Great British Design

So we've said goodbye to 2012, a great year of celebration in Great Britain.
Following on from what was a wonderful 'feel-good' year (ok recession and weather to one side for a while!) iconic British brand - Mulberry, have created a wonderful celebration website. In their own words...
"In this year of celebrations, British luxury brand Mulberry goes beyond the bunting to champion the unsung heroes, craftsmanship traditions, and unique characteristics that make Britain great, and to celebrate in its own way the charms and eccentricities of its motherland."

From the world renowned museums and galleries to the lesser know quirky traditions, this site continues that feel-good factor into 2013 - Brilliant, well done to all involved, (which incidentally, could be you) - go take a look

http://www.brilliantbritainguide.com

Ecwid e-commerce review

Ecwid (e-Commerce Widgets)

You might not have heard about Ecwid.  If you havent and you are thinking about e-commerce, we think you should.

I decided to write this piece because i've just spent two full days trying to find anything that comes close to ecwid - reviewing 14 of the best known online e-commerce SaaS offerings from Magento, Big Commerce, Shopify, Foxy Cart, Roman Cart, Zen Cart and so on.  

I can't. - nothing even comes close to this unique little diamond!

Why is Ecwid so special?

What makes ecwid so very special is, in part the features of the product - some of which are not available anywhere else (the quality and style of the built in Image uploader product option for example).  But what sets it appart totally is that it is a widget.  You can install the store front on many different websties, on differnt pages of one website, on Facebook, on your blog, in fact anywhere you want to sell something online - you can install your shop!

Like conventional e-commerce products, SaaS hosted stores etc, Ecwid has a well designed and easy to use 'back end' which allow the store keeper to manage products, categories, customers, and transactions.  Unlike most if not all stores, Ecwid allows you to determine how the store looks and on which pages of your existing website it sits.

If you design nice sites, or if you've had a good site built - and you want to sell something from it - you really dont want to start from scratch again, and this is where Ecwid get's seriously interesting.  

Conventional wisdom would then say... well you should use Foxycart.  Foxycart is a lovely Cart/Checkout designed to integrate with your existing product database:  Ecwid is designed to fit right on your existing website, but delivers beautifully executed product 'widgets' to place on your pages.

From a search engine point of view, your shop is now as effective as the surrounding pages and you can optimse content, create micro data tags etc and benefit from Google Merchant Services.

  • Create the index and search where you want them
  • Ajax pages means no screen refreshed
  • Agile checkout
  • Drag and drop buying
  • Works really well with Squarespace, Wix, 1&1 etc.


The whole user experience is well executed and thoroughly thought through.  If you are adept at CSS, the whole site is customisable (or we can do that for you...) Call us if you'd like a quote to help you build the store you really want!

Colour Inspiration

A wonderful, inspiring source of colour palettes. Design Seeds is the creation of Jessica who has a passion for colour and thankfully, a willingness to share. A beautiful website that we challenge anyone working with colour not to find inspiring.

http://design-seeds.com/

Designing the Brief

A brief guide

In order to buy effective design, the designer needs to have a brief. There is sometimes a gap between what the designer needs and the information and guidance they get:  So we've created this 'brief guide'.  

So we sat down and came up with this 'brief guide' to help you give your designers the inforation they need to do the best job for you.

Who is your Customer?

  • Consumer 
  • Small Business
  • International Corportation
  • Government
  • Private Consumer
  • Charity / Not For Profit
  • Public Sector
  • Professional

If your ideal customer is an 'individual consumer' - who is the idea customer ?

  • Gender 
  • Age group
  • Life stage
  • Income (Low/Medium/High)
  • Avant Garde or Laggard
  • Local / Regional / National

What is your product or service?

  • Outline description
  • Differentiators
  • Unique selling points

Where does your product or service fit into the market?    

  • Commodity (ie lots of competitors and mainly price/service competition) 
  • Premium products (ie few suppliers of high value differentiated product)
  • Mature
  • Innovative 

Are there significant fixed points that are not changeable because of historical/cost reasons?

  • Colour
  • Logo 
  • Typeface
  • Language
  • Legislative restrictions on content (eg Financial services)

Have you done any marketing before?

  • Supply samples if possible

Have you had an identity designed?

  • If you can supply artwork if will help reduce time and therefore costs
  • Most designers will ask for EPS (Encapsulated Postcript) / Adobe Illustrator (AI) file types
  • JPEG and PNG or PDF are of some use but they lose quality when the size is changed for different uses.

Have you got high quality original relevant photography?

  • Images are vital and the better the photograph, the better the results of your site.
  • If you need stock imagery there are inexpensive stock libraries most designers use.

Who are your biggest competitors?  
This helps the designer to see the context of your product and will help to either make the what you buy 'fit in' or 'stand out' 

  • Locally
  • Nationally
  • Internationally

What do you like?  (please supply examples, and if possible what it is you like about them)
This helps the designer to understand what you value and guides the thought process.

  • Websites
  • Emails
  • Adverts
  • Packaging
  • Cars
  • Products

What you DON'T like? (please supply examples, and if possible what it is you don't like about them)

  • Websites
  • Emails
  • Adverts
  • Packaging
  • Cars
  • Products

Finally and MOST IMPORTANTLY

What is the objective of the work?

 

  • Sell more
  • Change perception
  • Reinforce position
  • Update image
  • Adapt to seasonal factors
  • Manage your own content
  • Open new markets
  • Launch new products to existing clients
  • Reposition existing products to new customers
  • Complete Diversification 
  • Liberate yourself from a metaphorical 'hostage situation'

Social networks are increasingly important in directing traffice to websites.... which ones do you engage with?

Search engines are highly effective at reading your content and placing your site in context, but in order to help them gauge your content and lear about your site, 'meta tags' (invisible groups of words that describe the content of your website to help the search engines) The meta tags must describe the content of your website (or you will be penalised) so think of the meta tags as an executive summary of your website content.

150 Words

It is helpful to supply 150 words (The number is important) that summarise your website.  This information can be used by your designer to create invisible but vital 'tags' or lables that help the search engines do their thing!

This information is normally elicited by account managers or designers during the initial interview but it all adds up to create a holistic view of the design requirements and helps to make the work done fit the requirement right from the outset:  This means best value for the client and minimum wasted time for everyone.

Flattr Example

 

We think Flattr and Squarepsace is a GREAT combination.  You create wonderful content and if others agree and enjoy your work, they can reward you in lots of very small ways.  but lots of raindrops make mighty rivers....

 

 

Flattr this

Chris took this picture in Paris (obviously!) this Summer. Let's say this inspires you and brightens up your day... well share the love and click the button.  The link might be very specific or it might be more general -a Whole blog or individual items.  

We hope it flies.

It deserves to.

 

Feel the love! - (Get PAID!)

Sometimes you come across 'stuff' on the web that solves a problem. Sometimes you can download free stuff, stuff that someone has created but is willing to share for free. Sometimes you come across a blog that has just the information you need, again for free. Ever wanted to show your appreciation for this 'stuff'?

Well now you can with Flattr - http://flattr.com/ 

In brief (taken from flattr.com) - when you're registered to flattr, you pay a small monthly fee. You set the amount yourself. At the end of the month, that fee is divided between all the things you flattered. You're always logged in to the account. That means that giving someone some flattr-love is just a button away. And you should! Clicking one more button doesn't add to your fee, it just divides the fee between more people! Flattr tries to encourage people to share. Not only pieces of content, but also some money to support the people who created them.

Let's spread the love!

Here's a Q&A between Flattr founder Peter Sunde & Wired Magazine

We think that the combination of Flattr and Squarespace is a match made in HEAVEN.  - The game has changed.  Now you can be rewarded for making the world a nicer place - You dont have to set up e-commerce and try to market your wares, your ideas etc... just put a button next to your lovely pictures, and get money for ideas and creativity. 

Flattr is a hugely democratic advance in creative remuneration and we think it has the potential to really open up the creative world.... maybe.

If you like the thought of using Squarespace and love the idea of getting paid for your insight... then we can help you embed Flattr and start the ball rolling for you.

 

 

 

Pinterest

You've GOT to have a look at Pinterest.

 

It's a 3D Scrapbook, it's full of ideas and memes - It looks lovely and it's a great way of storyboarding and mapping.  A great place to create a body of research and to create mood and style boards for clients and friends.  Collaborate - We are just starting to get a feel for it.

It's a great time to be alive!!

 

Pearltrees

Really interesting social bookmarking - Makes research both fun and powerful.... could this be a way of integrating social media with sharing your browsing experience.

we've used it for market research when working as a team - very useful!!

Sadly a Flash only product which has me back tracking a bit.... 

Here's an example of how we're exploring what is possible for client promotion:

http://www.pearltrees.com/isocb/clients/id3101995

The requirement for Flash will limit our usage of Pearltrees - A great idea but ultimately the victim of the Apple adobe strife?

 

Rapanui - Great Design Organic Clothing....

We think this is a fantastic website, we really like the design.  

  • Clean 
  • Colourful
  • Clear

The message is coherent and the website echos the idea: we feel it get's the message across really well.

Cleverly, Rapanui have teamed up with the Met office in the UK to create a number of lines using iconic designs of forcast symbols so familiar to those of us in the UK.  This is inspired marketing.... clever juxta position of ideas, honest commercialism and a fusion of brands underpinned by the notion of global warming - without obviously overstating the link.  Brilliant! 

Heavy blame spreading from the south!

It's great to see a combination of design, sustainability and original thinking happening in dear old Blighty!!  

 

 

Harnessing your Squarespace site for Direct Sales (part 1)

How do you use your squarespace site?

Publish and be damned?

The SEO of Squarespace is famously effective  - organic traffic spectacularly good BUT....

Have you started to use your blog to help you sell?  I guess most small - medium businesses rely to some extent on direct selling - person to person emails or visit?

We've found using the blog to be an excellent way of speaking to a prospective client - delivering highly specific detailed messages, even personal messages in an immediate way:  For example we often get enquiries from business people who havent created a brief for their new makreting project.... so we write an intro email with a specific link to 'Writing the Creative Brief' or when we are explaining Search Engine work  we might use this explanation...

This means that we can do the blog entry once, for each topic, but use it like a brochure that we build 'on the fly' for clients. 

Specific events, links in email campaigns, even a special message for a premium contact that you want to do business with....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrike Project Management

As we get busier, keeping many projects on track at the same time and working together as a team was taking up more and more meeting time....

Different clients have different seasons that are important and planning ahead is crucial to make sure we deliver excellent results - without last minute rushes.

Wrike is an online project management tool that helps us align our work with the needs of our clients - saving us time and the client money - it helps us to manage our time and make sure nothing is ever missed....! 

Have a look at Wrike.... it might make a difference to your business too.

http://www.wrike.com/

10 Top Tips on how to build an email campaign address list

If you are a new, young or start-up business or are new to email marketing then you probably have got either no email addresses or very few, this is very common and you're not alone. It takes effort to build up your lists, but it will pay dividends. Quality addresses that are permission based are worth their weight in gold.?

1. Add a sign-up to your website - ‘Join mailing list’, ‘keep me informed’.

This will help you capture information, addresses from people who visit your site. Don’t miss your chance to start talking directly to your visitors and start building that all important relationship. mailcritter has a built-in subscribe form builder to help you to do this easily.

2. Ask your customers

If you deal with customers in person either face to face or over the telephone, then simply ask them for their email address and permission to contact them. You can do this as part of your standard customer engagement. If you have staff, train them to ask for email details. Tell customers why it’s a good idea, you will keep them up to date with new offers for example.

3. Ask people you meet at events

If you attend networking events or trade shows, again ask ! like my mother always said “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Even if they just give you their business card, you can manually add them to your list.

4. Offer incentives for sign-up

People love free stuff, offer a freebie or the chance to win a prize. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just think how much you're saving by not purchasing a database list, you could offer a white paper or be the first to get offer information. People are more likely to give you details if there is something in it for them.

5. Make sure your sign-ups are not hidden away

Your sign-ups should be very prominent on your site just like a special offer would be, or any other call to action. Add them to every page or in a sidebar so that they are always seen.

6. Link sign-ups to other content.

“Like this article? then make sure you don’t miss others – make sure you sign-up”. If you publish articles or special offers or blogs, add a link to your sign up after each one. If a visitor reads something they like you're in a better immediate position to get their details.

7. Never miss an opportunity

Include a ‘join our mailing list’ in your signature / sign off on the bottom of all your emails. If you blog or comment on sites that are not your own, add it to your sign off. Even put a url address to it on your business cards.

8. Don’t ask for too much

The more detail you ask for the more reluctant people will be to freely sign up. So make sure the information you are asking for is relevant, only ask for the information you really need and is pertinent to your service or offering.

9. Be viral, ask people to pass it on

When you do send out your email campaigns, be it offers or newsletters, make sure you add the forward to a friend snippet. If people like what you're offering they will be happy to pass it on. Remember if everyone forwards it to only one other person your email has already doubled it’s circulation.

10. Have specific 'sign ups'

Different people like different things, if you have lots of content you would like to use for your email campaigns, then split up the sign up. You can have one for special offers, one for newsletter and so on… by doing this you can capture more data and segment it.

Aether Apparel - Great Design

Every once in a while you come across a company, driven by visionaries.   A company where not just one, but all of the products are defined and designed according to a clear set of principles and with the target market in mind.
Innocent Smoothies, Bang & Olufsen, Squarespace, Apple.... add to the list.  Aether Apparel,
in our view, is one of the most exciting premium brands to be developed in recent history!
The need is for a technical clothing brand, aimed at folk who want to look stylish, yet benefit from extraordinary technical performance.
  

Filemaker Go

We're not ones to brag about the work we do:  We noramlly just get on with it.... but for once we think it's time to shout about Filemaker Go!!

We've just delivered 3 applications for iPad based on Filemaker Go Platform.  

Blue Chip Salesforce integrated - with iPad for meeting planning, agenda making and note taking - "a spectacular success",

A Major National Highstreet retailer now ordering spares online via iPad "We're absolutely delighted - the implemetation could not have gone more smoothly"

Filemaker and 'All My Own Work'.... Fundraisers for little ones - now with a fully functional calculator.  Fundraising doesn't get more fun than this!  

Colour - Not what it seems? Optical Illusions from R Beau Lotto

Colour is a complicated thing.  It should be quite simple, but it isnt.  Ink printed onto paper can be compared one with another, relatively easily (under standardised lighting).  

Monitors are trickier... but eventually they can be calibrated, colour 'spaces' unified and so on to attempt to get technically identical colours rendered loking like they are the same colour...... but nothing really prepares you for just how different they can look once you've got everything technically perfect!

The juxta position of colour and..... the brain!!

R Beau Lotto is a lecturer in Neuro Science at University College London (UCL). All images supplied by R Beau Lotto  on this webpage, there is the best demonstration we've ever seen of why we are right and the customer is wrong hehehe.

http://www.lottolab.org/articles/illusionsoflight.asp

Specifically

Here: http://www.lottolab.org/illusiondemos/Demo%2014.html

Filemaker Go - time for your Tablets?

Now it's always time for your tablets ...

Filemaker, the wonderfully flexible, incredibly powerful data tool is now available for the iPad.  

And guess what....

IT'S FANTASTIC!!

We're always a little bit skeptical with brand new technology but we should have know better with Filemaker.  This is a lovely combination.  iPad and Filemaker are a match made in heaven.  It's hard to think of a more symbiotic relationship than the power and flexability of filemaker mated to the convenience, portability and usability of iPad.  

What the iPhone did for email.... this combination looks set to do for Data.  It makes company data available anywhere.... If your filemaker database is on a web server, then you can access data from literally anywhere with an internet connection.  

Update the CRM in Starbucks, Process the last order in Cafe Nero..... hell, you could even give Costa a chance - and update the inventory on your web shop.

  • Fast
  • Pretty
  • Easy
  • Powerful
  • mmmm

Filemaker on the iPad - Is it time for your Tablets?

Connect to databases hosted on FileMaker Server or FileMaker Pro via a local wireless network or over the Internet using Wi-Fi or 3G. All changes are instantly updated in the hosted file. This makes it easy to share information with a team. *

For a free consultation Call 01332 875700 and ask for Chris, or click here

*Contact Isoblue for fully joined up filemaker solutions and learn more about their Filemaker Server Pro Advanced installation

A bit about HTML5

HTML5 is the next major revision of HTML, like previous versions, HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.1 it is a standard for structuring content while CSS is used to format, style content.

HTML5 is a natural progression for HTML and will further demarcate what is structure and what is style, so some declarations will be dropped as CSS should be used instead of HTML. HTML5 has the aim of, or will be a move towards a more application and media orientated standardisation.

Currently many web applications rely on third party plug-ins to facilitate functionality, such as Adobe’s Flash or Microsofts’s Silverlight. While these have enabled functionality for web sites, developers and end users, they are not standards and as such developers have had to ‘go with’ or hope! that end users will happily download and install the required 3rd party plug-in which ultimately makes a web site / application work for them.

The need for an application and media standard further comes into play with the vast array of diverse devices that are now available on the market for accessing the internet. Some devices, such as the iphone, ipod and ipad range don’t have a plug-in for flash, and the Adobe / Apple fallout has been widely publicised. This only goes to highlight that there is a need for non-proprietary standard.

Some of the new standard incorporates new features such as, but by no means limited to: cross-document messaging, WYSIWYG editable elements, video elements, audio elements, drag and drop, offline web applications and new form features.

The World Wide Web Consortium adopted the HTML5 standard specification back  in 2007 and currently it is still in working draft. Estimates by various people for the timing of the specification reaching the point of W3C recommendation range from 2012 – 2022. However many browsers do already support some of the HTML5 stable elements.

Useful links for further reading.

A very informative HTML5 map, with current browser compatibility - http://www.swiss-miss.com/2010/06/what-is-html5.html

Wiki definition - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML5

W3C working draft - http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/