms of web development. We’re shifting toward an Internet experience that’s embracing the popularity of mobile and tablet browsing, as well as making use of high-definition displays.

Responsive DesignCombined with a growing interest in more creative non-fiction style writing and a move to using the webpage almost as an artistic medium, 2014 is about innovation while focusing on a streamlined visual identity that thrives on a minimalistic and unified experience through the use of flat design, easy navigation and focused colour schemes. Developing a site with these top trends in mind will ensure the best possible reception of a site’s content and overall function.

Fixed Navigation Bars

To start, if there’s one fact to make clear about web design trends in 2014, it’s that users should be able to easily navigate the content of the site. The days of clunky user interfaces in an attempt to showcase complex code are over. Fortunately, there’s no secret amount of internet wizardry to master here; it boils down to a straightforward design with the use of a fixed navigational bar.

Nova Crystallis, a site covering a popular video game franchise, demonstrates this design technique very well; everything is easy to navigate and find here. Regardless of where you are on the site, you can quickly access other areas.

Additionally, the animations in the menus aren’t terribly distracting and flow quite naturally; they allow ease of access to different portions of the site while still keeping everything in one central location that the user can find. Here’s what to take away:

  • Fixed navigation facilitates ease of transition through the site

  • Animations should work in a simplistic nature that’s unobtrusive and aids the user.

Slide Structure and Arrangement

Another growing trend is the use of slides to make up the look of a site. These are commonly orchestrated in a grid-like fashion. Sites like WNYC’s homepage use this to good effect, and the influence of this design has extended into apps like Flipbook or Windows 8’s new user interface.

Organizing slides into a grid-like style helps to lay out content in a way that’s visually appealing, works with contemporary trends, and also makes for easier browsing on tablet computers.

Endless Scrolling

Speaking of tablets, 2014 is also looking to become the year of endless scrolling. Skittles’ own website is a good example of this. While it slightly departs from the fixed navigation mentioned earlier, it still allows for information to be accessed quite easily.

How well this works on a desktop environment is debatable, but one fact is certain: The endless scrolling trend is clearly an extension of the growing numbers of tablet and smartphone users, and this is not something to be ignored. All recent reports have indicated that 2014 ought to be seen as the complete embracing of a more mobile accessed Internet, and endless scrolling fits best here. It’s also an opportunity to make something creative with the technique.

  • Endless scrolling sites like Skittles follow the nature of tablet and smartphone browsing

  • They allow for a unique and creative presentation of content.

Parallax Design

Scrolling has also paved the way for inventive forms of web design in 2014 through the use of parallax design: positioning two-dimensional images in such a way that through simple animation or scrolling, they move and create the illusion of three-dimensions.  The question of how long this is going to remain popular is certainly worth asking; it’s easy to think that this might just be another craze similar to the overuse of Flash sites in the 2000’s. Right now, however, it’s certainly one of the top trends and helps to offer an interesting aesthetic to work with the nature of endless scrolling.

Parallax design offers a way to achieve an animated look that can work right alongside sites that utilize large amounts of scrolling.

Responsive Web Design

Given that smartphones and tablets are becoming the new standard of web browsing in 2014, it goes without saying that responsive web design is worth understanding. Offering a duplicate version of a website that redirects mobile browsers has proven to be a clunky and more difficult solution to this, and will most likely see a steep decline in its use throughout the course of 2014 and beyond. This will be much to the benefit of the user, who can access the same content regardless of the device used, and to the developer who can focus on one main site.

There are very few reasons, if any, to offer a sub-domain mobile version of a website in 2014. Responsive design achieves unity across different devices and gives developers a more focused task.

Flat Design

Websites in 2014 are less interested in skeumorphic design (the simulating of real world, tactile objects, like those seen in earlier versions of iOS software) and are trending toward flat design. Again, Apple’s iOS shows a very good example of this aesthetic preference after their update to iOS 7; the same can be said for Windows 8.

There’s no need to try and make websites simulate real-world objects like physical paper notebooks or actual buttons for your links and items on the navigation bar. The average Internet user in 2014 expects and prefers a flat design that they’re already seeing in their computer, mobile and tablet operating systems. Working with this trend facilitates a seamlessly integrated nature with other sites and the devices being used to browse them.

Flat design is hugely popular across websites and operating systems. There’s a general desire to work with the nature of computer screens and not to try and make it look like anything it’s not. It’s honest design. User interfaces across web sites, software and operating systems are all moving in this direction.

Focused, Simple and Monochromatic Colour Schemes

Colour is another hot area in 2014 with the goal being to create a uniform or thematic look to a site and its content. This is where monochromatic trends and the use of very simple colour motifs come into play. This can be summed up into a few basic ideas and points:

  • Colour schemes are about simplicity, unity and can help to foster brand identity.

  • Try to make the most creative use of a limited colour palette. Again, this creates a unity to your content that is very appealing in today’s world.

  • Correct use of colours helps to create an association between the colour and your site’s content and/or products. This is a classic rule of advertising and can be taken advantage of with the trends of monochromatic themes in web design. Think Facebook’s heavy use of blue, Forbes’ gray theme, the BBC’s red banners, or the video game website Kotaku’s use of pink and yellow over a white background.

Large Images and Photojournalistic Approaches

Large images are another popular and welcomed trend in 2014. The best way to think of this is perhaps by creating a very similar feeling to a large magazine spread with excellent photojournalism - but taking advantage of the flat seamless design that can be achieved on a computer or tablet screen.

A wonderful example can be found over at ESPN’s Grantland feature on the Iditarod race trail. Again, the first image seen is a beautiful vista that nearly fills the whole screen and scrolls on to the content below; this is perfect for tablets, looks great on large, crisp high-definition displays and feels like the layout for a magazine enhanced in a digital environment. This example also ties into a lot of what’s mentioned above: endless scrolling, flat design, uniform colour schemes, and even some very slight and tasteful use of parallax scrolling. The videos mixed in are also a nice and very popular trend we’re seeing across the Internet.

Filling the screen with gorgeous images not only takes advantage of high-definition screens but also looks wonderful and helps to create a strong ambiance on a page that ties into your content.

Fonts and Typography

One last thing in terms of the visual imagery of top web sites in 2014 is the use of different fonts and typography. We’ve shifted away from a central focus on ‘web-safe fonts’ and have begun to embrace the advantages that playing with different lettering styles can offer; this is largely to do with an increase in compatibility. This is something that’s still very much coming into its own form and will continue to evolve throughout the year; essentially, it’s a great opportunity to get visually creative with text.

The old restraints on fonts and typographies have been broken. Playing with different lettering can and should be encouraged. Finding ways to make text work in unison with the rest of the content and visual aesthetics of a site makes a site stand out.

Content in 2014

Content is also undergoing some massive shifts. One of the top web design trends currently is a move toward rich storytelling in an almost creative non-fiction style. This of course will always depend on the content focused on, but the more you can focus on narrative, the better; it’s a beautiful opportunity to invest in some creative talent that can help to create stimulating and engaging content.

Again, the ESPN example above really highlights this. What could’ve been a straightforward fact-reporting news story was turned into an entertaining narrative about sled dog racing.

Another excellent example of this that’s worth taking a look at is the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning feature, Snow Fall. Again, something that could’ve been ‘just the facts’ was used to create an engaging piece of creative non-fiction that also utilizes some great scrolling, large images and video throughout the piece. The same passion for creating engaging content can be used for something as simple as a description of a consumer electronic product, as is the case with Polygon’s review of the PlayStation 4 video game system.

Content that tells a story and does so with good narrative structure is emerging as one of the top trends in 2014. Investing in creative non-fiction style content makes the experience of reading the content worthwhile.

Even simple subjects like product overviews are being done with creative flair. This approach flourishes alongside scrolling, parallax design, large images and video content.

Portraits

Following with making web pages that have some more creative substance, 2014 is also about the use of portrait pictures that identify with the focus of the site. Taking a look at Andrea Mann’s or Steve Vai’s website, the focus on a large portrait on the home page really gives a sense of what the content is about and both personalizes and humanizes the page. The same basic idea works even if the website isn’t about a particular person. Wizards of the Coast has a great example of featuring large portrait-style images on their site that give a good sense of the types of products, services, or content they offer.

  • Top websites are focusing on showing what they’re about through the use of large portraits that help to grab the attention of the user.

  • Portrait methods can be used to stylize content that might not even involve actual people.

Less Text

The trend towards rich, creative style storytelling experiences on webpages by no means suggests that you need to fill pages with as much text as possible. In fact, there has been a general direction toward less text on web pages in 2014. If a site can always be described with less text, making more use of images and video, as is the case with a site like Phonebloks or even Apple, it should.

Top web trends show that if there’s no need for the text, a site can be received very well through the use of simple, to-the-point text that utilizes images and video to help carry the content.

We’re seeing a lot of freedom spread throughout the Internet in terms of design. The trending nature of flat user interfaces, an emphasis on scrolling, photojournalistic techniques and storytelling styled narratives are proving to be the best designs and are really shaping websites into something more intuitive, human and artistic. These trends are in many ways extensions from user tendencies in terms of web browsing, a sort of bottom up influence and can really help a site fit what’s already expected from the user end.

For more information on top web design techniques, call Activate Design at (03) 409 203, or find out more about us by checking out http://www.activatedesign.co.nz/

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Posted in Website Design

Strategies In iOS and Android Development

iOs and Android developmentDeveloping an app inevitably starts with decisions needing to be made between both Android and iOS operating systems; this involves weighing their inherent pros and cons in terms of development, distribution and intended use. Whenever looking at the options for developing apps, the best course of action is one that’s taken in steps that factor in a variety of decisions ranging from what operating systems are popular amongst your user audience, what development tools are available to you and what your long-term goals are.

Is it more beneficial to focus on a single operating system at first?

There’s no shame in choosing to focus time and money on getting an app working right the first time on one operating system; it allows for a single area of focus as opposed to trying to work out the details over two very different operating systems at once. The benefits of having an app built natively on a specific SDK should never be underestimated; you want your app to run flawlessly.

If you find that, based on what your options and budget are, starting with a single operating system is the best course of action, there are three questions you’ll need to answer:

  • Which operating system is easier for you to have your app developed on?
  • Which platform is more popular with your target audience?
  • What are your plans, if any, for offering your app on tablet computers?

Going with what’s immediately available to you in terms of development should provide a good idea as to which app will make the most sense to start with. Analysing mobile traffic on your sites and then choosing the most popular operating system can also tell you which version will be in greater demand.

If you wish to have your app exist either at the same time of launch or sometime soon after on tablet computers, then there’s a clearer answer: iOS is a much more attractive and serious option as the iPad has not only become the go-to device for tablet computers, but developing apps for both it and the iPhone is virtually the same thing. But this isn’t necessarily true for Android.

A major benefit from choosing one operating system first is that it gives you the opportunity to view not only the app with a fresh perspective when developing a build for the alternate operating system, but you can make sure that the app runs natively in its respective environment; this is true for both form and function.

Making sure an app looks and performs like it was made for the operating system should be a priority regardless of your development plans. Users don’t want to feel like they’re using a port that was made with something else in mind. The key facts to focus on are:

  • Which operating system is most popular with the users who’ll be interested in your app.
  • Quality over quantity: Make sure apps run well in their respective environments by focusing development on each system individually. Users will appreciate this in the long run.
  • If tablets play a heavy role in what your app will do, iOS is more than likely going to be most logical place to start.
  • Starting with one operating system can sharpen your focus and allow the same potential for future versions of the app.

Developing Cross Platform Apps

If there exists an appropriate reason to spend development time on both systems equally, there exist a few options to make this easier. Using code like JavaScript or HTML5 allows for an app that runs separate from the native language of an operating system. The catch is that such apps are often subject to being a step behind the updates and changes the operating system they’re running on will inevitably go through over time.

Popular development tools like PhoneGap work by taking advantage of the flexibility of running an app in HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. While you can skip the process of needing to tend to the specific needs of an operating system’s SDK with this, you still miss out on the benefits of ensuring that an app is fully adapted and designed to utilise the intricacies of a native build.

Tools like Xamarin take a very different approach to cross-platform development. Instead of creating an app that works above the native build of an operating system via a different language, Xamarin’s tools divide your work equally between both Android and iOS SDKs, creating apps that work fully with native code. This is a plus; but to really take advantage of these tools it’s a good to have a working knowledge of both operating systems to get a sense for what’s going on ‘under the hood’ with Xamarin.

Thoughtful and Purposeful Development Decisions

The key to achieving success on both Android and iOS lies in thoughtful planning and decision making based on the preferences of your users, what development options are available to you and what your long term goals are. Thinking from the perspective of how the user will want to see your app and how that harmonises with your development capabilities is a valuable strategy.

For more information about app development, design and deployment visit our webpage here or call us at (03) 409 2031.

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Posted in Branding

Choosing the Right Business Card Size and Design for Your Company

The design of a business card says a lot about a company - and the cardholder. Cheap materials and a careless artwork won’t do much for your image, but with the right design elements, your business card can do a lot more than provide your contact information; it can subtly yet intentionally convey the principal qualities of your business, whether it is reliability, quality workmanship or another underlying trait.

business cardsFortunately, the process of designing a business card can be both fun and informative. It’s a time to reflect on the values of your business and the qualities that will drive its success. With the right design, your business card will serve as a lasting reminder of your professionalism and attention to detail.

You shouldn’t rush through developing your business cards. Some steps, such as choosing the right business card dimensions, might be a bit more involved than you think. This article will introduce some key design tips that can take your business cards to the next level.

1. Choose the Right Standard Business Card Size

It may sound redundant to choose the “right standard” size, but the “standard” size of business cards varies from region to region. And imagine if you were handed a business card that was way larger or smaller than you expected. Wouldn’t that seem a bit faux pas?

In most countries, the standard card size is 3.5 inches by 2 inches. There are, of course, plenty of nonstandard designs that aim to attract attention, but these dimensions are always a safe bet.

To compare the standard sizes of different countries, check out this article on DesignersToolbox.com.

2. Use the Right File Type

 Some business owners aren’t as tech-savvy as others, so they may not understand the difference between a vectored and an un-vectored image, but customers will notice the difference as soon as they see your business card.

Saving your card as a JPEG, for example, can cause fuzziness on the edges of images and text. The same is true for PNGs. The text, therefore, should be outlined or embedded. Also, remember to remove colour scheme blogs and guidelines from the card. Forgetting to do so will look careless to customers.

The best designs are PDF-based vectors, which leave crisper lines and a more sleek appearance overall.

3. Choose the Right Colour Scheme 

It’s recommended that designs feature complementary colours. Of course, a simple black and white can be powerful, but complementary colours can add some life to your cards without compromising artistic quality.

 These colours are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. Some examples include green and red or orange and blue. Be sure to avoid a disorganised mesh of bold and bright colours, and focus on keeping your colour scheme consistent—not only on your business cards but also on your logo, website and social media accounts.

To learn more about choosing business card colours, visit Hongkiat.com.

4. Use the Back for Un-Critical Information, or Keep It Blank

What info do you really need customers to remember? Your company’s name, phone number and email address are often vital. But as for that other info, like your list of services, consider printing it on the back or eliminating it entirely.

A simple, clean layout almost always trumps a complex design. Keeping it simple can help you get the most out of business cards. For more tips on designing your business card layout, check out this article on Entrepreneur.com.

No two businesses are exactly alike. Even those within the same industry may have different values or advantages. That said, your business card should be unique to your company; it should convey your values and professionalism in a clean, organised design.

Contact the team at Activate Design to start designing your business cards now!

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Posted in Branding

Websites: Making An Educated Decision

A recent online article inspired me to share our website services, in the form of our unique content management system, designed and developed with client-use in mind, right here at Activate Design.

The recent article I write of featured internet consultant, Johny O’Donnell, who is looking at the gap between companies offering website and online marketing services and the customers who understand them. His views are all about protecting small businesses by educating them on their options, and on how to navigate the world of online marketing. Johny is currently running seminars educating people on online marketing in Nelson.

Yes, we do see a gap in information, for those within and outside of the industry of technology, and that is why at Activate Design we take the time to walk you through your options, ensuring that you are website savvy and aware of the best website design choices and website development options available to most benefit your unique business.

We understand that you need all the information so you can make the most educated decision concerning the valuable online presence of your business, and we're here to offer just that.

Johny mentions business 'sob stories' about businesses who have got caught in technology situations they were not expecting. We have ourselves come to the aid of many businesses large and small, who have been overcharged with website hosting, had their websites hacked in open-source cms systems (content management systems), have lost their websites due to closed technology businesses and more. If you want to know if you are being fairly charged or if you have a concern regarding your website, then please take the time to contact us through our online form, or phone us on 0800 30 8996. We'll be happy to assist.

Website_lessons2A common problem for small businesses is the lack of control they have over their websites. They have a site, it's professional, it's informative, but it costs them money every time they need to change something, even something as simple as an updated address.

At Activate Design we have transferred many existing websites into our unique content management system, giving our clients control over their own content and images without requiring the intervention and costs they have previously accepted as part of the process.

At Activate Design we hold to the priorities of ensuring that our website customers understand what they are paying for, and just as importantly – have control over their websites with our custom cms system options.

We have put a great deal of time into the design and development of unique content management systems, creating and evolving something unique that is more importantly client-friendly. We also provide ongoing technical and support to our clients to ensure they have assistance as needed.

At Activate Design we also make a point of providing information on all aspects online media, including the process of website design and development. I have included links to information below, including a selection of blogs featuring topics such as making the most of online media and how to create subscriber lists and newsletters for your company.

Checkout the links below for more website related information:

 

It's important when looking at having an online presence created for your company, that the team you use are knowledgable and flexible, that they can create a website for you that will be competitive in your industry, and that it will works they way you want it too. We suggest that you view website portfolios for previous work, and also have a look around the internet and see what you like. Take a look at what stands out for you so you can have an informed option on how you want to present your company.

Website_lessons_layoutWe have a whole range of functionality that can be added to your website either initially during development, or later on to complement your growing business. Options for additional functionality could include a product or events database, a Blog, a booking form or link to a booking system that you use, a payment gateway to turn your cms website into an eCommerce website.

Whatever functionality that you want for your website our in-house designers and programmers can create for you. No matter what information you would like to know about our friendly team can advise on, and we'd love the opportunity to navigate and educate you through this process. Join our growing number of satisfied clients with professional and functional website that will work 24/7 for you, advertising your business.

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Posted in Branding

No future for business on Facebook?

FACEBOOK IS ALL ABOUT CONNECTIVITY AND ALWAYS WILL BE. But will businesses continue to have a part in that connection? Or will they be sidelined to pull the focus back to more personal posts on friends and family as looks to be the case.

According to a recent article by Sam Biddle, Facebook is ending the free marketing ride for businesses. This looks to be happening gradually, by reducing the 'organic page reach' for business posts to only a small percentage of their followers, while offering only paid advertising to ensure your followers will actually get to see your updates.

There are split views over this, because of course most of us do not want to be sifting through advertising to view the personal posts that matter to us, yet for those small organisations, such as artists and craftspeople, the investment of their time and their reliance on Facebook posts to generate interest in their business, is what helps them get by.

Three Darts in a BullseyeFor a lot of businesses Facebook has become the number one place for marketing, and the complete reliance on a free media that is so changeable - in both it's conditions and in how it operates - is a mistake.

Remember to direct people to the most important target - your website.

Facebook, like a variety of other Social Media sites, has been until recently a free source of marketing and a great opportunity for businesses of all types to promote themselves. Now, we need to increase our marketing awareness and see Facebook for exactly what it is. An opportunity, and most of all - A Portal.

 

Making Facebook and Social Media your Business Portal

By all means keep using Facebook for your business, keep adding things and keep updating your news, but in doing so you should be pulling people back to your main business marketing investment - your website.

My best advice would be to treat Facebook like a teaser. Say you've done something really cool - your business may have started a new product line or completed an outstanding project - put a couple of pictures on Facebook, and enough information to tease people into following a link back to your website for the full story.

It's your website that you want to lead people to, because it's through your website that you can:

  • Provide more information on your current news and projects
  • Offer your contact details, including a form to make it easier to contact you
  • Provide a map right to your door
  • Offer a wider range of products and services
  • Increase your range of products and services - if you have a good content management system that you can edit easily and independently
  • Provide information that showcases your business as experienced and legitimate.
  • Make your website your best business one stop shop, unchanging in it's location and online accessibility for anytime day or night (and if responsive - on any online viewing platform including iPad and iPhone)
  • Reflect and enhance your brand in what should be a professionally designed site that is easy to navigate, and straightforward in the information it provides

 

Use your Facebook page to start a marketing database

By including "subscribe to our newsletter" functionality on your website, and adding this link intermittently to your Facebook posts, you can turn your Facebook followers into a list of interested people that WANT to hear from you regularly.

This will make using Facebook far more worthwhile, as you never know how much longer you will be able to post for free as a business at all, with online media that offers no guarantees. Your loyal Facebook followers will leap at the chance to hear from you in a regular newsletter, rather than remain hoping to be in the 1 - 2% that will actually be able to see your posts.

Follow this link or Contact Us for more information on our ActiveMail Email Marketing System, where we can enable visitors to "subscribe" to your newsletter list, and where you can create beautifully designed email newsletters for your contacts. ActiveMail also offers the ability to view real-time statistics for each of your newsletter campaigns so you can see what works and what does not, helping to evolve your marketing strategy to benefit your audience.

So Facebook are changing their rules, again. So they're changing their costs and their fees, again. So they're changing what you can do and how you can do it, without consulting you or perhaps without your knowledge, AGAIN.

But what does it matter to you if you're using this free social media platform to invite people back to the online home of your business, your most important business asset and the main port of contact and reference for your customers - YOUR WEBSITE!

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Posted in Branding

Knowing Your Website Options

YES WE CAN MAKE IT WORK ~ JUST LET US KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

Would you like an easy to edit website? Our websites are unique. We use a CMS (content management system) that has been developed by us, specifically to make it easier for our customers to edit their own websites. This makes keeping your website up to date easy and saves you money!

Would you like a website that is not locked into one host provider? Our WEP-2 system can be transferred to another host provider on request. We certainly recommend that you host with us, as our systems are optimised for high performance of the websites that we develop. Our NZ-based hosting service includes daily and weekly offsite backups. For WEP-2 websites there is no locked-in hosting.

Would you like website training and support for your site? Training on how to use our simple CMS system is included with each website. We provide ongoing support through our Support Ticket system, and are here 9 -5 to take your calls.

Would you like lots of optional website features? We can create the functionality that will best benefit your business. Here are some ideas for website feature functionality that can be quoted on and added on when you need it:

  • Blog Modules
  • Calendars
  • Booking System Integrations
  • Wholesale Customers Modules
  • Product Databases
  • Responsive Website Coding
  • Login File Storage Areas
  • Quote and Invoice Functionality
  • Upgrades to E-Commerce

We have unlimited options for website functionality and are always designing and developing new features to suit our client's needs.

Would you like your current website to be easily editable? For a selection of new customers that come to us, their needs are simply focused on being able to edit their existing websites themselves.

Some businesses just want:

  • The ability to edit their website without incurring extra costs.
  • The process of editing their website to be simple, without having to navigate cms systems that cater to programmers and html adepts.
  • The option to expand their website, adding new pages and functionality to evolve alongside their business expansion - without incurring exorbitant costs for a whole new website for each additional function.
  • The option of an updated and refreshed website design at a later time.
  • Automatic system upgrades as they become available, for a long-term website investment.

For the people that come to us wanting a website for their business, we simply say: "YES WE CAN MAKE IT WORK ~ JUST LET US KNOW WHAT YOU WANT"

Contact us today for a phone chat, or if you are in the Christchurch or Queenstown central areas, contact us to book a meeting and let's discuss what features and functionality would best suit your business, and how we can create exactly what you want.

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Posted in Website Design

3 Web Design Software That Will Be More Important in 2014

The days of text-only websites and spacer GIFs are long behind us. Today, websites are far more than sources of information; with graphic design, advanced coding and portable capabilities, websites are irreplaceable parts of every effective marketing strategy.

It’s rare to find a successful business today that doesn’t have a professional website. After all, every company could benefit from global exposure. But no matter what your industry, there are three elements that really define the quality of a webpage: looks, functionality and adjustability.

That may not be the latest secret in the digital world, but what many people don’t know is how new web design software are making professional sites easier than ever to create. This article will introduce a few software that will help developers save time and produce more advanced sites in 2014.

1. Xara Web Designer MX

It’s fairly common knowledge that WordPress offers a simple platform for novice designers. The content-management system (CMS) and versatile plugins make WP pages easy to develop and edit.

But WordPress, however useful it may be, still has its disadvantages. The biggest, perhaps, is its limited ability to design cutting-edge websites.

That’s where Xara Web Designer MX comes in. Like WordPress, Xara Web Designer MX offers a CMS platform but with advanced design capabilities, including:

 

  • Automatic image optimisation by resampling to 96dpi and saving as a PNG, eliminating the need of separate image-editing software
  • Advanced functionality, like pop-up images and mouse rollovers
  • Layer-based design that makes sophisticated websites easier to create
  • Thirty-three templates with customisable designs and colour schemes

As more start-ups take a swing at digital design, platforms like Xara Web Designer MX will only become more popular in 2014. Who knows? Maybe it will replace WordPress as the go-to software for novice developers.

For more information about the Xara Web Designer MX, visit ExpertReviews.co.uk.

2. CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor

The free version of CoffeeCup HTML Editor lacks a few features of the commercial software, but unless you’re a professional programmer, you probably won’t notice.

Although we don’t encourage the duplication of other sites, CoffeeCup HTML Editor makes it easy for businesses to examine and tweak the layout and content of an existing webpage. This could save loads of time in the layout-planning stage.

For more information about CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor, visit TechRadar.com.

3. Firebug

So, your website is just about ready, but it doesn’t quite work or look exactly how you’d like. Firebug can help here by taking care of vital yet sophisticated design techniques, including:

  • CSS coding
  • JavaScript debugging
  • Style adjustments
  • Cookie management
  • Load-time analysis

Web experts stand to gain just as much from using Firebug as newbies. It’s truly a powerful extension that can improve visitor experience and enhance website aesthetics and functionality.

Deciding to Go It Alone or Hire a Professional Web Designer

This is a decision that almost every modern business will face, and the right option really depends on your goals. A professional site, as you no doubt have heard, can be an incredible asset, expanding market reach, providing customers easy access to your services and, ultimately, driving more sales.

As an added bonus, professional designers can offer a mobile responsive website. You can follow this link to learn the benefits of developing a mobile website.

In either case, the right web design software can take your site to the next level. Some of these programs are free and easy to use; others cost money. For detailed reviews and cost analyses of website software, check out this article on TopTenReviews.com.

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Posted in Website Design

Christchurch Content Writing Service

At Activate Design, we offer a Content Writing Service for customers who are having a website created with us, or for whom we are producing print material such as brochures, posters and flyers.

As a content writer at Activate Design myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed recent opportunities to provide content writing services to a variety of businesses throughout New Zealand, assisting in the process of creative website development with direct and concise content for new websites, and for purposes of refreshing and expanding website content to coincide with a website recreation, update or relaunch with a fresh new website design.

Recently completed content has been produced by us for a variety of businesses undertaking website development and print marketing, including builders, painters and decorators, property management organisations, bio-security and decontamination specialists, interior designers, home loan experts, sign writers, architects,glass repairers and more.

As a writer it is a genuine pleasure and a welcome challenge to learn about such a variety businesses. During a meeting it does not take long to chat with a client about the most important aspects of their business to determine the main marketing aspects and areas of strength for showcasing on a website.

Written content for websites usually includes text for the following pages;

  • Home page - overview of business and what they offer.
  • About page - about the development of the business and the team.
  • Services page - key factors about the services offered.
  • Products page - key factors about the products offered.
  • History page - establishment and history of the business, which could include product development, personal histories of key staff, historical locations and more.
  • Gallery page - inclusive of keyworded content in association with each image
  • Contact page - to add a map, photos of premises, opening hours and all contact information.

Content Writing ServiceStudies have been done into the browsing habits of web users and it is generally understood that when a viewer lands on a website they will have made up their mind about the website suitability, in relation to their interests, in just a twentieth of the second.

What this means to a website development company is that each site must clearly display the nature of the business it represents, and offer attractive easily accessible information and written content such as clear headings and shorter sentences, to entice a viewer to read on.

Websites are not libraries. They are on the surface - quick-reference material for those on the go, while also containing more in-depth information for interested viewers.

A websites more indepth information, such as how the business was established and relevant experience of key staff, is also invaluable in providing validity for a business. For example, if a viewer is looking for an established company to manage the development and manufacture of a product, they will be looking for a website page on business history. This page should then provide the necessary information to validate the companies industry expertise. Whereas other viewers may simply be looking for an address and some quick contact information.

Personally, I often look up sites such as art stores to find their open-hours - and how frustrating it is when they're not listed! Make sure you list all possible information on your site so that your website is working for you 24/7 as a reference, a point of contact, and a proof of your validity as a professional in your industry.

I enjoy the challenge of writing content because for the most part, the workings, history, and products and services of business people that I meet are all an expedition into the unknown. I believe this introductory perspective is as great an advantage as it is a challenge, in that the content produced from learning about a business for the first time is then perhaps more clearly explained and defined than it otherwise would be if the writer were overly familiar with the company products and history.

The perspective of the writing can sometimes differ to suit what is best for a particular business. Sometimes the written perspective works best as being in the first person, for example "welcome to the Blue Shoe Company, we offer your our exquisite shoes in a variety of designs". At other times a third person perspective seems to work better with a particular website, for example "Blue Shoe Company offer products with a unique style and flair". WIth a third person style I like to include quotes from the management and staff, to ensure the site does speak direct to it's audience. Testimonials are also a great thing to include in your website content!

I believe in the discretionary nature of content writing as an esoteric service, provided for our clients with the intention of enabling them to speak directly to an online audience. Because of this belief I have not listed examples of websites for whom this service has been provided. However, if you are interested in looking at examples please contact me - Crystal at Activate Design, and I can advise on examples of completed content writing work, and discuss the provision of content writing for your business website or printed marketing material.

 

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Posted in Graphic Design