Post break

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What the heck is Neuro Web Design?

I came across this interesting subject a short while ago and it fired an interest in me. Foremost, what the heck is Neuro Web Design?

It was a terminology I hadn't come across before so I investigated it a little more. Simply put it is a way of explaining how and why we [humans] do things within the web environment. Well that's too simple, it also encompasses the way we communicate as a community and in general.

As the name suggests 'Neuro' it has it's origins in the brain and the way in which we decipher the information we take in every minute of every hour of our waking hours and how we act upon that information. For designers and marketeers alike, we use the principles that Neuro Web Design highlights every day but we may not realise why we use them.

There is also a difference between 'can do', 'will do' and furthermore 'still do' in terms of website design. You can design a site from a user perspective so you 'can do' i.e. find the right buttons or links but does it answer the 'will do' and furthermore 'still do' question. This is where new principles based in Neuro web design start to kick in. These principles are based around Persuasion, Emotion and Trust.


Ask a user and they will tell you that they want choice and usually it's show me everything. But research shows that if you do this they freeze!

Dr. Iyengar used an experiment using Jam in a supermarket. She set a table up with six jams and another with twenty four jams. The table with twenty four jams saw approx. 60% of people stop and taste them, whilst the table with six jams saw 40% of visitors stop by. Now from first impression having so much choice saw a big swing in favour of having more choice BUT when examined further it is clear this is misleading. The conversion to sales for the table with twenty four jams was only 3%. In comparison the conversion to sales for the table with six jams was a massive 30%.

Even though people want more choice the reality is that they freeze because there becomes too much choice which in turn freezes our ability to decide. So in terms of website strategy this shows us that we can't just look at increasing quantity of visitors to our sites but must focus on the quality of the offering to get the conversion to sales we actually desire.


When we are presented with more choice, research shows that we look to others to help validate our choices. So if you can give ratings and reviews to your products or services this help users decide, The power of these reviews cannot be undervalued. In the same way testimonials can also help validate the services you offer.

The most powerful source of reviews is peers. It has a far bigger effect than even those of 'expert' reviews. So know your audience and try to ensure that when a review is given you get as much information as possible from the reviewer. Location, type of business, age and images are all great beneficial aspects when users want help validating their choice.


Our unconscious brain is very sensitive to the idea of losing. So when you have an offer that says only '3 days left' or 'Last one in stock' our unconscious brain triggers an emotion of loss which in turn triggers action. We have a fear of losing so the idea of scarcity can be a powerful tool.


Our old brain is very attuned to the basic requirements of food, sex and danger. So whenever any of these basic instincts come into play we make strong unconscious choices. Where appropriate we can use these devices to appropriate a reaction. For example if an insurance company wants to sell you its products it may use a video to help instigate or subconscious to react. Lets say we watch a video of a house that is engulfed in fire we make connections in our old brain that this might be our house, therefore, triggering danger. This strong instinct talks to our mid brain and attributes the correct emotion. Both together become a strong trigger to action.


We have a special part of the brain called the Fusiform Facial Area (FFA) that only processes the facial areas. It is well documented that there is power in showing faces on a website. It is normally best to show them looking directly at the camera. We are highly receptive to facial features and our subconscious makes decisions based on facial attributes but it is especially attuned to the eyes.

The use of faces is another form of validation as we are in essence social animals.


When presented with information it has been proven that our brains are highly developed to take in information in the form of a story. Stories allow us to chunk down the data in a more readily re-collectable format. Chunking is a key when presenting information and stories allow our brain to do this. Our brain is developed to process pictures, when presented with text our brain deciphers it and creates a mental image of the information given. Remember, the written language only occurred a few thousand years ago so our brains used images to scan our environment to warn us of possible dangers, threats or indeed opportunities. So making sure you have descriptive images is a great addition to your armoury.


Research also shows us that getting small commitments from users over a period increases loyalty. So when signing up people you take basic information then get them to fill out more later. You must give good reason to get this commitment so remember it's a two-way street you give they give.


There are some key factors to take into account in how our brains work when we are presented information. It is theorised that there are essentially three ares of the brain which are used for very different purposes:

  • The old brain: used for instinctual decisions and processes
  • The mid brain: used to process emotions
  • The new brain: used to think about problems, play music, read this blog

The old brain is thought to be part of our evolutionary development and it's purpose is essentially survival. So it decides what is dangerous to us, it keeps us breathing, it drives the need for procreation and essentially the need for food.

In contrast the mid brain is our emotional interface that processes incoming data and helps us to decide how we should feel about that information. Does it make us feel sad, angry, elated or sympathetic.

What distinguishes us as humans above animals is the ability to think. This is the new brain and is usually called the pre-frontal cortex. This is generally a distinguishing feature of 'higher' functioning as opposed to 'lower' functioning animals.


By now you can begin to understand some of the principles in Neuro Web Design. This is just the surface as you must get to grips with the fundamentals of how and why our brains do what they do.

What is most evident is that we humans like to feel we have full control. It is our new brain that formulates how we think we deal with communications/information. However, the truth is that we are not as in control as we like to believe. Most of our decisions are based on unconscious processes and decisions made in our mid and old brains. Our new brain then formulates reasons why we made that decision even when the decision is at odds with what your new brain thinks it should have done.

As marketing communicators we know that to effect an outcome you need to make an emotional link to the consumer. This is what helps translate a page visit into a potential buying scenario. The interesting part is joining up the dots and realising what is really going on in the brain that helps us deliver better communications and more effective returns.

We must begin to engage all three ares of the brain rather than necessarily using the type of logic your new brain would suggest. For instance, if you go online to find a new piece of equipment you may have a list of must-haves that it needs at the very least. The reality is once we begin to look through a list of items a series of unconscious decisions kick in that bend our thought processes. You may end up looking at items that only have three or four of the must-haves of your original list.

It is true that we have a decreasing attention span, which has been engendered by our social and work environments. So if you have a list of items presented to you on a page they likelihood of you viewing the first items on the page is quite high, even though they may not actually suit your original requirements, such as price. Part of the reason is that we do not like too much choice. Our new brain says we do, however, the reality is once we are given too much choice we freeze. Our decisions are compromised and that elusive quick sale is lost. So the solution is more focussed results, less is more where decisions are concerned.

Our brains are remarkable things and at it's heart it is a social animal. This is evident in the way in which we will follow perceived trends or induced scarcity. Scarcity can be seen as exclusivity or the perceived lack of something. For example if we are looking for an item and it says 'Last one in stock!' the chances are we will be motivated to make a quick purchase even when it runs against the logical new brain. It is an emotional interface with the old brain that could be likened to a survival instinct to get the last banana on the tree before it's gone.

So scarcity can be a very powerful selling tool. Retailers do this all the time with offers or sales but they are inducing this emotional/survival instinct. We can employ the same tactic on websites by using offers based around a giveaway or time limited offers. These serve to get the impulse decisions that can create sales.

As social animals we tread carefully in new environments so buy-in is an important element in building trust within that social arena. This can be done where sign-up is required by being transparent. For instance by showing pricing levels together with a clear comparison of service. But giving something for free alongside the sign-up helps add loyalty. How does this work? Well it is human nature to feel indebted when someone gives you something. As an example, you send out a Christmas gift to an acquaintance who in return now feels indebted and reciprocates by sending a gift back. Now the interesting part is that it does not equate that if you send a small gift to someone that they will send a small gift back, in fact the size of gift they return is more equal to the level of indebtedness they feel so the gifts value may well exceed that of your original offering.

This can be used where there are sites that offer information. You gain that information through subscription. These sites can employ loyalty through the scarcity principle we just described. If the information can be received before anyone else 'exclusivity' then it is deemed worth the subscription. That also employs the indebtedness theory as they offer money in return for that 'exclusivity'.

Although Neuro Web Design can be more complex it is fair to say that in it's basic form it uses the unconscious decision making parts of your mental processes to effect better design and marketing solutions.

We understand these principles and, where appropriate, we employ these techniques in our design solutions. It is important to realise that these techniques are not limited to the available internet technologies but also influences print design too. As first mentioned at the beginning of this blog although it helps guide design decisions it certainly should help you to understand how to market your business more effectively.

Understanding your brain may just help solve your sales problems.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Planning your website

One of the biggest conundrums of website build, design and planning for any size business, is what content to have on the home page of their website. When I ask clients this, invariably the answer is everything is important. Now common sense is that you cannot have everything present there. So what do you do?

I have described on other blogs how to brief a website but it's crucial before you do that you fully understand what your business needs.

We know that the home page is a crucial element any any website as it's usually the first point of entry for users of the site. Before you go planning what will go on the home page you MUST sit down and fully understand the whole of the website and how the home page fits in. This will especially be important in terms of marketing, as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and email campaigns may be employed in the promotion of your website.

Most people have a fair idea of the content they want, but invariably fail to produce a site plan and don't fully realise how the whole sits together and, therefore, miss great opportunities to make their website truly an invaluable tool.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

This may be an old adage but it's true. You have to sit down and plan your website before you can decide what goes on your home page let alone anywhere else. So if you haven't done the planning DO IT before you do anything else.

Obviously, the size of the business makes a difference in terms of the services or products that are or will be on offer to the web user on entry to the final site.

So create a site map. The 'Basic' building block for any site build is the understanding of the content that will make up the website. This comes before even thinking of any other functionality the website will need.

So sit down and begin to plan the basic content of your site. You can use programs to help you do this or you can be as simple as setting out post-it notes. There are plenty of tools out there to help you with the planning but you need to aim to have an understandable diagrammatic description of your site.

Where to put the information

What isn't so easy is making sure you put the right information in the right area of your site. I always find it best to give priority to information first. This will help you in terms of structure. Use a scale such as a 1 - 10 scale or alphabetic scale, but use a system that works best for you.

Now we need to think about how the web will hold the information. I'm not talking technical know-how just some basic common-sense. Think first of having information of a particular type and placing them in a container (say a Tupperware box) we may label that box as 'Services' for example. All the information we want in the 'Services' box we place inside the Tupperware box so we know anything to do with that type of information can be found easily. We can call the 'Services' box a 'Category' container and we may have several such boxes for example 'Products', 'FAQs' etc. Each of these boxes may need some further segmentation to help define the information we are offering. So let's say that the 'Services' category box needs another box inside it called 'Consultancy', and we place any information that is relevant to consultancy in that box. Now we have just created an 'Sub-Category' which is a 'Child' of the 'Services' category.

I hope you are still keeping up with me, so now we are beginning to segment the information required for your website into neatly defined areas. We can now call all the information contained within 'Consultancy' as 'Children' of that sub-category. As you will begin to see, we are defining the structure much like a family-tree. There is no particular limit to how you nest information on a website, however, you must ALWAYS bear in mind that people coming to your website want to find information quickly and easily. So don't get too bogged down in segmenting your website because people will not be able to find the relevant information that they require and likely as not will leave and go elsewhere.

I use the analogy of the tupperware boxes to illustrate that if you have too many nested boxes you'll get tired of opening one after another to get to what you want. This is the same on the web, remember peoples attention span is less than a 'Goldfish' these days. So make the information quick to access!

Once you've got the hang of the way in which we begin to define areas of your website you will see the pattern emerging of how we can navigate that information too. This will also help you to think objectively about the information you want as opposed to really need. For instance, even though you have neatly categorised a piece of information down to a third or forth level down the family tree, you may realise that this piece of information needs to be accessed far more easily. This will allow you to begin refactoring the way you have segmented the information so far.

In essence, we have begun to create a site map or flow chart of the information, where it sits in terms of structure, and a rudimentary navigation.

Put all of the plan you have amassed so far into a chart. Do what feels comfortable but bear in mind your web developer or designer needs to be able to understand what you are trying to achieve.

Once you have done your first-draft of your chart we need to think more objectively. Print it out or lay it out so that you can sit back and think clearly about what you need. Firstly, as you will have seen on countless sites there is a level of information that is vital yet not the main purpose on any website. These are 'Terms and Conditions', 'Privacy', 'Shipping Information' etc. Although these could quite easily be categorised within the structure of information you have gathered, they need to be immediately visible to your users. These types of information generally will be offered on a secondary navigation but not within the main navigation. They may also be mentioned and linked to for other areas of your website but must always be apparent.

You now have an understanding of the information you need to present on your website. What I suggest is now you need to analyse where you have or need to have access to duplication of information. This is important as your web developer would need to understand that you need the ability to assign a single piece of information to multiple areas. This is a build issue. You will also need to be able to update one single piece of information rather than multiple versions of the same thing.

Administration of your information is a key consideration for any website and, understanding from the outset where sensible time-saving measures could or should be made is essential to all parties involved in the creation of your website.

Understanding that you will need to cross-reference information in multiple areas of your website is crucial to understanding the best methods of doing that.

So now you have created your basic site map you need to be smart and not assume it's right. This is the opportune point to get other key people involved, to get some informed opinion, to get some objective but constructive input. This should help clarify grey areas in your site, it will most-certainly highlight those areas you have forgotten, but within a business environment it will also show you where others have a differing view of priority.

Remember, each area of your business is represented by your web site, either directly or indirectly, you must ensure that you don't mis-represent those areas. It's common-sense that not areas can be on the home page of your website. But mechanisms can be used to help ensure a balance of presentation that helps ease the question of information priority.

For me one of the big benefits of having a thorough site map, is that all parties can see the end goal and therefore, can plan accordingly in terms of scheduling and effecting delivery points throughout the lifecycle of the project. Once you have gone through this planning process you will be in a far stronger position when speaking with developers or designers. You will understand what needs to be delivered more clearly so the interchange of both visual and functional design can be fit-for-purpose.

Think about the impact on your business...

Whilst it may sound obvious that other people in your organisation will have a different point-of-view regarding priority of information, if it's not clearly dealt with at this important stage it could cause HR issues further down the track when employees can become disgruntled if they feel that they have been overlooked. It's a potential disconnect that I've seen before, a marketing manager or director goes and gets a website created without interacting properly with key staff to ensure that the information is both fit-for-purpose and that it has been presented in a way that fits with both company policy and structure too.

Your website is not only just for the purposes of delivering information to an end-user but is increasingly an invaluable tool in collecting information. There are very few businesses that would not benefit from a site that can give you the tools to aid both business process and marketing. Your website should be viewed as part of a digital eco-system that interacts and impacts on each element. But all are there as much for the benefit of your company than it is as source of free information. Gone are the days when a website was simply an online brochure. It should be a fully interactive experience.

What I mean here is that if we take a simple idea that you have an existing system to hold customer CRM info. What you don't want to be doing is duplicating entries. So we need to make the website work to your advantage by automating and web-gathered data so that it imports to your CRM system with the minimum of fuss. This is where the information you require may be very specific but will impact directly on the build of the website. It may mean a little more investment up front but could save many hours of data entry down the line. And again here, using joined up thinking, how can we use your CRM system to be more effective with web promotion, online sales or predictive marketing.

The point is that once you have a site map it can help aid you in the process of joining the dots in your business far more effectively, especially if you think outside the narrow box of just a website. Think about the needs of the business, don't just think we need a web page to say this or that, think what can we get out of this web presence. Whilst the website has a job of marketing it can be used to greater effect in bringing areas of your business together. There are systems that can join all the dots, in terms of process, because they use the web as an element of the whole process rather than as just a necessary evil that the business has to do.

I've touched on other areas in this blog on purpose. Not only to highlight why planning is important but more so that you should not take your website as an activity in isolation. It is part of a symbiotic whole.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What is brand and why do I need it?

Many companies large or small, at some point, will come into contact with the term 'brand'. To many this is mixed up with the term 'branding' which is an extention of 'brand' and usually expresses the outward visual presence of your company but not the real 'brand'.

So how do we define 'brand'?

From a Marketing view point, 'brand' is defined as a 'name', 'term', 'sign', 'symbol' or 'design' or any combination of the same that identifies a products or services a company provides that sets them apart from other companies.

Now this to me this is 'branding' whereas 'brand' goes further than that, it defines the 'personality', 'language', 'expectations' and 'trust' that your company provides organisation wide from all touch points.

Furthermore, it's essentially how your company will provide a solution to your prospects that differentiates you from your competitors.

What does that mean to me?

In short, defining your 'brand' allows you to:

  • Create clear communications, externally and internally
  • Helps create policies and processes that help deliver reputation
  • Directly connects to your prospects emotionally delivering a consistent experience
  • Good experiences that motivate prospects
  • Ensures customer loyalty

When you begin to understand what your 'brand' really is you can begin to deliver. Deliver to both customers and internally to staff. It helps initiate the winds of change in areas of your business that were ill defined.

'Brand' is the animal that sits inside your customers, prospects, clients, suppliers and staff. It is the culmination of their experiences and perceptions of your company.

So it is wise to take control of your 'brand' to minimise the negative and maximise the positive experiences.

Of course, 'brand' is not a cure-all it goes hand-in-hand with good business practices. But the only way to ensure you deliver a 'brand' that will succeed is to embrace the idea that design alone will not deliver the best ROI and it is only by spreading your true 'brand' throughout your organisation that will bring true ROI.

Having a strong 'brand' is essential in the constant struggle to gain customers. You must begin to invest in building your brand through research and defintion of who and what your company is. Begin to define the 'Promise' you offer to your customer but just as importantly ensure that is matched by what your company 'Delivers'.

Once your 'brand' is defined and integrated into your company ethos and working practices it becomes easier to deliver marketing communications that are effective. This then feeds your 'branding' and the delivery of your corporate marketing communications that are a true reflection of you.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Giving an effective website brief - part 3

In the first two parts of the series we covered the basics of what and who your company is and does. We then went on to deal with the look and feel and technical needs your new web site will require. In this the final part of the series, we cover the maintenance and promtion of your spangly new web site to be.


This is a grey area often overlooked when briefing a web site. Most companies believe they can run the upkeep of the web site themselves, however, often this is not a realistic outlook. There is a price to pay for using vital staff resources on an area that is not their core skill, both in terms of loss of staff time, and in delivering the right service to the user.
Unless you have a web application built that wholly integrates into your business systems you will realistically need maintenance of some description.
Maintenance is not purely the domain of updating copy of images but it is whole area that needs careful consideration. So consider the following:
  1. Who will be responsible for the on-going general updating of the web site?
  2. Who is/will be responsible for the maintenance of the web site? Updating of servers, code, domains etc.
  3. Being realistic, do you have the skills, resources and time to update the web site in-house?
    • If so, what happens if that member of staff leaves the company?
  4. Would a maintenance plan with your web site supplier be preferable, so they handle web site updates and maintenance for a set fee or agreed hourly rates?
    • Consider amount of updating actually required
    • Back ups of the system for disaster recovery
    • Load balancing for high traffic sites
    • What maintenance of code / system updates it includes

Promoting your web site

Along with spending a great deal of time and money on building your spangly new all singing, all-dancing web site you need make sure people see it. And the right people at that. So consider how you promote the web site either on launch or on-going.

Off-line promotion

A web site should really be supported by an off-line strategy of promotion and advertising, consider including the following form(s) of promotion:
  • Direct mail shots to targeted recipients.
  • Promotional brochures.
  • On-going PR campaigns.
  • Sponsorship.
  • Complimentary Gifts.
  • Exhibitions.
  • General/Trade Advertising.
Off-line promotion may not be the realm of the web development company you select but it is very important that all your outward facing communications align. In turn this means that it will be important that your agency or marketing department give strong visual guidelines to ensure that the web site ties up with those off-line activities.
This may mean extra data collection on the web site too. This can help streamline the process of using customer address details by using a central data storage facility. For example being able to apply addresses to the envelopes for your direct mail. In short think smart!

Online promotion

To complement off-line promotion or indeed to replace it you must consider how you intend to promote your web site. Promoting your web site, in terms of getting it listed on search engines and also building links with other web sites, is vitally important to the continued success of your site.
It worth noting, that some areas of this type of promotion are the realms of specialist web companies, such as SEM and SEO. Your developers may offer these services but it’s worth some time to fully understand what you really need.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing) - is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote web sites by increasing their visibility in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) through the use of search engine optimisation, paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) - is the process of improving the visibility of a web site or a web page in search engines via the ‘natural’ or un-paid (‘organic’ or ‘algorithmic’) search results.
Optimising a web site may involve editing its content and associated coding to increase its relevance to specific keywords searches used on the search engines.
So what areas do you consider important to promoting your new web site:
  • Building link partners.
  • SEO and submission.
  • SEM paid listings (such as the sponsored links you see on the side of your search results).
  • Email marketing campaigns / Newsletters.
  • Banner advertising on related trade web site or high traffic volume web sites.
  • Social Media Marketing.
  • What forums or blogs will you join and participate in?

Site mapping

Another useful tool to help make sure the proposal from your web developer is accurate and that you get what you ask for, is a site map. The best way think of this is how the user will access the information in a simple hierarchy (a flowchart). How the information will be grouped.
Remember, all the information on your web site is important to the various parts of your company, however, you cannot show all the links to these on the homepage. So your job is drive people to the right place as quickly and easily as possible. So think of a tree and use a simple flow chart to show where each level of your web site resides. But also remember not to overthink the map at the brief stage.
You can refine your initial site map with the help of your chosen web developer in the specification stage. They will have suggestions how to present the information in a user friendly way. They are the experts so use them. For the purposes of the brief create an initial roadmap. This will help you to collate the information you will need to deliver to them and the developer to checklist against for the development of the site.


Finish your web site brief with an outline of what you expect back from the web developers. You may also wish to outline budgetary constraints you may have. This may impact on your wish list for your web site.
Depending on the size of the development will depend on the type of proposal you recieve back in kind. For a large complex devlopment for example, you would typically expect feedback to be in the form of a full proposal, including details of how the site would be built, technologies to be employed, a site map, detailed costing with options, on-going costs, any licensing considerations, timescales, deliverables, any assumptions and other conditions of the proposal.
Then finish up with your contact details and expected timescales for you to receive the proposals and you may also wish to outline anticipated delivery of site deadlines at this point. A rule of thumb for web sites is a development period of around 3 months not necessarily including testing. But for larger sites this can be much longer.
In terms of deliverables and timescales, it may be worth considering a planned rollout, rather than waiting and waiting for the whole site to be finished. This can give you valuable time to build up anticipation or capture new audiences.

And finally, always consider your web site as a key component of your business process. A web site should never simply be shoved up just because ‘we just need one don’t we’. Today a web site can, and needs to be, an essential tool in gaining and more importantly retaining customers. Along with all the functionality your company wants from the site, ultimately the web site is a user experience, so don’t skimp on investing in good user-friendly design coupled with fantastic functionality that really delivers value to both parties.


>> Part One - click here

>> Part Two - click here

Don't forget to visit our website

Friday, 24 February 2012

Giving an effective website brief - part 2

Following on from the first part of ‘Giving an effective web site brief’ where we began to outline your company and your existing web offering, part 2 aims to deal with your new website.

Your new web site

Sit down and really examine what you need from your web site. These may be direct and indirect needs. So a great starting point is to consider the following points:
  1. What are the aims of the website? This may be different to your current offering but, for instance, they may also be to increase traffic, increase product awareness, generate more sales, offer e-commerce, advertise a new product or service.
  2. Is your web site primarily aimed at B2C or B2B audience?
    • If it’s B2C, who is the target audience? (This may be a shift from your old offering)
    • Who / what are the user demographics you are targeting? (e.g. Children, Adults, Social Class, Income levels, Location etc.)
    • If B2B, what industry are you aiming the web site at?
  3. Is the new web site to be developed in-line with a re-brand, a new range of services or a new product launch?
  4. How do you currently market your products/services? Does your web site need to tie in with this?
  5. What is your company’s USP (Unique Selling Point) over your competitors or indeed your products or your services?
  6. Who are your main competitors?
    • List your competitors and web sites you feel most closely compete with your business.
    • Is the market saturated with competition?

Look and feel

It is important that you approach your web sites look and feel in a consistent way to your central brand. The designers must understand your corporate guidelines thoroughly. It must also be an extension of any offline or online media, advertising or other branding that you have. It must match up with both your internal and external brand communications.
Provide examples of your literature, advertising, logos and typography. This always helps a designer get a handle on your companies visual approach.
  1. Take a long look around the web and provide some URLs of other web sites that you like, providing reasons why you like them.
    • They do not necessarily need to be competitors or sites related to your industry.
    • It could be sites that you like the colour schemes of.
    • Sites you like the navigation or the interactive elements of.
  2. What type of imagery does your company use?
      Are there any types of images to avoid?
    • Do you have access to any corporate images?
    • Does your company have an image library?
    • Has your company invested in photography for other marketing means? (it makes sense to use these images if possible)
    • Is it consideration for your web site to have an image library (user protected or not) so that you can easily give access to other agents to save time and expense?
  3. An area that is nearly always overlooked is the copy used on your website. Consider the following:
    • Have you got the copy text ready to go into your website?
    • Do you have the resources or skills to create and supply the text to go in the web site?
    • Will you require a professional copywriter?
    • Have you considered your audience in writing your copy? Don’t under estimate the power of the correct type of copy.
    • Does the copy need to be technical, conversational, trade based or audience led?

Technical requirements

As mentioned before, it is not necessary for you to have any technical knowledge about web sites but it is important to consider all the technical needs of your business. This might be your finance department’s requirement(s), if you are considering ecommerce. It may also be reports generated specifically for your sales department or export figures for your marketing department. Think smart think joined up.
Web sites today are not just a shop front that drives you to a phone line or a replica of your brochure, they should be interactive and add real value to your business and it’s processes.
Involve other selected people in the briefing process to make sure you maximise the return of your development costs in improving the effectiveness of your business processes.
  1. Is the site purely public facing or does it need to run secure areas for clients or internal purposes?
  2. Is it an intranet or extranet site only?
    • intranet – a local or restricted communications network, esp. a private network created using World Wide Web software.
    • extranet - an intranet that can be partially accessed by authorised outside users, enabling businesses to exchange information over the Internet securely.
  3. If it is an intranet, on what platform does it run (i.e. Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac)?
  4. Are there any restrictions to development governed by your hosting company or because you use internal servers?
    • Programming language i.e. Microsoft only ASP or Open Source PHP
    • Security issues developers may need to be aware of i.e. FTP restrictions, HTTPS (SSL certificates), Internal firewalls.
  5. Do you need to comply to certain disability access?
    • Text only browsers.
    • Audio web browsers.
    • Braille readers.
    • Colour blindness.
  6. Does the site need to be compatible with mobile devices or web TV?
  7. Reporting, what type of reporting do you need?
    • Simple statistics.
    • Ad tracking (if you use online advertising).
    • Submission tracking.
  8. Do you need specific data collection?
    • Do you need to export data into a file? if so, what format do you need it (i.e. CSV, Excel or txt).
  9. Does your site need to link in with specific internal systems?
    • Book-keeping systems.
    • Sales tracking software.
    • CRM systems.
    • Delivery systems.
  10. Is there any user specific functionality you require?
    • Booking systems.
    • Ecommerce functionality.
    • Links to social media.
    • Calendars etc.
Thinking of your web site as part of your business processes, rather than a means to end for marketing purposes, can mean that it becomes and integral element to your business practices. And it can help streamline your activities rather than becoming a burden on staff time and duplicating existing processes.
The web site is a worthwhile investment when using joined up thinking. Using a 3D business model rather than thinking in a 2D way.

In the last part of the series we will cover maintenance and promotion of the web site.


>> Part One - click here

>> Part Three - click here

We hope you find this guide helpful, remember visit our web site

Friday, 17 February 2012

Giving an effective website brief - part 1

The chances are, if you are reading this, that you have been given the unenviable task of creating a web site brief for your business. You may even be redeveloping an existing web site and its content. We can help you to focus on the areas that you will need to consider to deliver a comprehensive brief to your proposed web developer.
So, first of all let's break down the elements you will need to consider.


The process of creating a web brief will also help you to source prospective web development companies who are suited to the type of development you will require. It cannot be stressed enough that this is vitally important when sourcing the company who will help deliver your vision.
It is crucial to understand that web development is made up of a number of specialist areas. Among these areas you may need to cover design, user interface programming, application development, specialist programming languages, optimisation and marketing skills. It is not necessary for you to know anything about the technical stuff but knowing what you need to achieve will make a vast difference to how best to deliver the right solutions and, therefore, results for you and your business.
Now, it may not be that you require a vastly complicated web site. If this is the case then there are a multitude of companies who offer basic web sites. However, as you write your brief it may become apparent that your choice of web companies who can fulfil your brief will narrow. It may also hightlight, that although initially your needs maybe simple, your on-going vision may need a phased approach to the development of your web presence. This again, may have a direct impact on your choice of developers.
To start your project, your web developers will need to know some background information about your company. Not only will this determine how the developers may need to approah the development of your web site, BUT most importantly it may also suggest to you that you need a design agency or design consultant to create the desired branding for the look and feel of the web site before handing it over to the developers.
Remember, flexibilty can be essential for you as well as giving you the peace of mind that you have selected the right people to deliver the key ingredients to the web site mix. Be sure to ensure that if you do select two, or more, different parties to deliver your web site that they are happy to work together.
Whatever your choice, good background information about what you and your business is about will give the professionals a feel for your brand and in turn will directly affect how they design and/or build your web site.

Introduce your company

Let’s begin. A good starting point would be to consider and list the following:
  1. A couple of paragraphs about the company. Consider giving some information about your history, your current position and especially future plans and vision.
  2. Information about the products you sell or service(s) you provide.
  3. How big or small is your company? This should include e.g. the number of employees, a rough turnover figure. Providing a figure can greatly influence the look and feel of your web site. Think of the difference between how a large company presents itself and then how a small company does. this can directly influence hosting and marketing decisions.
  4. Does your company trade internationally? If so, which countries? This may influence the need for languages on your web site or ability to use other currencies etc.
  5. How long have you been established?
  6. Have you got a vision statement or mission statement that describes your company’s goals and ambitions? Or how would you describe your company in five to ten words (e.g. young, vibrant, technology based etc.).

The existing web site

This may be obvious but we’ll say it anyway, you need to be objective and examine your current web offering and list your opinions about what you need to improve and those things that work just fine. So, consider the following:
  1. Firstly, what is your URL! (the web address). Is it easy to remember?
  2. What is good about the web site?
    • General look and feel
    • The usability (from user point of view)
    • The accessibility (does it allow for disabled access)
    • The performance (does it load quickly)
    • What value does it deliver back to the company (reporting or feed to your systems)
  3. What is bad about the web site? (use same guides as point 2 above)
  4. How long ago was it built and who built it?
  5. Do you know what traffic the web site is currently receiving? If so, what are these levels?
  6. How often do you get a genuine sales lead through the web site?
  7. How is the current web site updated? Who is responsible for updating it?
  8. Outline a fully as you can any other areas where you feel your web site is failing your business.
  9. What other related web activities does your company currently use that may have bearing on your current development.
Remember, anything you feel may be relevant will help to get you the right solution for your business. Any agency or web development company worth their salt will consider all your views to deliver the best solution.
That's it for Part one. Hopefully this will give you enough to get started.
In part two and three we will consider your new web site in terms of design, maintenance, promotion and technical requirements.


>> Part Two - click here

>> Part Three - click here

We hope you find this guide helpful, remember visit our web site

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Google Plus 1 custom button tip

Google's Plus 1 Standard button design

How to customise a Google plus 1 button? Whilst trying to sort some social buttons out for a client, we came across an issue with trying to replace the Google Plus 1 standard button. We needed to simply replace the standard look with a customised icon of our own design.

After much trial and error we came across a neat little solution that did some of the work we needed to do. It cleverly disguises the Google icon and overlays it with your own by using simple css.

We thought that we would share this little gem with you!

<script type="text/javascript" src="">
overflow: hidden;
background: url(YOUR_CUSTOM_ICON.png) top left no-repeat;
height: 30px;
width: 161px;
position: absolute;

.gplusone_hide {
height: 30px;
width: 161px;
overflow: hidden;
position: absolute;
z-index: -1 !important;
<div class="custom_gplusone">
<div class="gplusone_hide">

Basically, what we do is to first is to create a div for your custom button to reside in. Then we wrap the 'g:plusone' tag in another div which we shall hide and place below our new customised icon div. It is just a matter then of creating the relative css to reference your new icon and hide the Google standard version.

Make sure you place the Google Javascript in the head tags of your html or within your associated header file, for instance a header.php file.

We hope it helps and it's useful!