E-commerce website developed by Interactive Red scoops top award!

Once again we are very pleased to announce that another client website has won an award!  Bombus have today been awarded the E-commerce in Kent Award 2012, judged by a panel of six e-commerce experts, the Bombus website fought off competition from 9 other finalists to claim the top spot.

Amelia Coward, Managing Director at Bombus was presented the “Best Online Shop” award by Alan Noake, Founder of the awards ceremony – now in it’s fifth year - at The White Cliffs Hotel, St Margaret’s Bay near Dover on Friday 2nd November 2012.

As well as the impressive cut glass award Amelia wins a luxury two night stay for two at the Wallet’s Court Country House Hotel & Spa.

Speaking to Paul Andrews on Kent Business Radio following the Bombus triumph, Amelia commented “Anyone can setup an e-commerce site but we feel ours is very smooth and ergonomic”, “We have a fantastic e-commerce company called Interactive Red – they’re completely supportive and helped us structure that really complex system of the back-end that users will never see”.

Bombus goes mobile for Christmas

Just days before the award ceremony, our team of developers had completed the conversion of the Bombus website into a “responsive” website – making it user friendly and compatible for visitors on mobile phones, tablets alongside the usual desktop computer browsers.

Bombus are hoping that the mobile friendly site will lead to a boost in online sales during the Christmas period – one of their busiest periods for online trading.

Read more about Bombus E-commerce project in our case studies section.

Off the shelf CMS or Web Agency developed package?

Making the decision over what Content Management System to use as the platform for your company’s website is not something to take lightly.  The problem every website owner has is finding a package which best fits their current needs but also can provide a stable and flexible solution to move forward with their business not just for the lifetime of the soon to be implemented design but also for years to come.

As your business grows and with it your website expands it’s content offering will become more diverse and you’ll want to be sure you can re-design and refresh your site without changing what’s under the hood.

Choosing a CMS for your project is an important decision

WordPress is OK, right?

There are plenty of freelancers and web companies out there who offer a CMS website when in fact they’re selling you something built on WordPress.  WordPress is not technically a CMS, it’s blogging software. This is great if you’re not using an agency to develop your website – your freelancer can rely on a multitude of plugins to achieve something close to your ideal website functionality.

The catch is that a website built on a collection of third party plugins is at risk of becoming more complicated instead of less so. But if your CMS is holding you back and a full-scale migration is not in the roadmap, a partial solution is better than none at all.

Get a tailored fit

But what about having something built especially for you to fit your business needs? Sure, agencies that offer this as a solution won’t be developing it from scratch but they will be using a tried and tested set of code which is flexible enough to adapt to suit your company requirements.

Taking a specific brief – just as you would give for design work – an agency will deploy their experienced developers to engineer a CMS application that does exactly what you want it to do.  There’s no mixture of plugins that are hacked together, no problems with ongoing support and most of all when you decide that you want to start integration into your in house stock control or CRM solution, they’ll have it covered.

Hack attacks

Hackers will target widely used CMS solutions because they’re more likely to get a better result and exploit more systems.  These attacks are called “Zero Day” exploits – meaning hackers can quickly target plenty of vulnerable sites before the owners get a chance to patch them – something that WordPress users often suffer from.  Many WordPress site owners assume that your hosting company will automatically upgrade you to a new version – this is rarely the case and so what started off as a hassle free CMS is now something that you need to constantly monitor and patch yourself!

In Summary

As an agency ourselves we’ve worked with many companies who have started off with their websites being built on open source platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Magento etc.  Each and every time they have come to us to have their site either rebuilt or migrated to a simpler platform.  Our Paprika CMS solution is purposely straight forward to use yet flexible and adaptable to business requirments as your company evolves.  The best part is you and your staff will find it easy to use, saving you time and money.

EU Cookie Law and your website

The much debated EU cookie law comes into effect this weekend and leaves many website owners and indeed developers confused about their position in the regulation and whether their website needs to introduce a cookie opt-in system that you have probably already seen adopted by the likes of the BBC and other big websites.

The EU Cookie law is far from clear

Updated guidelines

The official line (which actually changed just 48 hours before the published deadline) is that from Sunday, websites must obtain “implied consent” from visitors before saving cookies on a machine.  But what does this all mean?  The use of “implied consent” shifts responsibility to the site visitor themselves rather than the website owner or developer, and will come as a relief to thousands of website developers and companies who have been struggling to comply with new EU directives which were introduced a year ago.

What is a cookie?

Cookies are small files that are placed in a special folder on your computer by your chosen internet browser to recognise and track users. The ICO groups them into three overlapping groups:

  1. Session cookies
    Session cookies allow a site to link the actions of a visitor during a single browser session. These might be used by an internet bank or webmail service. They are not stored long term and are considered “less privacy intrusive” than persistent cookies.
  2. Persistent cookies
    These remain on the user’s device between sessions and allow one or several sites to remember details about the visitor. They may be used by internet marketers to target advertising or to avoid the user having to provide a password each visit.
  3. First and third-party cookies
    A cookie is classed as being first-party if it is set by the site being visited. It might be used to study how people navigate a site.  It is classed as third-party if it is issued by a different server to that of the domain being visited. It could be used to trigger a banner advert based on the visitor’s viewing habits.

The good news is that if your website has been designed and developed by Interactive Red then we will only ever use session cookies and the information stored within those contains no personal data.  To this extent, you do not need to panic about the new cookie law.  Any personal information gathered – by user consent – through one of our websites is stored in a database on the server itself and is only linked together by the session identifier – the only piece of information stored within the cookie itself and since it’s a session cookie, the minute you close your web browser that session is dropped.

Even websites that use our ecommerce package with their basket functionality rely on the same cookie to identify the session and the basket data itself is stored on the website database.

Aside from our reassurances or if you do not run your website on our in house CMS package, the ICO has said it would not take immediate action over non-compliant sites, and would instead offer guidance.

In short, don’t panic!

If you would like to discuss the usage of cookies on your website further please contact one of our team on 01227 490220 or email info@interactivered.com

 

Web design agency or freelancer?

You need a new website. You’ve written your brief. Now who do you give it to?

There are more web designers around than users of Google Plus, so how do you choose one? The first decision is to decide between an agency and a freelancer. It’s likely you’ll have preconceived ideas about both, but read on because it really comes down to a debate about price, reliability and experience.

Web design agencies may seem expensive but cheaper is not often better

Price, you get what you pay for

Price is obviously a significant factor when it comes to anything related to your business but you should definitely not base your decision purely on cost. Everyone wants the best quality for the lowest price but, in reality, this is unfortunately a very rare thing! You will almost always experience better quality when you pay more money.

But why is a web design agency more expensive than a freelancer? Obviously agencies have the overheads that come with most businesses but you are paying for more than that:

  • Research time into your industry and business
  • A diverse range of skills and creativity
  • Bespoke web design design service (your design is tailored to your business – not already been used elsewhere)
  • A website developed from scratch with a structure that is designed for your site alone

A freelancer may often be cheaper but you could end up with an ‘off the shelf’ website that has restrictions and therefore doesn’t perform how you’d like. There may be a lack of marketing knowledge that means your website looks great but doesn’t focus on engagement. If using the site doesn’t result in users interacting with the site how they should, (an E-commerce site for example), it renders that site ineffective for your business needs.

A high quality website will not only help your business in the long run, but is likely to cost less over time because it will last the distance. Buy it cheap and buy it twice.

Ongoing Support and Reliability

An agency’s recommendations and references can be reliably validated whereas a freelancer’s may not. Checking an agency’s LinkedIn profile, Facebook activity and Twitter feed and reading the case studies on their own website will give you confidence in their ability to deliver the results you’re after. A freelancer may not have the range of clients or the resources to offer these assurances.

Many freelancers work as web designers for a second source of income and are therefore not contactable all of the time. This may result in queries not being answered and completion dates over-running. An agency will have a contingency plan for illness or holidays and deliver on time frames while a freelancer may go AWOL leaving you with no one to talk to or a back up.

Range of Experience

Agencies work with a large range of accounts and will have produced many different types of websites across various industries. They will be able to provide business and marketing advice throughout the process as their experience will go beyond just web design.

A freelancer may not be able to handle the variety of specific problems or issues that present themselves during the project whereas the size of the team working for an agency means that you are gaining a collaborative effort on your project. More heads are always better than one!

When it comes to experience and professionalism there is far less risk when working with an agency. Which in turn means less stress for you and more time to concentrate on running your business!

Anyone can build a website these days, but if you want more than that – if you want a digital experience that meets your objectives and helps to build your business, leave it to the experts. Because to deliver your project and exceed your expectations, a designer needs to know more than building a website – they need to be adept at graphic design, web programming, copy writing, understand SEO and know their digital marketing.

If you are serious about your business and accept that your website is an integral part of it, give it the love it deserves – choose an agency!

How to write the ultimate web design brief

What is a web design brief?

A design brief is an essential document that you produce for your web designer that covers the task at hand, the objectives of the project, the strategic direction of the design and the elements that the website must contain.

Taking the time to create this document ensures that both the client and designer are singing from the same hymn sheet throughout the design process and leaves no room for second-guessing, assumptions and mistakes. As a client, the intrinsic result of writing a good brief is that you have considered in great detail what you want to achieve from the project. Your expectations are far more likely to be realistic and the communication during the process of building your site will run smoothly.

Writing a web design brief is key to a successful website development project

How do I write a brief?

The first thing is to ensure you get executive or management buy-in before you approach the designer. If key stakeholders of your business have participated in defining the goals of the website, you can be confident in handling the rest of the project.

The next stage is to answer the series of questions below. By systematically working through these you will consider everything you need to in order to provide a web designer with enough information to meet, or indeed exceed, your expectations and help you achieve your business goals.

1. What is your budget?

Too often, clients are reluctant to discuss budget in the initial stages of communication. If this is a sensitive subject for you, consider these points:

  • By being open and frank about your available budget, your designer can create a realistic proposal for the project and manage your expectations from the start.
  • A freelancer may seem cheaper initially but you are paying for one individual’s skills and experience.
  • A web design company brings the combined skills and experience of its team, and the reputation and recommendations that come from working with a greater number of clients. The support and ongoing site maintenance is often better too!
  • When do you need the site to be completed and live? By being honest about budget and timeframe, your designer can plan an appropriate work schedule.

2. What is your business?

  • How big is the company and how many employees?
  • What is its history?
  • What are the company values?
  • What are the short term and long term goals of the business?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • How do you differ from your competitors?
  • What is your USP?
  • Who are your customers and prospects?
  • What ten words would you use to describe your company?

Don’t assume your web designer already understands everything about your business. A local company’s website will be entirely different to that of a global company. Is one of the aims of a new site to appeal to a wider audience perhaps? Or meet the needs of your current market more efficiently? The demographic of your target market will significantly affect the look and feel of the site. An explanation of the business decision behind getting a new site is often really helpful.

3. What kind of website do you want?

  • Why do you want a new website?
  • What did you like and dislike about the old one?
  • What DON’T you want from a new site?
  • What other websites do you like and what is it you like about them? (These don’t have to be industry specific!)
  • What do you want your customers to do with the site? (Is it to encourage purchase, to inform or educate? etc)
  • What are your long term plans for the site?
  • Who will liase with the designer and provide copy and images?
  • Who will be responsible for updating the site? (How tech-savvy are they? This may prompt a discussion of maintenance agreement options)

Be specific about what you like about another website – is it the overall design, typography, layout, colours, images, ease of use, the atmosphere the design creates etc? If you have different long term plans for the site, your designer may be able save you money in the long run by developing a CMS that can accommodate different requirements in the future.

4. Content and Function

  • What pages do you want and how many?
  • Do you want all pages to have the same template? – that should be up to the designer
  • How much content is there and when/by whom will it be written?
  • Do you want to gain subscribers? (RSS or newsletter)
  • Do you require certain social integration with your networks? (Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook etc)
  • Do you require a site search facility?
  • Do you require a Googlemap?
  • Do you require an online form?
  • Would you like email hosting?

By answering all of these questions you have written a great design brief. To write the ultimate one, however, you can provide a sketch of page layout, of headings, of how you want pages to interact with each other, of where you want certain images placed etc . The more specific you are about your goals the better! The one thing designers don’t want to hear is “be creative!”

Communication is everything! Feel free to use this use and share this guide!

Win a 12 month Spotify Premium subscription

We all love Spotify right?  At Interactive Red we certainly do.  The sad fact is that unless you want to be constantly interrupted by adverts then the £4.99 monthly fee just can’t be justified.

That’s where we come in!  This month over on our Facebook page, we’re offering our fans the opportunity to banish those pesky Spotify adverts for a whole 12 months!  All you have to do is like our page, answer a simple question and you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win the Spotify Premium 12 month subscription worth £119.88

About Spotify Premium

Spotify is a new way to listen to music. Millions of tracks, any time you like. Just search for it in Spotify, then play it. Just help yourself to whatever you want, whenever you want it. With Spotify Premium you get;

  •  The ultimate Spotify experience.
  •  Unlimited music without ads.
  •  Spotify on your mobile.
  •  Offline mode for playlists.
  •  Take your music abroad.
  •  Enhanced sound quality.

How to enter

It couldn’t be simpler, just head on over to our Facebook competition app and follow the easy registration steps.  Terms and conditions apply but you can enter as many times as you like, closing date for entries is April 30th 2012.

Interactive Red are now a Recommended Agency

Interactive Red are proud to announce that through independent research we’ve achieved a recommended status by RAR (Recommended Agency Register).

Only agencies that are highly rated by their clients get RAR recommended status

About Recommended Agency Register

RAR helps companies and individuals in the UK search for reputable digital marketing suppliers.  Established in 2004, the RAR index is made up entirely by customer feedback, although agencies can submit their own details they are not listed until more than three previous clients have completed an anonymous survey on their experiences with the agency in question.

The research conducted by RAR involves gathering comments on agency service levels, individuals within the organisation and any specific project where expectations were exceeded and work was completed to an extremely high standard.  Results are then calculated using the special RAR rating formula and agencies which exceed the RAR standard are awarded a “Recommended” status.

Thank you to our clients

We’re very pleased that our clients have rated us so highly and hope to continue the great service we’ve become known for.

 

 

Why you should consider a mobile website over a mobile app

Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices to shop and online retailers have responded with both mobile websites and apps to meet their customers shopping habits.

Since smartphones have begun to dominate the mobile phone market, there seems to be an app for everything these days. When it comes to your own digital marketing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that an app might be the way forward…

What are the differences between a mobile website and a mobile app?

A mobile website consists of browser based HTML pages that are accessed over the internet and designed with small touch screens in mind. When you access a website from a mobile device, you are redirected to the mobile version of the site for a better browsing experience, no need to download additional software.

A mobile app is an application built specifically for your handset type that you download and install from an app store and is available to access on your phone, rather than using a browser. Some cost money to download and are a direct source of revenue in themselves.

2011 Study into mobile e-commerce habits

A recent study by Nielsen of 5000 U.S. smartphone users found that both male and female users preferred to use mobile websites over apps, with Amazon being the most popular mobile site.

Website usage vs mobile apps

John Burbank, president of Strategic Initiatives at Nielsen said “Mobile shopping has reached scale and is only going to grow as smartphone penetration continues to rise.”

It’s clearly important to ensure you utilise opportunities for marketing and e-commerce with smartphone users but careful thought is needed about whether a mobile site or app is right for your business. It depends on the following factors:

  • Purpose – this is unique to your service or product. Do you want it to be available to your customers when they are offline? (Most downloaded apps are in the games category)
  • Availability – mobile websites are instantly accessible with no need to download and install specific software
  • Compatibility – mobile websites are compatible with all devices whereas not all apps are (each application platform i.e. iPhone, Blackberry, Android will need it’s own app – a mobile website is universal)
  • Reach – the audience reach is far wider with a mobile website because it can be found in search results and the URL can be shared via email and social networks
  • Cost – it is significantly cheaper to build a mobile website than a mobile app. Mobile websites are more cost effective in the long term because they are easier and cheaper to update and manage. Studies show that apps have a significantly shorter shelf life than mobile websites.

As consumers, our online habits mirror our offline activity. With retail, for example, we walk down the high street or around a shopping centre, usually window shopping, before we decide to purchase. Rarely do we head directly to one outlet and buy only from there. Likewise, the study by Nielsen supports the idea that we shop on our mobile devices in a similar way. The success of Amazon and Ebay prove this; they are the ‘shopping centres’ of our smartphones! If you start to force users to download applications to their device in order to purchase from you online, you are allowing for the element of doubt to creep in, destroying that impulse purchase opportunity.

ROI of Mobile web vs Mobile app

Mobile websites are proving to deliver more return on investment than apps. Considering the cost of building each and their respective ability to reach customers and prospects, the likelihood is that a mobile website is the best choice and will allow your marketing to extend further and with more interaction from the end user.

Further information and things to consider

Since it is projected that mobile traffic will surpass desktop traffic by 2015, it’s important to think about your ecommerce site and it’s mobile audience now.

We found a great article over on Mashable.com called “3 Key Metrics for Evaluating Your Mobile Ecommerce Site” which will help you plan the best performing solution for your mobile website.  Much like translating printed materials into a website should not be a direct copy, a mobile site should never be a reformatted version of a desktop site.

Of course if you are looking for advice or assistance in developing your own website (mobile or otherwise) our team here at Interactive Red will be happy to help. Just give us a call on 01227 490220 or email info@interactivered.com

Hosting FAQ: Bandwidth vs Disk Space

Something we find is that customers often get confused by is the difference between bandwidth and disk space allocations in their hosting accounts.  As much as we try not to use confusing jargon when speaking to clients, occasionally there’s just no avoiding it.  Bandwidth and disk space really can’t be explained in any other words.

Interactive Red's secure hosting at The Bunker in Kent

Why should you care?

Whilst I can’t speak for every hosting provider, here at Interactive Red we carefully tailor our hosting packages to suit the average needs of our average customer.  To keep our prices competitive and enable us to continue providing good value for money we impose certain restrictions to each package, two of which being a limit on the amount of Bandwidth you can use each month and the amount of disk space you’re allowed to use on our servers to store files.

This might seem straight forward enough to me but I’m sure some of you are already beginning to switch of at this point!  So concentrate, here comes the science bit:

  • Bandwidth
    Just as your home internet connection will be limited to the amount of downloads you can make each month, so is your website.   Each time someone visits your website (and yes that includes you, not just customers!) all of the assets that are required to display the requested webpage in a person’s browser are downloaded from the server to their computer and that takes up some of your bandwidth allocation.  Likewise, if you download emails to your computer or send emails through your hosted domain then the size of those emails counts towards your bandwidth usage.  Think of it like your mobile phone contract, you’re allowed a certain amount of GB or MB per month and checking your Twitter, Facebook or Emailing eats into it.  The point to remember is that Bandwidth is a monthly allocation so at the end of  each month you can start eating into it again!
  • Disk Space
    Quite simply disk space is how much space your website takes up.  In reality the website itself isn’t going to be particularly massive in terms of combined file size – unless you have a site that users can upload large images to or you have an ecommerce site where you’re regularly adding new products which have images or documents stored on the server.   But, it doesn’t end there, you have to think about emails too.  Depending how you’ve configured your computer or how you use your email you might find that emails are stored on the server for long periods of time.  The more emails you receive without downloading them, the more space it takes up.  The danger here is that if you use all of your disk space because there’s lots of emails stored online the server could start “bouncing” new emails back to the sender so it’s important to be aware of your space restrictions.  One further point to remember is your deleted items will need to be emptied to truly clear space on the server too – if you delete an email from your inbox it’ll still be stored online until you clear the deleted items folder too.  Oh, and don’t forget sent items is also going to need clearing out every now and then.

In other words

In summary then, bandwidth is anything where the website has to send information across the internet and disk space is anything where information is stored on the website’s disk space.  No doubt some of you will still be no clearer on this which is why we’re always happy to help out by monitoring your hosting package regularly and keeping your informed when things are running a little close to the mark!

How long should a blog post be?

How long should a blog post be? This is a commonly asked question and if you search online you will find many different answers. There is a wealth of information and advice out there and whilst there is no definitive answer there are some valuable guidelines that are worth following.

Search Engine Optimisation

If you are want to optimize the chances of your blog post doing well in the search stakes, you would be wise to aim for at least 400 words in length. It seems that any less than this means that your content appears thin compared with commercials and web page code.

A long blog post can easily make your visitors lose interest

Engage your reader!

Unless you’re an SEO expert, it’s far more natural to consider the response and engagement of your reader rather than a search engine algorithm. Writing 1000 words is likely to mean the reader starts to skip through the text and not really read your post as you intended. Web readers have a short attention span and web reading on mobile phone platforms is on the increase. If you think about the amount of scrolling required to get through a blog post on a mobile phone, you really need to keep the length down so the reader doesn’t lose interest.

The ideal length of a blog post to optimise user engagement is between 300 and 600 words.  If your content starts to become much lengthier than this, it is a good idea to consider making a series of shorter blog posts to keep them short and snappy with a higher rate of engagement, thereby making them more useful for your reader. This has the added bonus of leaving the reader wanting more and anticipating your next post. This increases the loyalty of your readers and they may subscribe to your RSS feed.

What is the purpose of the blog post?

All of this is irrelevant if the content of your blog has a specific purpose that requires a certain amount of words to be written in order to fulfill the title. Wikipedia posts for example are meant to be extremely informative and are therefore very long and text heavy. A blog post for a product review will be a different length than that for an entertainment related post with more videos or photographs and less text.

In summary

So how long should it be? Well, too short a post means you can’t include enough information and a really long post means bored readers. If you post regularly you can keep it shorter, if you post less frequently, perhaps longer. There is no definitive answer but, in my opinion, it should be however long it needs to be in order to succinctly express your ideas and fulfill the title. A good aim is approximately 500 words, depending on the subject and purpose.

It’s not worth getting too hung up on the length and rather allow your writing to flow organically and say what is is you need to say. The structure and format is actually far more important… but that’s a whole other blog post as this one is quite long enough!