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Archive for May, 2010

31 May
Posted by Kay

Internet filter update: it’s time to tell our mums

Late last year, we wrote about the Australian government’s plan to implement mandatory censorship of the internet for all Australians. We still believe, as we did then, that it’s a dangerous idea that will not only fail to protect Australians from inappropriate material, but will have serious side-effects for businesses that cannot be ignored.

At the present time, introduction of the filter legislation into parliament has been delayed. This does not mean, however, that the plan has been abandoned. Campaigns are still ongoing to raise awareness in the community and encourage politicians to oppose the filter.

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) are behind a new video campaign with comedian Akmal Saleh called “It’s time to tell mum”. The video is a humorous attempt to get people to do just that – explain why the filter is a bad idea to their mums and other people in the community who may not be aware of the full implications of the government’s plan.

You can watch the video as well as access easy to understand, non-technical information about the filter on the It’s Time To Tell Mum web site.

28 May
Posted by Kay

A search engine Q&A with Judd Exley of Jex Analytics

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) may be something you’ve heard about. But despite how much SEO is talked about, many people aren’t sure what exactly it is, or what SEO consultants do. We sat down with our SEO consultant Judd Exley and had a chat about what SEO is, how it helps people, and what exactly it is that he does.

What exactly is search engine optimisation?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is essentially getting your web site to be recognised by search engines (Google) as a relevant authority for certain types of keywords. You can do this by changing around your web site code, your content or even by getting other sites that are relevant to link to yours. Naturally, there’s a bit more to it, but that is the crux of it.

Do web sites really need it these days?

Do they NEED it? Gee whiz, only if they want to have any measure of success whatsoever.

Think about it this way, Google has about an 80-90% market share right? And there are roughly 300 million people using it every day with 8 billion web sites out there, all competing for attention.

Wanna get found? Sure you do. SEO does that.

I heard that SEO is going to ‘die’ in a few years. Is that true?

I say that anybody who predicts the death of anything better be careful. SEO isn’t something that you specifically do as a process that can be replicated, automated and then deprecated. It’s an art, a skill that involves copious amounts of research followed by the efficient and methodical application of actions that are prioritised and categorised.

What’s all that mean that I just said? It means I have to know what to do to your site that will help it the most, in an amount of time that fits in your budget. And everyone has a budget. 

I read articles every day that talk about “The Death of SEO”, either predicting it or scoffing at the idea, but they all seem to treat their clients (in their given examples) as if they’re able to take their artistic-and-skillful time at doing any and all of the things that work best for almost any web site.

For somebody that specialises in small business, I can’t afford to do everything available in the realms of SEO for every client.  They simply couldn’t afford to pay for it, and I ethically couldn’t afford to do heaps of things they may not necessarily need right now.

Tell us a little about Jex Analytics.

I started this company ‘when I left another web mob here in Perth. I decided that I’d start pick one thing and focus on that, and deliver it with transparency and integrity.

I used ‘Analytics’ from ‘Web Analytics’, because I believe that the data reporting is what drives what we should do next.

What kind of services do you offer?

I do your basic SEO (keyword-related things) and work on the inbound links for your site. I also create full-blown Pay-Per-Click Campaigns (Google AdWords), and then I built some sweet tracking tools to follow all of that hard work and show you how it’s paying off for you in terms of ‘web site success’.

I specialise in local businesses mostly, because I understand the Perth market place so well, but I have clients that are all over the world.

I’m essentially a Business Consultant, as everyone who does SEO properly should be.

What makes you different from other SEO providers in Perth?

I’m originally from Montana (I’m Aussie now tho, true blue and all that) and the yank accent sometimes impresses people. But honestly I like to think that I’m different in the fact that I tell it like it is. Truly, I do; sometimes to a fault.

This is not to say that the other ‘SEO providers’ are lying shysters (though some are): I just like to think that nobody else operates with such transparency in their business and in their projects.

I like to think first about how I can help a client; second, I think about what that’s worth to them later, if at all. I will always work until I’m sure I’ve helped my clients and their business.

If someone wants to use your services – what’s the process?

The first thing I do is send them a questionnaire. I get people to tell me things about their business and their marketing efforts to date.

I also ask for lots of other things that can shrink a quote right down. For example, if the site has a content management system that’s easy-to-use and fun, like the ones Clever Starfish uses; and then I give them an estimate for a project that will get them up and steady on their SEO feet.

Most of my work is at a once-off cost too, for the most part. I figure that since so much of what I do is stuff that anybody can do with a short year or two of training, there’s no reason to keep paying me to do it unless you’re a) so busy that you’re happy to keep me on board; or b) you only have so much room in your head for these types of things.

Many thanks to Judd for taking the time to do this for us!

Clever Starfish provides basic information on Judd’s services in our quotes, but if you would like more information, please contact him directly.

Photo credit: Richard Giles

27 May
Posted by Kay

New minisite for Installaware Analytics

Long-time Starfish client Installaware has teamed up with “software relevancy” company Concerity to launch Installaware Analytics, a new product to allow software developers to track customer usage of applications. So of course, a new mini-site to showcase the product was required, and we were more than happy to lend our talents to the project.

The site is a simple informational affair, but we think it looks very tidy.

Installaware Analytics

26 May
Posted by Kay

Good use of Facebook: Zoo Studio

Ken and Beck Drake from Zoo Studio are long-time Starfish clients – in fact, Ken’s previous web site gave us our first WA Web Award back in 2007, although sadly that site is no longer online after the business expanded and rebranded.

Ken is an amazing photographer who specialises in pets, while Beck handles marketing for their Brisbane-based studio. One tool that they are using particularly well is Facebook. As of today, Zoo Studio’s Facebook page has over 450 fans – and it’s no surprise really, because who doesn’t like looking at gorgeous photographs of cute puppies and kittens?

I asked Beck how she important Facebook is to Zoo Studio’s marketing strategy, and she had a lot to say on the topic.

“Facebook is a valuable marketing tool for Zoo Studio and an important component in our overall marketing strategy. It has become an significant asset for lead generation, keeping in touch with clients and is helping to build our brand personality. Customers are becoming more demanding, more discerning, more informed, and Facebook (managed correctly) is a great way for us to build our brand experiences, create ‘talkability’ and let our clients do the selling for us.”

The key aspect to success with Facebook, as Beck alludes to, is management. Having a sad and lonely Facebook page that doesn’t get posted to or promoted is worse than not having one at all. Beck posts news and photos to Zoo Studio’s Facebook page on a daily basis, and responds to the comments that people post – which is absolutely the best way to build buzz around the Zoo Studio brand on Facebook.

Zoo Studio join up their web site and Facebook presences by cross-linking, and including a Facebook widget on their web site. This widget shows the latest posts as well as the number of fans and some of their avatars.

Check out Zoo Studio on Facebook

25 May
Posted by Kay

Catchy Host web site launch

Catchy Host came to us via our long time client, Installaware. They’re a new, US-based hosting company and were looking for a logo and web site design for the launch of their service.

Starfish Kristy worked with the Catchy Host people to come up with a simple, versatile but “catchy” logo design. Then Levi put together a site layout, and worked on making lots of incidental graphics, styling the plan comparison tables, and essentially making sure every last page really shone.

Catchy Host

24 May
Posted by Kay

Need a web site? What’s next?

So you need a web site developer. You’ve had a look around our site, and you think you like the cut of our jib. You might be wondering what the next step is. Here are some details about how we roll.

In essence it’s quite simple: you tell us about your project (your requirements), we give you a ‘ballpark figure’ or estimate of costs, and then – if the figure fits your budget – we write you a formal quote.

1. You provide your requirements

‘Requirements’ sounds like a stodgy software development term, but in order to understand what it is that you need, we need some details about your project. These are your requirements. You can either email us this information, or talk to us on the phone.

Requirements typically include:

  • A basic overview about your business and customers
  • Information about the project
  • If you have an existing site, we’ll need your current web site address and some information about what you do and don’t like about it
  • Links to any other sites (perhaps in your industry or field, perhaps not) that you think “get it right”

Sometimes you may not have considered all the options available to you on your project. Or maybe there’s a different way to do something. Either way, once we have your requirements, we may come up with a few ideas or solutions that we will discuss with you to make sure you are getting exactly what you need.

2. We give you a ballpark figure

From the information you provide, we can give you a rough range of costs. If our ranges aren’t compatible with what you were expecting, we don’t want to waste your time. But, if our cost estimate fits into your budget, we can go on to the next stage.

3. We give you a quotation

For small- and medium-sized projects, we’re happy to provide a fixed-price quote. To do this, we’ll look at the requirements you gave us in Step 1, and we’ll ask you for a bit more detail.

Our quote will include a summary of all the pages that your site will have, and the functionality that will be included. We’ll also include some information about other things that you may need: website hosting, copywriting, search engine optimisation services, to name a few.

The most important part of the quote will be a summary of the hours required for the project, the final cost, and an estimated timeline for completion.

If you were unsure of some features, or wanted to break up the project, we can ensure that some items are costed separately, so you can easily see where effort is being expended.

For larger projects, or for projects where the scope is not clearly defined, we supply an estimate instead of a quotation. If you have one of these projects, just talk to us – we can work out a plan of attack that suits you.

4. Like it? Work can begin!

If you like our quote and would like to go ahead, that’s great! We’ll get a signed copy of the quotation summary from you (emailed or faxed back to us is fine) and we will invoice you for a deposit. Once this deposit is paid, we can get started.

5. Think of something else after work starts? Additions aren’t a problem

Often, you realise part-way through developing a website that there are more features you would like to add, or features you thought you would need but actually don’t.

Traditionally, software engineers call this kind of variation “scope creep” and claim that it’s the root of all evil. But it isn’t! We know that sometimes good ideas don’t arrive in the right order. As long as you don’t go overboard, adding a feature here or there usually isn’t a problem.

If you have an idea for a great feature at some point during the development of your site, tell us about it and we’ll give you an idea of how much extra it will cost. In the case of removing features, if any cost savings can be made we’ll let you know; for example, if a feature has already been completed then removing it will not result in a saving for you.

In either case, we won’t go ahead with anything outside of the scope of the original quote without your approval, so you won’t ever be up for any costs you weren’t expecting.

6. Finishing Up

If your total project value is over $3,000 we may invoice for a progress payment, usually at a milestone point (for example, at the end of the design stage). The balance, along with any agreed additions, will be invoiced once the project is complete.

That’s it, folks! Think you’d like to deal with us? Contact us today.

21 May
Posted by Kay

New look for Iron Mountain Mining

The original web site for this Australian iron ore exploration company was our first project with marketing agency Stormbox – the first of many! The site that started it all has now had a significant makeover, the Stormbox team overhauling the brand with a striking new look.

The new Iron Mountain design features large background photos of the real Iron Mountain people and real locations – no cheesy clip art or stock photos here. The end result really packs a punch. Weblink provide the ASX announcement feeds and daily updated stock prices.

Iron Mountain Mining

20 May
Posted by Kay

At the end of the day, you need good copy!

Nine years of newspaper research has led Chris Pash to conclude that the most overused cliché in the media is the phrase “at the end of the day”.

The journalist blames politicians for the pervasiveness of the term. He also highlights “split second”, “about face”, “unsung heroes”, “outpouring of support”, “last-ditch effort”, and “concerned residents” as terms that ought to be binned.

Cliche-free writing is important in your web site copy too – on the web, your text is what is doing the selling for you, so that last thing you want to do is use tired, overused terms. At the end of the day – oops! Perhaps I should speak to our copywriter too.

At the end of the day, they are journalism’s worst clichés – News.com.au

19 May
Posted by Kay

Another Kathmandu Kids update

Last year we put together a web site for Paul Cumming of Phenomenon Event Services, a long time Starfish client, and his band of intrepid traveller friends, to raise money for impoverished kids in the slums of Kalimati.

The fundraising quiz night event was an enormous success, smashing past the $15,000 goal to raise an amazing total of $24,539 and Paul’s team delivered the money and donated goods to the community in Nepal with the help of the Sunrise Children’s Association. The additional funds have allowed the group to expand their initial plans of sending slum kids to school for a year, and run initiatives to help the entire community.

According to Paul, the raised funds have:

  1. Hired a local room to teach the parents skills in sewing, candle making and English speaking
  2. Talked to the community about Micro lending small amounts to the parents so they can begin their own business. This money is paid back to the fund once the business is established and another loan takes place.
  3. Bought tracksuits at Christmas Time for every child in the slum to protect them from the winter cold
  4. Funded the rebuild cost for a family who lost their home in a slum fire.

The quiz night will be held again in mid September, and you can bet the Starfish team will be there once more. We’re terrible at quiz questions but it’s such a good fun night, that doesn’t matter at all. We’ll post more details when they become available.

Kathmandu Kids

18 May
Posted by Kay

Clever browser upgrade campaign

Outdated browsers are a constant source of pain for the Clever Starfish team, like for all web developers. The biggest culprit is of course Internet Explorer 6, which is now 9 years old. It was the best alternative when it came out in 2001, but things have moved in leaps and bounds since then.

Microsoft has come up with a very clever new campaign to encourage users of Internet Explorer 6 to upgrade. The key message is “you wouldn’t drink 9-year-old milk – so why use a 9-year-old browser”. Why indeed? Compared to the available alternatives, Internet Explorer 6 is slow, buggy, insecure, and because people are still using it, we’re unable to move forward with new web techniques that would blow your mind.

The campaign is clever, but of course it’s from Microsoft, so it’s designed to get you to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. While IE8 is a good browser, it’s not the only one on the market, so if you’re still using Internet Explorer 6 you might like to consider one of these completely free alternatives:

We guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

17 May
Posted by Kay

Brutal branding

We’ve been working with Adelaide-based copywriter and editor Leticia Supple for a while now – she’s done work for our clients ranging from small-scale refinements to complete rewrites, as well as editing brochure and site copy for our own use. Formerly a partner at Brascoe Publishing, Leticia has recently gone into business solo and launched a new web site to advertise her services.

What Leticia has done is a brave thing – rather than go for a brand that is “safe” and appeals to the corporate world, she’s chosen an edgy look that suits her personality and individuality perfectly: Brutal Pixie. It’s actually a nickname I came up with for her, because she’s physically very tiny and pixie-like, but has immense tenacity and drive, not to mention a take-no-prisoners approach to editing my wonky writing. The name stuck, and when Leticia was looking for an identity for her venture, it seemed a good fit.

The “Brutal Pixie” illustration was done by our very talented designer Kristy. Leticia chose a great looking third-party WordPress theme, and Kristy designed a new header to make the pixie feel right at home. We made a few template tweaks, and the end result is a very smart, professional-looking site with an awesome vibe.

The “Brutal Pixie” is now taking on new work, so if you need copywriting or editing services for print or web, Clever Starfish cannot recommend Leticia highly enough.

Brutal Pixie – Copywriting and Editing Services

14 May
Posted by Kay

Get out your CLAWS

Here’s another site that was launched last year but which missed out on having a news item! CLAWS stands for Cat Law and Welfare Service and this organisation was formed by Hazel Brooks and Mark Fletcher, two local cat lovers who want to make a difference.

According to CLAWS, around 150,000 cats are put to sleep in animal shelters across the country, and it’s estimated that around the same number are cruelly killed or starve after being abandoned. Hazel and Mark’s aim is to get state-wide cat welfare laws introduced into Western Australia – compulsory sterilisation, registration and micro-chipping – in an effort to stop the needless suffering of thousands of unwanted cats and kittens each year. They’re doing this by working with local politicians to raise awareness and campaign for laws to be considered.

The CLAWS web site is powered by WordPress, and hosted by Fasthit. Supporter payments are handled by PayPal. Clever Starfish offer a discount to non-profit organisations that we believe in – and as our office is staffed by two bossy Abyssinians, this is definitely a cause we felt we could get behind!

You can help CLAWS succeed in their mission by becoming an official supporter for just $16.50 per year. CLAWS also has a Facebook page which they use to keep people updated.

CLAWS – Cat Law and Welfare Service