An email I sent to my clients about the Google Mobile-Friendly Update

As part of giving you the best advice when it comes to your website and helping you be profitable online we have some news for you: from 21st April Google is changing the way it ranks websites and displays the results to people when they make searches on mobile devices.

Google knows what device is being used when someone does a search. So from this date if your website is not considered mobile-friendly Google will stop showing your website to people who might have previously found your site when searching on their iPhone, Android, Windows or any other smartphone.

Go ahead and do a Google search now on your mobile. You will see some site have ‘Mobile-friendly’ next to them whereas others don’t – so Google is already determining which sites give a good experience to mobile users. Here is an example search for our own website:

Areoff website listed in Google Search as mobile friendly

Go ahead and give it a try on your smartphone. To check what appears next to your website in Google simple type… site:www.yourwebsite.com into the search bar.

Is my website mobile-friendly?

We have checked and your website it is not currently ‘mobile friendly. Your website was either designed when mobile-friendly as a concept that was not yet in existence or it was agreed at the time that mobile visitors were not a priority for your business online. However, technology moves on very quickly on the internet and since this time mobile-friendly web design has become the standard – when we build new sites they are usually done with mobile and other devices considered from the start. Plus, a large proportion of people are now using their smartphones to visit websites and do business online. So as part of our responsibility towards you as our client and for the benefit of your online marketing it is our duty to let you know about these changes, the benefits and the costs of implementation.

Why does it matter?

This is why it matters. And for those of you who don’t like clicking on links for fear of where they might lead… Ofcom has just declared (6th August 2015) that Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for “getting online”.

What can be done to make my website mobile-friendly?

Making an existing website mobile friendly does involve work since the code that makes up the structure of your site has to be either modified or in some cases re-written entirely.

If you have Google Analytics set up on your website we are able to check for you to establish exactly what proportion of your website visitors are using smartphones. This section of your users won’t see your website listed in Google from the 21st April and you may loose business from potential customers who won’t see your website in search results.

What is the cost of fixing this?

Each website we design is bespoke so if you are interested in making sure your site is mobile friendly after April 21st simply respond to this email or call me on 07919 554592 and I will go through the options and prices for this work.

Will my website stop working altogether?

No, your website will still work exactly as it does now if a user visits it direct or searches for your website in Google on a desktop computer, laptop or tablet device. It will also continue to work exactly the same on mobile devices as it does now. The change that comes on April 21st is that your website won’t display in Google for people who are searching on their mobile – at least not until it is a mobile-friendly designed website.

I want to know more about the Google Mobile-friendly update

You can find out more information from Google about the changes here:

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html

Next steps

Please reply to this email or call me on 01702 668 150 for more information about the Google changes, how they display websites to people searching on their smartphones, and the potential impact on your business online.

If you’re still not sure about the benefits we have a page listing the 10 good reasons to have a mobile-friendly website.

Also published here: LinkedIn

Just turning up IS enough

City of London buildings

Shoot, then wind.

Ship to the next person.

That was the instruction.

I’m part of a photographic project called Twelve Photographers. And our mission is to shoot one roll of photographic film between the twelve of us – one shot each and following a pre-agreed theme.

This feat is made possible because the camera make we all use called Hasselblad allows photographers to use a detachable, light-tight ‘back’ containing a roll of film. Think of it like swapping over memory cards in a modern camera.

Film has regained popularity. It is making a comeback as a photographic medium that allows us to capture images of a greater aesthetic without any digital processing and to practice an altogether slower, more considered approach to the art.

I met with Architectural Photographer James Tarry who has taken his shot and needed to pass the back onto me. He suggested we met at The Attendant, a quirky coffee shop housed in an old underground toilet block in the Fitzrovia area of London. It’s a tiny but strangely ideal environment that has the original, shiny, white porcelain toilet cubicles intact which surround those taking their pews for refreshment.

After dealing with the handover of the bubble-wrapped mechanism we started chatting over a coffee and warm buttered banana bread – a delicacy at The Attendant. I mentioned that I had absolutely no idea how I came to be involved in the Twelve Photographers project that Hasselblad has featured on their blog and another feature in Professional Photographer Magazine – all before us dozen have finished shooting the roll and it goes off to the processors who will turn exposures into images.

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12 Photographers Project featured in Professional Photographer Magazine

But wait a minute!

I am part of a community of photographers on Twitter who follow each other because we share something in common – use of a particular camera make and type of photography.

I got chosen to be part of this project, dreamt up by another photographer, Andy Spencer because I turned up and said “Hello, I’m doing the same stuff as you guys”. I shared the images I had shot on my Hasselblad including using some hashtags so my tweets would be found amongst the noise. I instantly opened up for myself a gateway to a bunch of photographers on Twitter who were also using the same camera and film format as me.

This is the great thing about social media. Like-minded people who are passionate about their trade or craft get to know each other. Some of the photographers are local but others are on the other side of the world. There is no sense of feeling threatened by others who might otherwise be seen as competition, but instead newcomers who share the same passion are welcomed with open arms.

My agenda on social media is to turn up, be myself, and talk about what I do without spamming followers with constant, automated updates about my products and services.

Those who follow me know that contrary to what the social media rulebooks and pundits tell us, I tweet or post about ALL the things I’m interested in – I’m not the person who is known for one particular thing, but someone who shares insight, offers comment and provides inspiration on a range of different creative subjects.

Quite often there is a crossover – those who I chat to about photography might then also appreciate the latest website design project I’ve been working on, or a quirky piece of letterpress printing.

My advice then is to turn up with what you have. If that thing has merit, there’s a good chance that it will resonate with the right people and lead to more connections and opportunities that might otherwise have been closed off to you.

Also published here: Medium

Is your website designer mobile-friendly?

The iPhone is now seven years old and has come a long way since Steve Jobs first introduced it at his legendary Keynote speech that have continued to be a hype-fuelled annual media event event since his passing in 2011.

Nowadays it’s commonplace to see everybody with their heads bent at an angle as they peer into the internet, use apps and play games on their beloved smartphone.

This means that websites have had to play catch up and in the industry us web designers can no longer create sites purely for large screens in offices.

Enter Google

It’s no surprise that the search engine which is still de facto for many has recently started to display a tag alongside sites it sees as ‘mobile-friendly’ when someone googles for a product or service.

Areoff website listed in Google Search as mobile friendly
Google now shows a self-explanatory ‘Mobile-friendly’ tag next to search results that pass the test

Google has also indicated on their official SEO blog that mobile friendly sites will also start to rank better than those that aren’t:

“We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”

So this means that for your business, it’s beneficial to have a mobile friendly site as another means of helping you outrank your competitors in Google Search.

Ever curious as to what the industry is doing I decided to do a search for ‘web designers in essex’ this morning to see how many of our peers own websites are designed so they look great and work well on smartphones of all makes and sizes. The results were interesting – only *half* of them were shown as mobile-friendly. I am however pleased to say that our own website is mobile-friendly or is a RWD (responsive web design). According to Google this means the following things:

  • it doesn’t use software like Flash that won’t work on some smartphones, especially the iPhone
  • text is easy to read without having to zoom in
  • webpages are designed so you don’t have to scroll around the page to zoom in to see everything
  • links are spread apart enough so that you don’t end up tapping the wrong one (our fingers haven’t evolved into styluses – yet!)

It’s not just important for us geeks

It’s no surprise that these features of a mobile-friendly site are all about the experience for the user – it’s not just some technical thing that bothers us in the web industry or stuff that goes on behind the scenes but actually about providing that “better mobile-web experience” for the man and woman in the street.

So when you’re choosing a new website designer you might like to check out their own website either by visiting it on your smartphone (apologies for being presumptuous if you don’t own one) or running it through Google’s Mobile-friendly test tool.

Google's mobile friendly test for areoff.com
Our own website is mobile-friendly

These days it is crucial for your website to be mobile-friendly since those people who are peering into their smartphones might include those looking at your website to check out what you do, how to contact you or even buy your products online from you – without a mobile-friendly site things these tasks are going to be a lot harder if not impossible for these users.

Test your own website

You can test your site using the Mobile-friendly test tool or simply go to the Google Search on your phone and type site: and then your website address (for example site:www.bbc.co.uk). This tells Google to show all the pages it has stored for your website.

Let us know whether your website passes the Google ‘Mobile-friendly’ test and get in touch for more information on how we can help you with mobile-friendly website design.

Time-wasters and what to do with them

Free Circus Sat & Sun - Noon & 1pm

I went to a business seminar yesterday supported by Southend Borough Council. It was about getting more sales. We got onto the subject of identifying who our customers are. One lady who owns a pet shop explained that she knows to ignore a customer who is a “mother with a pram walking in.” She said that this is someone who’s not going to buy and is bringing their kids in for a look at the cute pets.

This sparked a conversation about these apparent time-wasters. What was going through my mind was they these parents who are just bringing their kids for a free look at the lovely animals for sale, may well be this pet shop’s future customers; in 6 months, a year or even two years time when their little one is ready for a pet – but not if you’ve treated them as a time-waster during their first time with your business. Instead of greeting them and asking them if you can help and to let them know where you are in the premises if they’d like any information or anything else, you observe them with stony-faced suspicion and the internal conversation that they’re just using your shop as a free of charge, poor-man’s version of a visit to the zoo – that surely seals the deal and almost ensures they won’t become a paying customer next time round because they remembered your poor attitude towards them.

Apple Stores across the world have a finely tuned retail presence where you are invited with open arms into their technological emporium. You are encouraged to use all their dazzling machines on offer – they work as fully as the machine you might end up purchasing from them. You can even use one of their Macs to check your email, surf the web, or play with the latest design applications. Contrast that to the norm in other stores selling computers. You can’t even get past the login page to try the computer out – not the best way of selling a product is it? Apple of course are looking to sell one of their devices to you in store, or for you to buy one of their many and well curated accessories on display. If not today, that’s absolutely fine and encouraged. Maybe next time you come in. Or you may buy online or from another retailer, but you’re buying an Apple product and entering their family – that’s the strategy. Above all, Apple Stores ensure, in fact they insist, on you being welcome to come and look and play and stay. That puts you in the right frame of mind about their brand and makes you feel valued whether or not you are buying today or not. They don’t need to install a coffee and cake shop into their stores to entice you to come in – not yet at least.

This gets me thinking about my own business. Wind the clock back 18 or so years ago. I was the one-man print division of a local stationery shop. The salesmen knew their pens, paper and files but they weren’t that clued up on print. A person walked in after seeing the “WE DO PRINT!” sign printed in bold black letters on a fluorescent pink poster size sheet of paper bluetakked to the inside of the window. This person didn’t look look like our normal customer. They came in with a toddler in a pram, slightly distracted by tending to them of course. They weren’t quite sure what they wanted. I was called forth because they were asking for something that I immediately knew about called NCR – the paper that when you write on it makes a carbon copy on the sheets below it, without using carbon paper. Probably about an hour later after going through the other requirements in quite some detail and bouncing ideas back and forth as to how to do this job for them, the deal was sealed and I took a deposit to start the work. So I was able to deal with this customers needs, although it wasn’t really what we normally printed and wouldn’t probably turn a profit from this job as we had to buy in stock and other supplies. It seemed like this customer would be a one-off – you get that feeling about customers.

This customer turned out to be one of our longest standing and most important. They grew from a one-man-band to a much larger concern and used us regularly for their website, design and print needs. If I had taken the attitude that this person didn’t fit the mould and seemed to be a time waster, the fortunes of our business may have been very different indeed.

So the best thing to do with those time-waster is to treat them courteously as if they were a valued customer. They may of course actually be a bona-fide time-waster, but are you willing to take the risk and never find out if they could turn out to be exactly the opposite?

The site doesn’t look right on my computer

That’s a pretty damning thing to say about the work a web designer has done.

But I get that response from time to time after I have poured countless hours into designing and building a website for a client.

However, if I can do what looks like passing the buck for a moment: “it’s not me, it’s the browser you’re using.”

This really does sound like making excuses for failing to ensure a website works in all website browsers that were ever invented from the birth of the web right up to the most modern versions that auto-update themselves on an almost daily basis without you even knowing.

So take a look at this factsheet from Paul Boag at Headscape – one of the leading lights in the web design field. It explains what you need to know about why your website might not look so grand on your computer if it’s still using an old version of the program you use to browse the web.

What is your budget?

A: What is your budget?

B: I won’t tell you.

A: Here’s a proposal and a price.

B: It’s too much.

A: What is your budget?

If you want to buy a house or a car it’s largely dependent on what money you’ve got to spend. You can get one that does the job in some shape or form but it’s the budget you have that determines what it does in addition to the basic function, how it looks, its size, its perceived status, and so on.

If you want to buy a bag of pasta, your budget determines what perceived quality and freshness of product you’re going to receive – and your potential enjoyment of it.

The same applies with website design, logos, graphic design, print and the other services we provide as a creative outfit. So we always ask “what is your budget?”.

Admittedly, this question is sometimes met with a raised eyebrow but there is a genuine motive behind our question.

It is not simply to say: “if your budget is £x, then this is what we are going to charge you for essentially the same product.”

But instead we ask because we’d say: “if your budget is £x, then this is what we can deliver for that money. This is how long we can spend on the project (because much of what creatives do is based on time spent, with raw materials often being a small proportion of the overall cost), here are the features and capabilities it can have, this is the robustness of the platform (if it is a website or online solution), this is the level of design intricacy, these are the creative elements like imagery, illustrations and graphics that can be included as part of the project.”

We’d also be selling ourselves short and not providing you as our client with the best of our service and experience if we crudely said: “these are the three price based options, please pick one.” This is because all our projects are bespoke and based on your needs that we discuss with you and recommendations we make. The price-point approach works in a supermarket, where there might be three different brands of baked bean – the premium, the mid-range and the own-branded value offering. But it doesn’t work for what we do where we are delivering something that’s a one-off and not in a can or a box or a tube.

So early on in the discussion we ask the question: “what is your budget?”

Letterpress Business Cards are the perfect accompaniment for people with sartorial style

fashion-style-blogger-letterpress-business-cards

These cards were produced for Grey Fox Blog, the style and fashion blog for men over 40.

So what better than some hand type-set, hand-printed (on a vintage letterpress machine), hand-cut to imperfection calling cards to complement the look and sartorial style.

They were produced on a reassuringly bulky, yet soft to the touch, 100% cotton card called Cranes Lettra from papers powerhouse GFSmith.

@greyfoxblog I love them so much I’ve found it hard to give them away and will be back for more in due course!

See more letterpress business cards.

Contact us for prices and options on hand-printed letterpress calling and business cards.

Grey Fox Blog Letterpress Calling Cards and Holdall & Co wallets

Wonga style technology for the insurance industry without paying over the odds

Love them or loathe them, Wonga and other pay day loan companies have certainly seized the initiative when it comes to making it super-easy to borrow money.

The process of seeing how much you can borrow and what it’s going to cost to repay over a time period is also made super-simple via their website using Slider Technology.

But why should this no nonsense approach be the sole preserve of short term cash loan companies and bleeding edge internet startups with unpronounceable names? Take away all the controversy over the rights and wrongs of what they do, who they lend to and what they stand for, what pay day loan companies have done is to distill the process down to it’s core elements – particularly important online. Making users complete lengthy forms to get a cost are a turn-off for any person visiting your website and this means lost enquiries and business going elsewhere.

Well now you can make the process of giving your customers quick and easy access to insurance costs through our Slider Technology system. We have worked with our client at British Money to deliver Universal Cover, a new mortgage income protection insurance scheme which features a simple slider to allow users to user a slider to choose the amount of cover and see an instant premium. What could be simpler?

Universal Credit website design using Slider Technology Software

This technology was developed to be adaptable and extendable for other insurance products. We have collaborated with our client to create this software which runs on a popular open source website system and not only allows you to simply integrate a slider on your website but also allows for instant changes of premiums, white-label affiliate systems plus online applications and full connection to insurance underwriters systems.

Contact us for a demo and further details.

We checked with the Archbishop of Canterbury and he wasn’t offended.

Self-promotion letterpress business cards

self-promotion-letterpress-business-cards

self-promotion-letterpress-business-cards-1

Join the letterpress revolution and smell the ink!

Ok, so a bit of self promotion never did anyone any harm and neither does some gorgeous letterpress print. All things vintage and retro are the flavour of the moment and our own heritage goes back to the days of letterpress print where individual characters of lead  type were selected from type cases and composed into type chases by hand. And yes, printers did run out of certain letters, mostly the vowels, unless they were large scale outfits with their own type making machines.

So we decided to get some business cards printed, but loving to combine modern technology with the old, we created the artwork on a Mac and got letterpress printing blocks made. The card we chose was Saunders 425gsm, a lovely soft which cotton board;  it feels like a beer mat – so when we hand out a card we can say “have a drink on us”. The ink colours are Black and Pantone 1795U and with the black we decided to print it a little lighter so it wasn’t quite so stark and, dare I say it, dark. Excuse the pun but to round the whole thing off got the corners rounded to complete that beer mat experience and give another level of finishing and embellishment to the business card.

Why go to this extent just for a card? Well, even in these days of BBM, vcards, QR codes, email contact lists, Friends and Followers, the people we meet always remember us all the more for a remarkable business card. A card that projects what we are all about as a creative agency who knows their onions and loves good old fashioned quality and value but is bang up to date and riding the wave of the next trend at the same time.