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A brilliant two days of meetings with our friends at @barriersdirect - ended with an amazing sunset over Mallorca, posted about 1 month ago

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So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!

So after five years of being part of the Focus family it is time for me to say goodbye. It has been an amazing journey and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the ever changing world of Digital Media and getting to know all of our clients and their individual business needs. I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects, learnt a lot of new skills and had the support to develop and grow both personally and professionally.

Focus is a great place to work and I am going to be very sad to say goodbye. But all good things must come to an end and it’s time for me to move on to pastures new.

Thank you Simon and Mike for always making me feel like part of the family, putting your trust in me and helping me to learn and develop.

Best wishes to all of the team at Focus


Created on Friday October 08 2010 03:54 PM


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Getting instant with Google

Getting instant with Google

So everybody who's anybody has been blogging about Google's latest offering: Google Instant.

It's a faster way of finding what you're looking for, reducing search times by between 1 and 5 seconds according to the gatekeepers of the web themselves.

The time saving comes in the fact that your search results are modified as you type, building on the search suggestion function and altering the results you see as you go. 

The reactions of the web using public have been varied; from those thrilled to bits with the speed of it: 'I didn't even have to press enter!' extols a man in Google's own promo video, to those terrified of it: Charlie Brooker claims it's like 'the internet on fast forward' and that it's trying to kill him (!)

It's also got SEO and search marketing companies unsettled due to the impact that it could potentially have on the value of keywords.

For me, I'm a fan. It's going to take a bit of getting used to the constantly changing images and results as you type (one of the key factors behind its development was apparently the fact that Google's users type much more slowly than they read) but I'm just not sure it'll have that much of an impact on me, as I tend to use the browser bar in Chrome as my search field, rather than the box on Google's homepage.

There are rumblings that Instant will be rolled out to work in the Chrome browser bar, but for now, it's not going to change my life. Google Telepathic on the other hand, now that would be something impressive.

Created on Tuesday September 21 2010 02:46 PM

Tags: google realtimesearch instant charliebrooker search

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New site for Connexions West launches

New site for Connexions West launches

We've just set the new Connexions West site live (now a part of Learning Parterhip West), and we're really proud of it.

The Connexions site is a place for young people, their parents and employers to go to find information, advice and guidance on finding their way into the world of work and career choices.

With an updated job vacancy section, complete with CV builder, and video case studies offering young people an insight into different career options, we think that the new site will serve to help, teach and inspire young people across the South West!

Created on Thursday September 16 2010 11:20 AM

Tags: website youth web-design connexions young-people lpw learningpartnershipwest

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Designing on spec

One of the current debates in our industry is the practice of producing speculative designs to support proposals and pitches - often a tender will include a requirement for a creative or two from our design team to illustrate how we would envisage the 'look and feel' of a new web site.

In April influential blogger Paul Boag announced he was stopping this practice, and the arguments he presents feel quite valid. The design of a site is a consultative process - with users, the client and our designers - and that consultancy is missing if we've got to "whip a few designs together" based on what's written in a tender. It's also something that has stung us in the past - a number of years ago we supplied some creatives to support a pitch that one of our competitors won, only to find that the web site produced was pretty much an exact copy of our work! (which resulted in a swift change to our terms and conditions.....)

Another factor, in a small agency such as ours, are the costs and resources required to produce this work - all on a speculative basis, and I think this is something that gets overlooked by those issuing the tender. We were recently asked by an unnamed local authority to supply three separate and original creatives as part of an open tender which had a value of just under £7k - that's just not cost effective for an agency like us. With heavy heart we turned the opportunity to pitch down, but it made business sense to do so.

I think the best point that Paul Boag makes is that it may be more useful for those issuing the tender to look at an agency's existing portfolio and to talk to their clients. We're lucky - everytime I ask a client to act as a reference for our work I get a really enthusiastic response, which is testament to the the team at Focus. 

So what's our decision? We're going to sit on the fence slightly and take each project on a case by case basis. But it might be worth  noting that this is a hot topic amongst agencies and that some clients might come across those who have decided to act a little more forcibly than we have.

Simon Newing

Created on Wednesday September 08 2010 10:29 AM

Tags: website userexperience usability

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Reading for a wordy cause

Reading for a wordy cause

We've just launched the new web site for Ireland's annual ReadaThon - one of the country's largest charity campaigns in aid of raising funds for our clients, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland.

This is the third year we've been involved and the site has a slightly more 'adult' look about it as MSI wanted to get book club members involved more than ever. There's a new blog and behind the scenes, some whizziness allowing the charity to create their own online forms.

Discussion about the design took place over the Irish Sea through the power of Webinar! Meaning we didn't have to put up with Ryanair.....

We hope the campaign raises bundles of Euros for a very 'wordy' cause.

Simon Newing

Created on Thursday September 02 2010 01:37 PM

Tags: charity ireland new-web-site youth multiplesclerosissocietyireland

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Go Places to Play relaunch a success!

Go Places to Play relaunch a success!

It’s been three months since we helped Bristol City Council to relaunch the Go Places to Play website back in May, and our reporting tools tell us that the additional developments to the site have made it better than ever for its users.

The refresh was born out of the desire to make it easier for parents and carers to access information about parks and play spaces in their neighbourhood and to feed them information about play activities and events going on throughout the summer holidays and beyond.

With this in mind, we refreshed the design of the homepage, gave the site a clearer layout and built additional functionality such as the online park finder tool, enabling parents and carers of young people to locate the facilities closest to them. While we were all really pleased with the results, the proof was always going to be in the pudding. In this case, Google Analytics.

We track all sites we build with Google’s analytics tool, and measure each on a quarterly basis. Now the updated site has been live for three months, we’re in a position to report back! We have succeeded in increasing the number of visits to the site per day by nearly half, increased the time that people spend on and interacting with the site by a third and reduced the bounce rate by 20%.

The most popularly visited pages are the events calendar and the park finder, which is brilliant, as these were the key objectives earmarked at the beginning of the project!

If you’re interested in learning more about Google Analytics, or would like us to take a look at your web stats to make suggestions on how best to achieve your business objectives through the website, get in touch.


Created on Friday August 20 2010 11:13 AM

Tags: youth fun games web-design goplacestoplay young-people analytics google

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To Facebook or not to Facebook!?

To Facebook or not to Facebook!?

Yesterday I attended a training and consultation workshop on Social Software and Promoting Participation with Young People, hosted by Katie Bacon (what a great name!).
We went along with CERNIS our new partners (see previous blog ) to find out more about how social media platforms such as Facebook can be used safely, in particular for sensitive projects such as ours which is in relation to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
Primarily we were looking to understand what measures can be put in place with regards to managing the posts and comments yet still facilitating an environment where young people can participate freely.
The session was great, very informative, interesting and interactive.  We looked at how youth workers can manage their own social networking site (SNS) and the advice that can be given to young people. We discussed the implications of creating an online community and how you can facilitate a balance between functions that enhance the content but also functions that protect the members from harassment.
We’re looking to use a virtual platform to support the workshops with young people that are being carried out by CERNIS across the country – where information and feedback can be shared and participants can monitor the progress of the project and see feedback from other sessions. We’ve decided to use a blog called More Thoughts as the main platform but were also considering a Facebook profile page to help to communicate with the young people when new content is posted (as an alternative to email) and to generate interest. All of the tools seem to be available for controlling who see’s, edits and moderates the content on the page, however the one big stumbling block that we could not see a way around was the inability to be able to hide the friends list from the profile.
However, even though on this occasion we have decided not to use Facebook in particular, lots of other ideas and suggestions were made on how to generate interest and bring our blog to life with free tools that are available online. We’re going to include a video introduction to welcome people along, we will also look to include videos from the sessions (creatively preventing anyone from being identifiable), use Google maps with points to show where Anna and co are holding their workshops as well as photos and progress so far, and other little features such as a Wordle to make the content more interesting.
There’s a lot to do as the first workshop begins in Norfolk on Tuesday!

Created on Friday August 06 2010 08:45 AM

Tags: blog google youth young-people online-tool cernis facebook social-media

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A great weekend at Bristol Harbour Festival

A great weekend at Bristol Harbour Festival

Had a great weekend at Bristol Harbour Festival this weekend - the weather held out (apart from a small down-pour on Saturday night!), there were some great acts and loads of stuff to do for young people.

Highlights for me included beat boxer extraordinaire Vid Warren, Kid Carpet (always good for a giggle) and the bizarre but incredible youth theatre production Run (on King Street on Saturday afternoon), organised by Bristol Old Vic's Young Company.

A couple of our clients were out in force too - namely Go Places Do Things and Go Places to Play, who were there to promote Play Day 2010 - taking place this Wednesday 4th August!

All in all, a brilliant weekend showcasing Bristol's talent, and best of all, it's completely free!

Thanks Bristol City Council - had a great time!!

BCC and Focus join forces for the ENGAGE_YOUTH workshop

BCC and Focus join forces for the ENGAGE_YOUTH workshop

I have had the pleasure this morning to support Les Compton of Bristol City Council with presenting our website Go Places Do Things at the Engage event at the Watershed.

The workshop was arranged to discuss digital tools for participation and active citizenship with participants from the UK, Germany and Denmark.

ENGAGE is a continuing professional development programme for European youth workers who wish to understand the new ICT-enabled culture and explore how web 2.0 and social media tools can help to extend and enhance their practice.

Les and I went along to talk about our participation with young people while developing and evolving the GPDT site, as well as discussing the challenges that we have faced and the plans for the future. We discussed the access we have given to youth workers and other activity providers for adding their own events and direct feeds that have been set up from the BCC events online and 1 Big Database.

After Bristol the programme will move to Aarhus, Denmark and then on to Hannover in Germany where participants will continue to develop their understanding of how developments in ICT and online technologies can amplify and extend the voice of young people in European society.

The session was really interesting and we had the opportunity to discuss the other online solutions that people have set up, as well as talking about how to get young people to participate and engage as young editors on website content.

I will certainly be following the progress of the programme via the Engage website and will be looking to keep in touch with some of the participants at the workshop.

New partnership and project win

We are very excited to announce that we have joined forces with CERNIS Ltd an independent London based company specialising in the development and improvement of children’s services and we have gone and won our first tender!

We will be working together to develop a new online tool to assist with evidencing the impact of young people’s participation on the mental health services that they receive.

The direct engagement of young people has been central to policy in recent years as a means of informing commissioners and service providers. This has been influential in delivering improvements to practice and lasting outcomes. This programme will build on previous work in this area, but by introducing a web based platform, far more young people will be able to become involved.

Workshops with groups of young people will be taking place across the country to gain their feedback on the look, feel, features and functionality of the tool and how it should be used. The application is scheduled to be launched in early 2011.

We’ll keep you posted on progress!

Created on Tuesday July 13 2010 04:17 PM

Tags: participation young-people online-tool cernis

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