Category: Small Business Ideas

Young Farmer Business Program Group Coaching

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Business coaching for Farmers

Fast track your business today!

A group coaching program with the Agri-Business Development Institute (ABDI) will help you get what you really want out of your business, figure out what’s holding your business back and where there are opportunities for growth. There’ll be monthly online modules to help you take your business to the next level:

  • Find where you make the real money in your business
  • Learn some fundamentals to manage staff, family and contractors
  • Stay on top of finances by managing cash flow and learning some financial fundamentals
  • Use the art of sales to become a price setter, not a price taker
  • Create a business that is easier to manage
  • Spend your time effectively

PLUS there’ll be monthly group coaching calls and members-only webinars to ask questions!
AND 2 x 2-day face-to-face workshops!

We’ll help pay for your travel!
Live in the middle of nowhere? No problem! We will pay for your accommodation and 50% of your travel costs to get you to the nearest workshop:

Dubbo: 20 – 21 June 

Wagga: 27 – 28 June 

Lismore: 6 – 7 July 

Get your tickets here.

Fred’s Tiny House Council Regulations Airtable Database

 

Fred’s Tiny Houses are making it easier for tiny house dwellers to navigate council regulations in their shire with a national database in Airtable. Fred’s data base is interactive so people can rate their council on their friendliness towards tiny house living and design, leave comments and download PDFs of each council’s regulations. The database is of course a work in progress as councils start to address the needs of the tiny house movement coming to their shire.

You can find the Fred’s Tiny House Council Regulations in Australia database here.

We Push Buttons have clients who use Airtable as a cloud based collaborative spread sheet with many more features such as fields being able to hold long form text, images, links, attachments, check-boxes, drop-down lists and numeric data. You can opt to have different views to the grid, with Calendar, Gallery and Kanbar.

 It’s the best form of database we have come across, being able to cope with complex amounts of data and multiple staff can interact with the database at once, saving changes in real time. Plus, it can be placed on a website and users can be invited to contribute, Fred’s Tiny House Council Regulations data base being a good example.

We use Airtable as it dramatically reduces time with repetitive tasks that are abundant in web development. We can track the progress of a project and link our clients in the cloud to allow for collaboration and better record of communication.

Eve Lamb from the Castlemaine Mail wrote this article which published March 15, 2019. You can read it here.

Online Booking System for Clients

Online Booking System

Our client, Michael Arthur Diamonds required an online appointment booking system for clients to be incorporated into his website. This allows clients to book directly through the website 24 hours per day, leaving the business to generate potential income when staff are not at work. The software has the bonus of syncing with Google Calendar to slot appointments smoothly into the day to day running of the business.

Easy to use online booking systems improve client experience, giving the option to choose the location, staff member, time and date to suit them. Michael Arthur Diamonds have two retail store fronts and two staff which clients can choose from for their own convenience. Also, clients of Michael Arthur Diamonds receive an automated text reminder alert 24 hours prior to their appointment.

A booking system is an essential tool for your website and a medium for increasing your earning potential. It is an opportunity to capture potential clients at the moment of impulse and provide the convenience of making a booking after hours when you are not there to take telephone enquiries.

It is also a time saver for you, creating bookings and calendar syncing without any effort from you, the busy entrepreneur. While you are busy building your business the booking system is taking care of clients and your scheduling.

Visit the booking page on Michael Arthur Diamonds here.

Tips for Writing a Case Study

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Tips for Writing a Case Study

Why do you need Case Studies on your site?

Assume the client does not have any intuition about your processes

Case Studies are designed to win the confidence of a prospective client. They need to see that you are capable of designing, developing and promoting their business through web development.

  • Its as simple as a walking them through the project
  • Outlining your creative strategy from conception to completion
  • Provide the rationale behind the design, UX and visual decisions

Documenting

When starting a new project, proactively think how you will document your processes for a written Case Study. Documentation is key, even in the form of notes and doodles. Keep it all for reference.

Five Core Elements of the Case Study

  • Overview: Keep it brief, simple and quick to understand for skim reading. Include: main problem, overview of solution, and key results. Articulate the gist well in few words. Reader should get the gist of entire project in a nutshell.
  • Context and Challenge: provide a detailed description of the context that led to the creation of the project. Three main elements:
    1. project description and background: timelines, budgetary constraints, and purpose of the job
    2. the issue: the WHY of the project, what issue led to the conception of the project?
    3. project goals and objectives: what are the tangible goals of the project
  • Process: This is where you elaborate on the on how you worked the challenge into a solution. Its where you describe the concepts that led to design decisions. During this process you would have a good idea of the client’s customers, their industry and their competitors. You would have identified their strengths and where their message needed a boost to draw more attention to their site.
  • The Solution: In this section of your Case Study you include samples of your design. A screen shot of the Home page displayed on a few devices shows in one image your design’s mobile responsiveness. Also include samples of any other visual enhancers that show off your skills as a developer. Its also your chance to describe the unique attributes you have used to deal with challenges.
  • The Result: Business owners are most interested in the result. They need evidence that their money will be well spent. Its important to be able to show your design directly boosts your customer’s online traffic and/or sales goals. If your Case Study describes the analytics and statistics of traffic are directly influenced by your design, you are providing more evidence that your agency can do a great job for the next client.

Why You Need a Professional Photographer?

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Why You Need a Professional Photographer?

Three good reasons a professional photographer will add value to your website:

If you want to stand out in the digital space and make a statement about your company vision and values, strong, original images that add to your business story are the best option for your website.

A professional photographer will take the time to capture images that resonate with your audience. While the expense and time may seem unnecessary compared to choosing stock images online, we have three good reasons why a professional photographer is worth the investment.

1. People appreciate the real

How many times have you visited a website and seen the same group of people walking together in business suits with their clipboards clutched in perfectly manicured hands, or noticed the same woman smiling beneath her headset? Exactly! Stock photos have become ubiquitous and rarely add anything of value to a website.

Basically speaking, stock photos are cheap, empty images that don’t enhance your website, and may make your audience assume your company is too lazy or cheap to bother with sourcing original content.

Using a professional photographer means you can use your team and resources to demonstrate the creative strengths of your company and showcase the products and services you provide. A talented photographer will uncover the ‘wonderful’ in your everyday products, and display them in a way that creates interest and admiration.

2. Why look good when you can look great?

If stock photos aren’t your thing, it can be tempting to do it yourself or hire a keen amateur. Before you let your favourite employee loose with a camera – you know the one; that guy who is always doing the Instagram photo a day challenge – stop and remember that every website tells a story. Photos that are badly constructed, poorly lit and over- or underexposed can be just as damaging to your overall business image as badly chosen stock photos.

A professional photographer will have equipment, editing software, experience and most importantly, a portfolio. The importance of viewing the photographer’s portfolio cannot be underestimated. It is essential because you will be able to gauge how well their approach will fit with your vision. A portfolio will also reveal the expertise and scope of their work.

3.    Get the message right

Working with a photographer means you retain creative control of the message your website sends. This means you can set the mood and promote your brand through unique images that complement your content. Keep in mind that the photos you commission will make the first impression on your customers.

Taking the time to find the right photographer who can work to the brief and create an image that reflects your business personality and goals will be worth every marketing dollar you spend, and will also produce a website that attracts the right attention.

Storm Season Backup Servers

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Backup your Server

Storm season – time to get a backup server

The recent autumn storms that lashed the east coast of Australia are a not too subtle reminder that all businesses, large and small, should have backup servers in a separate location to their main business premises. As well as keeping a backup server, business owners should verify that backups are working successfully, or unexpected natural disasters could leave you without the necessary data you need to run your business.

The difference between the Cloud and offsite backup

Cloud does offer limited backup for companies but it is meant for small files and personal data. The major, and most important, difference between Cloud and off-site backup is ownership. When you store data on Cloud, you are a customer and as such, bound by the terms and conditions of Cloud storage. When you use an offsite backup server, you are the owner of your data, which means you can access it whenever you want. An offsite server also offers greater data protection because it can run twenty-four hours a day with scheduled backups at regular intervals.

Why is an offsite server the best option?

We live in an information age where the most valuable possession a business has is data. If your business was to lose all the company and client data, the costs involved in notifying clients and government agencies, continuing without data (if that is possible) and recreating the lost data would result in loss productivity and possibly, bankruptcy.

Off-site servers are an added layer of insurance against:

  • Natural disasters – storms, fire, floods, earthquakes and cyclones
  • Hardware failure
  • Theft
  • Malicious attack – from employees or the internet in the form of virus, worm or trojan

Having a backup server in place means you or your IT manager can travel to the off-site location and immediately retrieve an up-to-date copy of your business information.

How do I set up an offsite backup server?

The complexity and expense of an offsite server will depend on the size and nature of your business. It is best to choose a secure location, out of a flood zone, that is easily accessible. If there is no one within your business that is qualified to set up a backup server, you should seek expert advice to ensure you data is properly protected twenty four hours a day.

Every company suffers data loss at some point or another, so your best defence against the cost and stress of lost data is to commission an offsite backup server, establish a disaster and backup recovery plan, and review your data protection policies every twelve months.

 

Visual Communication and Design

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Logos, Branding and Web Design

As a communication designer, I particularly love the way that the internet has enhanced, nurtured and developed communication design for all kinds of businesses and organisations. It is my job to ensure that our clients are being heard and remembered, among the cacophony of competing messages everywhere on the Net.

Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time online, both in our professional capacity as well as in our personal lives. We are constantly online, scrolling quickly through news, messages and looking for particular topics – and usually we expect results immediately. If you are not quick, concise and precise with your information/message – it is lost in the ever competitive market for customer attention.

We are constantly inundated with Click Bait, screaming headlines of fortune and misfortune, numerous lists of ‘five habits of successful people’ or ‘do-it-yourself in a weekend’, so it is no wonder we have developed short attention spans. We have little patience with a website that loads slowly and we are likely to abandon a search, if a website does not offer us immediate results. If we can’t find what we are looking for, we go to another site with a better user experience. After all, there are many other choices available with the click of a mouse or a tap of a finger.

Still, it is impossible not to be disheartened by the unfortunate trend of needing everything immediately to keep up. It forces us to pay less attention to detail, research, the feasibility of our choices, and less obvious things like beauty, personal expression and long term value.

My thoughts on visual communication and design:

The quality of your logo and the effectiveness of communication flow on your website is paramount to your future business success.

Logo Design

Your logo is where your branding begins. Whether that is just your name in written form or a professionally designed icon or typo-gram. Your logo represents what you and your company stand for. Therefore, it is essential that it is both a fair resemblance of your intended message and, just as importantly your logo should ensure your brand will be remembered.

So what constitutes a great, memorable logo:

  1. A great logo does not have to be beautiful (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) – but it must be unique.
  2. A great logo must be simple and poignant enough to draw in pencil easily. Think, for example, of the golden arches of the  McDonald’s logo, or the simple swish in the Nike logo, or the eye-catching use of typography in the NASA, Chanel and ebay logos.
  3. It must be usable in a variety of formats, sizes and dimensions and it must be recognisable in black and white and in small sizes.

What do these logos all have in common?

In order to stay relevant you must ensure your logo is simple and memorable.

If you’re on the look out for some inspiration you can visit Logo Design Love here, which has thousands of inspirational and memorable logo designs.
If you would like to see some large companies who are simplifying their logo when they are undergoing a rebranding process Design Taxi has great examples.

BRANDING A WEBSITE

Working as a communication designer for a Digital Agency, I work primarily with branding and design for websites. Whenever we take on a new client, we ask them to complete our Web Design Questionnaire. This gives us a clear understanding of what our clients are looking for.

When considering the UX design of a website, I think of branding in a slightly broader view than is usually the case. For me, branding consists of your logo. It is enhanced by your font choices, colour choice, style of imagery, tag lines, ideals and messaging, the essence of your product and the personality of your company.

However before we begin any designs, I must first learn who your customer base is and what your customers are looking for when they visit your website. I consider all these things before I create my designs, both on printed material and your online profile, to ensure your communication is precisely targeting your audience.

A good branding package enables a designer to create a website which reflects a company’s message. Creating a website which is easy to navigate ensures your customers are more likely to have a good user experience when visiting your site.

Effectively branding your site

We provide clients with a series of layouts for potential landing pages, both in UXPIN and Photoshop. We often print out the designs so we can sit down with you and take feedback on the printed design. Here are some examples of recent, very different,  design suggestions for a leadership development coach.

Tips to create a memorable website:

  1. Provide your web designer with a fully fleshed out, completed questionnaire, providing as many details as you can on both your business and your style, and likes and dislikes.
  2. Ensure your logo and branding (colours, fonts, layout styles, image styles etc) are accurately reflected in the design.
  3. Make sure information is ordered according to relevance, in a manner that is both obvious and functional. Website user experience really is a case of “form follows function”. Perfection is reached when the branding achieves simplicity of user experience and memorable, unique and appropriate design.
  4. Less is definitely more. When you remove superfluous elements in your design, you enhance communication. This rule is valid for web and print design.

If you can express yourself clearly and quickly and do your best to add a little twist – something unexpected, quirky, fun, resourceful or beautiful you’re well on the way to having a successful digital presence.

Websites with some award winning UX Design:

A personal observation:

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I would like to leave you with the following advice:

  1. Before you engage any professional, ensure you have had, at the very least, a phone conversation and you have seen samples of their work. Word of mouth from a trusted colleague or friend is always good quality control.
  2. Trust the advice of your web designer, UX designer or graphic designer. Many people experiment, providing designs and websites done by well meaning, non-professional friends and relatives. Although well intended, this method often leads to complicated and longer work flows during the building of your website (read: more expensive for you).
  3. If you have gone through the trouble of setting up a new business or organisation with all the work that it entails, it will be worth your while to present that as professionally and effectively as you possibly can.
  4. A good designer will always welcome your input – but try to trust them like you would your plumber. You want them to follow your wishes as much as possible, but if you don’t listen to their professional advice, it may lead to unintended results.
  5. Don’t always listen to fellow business owners or family when it comes to design. Just because one design worked for someone you know, it doesn’t mean it is going to work in your situation.

Remember:  It’s your business and your website, so it should reflect your organisation’s ethos, professionalism and personality.

Hosting and Maintaining WordPress

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Hosting and Maintaining WordPress

One of the great things about WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system, is the ease with which it can be hosted. The underlying technologies that it uses are among the most commonly offered by hosting providers, and the ease with which it can be deployed is one of the things that drives its popularity.

This also give you, as the site owner, a myriad of options for choosing a company to host with. Most companies offering hosting will offer a range of plans, and many of those plans appear very similar. This has lead to a race-to-the-bottom in terms of hosting costs, which often makes it tempting to just choose the cheapest provider.

Here’s a comparison of a few of the different types of hosting, and what they may mean for the performance of your WordPress site:

Classic Shared Hosting

This is usually marketed as ‘cPanel’ hosting. 95% of the time, the ‘stack’ of software that the site is based on is a variation on LAMP.  To break the acronym down, Linux is the operating system, Apache the webserver, MySQL the database, and PHP the scripting language that provides the site’s ‘smarts’.

When you buy shared hosting like this, you have little to no idea as to how many other sites there are hosted on the server. You have purchased a small slice of the total performance available on the server, but behind the scenes, your account is in a fight to the death for resources against other accounts and other customers.

The package you buy may offer the chance to host ‘subdomains’ or ‘add-on domains’ – this gives you the chance to host multiple sites under a single account, which at a glance seems attractive, but those sites will actually have to share, among themselves the single slice of resources that your account has been allocated. As such, expect performance, in terms of responsiveness, to suffer.

Things that can improve WordPress on shared hosting.

Chose a better PHP version

The first thing you can check is the version of PHP you are using. Shared hosting accounts often offer a choice of the version of PHP that you’re using. They often default to an earlier, but more compatible version. More recent version of PHP (5.6 or 7) offer substantial performance improvements, and can be selected via the ‘PHP Selector’ in the cPanel interface.

Almost all PHP scripts that operate inside WordPress are (or by now should be) compatible with these versions of PHP.

Bypass your hosting – use a Content Distribution Network

To display a  single web page, many assets are often served, each of which is a separate request. These requests are responded to by the web server program (or ‘process’), that listens for requests and generates responses, returning them to the browser requesting them. Servers most often used in shared hosting, like Apache (and, less commonly LiteSpeed) are akin to Swiss-army-knives, in that they can do a bit of everything – they serve both [tooltip title=”Static assets” content=”Static assets: files that rarely change once a site is deployed” type=”classic”]’static’ assets[/tooltip] such as images, CSS that affect the style of the site, or JavaScript files that add interactivity, and they can call and return the dynamic parts of a site, the results of PHP scripts and database queries.

One way that you can improve things is to reduce the number of requests Apache must deal with, by serving the static assets from somewhere else, to leave Apache to just serve the dynamic (PHP) parts of the site. WordPress caching plugins like W3 Total Cache allow you to serve these assets from a [tooltip title=”Content Distribution Network” content=”Content Distribution Network: a series of 3rd-party servers designed to speed up serving of your static assets” type=”classic”]CDN[/tooltip] such as MaxCDN or Amazon’s CloudFront. For sites that do not attract a lot of traffic, Cloud Front’s pay-as-you-go pricing is attractive, as it is based only on the amount of data served, but it’s not a one-click setup.

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Optimise Assets

Plugins like W3 Total Cache can also concatenate and optimise static resources like CSS & JavaScript. Concatenation combines many small files into just a few much larger files, which reduces the number of requests that browser must make in order to view each page. It can also reduce their size by stripping redundant information, a process called minification. Although these techniques offer good potential for improving shared hosting performance, some care must be taken as not all of them are compatible with all plugins and themes, leading to display glitches and script errors. Some testing is required in order to make sure they do not adversely affect user experience.

Beyond shared hosting- tuned hosting for WordPress

If you are concerned with getting the best possible performance of WordPress, finding a hosting provider who offers a hosting stack that is optimised to serve it will pay big dividends. For instance, if you are selling online via an eCommerce store, then you can easily quantify the value of good quality hosting in terms of a faster user experience leading to less customer frustration, less ‘drop-offs’ on the path to purchase, and improved numbers of sales or leads.

A common means to improve performance is to remove Apache from the stack, and use a more efficient server. An example of this is NGINX – unlike Apache which is setup with a finite number of possible ‘slots’ for connections, NGINX uses a event-based queue system that can a handle a much higher number of concurrent connections. Unlike Apache, NGINX can be setup to aggressively cache dynamic pages, meaning that requests for URLs that have not changed are served without the pages having to be regenerated by PHP, offering a massive speedup. NGINX is also extremely efficient at handling static resources, the images, styles and JavaScripts that rarely ever change.

The way in which PHP is run can also radically improve performance. As a scripting language, PHP is usually read from disk as a series of text files, interpreted into a form that can be ‘run’ and then executed. WordPress uses a large number of different PHP files to serve a request. Although all systems cache to a certain extent (like recently accessed files), systems like OpCode caching, that store the interpreted PHP in memory, improve execution times massively. The trade off is that they require more memory, something which is in short supply on shared hosting.

Setting up and tuning a stack like this, is, realistically, not for mortals. If you have a the skills then you can get great performance out of a cheap server but you have to know what you’re doing, and if you’re planning to host multiple sites, then a VPS is not a practical solution unless you know exactly how to set it up.

Finding a provider who combines the ease of management of cPanel with the massive performance gains associated with servers like NGINX is rare.  Here at We Push Buttons, we employ GnuSys’ excellent XtendWeb plugin for cPanel to improve the performance of our premium VPS by using NGNIX, caching, and application specific templates to take the hassle out of tuning WordPress serving, as well as other types of web applications. Our maintenance packages also include patching of WordPress and plugins, security monitoring, and backups for disaster recovery.

back up server

How to use Pozible, Australia’s Crowdfunding Platform

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Getting it right is Pozible!

Pop onto Pozible and scroll through past successes, and you’ll find projects spanning everything from the arts to animal and human welfare. Artists, innovators, educators and community and environmental groups have all benefited from successful Pozible campaigns: the diversity of excellent projects on offer is a testament to the strength of the platform, the growing audience base, and the passionate individuals and groups launching savvy projects. It may look like the only limitation to a Pozible project is your imagination, but there are a few things you need to know before you dive in and start a project of your own.

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Pozible Do’s:

  • all Pozible projects must have clearly defined outcomes, timeframes and goals. For example, you can raise money for your favourite charity, but you can’t run an ongoing appeal. Your campaign must run for a set time and have clear outcomes
  • your project must fit into one of the following Pozible categories: Art, Comics/Graphic Novels, Community, Design, Event, Fashion, Film, Food, Game, Music, Journalism, Performance, Photography, Technology, Video, Writing, Craft
  • you must be over 18 and supply an internationally recognised form of ID (passport or licence). You must also be able to supply a residential address, phone number and bank account
  • your intereactions with the Pozible community must be constructive. Make sure all messaging is quick and courteous
  • you must ensure you do not break any copyright or intellectual property laws

Pozible Dont’s:

  • offering sexually explicit material or services as rewards is prohibited on Pozible
  • selling shares, raising investment funds and providing any type of direct financial reward or incentive is prohibited
  • gambling services are prohibited
  • illegal items such as weapons, medications or illicit drugs cannot be offered as rewards
  • if you wish to use alcohol as a reward, you must check the liquor act in your state/country to ensure you are not breaking the law
  • obscene or abusive posts will be deleted and your account may be suspended

So, you’ve got your head around the guidelines, what next? Your audience will want to know why you are running your campaign and why they should get involved, so start preparing ahead of time. Do your research, test your audience, prepare your campaign video and give some serious thought to your rewards. Rewards are always better when they have a personal or exclusive touch – small artworks if you are an artist; after-party tickets or premiere tickets if you are a film-maker. Remember, Pozible is more than just a platform to raise money for your project.

By the end of your campaign, your idea will have been tested on the public, and they will have let you know if it is a good one!

Here’s some similar Crowdfunding websites to Pozible:

  • Mighty Cause: (formerly Razoo) for “people who want to make generosity a part of everyday life”. Over 14,000 nonprofits have used this platform
  • Causes: for people who want to change the world – categories vary from disaster relief to human rights.
  • Kickstarter: any organisation or individual can use this site to finance an event or project.
  • Indiegogo: an international crowdfunding site for creative ventures, charities and non-profit organizations.

When you are considering a crowdfunding platform, think about:

  • Ease of use: is it easy to set up your page? Do you need specialist skills to make your page look amazing?
  • Payment processing: what payment methods are available and how long will it take for donations to be deposited to your nominated account?
  • Social Networking: is it easy to link your campaign to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and You Tube?
  • Visibility: choose a well-established site with a high volume of traffic.
  • Payment: If you don’t hit your target do you still receive the money you raised? With some platforms if you don’t hit your target $ amount you don’t get any payment.

What is a Landing Page?

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What is a Landing Page?

If you are using a home page as your landing page, be assured you are losing valuable sales leads. The home page of a website is designed to be general purpose and explain what it is your business does, and why you do it so well. Imagine your home page is the shop front window: the buyer may stop and admire your products, but if you cannot engage the buyer’s interest, they are just as likely to continue walking and window-shopping, and you will never see them again. A landing page, on the other hand, might be considered an open door. It is a standalone page that appears in response to clicking on an advertisement or email link, engages directly with the potential buyer, and captures data to generate sales opportunities.

Why Your Website Needs a Landing Page

A landing page is more than simply a cyber door for through-traffic. A good landing page holds your visitor’s attention and captures information through a lead form. There is no point generating traffic if you are unable to convert interested passers-by into sales opportunities, so your landing page should effectively target the particular the demographic of your campaign, and have an interesting offer or call to action. Simply put, you should never start any online advertising campaign without a landing page in place to capture the leads you generate.

How do I make my Landing Page Work for me?

Before you start your advertising campaign and set up a page to capture traffic, ask yourself what you want potential customers to do when they get to your website. Do you want them to see the latest innovations you have to offer? Do you want them to leave their details for email marketing? Whatever your purpose, having a clear idea of what you want your landing page to achieve means it can be set up to prompt and direct traffic in a way that increases the effectiveness of your online marketing. If you want your landing page to consistently deliver leads, try to keep the following points in mind:

  • Short and simple is best: the internet is a busy place, and most internet users have notoriously short attention spans. Don’t bore people with large blocks of information to read. Forms should ask for minimum information – the less time it takes to fill in, the information, the more chance you have of gaining a lead.
  • Limit distractions: keep your landing page clutter free. You don’t want your leads exiting so hide website navigation and information on landing pages.
  • Value add: make sure the offer you make is compelling and clearly demonstrated to the demographic you have targeted.
  • Be sure to share: You page should have links to social media to enable your audience to share your information.

Here’s a selection of landing pages that serve different purposes:

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Landing-Page-Design

Simple sign up for the latest news:

landing-page-example

Large hero image with a simple join now form:

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Create an account in seconds:

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Creating a landing page to capture leads is an easy and effective way to improve online marketing strategies, drive sales figures and collect important data for future marketing campaigns.

There is nothing to lose and sales to gain!

Your Small Business & the Web Design Process

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The Web Design Process

What you need to know before contacting a web designer

Your website is the first place many potential customers go when they are researching products and services so an effective, properly planned website is essential. A well designed website increases traffic and turns enquiries into sales at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing campaigns. If you want to push the right buttons with your customers, read about the eight essential elements of an effective small business website below

Have a Plan

If you build a business on the web, customers won’t necessarily come unless you have a strong sales strategy. In order to get the most out of your online presence, your web design should be aligned with the overall sales and marketing plan for your business. Explore the options available – pay-per-click (PPC), email marketing, social media, blogs and search engine optimization (SEO) – to decide what fits best with your sales plan.

Stay on Message

Potential customers usually spend less than two minutes on a website. It is important to have a strong pitch that incorporates what you are selling, and why you are the best at what you do. Remember ‘less is more’ on the net. Hone your message and make sure it comes through loud and clear in the design and content elements of your website.

Make Getting in Touch Easy

Have clear ‘Call to Action’ buttons on your website. These may be in the form of ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Click for call-back’ icons. Make it easy for customers to contact your company and ask questions. Don’t tuck your contact information away on an inaccessible web page. Online customers are impatient and will move on if they cannot find information quickly.

Track Conversions

Tracking site visits track the most visited pages on your site and the conversions to sales and inquiries is one of the easiest and most valuable website activities. Tracking conversions will help you grow your business and make informed sales decisions and forecasts based on the data you collect.

Tell Customers Who You Are

Understanding your customer’s aspirations and needs is important if you want them to connect with your business. Target your ‘About Us’ page toward your customer demographic and include quality information about the history, goals and successes of your business.

Go for User Friendly Design and Content

Don’t make your website busy. Elegant visual design and quality content that clearly and logically directs customer inquiries drives sales and encourages longer stays on your website. Your site should be accessible on mobile devices – responsive design means your customers connect on any device, anywhere.

Choose a Robust CMS

Choose the correct content management system for your website. The following features are critical to eCommerce success:

  • Quick loading and easy to edit pages
  • SEO ready
  • Good support and update structure for software

Choose a Web Design Company

Last but certainly not least, partner with a web design company to get the most out of your eCommerce site. Look for a company with experience and know-how. Ask how they will implement the eight essentials discussed here, and check out their client portfolio to see if you like the work they do and if it will suit your business.

We offer creative, compelling solutions designed to make your customers push the right buttons!

We’re here to help, so please contact us if you would like more information about our web design services.

What’s the Ultimate Content Marketing Team?

The Ultimate Content Marketing Team?

The Ultimate Content Marketing Team?

When it comes to content marketing you need a plan, a sufficient timeline, and a realistic budget as well as several different people with complementary skills in order to gain traction.

So how can you get the best content from your team by identifying what each member wants to do most? For many smaller businesses, the one person will wear multiple hats, however by establishing clear content marketing roles people know what they are meant to do ensuring the content creation process is far smoother.

A rock solid content marketing team will vary according to each organisation depending on the niche, budget and company size, however every organisation will need someone with the following skill set:

  • Chief content writer: this is the main content writer or storyteller who is responsible for setting the overall editorial plan and writing much of the content.
  • Editor: never underestimate how important an editor is. Good online editors not only correct grammar and spelling but also improves the stories by consolidating the tone, style and language of each article.
  • Graphic Designer/ Videographers: people are visual creatures. We love looking at beautiful, funny things and if you want content that cuts through you need fantastic graphics that make you stand out from the rest of the pack. Video is becoming increasingly important when it comes to content marketing but you don’t need to hire a professional video company, often a smart phone and a snappy 30 sec clip will be just as effective.
  • Social media manager: more people get their news from social media these days than they do through newspapers. You need to be on social media regularly on 2-3 platforms that suit your niche. Stay consistent in tone and stay consistent in your regularity of updates.
  • Assistant content writer: this could be a part-timer, another staff member, a friend or partner who contributes a second voice to the content writing articles from a different angle to the main content writer. Depending on the size of the campaign there might be several of these people.
  • Idea contributors: Whilst most staff members won’t be actively involved in the content creation, however by allowing input from staff members some of the best ideas will flow directly from people at the coal face of the organisation.
  • Content promoters/ publicists/ SEO: content promoters need to spread your content far and wide by a variety of means whether social media, newspapers, online magazines and vitally importantly regular newsletters to current clients and customers.
  • Content Analyst: understanding what content works, what doesn’t, what time of day to publish articles, what day to publish them, what day of the week to issue your newsletter and what content leads to the most business is important no matter what your budget. Anyone can teach themselves basic content analysis. If you have a reasonable budget then ask your Search Engine Optimisation consultant to dig deep into the stats to extract the most pertinent information for your organistion.
  • Technical Search Engine Optimisation: having someone conduct keyword research into what terms people are searching for online will remove the guest work from your content strategy. Are people searching for ‘Web Design Melbourne’ or ‘Melbourne Web Designers’? The difference could be thousands of dollars each year to your bottom line. You also need to ensure your articles have been correctly marked-up according to Google’s rules and that the code of your website complies with the online best practice regulations.
  • Most importantly; a CEO or business owner who is involved each week in reviewing, assessing and suggesting improvements to the content and relaying what is working from the organisations point of view. It’s all well and good to have 200 likes on a Facebook post but does that translate to new business? Having regular input from the business owner, CFO or CEO can do wonders to keep the content marketing goals aligned with the businesses goals.

Obviously in large organistions you might have several writers, an in house pod caster or a YouTube specialist but for most small- medium sized companies this should be more than sufficient in order to make your content shine.

In our experience content marketing delivers the best results for propelling small businesses to the next level but don’t expect immediate results.

Logos and Brand Recognition

Branding Recognition & Logo Design

It’s a competitive world out there for a growing business. In today’s climate of endless advertising possibilities including TV and radio ads, letterbox catalogues, newsletters, forums and social media, it can be tricky to stay ahead of the game. Having a business that has an immediate brand recognition means that they are well and truly ahead of the pack.

When looking for a product or service, most people will go straight to the internet and type in a few keywords. Next a list of companies pop up. You may be one of these, but what will make the consumer choose you and not one of your competitors? Sure, being near the top of the page is a big advantage, but not always a shoe-in.

 

An eye catching logo could be the edge you need over the competition. You can convey a lot of information with even the simplest of logos. Colour can also play a key role in a successful logo, with different colours standing for different feelings and emotions.

So once you have a logo that suits your business, with an appropriate image and a colour that inspires the viewer, you are in a better position to attract the attention of potential clients over and above your competition.

Advertising has always been a powerful friend to any business. The more you get your name out there the more people know and remember who you are. If someone sees a repeated ad on TV for a cleaning product, chances are that when they go to buy cleaning products they will choose that brand. Not always because it is a good product but because they now associate that brand with their purpose, to clean. This is one way a logo works in your favour.

Does a recognisable logo work for assisting brand recognition?

Logos and brand recognition:

When you need petrol and there are two service stations at an intersection, one a Shell service station with its recognisable bright yellow inviting sign and the other a private service station with no known logo.

Which one looks more trusted, safe and which do you favour?

When shopping for new sports wear, more people opt for well known brands with their logos emblazoned on the apparel rather than an unknown, unbranded item. This is not always because they are better quality but more often because that brand is recognised and associated with quality and generally accepted as the bench mark for that industry.

Obviously having a reputable, reliable and good quality product or service is paramount for a good business and a logo will not override or replace the need to have good business ethics. Having a well recognised logo simply helps market your product to stand out in the crowd.

And lets face it, these days every business needs all the help it can get.

A Sample of our Logo Designs

See our Branding Packages

WordPress now powers 25% of the worlds websites!

Other web developers often ask why we chose to develop most of our sites in WordPress. Often it is with an elitist edge wondering why we would lower downground our skills to develop on WordPress. The thing is we can develop a site for 1/3 of the price of a Drupal or Magento site and have it up and running faster so your organisation gets online fast.

In saying that WordPress isn’t the most ideal site for large complex eCommerce systems (we use Magento) or government, universities and Apps. However if you’re a small business looking to grow your reach online then you can’t go past WordPress.

Don’t agree? Here’s the latest stats from November 2015

  • WordPress now powers 25% of the worlds websites.
  • The two closest CMS are Joomla and Drupal combined are used by 4.9%.
  • There are over 300+ Content Management Systems
  • Every 74 seconds a site within the top 10 million starts using WordPress
  • However of the top 1,000 websites in the world, WordPress’s market share drops to 30%. Which highlights our first point that WordPress is the preferred CMS for small- medium business where budget is a consideration.

cms-wordpress

Thanks to Matthias Gelbmann from W3Techs for the WordPress statistics seen here…

Choosing a Self-publishing Platform

Choosing a Self-publishing Platform

Any writer who has made it to the end of a manuscript (and through the various edits) knows how hard it is to finish, however, there’s something waiting for you that’s even tougher than finishing that book – marketing and publishing it! Nevertheless, it’s not impossible and with self-publishing no longer the domain of Vanity Publishers, there are more choices available than ever before.

Smashwords smashwords-logo

Smashwords, founded in 2008, distributes indie ebooks through most of the major retailers. The platform is free and provides marketing, distribution and sales reporting. Authors retain control over their work and manage sampling pricing and marketing. There are over 100,000 independent authors, publishers and agents using Smashwords, so the platform has to be doing something right.

It can be hard to find what you are looking for on the Smashwords site, but once you get going, it’s relatively easy to use. There are plenty of answers to newbie questions, and an excellent guide to pre-order distribution. One of the most appealing aspects of Smashwords is the fact that it is entirely free. All you need to do is correctly upload your ebook, and they supply a free ISBN, free conversion to multiple formats and distribution with multiple retailers. You can also make changes to your manuscript without incurring extra charges.

One drawback is their arrangement with Amazon. According to Smashwords, “Although we have a distribution agreement with Amazon via their Kindle Direct Platform, they’re unable to receive our entire catalog.  In the meantime, we’re only distributing a few hundred titles to Amazon out of our catalog of over 370,000. Unless you earn over $2000 on Smashwords, they won’t distribute your title to Amazon – you will have to deal directly with Amazon. Also, authors outside the US will require an ITIN. If your knees turn to water at the sight of forms in triplicate, enlist the help of a paperwork-wizard friend.

Bookbaby        eBook-publishing

The Bookbaby website has more publishing options, but it is easy to follow. You’ll find most of your questions are only a click away from being answered, and there is a dedicated customer service line (US based). Unlike Smashwords, Bookbaby charges for publishing and cover design and will charge extra for changes made after publication. On the plus side, Bookbaby distributes on Amazon, and you retain 100% of your royalties whereas Smashwords does take a small cut. Having said that, Bookbaby can only pass on what is paid to them by retailers. Take a look at this comparison for an idea of an actual return for dollar spend.

Pronoun pronoun-by-vook

If you want to get in on the ground floor, why not try the new brand for eBook distributor Vook. Pronoun combines the creation, marketing and selling of eBooks to major retailers on one platform. The platform is not charging fees to publish and will not charge royalties. This means authors keep 100% of earnings after retailers take their cut. Like Smashwords, Pronoun pays quarterly, and a PayPal account is required. It is unclear whether an ITIN is required, but it’s best to assume that non-US-based authors will need to wade through the paperwork to avoid withholding tax.

Pronoun offers optional services that will enable writers to put together a publishing team – these services will no doubt cost money. On sign-up, you are directed to reserve an author page and asked to wait until given the go-ahead to publish. Approximately 7000 authors have signed up to date, but the platform is not live yet so it’s hard to tell how successful it will be.

These are not the only self-publishing platforms available. Research as many platforms as possible to help crystallise your publishing wish list and needs. You may dive right in and epublish or decide a traditional publishing deal will serve your situation best, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to make the decision yourself.

Collaboration Resources for Business

Collaboration Resources for Business

One of the biggest problems facing creatives today is often just how many people need to work together to get a project off the ground. It is vital that you are able to share, collaborate and learn with your team no matter where they are based.

Drop Box

Drop Box is a great way to share and store information in the cloud. It runs on the same principals as Hotmail or Gmail. You set up an account with a password and upload the files you want to share into this account. You are then able to view and share that folder with any of your computers or anyone else you want. You simply invite someone to share your folder by typing in their email address, they click yes and away you go. DropBox is so popular these days as you can store huge files in DropBox far more than you could ever email. A basic Account is free (up to 2GB) and should be more than adequate for the solo professional. Paid upgrades are easily available for larger projects and are still quite reasonable.

Managed Web Hosting: Smart Start-Up

smart-startup-logo

We’re constantly asked by businesses as to why they need to consider paying extra for a managed hosting package. Most start up small businesses don’t think it’s necessary, and often it isn’t but if you have a successful business on the rise or you don’t have the expertise in-house then managed hosting should be on your radar.

We’ve just written an article on this very topic on Smart Start-Up..read it here…

 

 

Five of our favourite eCommerce web designs

great-ecommerce-design

The best eCommerce web designs double as online showcases for the business they represent, but they should, first and foremost, reinforce brand awareness and sell products and services. Capturing maximum sales and return traffic is less problematic when web design is holistic. It’s not enough to embed newsletter sign-ups and ‘buy now’ buttons. If a web designer has done their job correctly, a website will be an inviting commercial space where the history, ethos and style of a company gels with their customer demographic. We’ve put together five of our favourites sites, and the reason we love their design.

Stella McCartney Online

 

A pop-up appears as soon as you enter the site and invites you to join the ‘Stella Newsletter’ or the ‘Kids newsletter’, but you are not compelled – an understated diamante star shuts the pop-up down if you decline, because this is not a demographic to push around.

Everything about this site screams exclusivity. Gorgeous artwork and professional fashion shots provide links to different pages. Social media buttons and contact details are politely tucked at the bottom of the page but still accessible. Every time a new page loads, a lovely diamante S scrolls up and down, gently reminding you that you are in the presence of Stella.

Sony Official Store

 

The most impressive element of this website is its outstanding simplicity. All information is easy to read and laid out in tiled banners that draw the eye from one logical level to the next. Navigating to the section you want can be done within seconds, but before you click on a thing, you’ve already been informed about the latest specials and free shipping on all orders over $25.00.

Luhse Tea

 

You’ll never look at a cup of tea in quite the same way after visiting Luhse Tea. This website stays on message in 1940s noir style with a comic twist. The opening animation is so good we won’t spoil it – go online and take a look! Navigation is logical and page icons are interesting and offbeat amusements while you shop. One of the Luhse Tea design strengths is the playfulness of words and images.

The Hungarian Wine Society

 

This site is rather like a good bottle of aged wine. The palette is understated, the images steeped in elegance – this is a site to consume with your gaze. It quietly promises that you too shall attain Hungarian Wine Society refinement if you purchase one of their special drops. Navigation is via a subdued, but easy to access list across the top of the screen, and a scrolling checkout box stays in easy reach to the left of your screen.

Dog Collar

Take a simple product, add great design and easy navigation, and you’ve got the Dog Collar website. This site is proof of the importance of developing a concept and staying on message. Navigation is easy with large icons across the top of the page listing size charts and products. The shopping cart, social buttons and specials are less prominent and the plain background and simple graphics lets the collars do the walking!

 

The Five Main Types of Software Licenses

Software Licenses

software-license

What they are and how you can use them:

Traditionally Software Licenses were commercial in use – you paid a set price and you were allowed to use that software whether it be an Office Program, an Accounting Package or an Anti-Virus Program on one or more computers.

And there is big money in software licenses.

So big in fact, companies were licensing not just software but the actual tools of the trade for businesses, designers, and education departments. Somewhere along the way prices started becoming prohibitively expensive for companies and universities and began effecting productivity on a massive scale (that’s a whole other topic!).

All of a sudden the font that your company was using on your letterhead free of charge for 10 years now needed to be licensed for $140 US. The graphic program that you bought for $1,200 US all of a sudden had a requirement to be upgraded every 2 years at an additional $500. Your company grew from 3 employees to 6, well that’s a whole different category of software license so now you owe twice the amount you did the year before.

One of the main reasons I believe Western Productivity has stagnated is prohibitively expensive software licenses.

But need drives demand and with so many smart cookies out there people started taking matters into their own hands.

Organisations such as GNU began creating free software that could do what their commercial rivals did. Others followed suit and now we have some amazing products, many that are superior to commercial rivals. I am slowly adding a resources page of software that is either free or affordable. Some are open source, some are free, most are commercial and some are shareware.

Like with anything on the internet there is an oversupply of conflicting information regarding software licenses. When can you use them? How can you use them? Can you adapt them? Can you use them commercially?

Software Licenses: A Brief Overview-

  • Free Software GNU License: You are able to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software without hindrance. The easiest way to describe this is ‘Free’ as in liberty, so you are able to adapt them to your needs, they are also ‘Free’ as in price. The GNU Organisation has more in depth information.
  • Open Source: Open source means that you can use a font, program, or browser for free of charge generally without any conditions. Open Source as its name suggests means that its code is available in a free manner so others may distribute it under the condition that further developments and applications are put under the same licence GNU General Public License (GPL), is the most common license.
  •  Freeware: is commonly used for commercial products that are proprietary software. A company is allowing people to use their product without payment but you cannot adapt and modify the program as a company owns it. Free as in Free price, not Freedom to modify it. This is often tricky for artists and designers to understand as it is free for personal use, but if you use it for commercial reasons (even if its for your child’s local primary school fete you need to pay a fee).
  • Creative Commons (CC): Is a non-profit organisation that has allowed creative people to release their works whether it be art, fonts, code, manuals, video work, graphic design, photographs, with a license that suits the person creating the work. A creative person may be happy to give their work away for free no strings attached, give their work away for no payment but with recognition that they are the author of the product, or that it can be adapted only for non-commercial use etc. The Creative Commons is an amazing resource to share, learn and use works without payment and as a designer I find absolutely invaluable. It is often misunderstood, but if you want to understand it properly Jonathan Bailey at Plagarism Today has written the easiest to understand article on the topic I’ve seen so far- How to Correctly use Creative Commons.
  • Shareware: Really should be called Trialware. A company allows you to download their program for a set amount of time with the aim being that if you like their product you buy the software license.

Please keep in mind that this is really only a very brief overview of software licenses. Last time I checked there were well over 20 different types, all slightly different. There is a whole field of Intellectual Property dedicated to licensing software and I certainly don’t have the budget to pay for a lawyer to go into further details, besides you probably would have nodded off by now.

Below are a few organisations that have revolutionised the web through use of various software licenses.

wordpress-logo-web

WordPress has democratised the web by making it cost effective to create beautiful, effective websites. WordPress uses an Open Source GNU General Public License (GPL)


 

The Mozilla Organisation have created such great software as Firefox, Thunderbird and Firebug. They have been on the cutting edge of the internet for a long time now and have always created great software. Mozilla has created their own Open Source license called the Mozilla Public License (MPL)


The GNU Organisation began in 1983 and are best known for their Linux Operating system. They have never stopped creating amazing programs much of which has been adapted and copied by commercial rivals.

If you believe in a free internet then they are an organisation well worth supporting. They are always seeking assistance whether it be financial or actual coding through the Free Software Foundation.


Creative Commons began in San Francisco in 2001 and has the lofty aim of creating universal access to research and education to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity. They have a yearly fund raising drive. If you are a creative type then a donation should be right up your alley. Helping spread good design, freely.

Creative Commons Copyrighted Work Licenses:

We love Creative Commons and how you can license your original work such as images, text & code with different licenses so you can share with other people.

Attribution:

Other people can copy, use, display and distribute your licensed work provided they give you credit. They can also modify the work provided there is credit given. I have seen this used with great effect by photographers that have done a photo shoot and been paid for the best 20% of the photographs and they release another 20% with a Attribution License so other people can enjoy their work and they gain further exposure.

noncommercial-sotware-licenseNon-Commercial:

You allow other people to use your work only in a non-commercial way. Other people can copy, use, display and distribute your licensed work provided they give you credit but can’t make money from your work.

No Derivative Works. You allow others to distribute, display and copy your work  but they cannot modify or build upon your work.

share-alike-licenseShare Alike:

Others can share and distribute your work only if it is under a license identical to the license you’ve set.

The four Creative Commons licenses above all have various permutations relating the exact nature of how you would like to license your copyrighted product. For more information Creative Commons please see their website here…

Why you need multiple CVs

There are many different reasons why you need a CV. The most obvious is when you go for a job interview but there are many other instances you may need a CV so you need to tailor it to the circumstance.

  • Resumes for employment
  • Education institutes
  • Applying for grants or funding
  • Work visas in foreign countries,
  • Advertising your services and products online

CVs come in many shapes and sizes. They are all quite individual and even when clear guidelines are given, they are rarely suited to everybody and the guidelines all change according to the country you are submitting your CV.

Having a look at Wikipedia’s entry on CVs and you will see that the definitions and requirements of CVs vary enormously around the world.

In Latin Curriculum Vitae is loosely translated into: “Courses of life”. The sum of who you are as a professional person on a professional level. It is a good idea to keep a Cv short and concentrate only on those things which are really relevant to the position on offer. A standard CV would include:

  1. Your name, your contact details and links to your professional social media presence if you have a good one.
  2. Your career history, starting with your most recent job first.
  3. Achievements outside your career if they aid in promoting yourself and your qualities, and they are tailored towards the job you are applying for.
  4. Your education qualifications
  5. Other information that might be pertinent to the role you are applying for.

Your CV needs to look good as well as having accurate details. After all, you wouldn’t rock up to a job interview in thongs and track suit pants. Likewise, you want your CV to look professional and well presented. And, yes, do try and consider ways you might communicate your skills in a unique manner.

The most obvious choice is to enhance your professional social media presence either by keeping an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn or author several blog posts in your professional niche. We are finding many people wanting to create a simple website so they can stand out from the crowd.

You are more likely to attract the attention of a potential employer if you present a unique and professionally designed CV which demonstrates your suitability for the job in a well considered manner.