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blog Archives - Graphic designer for film and television
Hey there! Need me for your project eh? Well, I'm only a phone call away or you could get really fancy and send me an 'electronic letter'...
Christian Senior - Graphic Designer
TelephoneCall me on +44(0)1437 723196
Say hello!
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Don’t Be Not So Ridiculous…

I have been doing a bit of travelling of late. All work related you understand, not me just jaunting off merrily to some far out corner of the globe to drink hybrid concoctions, brewed up by some indigenous tribesmen of…wherever.

I dont know about you, but whilst driving around the country I tend to get hungry. And where better to stop than good old McDonalds™? That’s right I’m admitting it

My name is Christian, and I like McDonalds™

What is it about the golden arches that people don’t like to admit? Speak to anyone and they will always have something bad to say about the place. Ask anyone their opinion of McDonalds™ and you will likely get the same negative response…

  • The food has no nutritional value
  • It doesn’t fill you up
  • Its fattening
  • It has a stupid song associated with it

But everyone still goes there…and yes, that includes you.

It was while tucking into my served-in-a-box, processed sandwich that I got thinking about an interesting post by  Jon Bell where he talks about his unique way of inspiring his co-workers. Jon’s theory is this – if he and his co-workers cant decide where to go for lunch, Jon suggests McDonalds™. This immediately brings other, apparently better, suggestions out of the group. Jon goes on to apply this theory to design – if no one has ideas, suggest something ridiculous to get the ball rolling. This could be a very effective technique to get the creative juices flowing in everyone.

But what happens if after suggesting the unthinkable everyone says “hey, thats a good idea?”. What if we all actually admitted we like McDonalds™? Does that bad idea then become a good idea? How many people have to agree on something before a stinker of a thought becomes the next big thing?

The internet is such an ever changing environment. Every day new technologies are released (or at least, far cleverer people than me work out new and amazing things to do with these existing technologies). How many of these wonderful things that we take for granted such as touch screens, responsive stylesheets and gesture control started as “McDonalds™ ideas”?

Where would the web be if those clever people had been in a room full of people who were scared to admit they wanted to go to McDonalds™ and instead decided to conform by suggesting a more acceptable alternative. A world full of genius’ (or genii?) bursting for a McChicken sandwich, but instead forking a pistachio salad in to their normal sized head which houses their oversized brain. Sipping pomegranate juice to wash down the fresh rocket and plum tomatoes, “ooh you can really taste the freshness of the leaves”.

Now and again, just now and again, why not admit that you like the most ridiculous idea the most. You might find you’re not on your own.

I recognise that…

You know those times when you’re just hovering around on the internet, you’re not really sure what you want to find out but with all this information at your fingertips there must be something?

This seems to be a hobby of mine. During the day while Im knee deep in designs and websites, answering phones and generally being an all round nice guy (just in case there are any potential clients reading) I think of a million and one things I want to find out.

“When I get a minute I’m going to read up on the revival of Palladian style architecture in the early 18th Century”

But by the time the clock rolls around and my fingers hover over the keyboard waiting for instructions from my brain, which by now resembles a kind of cabbage soup, theres nothing. Not a thought. Of all the millions of films, songs and answers to lifes questions there are floating around on the internet, there is nowhere in the whole world I can think of to be at that time.

Of course as soon as I climb in bed the damn grey blob in my head switches back on and it begins again.

Well, today I was meandering, taking a virtual stroll if you will, not travelling anyway in particular. When, as I trawled my way through endless pictures of cats, amusing anecdotes of uncles and Aunties (which usually end with a line that reads something like “its not the butchers fault, the fishmonger was was wearing the wrong hat”) I chanced upon an article about WordPress sites.

As I am a WordPress developer myself I took interest in this article entitled “20 Great Examples of WordPress Sites“. I opened the article and read with interest as it did exactly as the title promised and showed some great examples of websites built using WordPress. The fantastic thing about this article is that among all these great sites by some amazing designers that I admire, featured the Obi Media website. And guess what? I designed and built that one.

So thank you Creative Bloq, you made todays virtual stroll a worthwhile and enjoyable one.

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The making of Make You Smile

Well making ‘Make You Smile’ really made us smile (cue applause… bow and leave stage). But seriously, apart from the rain the whole thing went pretty well.

Patrick and I have a few more projects up our sleeve so fill your Twitter timeline with my jibber jabber and I’ll keep you posted. Follow me @senoir

In the meantime, have a look at how much fun we had making the video…

The Making of Make You Smile from Christian Senior on Vimeo.

The Ethan Ash Video is Out

Well its been a while since we made the video for  it now but the eagerly awaited EP, ‘Playing by Numbers’ by Ethan Ash is set to be released on the 1st of October. Its also been produced by a friend of mine, the very talented Lorenzo De Feo who you may have seen standing beside Matt Cardle with a guitar shaped piece of wood in his hand.

If you’re not familiar with Ethan Ash you should check him out. He is an acoustic songwriter from the Cambridgeshire area and has already had some success from touring with the likes of Ed Sheeran and showing his mush on the same billing as Newton Faulkner. I dont think this little chappy is going to be a stranger to your car radio as you drive home from work so get used to him.

Anywhoo, I digress…

So whats my part in all this? Well, I co-directed and co-edited the music video for ‘Make You Smile’ with my good friend and film making partner, Patrick Hurst. Patrick is also an artist and sculptor so while youre browsing the net why not pop over to PatrickVille and cop a load of his work.

‘Make You Smile’ is just one of the tracks from the forthcoming Ethan Ash EP so if this one takes your fancy then put your hand in your pocket and purchase the lot.

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Choc Chip EU Cookie WordPress Plugin

I AM THE LAW!! OK, so contrary to Judge Dredd’s self belief, I am not the law. In fact, I know bugger all about the law, other than –

  • you shouldn’t nick stuff.
  • If you run through an old peoples home wearing nothing but a papier mache vikings helmet, there are certain figures of authority who will ‘want a word’.

The other tiny thing I know is,  a law was passed last year (though it didnt really come into effect until this year) stating that websites must warn visitors if there are cookies lurking. Known as the ‘EU Cookie Directive’, its a ridiculous law but don’t get me started because we’ll be here all day and it will inevitably end up with me upsetting someone and heading towards the nearest octogenarian’s residence in an unconvincing, home-made hat.

What’s it all about?

The EU cookie directive may not be the most welcome law but, as Voltaire said ‘in order to be free we must all be slaves to the law’. I’m not sure how true that is either, but in any case it has caused me to sit down and write this WordPress plugin to make abiding by the rules that bit easier.

What does this Choc Chip thing do?

It gives your visitors the option to opt in to any third party applications such as Google Analytics or Ad Sense and doesnt show it until. The Choc Chip Cookie Plugin then leaves a cookie of its own to remember them next time. The cookie willl expire after one year. There are a few options with this little badger to help you comply with the EU cookie directive and also pimp it up to suit your website.

Choc Chip Cookie EU Cookie Plugin Widget

This plugin comes with an opt-in widget for your sidebar. Anything added to the Choc Chip EU Cookie Plugin widget is opt in. So if you insert your Adsense code here it will only show if the visitor has accepted cookies. Cool uh?!

Options

Button Bar Text

Edit the warning text as shown on the button bar. Try something like ‘Hey you, you are browsing my website so you are having cookies’. OK maybe not qute that but something similar.

Cookie Information Page

Create a page that contains your cookie information such as what cookies are and what you use them for. Select your cookie information page from the list and this will link to the ‘More info’ button on the button bar.

Opt in header code

Third party applications such as Google Analytics leave a cookie in order to be able to track your visitors. The EU Cookie Directive wants you to warn people of this and even have them ‘opt in’ so you shouldnt track them unless they agree to it. Any text/code that you enter in the ‘opt in header code’ field will only be activated once the ‘allow’ button has been clicked. Any text/code in this field will be placed just above the </head> tag.

Comment Form Warning

WordPress leaves a cookie when a comment is left (to save the form information so it doesnt have to be filled in next time) so give your visitors a warning and let them whats going down. Try something like ‘By leaving a comment you are agreeing to have a new friend in the same shape as a cookie popped onto your hard drive’.

Appearance

Bar Position

Select the position for your button bar

Background Colour

Change the background of your button bar by entering the name of the colour or if youre a smarty pants you can enter a hex value.

Text Colour

Change the main text colour on the button bar by entering the name of the colour, now try to be sensible as ‘off white’ aint gonna cut the mustard sonny Jim.

Accept Button Text Colour

Have a guess what this does? Thats right it changes the accept button text colour. Pop your favourite colour in the box.

Accept Button Background Colour

Make that button stand out with a smashing background colour.

Accept Button Border Colour

Thats right you can even change the colour of the border of the button. Your visitors will be sad to see it disappear when they click the button.

More Info Button Text Colour

We’ve moved on to the next button so make this one just as important as the last one as it points to important information

More Info Button Background Colour

Make it shine man, make it shine

More Info Button Border Colour

Come on this is the last colour change so make it count

Now dont forget to press save after you make any changes.

Disclaimer

I am not a lawyer nor am I, nor have I ever been a policeman so my knowledge of the law is pretty limited. And to top it all off I once got into trouble for stealing sweets from my local shop, my mum was not happy and I got grounded for quite some time. But I’ve grown both mentally and physically since then. Anyway I digress, if you get into trouble for not abiding by the EU cookie law even after using this plugin, I accept no responsibility. You are welcome to use this plugin but it comes with no guarantees as to its compliance of the law. If you are in any doubt you should seek real legal advice.

Download the WordPress Plugin

If you are happy with all the above nonsense then give this little gem a try – DOWNLOAD

Download the Super Duper Choc Chip EU Cookie Plugin from the WordPress Repository

If you have something to say about this plugin then please do leave me a comment, hey who knows we could be friends. Right?!

Other than that just fill your timeline with my jibber jabber on Twitter. Follow @senoir

 

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on location : the video shoot begins

Remember when you were a child and you came up with crazy ideas? Ideas that you never told anyone about just in case they laughed in your face? Ideas that you never followed through because they weren’t realistic or the ‘norm’? Well, at some point in my life, and Im not exactly sure when but at some point I started sharing my crazy and laughable ideas. I started to tell people what I wanted to create and how I thought I could do it. And guess what?  People laughed. But as Ive never been the brightest button in the box I just carried on having weird and wonderful ideas and i carried on sharing.  Eventually someone listened. This is how I got into film making.

In two weeks time I start to film my first music video for a single being released in September 2012. The artist will be revealed all in good time but what I can say is he is set to be a house-hold name for his brand of melodic, acoustic sing-songery. The song has been produced by local musician and producer, Lorenzo De Feo. I am co-directing with artist, Patrick Hurst, we have done a couple of little film projects before and since we’re both dreamers we seem to work well together.

Today we made a start on story boarding the whole concept and we visited one of the 2 locations to take a few test shots. The whole process got pretty intense before the camera had even made an appearance so Im expecting one of us to actually have a trouser accident on the day.

Keep up to date with this project and others by filling your timeline with my jibber jabber on Twitter @senoir

The Scribble Games

I was recently lucky enough to be asked to direct a short film to promote an upcoming event for Changing Spaces in Cambridge. Of course i didnt say no.

Changing Spaces is a pioneering initiative developed by Cambridge City Council in partnership with Love Cambridge. The project started in June 2009 and has exhibited over 80 local artists and charity groups in more than 24 different locations since then. Changing Spaces is delivered by professional artists on a voluntary basis.

If you are a Cambridge artist and want to exhibit your work head over to the Changing Spaces website for more details.

This film was made in an afternoon by myself and Patrick Hurst (that’s the back of his head you can see in the film), an artist and film maker from the Cambridge area. You should have a look at his work on his website www.patrickhurst.co.uk.

And hey, what the hell, if you have some spare ‘investment’ cash lying around why not splash on some of his work. It might look good in the hallway.

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It can be done… I hope!

I was just casually browsing the internet, as you do, when I thought I should check into the Team MIA camp. I thought I should just check in on what was happening for the other teams on the upcoming Rickshaw Run. It was here I learned a frighteneing fact.

FACT: Only 96 days til launch day

And for those of you who dont understand my meaning here, 96 days is not a very long time.

96 days is barely enough time to plan a camping weekend in Bogner and we’re talking about flying to a country we know nothing about to make our way across it on an unsuitable vehicle which, again, we know nothing about.

Just to put things in perspective here are some things that CANNOT be done in 96 days…

  1. Learn a language – Now dont misunderstand this, we never had any intention of learning Punjabi in order to conversate our way across the Rajhastan desert. However, I think a little knowledge about the culture wouldnt go amiss.
  2. Organise a wedding – Woah there sonny Jim! You know those quirky weddings people have where they tie the knot whilst falling 12000 feet or swimming with dolphins? Well this aint one of them. In fact this isnt a wedding at all, and the main points that seperate this trip from a wedding is that there are no girls and weddings are supposed to be the ‘happiest day of your life’. I think I’ll be satisfied if we manage to break a smile.
  3. Get through customs – In 1988 Mehran Karimi Nasseri landed in Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. He was on his way to England but with no papers or passport he ended up stuck in the airport for 17 years. Read more about him here. If we intend to get into India in time for the start of the Rickshaw Run we should have set off about 16 years ago.

Not to be negative all the time, here are some things that CAN be done in 96 days…

  1. Start a war – OK remember when you were you back in school drawing crude man parts on text books? Well you may have noticed that person at the front of the class talking louder than everyone else. The really clever ones among you may remember the mention of some student assassinating some Austrian guy for doing some stuff he didnt like. A month later World War II broke out and the rest, as they say, is history.
  2. Fly to the moon – For those of you who may not this, the moon is a very very very long way away. I dont think you could walk it and I certainly dont think you are going to get there in your dads Renault Clio. Dont be fooled by the distance just cos it only took 3 days to get there. And likewise dont be fooled by the distance across India just because we are attempting it to get across it in 10 days, on a lawnmower.
  3. Organise a trip to India – So we need to get visas, passports, insurance, local knowledge, flights and a map. It cant take more than an hour to do each of these things so that means the whole thing can be done in 6 hours. Thats not even a day. maybe we should wait until around the 30 day mark before we take up the task. Should be a doodle.

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Team MIA got blogged!

The fame of Team MIA is gradually making its way across the information superhighway, we can only hope that we make it across India with as much vigour.

The latest offering of Team MIA news comes in the form of a blog post on a very popular blog called Little House in Town, you might want to check it out at www.littlehouseintown.co.uk

The extra bonus that you get if you take the time to visit Little House in Town is that there are a lot of other articles on there that are worth a read as well.

So head over to Little House in Town at www.littlehouseintown.co.uk and catch up on the Team exploits.

Dont worry you wont learn anything and it might even get you out of watching Corrie.

Keep on tukkin’

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Its a .NET magazine Makeover

There’s an old saying that comes to mind, something about being thrown in at the deep end and coming out smelling of roses? The exact phrase escapes me but when I joined Obi Media recently as Creative Director, one of my first projects was to pimp up the company website; reclaim a bit of that pizazz that had been lost to changing trends and technologies, and increase those elusive conversions. This was me ‘in at the deep end’.

The design of this site is now going to be featured in the amazing .NET magazine in their Makeover section, so we get a double page spread. Awesome!

Read about how and why this was built in .NET magazine.

Obi Media is a creative design agency based in Devon servicing small to medium businesses as well as some high profile clients, including Bil Oddie, Chris Packham, Nick Baker and Classic FM’s John Suchet.

 

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Black Flies – Cover Design

One of my favourite musicians at the moment is the super talented Ben Howard, a singer songwriter from Devon.

If you haven’t already discovered the wonderful music of the ‘Howard’ then I suggest you head over to his website right now and buy the album. Breathtaking.

Anywhoo, Talenthouse have been running a competition to design a cover for a charity CD featuring ‘Black Flies’ from the Ben Howard album ‘Every Kingdom’. I didnt win but I thought I would share my entry nonetheless. Enjoy!

Lonely Mas=n by Christian Senior

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Tukkin’ fame at last

Rickshaw run

It seems our heroic deeds are finally getting noticed by those that matter. After much Facebooking, tweeting and telling loud stories in the Post office queue, we got the call.

The call came in the form of a friendly voice who introduced himself as David. David is a journalist for The Press newspaper which is one of the more popular local rags and he wanted to do a feature on us, little old us.

So if you want to know more about why we are doing this trip across India, who we are supporting and what the heck is this ‘Big Night Out’ thing all about, then get The Press Newspaper on Friday 19th January or check it out on their website – Three men on a rickshaw

You never know you might be treated to a little picture of our handsome selves…

Keep on tukkin’

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The Rickshaw Run

Rickshaw Run

Imagine the quietest, fastest, safest all-terrain vehicle in the world…Now imagine the opposite. Three wheels, half a horse power and more dangerous than any other vehicle on planet earth, the humble Rickshaw is undoubtedly the ultimate long distance, off-road machine. Despite being designed for short distances on road.

The Journey

Now imagine the bliss of trying to get this untrusty steed over the Himalayas or across the Rajasthan desert. An unsupported maniac of an adventure which wobbles over thousands of miles of ridiculous terrain. Probably the stupidest and the best thing we will ever do.

Our adventure will see us, 3 grown men (and I use the term ‘men’ quite loosely) making our way across India on a Rickshaw, a 50cc motorbike with 3 wheels that can barely move under its own weight.

A journey across parts of India that you don’t see from the window of the coach trip.

What’s it in aid of?

We are raising funds for 2 great charities, Cancer Research and Frank Water so your doing your bit by donating, showing up at our organised events and supporting us.

The journey is begins in September so follow our preparations at www.teammia.co.uk or Follow us on Twitter (@senoir). And oh yea..be sure to tell your friends.

The best bit

As we are men of honour and adventure we would hate you to miss out on all the fun so we plan to film the whole thing so you get to watch th mayhem from the comfort of your own home. What nice people we are.

Don’t forget the popcorn!

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I’m in .NET Magazine

For those of you who have been living under a rock, .net magazine is the biggest selling magazine of its kind in the world. So imagine my surprise to get the chance to be featured in the ‘website build off’ section in issue 223.

Website build off?

The website build off is a monthly article which gives 3 designers/developers the chance to submit their interpretation of a brief. The theme for my build off?…wedding sites. The brief didnt go into much more detail than that so I decided to create a fictitious site aimed at getting the bride and groom to the church on time, with all the details in place so they can relax and enjoy their big day.

Its a simple concept and an even simpler design but I think there is an idea there that has the potential to grow into something popular and profitable.

The website design includes all of the usual suspects such as social networking and submissions but also has a few cheeky extras thrown in. For the description and to see the other build offs (which are awesome by the way) you will have to buy the mag. Issue 223 is out now.
Website build off

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Aye Aye Frame – A WordPress plugin

WordPress is such an awesome tool that it even strips some HTML, such as iframes, as a security measure. Unfortunately sometimes we need to use iframes so Aye Aye Frame gives you back that freedom with the use of a shortcode [ayeframe]. For more information on WordPress short codes check the WordPress Codex

Usage

To use Aye Aye Frame simply insert the url or code you would like to appear in your iframe between these shortcode tags

Download the plugin

Download the plugin from the WordPress community – Aye Aye Frame
[ayeframe]YOUR URL HERE[/ayeframe]
The code or url you insert between the shortcode tags is the equivalent of the ‘src’ section of the iframe code.

Customise your Aye Aye Frame

As with normal iframes, extra parameters can be added to customise the size, borders and other elements. Any, all or none of these parametres may be used. A full list of these parameters is available in the Aye Aye Frame menu after plugin installation.

Extra parameters

  • ‘width’ = Takes a number to customise the width of the iframe. Default = 250
  • ‘height’ = Takes a number to customise the height of the iframe. Default = 250
  • ‘frameborder’ = Specifies whether to add a border to the iframe (0 = no, 1 = yes). Default = 0
  • ‘marginheight’ = Specifies the top and bottom margins of an iframe. Default = 0
  • ‘marginwidth’ = Specifies the left and right margins of an iframe. Default = 0
  • ‘name’ = Specifies the name of the iframe. Default = No default
  • ‘scrolling’ = Specifies whether or not to display scrollbars in an iframe (yes, no, auto). Default = auto
  • ‘id’= Specifies the id of your iframe. No default
  • ‘class’ = Specifies the class name of your iframe. Default = No default
  • ‘title’ = Specifies the title of your iframe. No default

Example usage of extra parameters

[ayeframe width=500 height=500 frameborder=1 marginheight=5 marginwidth=5 name=myFrameName scrolling=0 id=myFrameID class=myFrameClass title=myFrameTitle]http://www.myframeurl[/ayeframe]

Any questions?

Aye Aye Frame was created just for fun (thats right, FUN!) by Christian Senior at UTC Web Design but if you have any questions or suggestions you are welcome to get in touch using the contact information on the website.

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Simple Custo Taxo – A WordPress Plugin

I have recently been working on a few e-commerce websites which required the products to be listed under different categories but also needed to be searchable on both criteria. So to solve this little issue, in walked WordPress and its cool ‘custom taxonomies’.
What are WordPress custom taxonomies?
In short, ‘taxonomy’ means to categorise or group things together. So everytime you create a post in WordPress and put it into a category, thats taxonomy.

You can read more about WordPress taxonomies on the WordPress Codex site

Custom taxonomies are an extra way of categorising your WordPress posts. So you can add extra grouping for your posts. I have found it handy on e-commerce sites where products needed to ‘grouped’ in sizes and ‘colours’ but everytime I wanted to create this extra categorising of products I had to recall the function in the functions.php file and and then add code into the sidebar etc etc etc. So I have created a simple WordPress plugin that does it for you.

What does Simple-Custo-Taxo do?

Simple-Custo-taxo (Simple Custom Taxonomy) is a simple (as the name suggests) plugin that adds an extra taxonomy option for your posts and can be added to your site by adding the widget to your sidebar.
Simply create categories in the ‘custom categories’ section that will now appear in your Posts main menu and add posts to that category as you normally would. The widget then creates an unordered list of your custom taxonomies. Simple.

Hey if your a WordPress user give it a try, and let me know if it was useful.

Installation and instructions

Simple-Custo-taxo (Simple Custom Taxonomy) is a simple (as the name suggests) plugin that adds an extra taxonomy option for your products and can be added to your site by adding the widget to your sidebar.

Simply create categories in the ‘custom categories’ section that will now appear in your Posts main menu and add posts to that category as you normally would. The widget then creates an unordered list of your custom taxonomies. Simple.

Download the plugin

First you need to download the plugin from the WordPress plugin repository and extract it from its .zip shell.
Installation
To install the plugin manually:

  1. Extract the contents of the archive (zip file)
  2. Upload the folder and its contents to your ‘/wp-content/plugins’ folder
  3. Activate the plugin through the Plugins section in your WordPress admin panel

Usage
Once activated you will see a new menu option appear in your ‘Posts’ main menu called ‘Custom Categories’. Add custom categories as you normally would.
Go to the ‘widgets’ in the Appearance menu. Add the ‘Simple Custom Taxonomy’ widget to your sidebar. *Please note – your theme must be widget ready to use this plugin.

Enjoy your new plugin

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No website?!…you’re doomed (apparently)

Remember the Yellow Pages? Well believe it or not its still going strong and loads of people spend their time flicking through the big luminous book for useless numbers.

Hey! Im trying to sleep down here However, it seems that 80% more people are using the internet to find that same number. No wonder Google are rolling in it! But more astounding than the 80% of people scouring the internet for your business information is that 60% of those people are already holding the cash by the time they get on the blower!

So it seems that those businesses without a website dont stand a chance. Im not telling you anything new here, we all know how the internet has taken hold of everybodys lives in one way or another but I think what we can say here is that, if you have been asking yourself the question,

“Can I afford a website for my business?”

the answer is simply, you cant afford NOT to.
Now Im not saying that getting a website is going to make you as rich as Google (although I suppose thats what worked for them…mmmmm) but its a step forward for your business.

So dont be a fool and miss out on all those people that cant wait to spend their hard earned dosh, give me a call and keep me in business.
And when the winter comes and your feeling chilly, reach for the yellow pages…it burns for hours.

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8 Things to think about

So you are having a new website designed and built eh? It’s going to be fancy and do all the things you wanted it to do isn’t it? The web design guy is going to put together this perfect website for you that sings and dances and does all the things you always dreamed of, right?

Well how does the website guy know what you want?

Here are 8 things you should think about before you have your website built

  1. Company Image – Think about how you want people to see your company? We have all heard the phrase ‘first impressions count’ so you have to make that first impression give the right message. Do you want a ‘corporate’ image to give off the BIG company vibe or a ‘family run’ business image to create a more friendly yet trustworthy appeal? Try to think about, and include, the product you sell. If you specialise in a product with a familiar brand name, thats been around forever, dont try to give off a ‘new and innovative product’ vibe because that’s not going to work. Likewise if your product is a a brand new, state-of-the art widget, a ‘traditional and old-fashioned values’ image is not going to hit the spot.
  2. Logo/Branding – Your website should look like it belongs to your company so try to include company colours and make it recognisable. Tie all your promotional material together, business cards, brochures and your website should look like they are in the same family. If your logo is blue and yellow then a primarily red website wont look the part, and you want to look the part don’t you?
  3. A call to action – What is the purpose of your website? Now this may seem like a ridiculous question, you want a website to sell more stuff, right? But you need ask yourself how your website is going to sell more stuff for you. Is it a brochure site where potential customers can come and see what you have on offer before contacting you for more information? So do you need to try and get some contact details from these people before they get away? Do you want to sell direct from your website whereby customers can buy your widgets online, part with their hard earned cash and receive the product in the post? Whatever your website does for you you need a ‘call to action’, tell people what to do, dont leave it to chance. ‘Fill in the contact form’ or ‘Buy Now’, put the action out there so it is only a click away.
  4. What’s the budget? – How much does a website cost? How long is a piece of string? A website can cost as much or as little as you want it to. The more bells and whistles you have, the more it will cost. Try to balance your budget with what you want the site to do. Dont use up all your website design budget getting the little man to dance across the screen and then not be able to get the shopping cart put in place, remember your websites primary function.
  5. Know your audience – I assume since you are in the business (or starting up in the business) that you know who will buy your product? What age group your customers are or will be? What the background of your customers is or will be? Have your website designed to reflect this. Your stair lift busienss website might not go down so well with your audience when the ‘techno’soundtrack kicks in on the homepage.
  6. Let them know about your website – Okay so lets lay one popular myth to rest straight away. Just because you have a website does not mean people will find you on the internet and start buying things from you. You have to market the website, just like anything else, otherwise how do people know you are there? So how are you going to market the website? Think about your audience and your product. If you sell a digital product you might want to advertise on the internet using Adwords or something similar. A restaurant might be better suited to a local newspaper. Eventually you will build up a brand and people will start to find you on search engines or review sites but this will not happen overnight and will not happen without some marketing.
  7. To CMS or not to CMS – CMS or Content Management Systems are becoming very popular as it allows you to take control of your own website without having to rely on your webmaster or design team. CMS sites allow you to edit the content of your site or add content or take it away. So if you have a website with constantly changing information this maybe the solution for you. The initial website design may cost a little more but if you do update the website information on a regular basis then the long term benefits will outweigh the start up cost. Your web designer will be able to advise you on the right solution for you.
  8. Picture this – I just wanted to finish off with one of my pet hates. You spend time and money getting your website built. It has all the bells and whistles and it looks the business. Everyone looks at your new website and says ‘wow, that looks awesome’. You take control of your new website, you log in and start adding content. And then you commit the ultimate sin, you stick in half rate images of your products. Your product is the most important thing on your site, that’s what people are buying. Your product is the one thing on your site that people are parting with money for, dont’ make it any harder for them. You dont need to spend lots of money getting your product photographed by a professional photographer, just spend a little time on your product images. So many websites have dark or blurred product images which have quickly been taken on a kitchen table with a phone. If you dont have a camera, do you know someone that has who might lend it to you? A picture paints a thousand words, dont let those words be ‘ I cant quite tell what it is’.

There are of course more things to think about than those I have mentioned above and as usual there are exceptions to the rules but before you go and see your web designer just try to be a little prepared as to what you want from them. They are not mind readers so they need infrmation from you. But more importantly you should think about these things so YOU know what you want from your website.

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Approach your approach

Contrary to popular belief there a number of things that I know nothing about. Some of the more notable ones are:

  1. Directions – I’m a man and I should be an expert at this but I have walked away on more than one occassion to avoid the inevitable conversation ending in something like “head over snakes pass onto the b741 and drop onto the ring road, or if the ring road’s busy take the next slip road, behind Tescos and up Gary Baldi Street or….”. I cant talk directions and I certainly cant follow them so finding my own way by stubborness and sheer will power still tends to be quicker than following some garbled directions from an old lady, that only popped out for a stamp, and ended up in a large debate (with herself) about whether one should head over Snakes Pass or drop onto the ring road.
  2. Gardening – You have to take your hat off to the green fingered types. The skill that is actually involved in planting something at the right time, just watering it enough and feeding it when necessary is one which has yet managed to evade me. Everything I have ever planted has ended with a drowning (with the exception of a small pot of cress which I was forced to plant in school. The after care of which, was not done by me and 3 weeks later I enjoyed the only cress sandwich I have ever had). It worries me that one day I might get a bit over zealous and drown myself in a glass of Ribena.
  3. Drawing Horses – It seems strange that at some time in your life you will find yourself saying “Why the hell are horses so hard to draw?”. The horse is such a fine elegant animal with it’s strong muscular body ready to work in the fields or carry you to your destination but the horse should be the ugliest, most deformed creature on earth. When you try to draw one you will realise what I mean. It’s limbs dont follow the pattern of other animals and seem to bend in places they shouldnt. The neck is a width that can’t be put on paper, it’s either too fat or too skinny making it look like a giraffe thats been the victim of some sort of amputation. I know you’re thinking that you will manage to get through your life without having to draw a horse but at some point it will happen. A child will say “please Mr Jones please will you draw me a horse?”, and after a few vain attempts you will sit the child on your lap, look into their innocent eyes and say “Why the hell are horses so hard to draw?”.

Nice horse cowboyI know nothing about these things (and the list could go on for some time), I’m not very good at these things and therefore I dont get involved in these things. You will find that most people are the same. We like to sit in our comfort zone talking about things we like and know about so when average Joe needs a website for his business who does he talk to?
So the conversation goes like this;
Joe – “I need a website please”
Webmaster – “Ok what kind would you like?”
Joe – “What?”
Webmaster – “What kind would you like?”
Joe – “erm…..what kind can I have?”
Webmaster – “Well you can have a CMS based site, or a just a static HTML site, or a Flash site with actionscript functionality. Or you have a fulminator quadrohydranthosyourfatheryourturntogetthedrinksin if you prefer. Or you can have……”
Joe – “I’ve got to go I think I’ve left the oven on”
What may seem simple to you may be a foreign language to other people. I once overheard two truck drivers talking about the best way to get to Gary Baldi Street and I’m convinced they were talking in Chinese. Every business now needs a website, thats a fact, so lets approach the approach. Instead of saying ‘Just go up the 471 and head north‘ lets just say ‘turn left at the end’. Simplicity in design, simplicity in talking about the design.

So if you need a website drop me a line or am I talking Chinese?

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We asked 100 People

It seems that the answer to all our questions is in the statistics. If 85% of people do it, then it must be good. If 15% of people barfed up after eating it, it’s probably not a good buy. But then we have to ask ourselves ‘who carries out these surveys?’ and ‘who benefits from them?’

According to a survey (those famous words), going to Weight Watchers is twice as successful for losing weight as it’s competitors.
This is ground breaking stuff. And the reason they know this is….
Weight watchers did a study. Its difficult to imagine that the results could have been a lot different and Weight Watchers could have been sticking a leaflet through our door saying “Lose half as Much as Weight in Twice the Time”.
Anyway the point is you can use this information to your advantage on your website. Now I’m not saying you should go out and knock on everyones door to ask whether they like their eggs boiled or scrambled but if your product is at the top of one of these ‘surveys’ then tell people.

If your product is as good as one these ‘top’ products for half the price, then tell people.

Be creative with the survey results and increase your sales, after all, 85% of people cant be wrong!

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