webcraft

New website for Swiss law firm complete

 

Just finished a site for a Zurich-based law firm, GAILEY Law

 

Based on a bootstrap framework, the site is fully responsive for display on mobile devices.

gailey-law

Setting up a Business Facebook page

Facebook pages for businessThe time has passed

 . . .  when Facebook was a “good idea” for businesses to try.  It’s now pretty much essential

Facebook keeps changing how to set up Facebook business pages – both on the macro scale with the rollout of Facebook Timeline, and on a smaller scale with new features that are appearing all the time.

To save you time and a lot of head scratching this basic guide breaks it down to make it simple to set up your business or organisation’s Facebook Timeline correctly. Just follow the steps below to get your business on Facebook today.

 

1) Choose a Classification

Navigate to the following URL in a new tab to create your
business page on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php

Once there, choose from one of the following six classifications:

  •        Local business or place
  •        Artist, band, or public figure
  •        Company, organization, or institution
  •        Entertainment
  •        Brand or product
  •        Cause of community

This classification will help you rank for more relevant searches and provide relevant information fields on your page.

 After selecting one of the six, choose the category you’re in and fill out your business name (or if you selected one of the other options, your brand or company name). The business option also asks for further location information. Keep in mind that your category and name cannot be changed once your page is created. Type carefully and check before finalising, otherwise you’ll end up having to delete the entire page and start anew.

                       

2) Complete Basic Information

 ~ Upload Photo

Facebook will now prompt you to upload the main photo for your page. This photo will appear as your icon every time you comment on a post or appear in news feeds. For most businesses it will probably be the company logo. The dimensions of your profile picture are 180pixels X 180pixels. Make sure you upload a square image (add blank space to make it square if necessary), and ideally resize it to 180×180 before uploading it. (This image will shrink on the page to appear as 125X125)

~ About Section

Next, you need to write your ‘About’ information. This brief wording will serve as the main 2-3 sentence description for your company. It will be on your main page, so it is worth taking some time to craft it. Make it descriptive but succinct, and be sure to include a link to your company website as well.

 

3) Use Your Admin Panel

Your admin panel is the ‘dashboard’ for managing your page. It’s filled with various features and options to optimize your page and facilitate your monitoring of that page.

~ Edit Page

The ‘Edit Page’ option in the upper right provides various options. The first option, ‘Update Info,’ allows you to update the basic information you provided earlier. This will also allow you to enter a description, which is an extended version of the ‘About’ information. Users only see the description by clicking ‘About’ on your business page, so don’t hesitate to add lengthier and more detailed information here.

You can also manage the roles of your page administrators. This allows you to invite various employees from your business to be administrators on your Facebook page in order to respond to comments or messages specific to their function, without giving them complete control over your page. The other options under ‘Edit Page’ allow you to manage your notifications and add page permissions.

 ~ Build Audience

Don’t invite users right away. First, you want to fill your page with interesting content. Then invite your users/clients to start engaging with that content. Once your page has some interactions, invite more fans and contacts and get them to ‘like’ the page.

 

4) Fill the Page with Content

~ Cover Photo

The cover photo is a great opportunity to project your business image. The exact dimensions of this cover photo are 851X315. Resize your image to these dimensions before uploading it.

~ Custom Tabs

Facebook allows you to have unlimited tabs on your page. However, only four can appear on the page before the user has to click the arrow to see the rest. Think carefully about what you want to appear in these four slots, whether it’s events, photos, groups, etc.

~ Posts

When posting on your page, be sure to use a variety of content. What images would your audience like to see? What stats would they like to read? What links would they like to click? You can also click the little star to the upper right of any post to highlight it horizontally across your entire page. Not only will this make it look like you have a cover photo on your actual timeline of posts, but it will highlight the page as a milestone in your company history. Use this feature for product announcements, business anniversaries, and other major events pertinent to your brand.

~ Monitor

While having an attractive Facebook page is a great investment of your time, to get maximum benefit from it you need to ensure you’re monitoring how people are interacting with it. To the upper right of your Admin panel, you’ll see all the private messages users are sending to your page. Meanwhile, the upper left and centre of the panel shows all the posts users are liking and commenting on. Be sure to respond to comments and messages promptly not just to show your visitors that you care about them, but to avoid any detrimental impact of ignoring these people. One study has shown that failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15% increase in ‘churn rate’ for existing customers.

 

5) Measure Your Efforts

At this point, you’ve built and shared a Facebook business page that (hopefully) accurately represents your business. Now you need to measure your efforts to ensure you’re making the right marketing decisions on Facebook. Click on the ‘View Insights’ option to the bottom-centre of your Admin panel. You’ll be able to monitor various factors that will help you grow and adapt your Facebook marketing efforts around what’s working and what’s not.

And voila! You have a Facebook business page. Now go and post lots of interesting content, gain new clients and grow a loyal base of fans!

Social Media for Business

Social MediaWhat do you use, and what works?

We are told we must Tweet, set up a Facebook page, make YouTube videos, work on our LinkedIn network   – but this all takes a lot of time. Which of the various social media platforms do you seriously use for business, and which one would you say has provided the best return in terms of new clients or increased business over the last year?

 

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Clients From Hell

A collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from web designers

(None of these are ours, honest) 


“That other website is stealing our business. Can you make it so that when someone types in their address they come to our site?”

Me:“So what’s your budget?”

Client: “Well we are well known amongst all the Russian billionaires so there is great potential for you to get your name out there by doing this project for free. Also I am a direct descendant of Genghis Khan.”


“I’m not paying you anything extra to do the website because it is simply a matter of pushing the right buttons. I know how to push buttons.”

Client:You see where you have a full stop at the end of the first sentence?

Me: Yes.

Client: Can you change it to a comma?

Me: Er, well I can, but you should put a full stop at the end of a sentence.

Client: Oh, that grammar stuff is very old fashioned.


“Our web application support team doesn’t know HTML or JavaScript, can you redo the project so you aren’t using those?”

After a lengthy presentation for the design of a microsite, the clients had a few unanswered questions. Chief among them regarded the large portraits of former actors and directors beside their bios. The conversation went something like this:

Client: “Can you click the picture?”

Me: “No. What do you want it to do? Enlarge?”

Client: “No, I just want to click it.”

Me: “But when you click it, what do you want to happen?”

Client: “I just want to be able to click it.”


“We’d like you to illustrate this (diagram of traffic tunnel and four-lane highway), but we’d like you to make it look like this (watercolour of budgie doing aerobics).”

My client was an outdoor events company and upon seeing a competitor using a blue sky in their advertising, emailed me telling me to call this company and let them know that they had to change the colour of the sky in their ads, “because we own copyright of blue skies in this country so no-one else can use them”.


“I really like the gradient – going from red to yellow – but I don’t like orange. Can you make it go through another colour?”

Client: “Just make it look like the site I showed you.  In fact, why don’t you go into their site and take the images?”

Me: “Because that is illegal.”


“I want you to make it so people have to give us their email before they can look at the site. If they’re gonna look at our stuff, I want to be able to spam them afterwards.”

Client:I need video streaming, contact forms, a small database for customer comments and a new logo made and hosting for 3 years with a bit of a download option for the videos too

Me: That all sounds reasonable, your original request terms this “Cheaply” what is your budget and I’ll advise as to what can be done realistically.

Client: £20


“I really like it. The thing is, I showed it to my uncle, and he didn’t like it at all – he though the ‘1’ looked like an ‘i’. He was a bit drunk at the time. Do you think you could you change it?”

Make sure you have copyright and control over your website

These shocking quotes are from a local web design company’s FAQ:

Q: Copyright?

A: All website designs, logo designs etc come under the copyright of (company name) and no unauthorised use of any image or any other design feature may be copied, reproduced or referenced without prior authorisation.

——————————————————————————————————–

Q: Who owns the website once completed?

A: All website designs are the property of (company name), the client owns the ‘domain name’ and rents the host space Unlike other web designers we offer our clients the right to buy the website design should they ever wish to leave (company name).

——————————————————————————————————–

Q: How long will I be committed to (company name)

A: Any website design deal undertaken by (company name) will require, as part of our terms and conditions and per the detail of each individual website design deal, the commitment of a 12 month period, after which any client can leave (company name).

——————————————————————————————————–

These terms and conditions are simply horrendous and we cannot believe any business would agree to engaging a company that offers such terms. If you are thinking of doing so then please be aware that this is NOT industry standard practice and is possibly not even legal.

How can this company get you to pay them good money to design a website and then tell you that you don’t own the design, don’t own the copyright to the content and cannot transfer the site to another hosting provider? They say this is ‘unlike other web designers’. Damn right it is. How can they have the cheek to offer to sell you a website you have already paid for?

Compare this with our T&C:

All files created, html, graphics and any other, remain the property and copyright of Webcraft UK Ltd until the final invoice is paid in full. Once payment is received full intellectual title to all files, graphics, HTML and site structure will transfer to the client.

We also allow and will facilitate transfer to another host at no charge to the client any time after the final invoice has been paid.

Please don’t accept any lesser terms when choosing a web design company. There is no point in paying good money to have a website built only to discover it is not actually yours at all.

 

Spanglefish – a re-appraisal

We recently received an unusual request from a self catering holiday property owner in North Uist to help them with their Spanglefish website. Those of you who have read our previous rants about the local Enterprise Gateway promoting this proprietary system will know that we are not fans – or at least, we weren’t. We had seen too many design disasters, neglected sites and pages that were best left unpublished for the good of their owners’ businesses.

The Barn website was not the worst Spanglefish site we had seen by a long way. There was a wealth of good content and much of it was sensibly formatted. The overall colour scheme and top banner however were dire, some images were broken, one page had elements that were slightly wider than the overall container and the choice of images for the home page was less than ideal.

We created a new top banner, changed the overall colour scheme (including a custom background colour to blend in with the header graphic) and fixed the formatting errors. We also added two new galleries of wildlife and landscape pictures from images supplied by the client (after cropping and resizing them – a very important issue when the maximum size picture a Spanglefish site will display is relatively small).

ScreenshotThe end result is a vastly improved site – and a somewhat less harsh view of Spanglefish from behind this web developer’s keyboard. The admin interface is easy to use, the basic page editor has all the necessary functions (though the editing window is pathetically small) and the source code can be edited. It is also possible to include custom CSS if you know what you are doing.

We still have some criticisms – in particular the current default width of a site at 750 pixels or so  does not allow enough screen real estate for modern displays, and the default colour schemes are very limited (with some truly hideous backgrounds – DON’T click on that tartan!) . If you really know what you are doing with CSS both these limitations can be overcome, but messing with the default stylesheet is not for the novice.

And – all of the above only applies if you have upgraded to Spanglefish Gold –  if you have the free version you are stuck with the terrible 3-column layout with ads etc. Upgrading is only £24.95 per annum, and does at least give you a chance to turn your site into something that doesn’t look too amateur.

If you have a Spanglefish site that could do with having a professional eye cast over it, or if you need a little help getting to grips with the system, why not give us a call?

If you really MUST make your own website

Here’s the easiest, most effective solution:

Get some cheap web hosting that supports WordPress. 123-Reg are probably as good as any – at least, you will be able to move the site elsewhere in future if you want to. (From £2.50 per month).

Now choose a free theme from the hundreds out there and start playing around – or go with the standard but highly customisable TwentyTen or TwentyEleven themes and change them to suit. Check out a few WordPress tutorials on Youtube or download a free manual.

Make sure you back up all files and your database regularly and you will easily be able to move the site later if your current host seems restrictive in any way. I recommend this plugin to back up your database painlessly by e-mail.

I’ve created a short tutorial on the basic basics of WordPress starting from a clean installation with the 2010 theme:

 

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4EP0lXBeLI’]

It’s not the slickest tutorial, but will give you some idea.  One day I will remake this and continue the series . . .

Anyway, WordPress is the easiest industry-standard platform, easy to keep up to date, easy to transfer between hosts and easy to customise to make do whatever you want to to do. The ability to upload new themes which keep design separate from content means you can at some future date get a theme professionally designed if you so desire, move the site to another server, allocate permissions to allow others to update specific sections of the site or install and  use plugins to extend the functionality of the site.

Good luck.

New Site for Craobh Haven Watersports

We launched a new site for Craobh Haven Watersports today.

Craobh Haven Watersports - new websiteThis client  recently became an RYA approved training centre, and wanted a new website to reflect their  growing range of activities and their new status. 

Special features include:

  • Colour coded top level menu with dropdowns – all coded in CSS and HTML so search engine friendly and easily modified or added to

  • Different top graphic for different sections but tied together with our new interpretation of their logo

  • Weather widget on the home page

  • Social media integration with Twitter and Facebook  Share buttons

  • Lightbox photo galleries for the Projects section

  • Scrolling news ticker on home page

Future development on the site will include a complimentary WordPress section  for news, events and sales which the client will be able to keep updated themselves.

 

E-commerce – A Vital Decision

Just how easy / affordable is it to get into selling online? Probably easier and cheaper than you think, but  there are pitfalls for the unwary.

There are a whole host of dedicated shopping carts out there, some free and open source, some expensive. Some are hosted, some have to be installed on your web server.  Which to choose, which way to go? 

Firstly, don’t expect impartial advice from  a web design company.  They  will probably have a lot of r&d time and energy invested in one or two particular packages, and will tell you unequivocally that this or that particular package is the only way to go. Be assured, it isn’t!

Secondly, if you have a limited budget and a lot of products, aren’t too critical about the look or branding of your site and don’t  want to employ a web design company then have a look at hosted solutions.  At the budget end we suggest:

Actinic –  from £19.99/month (for up to 100 products)

EMPowershop – from £19.99 / month

If you have a bigger budget then just Google ‘hosted e-commerce’.  But – do be aware that although these systems all boast of being incredibly easy to use and unbelievably versatile they will, like any computer programme or application, have their limitations. It will take you quite a while to get familiar with the interface and you will at times be frustrated because the software will not do what you want it to. You may find yourself spending a lot of time on forums asking for help from other users – so check that this feature is available.

If you go to a web design company ask them what software they propose  using and check it out. We used osCommerce for some years, but no longer recommend it for the average small business.  While it has the advantage of being free it is in our opinion a clunky, camel-designed bloated monstrosity that is hard to customise and keep secure and up to date. Offshoots of this include Zen Cart and  OscMax. These are better, but be very sure that the web developer you are using has complete mastery – check their portfolio, ask their clients – and make sure you get a price for the regular security updates that these systems always seem to need.

There are dozens of other less well-known shopping cart systems.  Each has its supporters,  each will have some merit, but most will also have drawbacks in terms of design and template limitations, ease of use, security and ease of updating. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and it is worth doing a lot of research before committing yourself to any one  system or designer. In particular, you need to know how easy is it to install software updates, and whether  there a facility to make complete backups including the database.

One of the popular e-commerce solutions nowadays is to use a plug-in for WordPress. There are several available, some free, some charged for but generally not expensive. Some work better than others, and each has a different range of features.  Here are two WordPress sites we have created that use e-commerce plugins:

Sledgehammer Simple – uses the Wp E-commerce plug-in

Paradise Kitchen – uses the WP Simple PayPal Shopping cart

These plug-ins are great if you want to be able to add products yourself and have all the functionality that WordPress gives you.

But do you need a dedicated shopping cart system with its built-in set of features and limitations?  If you only have a few products to sell then sometimes it is more satisfying aesthetically to integrate a basic PayPal shopping cart into your existing website. Combine this with a clever piece of software that can deal with downloadable products and you have a very versatile system with a unique look. Have a look at the purchase page from this site we recently created  for an author and publisher.  We have been able to give the site  a unique look and feel yet it has the ability to sell both physical and downloadable products.

Whatever your eventual choice, make it an informed one.  The success or failure of your  business may depend on it.

Choosing a web design company

For many companies – particularly small businesses and start-ups – the web is going to be their major and in some cases only marketing tool, so when you choose a web design company you may literally be putting the future of your business in their hands.  It is not a decision to be taken lightly, nor is it an area where saving a few pounds should be your primary concern. You really need to take  an in depth look at a web design company before you give them your work.  It is easy to put up a glossy front, but is there any substance behind it?

The web design business is an amateur’s paradise. Start-up costs are very low, obsolete versions of poor software are given away by magazines and anyone can call themselves a web designer. Furthermore, there is a perception that ‘anyone can do it’ and that it is just a question of learning to use a new programme. The results are out there for all to see – ugly, poorly designed and hard to navigate sites that break in some browsers, that do not get any visitors and that do not show up in Google. Unless you are very certain of their capabilities you are doing your business no favours if you employ an amateur

The other option is to do it yourself. Web design is not your business however. Did you build your own computers? Do you deliver your own mail? No, of course you don’t – so why tie up valuable resources and time designing and publishing your own web site only to be disappointed with the result. Your time is more valuable than that.

So – you have decided to use a professsional website design company. There are thousands, so how do you choose? Here are some questions to ask:

How long have they been around? Businesses that have been around for ten years or more will have seen a lot of changes in the way the web works and have obviously adapted successfully. New businesses may not still be around when you need some changes made to your site. Your site could vanish, and you could lose control of your domain.

Have a look at their portfolio. Look for at least twenty websites, preferably more – if they only have a handful then they are either new starts or   just playing at it.  Do you like the sites? Do they work? Try some Google queries – do the sites show up for sensible search terms? Are the sites easy to use?  Good navigation is essential – do you always know exactly where you are on the site, can you find the information you want?

Does the company seem  interested in your business? When you ask them for a quotation do they give you a generic flat-rate quote or try to sell you things you don’t want,  or do they talk with you at length to find out more about your business, how it works and what you hope to get from the website? Do they baffle you with jargon or explain things in easy to understand terms?

Check the small print.  Are there extra set-up fees? If there are staged payments, what do you get at every stage? What sort of hosting do they offer? Will your site be able to expand with the business? How will it be updated? Are there any ongoing charges? Most importantly, make sure that you will own the copyright to all the material on the site including design and layout. We sugggest that you ask your web designer for a copy of all the files once the site is live and paid for.

What sort of support can you expect? We hear stories of ‘unavailable’ web design companies all the time. Make sure you have a phone number, not just an email address – and make sure it is not a premium rate number. Ask them what the turnaround time for an email reply is, and how long it will take to make a simple text change to the site. Remember, in many cases the same company will be looking after your business email account – you need to be sure they are there when you need them.

Lastly but not least, for genuine testimonials.  The best recommendation any business can have is a testimonial from a happy customer. Have a look on their website – are there any testimonials? If not, why not? You can also  ask the company if they are happy to provide references, and if you are still not sure you might even want to contact one or two of their existing clients and ask them if they would recommend the company.