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A humorous look at our prices

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 17 October 2015 | Category: Web design

I came across this graphic recently and, of course, as with all humour it’s exaggerated, but there’s more than a grain of truth in it. The clients who get the best results are the ones that trust us to get on with the job. Just saying!

Humorous design price list

N.B. Not our actual price-list!

I don’t care about your website

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 30 September 2015 | Category: Web design

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a customer of ours I care about your website but let’s be honest, people visiting your site don’t give a hoot about it.

They don’t care that you’ve got 587 people following you on Facebook. They don’t care that your website had 1,312 visits yesterday, with 48.2% coming from mobiles or tablets. And they don’t care that your titles are 24 point text using Frutiger Medium typeface.

All they care about is that it solves their problem whatever that might be and that it is easy to use so that they can get in, sort out what they want to do and get back to chatting with their friends, drinking a nice glass of red and getting on with their lives.

So your job and ours is simply to make it as easy for them to do what they want: to buy a product, to sign up for an event, to download a brochure, to watch an instructional video.

You and we always need to put ourselves in the shoes or your website’s visitors.

How would you feel using your website if you were your customer?

It’s your job and our job to care about your website, not your customer’s.

Related blog posts

23½ ways to transform your website into a success generator

A website through the ages

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 14 April 2015 | Category: Web design

Novamedia has been creating and managing websites since 1999. In this blog post, we take a brief look back at the first website we ever created for Bromley Youth Music Trust, a site we still manage. As you'll see, it’s had a few new licks of paint since then as technology and design trends have changed....

BYMT website 1999

We approached BYMT in 1999, and at this time the organisation didn’t have a website. The site we created was state of the art for the time with news and event listings both controllable via a back-end admin module. A feature of this design was the use of dozens of thumbnail photos, each page showing two at random.

BYMT website 2005

Launched in 2005 with a radical redesign focussed on a more traditional look – the colours derived from the wood of string instruments. This site included more information about BYMT’s ensembles and courses, and we also introduced a section where visitors could listen to recordings of the young musicians performing.

BYMT website 2012

In 2012 the website underwent a major overhaul, adding an online shop from which people could buy CDs and clothes, and also adding the facility for people to pay lesson fees online. There was more emphasis on large photographs, and we created various blogs for instrumental departments. This allowed teachers and students to contribute to the site more than they had done in the past.

BYMT website 2015

Launched in 2015, the latest version of BYMT’s website is fully responsive. The design gracefully transforms depending on the screen-size of the visitor. It also has a greater focus on social media with news items and event listings automatically shared on Facebook when they are posted. Other new features include more use of video and a donations page. The use of large randomised photos on the right hand side feels similar to the 1999 site, but with better technology and connections these are of far greater quality now!

I want everything above the fold

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 18 March 2015 | Category: Web design

The phrase ‘above the fold’ describes how newspapers would put their most important headline above the point where the paper was folded and placed in the sellers’ racks. People walking past would see this prominent headline and be tempted to buy the paper.

But above the fold is also used in website design (one of those many analogue phrases that has made its way across to the digital world) and it refers to the portion of the web page that is visible without having to scroll.

It’s become a source of frustration to web designers especially when a client says that they want to get everything in above the fold and that they don’t want people to have to scroll to get to the information on the page.

Well, I’ve got news for you: ‘above the fold’ is dead. It’s dead for two reasons.

Firstly, where is the fold on your website? It depends on what sort of screen you are looking at it on. Take a look at the examples below of the Weald Aquatics home page. Image 1 shows the page on a high-resolution desktop screen. Number 2 shows how it would look on a lower resolution screen or maybe a tablet and image number 3 shows how the page looks on a mobile device. So I repeat the question: where is the fold?

It doesn’t exist anymore or at least if it does, then the fold is potentially in hundreds of different places. What criteria are you going to use judge which ‘fold’ is the one above which all your content should appear? Responsive design has changed everything as far as the fold is concerned.

Secondly, there was some research carried out in 2006 that said that 76% of people would not scroll on a web page. In 2014, 90% of people scroll. That’s a huge turnaround and again it’s thanks to our mobile devices and phones. We’ve all got so used to scrolling that it is second nature and also very easy – just run your finger over the screen and hey presto!

So the conclusion is, don’t pack stuff at the top of your pages. It will make them look messy and confused and turn people off of exploring any further. You need readability. Imagine if a newspaper tried to pack everything in above the fold; they don’t because they know that people will buy the newspaper if what they can see is enticing enough and then magically they’ll open it to read other articles just as your audience will scroll to read more if what they see on the page entices them to do so.

The other myth is that a call to action has to be above that elusive fold. This is also nonsense. If you’ve got your call to action at the top then you’ve probably not explained enough about the benefits of why you want people to take that action. Outline the benefits in a well-designed and thought-out way and, guess what, people will scroll to read and then they’ll get to that call to action anyway but much better informed to make a decision.

Having said all that, what is at the top of your page is still important. For example, your site’s navigation should always be accessible at the top. It’s a matter of making sure that what you place at the top of your pages tempts your users to investigate more, probably to scroll or to click to other content.

Think about creating quality content and presenting it in a way that piques your users’ interest and imagination. This will ensure that your visitors stay on your site and you’ll probably even find that they scroll below that imaginary fold.

23½ ways to transform your website into a success generator

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 10 December 2014 | Category: Web design

E-book front cover

I produced the first edition of my e-book in 2012 and I’ve just finished the 3rd edition which is available free on the website.

The first edition had 20½ ways so I’ve added a few extra chapters in this edition and brought it right up to date.

It also includes a checklist which you can go through and tick off to help you determine if your website is as effective as it could be and if it is doing all it can to bring in new business.

Download your free copy today by going to www.novamedia.co.uk/ebook.

The value of testimonials - part 2

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 01 September 2014 | Category: Web design

Following on from my blog about testimonials last week, here are three random thoughts that came to mind when I was busy writing.

People might steal my customers!

This was a genuine reaction from one of our clients when we talked about putting testimonials on his website. It might apply if you are in an extremely price-sensitive business but in most cases you should be confident enough about your relationship with your customers to proudly add their words of praise to your website.

How do I get testimonials?

Simple answer to this one – just ask! If you’re in B2B, send your clients an email and ask them for their thoughts. That’s what we did and, with no pressure we got some great feedback as you can see on our testimonials page. If you run a B2C business, there are various ways you can get testimonials. For example, you could get your customers to fill out a feedback form either on paper or via your website. Make sure you tell them that their opinion may be published on your website and get permission to use their name.

Spreading the word

Once you’ve added the testimonial to your website, spread the word by adding it to your social media channels. Add a link from your Facebook page, from Twitter and LinkedIn or anything other channel that you use. We developed a system we call the Social Media Matrix which determines how we use information across various channels. You can find out all about it in a blog post I wrote in April last year.

Related blog posts

The Social Media Matrix

The value of testimonials - part 1

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 28 August 2014 | Category: Web design

One of the most important things you can do on your website is to have testimonials – people shouting out about how good you are. It shows your prospective customers what your actual customers think of you.

But, as with all things, you’ve got to get it right. Here are four testimonials which go from bad to better to best.

Great job, well done
Linda S., Canterbury

BAD. It’s too short of course and doesn’t tell a prospective customer anything useful. In fact it’s going to do more harm than good because it looks as though you’ve asked a customer for a testimonial and they really can’t be bothered to say much about you. To make matters worse, even if it is a genuine testimonial, it doesn’t look like it is. Linda S could have been made up.

John and his team did a great job on our latest project. Nothing was too much trouble and everything we threw at them was handled with professionalism and courtesy. The artwork was delivered on time to the printer and our client was delighted with the final brochures.
Linda Summers, Director, Hengist Marketing, Canterbury

GOOD. This is much better. It tells a prospective customer what you did for your customer and gives them a credible name, job title and company. We had a customer recently contact a number of our clients from our testimonials to get a reference and I’m going in to see them next week about working with them on a long-term basis.

John and his team did a great job on our latest project. Nothing was too much trouble and everything we threw at them was handled with professionalism and courtesy. The artwork was delivered on time to the printer and our client was delighted with the final brochures.
Linda Summers, Director, Hengist Marketing, Canterbury

BETTER. The next step up. Adding a photo of your customer gives the testimonial a more personal touch.

We had to get 1,000 16-page brochures produced for a client in 2 weeks. It was a tall order and we needed a company we could work with who could take the pressure off and deliver. John and his team did a great job on the project. Nothing was too much trouble and everything we threw at them was handled with professionalism and courtesy. The artwork was delivered on time to the printer and our client was delighted with the final brochures.
Linda Summers, Director, Hengist Marketing, Canterbury

BEST. This one expands the testimonial a bit more to address the problem that the customer had that you were able to solve.

Want to be even more credible? How about a video testimonial? It needn’t be difficult or time consuming. A quick trip to the customer’s office, video them on your smartphone saying nice things about your company, upload to YouTube and embed on your website. If you want to know more about embedding video on your website, give me a call or drop me a line.

In the meantime, why not take a look at our testimonials supplied by some of our brilliant customers. Just pop over to www.novamedia.co.uk/testimonials.

There’s more next week including how you can get the most out of your testimonials.

Trust me, I’m a Webmaster

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 06 August 2014 | Category: Web design

Sometimes we get calls from people asking us to produce a website where they have a fixed idea of exactly what they want. This is not usually based on any research but simply copying what other people do and including the sorts of pages that they think they have to have in order to set up a web presence. (Incidentally, following the herd is never a good idea in marketing – most people are doing stuff wrong!)

“Yeh, I just want a home page, an About Us page, a Contact page and a bit about what we do” might be a typical opening gambit.

What they haven’t done is to address the most important question: What do you want your website to achieve? What is the purpose of your little corner of cyberspace?

If we are called in early enough, this is the first question we will ask. It may be that your website has more than one purpose. For example, if you are setting up an online shop then of course, your main aim is to sell products. But a very important secondary aim should always be to build up a mailing list of customers, people you can keep in contact with about your products, services, offers and hints and tips.

But whatever the purpose is, get your web designers involved at an early stage, especially if they understand marketing. Don’t just present them with a fait accompli and ask them to get on with it.

We may come up with things that you haven’t thought about or different ways of achieving your stated aim.

And I don’t know about other web design companies but we’re quite happy to come in to you with no obligation to discuss any ideas you might have that involve an online presence or online marketing. The only thing we ask is for a nice cup of tea and a couple of chocolate biscuits!

I like apps but I also like mobile websites but which is best?

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 31 January 2014 | Category: Web design

There’s only one way to find out – FIGHT! And apologies to all of my customers outside the UK who won’t get the Harry Hill reference. Harry who?

Anyway, I’ve been asked a few times by people the difference between an app and a mobile website so I thought I’d put pen to paper to explain.

Both apps and mobile websites are accessed via your smartphone or mobile device. That’s the one thing they have in common. Apps are downloaded and run as separate entities on your phone whereas mobile websites are accessed via the phone’s website browser.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons


If you want to produce an app then it has to be produced for a variety of operating systems: iOS for iPhones, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and others.  This requires a lot more work than a mobile website and will also mean more cost to set up. It might also mean having to re-write parts of the app when a mobile operating system changes, adding more time and cost.

A mobile website has to be produced just once and will work in all smartphone browsers. It also has the advantage of using exactly the same content as your desktop website so no more work is involved in populating the site.


A mobile website is available as soon as it is live. The user does not need to download anything. Just go to the browser and visit the site. A mobile website also cannot be deleted of course. It is always available unlike an app that can easily be removed from the user’s phone.


Just like your regular desktop website, your mobile website can be found by search engines. More and more people are now using mobile devices to browse the web and to purchase online.

Phone’s functionality

If you need to access the phone’s functionality such as its camera or maybe GPS functionality then an app would be better as it is able to do this. An app is effectively a computer program on your phone, much like using Word or Excel on your desktop computer except with a much simpler design suited to a small screen and a touch-based interface.

A mobile site can work just like an app

A mobile website can still have a lot of functionality just like your desktop website in fact. We’ve built mobile online shops and other mobile websites that have extensive functionality. Probably the two best examples are the online shop for Geo F Trumper (www.trumpers.com) and the website for Provender Nurseries (www.provendernurseries.co.uk).


Whether to produce an app or a mobile website depends upon what you want to achieve. That’s the starting point. Because when you know what you want, you can decide in a more informed manner what vehicle to use to achieve your aim.

An app really comes into its own if you need to access the phone’s native functionality but other than that, in most cases a mobile website will be the answer for many reasons.

If you want more information on mobile websites, why not give me a call or drop me an email.

Related blog posts

It pays to be responsive

IE6 is definitely, absolutely, officially dead!

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 18 April 2013 | Category: Web design

Who says so? Me that’s who!

I wrote a blog post on July 30 2010 declaring the end of IE6 – that’s 2½ years ago! You can see it by clicking here

I was talking to a client about a new job in 2011 and they said that their clients in the pharmaceutical industry were still using IE6 and so the website we were producing had to work on this old browser. So my declaration of the end of IE6 may have been a little premature.

But usage has now fallen to less than 0.6% in the UK and 0.2% in the US. Apparently Norway at 0% has wiped it off the face of the earth (well, off the face of Norway at least) so well done to our Scandinavian friends! (China is inexplicably still at over 25% but I don’t think most of my clients are going to be too bothered about that).

So why do I say that IE6 is officially dead?

Well, I decided on a particular measurement that would confirm to me the end of IE6. Our client Geo F Trumper (www.trumpers.com) for whom we built an online shop (which is in the process of being updated to a snazzy new one as I write) take several orders a day. I decided that as soon as a calendar month had gone by without a single order from a customer using IE6, we could officially declare IE6 dead and gone.

We nearly got there towards the end of last year, missing out by just 2 hours when a customer sneaked in an order using IE6 at the last minute but we have now finally done it – no IE6 orders have been placed since January 24th.

We haven’t really been supporting IE6 for a while now but now I can officially, absolutely and definitely say "Goodbye IE6, we won’t miss you."

Fixed width or 100%? There’s only one way to find out – FIGHT!

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 10 April 2013 | Category: Web design

For the uninitiated, there has always been a debate within the web community about whether a website should be designed with a fixed width or produced to occupy the full screen width irrespective of the user’s screen resolution.

At this point I will nail my colours firmly to the mast as a proponent of fixed-width websites. I’m not alone; most websites you look at nowadays are fixed width and if it is good enough for the likes of the BBC, Google, Facebook and Ebay then it’s good enough for me.

Amazon is an exception; they have stuck to the 100% width. I like using Amazon but one thing I don’t like (or two if you count their tax-dodging antics) is their site layout. I have never found it particularly appealing or easy to use. (Anyone at Amazon want some help on usability? Give me a shout!).

There are problems with sites that are produced to a 100% screen width especially on larger screens. The first is that your text will stretch out into long lines and become very difficult to read. Imagine trying to read a paperback book where the pages are 50cm wide and the text goes right across these pages and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

When you use a full-screen layout you have no control over the appearance of your page. Your user’s browser and screen width will dictate how wide or narrow your pages appear.

All of our sites are fixed widths. At one time I’ll admit we produced two websites at 100% screen width both at the client’s insistence but I am glad to say that both have since been converted back to fixed width and look much the better for it.

So if we have agreed that fixed-width is much better than full-screen (and we have, haven’t we?), then what size do we produce our fixed-width sites to? Over the years, screen resolutions have got higher and higher. In 2013, over 99% of users have a desktop screen resolution of 1024x768 or higher. Ten years ago that figure was 46% and more people were viewing the web on screens of 800x600. So back then we were producing websites with a width of 760 pixels which would fit on a screen of 800 pixels wide allowing for the scrollbar.

Now we go to at least 960 pixels or sometimes higher. 960 is a good number because it has lots of divisors and is therefore suited to the use of a grid system for dividing pages into columns.

It is considered bad practice to force a user to scroll horizontally when browsing a website so sites should always be produced so that the vast majority of people can view without this being the case. That is why 960 pixels wide is still the optimum width for a site.

What about mobile screens? If you use a smartphone to browse the web you will be aware that most websites shrink down automatically to fit onto the screen. You then have to pinch zoom to zone in on those parts you want to view in detail. This works fine but it’s not an ideal scenario which is why it is better to be responsive – i.e. to produce a website so that it works on a mobile device as well as the desktop. For an example, see the website we designed for Provender Nurseries at www.provendernurseries.co.uk. Take a look at it on both a PC and a mobile device and you’ll see what I mean.

Paradoxically, having railed against fixed-width sites, a site designed for use on a mobile device nearly always uses a 100% width screen but this is not an issue as most mobile viewports do not differ greatly and the concepts used in good mobile design lend themselves to this approach.

It pays to be responsive

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 08 January 2013 | Category: Web design

We all know that many people are now accessing websites via mobile devices and tablets. The smartphone is now ubiquitous whether you like it or not and people want to look at websites on their smartphones.

Most websites that you will look at on your phone will look the same as they do on a desktop PC. They are still usable and parts of the page can be viewed by pinch zooming. But more and more sites and being built or redesigned so that they ‘work’ as mobile sites as well as on larger screens.

It’s not going to be an overnight process. Most of the sites we have built still fall into the first category because there was no requirement at the time they were produced to design specifically for mobile devices and the technology was new so there were no agreed techniques for doing so unless you built a completely separate site.

But technology moves fast. There are now techniques that allow us web designers to produce a website that will work on large screens as always but will also morph into mobile websites on a smaller screen. And without building two separate sites!

It’s known as responsive design and it allows us to build just one site that works on all devices. We have just launched our first properly responsive website for Provender Nurseries. Take a look at the site at www.provendernurseries.co.uk on both your PC and your phone. Or if you want to find out more about the site, take a look at our portfolio page.

The important thing is that the site has been specifically designed for mobile devices as well as for larger screens. There is very little compromise required to achieve this. We drafted out exactly how we wanted the site to look and function on smartphones and then made the technology fit our vision for the site.

There is some extra work up front to produce the two different designs and layouts but once this is done and the responsive structure is built, the addition of the content and all of the other functionality is the same as it would be if we were just designing for the desktop screen.

We’ll offer this option for all new sites that we are building and any sites that we are updating. You don’t have to take it but with over 1 billion smartphones in the world and an estimate that this number will go over 2 billion within three years, can you afford not to?

My favourite testimonial – "You have wasted a lot of my time and I’m very annoyed"

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 20 November 2012 | Category: Web design

If you haven’t seen our great testimonials then you should. Take a look here and see what our clients say about us. We’ve got a brilliant bunch of clients who we are very happy to work for and, as you can see, they are very happy with us too. But before you do, read this. It’s some feedback I received recently from a potential client:

"When i first spoke to you, i told you everything I wanted done and you said im looking at around £1000 for a coldfusion website.
Since i mentioned a £3000 budget you seem determined to hit over that mark.
Your quote is ridiculous and i certainly will not be using your 1 man band to build my site,
Ive had over 10 quotes for £500 and free training from companies that have large over heads and actually know what there doing.
You want £340 for half a days training, your not even a limited company or VAT registered so dont see how you can estimate your hourly rate at over £80ph.
You have wasted alot of my time and and im very annoyed."

This was dashed off in a fit of pique (you can tell that can’t you?) and I won’t pepper it with [sics] otherwise it will become even more unreadable.

There are a few inaccuracies – we’re not a one-man-band and we are VAT registered and some of the other points are also stretching the truth. As to the costs, these varied as the client’s brief changed. It was never as low as £1,000 and at one point the quote went over £9,000 but that was when the client was asking for 260 separately copywritten pages! And I won’t even go into his claim about £500 for a website with free training. Any company offering that will not be in business this time next year.

But one thing I will agree with is the last line. I should have turned him down as soon as it became apparent that this was not going to be our kind of project. There was a growing gut feeling that this wasn’t my kind of client. I also wasted a lot of my own time trying to accommodate the client with a number of phone calls, a written proposal and various quotes as the brief changed from one day to the next. In the end, the amount of time I spent going round in circles, taking phone calls and writing the proposal took up a lot of time and in our business, time is what we charge for. So I lost money.

You may be asking if I’ve gone stark staring mad putting this on our website. It’s not the most ringing endorsement for our services is it? No, but what it does is to illustrate the sort of people we don’t want to do business with and it’s kind of cathartic writing this blog piece as it might help me to be more selective when it comes to new clients in future.

Clients who are serious about their business; clients who are educated; clients who see their online presence as an important part of their marketing strategy; oh and last but definitely not least, clients who are nice to deal with and who make working for them a pleasure and a privilege. If you are already a client, then that describes you.

If you are not yet a client and you think that the above is a fitting description of you and your company then I look forward to sitting down with you soon to discuss your website and online marketing strategy.

And just to remind you again, if you want to see the things our real clients say about us, just take a look at our testimonials page.

The making of the Novamedia map viral

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 11 April 2012 | Category: Web design

You may have seen our UK map game that we launched recently. You haven't? Well here it is: http://www.novamedia.co.uk/ukmapgame/. Warning: it's mildly addictive.

The idea came to me one day that it might be something that we can put together quite quickly that will afford some diversion to our clients (a few minutes away from your busy schedule never hurt anyone) whilst at the same time showing off our web application building skills. Add in a bit of subtle marketing for Novamedia and it's a winner all round. (The marketing aspects will change over time having received some pertinent advice from fellow business people).

You may be interested in how we put this together and how it all works. We've been building web applications for 13 years and we're pretty good at it now. So much so that this map game took less than a week from start to finish.

As with all web applications it relies on a database in the background and a web application 'language' in the code to interact with that database. Our preferred solutions are MySQL: for the database and ColdFusion for the web application development.

There are two database tables, one for all of the places on the map and another to hold the results. The places table is very simple. It just contains the town or city name, its X and Y co-ordinates on our map and its level of difficulty: easy, medium or hard.

We had to make sure that the co-ordinates were accurate. We didn't want people coming back to us and telling us that we'd got our location wrong. To do this we downloaded a free Ordnance Survey large scale map of the UK which contained thousands of place names. We used this map to produce our blank graphic map and then developed a formula to convert the co-ordinates from the large scale map to the co-ordinates required for our online map and therefore our places database. We added over 300 places in all and this was probably the longest part of the job.

Designing the user interface is important in any online application and we gave this a lot of thought in order to make it as user-friendly as possible. When the user has selected their level of difficulty, the system takes them through a series of 10 places and the results of their guesses are shown in a table that builds up on the right.

Working out the results was quite simple. You remember the Pythagorean theorem from your school days? Of course you do! The square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides. By using a right-angled triangle from where you clicked to the actual co-ordinates of the location, it's easy to work out the straight line distance between the two points. Multiply this by a factor that converts pixels to miles and bingo, you have your result.

These results are held in memory until you have completed all 10 guesses. Then they are added to the results database table. Again it's a simple table. It contains your score, the level of difficulty and a timestamp to show when you played the game. It also contains your IP address. This is just there to show us how many different people are playing to give us some idea of the popularity of the game.

Knowing your score and level of difficulty, it's then easy to work out where you rank in the list of people who have played the game at that particular level. We can show you your position and a sad, neutral or smiley face depending on how you fared compared to your fellow players.

We've built many web applications over the years mostly a lot more complex than the map game but I hope that this little look 'under the bonnet' gives you a small idea of what goes on behind the scenes when building an online application.

Website content – if you can’t do it, you’ve got four choices...

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 02 March 2012 | Category: Web design

It's like anything in life. If there's a thing you can't do then you have four choices:

  1. Don't do it
  2. Do it yourself but do it badly
  3. Learn how to do it well
  4. Get someone else to do it

It applies to all sorts of things. I was up a step ladder decorating my hall about three years ago. Bored and fed up, I got down off of the ladder, put it away in the garage and resolved to give up decorating for good. Next day I phoned Malcolm and he's been doing our painting, decorating and other such jobs ever since (highly recommended incidentally if you need someone in the Bromley area!). I chose option 4 – it was definitely the right thing to do.

Another example is that of public speaking. In business we often have to get up in front of people and talk and it was always something that terrified me. I have recently resolved to do something about it and in this case, I have chosen option 3. I've joined a speakers club and intend to get proficient at this particular life skill.

So down to brass tacks – your website and its content. We have produced sites with content management systems (CMS) for years allowing clients to update those parts of the site that change frequently. But is this always the sensible thing to do? It really depends on if the client is going to use the CMS and use it well.

These are the three factors you need to bear in mind:

  • Understand what the website section is for
  • Write well
  • Update often

Understand what the website section is for

If you've got a blog on your website, use it as a blog. Make it interesting and write stuff that people will want to read. If you're using the blog to flag up events or small pieces of news then think about having a separate news or events page on your site custom-built just for this sort of thing.

If you've got various staff using the CMS, make sure they all know how to use it and what each section is for.

Write well

This is the big one for me for various reasons and it comes back to the four options at the top. If you can't write well then either learn to do so or employ someone else to do it. We can write copy for you or employ specialist copywriters.

We've got some clients who know how to write well. For example take a look at the Munro & Forster blog at http://www.munroforster.com/blog.cfm. It's interesting and there are no distracting spelling or grammatical errors.

We've also produced a couple of sites where the client's skills in this area are lacking and we have had to talk to them about how they can improve this as well as explain the negative effect this is having on their business. The errors stick out like a sore thumb and people will subconsciously link this lack of attention to detail to whatever service or product you are selling.

And from a purely selfish point of view, we can't put a client site in our web portfolio if it contains bad English because it's going to reflect badly on us as well!

Update often

If you've got a blog or a news section then use it. Don't let it sit there gathering dust. Update it regularly and then tweet about it or add the update to your Facebook age. We now set up sections in clients' websites that automatically post updates to their company's Facebook page so there's no extra effort involved.

It also stands to reason that the more, good-quality content you've got on your website, the more stuff there is for Google to index thus helping your search engine rankings.

If you want any help with your website or copy, just get in touch.

Google Images is not a free stock library

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 08 August 2011 | Category: Web design

I had a client recently ask me to put together a new website, not a large site, but a site nonetheless. Not an unreasonable request seeing as we design websites!

So we were working on the site when the client sent over several images and asked us to add these to some of the pages. Now, I took a look at these images and they were quite a disparate bunch. My suspicions were immediately aroused. These didn't look like the sort of images a client would normally send. They were all different sizes, all very different subjects and of varying quality.

I was emailing the client about the site so I thought I would mention the images and ask them where they had got them from. The reply was "We got them from Google Images". To be honest, that reply didn't come as a big surprise. As I said, I had had my suspicions which is why I asked the question in the first place.

So I had to gently break the news that we couldn't actually use these images on the website. The client of course asked why. The simple answer is - Google Images is not a free stock library.

All of the images that appear on Google Images when you do a search have been produced by someone, either photographed or drawn or digitised in some way or another. The copyright in these images belongs to someone. Taking images and using them on your website or in presentations or documents is stealing. It might not seem as bad as popping down to your local Sainsbury's and half-inching a packet of digestive biscuits but it's the same thing really except that it is so much easier to nick something from the screen in front of you.

The alternative of course is to have pictures taken. This might be OK if it's a set of portraits or a bunch of product images or even a set of outside images taken in the same location.  But it is not so practical if you really want such a varied selection of images.

Then the alternative is to use an online stock library. We regularly use ShutterStock.com. Each stock library has millions of high-quality images which can be used on websites, presentations, documents and so on. They are also very inexpensive especially if you only want a lower resolution image for use on the web or a presentation – only a few pounds per image. We have used photos from such libraries on many sites. Probably one of the best examples is Pilot Plus (www.pilot-plus.com), a quirky site we created for a printing company which features many photos of dressed-up dogs! Also the images used in this blog are all bought and paid for using an online stock library.

I know of a web design company who were hit with a £900 bill when it transpired they had illegally used images for a client's site. Is it really a risk worth taking?

Don’t ever ask for a website intro screen as a refusal can often offend

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 07 June 2011 | Category: Web design

I thought website intro screens had died out with the ark but we still occasionally get people saying that they would like an animated introduction at the 'beginning' of their website.

Now my gut response to this would be impolite so I decided to pop my thoughts down in a quick blog post. If you have asked me for such an appendage to your website then you may well have been directed to this blog post. If you are an esteemed existing client then I am sure you know me well enough to value my opinion as much as I value your custom. If you are a potential new customer then I hope you will come to value my opinion starting with this one. (By the way, many clients do value us – just take a look at the testimonials on our website).

However, I digress. Let me give you my honest opinion on website intro screens. There is no such thing as a website intro screen! A website doesn't need an intro screen. How many top websites that you visit have intro screens? None, that's how many.

If a website company puts an intro screen in their proposal for your website, find another website company. They'll charge you good money for what is essentially a vanity exercise for them to show that they know how to use Flash. And it will do you more harm than good. (I even saw a website company proudly advertising on their home page that they are specialists in building intro pages. Jeez!).

When I visit a website there are a number of things I go there for and one of them is definitely NOT to see flying logos and animated crap, (oops, sorry I really have tried to be polite).

What you need is a decent home page that does an effective job for your organisation. So please don't ask me for an intro screen. The answer will be NO, NO, NO!

Screen Recording demo

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 14 April 2011 | Category: Web design

A few of the sales leads we have been talking to recently involve customers who have a software or online product to sell. One or two have asked us if we can put together a video demonstration of their product so that people can get an idea of what it can do. It just so happens that we have been in the process of looking into this for a while so we thought it might be a good idea to put together a short demonstration of our ability in this area. The result is shown below. It's me doing the voice-over (and admittedly I'm no Reggie Bosanquet but please don't hold that against me). If you think that this is something that might be useful, please get in touch.


That's it – we’re all done with IE6

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 30 July 2010 | Category: Web design

According to web analytics company StatCounter, usage of Internet Explorer 6 has fallen below 5%. Its decline has been dramatic from 11.5% a year ago to its current level of 4.7%.

That's great news for us beleaguered web designers. Especially when you hear comments like this from Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter: "At these levels web developers now have valid justification not to support IE6 in the future,". According to the report, a number of sites including YouTube have already withdrawn support for IE6.

So it means we no longer have to spend hours of our valuable (and frankly unchargeable) time making sites work in IE6. That's a big fat hooray in anyone's book!

There are still differences between the more up-to-date browsers out there but these are small in comparison to the differences between IE6 and the rest of the bunch including IE6's younger siblings, 7 and 8.

So it's goodbye and good riddance to IE6 which can join Netscape Navigator 4.0 in the webmasters' Hall of Infamy.