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Are websites dead?

Filed under: Blogs,Social Media,Thoughts — Andy @ 1:38 am

May 18, 2011

Watch the 10 o’clock news on ITV. Specifically, watch the adverts. Then have a look at the bottom of the screen in the final frames. Where once you’d see a web address you pretty much always see a Facebook URL instead.

The initial conclusion you might jump to would be that websites are obsolete and the big brands are now just relying on Facebook. It’s true that your average non-geek internet user could happily have all their online communications, web searching, video viewing, gaming, news etc. needs serviced without moving away from Facebook, with their laptop next to them on the sofa whilst watching telly. Do some people just think Facebook IS the internet? It’s certainly less complicated – a single login (not even that if you set your browser to remember the passwords) and it’s all there. More importantly, is that what Lynx, Carlsberg, Ford, Pepsi et al think that you think.

I actually did what I was supposed to do (for once) and followed the herd to Facebook. I chose Lynx as a example ( Instead of seeing the brand’s website duplicated on Facebook, the landing page is dedicated to the campaign that the TV ad is part of. 236,000 likes. The updates from this are fed back into the “proper” website as well as a Twitter and YouTube Feed…and everything, of course, is “liked” and shared by those 236,000 Facebook users.

Facebook hasn’t replaced the website, it’s just another way into people’s heads. By using a familiar environment and changing your message accordingly you can get a more subtle, finely tuned message to a set of customers than a one-size-fits-all website. Facebook allows a different kind of interaction with an audience, more ways to discuss and share things and it happens pretty much instantly. If you do it right your target customers are not only potential buyers but a potential (and free) marketing team who will do your work for you.

I’ll think of a title later…

Filed under: Blogs,Thoughts — Andy @ 4:17 pm

April 14, 2010

I’ve been wanting to write an article about the curse of procrastination for a long time. However, of course, I procrastinated about that so long, several other people have. Rather than just repeating what’s been said, I’ll point you to John Perry’s website, who, aside from summarising it all very well, also makes a valiant job of attempting to turn the whole thing to his advantage.

What interests me is the fact that procrastination is almost universal in people who are normally described as “creative types”.Why? Douglas Adams used to famously avoid having to write by having baths. Several a day, in fact. Apparently his publisher once commented that he never once managed to hit a deadline…but he always smelt really nice.

As designers, we are surrounded by some very dangerous distractions. Computers. The most tempting, time-sucking creations ever made are, by a cruel twist of fate, the very things we are also supposed to use to get our work done with.

I took games off my Mac years ago. It just had to be done. However, since then the internet has sneaked up on us. Facebook, Twitter, the hundred blogs you feel you need to keep up with. Email, iChat. All of these toys with their shiny, glossy icons inviting you to come and play, and all with built-in justifications: Facebook could be helping you meet your next client. Blogging is a great marketing tool. Email is easier than phoning someone. That retro video PhotoShop plugin you just spent ten minutes downloading will, if mastered be great for some job in the future. Probably.

But it’s not all computers. There are endless possibilities for analogue procrastination as well. Never is our office tidier or more organised than when a big project has just begun. Well – you need to clean up, clear a space, get organised for the new work. And go and get some crisps and chocolate to see you through. Maybe the skirting boards need levelling off a bit. A new shelf to put all the new work on. Anything, in fact, to avoid doing the actual work itself (which, of course will be great when it is done, so no need to worry, really).

Wikpedia has some really scary things to say on the subject. Phrases like “psychological disorder”, “mental health” and “low self-esteem” kind of made me decide to go and do something else and maybe read that page later.

My own theory is that creativity is somehow in need of a jump start which can only be achieved with a buildup of adrenalin. Designers need the utter terror of a looming deadline in order to kick into action whatever part of the brain that supplies us with the instinctive solution to a problem without all that tedious thinking and planning that normal people have to go through. Also the act of thinking of something completely unconnected to what you are supposed to be somehow allows a hidden part of your mind to work away undisturbed and to quietly deliver the answer – usually at the strangest of times.

You could say rather than a negative aspect, procrastination is practised by people who have a supreme confidence in their own abilities. People who know they’ll always think of something at the last moment and know enough about how their own heads work to just let it get on with it automatically.

Either that or creatives are just people who are good at working out the bare minimum of work needed to complete a task so they can fill the rest of the day on Facebook.

Who knows? Not me. Anyway, there’s a deadline looming here so, naturally, I’m just going to fill the screenwash up in my car and maybe go and buy some crisps.

Goodbye 2009

Filed under: Blogs,Thoughts — Andy @ 4:24 pm

January 7, 2010

As Martin’s just pretty much covered everything about the design side of 2009 in his last post I thought I’d add some thoughts about what went on business-wise.

2009 was a bit of a yin and yang year for us. We began by bucking the recession due to the fact we were building online shops and other non-print projects. However the print design side also saw an increase, although the jobs were smaller and mostly relating to clients’ websites. For example, short run flyers promoting web offers or corporate IDs for new businesses who were wanting a web presence over anything else. Businesses seem to be retreating to the web due to the flexibility and ease of updating what they are offering.

The later part of the year saw a massive increase in late and non-payment from clients – even ones we have worked for for years and considered friends. It seems that when times are hard loyalty becomes a casualty. My own role became more of a credit controller than a designer which had a knock-on effect on the time available to spend with our “good” clients and developing new business. We felt that by giving massively increased credit (although not out of choice) we were suddenly doing the job of the banks, who were in retreat from lending.

However, on the upside, in terms of new business, 2009 must go down as a record year for increasing our client base with a surprising amount of startups coming to us and also established companies looking for a change, or for better value from their creative partners.

I’d be interested to hear some feedback from others in the creative industries to see if we had similar experiences.

As for our direction in 2010, 2009 has laid the foundations for a slight shift in our approach to website building. Every site we built had some sort of content management element. It’s something you can’t escape from now. Unfortunately this makes it difficult to add sites to your portfolio as you’re never quite sure what the client has done to the site after you’ve “handed over the keys”. The majority of sites were based on WordPress (including this one) which has now matured from a blog system into something that can transparently run a normal-looking site…but with the added advantage of a massive amount of control for the owner.

We also built several online shops based on the Zen Cart and X-Cart systems as well as creating a couple of totally bespoke systems ourselves in-house for clients with specific needs. A significant development here has been the wider acceptance of PayPal as a payment gateway. As it can also process standard credit and debit cards it allows the site owner to avoid having to jump through the hoops of the banks and also to avoid the nightmare (and often prohibitive cost) of PCI compliance. The surge of online shopping is something we hope to continue taking advantage of, and I think I’m going to have to just bite the bullet and start using the words “cart” and “store” instead of “shopping basket” and “shop” to save time when customising (or should that be “customizing”) these American systems.

Final thoughts:

We got to love:

We got to hate:

  • Rouge clients
  • The continued existence of IE 6
  • Courses on how to use Social Media to increase sales

Glad to see the back of:

  • That crappy swirly / spirally / flowery illustration style that everyone likened to Art Nouveau but clearly wasn’t
  • The paint-splat / run effect

Today I learned…

Filed under: Tech,Thoughts — Tags: , , , — Martin @ 1:59 pm

Hello and Happy new year! It’s been a while since I’ve managed to post anything new on here, we’ve were very busy during the run up to Christmas and I couldn’t find the time to write. Still we will have some new work to add to our portfolio very soon.

Design and in particular, web design are fields which require practitioners to keep constantly up to date on what’s going on within their chosen field. In the case of design, its important to keep up with the latest trends, themes and motifs, while trying to figure out where to go next. In the case of web design you also have to keep up with technology, APIs, frameworks and a whole host of other technobabble that occasionally fills me with dread.

Recently I’ve recently been learning the intricacies of x-cart. X Cart is a solution for building safe and robust e-commerce sites and supports all the sort of features that you’d expect to see in an online shop, by using it we can offer our clients a powerful shopping solution that should cover almost all their needs for a nominal charge. We’ll be adding a couple of shopfronts we’ve been building to our portfolio soon.

I’ve also been burying my head in the innards of WordPress to allow us to build ever more complex blogs and websites, I’ve also been working my first custom widget for the Sensora 2010 website.

I’ve also been busying myself with learning Action Script 3. To be fair, I’ve been learning bits of it since it was released, but I seriously knuckled down to it in 2009 and can now use it – together with away3d to deliver fully interactive 3d experiences straight to the user’s browser. Working with Flash and AS3 is a bit of a weird one for me personally, I used to hate it, then I had what I guess you could call an epiphany and everything seemed to fit together in my head. Now its an area I actually enjoy working with – go figure.

Ok… so I kinda revel in the technobabble, but when you can use it to actually come up with something it’s sort of seductive.

Why SEO ‘experts’ are a waste of money

Filed under: Thoughts — Tags: , , , — Martin @ 4:52 pm

October 15, 2009

I stumbled across this article on SEO the other day, although I agree with him, I’d like to distance myself from Powazek’s vitriol, I don’t think everyone working in SEO are bloodsucking vampires, systematically destroying the web for their own diabolical ends…I do however want to weigh in on the subject, as its something that we get asked about quite a bit.


Sheffield as a Creative Centre

Filed under: Thoughts — Andy @ 12:59 pm

August 30, 2009

Sheffield has come a long way, even in the 16 years we’ve been around.


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