Last week I spent the day with Camden Council and a group of young people involved in the Children in Care (CIC) council discussing the design of a new web site we are currently developing for Children in Care in Camden.
Normally when we design a web site we work with a small group of representatives of an organisation, so working with such a large group in terms of the design of a web site was new to me - although Focus has done this on a number of our web sites before so I was able to speak with the team here about what to expect.
The main feedback given was that these session needed to be clearly structured, otherwise it could easily descend into design by committee.
I had worked with Camden Council on a functionality list before the meeting - this was based on some of the previous sessions they had held with young people. We had put together some wireframes, design ideas, fonts, colour wheels and had a selection of example web sites to provide a starting point for a more focussed discussion.
I'm pleased to say that the feedback we had on the majority of our ideas was very positive. We got some great feedback from young people and ignited a number of ideas for the design. It also provide some thoughts in regard to the content and on-going management of the site.
We've come away from our meeting with some really great ideas that our designers will enjoy adding their creative input to - I'm really looking forward to seeing the results!
Created on Wednesday November 07 2012 10:27 AM
Creating a wireframe may seem an obvious step to us but others may find it an unnecessary one. Having only recently been introduced to this method myself, I most definitely intend to continue with it, and here's why..
At the wireframe stage we don't worry about design details such as fonts and colours, it's purely about structure and content. This is why we generally strip it of all colour. We limit the variables so the conversation remains focused and productive. We want the wireframe to be a powerful representation of the final product without implying that we're committing to a particular colour or style. Wireframes are a great aid when explaining to clients what we propose to do and why. It's a habit worth getting in to, keeping us focused and constantly evaluating whether we can do things better. We can bring the team's thoughts and ideas together and turn them in to something more palpable. Not everybody has a strong ability to visualise so having it before their eyes prevents any such struggle. We're confident our idea's will work and a wireframe is a quick but clear way of demonstrating this. They outline the structure and elements that sit on the page creating a visual hierarchy with placement of white space and a balance of typography.
Why lose precious time spending hours upon hours designing detailed web pages that can be dismissed in seconds? Producing a quick wireframe to represent our thoughts means we receive feedback earlier in the process. It is far easier to make changes to a simplified wireframe than re-work a full design mock-up. A little time spent on this saves a lot of time on the entire project; designs are more calculated and the development team understands what they are building. Everything just becomes much clearer, all involved know exactly what the web site is supposed to do and how it is supposed to do it.
Building a web site is a process. Wireframing is a part of this that should not be skipped, it is a small step that has an important place in a big process.
Created on Monday October 08 2012 11:05 AM
If you send email based newsletters and other emails as part of your digital marketing activities, it’s more likely that your customers and subscribers are now reading your emails on a mobile device or smartphone – such as an iPad, iPhone or similar. In 2011, Campaign Monitor found that almost 20% of emails were being opened on such a device, and in April 2012, email providers Litmus showed that mobile 'opens' had reached 36% of emails, overtaking both desktop and webmail.
This trend will only continue – hence marketers and designers need to assess the impact this is having on their email marketing. One of the most important points is to ensure your email displays properly on mobile devices - remember with mobile you’re generally working with less screen and a different method of navigation (that being based on ‘touch’ rather than mouse-based pointing). Without taking action your mobile using customers could be set for poor user experience.
Techniques exist for overcoming the challenges that mobile throws at us – and they’re generally the same as those used for responsive web design (that being the creation of a web site who’s design and architecture responds based on the device being used to view it). It is possible to work with the code used to build the email; and to define one layout for say, standard email clients, and another where screen width may be restricted (in fact, you could really go for it and start building device specific emails).
By doing this your ‘mobile friendly’ email can:
- display big, clear, readable text with a minimum font size.
- offer chunky, touchable buttons for links rather than text (in fact you could adhere to Apple’s iOS guidelines to ensure usability).
- send your customers to a mobile optimised web site.
Of course designing a responsive email involves more than code tweaking; you need to consider the structure and content of the email, the visibility of the ‘call to action’ and the use of images (new iPads come ‘retina display’ enabled so you could include higher resolution images for these emails). Our own newsletters are now responsive, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on usage and engagement statistics as time rolls on.
Created on Wednesday September 19 2012 11:12 AM
We're very excited to have launched a charity microsite for MS Ireland and it's been seriously good fun! The site is vibrant and energetic which perfectly reflects the excitement of MS Ireland's upcoming READaTHON.
The month long event kicks off on October 12th 2012 and is their biggest fundraising event. It was 25 years ago that the late, great Roald Dahl launched the first campaign. Ever since then the MS READaTHON has been encouraging young people to read while raising much needed funds for services to those living with Multiple Sclerosis in Ireland. The concept is straightforward; Children are sponsored by family and friends to read as many books as they can in one month, it's simple but extremely effective.
With the design theme focusing on monsters that eat books we've gone back to our childhoods here at Focus and let our imaginations run wild! We threw in scratches, claws and bite marks, adding character and a sense of chaos. We have also emphasized the fun factor and encouraged interaction by embedding videos and games.
The site, just like the event, appeals not only to kids and teenagers but adults too. So, why not enjoy yourself and do a great thing for charity by getting involved? You’ll be glad you did!
Created on Wednesday September 12 2012 09:06 AM
The next in a series of projects we've completed over the summer - and it's a big well done to Annette, Steve and Jordana from Team Focus for their work on the new Pace web site, launched in mid August.
Pace are a design consultancy based in Clevedon - managing creative projects for Lloyds TSB, the NHS, Clevedon School and Merlin Housing Society, amongst others.
The new site shows off Pace's refreshed brand and range of design services and also includes a blog that is regularly updated by the entire Pace team. We've also integrated the site with their Twitter profile so that it features latest updates - a nice touch in helping to send traffic both to their social media account and web site.
Nick Cleeve, MD at Pace says:
"We've found Focus to be so easy to work with right through our web site development. They had a professional approach,understanding our business and exactly the direction we wanted to take it forward in. As the business owner I'm not used to being managed, but Annette managed us well, keeping us focused on the end goal and working together as a partnership to achieve the final result.
We've had nothing but positive feedback on our new site since go-live, and I look forward to an ongoing relationship with the team at Focus."
See the new Pace web site at:
Created on Friday August 24 2012 11:15 AM
Thrilled to bits! That's the reaction from our friends at The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland to the launch of their brand new website yesterday!
The Society, one of Ireland's largest charities, work with people with MS, their families and carers, health professionals, students and others who are interested in or concerned about MS. We've been working with MS Ireland since 2007 - not only helping to create their main Society website, but several dedicated campaign microsites too - such as ReadAThon and Tea Party (with McVities). So we were excited to begin working with the Comms team on the structure and design of their brand new site earlier this year.
As well as making sure the web site would be engaging, contemporary and informative, we were briefed that it's key objective was to help create a community of users who could interact with the site and each other through it - providing users and viewers the opportunity to contribute, comment and collaborate on news and views surrounding Multiple Sclerosis.
Through a number of workshops and presentations, the site began to take shape; the creative phase concentrated on site design, navigation and the organisation of information which included introducing 'real life' signposts helping direct visitors to information relevant to them. The administration system that manages the site has been given a complete overhaul to the latest version of Quantum - our bespoke, Rails based content management system. The web site has also benefited from a number of functional improvements including a brand new and enhanced events calendar, which not only features a far more engaging interface, but also invites users to submit their own events.
The site also includes national and regional blogs updated by geographical editors, five separate blogs with editorial content from the different teams at MSI and user polls - helping get real feedback on important issues from real users.
It's been a brilliant experience working with the team at MSI, and we're so pleased to have this site as part of our portfolio.
Best go and take a look then! www.ms-society.ie
Looking forward to working with the team again on their next campaign site… look out for more on this soon.
"We are thoroughly delighted with our new website. We wanted something brighter, more modern and interactive and which reflected the care and support our organisation provides to people with MS. Focus were wonderful throughout the project, listening to our needs and building on those to give us exactly what we wanted."
Communications Manager, MS Ireland
Created on Thursday August 02 2012 09:35 AM
Last week we had the pleasure of launching (no pun intended) a new web site for our friends at Bristol Balloons. We manage 3 sites for the Balloons team and this year we were approached about providing an updated and refreshed design to the flagship of these 3 sites, Bristol Balloons.
It wasn't just the front end that required an update; we have to undertake a complete bespoke development upgrade of the entire back-end system as well.
We've been working long and hard over the last couple of months on developing a back-end system which will prove to be much more flexible and productive for the team at Bristol Balloons.
Design wise we've used the space available in terms of the width and also made key elements available 'above the fold'. The design is centred around striking images that really sell the experience of a balloon flight to users. The new clearer language, navigation and 'call to actions' will have a real positive effect on the conversion rates of the site.
We've also ensured that the new checkout process follows best practice techniques in order to reduce the number of drop-offs and ensure purchases are completed both quickly and easily.
In the limited time that the site has been live we've seen a reduction in both Exit and Bounce rates, which is extremely encouraging. Over the next few months we'll be monitoring the key analytics of the site with a view to updating the other two sites; Bath Balloons and Ballooning Network.
So if you're looking for a special treat, that once in a life time experience or just want to see our handy work, why not take a look at what Bristol Balloons has to offer....
Created on Wednesday June 20 2012 03:30 PM
So the Cookie Law was implemented over the weekend and last week we noticed a number of high profile sites implement their solution to this new legalisation, including; The BBC, The Mirror and the Financial Times.
This change has watered down the initial legalisation somewhat and ensures that the implementation we have seen over the last few days comply with the new legalisation.
If you haven't considered on the new cookie legalisation could affect you than please contact us for some advice or take a look at our best practice guide - here.
Created on Monday May 28 2012 11:03 AM
More and more Company web sites are using ME. By that I mean they talk about themselves. A lot. "We have a great range of pipe cleaners". "Our business has been running for 250 years and we are brilliant". "Look at our interesting news all about us".
It's boring. And self-orientated. Even when including keywords and SEO-focused copy, the content itself still needs to be interesting and effective for the reader. Customer-focussed, if you like.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
We are WidgetWeb! We have a huge range of products including waterproof widgets. We offer good prices and are a well-established business of 30 years. Browse our site now!
Got a leaky sink? Need to fix it fast, and at a low price? You'll find a full range of waterproof widgets here. In a hurry? No problem. You'll love our super-speedy order process.
Why has your web visitor come to your site? They have a leaky sink and need to find some waterproof widgets - quickly - and for a good price. They’ve not come to hear about how long you've been running for and a load of flowery 'me me me'.
See how Apple are putting this in place - lots more 'you' than 'we' in this iPad piece.
The copy on your site needs to address your visitor and their needs, quickly and effectively. Keep them focussed and you'll have a better chance of them making a purchase, or making contact, or downloading your latest offers... Talk to your customers, not at them.
And finally... For every instance of we, try to say 'you', at least twice.
If you'd like to chat about your web copy with one of the team here at Focus, drop us a line here.
Created on Thursday May 10 2012 09:46 AM
Only 2 weeks to go!
On 26th May 2012 all UK websites must demonstrate compliance with the EC ePrivacy Directive. A few weeks ago we sent you our guide on what it means for you and your web site. For more information on this check out our: Cookies; Best Practice Guide.
If you haven't contacted us in regards to a Cookie Audit please feel free to do so. We will undertake this before the 26th May 2012 (charge may apply), report on the cookies which exist on your site and our recommendations on the next steps to ensure your website is demonstrating compliance.
For more information contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Created on Wednesday May 09 2012 10:00 AM
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