What We Love



Archive for July, 2010

30 Jul
Posted by Kay

Starfish clients get competitive

In the past few weeks, three of our photographer clients have launched some big competitions. So we thought we’d give ’em a hand and let you all know about them too.

Christian Fletcher has a competition open to non-professional, enthusiast photographers. And you have to shoot landscapes. It’s an unusual competition, in that only 500 entries are allowed. You can enter as many times as you like, but as soon as the 500 limit has been reached, that is it! For more information hit up his web site here, here for more details, and here for information on one of the awesome prizes.

Animal art photographers Zoo Studio have been nominated for the 4th Annual Paws and Claws Award. To celebrate, they are running their own competition. For every person who votes for Zoo Studio, given it’s a people’s choice award, an entry goes into their own competition. And what can you win? A huge Canon EOS 1000D and some private training. Wow!

Finally, Alex Cearns, also an animal photographer, is running a competition on her Facebook page. All you have to do is email in a photo of a pet, taken by you. The prize is really cool too: a metallic print of one of Alex’s multi-award-winning photographs. For more details, visit her site and have a read.

We love it when we see our clients engaging with their audiences like this. The only thing we wonder, is whether any of the Starfishies are eligible to enter…

29 Jul
Posted by Kay

The Australian Web Industry Association

We’re lucky that in Perth that we have a very strong local web development scene. In fact, Western Australia is the birthplace of the Australian Web Industry Association (AWIA), a professional organisation to support and raise the profile of people who make web sites.

AWIA grew out of monthly web developer get-togethers at a local pub, started by Miles Burke in 2002. While Dave and I weren’t at the very first of these so-called “Port80” casual networking events, we were at nearly every subsequent event for the next few years. It was at these events, over a few beers and shared plates of wedges, that the idea of formalising all the great ideas being discussed was born. The result? AWIA.

The benefits of belonging to a professional organisation are many. Our membership demonstrates our belief in best practise and professional development. It also allows the sharing of technical and business information that will benefit everyone. We’re friends with many of our competitors – but we tend to view them as colleagues rather than competitors.

I was part of the AWIA committee from 2005 until 2009 including participating in the organising WA Web Awards (later the Australian Web Awards) and the Edge of the Web conferences in 2008 and 2009. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too!

Although I’m no longer active on the organising side of things, Dave and I are still involved with AWIA, and the Port80 networking meetings on the first Wednesday of every month are still a must-attend event. We try to always make time to catch up with colleagues and share our “from the trenches” stories over a beer or two and some free pizza.

Australian Web Industry Association

28 Jul
Posted by Kay

Spam and your customers: Part II – stay out of the junk

Complying with the Spam Act might sound difficult. It needn’t be, if you have a good email newsletter system. In this article we look at Starfish Send and explain how and why it is the best system you can use to avoid getting yourself in trouble.

Starfish Send goes beyond the Spam Act

When it comes to your business reputation, you can never be careful enough. Complying with the Spam Act is one thing; but using a system that is extra-cautious is beneficial. It means you can’t do something by accident that might infringe the law, or cause you to be reported.

The Starfish Send system is a locally-based system that we support and resell. It is ‘whitelisted’, meaning that your email newsletters are identified by some of the major email providers as legitimate mail. Being a whitelisted system, though, means that Starfish Send’s spam restrictions are pretty tough. One spammer can ruin the whole system for everyone, by degrading its whitelisted status. So, ultimately, the restrictions are for your own good.

Using lists of subscribers

The Spam Act 2003 lets you use purchased email lists. It is possible to purchase a list of addresses of people who have agreed to be contacted by third parties. Provided the list has been proved to you as being legitimate, the Act allows you to contact those people.

But we don’t recommend it, and Starfish Send doesn’t like it either.

How so? If you import a lot of addresses all at once, the Starfish Send program will ask you where each of the addresses came from. You must be able to verify every single one of them. Of course, if the people whose job it is to check the system don’t like your response, they ask us. Don’t make us lie to them!

Make it easy for people to leave your list

You might think that making it easy for people to leave your mailing list is not good business. But it is! If someone doesn’t want to receive your message, making it easy for them to unsubscribe is the best possible thing you could do.

Why? You don’t want to force your product or service down someone’s throat if they don’t want to see it. The easier it is for them to find the unsubscribe function, the more positive they will feel about the experience. They might even come back later.

This is why, when we design newsletter templates, we make sure the unsubscribe link is easy to see. We put it at the top, not at the bottom.

Unsubscribing should be done with one click

Making people enter their name or email address, or forcing them to jump through a bunch of confirmations to leave your list is frustrating.

Worse is requiring that they send an email with their request!
Ideally, the unsubscribe process should be a single link that you click.
If you want to, you can send one last message to that person confirming that they are unsubscribed. That does two things:

  1. it enables you to give them instructions for resubscribing should they change their mind
  2. it saves those who hit the link by mistake.

What’s next?

Following good guidelines for getting and keeping permission is one thing; in a future article we’ll look at making sure there’s nothing in your messages that could get them flagged as spam.

27 Jul
Posted by Kay

New site for the Australian Prosthodontic Society

Prosthodontics is a word that many people may not be aware of it. It’s the technical term for dental prosthetics – crowns, implants, dentures and the like. In Australia, the Australian Prosthodontic Society is the national professional organisation for prosthodontic specialists, made up of state-based branches from New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.

Current President Garry Ecker approched us originally to talk about changing the organisation’s logo to a more traditional shield symbol, but as is often the case with large organisations, a consensus could not be reached and the existing logo was retained. A new web site design – significantly simpler than their existing site – was then created by Starfish Kristy. Because APS wished to incorporate online forums to streamline their communications, we chose the Drupal CMS to power the site – a system that has strong membership integration built right in. Local Drupal specialists Spoon Media helped us out with the implementation.

The site is still in it’s infancy as the committee and members get up to speed with managing the site, updating their profiles, and using the forums – but it’s a solid platform and we’re sure they’ll find it easy to use.

Australian Prosthodontic Society

26 Jul
Posted by Kay

Staying ‘above the fold’

Occasionally clients ask about keeping things ‘above the fold’, because they’ve seen or heard it mentioned as an important web design tactic. But actually, the fold doesn’t matter.

What is ‘the fold’, anyway?

The fold is an imaginary line dividing what can be seen when a page loads with what the user needs to scroll down to see. The term originated from newspaper advertising. In newspapers there really is a physical fold.

Is the fold relevant in web design?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. It’s important that when a web site loads, the user can tell what the site is about within a few seconds. Often that is all the time you have to make an impression before the user clicks elsewhere. Having the most important information at the top of the page where it’s immediately visible in those critical initial seconds makes sense.

But the web is all about scrolling.

Way back last century, usability pundits like Jakob Nielsen tried to tell us that users don’t scroll. But that was then, and this is now. Users are smarter than we often give them credit for. They know that to get the information they want, they need to do get adventurous with the mouse and/or arrow keys. Scrolling is second nature to web users by now, and we don’t need to be afraid of it.

Just where is the fold?

The imaginary fold is not in a predefined position any more.

The vast array of devices used to view web sites – from desktop computers and laptops to TVs, games consoles, tablets, mobile phones and even refrigerators! – means that you can’t really know where the fold is.

So don’t spend all your time worrying about an imaginary line that may be almost anywhere. Put your most critical information at the top of the page. And encourage users to explore further with great hooks to get the meat of your content.

And remember – there is no page fold.

23 Jul
Posted by Kay

Dave and Kay’s European adventure

For the third year running, Starfish Dave and Starfish Kay will be heading off for the month of August to bask in the European summer sun. This year we will be spending three weeks in Germany (with some quick side trips to France and Switzerland), and then visiting Krakow, Poland for another week.

Back in the office, the rest of the Starfish team will be working away as normal, and can be reached by telephone or email as per usual. We will be checking in via email from time to time thanks to the wonders of the mobile internet, but all enquiries should be directed towards the office.

Don’t worry, we promise to have a great time and will post some photos when we get back!

22 Jul
Posted by Kay

Frankland Estate–now with online ordering

Hunter Smith from Frankland Estate initially was put in contact with us for our email newsletter product, Starfish Send. We built an email version of the winery’s print newsletter, meaning they can now build and send the newsletters in-house – and at a fraction of the cost of the hard copy version.

Frankland Estate’s web site was designed with their other branding materials by First Nature Design, and handed off to a third party web developer for implementation – but the online version of the First Nature team’s vision was never quite right. In addition, there was no content management system, and manual updates from the developer were taking far too long.

We adjusted the web site to better match the original design, moved it to a Fasthit hosting account, and put it into the WordPress content management system. We also added our Tentacle product management system to manage the wines, with secure order form processing handled by eWAY.

Frankland Estate Winery

21 Jul
Posted by Kay

The Australian Labor Government’s internet filter–delayed but still a threat

The past few weeks have been tumultuous ones in Australia’s political arena, with Julia Gillard challenging Kevin Rudd’s leadership of the Labor Party and in the process becoming Australia’s first female prime minister. Much speculation as to the future of the proposed internet filter was thrown about – including suggestions that Kate Lundy should replace Stephen Conroy as communications minister.

Last week, Gillard disappointed us greatly by speaking out in support of the internet filter. It was then announced that the filter will be delayed until July 2011, pending the outcome of an independent review into ratings classifications. And now, of course, we have an election in August.

What has actually happened is that the Labor leadership have realised that the internet filter is an election-losing proposition. By delaying it until after the election, instead of sinking it completely, they’re hoping to pacify both the pro- and anti-filter segments of the community. No doubt the ALP is hoping that once safely back in power, they can reintroduce the filter unopposed. In the meantime, the anti-filter lobby faces a tough time trying to keep the importance of the issue at the forefront of the minds of Australians.

What we have yet to see is a concrete policy on the filter from the opposition parties. Until that happens, we need to keep the pressure up to ensure that Australia’s online future is not compromised.

To keep up to date with developments in the fight to keep the internet open for everyone, visit Electronic Frontiers Australia and their Open Internet campaign.

20 Jul
Posted by Kay

Site launch: a whole new web site for Jaylon

The existing web site for manufacturing company Jaylon had been around for quite a few years, and unfortunately had some problems which made Jaylon’s online marketing efforts difficult. Bill Rees – on the recommendation of Sophie Kyron – came to us for a new site, not only with an updated look, but with better navigation and a search engine friendly structure. And of course, a content management system to allow staff at Jaylon to keep the site fresh and up to date.

We built a new site using WordPress as a backend, along with our own custom product management system Tentacle for the tarpaulins section of the site. The content – many, many pages of it – was carefully moved over to the new structure, and a set of redirects put in place to ensure that any bookmarks, links or search engine results are maintained. While Jaylon’s email is handled internally and the domain name is managed by iiNet, the web site is hosted by Fasthit.

We think the end result looks very striking, and we know there’s a ton of great information backing it up on all of the different areas that Jaylon works in, from stationery to horticultural plastics to health care products to ventilation ducting and more!

Jaylon – leaders in geosynthetic solutions

19 Jul
Posted by Kay

Blog Comments: On? Or Off?

If you have a blog or news section on your web site, one decision you will need to make is whether to have user comments turned on or off. Here’s something that might help you decide.

There are two good reasons to turn comments off

The first is that you don’t have to moderate comments; the second is you can forget about spam.

There is one main reason to leave comments on

And that is, that the ensuing discussion encourages a sense of community.

The best blogs have visitors who are interested, and who comment on the content. The bloggers themselves are involved in the discussion, and there is a real sense of a community and returning readership.

It also demonstrates to other visitors that your blog is a good place to be.

Leaving comments on: Moderation options

Moderating comments needn’t be a complete hassle: there are specific settings that can make your life easier. You can choose to:

  • require approval if there are too many links
  • always moderate first-time commenters, but allow subsequent comments through
  • auto-email to yourself when there is a new comment
  • restrict comments to registered users.

You can also choose to close comments on old posts after a period of time. Some sneaky spammers like old posts; but once discussion has finished, there is no point having them open.

Comments and spam

Spammers absolutely adore comment fields on blogs. They are usually either thinly disguised sales pitches or a grab for “Google juice” – links back to their own sites that increase their visibility in Google.

Yet it is getting difficult to spot what is and is not spam. Many spammers have worked out that their comments get deleted. So, you find yourself with lots of compliments about your blog post or your site, and the only way to work it out is see what links the spammer drops.

The best way to beat the spam bot or the spamming human is to have a good anti-spam program. We really like Akismet on WordPress because it catches pretty much everything.

Good commenting practises

If you leave comments on, make sure you are active in your blog’s discussion. Reply to other people’s comments, and keep the discussion moving along.

It is also a good idea to leave comments on other people’s blogs. Real comments, not spam comments. Often you’ll find that if you leave a link to your own site, you will get return traffic. Needless to say, it’s also a good way of becoming part of a community.

Make sure you have a plugin on your blog that allows people to get follow-up comments by email. It keeps your blog in your visitors’ mind, and reminds them of a discussion they may otherwise drop into, and then depart from.

Need help managing your blog comments? Contact us!

16 Jul
Posted by Kay

Starfish talent focus: Kristy Davis

Kristy originally came on board at Starfish Central in a part-time role, because of her experience with icon design. While she’s certainly very good at that, it’s illustration at much larger sizes where her true interest lies.

Kristy still does freelance work, but we’ve managed to snag her attention for at least four days each week, doing web site designs as well as custom icons and logos.

I asked Kristy to jot down some notes about her illustrations, and she was kind enough to oblige:

I produce a lot of creative illustration pieces either just as single artworks for prints, for storyboards for comics or animation ideas, or just simply for fun. I’m also often involved in producing instructional illustration, that is, illustrations which explain to a viewer how an object works, shows it in a way that the viewer would not normally be able to see (for example, the insides of a machine that are not accessible) or how to carry out a task.

The type of illustration I do does vary greatly, as well as the execution. It ranges from freehand sketching, coloured pencil illustrations, vector artworks in Adobe Illustrator, and digital sketching and painting in Adobe Photoshop.  My favourite is traditional illustration with graphite pencils, Tria markers, and Aquarelles (water colour pencils) or a combination of all three. The process feels a lot more personal, and is especially challenging when there is no undo button, but computer based illustration lets you achieve much more.

It’s become a stepping stone for everything I approach in the creative world, from the rough sketch of a web site layout, to designing a logo, to creating a sculpture. I enjoy it because at the end of the day, it’s just you, a piece of paper (or even a napkin), a pencil and whatever your imagination can produce. You can show people things they’d previously not thought of or viewed in a particular way before, and the reaction is pretty awesome!

Kristy did the logo and web site design for lawyer Richard Timpson, and drew the awesome Brutal Pixie mascot (based on photographs of our copywriter, Leticia Supple). More of her work will be going live soon.

In the meantime, here’s some examples of her amazing illustrative work.

15 Jul
Posted by Kay

New site with Stormbox: Cleanwerx

Last week we launched another site with long-time collaborators (partners in crime?) Stormbox: Cleanwerx.

This simple site delivers it’s message about the cleaning company, short and sweet. The Flash animation at the bottom of each screen adds a bit of “prrrrwherrrfff” (Mike from Stormbox’s exact instructions, delivered over the phone).

The end result is simple but stylish.

Cleanwerx Residential and Commercial Cleaning