Web Design Blog : Toolkit Websites

Web Design Blog

Turn likes into leads

The web is going social, and as with everything online, it’s going at a bewildering pace. Google now uses social media as part of its ranking system and any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) you now do needs to take account of that. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs should all be a part of your marketing arsenal.

Most businesses – 79% according to Harvard Business Review – know this and are going social. However, if it’s going to count you need to know what you’re doing.

Social media can be a drain on time, so how can you turn that interaction into pounds on your balance sheet or customers through your door.

1 – Know your audience

No one wants to listen to a person (and in social media terms, that’s how you should think of your business) spouting about fantastic they are. You no doubt believe in what you do, that goes without saying (and should go without saying). You need to think about what your customers are interested in, what they like – do some research – and focus on that, then they will talk back to you.

2 – An exercise in blogging

A blog is a great way to speak to your clients; you can link it to your social profiles automatically. Toolkit can get you started with a great value and great looking blog that links to your website and sends customers there.

As an exercise, design what you say around the top 10 queries that come in from existing clients and possible prospects. Take around 400 words – that’s a good length for a blog – to answer each of these questions in turn.

3 – The CTA

Marketing is full of confusing jargon and buzzwords for essentially simple concepts. One of the most important is the CTA, the call to action. It just means giving potential customers the opportunity to come and spend with you – make it an attractive offer, a discount or a giveaway, something useful, use your expertise. In return, you pick up their details and a browser becomes a lead.

Feedback is important in marketing so that you know what works. To do this, you need to get your web designers to put code that tracks where visitors arrive at your site from. That way you can continue to do what works and leave what doesn’t behind you.

Toolkit has a number of great social media services for small businesses. We can produce a blog design for you that reflects the branding of your main site – consistency and clarity are important – and will have customers clicking on your sales pages in no time. Take a look at our website to find out more or just call our team on 02380 633 644 to find out how we can help.
Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, professional Web Designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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Website of the Week - Wizzy World


Wizzy World wanted to redesign their website to appeal to parents whilst still balancing the design with children in mind.

Alongside the design we have updated the website to include drop downs menus making the website easier to navigate and the content of each page more accessible. We have also integrated a Facebook Like button in the header for quick and easy access to their social network page.

The 3rd party online booking form has encorperated our design for Wizzy World on the form which gives a nice consistent feel throughout.

Page dressing has been used on the Home page and Birthdays to promote the key elements of their business such as: birthday party packages, promotional competitions, encouraging visitors to click through and find out more.

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The new BlackBerry Z10 – a review

Blackberry has been in trouble in the ultra-competitive and fast moving world of mobile phones. The last time Research In Motion, the owners of the brand, really hit the headlines was when its instant messaging system happened to be the favourite of the rioters who tried to burn our cities down in summer 2011. The Z10 hopes to change that, a lot is a stake; this phone could save the company.

Blackberry wasn’t a winner when the world went crazy for smartphones. Its strengths had been based around email, and now the world wanted to share on Facebook and Twitter. Its smart little phones were out of date in the world of the iPhone and ever-growing touch screens.

Now, Blackberry is entering the touch screen world, and you can see straight away that the iPhone 5 has been a big inspiration for them. There is talk of 100,000 apps being ready and waiting when customers first get their hands on the Z10.

The hub of the Z10 is, well, the Hub. It’s Blackberry’s attempt at a single point of access for all your messages, updates and notifications. The design means it’s a single thumb operation to use it, it is very clever, though could do with some fine-tuning.

While the phone looks a little Appley, the design of the user interface will be most familiar to users of the Android Samsung phones.

As this is Blackberry’s first attempt at a smartphone interface it will take time to get used to it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.

The apps are the result of some heavy marketing spending from the Canadian company. They have their 100,000, but they’re not necessarily the ones that people want or need. Some big names are missing – Google, after all, has its own phones to flog.

Anyone who’s used a Blackberry in the past will know that the keyboard is still a real strength, even when it’s virtual and on screen. Those claims of the fasting texting on the market are probably not all hot water.

The camera is good, but that’s not really what the phone is about, and has the obligatory gimmick – a feature called Time Shift that takes multiple exposures when you shoot and allows to pick your favourite.

Under the smart exterior is a dual-core ARM processor running at 1.5GHz, and with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (you can add more with a card).

Blackberry’s journey into the world of the smartphone only confirms that this is where the future of the internet lies – Google has gone ‘mobile first’, pads are selling like hotcakes and mobile browsing is predicted to over take fixed internet access by 2014.

To survive in this world, you need a website that these new devices can understand, if they can’t their users will simply click on to one that does. Toolkit can produce a version of your site that will be a pleasure to use on mobile devices - all mobile devices. To find out more call our team on 02380 633 644 to find out how we can help.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Web Designers in Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.  
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How to go viral

Going viral – as they say – is the holy grail of internet marketing. It’s quite a mysterious thing this process – which made a Korean rapper the most watched YouTube video ever - who knows what will catch the world’s attention and get them sharing and retweeting?

For a small business, going viral is unlikely to ever reach Gangnam Style proportions, but a piece of content shared quickly among your fans, friends or followers can bring a lot of attention in a short time span with relatively little effort and cost.

Here are 10 tips to help you hit that motherlode.

1 – Be current

The things that people are typing into Google or which are trending on Twitter are those that are most likely to spread like the flu. Keep an eye on the news and react to it. Twitter is the most news-sensitive social network.

2 – Moving pictures

A post, an essay, a list, a graphic, can all go viral, but think of the things that are shared to you and you’ll find that videos are generally at the top of the list. If you use Toolkit’s social media service we’ll even help you upload your first film.

3 – The right words

Images and films are what get shared but we find them with words. Make sure you use simple and understandable keywords or descriptor tags on your content – if your video is about the budget, put that in the title.

4 – Star power

This is really down to luck and persistence, but if you can get your content picked up and shared by a big social media personality it’s only going to help. Don’t get yourself blocked, but if you don’t ask you’ll never know.

5 – Competition time

People love competitions. “Like this page and you could win…” is an established social media tactic, because it works.

6 – Make ‘em laugh

If you’re naturally funny you are on to a good thing. Do you think Psy became the world’s most famous rapper because Gangnam Style is a wonderful piece of music? Rebecca Black’s Friday got millions of views because her song was hilariously bad.

7 - Shock value

This strategy may be of limited use in business, although perhaps no publicity is bad publicity does apply. Do something outrageous and you’ll find it flies around networks.

8 – Show and tell

The web is a fast world. We look, we click, we move on. Reading something takes too long unless it’s really compelling. If you have something to say, it’s much more likely to spread if you say it visually. Blogger, Facebook and especially Pinterest are primarily visual media.

9 – Read it on Reddit

Reddit is a free shot at the big time. If you want to spread something you may as well submit it to the sharing site – there are others too. This is much more likely to work if you’re an active member of the community yourself.

10 – Show me something new

When you’re commenting on the news, make it original. The first is always the most shared, and then the parodies and mashups follow in their wake.

Social media is the primary means of going viral, talk to Toolkit on 02380 633 644 about our social media services and we’ll get you started with an effective and attractive presence on all the most important platforms.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, web design Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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Mid Month Blog - Battle of the CMS

Battle of the Content Management Systems

Everyone loves free. The internet has made free a religion, bringing the music industry to its knees in the process. There’s a great deal to be said for this avalanche of mostly well-intentioned largesse, but nothing’s really free and the price you pay could be your website’s security which will be measured on your business’ bottom line.

WordPress is one of the great successes of the free web. By the end of 2011, this content management system (CMS) – originally a blogging platform – had notched up more than 65 million downloads and is now said to be behind 16% of the web.

Many of the small business websites you see use WordPress as their frame. That’s down to the programme’s many strengths – ease of use, adaptability and, above all, price – which unfortunately are also its weaknesses.

Here at Toolkit we don’t use a free, open source CMS because we believe our own in-house system is stronger, better protected and more usable of the best out there. It’s something we’ve invested in, we control it and can perfectly tailor it to your needs. 

The first problem with WordPress is that it comes with limits. If your site is going to need lots of pages – that’s separate addresses – then WordPress might not be for you as it struggles with big sites.

Experts also warn that plugins don’t work well with WordPress. Plugins are mini pieces of software that work in a larger programme, for example a download that adds a search box to the toolbar on your web browser.

However, the biggest WordPress weaknesses are fundamental to the collaborative way it was developed and its huge popularity.

WordPress was made in the cloud, and that’s where you’re going to have to shout for help if there’s a problem with the software. Good luck.

It’s adaptable, yes, maybe too adaptable. Google WordPress plugins and you’ll get more than 50 million results.

An in-house CMS like the Toolkit has one set of authors, who’ll design the product to your specifications and are at the end of a phone line when you need help. Toolkit also provide limitless, ongoing training in using the Toolkit to update your site.

Finally, hackers love WordPress. This isn’t the fault of the WordPress company. They’re praised in the industry for the speed with which they release patches to deal with security issues. The problem is they’re then relying on millions of people to download and install these patches, and it just isn’t happening. The whole ethos of WordPress is that people can play with the code, and not everyone plays nicely.

Internet security is starting to get nasty. A virus won’t just ruin your site for a while and harm your Google rankings, if we follow the current trend of the States, it could see you in court.

Free, open source CMSs undoubtedly have their plus points, but look at a custom-made version from Toolkit before you choose.

Check out our own CMS Comparison page right here

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Web Designer in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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Google’s thou shalt nots

Google’s thou shalt nots

Somewhere in a computer in Mountain View, California is the most important code on the Internet. Google’s search rules can knock down the biggest of businesses; it’s called a Google Slap. The actual calculations are a closely guarded secret, but Google does share its thinking, so there is no excuse to break these five big rules.

1 – Links must be good

JC Penney is one of the US’s biggest retailers, but that didn’t stop Google chucking them off their search results for three months when they were found guilty of dodgy link building. It was the result of a New York Times investigation, which found phrases like “evening dresses” cropping up in odd places, including pages on medical conditions, and linking directly to JC Penney’s homepage.

The retailer gave their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) experts the push quickly, but it must have cost them millions.

SEO should always be honest or white hat. Toolkit can help you increase the chances that visitors will find your site without getting on the wrong side of Google.

2 – Close the Doorways

Doorway pages are a so-called black hat SEO practice according to Google, and they’re the only ones that really matter. They say that doorway pages are poor quality pages crammed with a particular keyword or search phrase.

Google’s great breakthrough in search methodology was to use links as a measure of importance and relevance. They take messing with this very seriously indeed.

BMW were the biggest casualties of this particular Google Slap, when they were found guilty of setting up doorways. Google reset the German auto giants’ page rank to zero.

3 – Selling is bad

Anything that involves the exchange of cash or goods for incoming links is a Google no-no. They say that the guiding principles of their link ratings are to penalise:

Inaccuracies: False popularity and links that are not fundamentally based on merit, relevance, or authority
Inequities: Unfair advantage in our organic search results to websites with the biggest pocketbooks

When Google found out that Interflora was giving bloggers flowers to write nice things about them and link to their site they were kicked out of the index.

4 – Scrape

You may remember the rather odd story of Grant Shapps MP and his internet-marketing network of sites operated under a pair of pseudonyms. Shapps – or Michael Green as he often called himself – promised those who followed his advice big returns from Google ads.

Unfortunately, the sites were full of ‘scraped’ – basically ripped off – content and they were blacklisted by Google. Make sure all of your content is your own and you will have nothing to worry about.

5 – Stay away from networks

When links became the currency of search, whole networks were set up to trade them. These networks – the best example is Build My Rank – have now been sent to Google hell. Don’t have anything to do with such networks and if you employ someone to do your SEO then make sure you make it very clear that you’re a white hat business.

Not everyone has the time to keep on top of what Google is up to. At Toolkit we follow the news from Mountain View very closely and can help you design SEO that will really work without breaking those important rules. We can also take a look at your site in the same way that the search giant does – our Site Analysis service – and help you redesign it to suit their priorities.

Take a look at our website to find out more or just call our local call centre on 02380 633 644 to find out how we can help.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Web Design Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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Twitter leans to the left

Twitter leans to the left

It can seem as if Twitter is now the barometer of public opinion. Every TV and radio show uses this handy means of testing the public mood. However, new research from America finds that the micro-blogging site can be well off the mark as a measure of the national mood.

Pew Research Centre looked at Twitter’s take on eight big politics stories and compared it with good old-fashioned opinion polling.

They found Twitter wasn’t a very true representation of public opinion as reflected in traditional polling (which is what Pew are selling, it should be remembered).

Twitter loved Barack Obama’s victory in the last American election and was behind him in the television debates. Twitter was also more liberal than the rest of the nation when it came to California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

However, in 2012, Twitter went conservative. The sentiment of the site’s users was more conservative than the nation as a whole on the President’s State of the Union address and his choice of Secretary of State.

Perhaps more interesting for small business owners is that Tweeters are more likely to share negative opinions than positive ones. It’s a message to deal with any complaints as quickly and comprehensively as you can.

Twitter is a wonderful way to speak to customers, but it should perhaps be borne in mind that it is not the be all and end all. Its users tend to be what are called ‘early adopters’ – the sort of people who have the latest iPhone and really take an interest in gadgets and technology. It’s also a perfect shortcut to public opinion for the media – members of which, are by the nature of their work early adopters - so Twitter has become a shortcut to ‘public opinion’ and the social media site that gets the most attention.

There aren’t any completely accurate figures for Twitter usage in the UK, but the most recent surveys suggest that there are 34 million accounts registered to UK users. Facebook has around 33 million accounts here, but that is after a big purge of duplicate and fake accounts.

Social media should be part of every businesses marketing mix these days, it’s no longer an optional extra. But don’t be fooled into thinking that Twitter is a completely accurate reflection of the public mood, it plainly isn’t. Use the social media sites that suit you and that your customers use and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

Ask Toolkit about our social media set up services, which will help you start up a fabulous looking business account – we’ll even upload your first YouTube video for you - and get the most out of your streams.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Web Designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Half phone, half tablet

Half phone, half tablet

Last week in Barcelona, the Mobile World Congress saw the great and the good of the phone world come together to prod at each other’s touch screens and match apps. One of the hits of the show was a new pair of gadgets from Asus, which are an intriguing step towards the integration of the smartphone and tablet markets.

They are called the PadFone Infinity and the Fonepad.

The PadFone Infinity uses Android with a 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm 800 processor. It’s a smart looking machine too, wrapped in the sort of aluminium that usually keeps Boeings safely off the ground. The screen though is where the big news is, at five inches (1920 v 1080 pixels) it’s heading towards tablet territory. The quality of the camera, a 13-megapixel model, shows how much Asus want to make of their superior visual quality.

All very exciting, but surely that’s still just a stand-alone phone? Well, not quite. The PadFone Infinity Station is a dock that turns your phone into an Android tablet. Asus, a Taiwanese company who last year were the world’s fifth largest PC producers, already make a line of Infinity Pad tablets, and the PadFone is a logical extension of that range. The station is also a charger, and Asus says you can get an impressive 17 hours of battery life from it.

The Fonepad is another attempt to mix the tablet and smartphone. It comes with a seven-inch screen (1280 x 800), runs with an Intel Atom Z2420 processor and a promised 10 hours of battery life.

Reviewers have compared it to the Google Nexus 7 tablet. However, it’s not yet running the latest version of Android.

The Fonepad should be available in the USA soon, and it will cost around $250. At today’s exchange rate, that’s just about £166. Not bad, when Apple’s iPhone 5 is still listed on their website at £529.

The question is whether the public is ready to buy what are essentially very large smart phones, or very small tablets. If they are, this could open up a completely new market sector.

Asus’s latest products only go to emphasise the big news online, which is that the future of the internet is mobile browsing. If your site isn’t set up to be viewed on screens like the Fonepad’s, then you’re already missing out on customers and could find yourself struggling with even lower visitor numbers in future. 

Ask Toolkit about our mobile optimisationservice. Soon having a site that can’t be viewed on a smartphone will cease to be an option for any site with a future and we can help you find a whole new generation of customers. 

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Website Designers Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Three social tips from three giant brands

Three social tips from three giant brands

One of the best ways to look at your marketing is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. It can be hard to step away from the passion you invest into running your own business, but to get a clear-eyed perspective take a look at the brands you follow on social media and ask yourself what you get out of that relationship.

Marketing expert, Todd Wasserman, says that your fandom is likely to be based on one of three attributes.

You’re either connecting with a personal interest or passion. Being entertained by the brand’s ‘personality’. Or, you’re getting information that you can use.

These strategies are used by massive corporations that spend megabucks on their marketing and branding strategies and there is no reason why small businesses can’t follow their lead.

These three approaches can be mixed and matched, but according to Caitlin Franke of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, finding which suits your business and focussing on that strength is the best strategy.

Here are some huge brands that successfully follow one of these marketing paths. All these examples are taken from America, but take a look at the social media strategies of some British brands and see where they fit and what you can take from their experience.

Three successful ‘passion brands’ are Red Bull, Nike and Whole Foods, the upmarket, health food superstores.

Nike is a natural fit for this. Many - although anyone who’s seen how sports brands have expanded into everyday fashion will know it’s not all of their customers are buying their products to indulge in their own athletic interests. They’re naturally interested in sporting achievement and want to emulate their heroes. The Nike social media message makes this celebration of achievement its central message.

Red Bull are one-step removed from the actual sporting action, but make action sports the focus of their social media marketing. It’s consistent too, their sponsorships – from Formula 1 to the Red Bull Rampage mountain bike race – tend to emphasise dangerous, adrenaline-soaked sports and their Facebook cover image is of a snowboarder not someone sucking on a can of their drink.

Whole Foods know that the people who are willing to spend on their high-end products must have a passion for food. To match that, they focus almost all of their social media marketing on providing recipes their customers can use to get the best out of the expensive ingredients their bags are full of.

Two examples of the ‘personality brand’ are found in much unhealthier territories. Oreo cookies and Skittles would be pushing their luck if they tried to pull in extreme sports fans.

However, they can successfully give their products a friendly, engaging personality. You can see the same thing in the way M and Ms are marketed as living, cute, funny individuals.

Both these brands try to make their followers laugh. Oreo with a long-running set of visual puns and Skittles with some clever wordplay, for example: “The frenemy of my frenemy is my enefriend”. If they hit enough funny bones then their name will be shared and retweeted right round the social web.

Informative, or ‘transparent brands’ don’t have time for such artifice, instead they provide useful content on what they do. It’s a common approach for technological companies – Apple being, perhaps, the exception that proves the rule.

IBM runs 32,000 blogs from its staff, providing useful technical knowledge about their own products and the tech sector in general. Motor manufacturers and financial brands also tend to follow this straight-faced approach – no-one wants to buy a car or some insurance from a bunch of clowns.

As the social media world gets ever more diverse and challenging for businesses – are you signed up on Pinterest and Instagram yet? – then having a clearly defined strategy that can operate across all platforms is even more valuable.

At Toolkit, we recognise that some businesses need a little help to get started on social media and to learn how to get the best out of it. Ask about our social media set up services, which will give you a professional-looking, easy-to-use means of reaching thousands of potential customers at a great value cost.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Website Design Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Guides to web design

Guides to web design: functionality and impact.

Web design is a constantly changing business, nothing in history has ever moved as fast as the web, and at Toolkit we are always working to keep on top of the latest developments.

Here are a few expert tips on the latest trends in small business design.

1 – Functionality is key

The prettiest site in the world is no good if people can’t use it. Some things are pretty much written in stone, the navigation menus should be at the top or left hand side of the page for example. Sites that are difficult to use won’t attract repeat visitors. And with more internet use going mobile, you should certainly make sure that your site works well on a tablet and mobile phone. Ask Toolkit about our mobile optimisation service.

2 – High Impact

The latest trend is for very simple, high impact marketing sites – often just one video and one button to click that will take you to the main site.

You may not be able to set up a separate site in this way, but you can adopt the high impact look. Images are getting bigger and more important and you can certainly use that in the look of your site – the more personal and engaging they are the better.

Rebecca Swift of iStockphoto recommends splitting the images you use into two categories. The first should be impactful and something only you can produce. The second – less important images – can be used on blog posts and the like and may be stock images, but can still be adapted to suit the style of your site, perhaps with framing or cropping.

Sometimes, however, you can use too many images. Stock uses the example of luxury brands, which use fewer images but make sure they are strongly reflective of their brand.

3 – Show me the money terms

Gavin Cockerill, managing director of Flyerzone, is a big fan of Google Analytics as a means of tracking the people who use your website. That’s something that Toolkit can help you with, just get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how we can get on you the right side of the web’s search giant.

Cockerill recommends finding the ‘money terms’ that people who actually spend money with you use to find your site and concentrating your marketing efforts on them.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Web Designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Content specialists could be worth the cost

Content specialists could be worth the cost say advertising gurus

Would you want your plumber to fix your car? Probably not, yet companies are quite happy to hand over content production to software specialists and are in danger of jeopardising customer experience as a result say marketing experts.

The British Interactive Media Association met at the end of February and that was the key message from their conference.

Google’s recent changes in emphasis have pushed high quality content up the marketing agenda. The rush to social media means that every company is expected to produce engaging, entertaining and informative content across a range of platforms.

The Content Marketing Association published research last June that found that content production made up 21% of overall marketing budgets and 73% of respondents expected that to grow or stay steady in 2013.

Now, it could be argued that both these organisations have a stake in pushing businesses to invest in content production – after all, it’s what they sell. However, even experts outside this speciality seemed to agree.

John Webb is from Rackspace, the hosting company, and as a former marketer at Rockstar Games – the people behind Grand Theft Auto – he should know a little about headline creating content.

He argued that the sheer amount of content available is making consumers resistant to its charms. Anyone who spends more than a few minutes a day on, say, Facebook is going to be hit with dozens of marketing messages. Therefore, argues Webb, it’s vital that what you produce is high quality.

“Famous – ideally infamous – content,” was how Webb put it. That may work for a company like Rockstar, which thrives on its rebel image, but won’t be an appropriate approach for everyone. However, if you think about the content that works well, and goes viral on social media, it’s clear that funny, interesting content can go a long way. Webb warned that too many businesses are relying on the people who set up and run the technical side of social media and web marketing to find the content too.

Webb likens that to ‘the lunatics taking over the asylum’, and suggests finding ex-journalists who have an eye for a story to run content strategies.

At Toolkit, we keep a close eye on what Google does so we can advise on how best to organise your site and social media efforts. We also recognise that specialists can provide the best quality content, so have a deal with The Copywriting Agency, which allows our clients access to the best writers at greatly reduced rates.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Web Design experts in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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