Andrew, Author at Website Design Exeter | Shopify | Wordpress | Concrete 5

Easter Office Hours

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Happy Easter from SwankyApple HQ! We’d like to remind you that we shall be closed for Easter on Friday 6th April and Monday 9th April. The office will reopen at 10am on Tuesday 10th April.

Your feedback in action

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SwankyApple is a client driven business. This means that we actively seek feedback to improve client experience. In fact, it’s such an important element of our business that we have a dedicated meeting every two weeks to listen, and then act on your feedback. Recently we have been spending a lot of time talking to clients about the systems we use to keep your services ticking. The result? A big overhaul in our internal systems which will further improve your SwankyApple service. We would like to share these changes with you and also highlight any differences you may notice.

Client-facing changes

We’ve been gradually rolling out our new internal systems during this month. Most of these changes are happening behind the scenes. All of our staff have now been fully trained to use all new systems. There are several key changes that you will notice:

Quoting: We’ve moved from BidSketch to QuoteRoller for our proposal / quote building software. QuoteRoller provides a nicer interface and quicker access to the key information you are looking for in a proposal. In addition we have integrated e-signature capability to speed up contract signing making the whole process quicker and easier.

Invoicing: We are moving from Clearbooks to FreeAgent for our accounting and invoicing. You will notice that future invoices look slightly different and reference numbers will also have changed. Clients who take any of our monthly services will now receive a monthly invoice during free promotional periods if applicable (the full amount will be invoiced then discounted).

Basecamp: Basecamp, our project management software, has been completely rebuilt from the ground upwards. The result is a brand new user interface and software that is easier to use. All new projects will now have a new Basecamp project file whereas projects still in progress will continue to use Basecamp classic until the projects end.

Back-office changes

We’ve also made some changes to the back-office solutions we use. In case you are interested here’s what we have been busy working on…

Cloud storage: We’ve moved a more secure, highly resilient back-up solution – Box. We can now access all of our files remotely which ensures we have access to all the files we need no matter where we are. Box also automatically stores all of your proposals and contracts which is pretty nifty too!

CapsuleCRM: We’ve moved from Highrise to CapsuleCRM. Due to CapsuleCRM’s integrations we have sped up the process of using your contact information, and most importantly, ensuring that your details are always secure and up-to-date. We also are now able to have a clear record of our conversations outside of Basecamp. This means that we can more effectively help you and solve any issues you may have.

Working in the cloud

All of the solutions we use are now cloud-based. This means that data is secure and always accessible no matter where we are. We have also been very careful to select solutions which integrate with others. This means less time spent on administration and more time spent listening to your feedback and working on your projects. Here’s our complete map of the solutions we now use.

Above: Internal doc – our cloud-software integration map (click to enlarge)

Have any feedback?

We’d love to hear your opinions on these changes and any feedback on SwankyApple in general. Buzz Andrew an email (andrew@swankyapple.com) or drop him a line (01392 927072). We really do value your feedback – it’s central to driving our business forward.

Christmas Hol Office Hours

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We would like to inform clients, and potential clients, of our upcoming office closure:

Office closed: Monday 12 March ALL DAY

Office reopens: Tuesday 13 March 10AM

If you have an urgent issue on Monday 12 March whilst the office is closed please email Andrew (andrew@swankyapple.com). Please ensure your email describes the issue and includes a telephone number should Andrew need to contact you via telephone.

Agile, Lean, Kaizen

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Welcome to the new SwankyApple website.

SwankyApple is going through a period of radical change. The Japanese call it a kaikaku event. We call it client driven change – its something that is at the heart of our philosophy. It also makes complete sense. SwankyApple was built on a few founding principle’s one of which is: make it easy. It’s amazing how many areas of a business this concept can touch. We keep refining our process.

As the previous SwankyApple site approaches a little over 1 year old it makes sense for us to practice what we preach to our clients and give our shop window a thorough refresh. The new site design is based on a theme which has become increasingly important to us over the last few months: modularity, seamless change and clarity.

We hope you find the blog fascinating, the ‘what we do’ pages enlightening and the portfolio impressive.

Happy = Better

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It’s no secret that happy workers work harder. The Guardian (article here) reports how research suggests that companies with happy employees could benefit from higher productivity levels. Science Daily (article here) focus on Kansas City University research which suggests that happy employees are critical for an organisation’s success. The founders of 37Signals (Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack, Campfire) very clearly state in their book ‘Rework’ that people should stop work at 5pm and go home. The very concept of the workaholic or ‘doing an all nighter’ is talked about as a stupid scenario which hits productivity and creates more problems than solutions. We get things done quickly and to a high standard because we have somewhere else to be – sitting in the pub drinking local cider. It’s this good life, having time to properly relax and think in lovely surroundings that gives us the inspiration and creativity that those big city agencies yearn.

We are in the digital peninsular. We call it #digpen as it sounds rather cool. We part of a bunch of highly networked people based in the South West of England who know, and love, their stuff. Take no comfort in huge inner city agencies as they are slow, full of bureaucracy and have fancy offices which are paid for by you. We are small, agile and creative with a huge network of people with fresh approaches and good skills. It really is just common sense. Happy people who enjoy life, love their jobs and take on projects which interest them. We also all genuinely give a damn about their client’s business investing time to understand the client in order to produce the best results.

Here at SwankyApple we actively support #digpen as we strongly believe that the South West is the best place for web professionals. It’s why we chose to base ourselves in the lovely city of Exeter. It’s also the reason why we have such a huge network of trusted partners who we really enjoy working with. The #digpen community have access to an exhaustive list of skills and it’s a sign that you are in safe, creative and happy hands. We’ve also gone one step further by being actively involved in the new Exeter Web Dev Meetup. The South West is not only known for having nice beaches, good cider and fresh air. We’re known for being friendly networking people too!

The big point here is that companies should not be looking at big city agencies and thinking “ah! They have lots of staff and a building made from glass. They must be good!” The fact of the matter is that big companies charge big bucks for work carried out by like minded individuals. They’ve hired staff who fit into their way of thinking and their company culture. Web professionals in the South West think differently. We like thinking differently. It’s this diversity and collaborative working with happy people that produces high quality creative work. We speak to people as individuals. We are down-to-earth and after all of the SEO, design, development and optimising wordpress is done we can be found at our local, by the sea, or on Dartmoor refreshing our creative juices for the next client who walks through our virtual doors.

Impact of Tablets on Web Design

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I think it’s safe to say that tablet computers have proven themselves to be more than a fad. Sales continue to rise and we are now seeing an influx of budget and mid-range tablets entering the marketplace. Android is powering the majority of these new devices which are using Froyo / Gingerbread or the tablet optimised Honeycomb. A quick search on Ebuyer.com shows us that we have moved on from tablets all being around the £500 mark. For £169.97 you can now get a Hannspree tablet with Tegra II 1Ghz dual core processor, 512MB RAM and the standard 16GB memory. Even though this little beast runs Froyo (2.2) instead of the more tablet friendly Honeycomb it’s not going to bother a lot of people who like the idea of getting all this tech for a really good price. Sure it’s not going to set your world on fire when compared to the iPad2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 but it’s still going to appeal to the more price conscious consumer.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Hannspree Tablet

August sees the launch of the much awaited Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.1 and 10.1 devices. The 10.1 has seen gained a good coverage in tech blogs in part due to it’s original design being changed to enable the device to better compete with the iPad2. It’s now thinner than it’s Apple brethren and is going to be a big draw for those who are not the greatest Apple fan. Then this brings us onto the iPad2 itself. By June 2010 sales of the original iPad had reached 2 million (The Times, 2010) and the iPad2 is rumored to have sold 2.5 million by April 2011 (Metro, 2011). Research firm Gartner expects tablet computer sales to reach 55 million this year rising to over 208 million in 2014 (The Independent, 2010). According to research by YouGov 76% bought a tablet in addition to a computer (The Guardian, 2011) Claims that PC sales will be eclipsed by tablet sales within several years, such as the claim by Tim Cook, seem completely plausible (Know Your Mobile, 2011) and this is why businesses, and the web development industry, need to stand up and listen to the huge changes we may very well see in the years ahead.

iPad2 advert

The web is now truly mobile. Smartphone sales are booming and so are tablet computers. The new challenge for web designers is to create designs that work across a wide array of platforms ensuring that the end user’s experience on a tablet is just as good as the experience on a PC or Mac. The new challenge for a business is to ensure that they invest the time and money in ensuring that they are accessible across all platforms to people who might be searching for them on the web. More and more searches and page visits are coming from visitors using tablet devices. Sites which do not work or have poor design for tablet viewing are likely to turn people away or give your company a non-tech friendly image.

We’ve been talking a lot about responsive design in the office over the last week. In a nutshell it essentially means designing sites that are responsive to the increasing range of different devices and browsers. The reason design is so important falls down to user experience and speed. Research shows that visitors expect websites to load in less than 2 seconds and will generally walk away from websites taking longer than 3 seconds to load. The faster your website, the higher the conversion rate. In other words the quicker you can get pages to load the more people will buy from your site (KissMetrics, 2011). Sure, it is a given that your website needs a good design first but the argument here is that it’s a two pronged approach; responsive design and optimised for speed. I suppose the question now remains what can we avoid to enhance the tablet website experience?

Google Webmaster Tools - Performance overview (Source: KissMetrics)

When designing websites that are compatible across different platforms we have to remember that not all tablets can handle flash. Additionally even those tablets that can handle flash lag when compared to their desktop counterparts. Flash is therefore a good thing to avoid in a cross-platform compatible website. Besides in my view flash websites are so 1990′s! Roll-down menus can also be problematic – I’ve experienced it myself. You don’t have a mouse and a touch on the screen is essentially a left click of a mouse. Holding down on a section of the screen brings up a system sub-menu on Android devices so for my sanity try and avoid these devilish fiends. The designs that are going to work best are those that are simple and have a clear navigation. Have you noticed Google recently? Their design has changed to the new Google+ style. Clean, simple and very nice and easy to use on a tablet PC.

Google +

The super information highway that is the internet is now home to hundreds of millions of websites (over 300 million). Tablet computers are already the second internet device for many households. It’s my view that these devices will also quickly become the only internet device for many households, especially those who need a device for the internet and are not that interested in word processing. The increasing popularity of G+ is just as much about providing an integrated internet experience combining office (docs), calendar, images and contacts as the social network element itself, if not more so. This also extends to the increasing popularity and ease of working from “the cloud” and an integrated solution which just so happens to fit like a glove for tablets, looks likely to be the future of computing. This amazingly cool image show (here) gives an interesting look at G+ not really being about “social”. Take a look – it really is brilliant.

What is G+ about? (Source here)

So let’s draw this rather geeky, but hopefully interesting, ramble to a close. Tablets are cool. Tablets are popular. They are only going to get more popular but hardware is not the main draw of tablets for consumers. Sure, for tech geeks like me there will be some degree of drooling over the prospect of quad core processors supported by copious amounts of RAM but that’s all really just a precursor. Tablets are all about the user experience and the ease of having a device which you can do anything with, whilst on the move or just sitting on the sofa. It’s all about the eco-system (nice article here) and perhaps that’s why Apple iPads account for 89% of tablet traffic in all markets (comScore, 2011). That’s why SwankyApple John argues that Amazon will be the real competitor to the iPad2 when it launches in October. The amount of content Amazon has access to (remember they now own LoveFilm!) has the potential to win droves of consumers to their new device.

So what for business? To put it quite simply it’s the future and it’s happening now. Businesses that are not tablet ready will suffer because quite frankly it is a very poor show. Now that the internet is truly mobile we expect to have information at our fingertips. We also expect to get the information fast, to be able to purchase things quickly, and then be able to go on with our everyday lives. Keep designs simple, make information succinct and accessible and utilise this new resource whether that be providing real-time service data or creating websites and apps that keep clients in the loop no matter where they go.

Loud Noises

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What’s the first thing you think of when trying to tell everyone about your new website? Shout from the rooftops, plaster your social networks with messages and tell all of your existing clients. Trouble is there is only so much you can achieve by making a lot of noise. You will probably get a spike in your visitor statistics but chances are they are people you have already targeted, and perhaps even got on your books already. Creating a new website is only half of the work. The rest comes in optimising your site to achieve the best search rankings possible. It’s not rocket science but it does require continuous focus, refinement and general slog. It’s all about using the right keywords, identifying opportunities for topping search lists and maintenance so that you stay there. Advertising and loud noises will only get you so far. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will help to complete the picture. Whether you are have a local ecommerce design, brochure website or in fact any type of website at all we can help. Contact us today to ask about our affordable SEO services!

The Value of Virtual

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According to the Office for National Statistics online sales now constitue a record 10.6% of all retail sales (Sky News, 2011). In the last four months of 2010 online sales accounted for 38% of Argos’ total sales compared to 35% in 2009. That’s worth more than £700 million. Tesco Direct internet sales rose by 18% and M&S internet sales rose by 25% by Christmas 2010. On one single day during December (the 7th just in case you were wondering!) Britain spent in excess of £350 million online (BBC News, 2011). A total of £770 million was spent in Britain online throughout the whole of December (Sky News, 2011). On Saturday 22nd January 2011 Apple’s App Store reached 10 BILLION downloads (BBC Newsbeat, 2011).

Retail transition graph showing consistently rising online sales

Retail transition, 2009 - 2014Retail transition, 2009 - 2014

CES 2011 has been billed as the most exciting electronics show of the year (CNET, 2011). A sizable amount of CES 2011 coverage in tech magazines focused on the emergence of smart TVs. Smart TVs are essentially TVs that allow you to access the internet and download apps to your TV just like you can do with your smartphones. Samsung is widely viewed as being at the forefront of TV apps. Between the end of October 2010 and the end of January 2011 Samsung will have given away in excess of £32,000 worth of home entertainment products in a single campaign aimed at boosting the awareness of it’s smart TVs. The campaign covered both a dedicated website, Facebook and Twitter. LoveFilm now streams films directly to your TV through their own app. LoveFilm has just been bought out by Amazon who have recognised the surging popularity of on-demand movie streaming in America. VUDU (US only) is one such streaming service that now offers standard definition, high definition and 3D movies direct to your TV over the internet.

So what is the point I am trying to make here? The value of the virtual world is continously getting bigger and will do so for the forseeable future. According to the BBC House of Fraiser credits the launch of internet sales for keeping sales up during the bad snow we have been having. 2011 is not only the year of the smart TV. It is also the year of the tablet PC. The internet has become truely portable. We can now access full internet on the move for a cheap price. This means that there is no question as to whether you invest that time and energy into your online presence. It’s essential. In fact it is perhaps down right silly not to take your online presence seriously. I believe this so much that I, along with Dan, started SwankyApple. We are passionate about virtual identities. What’s more it’s not just about big companies. SMEs need to be online. It is vital. It will generate sales and interest. It will ensure you do not get left behind the competition. It will ensure that when your potential customers go online to search for your products, which they will do, you are there. All it takes is an investment in time and money which you will recoup. We make things as affordable as possible whilst keeping top quality a priority. The value of virtual is huge. Time to let us help you get things ticking.

New Year’s Resolutions for Smart Business Website Owners (1/3)

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New Year, new technology, new customers, new business and maybe even a new website? The first few months of the year can be an interesting time for us as SME web developers. It’s a time we always look forward to because we usually hear from lots of small businesses who are keen to do a little spring cleaning of their online home. They want to modify prices, tighten up designs, add new content and generally update their site to better reflect what their business has become during the last year.

Of course, businesses are often keen to find out what else we could do to improve their sites and there are usually at least three things we strongly encourage them to consider. With that in mind we thought we’d reveal these all-too-frequent three wishes as New Years resolutions (because there is rarely a good excuse to list wishes!).

1. Get that SEO sorted. Like, right now!
There are few things we at SwankyApple get more irate about than a great business website languishing on the 10th page of a relevant google search when tacky, bug ridden competitors pop up on page one. Killer search engine optimization for business websites generally costs around just 10% of the overall website value and usually pays for itself within 2 months. After that it’s all profit. For a £500 website development that’s a £50 difference between 20 interested customers a day after the first month (continuing to grow after that with further investment) and just one or two – for life!

The best bit about SEO? Even if you’ve got an existing site, there’s a good chance that a decent web developer can work with it to markedly improve your sites search performance. A websites search performance can even be dramatically improved in highly contested areas (like searches for ‘business web development’ for example) by a more aggressive optimization plan. The important thing to remember about SEO is that if it is done well it will typically pay for itself after just a few months, and then will be providing tens, hundreds or even thousands of clicks per month for years to come. This should be at the top of every small businesses wish list.

We’ll get stuck into the next resolution next week where we’ll get even more irate about taking advantage of mobile and local marketing opportunities.

Virtual Real Estate

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Your home on the web is more valuable than your bricks and mortar. The fact of the matter is that most of us regularly search for goods and services on the web before we visit a physical premises. If you want a telephone number or address you search for a company’s website. With the booming popularity of devices that offer full internet on the go its even more important that time and energy is invested in getting your website right. It just is no longer good enough to have a DIY website. Your virtual estate can be built and maintained at a far smaller cost than your bricks and mortar. However it is in many ways the most valuable asset you will own.

Online business is booming and with more and more graduates starting their own companies you cannot afford to fail to maintain your virtual estate. So what exactly is your virtual estate? It’s your domain name which is essentially the difference between being in Mayfair or on Old Kent Road. You need one which is easy to remember and easy for customers to note down. Its your website design – how good you look to your customers and how easily they can access the information they want access. Its also the back-end – how you integrate your site with business operations. We can help with all of this and will even give you 10% off if you scrap your current website and let us build you a better one. We have the tools to help you get a lean mean virtual fighting machine. Now it’s your move. Maximize your online potential or lose custom. It’s up to you.

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