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Archive for ‘Web Smarts’

11 Nov
Posted by Jane

Finding your perfect match: a guide to choosing a company to design your new website

In my past life, I was a client of Clever Starfish and many other agencies and spent a great deal of my time sifting through website and digital quotes for employers and clients. I was given the task of shortlisting and/or ‘decoding’ what website companies were offering and why the cost of a website seemed to vary so much.

As I am now a quoter and not a recipient, I thought it might be helpful to share my personal approach (and opinion) to making the right choice for you and your company.

So where do you start?

Good question! From the hundreds of websites I have been involved in (as a client, supplier, collaborator, representative of the client) the most successful websites were produced by a website company with passion in what they do and show a true interest in your business challenges and goals with the talent to back it up. To find these companies you should Google, ask friends, ask colleagues and find sites that you like. I suggest that you get at least two quotes.

The checklist below is designed to help you once you have a shortlist of companies you think might be a good match.

The checklist is suitable for individuals, boards, committees and groups who need to make a choice on supplier with little or no knowledge of web projects.

If the final decision is in the hands of a group who don’t get to meet the supplier they should be able to use the checklist against the shortlisted quotes. All the decision makers need to know is what your company needs and what sort of supplier would suit you to provide this service. Easy, right? Well it is easi-er, with this checklist!

Part 1: Basic skills checklist

I promise you that the right company will demonstrate that they have considered your unique business challenges and should include some of these proposed solutions in the document. They should be a yes for at least 5 of the 6 questions below to make it to the next checklist.

  1. Have they included a suggested site map and does it look suitable for you?
    If yes, this shows that they have taken the time to consider the structure of your website.
  2. Have they identified your business problems and suggested appropriate solutions?
    For example, they have may suggest functions, features and sections. If yes, this shows they are focused on solving your business problems and not just making you a ‘pretty web brochure’.
  3. Are they a personality match for you?
    This should be reflected in the way they have communicated the quote and how they dealt with the quote process.
  4. Is their business approach a match to you?
    This should be reflected in the way they interact with you and their methodology or process. For example, if you like to work face-to-face and deadlines are your thing, did they come and meet anyone in the team and did they communicate well and meet all the deadlines? The approach to the quote process is often demonstrative of how they will continue to work with you.
  5. Have they demonstrated that they can design great websites?
    You can often view these on their website portfolio or can be found by Googling the company name.
  6. Have they been awarded for their websites?
    If yes, this may show that they are practicing good design and development that is endorsed by peers and experts. If not, sometimes its worth asking if they enter their sites in awards. Some companies do not choose to enter their sites.
    *For reference, the Australian Web Awards is the most prestigious award in Australia.

Part 2: Budget and priority checklist

Web design companies vary in focus and expertise. The best companies have a balanced approach to content, design, development, project management, testing and training.  Quotes usually reflect the balance of their skill set. A new website needs to have a holistic and balanced approach. A rejuvenation of a website might need a little bit of a different balance, depending on the issues that are being overcome.

  1. What is the balance of design, development, project management, testing and training? Are they too focused on one area at the expense of another?
    This can help you to compare the approach each company will take to your project and make sure it with the weighting of what you see as your problem areas. If you don’t know your problem areas, look for a balanced quote.
  2. What is their ongoing hourly rate?
    Sometimes the rate for the website build is low but the ongoing “maintenance” rates are very high and part of a 12-month contract. This may work for you, but in my personal experience it doesn’t.
  3. Have they included enough time to design a unique solution for your needs?
    A low percentage of the overall budget is reflective of design being a low priority.  This often means they intend to reuse a template for your site, which can be restrictive. To work this out, compare the actual hours (budget divided by hourly rate) being put to design for each web design company.
  4. Have they quoted for a responsive website that adapts the layout, content and interactions to the needs of tablets and mobile phones?
    This increases the cost of a website by 20-40% so check that this is included in their fixed quote if this is a priority for you. Also, confirm that they have completed responsive site design projects before as this is a specialised skill set. Get them to explain what a responsive entails for them and what they have included. There are so many ways of designing and building responsive websites so be prepared.
  5. How do ‘apples’ compare with ‘apples’?
    There is always a huge variation in costs for websites and the solutions put forward can vary.  This is normal. When looking at the overall cost, try and compare a few features or skill sets to get a sense of how they quote. Cheaper quotes may have missed out features and more expensive ones are sometimes not tailored to your needs and are a broad stroke solution.  If in doubt, most web companies will be happy to take 30 mins to present their quote to you and explain their approach.
  6. Is their quote a fixed quote?
    There are many companies that offer packages, estimates and other approaches which are often rounded to $8,000 or $10,000 or $12,000. These aren’t always fixed. Be wary of anything with the word estimate UNLESS you feel they are the perfect match in every other way. You don’t want to find yourselves making a decision on price when they aren’t a match in any other ways for your website and regretting it later.
  7. What happens after the website is launched?
    It’s important to understand what ongoing services are offered (for example: further design, content, backups, maintenance, additional development, strategy, content support and site performance reporting) and what the ongoing costs could be.

You will notice that the question “does this quote fit my budget” isn’t in the checklist. This is because quotes are often flexible. If they match the rest of the checklist, you should be able to approach them to discuss their costs.

Part 3: Customer Service checklist

Web design companies don’t all have a single person that is responsible for your project. If you want someone to help you through the process, make sure there is a person and budget allocated to this. Many web companies don’t offer this as a service because it raises the cost. If you want a person looking out for you from the inside, choose a company that cost this out as a service.

  1. Check that they have included a budget (or enough budget) for a dedicated project manager
    This is not a sales person, designer or developer. This is an account manager, project manager (or producer) with training in this area. Many agencies do not see project management as a priority, but having a project without a manager will lead to delays and possible miscommunication.
  2. What do their clients say about them?
    It’s really important to get a list of references and make some phone calls because good relationships make the project a positive and fun experience for everyone involved. If the person was recommended, approach the referee and ask if they are customer-focused and not just after a “sales success”. Social media is a good place to see if a company has advocates if you are too shy or time-poor to call references.
  3. What was the experience like during the quote process?
    Did/would they come and meet the team to quote and who do you deal with? Is it a sales person or account manager or designer/developer direct? Many agencies send out a sales person and then move the project to a junior once the quote is approved. Be sure of how their process works.

So that’s it! Good luck and may you find your perfect match :)

8 Aug
Posted by Monica

Carpets and Floors At Yours Customers Floored by Extraordinary New Website

carpetsfloors_thumb

Finding the perfect flooring can be a lengthy process.

Carpets and Floors at Yours know this and recently launched an online catalogue that allows users to build a quote online and have their chosen samples delivered to their home to inspect.

The website provides an extensive catalogue of flooring including carpet, vinyl, laminate, timber and bamboo. The products are all very detailed with a visual sample and pictures of the flooring in offices and homes. Each product shown includes specifications, warranty information and even instructions on how to install the flooring yourself!

 

carpetsandfloors2_home_final

Products can be shortlisted by adding them to your favourites list and from there you can enter in the amount of flooring required for each room to create a price estimate yourself. If you are still unsure of the products you have selected and need to see them, you can book a physical van to come straight to your doorstep with the samples you have added to your virtual van on the website. Convenient? We think so!

carpetsandfloors2_listing_final

Carpets and Floors at Yours is a very unique flooring business in Perth. They launched their first fleet of mobile flooring showrooms in August 2012. They saw an opportunity in the market to provide an at-home service for the residential and commercial markets. Each mobile showroom carries over 800 samples of carpet, laminate, vinyl, timber, bamboo and underlay for viewing.

Given they only have mobile van ‘showrooms’ and no physical store, Carpets and Floors needed a way to showcase their products to potential customers, so having an online catalogue made sense. The interactive website compliments their on-location service, by allowing customers to browse their products whenever they want.

carpetsandfloors2_detail_final

So next time you are looking for flooring for your home or office and don’t have the time to go out to several stores to find ‘the one’, browse online at carpetsatyours.com.au and book a mobile showroom to come to you!

1 Jul
Posted by Davel

Perth Theatre Company Debuts New Responsive Website

Perth Theatre Company has been part of the Perth arts scene since 1983, taking up residence at the State Theatre Centre in 2010. Their old WordPress site was in need of an overhaul to accomodate an increasing amount of content in a way that was easy to manage. We created a whole new responsive design for the website and customised pages with flexible content areas and many custom fields to keep the layout of show details consistent. The changes were dramatic, resulting in a site that is not only easier to update, but allows for more flexiblity in the way content areas are used.

Perth Theatre Company responsive website - Home page on tablet and mobile devices

The home page features a dynamic banner area, automatic preview of the latest blog post, newsletter signup field, Facebook feed and two static feature areas for promotions.

ptc1

The pages for shows use flexible content blocks with two size options, allowing a number of eye-catching previews to be set up with ease.

ptc2

The blog offers glimpses behind the scenes of PTC productions and all the latest news from the company.

ptc3

Our somewhat metaphorical LaunchCake was an apple and blueberry strudel from Corica Pastries. Like a good theatre show, strudel is complex and has several layers, leaving the consumer with a sense of fullness afterwards. (This is less than 1/3 of the strudel…the whole thing was so long it wouldn’t fit on our cake stand!)

9 Jan
Posted by Jane and Jayde

Should I put up a holding page? Questions, answered…

We get asked about holding pages all the time and whether they are worth the investment and often it depends on your business, competition, product and strategy. We launched a flurry of landing pages just before the Christmas break and were asked to quote an unprecedented amount last year. Here are the top three questions, answered.

Is it enough to simply put my logo and address up there?

If you are a physical business like a doctor, coffee shop or dentist this might be enough. If you have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (etc) you would be crazy not to add these to the page and encourage people to interact.

What else should I think about adding to my holding page?

We recommend that the very base you start with is;

  • Social links – This enables you to lead people to a place where they can interact with you now.
  • Google Analytics – There is nothing more powerful than seeing how people are finding your business and what sites are sending people your way. As you build your site you might want to consider adding pages and content to rectify challenges or benefit from opportunities presented by Google and referrers.
  • Newsletter signup – If you have the opportunity to build a crowd before you launch your site (especially if you are in e-commerce), why would you pass up on it? We can setup HelloStarfish or link with most other newsletter systems to streamline the storage of your mailing lists for you. Building a crowd before launch means you start business with a bang!
  • Top notch content – It doesn’t have to be a novel (it’s best if it isn’t actually!), but a well-written paragraph synopsis of your business and/or a fabulous photo of your product/s is worth it’s weight in gold.
Should I have a content-management system, like WordPress?

If you plan on having your landing page up for longer than 10 weeks and you want to change your content at least monthly – we suggest you do. However you need to be really strict with yourself about what you really need to edit otherwise you may as well be building your website. Probably the best example of a well-suited landing page with a WordPress content management system is The Globe. They designed a page that was going to be an image banner and synopsis and we suggested that we build in a banner manager so that they can add their projects to showcase as they launch them.

Is it better to keep my old website up there for now?

If you have a huge site and the content is still, for the most-part, relevant then keeping your old site up there whilst you make the new one is probably a good thing – especially if you have lots of content and pages. The reasoning behind this is Google. If you go from 70 pages to 1 page then you are considerably reducing your ‘Google juice’ or footprint. You can make a huge number of dead links too unless you redirect all your old pages to the home page and your relevancy on searches can drop very quickly. We will address redirects in a future blog.

So how much is it going to cost me?

There is no magic number but you should be expect it to be over $300 and under $3000 unless you are being super simplistic or building a mini site. The best way to find out is to call and have a chat with the digital people in your life. If you don’t have any – feel free to call us and we would love to have a cup of tea and a chat.

To make up for way too many words, here are some pretty holding pages designed buy our team and some of our clients.

7 Jan
Posted by Scott Shorter

What makes WordPress websites great: SEO and Social Media

This blog is an outline of the reasons why WordPress is a great CMS for SEO, Social Media, and counters to arguments against WordPress in regards to hackers and security. It is written by the fabulous Scott Shorter, Director at Scott Shorter – Search Engine and Social Media Specialists who holds a B.Comms – BSc (M), Multimedia & Internet Computing from Edith Cowan University.

Content Management Systems

Working as a search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist for a number of different web developers, I’ve seen my fair share of content management systems (CMS). In my experience there are three main types of CMS:

  • Open source
  • Proprietary (created and owned by the developer)
  • Third party (which are purchased on a license)

There are various benefits and drawbacks for each type of CMS and coming from a search perspective we try our best to work with all three. As a guest writer for Clever Starfish, I would like to outline why, in my experience, WordPress makes for a great choice in CMS.

Open sourced CMS

There are a number of open sourced CMS’s available; the most well-known are Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. My personal favourite of these is WordPress for its ease of use, SEO readiness and available features.

WordPress is an open sourced CMS, which means it is an open platform that allows programmers throughout the world to continually develop for and contribute to. The popularity of WordPress means there is likely to be more developers contributing to it than any other CMS, which results in an outstanding level of refinement and extension availability.

Top CMS usage chart

WordPress and SEO

A standard install of WordPress is a great CMS for SEO, with Matt Cutts, one of the world’s most important Google representatives, stating:

‘WordPress takes care of 80-90% of [the mechanics of] search engine optimization.’

The level of on-page SEO on a WordPress website can quickly be taken to the highest degree via specialist SEO extensions following a standard install of WordPress. These extensions save both time and money because they are free and kept up to date with the latest Google algorithm updates by the wider community of WordPress developers.

WordPress and Social Media

WordPress is also a future-proof decision when you consider the rapid pace of social media evolution. WordPress is always at the forefront of what’s hot because of its hundreds, possibly thousands, of social media-ready extensions, with new extensions developed within hours of a social media change. This allows your WordPress developer to build faster, higher quality and more advanced functionality for a better price.

Security and WordPress

I often hear the counter sell that open source CMS’s are an attractive target for hackers due to their popularity. As a generalised statement, this is a one sided spin with half the facts of the story missing.

It is true that open source CMS’s are an attractive target for hackers, but primarily this is only true if your CMS is not kept up-to-date. WordPress’ attraction to hackers comes from vulnerabilities (all CMS’s have vulnerabilities) in out-dated versions of WordPress being left open. This means hackers are able to use the same vulnerability on another website that uses the same out-dated version of WordPress. However, this concern can be easily avoided by making sure your developer applies updates on a regular basis. If this is done correctly, the risk of being hacked is arguably no greater than if you were using any other type of CMS.

Putting security in perspective

The risk to WordPress security can be put in perspective when you consider that Matt Cutts (one of the world’s most important Google representatives) uses WordPress for his personal blog, as does rap mogul Jay-Z and renowned comedian Russell Brand. National burger chain Grill’d also uses WordPress for their corporate website.

Backups

It is important to understand that no type of CMS is hack-proof. If a hacker is unable to gain access to your website via the CMS, it is still possible for them to gain access through other avenues. This means it is essential that you make sure you have adequate backup procedures in place as a backup is often the quickest and most cost effective way to recover from an attack.

Final word

WordPress is a great CMS to use as a base for SEO and the Starfish crew are undoubtedly clever people for using it! Pay attention to your updates, backups and enjoy your future proof decision to go with one of the world’s most flexible and friendly CMS’s!

By

17 Oct
Posted by Jane and Jayde

Christian Fletcher Launches New Look Responsive Website

Last year our team took a trip down south to say hello to the Fletcher team in their Dunsborough gallery after spending months on the phone. We felt it was about time we met in person! We already had a really appreciation of the beautiful photographic work of Christian Fletcher as it was great to be greeted so warmly in their stunning gallery.

Christian Fletcher’s original site was one of the earliest Tentacle stores. When we met with them we realised that they were beginning to grow out of the current version and wanted to take their online presence to the next level.

Christian Fletcher’s original site

Pretty quickly we got onto how we could look at improving the current site and it was pretty clear that they truly are innovators and love to lead the way. After the trip our team chatted about how we could address their needs and enable them to steer their business on a daily basis without us having to rely on us. They wanted control and we wanted to be able to give that to them.

We really do appreciate that they also let us run with some exciting features that we hope will make their site even easier to browse or buy a ‘Christian Fletcher’ that suits you.

All of these changes were not made lightly or at a whim. Our team spent a long time reviewing the popular sections of the site, listened to feedback from their team and other photographers who work closely with them. We didn’t want to make ‘change for change’s sake’ and hope that this is reflected in the new look.

Probably the biggest noticeable cosmetic change is that the site is now responsive, enabling purchasing, browsing and blog reading on the go. Visitors can also save their favourite images to the Wishlist and purchase from both the photography store and the gift store.

The site is not just about selling though and special care has been taken to consider first and foremost those who want to view images and read the latest happenings in the life of Christian Fletcher.

We will revisit this site in future blogs to explain further features including; gift vouchers, product pickup, room-view, coupons and how we approach responsive sites.

Check out their site at http://www.christianfletcher.com.au or pop into one of their galleries in Dunsborough, Margaret River or Mandurah.

Launch Cake: Chocolate Mousse Cake

16 May
Posted by Jane

New Sophie Kyron site goes mobile

We are excited to announce the relaunch the new look Sophie Kyron site. Of course, with our love of responsiveness – we felt it was imperative to get this site optimised to work on tablets and phones, as you can see below.

This website features an upgraded Tentacle for the online store component  (the site won the Australian Web Awards for the old site) complete with inbuilt voucher generators and sales modules. It also seamlessly connects to StarfishSend to easily manage subscriptions and e-newsletters.

 

Special thanks to Milkable, who designed the new logo and took fabulous photos for their products under the guidance of Jayde here at CS HQ.

9 Mar
Posted by Jane

Design responsively, people!

We promised our fabulous client/friend/social guru/roving blogger for the week, Joe Millward, who is over at SXSW that we would make him a video demonstrating responsive design. Here you go, man… We hope it helps to prevent losing your voice by the end of the conference.

If you are all about HD, go here.

 

19 Jan
Posted by The Creative Team

Sophie Kyron’s new site: Sneak Peek

Sophie approached us today to give her Facebook fans a sneak peek of her website currently in development. How could we refuse when we’re just as excited as they are are about this new look!

We are very proud to be offered the chance to rejuvenate a site that we originally launched in 2008. You can check out our original blog here.

One of the most exciting things about the new design is that is is a responsive design. In essence, this means that the website has inbuilt smarts and actually optimizes itself for the screen you are using. Gone are the days of squinting at your smartphone on the train or at the beach.

The site still uses a combination of WordPress and our very own Tentacle, as it did back in 2008 – but these have just been tweaked and upgraded. We have also added a spoonful of social so that you can let us know what you are loving and sharing with your friends. There are more surprises too, but we don’t want to reveal everything!

The upcoming range is just getting added to the new site. Here are some snaps on our iPhone as we took the product photos. Let’s hope Sophie doesn’t mind us sharing those with you too! To be the first to know when the new site is up be sure to sign up for the newsletter on her current site.

For those of you who aren’t on her Facebook, you can find it here.

4 Jan
Posted by Jane

Google likes it ‘fresh!’

Google has changed their algorithm to favour fresh content. This means that new content is going to play an even bigger part in how your website ranks on Google. Here are our tips to ensure that your website stays up top:

Get a blog within your site – If you don’t have a blog yet, get one! If you have a WordPress site, this is very simple and you can call us to arrange this. A blog allows you to add fresh content that is neatly contained in an area where people know to look.

Share your news! – If you have great content and your own social media, share the link via Twitter, Facebook, Google + and other people’s sites or social bookmarking sites. Also, if you have a blog, have ‘share buttons’ so that the people visiting your site can do some of the heavy lifting and share for you.

Don’t just add content to your blog (if you even have a blog!) – If your services or products change, update your content to reflect this within the relevant page. Google will reward you!

If your current digital strategy has been to ‘launch and leave’, this will almost definitely have an impact on your website. Luckily, our mantra ‘content is key, content is key’ – so many of you already have blogs. We can help you to plan for your content rollout, make a content plan and even write the content for you if needed.

To find out the ins and outs, check out Google’s blog or contact our team.

7 Dec
Posted by Jane

New Site Launched for Clever Starfish

Ok, so we look sorta different… but don’t you think it was time we matched the outside to the inside?

Our new site features the latest projects we have launched with details included for the features that are not always possible to showcase from the front-end. It is a responsive design that morphs to fit a PC, tablet or phone.

Our blog will continue to feature articles on the most-asked questions we get and projects will be featured as we launch them to showcase the amazing clients we get to work with every day.

15 Sep
Posted by The Creative Team

Wild Lily Empire’s new responsive design launches

We are proud to announce the rejuvenation the Wild Lily Empire site, a complete overhaul of the look and feel to better represent the brand after a big year of growth and the addition of a new store in Northbridge.

Liz Thomas and Ellie Johnson have been running an amazing set of stores for years and launched their first site many years ago. They came to us wanting to bring more life to their website and find out how we could help them with some tools that would allow them to better communicate with their growing online customers in the same style as they do in their physical stores.

This family business has embraced our team as part of theirs and this allows us to have the best outcome for their business – whether it be producing their newsletters, photographing their products, writing product descriptions or even helping to choose the range of products that are put up on the site.

Check out their site, blog, Twitter, Facebook and latest newsletter.