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Postal Address Formats Filed in: Web

January 5th, 2015

Whilst aesthetic beauty is an important part of design, it should never get in the way of helping the website visitor do what they came to the site to do. Good website design must therefore be a collaborative and iterative process which evolves throughout not just initial stages but throughout development and the life of a website.

Whilst designing a website, our graphic designer produced this gorgeous-looking footer with the address formatted as follows (image shows Fish.Net’s address):

Footer without proper postal address format - with bullet points between address lines

The client had provided the address in that format, and the graphic designer added the bullet points to enhance the aesthetic beauty.

The usability of postal address formats

Those looking for the address, however, are likely to want to do something with it – amongst which might be to copy it and paste it into a letter. The bullets and the irregular order of address lines would get in the way of this.

The Royal Mail has a guide on how to address an envelope, detailing the appropriate postal address format. By mangling the address format there is a risk of post being lost or delayed, so the visitor needs to manually remove bullets. Not the best way to treat a customer!

A few small changes made the address (almost) comply with Royal Mail’s postal address formats, without sacrificing the aesthetic too much:

Web page footer with proper postal address format.

It’s little details that make the difference.

Value Propositions and your website Filed in: WebBusiness

April 26th, 2013

Value Proposition - just another buzzword?“Value proposition.”

Buzzword bingo, inpenetrable jargon or simply good, old-fashioned plain English?

On the face of it, it’s another of those meaningless phrases that consultants throw out there for fun and profit.

But take a second look.

Value. Proposition. It’s simply a statement of the value that you are promising to your potential customers.

From a customer’s perspective, it’s simply “what’s in it for me?”.

It’s why your business exists. Without a value proposition you have no purpose; no reason for your prospect to pick up the phone to talk to you or email you or buy something from you. Without a value proposition there is nothing at all which makes you stand out as different from any of your competitors; your business will either wither away or become embroiled in a race to the bottom as you can only compete on price.

You already have a value proposition, even if you don’t realise it

You will likely have a value proposition, of course. There will be a reason why your customers picked you over your competitors; it could be that you excel in your particular field, offer an extended service beyond that offered by competitors, or you might be really good at managing projects and keeping clients in-the-loop. Or it could be something completely different. One thing is for certain – being first in the telephone directory isn’t good enough nowadays; customers WILL read your website (and those of competitors) before commiting to work with you.

It might be that you are well-established and rely on word-of-mouth and referrals. They may have seen some previous work that you’ve done. In this case your customers are spreading a value proposition for you. But unless you define and use a value proposition you’ll struggle to directly attract new business coming in from, for example, a web search. And you’ll probably find it trickier to convert referrals into customers as people more and more compare providers online.

You might not know why your customers chose you over other providers – it’s this which you should figure out because failing to do so and not shouting it from the rooftops means that you are failing to connect with the types of customers you are good at working with.

You’re probably adept at explaining your value proposition to prospects, even if you don’t call it that. You’re certainly unlikely to pronounce “this is my value proposition…”, but a value proposition it is nonetheless. Online, you do not have the nuance of conversation; the body language and facial expressions and utterances which tell you that the prospect “gets it”; you have to be CLEAR and BOLD instead. And that’s why you need to define your proposition.

THAT’S what “value proposition” means. It’s not difficult to understand – although defining it can be a much trickier proposition.

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution? Filed in: Web

January 2nd, 2013

What’s your New Year’s resolution?

I’m talking about display resolution, of course – the number of distinct pixels that can be displayed in each dimension. With a higher display resolution you can either fit more onto your screen or you can view it at a higher quality (providing the content is served in such a way).

My display resolution is 1680 x 1050 and 1280 x 1024.

And 720 x 1280.

And 1280 x 800.

And 1600 x 900.

And 1024 x 768.

You see, it depends on which device I’m using at the time – a dual screen PC, Smartphone, Android tablet, wide-screen laptop or a fairly old second-hand projector.

This really matters. It’s not just me who uses different types of screens – the boom in smartphones and tablets means that people will be seeing your website on more types of screen than ever before.

There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ screen resolution – long gone are the days when you could simply incrementally increase your website’s width every couple of years.

You must now consider landscape (long) vs portrait (tall). High resolutions vs low resolutions. Large screens vs small screens. High pixel density (sharp displays) vs low pixel density (less detail possible). Touch displays vs non-touch displays.

How does your website shape up? View it on your desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet devices – and/or whatever else you may have – and see for yourself. Not up to scratch or not sure? Contact us to find out how we can help your site work better for you.

Michele has the ‘W’ Factor! Filed in: Fish.Net

December 6th, 2012

When Fish.Net talks about its work within the community, the Tesco Wine Community isn’t quite what we have in mind.

Nevertheless, our Operations Director Michele Hayes most ably demonstrated that she has the ‘W’ Factor by eulogising the wonders of  a “lovely Australian Chardonnay”* at a recent wine fair – and now she’s through to the finals!

Look out for Michele in the purple floral dress around the 7 and 11-14 second marks…

Far be it from me to suggest that Michele is never happier than when she’s wining!

*Of course, Michele isn’t actually that keen on Australian Chardonnay – it doesn’t travel too well…

The Homepage is dead. Filed in: Web

July 12th, 2012

A landing page is simply the page that a visitor lands on following a referral from elsewhere. This could be from any number of places, including:

  • offline campaign
  • online advertising (e.g. Adwords, banner ads)
  • link from another site
  • eshot
  • search engine results page

Any page on your website can therefore be a landing page!

Target your landing pages

Websites traditionally have a strict hierarchical structure, with the homepage being the most important ‘hub’ page and other pages spinning off it.  The homepage is often the page on which most effort is spent – writing copy, layout, imagery and so on – with ‘lower level’ pages being seen as ancillary.

This rarely makes sense, however, especially when directing campaign respondents to your site.  You have likely segmented your target market to better identify your customer’s needs and target relevant communication – sending them to the homepage is akin to asking them to restate their purpose and start the whole process again!

That’s where a *targeted* landing page comes in.  This is a page specifically designed to cater for the needs of campaign respondants and help them make the next step.

A good landing page will:

  • be relevant to the referring campaign (i.e. rarely the homepage).  Use the same language, words and images on the landing page as you did in the campaign.
  • be very clear as to what the page is about.  If the visitor doesn’t have instant reassurance that he or she is in the right place, the next page visited may belong to competitor.  This can be achieved through large, clear headlines and good use of concise text and well-chosen imagery
  • be free of distractions from completing the intended goal (such as progressing with a booking, completing a survey etc) as possible
  • remove ‘friction’ from completing the intended goal.  Common doubts could be countered with testimonials; suitability for task can be demonstrated with photos or videos of a product in use – each case varies.
  • have a strong ‘call to action’, or instruction of what the visitor should do next.  This will often be completing a contact form, adding an item to a basket or calling a number, but may be other things too.

A lead generation landing page will also help pre-qualify the lead; nobody benefits from a poor quality lead!

Landing page examples

Manchester United has a number of different market segments, including:

  • die-hard season-ticket holders
  • young fans who want to find out more about their heroes (and perhaps persuade Dad to sign up for Sky Sports and buy the latest shirt)
  • corporate hospitality clients

The homepage at has to shoe-horn all of this in, and more. Unsurprisingly, it turns into a bit of a mish-mash; it’s difficult to see who the page is designed for, what its purpose is or how one can navigate to more pertinent pages (such as corporate hospitality).  It has to be all things to all visitors, and inevitably will always fall short of that:

It does nothing to entice corporate hospitality clients.  That’s why there is a seperate landing page tailored towards the requirements of this segment.  Note the entirely different look-and-feel, tone of voice and navigation used; it’s much cleaner, and focused upon a specific market segment:

Man Utd - landing page for corporate hospitality

Another example is the site of hotel chain Hilton.  With hotels around the world, each catering for a variety of guests ranging from holiday makers to business travelers and wedding guests, a broad appeal is needed for the homepage:

Hilton Homepage, with accommodation in a tropical paradise!

However, those interested in staying in Manchester will have very different requirements to visitors to the Hilton’s Bora Bora Nui spa resort in French Polynesia!  That’s why each hotel has its own landing page, which is almost a site within itself.  Note the benefits drawn out for Manchester – local attractions, contemporary, meetings and weddings, WiFi access – no mention of a tropical paradise!  Instead, the focus is on the iconic razor blade architecture of Beetham Tower slicing through the Manchester skyline:

Hilton Manchester landing page, with Beetham Tower


By contrast, take a look at the page below, which I reached by clicking on an advert following a search for “commercial solicitors manchester”.  Despite metaphorically shouting “I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR COMMERCIAL SERVICES!” from the rooftop, I landed on a page talking about personal injury claims!

The page itself is well designed (aesthetically, at least), but just isn’t relevant to what I’m looking for.  As such, the firm is likely to be effectively leaving money on the table – no matter how good the page may look or how good the firm is.

Tailored landing pages vs. ‘lower level’ pages

Both the Man Utd and Hilton landing pages can be reached via their respective homepages, either through search or more convoluted click-navigation.  What makes these particularly suitable as landing pages, however, is that they stand up on their own even if you have never seen the home page.

The primary navigation on both sets of pages serves to guide the visitor through the task at hand – corporate packages for Man Utd and Manchester’s Deansgate hotel for Hilton.  Large imagery and page titles play a big part, instantly stamping a mark about what the page is about.

Most importantly, both have a call to action pertinent to the page.  There is no generic ‘contact us’ link or funnel to the start of a generic booking process here; instead, the visitor is invited to book the service being promoted on the page.  The call to actions remove any unnecessary tasks or distractions; Hilton doesn’t ask the visitor to select which hotel to book, for example, and Man Utd doesn’t have distracting links to standard matchday or season tickets (however lucrative these may be in themselves).

Assuming Hilton and Man Utd have targeted their off-site marketing properly, their approaches should yield good results, as visitors are able to find out more about whatever caught their attention and act upon it with minimum fuss.

Landing Pages and You

You benefit from landing pages as you browse the web.  You need not be distracted by irrelevant offers or other content, and instead focus upon your own requirements.

Think about how landing pages could help your business.  You too will probably target different segments, be it geographical, demographic, psychographic or other ways of grouping.  You could have different landing pages for:

  • different products
  • existing clients
  • tradeshow attendees
  • visitors via an adwords campaign
  • seasonal events

And the list goes on!

Landing pages can be created relatively quickly and cheaply, and will enhance existing campaigns.  As they can exist outside of the standard structure of your website, you can afford to be a bit more adventurous with style – indeed, landing pages can be used to test new ideas (content, offers, design) without committing to a full redesign of your site.

Don’t give me your spam problem Filed in: WebBusiness

June 14th, 2012

I hate CAPTCHAs.

You know – those irritating tests that you have to do on websites to prove that you are human, rather than a machine.  They try to cut down on the amount of spam that website owners receive, or to stop nefarious coders scraping all your site data or monopolising the resources of the server that the site is stored on.

I can just about put up with them on some sites.  Google’s keyword research tool uses a CAPTCHA to stop misuse of its keyword database, for example, but only when you haven’t logged in.

But I draw the line at CAPTCHAs on contact forms.  Why add an extra hurdle to prospects actively making contact with you?  You might find that I’ll just go elsewhere.

Get too much spam?  Get a decent spam filter instead – don’t push your spam problem onto me.

The perils of USB memory sticks Filed in: Systems & Networks

January 12th, 2012

The Internet makes moving files around extremely simple.  Whether it’s sharing a photograph with family of Facebook or Flickr, or securely transferring a sensitive commercial document from a laptop to company server over a secure VPN connection, documents have never been more portable.

It makes the old practice of saving files on to a floppy disk in order to make it portable redundant.  And hurrah for that – it was slow, cumbersome and something never to rely upon – all it took was a bit of grit to get inside the disk or for someone to put it on top of a speaker and the data within was lost.

The USB memory stick has brought the sneakernet back into vogue.  Alas, it appears that a generation of users must relearn how to avoid the perils of the network…

Over the last year or so, we have been fortunate (!) enough to have worked with a couple of students from Huddersfield University on a sandwich placement year*.  Both students have worked on a variety of website projects – one on the graphical side, and another programming.  It’s certainly been an experience, and we have learnt as much as they have over that time!  (And no – never work with placement students is not of the lessons we’ve learned ;-)).

Back to the sneakernet, our computer games programming student thought that it would be a good idea to store his dissertation on a USB memory stick.  And that’s a reasonable thing to do – it can be easily transferred between student home and college and the library and his parental home and a printer as required.  But it’s not a reasonable thing to do if it’s the only place that the work is saved and a negligent worker at the printers pulls the stick out of a computer without properly dismounting it first.  That leads to data corruption and weeks of lost work with a deadline approaching – as our computer games programming student is now experiencing 🙁

This post isn’t an “I told you so” or gloat – he knows as much as I and I suspect I do that backups of important files should always be made – but instead a salient reminder for us not to be complacent.

There are many ways that backups can be made, each suitable for different tasks:

  • Formal backup procedure – Commercial users should certainly have a formal off-site backup procedure.  This can take the form of incremental backups over the Internet, or more traditional tape backups.  Do periodically review your backup procedure and ensure that backup policies are carried out regularly.
  • Automatic backups – For home users, your ISP, telecomms provider or another company may be able to provide automatic backups of personal files – such as documents or photographs – to “the cloud” – storage space on the Internet.  Check their privacy policies to make sure that you’re happy with how they handle your files first, but these services can be an easy and cost effective way of keeping a backup should a disaster occur
  • Dropbox – provides some free space to which you can automatically synchronise files to.  You can then synchronise these files with other computers, such as other desktops at home, laptops and even your smartphone.  We wouldn’t necessarily recommend storing anything too sensitive here, but it would be perfect for syncing university projects…
  • Manual backup – Ad hoc backups to disk, uploading to the Internet or email can be useful, although we wold suggest a more formal procedure for both business and personal use.

A running theme throughout all of these is that you should check out what the companies involved are doing with your files.  Make sure that you’re comfortable, and make a decision based upon the files you want to back up.  To be on the safe side, assume that uploading all your holiday snaps to Facebook will lead to the whole world seeing them!

Contact our Systems team on (01457) 819600 if you would like to discuss your business backup systems.

*Incidentally, I think that our computer games programming student took the phrase sandwich year far too literally.  His daily meat-slab sandwiches were immense!

Opening PDFs in Google Chrome Filed in: WebSystems & Networks

February 14th, 2011

Google Chrome is fast becoming my browser of choice, but it has a few annoyances which stops me completely dumping the once-excellent but now bloated Firefox.

One of these has been how Chrome handles links to PDFs.  Upon clicking them, the browser displays the PDF in its own  reader.  Whilst this is quick, the in-built reader is feature limited and doesn’t behave in the way I have come to expect a PDF reader to.

You can force Chrome to open PDFs in your default PDF reader (typically Adobe Reader) by following these steps:

  • Click the spanner button and select ‘Options’
  • Go ‘Under the hood’ or ‘Under the bonnet’
  • Select ‘Content Settings’
  • In the ‘Plug-ins’ section, click the ‘Disable individual plug-ins…’ link
  • Look for ‘Chrome PDF Viewer’ in the  list, and ‘Disable’ it.

Next time you click a link to a PDF, it will download the file so you can view it as you would normally 🙂