6 Startup Tips to Make your Business Successful

As a sole proprietor or sole trader, you alone are responsible for your staff, supplies, contracts, debts and decisions. If independence is a goal for you, then the sole trader is the perfect business model to start. Becoming a sole trader is the simplest way to startup a business, and here are some steps to lead you forward toward business setup and effective marketing techniques.

Name the business

Find an effective name for your business that resonates with you, and with your business personality. You can drive the business using your own name (for example, “Frank's Flowers”), or you can choose another name. Using your own name gives credibility to the business, but if you intend to sell the business in future then something completely unique may be a better fit. As a sole proprietor you do not need to register your business name, but you do need to ensure that it is not the same as a registered trademark or existing company’s name.

Keeping the name simple, short, and easy to spell will make it easier for people to find you. For example, "Franks Fabulous Flowers Fendalton" is a catchy name, but won't work well as a website address or email address. As an example you couldn't expect customers to email (frank@franksfabulousflowersfendalton.co.nz). It would be better to stay simple (email: info@franksflowers.co.nz). Often we recommend registering two domains names as they work much like signposts, simply pointing to your website location. A domain should only be about $30+gst to register per year, so it's worth having a second domain if it makes it easier for people to find you and spell your name. For example (www.franksflowers.co.nz) and (www.franks.co.nz), where you could use the much shorter email address (info@franks.co.nz).

Follow this link for more tips on Naming Your Business.

Get a business brand and logo

Having a brand and logo to represent your business is so very important. Your brand needs to be professional and easily recognisable to be at the forefront of your business. Your logo needs to be simple enough that it can be clear and readable when printed on anything from a pen to a billboard, and instantly recognisable when viewing on either a large screen or on the small screen of a mobile device. Your logo must be unique enough to not be mistaken for any other brand. Your brand should be something you are proud to stand behind so it's worth investing in the talents of an experienced graphic designer to design a stylised and professional logo that will represent your business as it launches, and for many years to come.

Click here for more information on Logos and Branding.

Register your trade mark

Unlike companies, as a sole trader you cannot stop other businesses from using your name – unless you have registered it as a trade mark to protect your brand. When you register you will need to supply a clear description of your trademark, and you can upload your logo to protect it.

Click here to view costs and instructions, and to follow the steps for Registering a Trademark.

Register your domain name

I recommend that before you register your trade mark, you should do a search to see if the domain is available. This could avoid a lot of problems later trying to find a domain name that resembles your company name, or trying to purchase the domain you want - at what will likely be an inflated price if someone has already purchased it for the purpose of onselling it for profit. Consider all the TLD's as well, such as (.co.nz) which has always been popular, and now the new (.nz) which may soon eclipse the (.co.nz) option. If you are an organisation you may want to use (.org) or (.org.nz), and if you intend to trade overseas or build up a business empire, you would do well to secure the (.com).

Follow this link to search for and Register A Domain Name. This search also allows you to search for multiple TLD’s, so you can look for the (.com) domain, the (.co.nz) domain, and the newer (.nz) domain.

Start collecting website content and images

Your business will need to have a strong online marketing presence, and there is no better marketing investment than your own website, over which you can have full control. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter will always have their place, but they will never give you full control like your website will. There are no guarantees with social media sites because rules can change, new charges may appear, and in many cases you forefit ownership of your content by uploading it. On your own website you own and control your own content.

So yes, social certainly media has it's place but it's important to funnel your social media audience and followers through to your own business website, where you can present the full spectrum of what you offer from one clear and professional platform. Once on your website your visitors will also have the option to signup to your newsletter (if you choose to send one), view your location and available hours, and contact you direct through your website contact form. Some websites may include application forms or appointment forms, as well as offering products for direct sale. Talk to us about building the right website with the functionality that would aid your business process and best serve your existing customers and wider online audience.

Even in the earliest beginnings of your business startup it will benefit you greatly in the long term to gather all the information you can. From blogging about your experience, to keeping a note of important dates, significant steps, and photos of the startup in action. Your audience will be better able to connect, resonate and relate to you if you offer more than a window-view of your business, instead present your business with personality and pride.

Tips Checklist to protect your Intellectual Property (IP)

To check if your business name is available go to OneCheck. From here you can do a name search to make sure that no other company is using the same or similar name to what you want to use. If you wish to register your name as a 'Limited' Company, it costs around $10 to apply for your name online. Click here to Reserve a Company Name and for more information.

For more simple steps to protect your business, visit the New Zealand Govermment website, or go straight to Simple Steps to Protect You Intellectual Property.

 

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Posted in Branding

4 Website Marketing Techniques for New Businesses That Convert

Starting with an idea.

All businesses start with an idea, launched with the well seasoned advice; “start with the end in mind”. So, you have a great idea for a new business, backed by a passion and drive to mould it into life, now where do you see the road taking you down this new business journey? Some business people will say they envision the business becoming something they can franchise, others say that they will be able to expand and provide jobs, and still others that they simply ARE the business, and it will exist as long as they are there to run it. Envision your own individual business coupled with an easily recognisable brand and logo design and strong online presence, and you're off to a great start.

Your new business presence will need to be maintained by a simple online marketing campaign to ensure you become recognisable and most importantly, competitive. Ensure your online presence reflects exactly the business personality that inspired you in the first place! It’s important to start out with a business plan to give shape and direction to your business idea. Your business planning process should include these steps:

  1. Decide your own goals and objectives.  This may include a strong online presence, selling online with an eCommerce website, and/or for your customers to be able to take advantage of everything you are offering, be it product or service, by using their mobile devices.

  2. Research, research and research, then note down your business plan.  Take a look at your competitors websites. See how they are best serving their customers. How easy is it for their customers to access the products/services offered? Are your competitors providing an online service? And if so, what do you or don’t you like about their website, facebook page, twitter feed or other social media presence.

  3. Review your business plan.  This should be an on-going process, ensuring your plan is relevant in your industry and in line with modern business practice. Keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing is good practice and will benefit not just you but your customers as well. Let your customers see that yours is an evolving business, changing to meet current needs and trends, and perhaps creating your own trends and keeping ahead of the competition!

  4. Maintain a focus on your business plan and continue to update it.  Things will change, and for the continued success of your business, you need to keep up with business practices, trends, and technology. For example; If your business plan currently incorporates a website, it is invaluable that you know about Googles recent policy change to give search result priority to responsive websites. If your audience are mobile users, it would be in your businesses best interests to change your business plan to better cater to this audience. There may also be room in your marketing budget for app. development or a dedicated mobile website as another outlet for your products and ideas.

The Business Plan
Business plans are a broad platform that take into account your personal goals and the status and future of your industry. We all know the saying “failing to plan is planning to fail”, so putting this into practice means to have a strong, pro-active plan for your new business that will focus your efforts and provide a measure for your results.

It’s good practice to identity your risks, know where the pot holes are, the curves in the road and the temptations (like shiny gadgets and envy-inducing signwritten vehicles). For example; if you are a florist and your competitor has an eCommerce website to provide their bouquets online, but you are starting out with a more cost effective content management website (a cms website does not offer online sales) to advertise your florist store, then target your website content and images to best present your products and welcome people to your store, until an eCommerce website and an SEO campaign is an option that would work with your ideal business model and plan.

Knowing your target market and how they will be able to connect with you is also very important. For example; If you are in the travel industry, perhaps a motel owner, you need to identity the risk of not having a responsive or mobile website. Because your target audience consist mostly of travellers, who would very likely be using a mobile device to search for accommodation, are they able to find you online? And if they do will they be able to easily view your important information and navigate your website on a mobile device? Or will they become frustrated with a website that is not mobile friendly and find an alternative accommodation provider.

Websites and Marketing for New Businesses - The Summary
So you're going to take the leap and control your own destiny, turning one brilliant idea into a platform from which to support yourself (and potentially others), offering your skills to the world. Dreaming big is good but first, pen must be put to paper to define your "vision statement" and "mission statement", before we move on to things like registering your business name and purchasing a domain.

Your vision statement will describe where you see yourself. Using our new business florist idea, here's an example; "We are the most accessible online florist in New Zealand, supporting the gift of giving through top quality floral arrangements and fast, reliable service and delivery."

Your mission statement, on the other hand, will be the outlined plan for how you get there, for example; "We are versatile and state-of-the art. Our classic villa style and store is complimented by the design and functionality of an eCommerce site, attached to our in-store stock management system to ensure real-time updates of product availability. We accept and process immediate online orders and arrange fast delivery. We are versatile and pro-active, providing floral arrangements of the highest quality and offering a new product every fortnight, and sales for special occasions."

So get started today on your new business and marketing ideas, visit some websites in your desired industry and look at the latest in design and layout, as well as the information, services and functionality that is being provided. Make your own distinctions on what you favour, in terms of too much or too little information provided, whether the website complements the style of the product or service being advertised, and if an online presence can clearly tell you what that company's vision and missions are.

Visit our Portfolio today to view some recent website design examples and for a little more inspiration into what's possible with professional and affordable website and branding design.

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Posted in Branding

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

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

How To Build a Great Web Design Team

Solving jigsaw puzzleBuilding The A Team: The Top Attributes of a Great Web Team

The other day I found myself sitting with my workmates over morning tea and I thought to myself that we’re pretty lucky to have a strong team of clever and creative people that get along with each other. Some other teams might not be so lucky and so I got to thinking about what key characteristics make for a valuable in-house web design team. What makes some web design teams better than others? We all know that the best web design teams are based on a strong creative and strategic foundation. But on top of the creativity there needs to be an understanding of a greater, common goal. Good teams have a strong understanding of their client’s needs and the ability to transform good concepts into reality.

I guess for us at Activate Design, constructing our solid web design team is based on how we identify talent in an individual and whether or not they can fit in with our style. With so many new graduates eager for a job, how do you identify who is worth considering?

The number one thing I consider is what I’m looking for. But in terms of tangible requirements, I look at the following:

  1. Portfolio: For me, a web designer’s portfolio should not only look great but it should be informative. I want to know exactly the role the person played in the project. I want to see a high level of creativity but a diverse level of skill is also paramount.
  1. Blog: So many people underestimate the power of the blog to showcase their work. When a designer has a blog that is frequently updated, this shows me that they’re passionate about their craft so much so that they’re willing to spend unpaid time writing about it. A blog is also an excellent way to view a person’s communication skills.
  1. Presence: I look for someone who has done a bit of high profile work, who has perhaps published articles, or has even written books. These are all good signs of a talented and dedicated professional, but they’re not the most important aspect. This kind of work shows me that this person is driven and ambitious which are traits that I admire.

After someone has passed these first tests, I need to figure out whether they’re going to be a good fit in our already established team.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to determine whether or not someone is going to fit in your team on the first or second meeting. Often, you can only get a full read on these things until you actually work together, but there are some things to consider in your first few conversations.

  1. Professionalism. This is simply mindboggling. Some people have shown up late for meetings or have failed to turn up at all. Calls go missed and unreturned or cell phones go off during the interview. You’d be surprised how far a little bit of professionalism can take you when you’re looking for a job.
  1. Eager to Learn. I take notes of the questions the web designer asks me during an interview. If they don’t have any questions at all, this raises a red flag for me. When someone asks me how we do things it shows me that they want to understand and collaborate. It shows me that they want to learn, too. I like someone with confidence but when you come in pretending to know everything about web design, it just makes me cringe.
  1. Logistics. I tend to ask future collaborators about their working hours and availability. I’m very open to working with people from all over the world, but I’m aware of time zone restrictions. We’ll look at “Fluid Teams” a little later on.

Eyes Wide Open

At Activate Design, we’ve established a strong team with a clear vision and core values. Doing so establishes a high-performing in-house team with a focus. It also gives any internal and external team contributors good insight into how we manage our team. Developing this particular characteristic takes much more work than just writing down a statement and some bullet points. This kind of dedication takes focused planning and collaboration from all members of the team so don’t expect to have a clear vision for your team overnight.

We believe there should be a team leader that sets the vision and core values and helps to implement them in the work space. This leader must also train and mentor team members whose poor performance could possibly affect the overall health of the entire team. The best place to start is by developing a keen understanding of your agency’s purpose and strategic business goals. The vision and values you develop should be something that everyone on your team contributes to so that each individual feels like they are a part of the decision, instead of just following along.

Talent Quest

In order to create the best team you’ve got to hire talented contributors with defined roles and accountabilities. We know that finding people who are creative, versatile, passionate and strategic is like looking for the Holy Grail sometimes. We find that the best people possess an entrepreneurial spirit where they own their role and they hold themselves accountable for the work they produce. Acquiring top talent can be tough and even the best firms make mistakes hiring people who look great on paper but are terrible in a team environment. All I can advise you to do is careful research on your candidates and be honest about the level of work you expect and the level of quality you expect the person to maintain, before you hire them.

It’s not Lip Service but…

It is vital that you communicate each member’s value. Create an environment where each member of your team feels like they’re included and that their opinions matter to the business. Not only will this breed shared trust, passion and loyalty, but you’re more likely to hold onto valuable team members by showing them some appreciation. Implementing performance appraisals is a great way to offer constructive feedback and to receive some yourself!

Talk to Me

I’d say that no matter how much talent a web designer has, if they don’t have the ability to communicate, that talent is worth much to me. Every in-house team is going to encounter speed bumps that require individual contributors to work together in working past them. With creative people, there will be times when your team face major roadblocks, but knowing how to effectively communicate through these issues will help make your team stronger.

These bumps and blocks are simply little miscommunications and conflicts that occur within corporate environments and creative groups the world over. It’s completely natural to experience them. Some conflicts can be good! Trust me! Good conflicts are resolutions from bad conflicts that help grow a team and get them thinking in new, innovative ways.

A lot of communication within a team is either unheard or misinterpreted. These types of miscommunications arise when people don’t have clearly defined roles, so we recommend instilling a soft hierarchy within your team so people know where they stand.

Water, Water, Everywhere…

As I mentioned before, with the globalisation of business, more and more design firms are turning to Fluid Teams. Basically, fluid teams are groups of experts that reshuffle regularly. These groups assemble and disintegrate with ease, and the individuals involved can either be in the same country or dispersed across the globe. These teams are also known as ‘distributed teams’ which are teams that don’t share a physical workspace.

Whether or not you have a Fluid Team or an in-house team, all of the factors I’ve described above apply to both. We believe that the best thing you can do to create the best team for your business is to assign the right people to the right role. This is what’s known as the “One Thing Concept”. You want to be able to get to your team members’ core competencies. Most designers see themselves as good at a variety of jobs; it’s true, to be a good designer you must be a bit of a Jack of All Trades. But you need to find the one thing that they excel at. The one task that they kick ass at. Once you determine the magic power of every single member of your team you’ll have a greater idea of what you can accomplish.

Do As I Say and As I Do

I think the ultimate way to design the best web design team you’re after is to lead by example. If your team members or employees see you working hard and putting all of your effort into your projects, they’re going to the same. When people are surrounded by others who are dedicated and passionate they tend to subscribe to the same mentality. So give it your all and your team will too!

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Posted in Branding

Advantages of upgrading your website regularly

While a steady stream of updates, new images, projects and events added to your website will certainly result in both improved search engine results and repeat visitors, many people are unsure when it comes to the question "how often should I update my website?" and "how often should I launch a complete new website?"

At Activate Design we would advise seeking the advice of an experienced design agency to review the design and layout of your website at least every two years.

Depending on the cms (content management system) that your website has been built into, you may not need to have a complete new website built. In a modern cms system the design of the site can be completely refreshed while keeping the same pages and content intact, although at this time you would be wise to re-write your content

THE FUTURE OF WEBSITE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT

We would like to say that with a modern cms (content management system) we would be able to update the design of your existing website each year or two, while keeping the core of your website intact. However, at the end of the day everything has a lifespan. It may be that we can continue upgrading our cms for quite some time, perhaps for many years to come, but we need to be flexible and aware enough to know that there may be significant change in industry technology that we would need to launch a new cms or undertake another

The comparison website below is a great example of how a website that was previously still able to offer customers clear information on the business, was upgraded to a much more professional design and layout, creating a much more modern website. The new site reflects positively back onto the company, that they are up to date with trends, and they care about maintaining a positive and professional presence, both online and in their

Seek the advice of an experienced design agency to make sure that your website is up to date with modern trends of both appearance and usability.

upright_before_home

Posted in Branding, Graphic Design, Website Design

Websites That Exceed Expectations

To exceed the expectations of your audience, you must first provide what they expect.

Every person who browses online, journeying from website to website, expects to see certain things common to every site. These expectations are so ingrained in us now that when they are present we don't even think about them. However, when they are not there, it can be both surprising and frustrating.

When we visit a website we don't want to think. For example, we expect to be able to see the website navigation in certain areas - along the top or down the left-hand side. If a website designer has tried to be innovative by only putting the navigation along the bottom, the pause that visitors to the site must take to think about finding the navigation bar can and will cause some frustration. And there are so many of these little expectations that website designers and developers must keep in mind to meet, before we begin to exceed the expectations of an online audience. Confused? Don't worry, as experienced website designers and developers - we've got it covered.

As follows is an example where we have worked with a client to find out the needs of their target audience. We were then able to effectively tailor the website content, layout and functionality to cater to and exceed the expectations of their customers.

wigram-brewing400As follows are some of the reasons why this website - which is not one of our newest - continues to work so well because of what it offers to meet and exceed customer expectations:
THE HOME PAGE provides instant legitimacy for the business. It does this with dates the company was established and a clear, concise description of what they do. It works because it’s short. One or two paragraphs is all most people will read on a website to judge if this is where they want to be.
IMAGES of good quality and representative of your business, brand, and products. Images such as those on the Wigram Brewing website that show your products, awards, the people who work in the business and the business process in action, as well as recongnisable logos and branding, all give a visual impression that is delivered more effectively than written content.
NEWS of the latest company events, updates and information. Want to know what a business is up to? When their next event is or what the latest product will be released? On the Wigram Brewing website it's right there on the home page under "Latest News". As with all of the websites we create in our in-house developed content management system, this website is simple and straightforward for our client to edit, enabling them to easily keep this news section up to date with text and images at their own convenience.   wigram_beers200
PRODUCT selection, quality and range availability. The Wigram Website home page has small images of all the products. These images can also be click on to take a visitor through to more information. This small feature specifically targets those who know what they’re looking for, enabling them to recongnise the label they're after and find it immediately without having to read through the site. The result is instant access to information with as few a clicks as possible.
NAVIGATION that is simple, straightforward and predictable.
 Do the customers want information about specific products? Do they want to purchase online? Will they view the awards section to help them with their product selection? Do they want to find stockists in their area? Will they want historical company information or customer testimonials or to contact this company direct? Whatever the customers may want, Wigram Brewing has anticipated the expectations of their target market and provided for their needs in a way that is clear and professional to exceed expectations. Another good point to remember with websites is "the less clicks the better". Meaning that the less clicks your viewers have to make to find what they want, the easier it is for them and the happier with your brand they will be.   Wigram_news_signup
NEWSLETTER signup form. Visitors to a website may or may not find what they want from a website, however this website still offers them something for nothing through a Newsletter Signup Form. By collecting this information Wigram Brewing Co. can provide more of the information their customers want, and they themselves have a chance to reach out to existing and potential customers with news, new products, events, information and more. It's also important to note that the newsletter signup is very simple, asking only for name and email address. This is not as off-putting as would be a request for more personal details. Also, there’s also no push to subscribe, no message of “you must signup now!”, which can also be off-putting. Wigram Brewing are simply saying – do you want this? If so, here it is.   Providing features that meet your customers expectations in a way that is professional, stylish and modern, while enhancing your brand, is the best impression that you can make as a business.

At Activate Design we take the time in the planning, design and development of your website to show your customers that you care enough to make your website appealing, professional and simple to use, putting them first. We can also work with you to create effective, website audience-targeted content with our Content Writing Service.

A website in our content management system is easy to use, and our customers have the ability to add an unlimited amount of new pages as required. This means if there is more information or imagery that you find would benefit your target audience, you are not limited to your current pages. You can create website pages to suit your growing needs and satisfy your customer base.

Give us a call today on 0800 30 8996 to discuss ideas for exceeding the expectations of your online audience, making use of our experience and expertise toward enhancing your most valuable online presence.  

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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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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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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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