Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Design Portfolio of 2011 Web Sites

The BPc offers a web site design service for companies that require an internet presence or need a refreshed look. We launched the following websites for our clients during 2011 - please use the links below to visit them:

Trade sales of made-to-order aluminium framed bi folding doors
Simple, functional site; styled on the company's 'innovative doors' site; includes a cost calculator.

Driving lessons in Kent with a Female Driving Instructor
Referral from existing client.
Created using standard template; client specified a funky heading / logo design - see logo design process

Mobility Equipment services, sales, supplies around Hertfordshire

Updated and redesigned from the original website we created in 2001. New photographs sourced, content updated and optimised.

Luxury Florida Villa Rental*
Images and content provided by client. 
Amazing what can be done on a low budget!

*property now sold, website removed

View more website design portfolio posts.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Legalise your website

It is the responsibility of the website owner (usually the business owner) to ensure that the website complies with legislation, such as Advertising Standards and the Equality / Disability Discrimination Acts.

The DDA addresses the accessibility of your website for people who may have impaired vision. This could range from colour blindness and myopia to those who rely on speech software to interpret web site content. It is easy for a web designer to comply by considerate use of fonts and colours; images with descriptive "alt-tags" enable the speech software to include the picture information.

Depending on your business sector and website content, you may need to add various legal notices, such as:
  • Terms of Use & Disclaimer notice
  • Copyright notice
  • Privacy policy
  • Cookies policy
  • Links policy

UPDATE May 2012: you now need to comply with the EU cookie law too.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Developing a funky image in red, white and blue.

In the beginning, there was a name, colour specification and some image elements, all received via email with a hand-drawn example. This was to create a header for a website and printed materials.

Experience of remote design projects shows that the best way to draw more information from a client is to create the simplest design plus a variation, reflecting all the provided information. The very first logo looked like this:
The instructions were clarified to remove the logos relating to Pass Plus and Approved Driving Instructor (as they will be used separately, as necessary) but keep the 'L' and come up with something more interesting using reds/blues. The BPc produced the following examples (one representing 'dawn', the other alluding to driving on a road, possibly in the misty dawn) for the client's comments:

"More funky" came the response. Enjoying a design challenge, The BPc worked off the clock to produce some arty graphics, throwing colours, textures, shadows and font styles into the mix - you don't get that kind of service from many designers! Here are a few:

To find out which design finally made the grade, visit the website www.dawndrivingtuition.co.uk - and do contact The BPc if you would like us to create an image or website for you.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Benefits of using Twitter Lists

Updated 2012 because Twitter changed things!

So you've gone a bit overboard and you are now following over 300 people, resulting in six tweets per minute - and maybe they're not always interesting all of the time.

The simplest split is to separate 'obligatory' follows from the truly interesting ones. Alternatively, you might want to follow competitors discretely. Everyone will have different ways of using lists.

One of the benefits of using lists is that you can be seen to be following but if you find the majority of tweets boring or irrelevant, just pop the interesting ones into a list and keep those tweets displayed in your browser, ignoring the others most of the time.

Conversely, private lists are useful for following accounts anonymously. You can add to a private list without publicly following.

Here's what to do to set up and populate lists:
  • from the cog drop-down menu, click on the Lists then Create List, give it a name, description if you want and choose private or public.
  • go to Following in the left menu panel, use the drop-down menu associated with each person to Add or Remove from Lists, click the list(s) and close the panel
  • you can do the same for your Followers, even if you are not following them, and this also applies when you browse through other Twitter users, for example with the search or 'who to follow' features.
  • remember to place new Follows into lists.
To use, from the cog drop-down menu, click on Lists and select the list you want to see tweets for.

If you are actively listing, say, SME support, small business owners may start following your list (as will small business consultants, of course).

You can also follow other peoples' public lists. This gives you the benefits while other people do all the work! For example, if you want to follow tweets from local restaurants and someone else is actively doing so, just follow their list.

Follow The BPc (UK) on Twitter.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Starting a Business Twitter Account (suggested guidelines)

Our business twitter name is @BPcUK, we follow twitter accounts that relate to clients, local businesses, similar small businesses and informative service sites, e.g. twitter, google, etc. You may want two twitter accounts - register another twitter account for personal use, to follow people with similar interests, perhaps the news and a few celebs. Each account can follow the other one, too.

The way people use twitter varies greatly. Some are in the numbers game - honestly, how can anyone following 1,000+ people read all their tweets?! If you opt for quality rather than quantity, you will be entertained or educated with the majority of tweets. In return, try to offer the same to those who elect to follow you.

Suggested Business Twitter Guidelines for Beginners
  • Starting out, follow as many people as you find who may be interested in your business and follow them, giving them the opportunity to discover you and follow you back
  • Be polite and follow back your followers - but don't be lazy, take a look at their accounts first and make a judgement call
  • Set up links from the company blog or facebook page to automatically tweet, to save your time for supplementary tweets
  • Try not to tweet too much all at once - 7 or 8 in quick succession tends to be irritating
  • Don't 'hard sell' by just advertising your product/service
  • Remember to add links to drive people to your website, as appropriate
  • RT (retweet) if you think your followers would appreciate it
  • Don't just retweet all the time - your followers want original content from you
  • Keep replies @ to a minimum because it can be annoying for others who only see part of a conversation; however, do interact with your followers when you can
  • Refine your 'following' list occasionally, perhaps monthly, adding more and perhaps dropping a few

There are extras, such as hashtags, follow-fridays, messages, lists, etc. once you've got to grips with the basics of Twitter.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

How to add a logo and signature on Live / Hotmail Emails

If you look for help on the internet, the results mostly provide instructions that are now out of date. The following worked today but before you begin, you need to locate your logo on the internet and copy the image URL. (You can do this by using right-click with your mouse and selecting 'Copy image URL'.)

  • In the upper-right corner of the Hotmail page, click 'Options'
    then click 'More options...'
  • Under 'Writing email' click 'Message font and signature'
  • Under 'Personal signature' select the 'Edit in HTML' option
  • Type in <img src=
    followed by the image url in quotes
    followed by >
HTML example:
  • Select 'Rich Text' to add wording, as required

Rich Text example:
  • Click on 'Save' and you're done.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

On the trail of Who's Who (Domain Registration)

In the 123-reg August newsletter came an announcement: "Heart Internet has joined our family of web hosting companies."

On 123-reg About Us page, it states: "We're an integral part of the Webfusion Ltd – one of the UK's biggest web hosts."

Clicking the Webfusion link provided takes us to www.hosteuropegroup.com ... "With its brands 123-reg, Webfusion, Host Europe, Heart Internet, dynamic-net AG, and Donhost, the Group has a strong market presence in the UK, US, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain."

www.HeartInternet.co.uk 'About Us' History tells us that founders Jonathan Brealey and Tim Beresford 'launched Webfusion' and developed '123-reg' before launching Heart Internet in 2004. What goes around comes around, it seems.

So what of www.Daily.co.uk? Founders Abby Hardoon and Marcus Lauder had previously founded Host Europe PLC (Hardoon was CEO of Host Europe until PIPEX Communications Ltd bought it for £31 million in 2004) and launched Daily.co.uk "with a new team that has previously built ... brands such as 123-reg ... and Webfusion".

Will Daily be absorbed too or frozen out?

Monday, 22 August 2011

How Much Credibility Should We Attribute To Anonymous Reviews?

Customer review sites can be very useful when researching during a decision-making process but how much credence should be attributed to anonymous reviews?

Frustration and injustice are strong motivators which lead to a high volume of reviews being negative. It's our method of 'pay back' when we feel that we've been treated badly; we want the usurpers to take notice of our power as customers by warning others to avoid or tread carefully.

So it follows that when reviews are overwhelmingly positive, it's worth digging deeper starting with the reviewers' other reviews. This is obviously impossible with anonymous or 'Guest' reviewers whose reports may be valid but are unverifiable.

Many anonymous reviews are credible but, in general, are often be treated with a little suspicion an have less influence on decisions. It's easy for companies to fake their own good reviews or for their competitors to submit negative reviews - it doubtless happens - and the reviews may not be anonymous either, which is why we should take a quick glance at reviewers other reviews/opinions when building as complete a picture as we can.

To summarise, anonymous reviews may be better than nothing - but not much.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Review your Twitter Profile - and others!

Recently launched to help Twitter users decide who to follow, the twtrland tool is useful for analysing your own profile as seen by others.

Information goes into more detail beyond that shown in the image, listing the top tweets, retweets, mentions, links, pictures, etc. The application enables you to review your tweeting style.

It's free, why not try it?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Are Linked-In & Facebook Being Helpful or Taking Liberties?

First, Linked In.
There's a default setting that uses our names and photos for third-party advertising. If you take umbrage at such practices and don’t want to be included, here's what to do:.
  • Top right of your Linked In page, hover over your name and from the drop-down menu, select 'Settings'
  • From the 'Settings' page, select 'Account' (bottom left)
  • In the next column to the right, click 'Manage Social Advertising'
  • De-select the box for 'LinkedIn may use my name, photo in social advertising'
Next, FaceBook.
There's a feature that enables the contact details from your mobile 'phone to be uploaded to your facebook Phonebook. To find it, go to Account, Edit Friends, Contacts. On the page you will see this information:
Phonebook contacts
Facebook Phonebook displays contacts you have imported from your phone, as well as your Facebook friends.
If you would like to remove your mobile contacts from Facebook, you need to disable the feature on your mobile phone and visit this page.
... and, unless you have disabled this feature, a full contact list from your mobile phone is also displayed.

I'd rather not have my contact details listed on various FaceBook accounts but it's entirely out of my control. A plea to friends and business contacts to disable this option is my only option. Isn't it?.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Another use for the scroll button on a PC mouse

I use Google Chrome most of the time which is set up to open new tabs rather than new browser windows.

When researching on the internet (which I need to do a lot!) I often find several links on a page that I want to explore, which may be relevant to the project. This is when the scroll button comes in handy ... clicking with the scroll button to link automatically opens a new tab as I click each item that I may be interested in.

It's then easy to quickly browse each of the new tabs and dismiss the ones I don't want. I also still have my original page open in the first tab so if, for instance, it was page 1 of Google search results, I can move on to page 2 and use the scroll button to select another few links.

Friday, 22 July 2011

FaceBook will automatically Tweet for you.

If you have a FaceBook Business Page and a Twitter account, why not link them so that news posted on FaceBook is automatically sent to Twitter (shortened, with a link back) saving you a few minutes? It's really easy:

  • Make sure you are logged into both accounts
  • Go to http://facebook.com/twitter 
  • Follow the instructions

If you would like help setting up a Facebook Business Page, contact The BPc

Friday, 17 June 2011

Small to Medium Business Support: Branduin

I was never a fan of Business Link practices but Steve Forey, founder of Branduin Business Support and once a Director of Business Link London West, has admirable business values as well as good business sense. He set up Branduin as a source of affordable intelligent business support services and advice for owners and directors of small and medium sized companies.

Branduin is different. The breadth of knowledge across general business practices is complemented by Branduin team members having a depth of knowledge in specialist fields, thus forming a matrix of expertise. All Branduin team members run their own successful small to medium businesses.

Branduin offers a range of Business "MoTs" - Pick one!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Websites now have to comply with Advertising Standards - what does this mean?

More Rules now apply to web sites and blogs - is this going to cost businesses more money to comply?

The simplest answer is No, it shouldn't, because the things you are no longer allowed to do or say are exactly the things you shouldn't have been doing or saying in any case!

You shouldn't lie or make claims that are misleading or untrue. It applies to any content for which you have control - your web site, your blog, your sponsored ads, etc.

In the interests of not duplicating content on the Internet, the basics are covered at business link.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Thinking about Linking.

A few tips:
  • When you are linking between pages of your website, use meaningful keywords as the link text,  e.g. "See our page on keys, locks and door chains", which describe the content of the page the link goes to.
  • When linking from your blog to your website, use different meaningful keywords as the link text (i.e. NOT 'click here') and ensure that the web page you choose to land on resembles the general content of the blog post.
  • As a general guideline, if you have more than one link per blog post, set the other links to 'rel=nofollow' so that Google doesn't think you are 'spamming'.
  • When linking from your blog or website to a third party, set the target to open in a new tab or window because when that tab or window is closed, your blog or website will still be in front of the browser.
  • And remember, the objective is usually to bring traffic to your website so don't send people off-site unless there is a reason (e.g. if possible, feed your blog or tweets onto your site rather than link people to a separate blog or twitter.com).

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Blogger Blogging Tips

Do you have difficulty making your blog post look the way it should?

At The BPc, we have set up a number of blogs for our clients which have some degree of customisation. We contribute to some of these blogs and some of our clients also post information or news to their own blogs.

Whenever clients run into difficulty, it usually comes down to the same problem - preparing the copy using MicroSoft Word. Word has hidden built-in formatting. Here is an illustration and a tip about creating blog posts that have been drafted in a formatted medium (including emails):

Let's take a simple phrase: Bold bit followed by normal bit.
The HTML should look like this:

This is the HTML generated by the same phrase if you copy it from Word and paste it into Blogger under the Compose tab:

You can see why it may not produce the results you wanted.

The best way to copy text from Word to Blogger is to paste the text under the Edit HTML tab. You can then go to the Compose tab to add formatting.

We hope that helps!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Internet Marketing for Small Businesses

Internet presence is a powerful marketing and sales tool. Without Internet presence, your future business is likely to be less successful than it could otherwise be. There are different reasons for having a web site, from an on-line information brochure to the sole source of sales for your business.

Let's assume that you have a web site, the design looks good and the site functions as it should. If your web site is a promotional or sales tool for your company, your head of marketing needs Internet marketing experience or access to someone who does.

The main goal of Internet marketing is exposure. Google remains the primary Search Engine for web site owners wanting a page one 'organic results' position. Another way to appear on page one is with sponsored search results, pay-per-click Google-adwords.

The BPc manages these aspects for SME clients. The top requirement is a good position on Google's organic results: to be in the top 10 of 3 billion entries - we'll do our best!

There are many contributing factors to gaining a good ranking on Search Engines including longevity, optimised content and high value inbound links.

Optimising content requires good writing skills coupled with SEO experience and some industry knowledge, much of which can be gained from researching successful competitor sites and from you, the client. Optimising code also requires a knowledge of html.

Inbound links to your website may be from listings (usually low value) or sites with good relative content (high value). An Internet Marketing specialist will target a number of ways to generate links from anchor-text keywords on popular sites. A link from a page that contains similar content to your site, from a word or phrase that is significant to your site content, is an anchor-text keyword.

The BPc will work within your budget to provide a kick-start, ad-hoc or regular Internet Marketing service.

Whilst much of the ranking process is automated, it is driven by human actions. If your site is interesting and therefore popular with human users, it will ultimately be recognised as such by Search Engines.

As an alternative or complementary tactic, PPC is a matter of the advertising budget being diverted from, say, local newspapers or market-sector magazines to Google or other Internet advertisers; The BPc will set up and manage your campaigns for a monthly fee.

For more information regarding our marketing, writing and design services, feel free to call or email us with your enquiry.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Quick SEO Tips for SMEs

If you genuinely want to grow your future business, good content is most important on your web site pages - not just loads of keywords but interesting, informative and concise paragraphs that will lead your visitors (and search engines) to more relevant detail as required.

Well-written content for your visitors results in good content for search engines; if you are writing it yourself, read it back the next day and if you find it interesting, it's a reasonable assumption that others will too. Keywords should happen naturally but you should have the main ones in the opening paragraph. Also, don't try to cram all the keywords onto the home page.

When linking between pages, use relevant keywords as the links rather than words like 'click here'.

Behind the visible page, ensure that your web designer has included the main keywords in the html title and description tags - but they shouldn't be too long - and each page should have its own unique title and description.

Images should be optimised for the web to facilitate faster screen loads; if a large download (e.g. pdf document) is available, add a note to say that it's large and may take a while.

A sitemap.xml file should be uploaded to your host root - this will enable Google to quickly find all your web site pages.

If you would like The BPc to optimise your web site or undertake website promotion, we'd be delighted to hear from you, email: seo@thebpc.org.uk

*new post added January 2012: comprehensive guide to basic SEO

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

An introduction to CMS - for SMEs who want to update their own web sites

CMS - Customer Management System - is sometimes a white elephant that seemed like a good idea at the time.

At The BPc, we offer to create websites in standard html or using an open-source CMS. Wordpress and Joomla are examples of open-source CMS which means that customers are not committed to a single supplier or host plus there is a choice of add-ons or plug-ins (often free) for additional features.

These systems are not intuitive! Because of this, there are companies that develop websites with a bespoke CMS that can be easier to learn and use. In addition to being at the mercy of the developer and/or host of a proprietory system, problems often arise later when unforeseen changes to the original web site specification or independent search engine optimisation becomes a requirement when perhaps those areas are not included in the CMS part of the website.

Our opinion is that Wordpress is the simplest to use and our clients have occasionally contributed to a Wordpress blog. Our experience across our client base is that fewer than half the people who wanted to update their own web site actually do so on a regular basis. Some of our clients recognise that, in reality, they are unlikely to have time to learn a new skill and update content therefore have no preference whether the website is based on html or Wordpress.

The BPc is paid a retainer by a number of clients to update content of web sites that were originally created by third-party developers to be managed in-house by the end-user client. These include Wordpress, Joomla (many!), I-ntarsia, Locallife and a couple of purely bespoke systems. In addition, Dreamweaver sites that became contorted during several edits have been tidied up and, in most cases, converted to standard html editing.

An advantage of contracting The BPc for updates is that optimisation and link building are included when time or budget allows, improving the web site's overall performance. In fact, most of our clients initially approached us for optimisation then the updates - to both CMS and html web sites - became part of the service.

Contact us by email or call the SEO desk direct 01462 618481

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Google Shake-up ... Check your website content, Now!

Last month, Google made significant changes to their search algorithms for website content. Initially affecting searches in the USA, the changes are being rolled out world-wide.

Following a 30% drop in traffic, one website, ArticlesBase, has been forced to introduce new measures in an effort to clean up existing content and evaluate new content when it is submitted by article authors.

Google's goal is to reduce duplicate content on the Internet and encourage original content; in their words, more emphasis on "research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis" (oh dear, will this blog be downgraded for quoting that?) which seems to be a return to Internet's academic roots. Will this force commercial websites to pay for Google Adwords if their web sites no longer appear amongst the organic search results on page 1?

In light of this development, if anyone wishes to reproduce this article, may we suggest that you use your own words instead - or maybe just link to it: Google  Shake-up ... Check your website content, Now!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Design Portfolio of 2010 Web Sites

The BPc offers a web site design service for companies that require an internet presence or need a refreshed look. The links below are to some of the web sites we published in 2010:

Rail, Construction & Engineering Project Management
Referral from existing client.
Simple and to budget. Client provided the images and copy, we suggested the colour scheme and layout.

Managed Tradesmen for Quality Property Services
Referral from existing client.
Simple and to budget. Client provided images and copy, we themed the colours on the logo. Created using a standard design layout.

Specialists in Transport, Conservation and Residential building projects
Referral from existing client.
Client provided images, copy and very strict design specification including background colour, font size ... everything!

Innovative Door Design, Brightening Your Lifestyle.
New! Frameless Glass Doors

A total redesign of the website we created in 2007. The new design features the latest product range. We worked together with the client under a controlled budget that included site optimisation.

Chartered Accountants
A redevelopment of a website we originally created in 2002. Client provided the initial design requirement and content.

Please view our newer website designs from our portfolio.