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Content Strategy

Peter Hinchliffe 26 November 2014 { Web Design, Content Strategy }

Content Strategy

NXT are a specialist .NET digital agency and our latest blog focuses upon a common digital hurdle when designing/re-designing a new website project - content strategy.

If you've been involved in any digital project, one of the common mistakes made by both agency and client is to ignore content at the planning stage and pick it up at the end of the development phase. It's not uncommon to hear "we'll sort that out later, let's focus on the designs for now" but in this blog, NXT will explain why content strategy should be at the heart of planning and designs of any digital project. 

We love the idea of leading "content first" with all strategy but we know in the real world this doesn't always happen. We've listed a few pointers and benefits to pushing content up the pecking order in project priorities.

First point to consider: Don’t waste time and budget designing and building functionality and templates that fail to handle real content. Many functionality ideas are created within the initial part of a project. Agencies and clients alike should ask themselves if the content idea supports a goal or function and if so, is this validated by any evidence such as historical analytics? The next stage to ask is, if this can be sustained by the client team, sometimes with all the will in the world designs aren't always fulfilled or maintained.

At NXT we have a detailed client content questionnaire but if you don’t have any content strategy, consider the following to discuss in project meetings. Firstly, will the sitemap and content be audited for new site validity? Is there a person who can champion the editing and creation of content and is there a guide or style that it should follow? If there are multiple stakeholders involved, it's worth making sure the project lead involves them with preliminary discussions too.

Second key point when you're into mapping out the new site, audit all existing content with the sitemap planning, by the end of the project it will reduce amends and design changes (usually when all designs are signed off) and it will benefit the client by having an accurate, insightful plan. The plan not only should include body copy but all titles, URL's, SEO data, files and matching key messaging needs.

As part of our discovery process NXT will always evaluate competitors of clients. Usually this involves design but content should be included as part of this process. This includes primary messaging, content types, styles and much more.

Third point to reiterate is that content and design are intertwined and so are the users interacting with it.  Persona planning is equally important to content strategy. Delivering the appropriate content to the user's needs, format, detail, delivering selling points, journeys across the site.

Finally, a word of caution (from experience), using non-signed off content or dummy content such as Lorem Ipsum can sometimes sneak into signed off sites but also placeholder content can look perfect in designs but in the real world will need amending. If deadlines or budgets are tight following these simple guidelines will increase design time and productivity helping reduce costs.

Overall a win / win for all parties.

NXT Shortlisted for 2 UK Digital Industry Awards by RAR

Richard Matthews 22 May 2014 { News, Award Finalists, RAR }

NXT Shortlisted for 2 UK Digital Industry Awards by RARIf you follow our Twitter or NXT company page on LinkedIN, you may have seen our initial announcement that we have been shortlisted for two industry awards by Recommended Agencies.com (RAR).

We've been whittled down from over 3,000 agencies in the UK to a shortlist of 10 agencies per category, which we think is a phenomenal achievement. The categories we've been shortlisted for include:

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those clients who took the time out to send their feedback on working with us. This has helped form the basis of the agency evaluation. This is our first ever nomination for an industry recognised award (let alone two of them). 
Don't worry though, we're not letting this go to our heads, but we are continuing to break the mold with the latest technology developments and designs.

Stay posted for news from the awards or follow our Twitter account @NXTDS 

Heartbleed Flaw - The SSL security issue

Richard Matthews 10 April 2014 { News, Security }

Heartbleed Flaw - The SSL security issueYou may have heard about the recent security issues associated with the Heartbleed bug / Open SSLWe thought it might be an opportunity to clarify the issues and confirm that NXT has taken all necessary precautions for those client websites that we manage. 

We regularly hear there are security threats associated with viruses and spam mail, but by all accounts this security flaw will have some major implications. The issue has been created through a bug in OpenSSL - a cryptographic library that is used to secure a very, very large percentage of the Internet’s traffic — has just been discovered and publicly disclosed. So this means the software library used in servers, operating systems, email and instant messaging systems to protect internet traffic as it travels back and forth. More than 53% of the web servers which host more than 500 million websites use the software which relies on OpenSSL – so very serious!

The main flaw is that the bug targets the libraries that manage SSL security but the good news is that this won’t affect NXT clients with SSL certification. As a business our focus is developing on the Windows side of the development divide rather than alternative open source languages such as Ruby and PHP. NXT manages client sites and infrastructure using Windows Server / Microsoft IIS as our server / internet information service and this is not affected – for more information please read Microsoft’s blog.  

We’ve spoken to our dedicated server team and they have also re-tested our "concern" sites where there could have possibly been an issue with certification. There is also a new version to patch the flaw (which has been updated across all their servers). If you’re still concerned about other sites and you're using Chrome as a browser, you could use this Chrome extension to test to see if sites are affected. 

If you have any questions, please get in touch with us to discuss. 

Digital Marketing Show overview

Scott Agass 04 December 2013 { News, Exhibition; Digital Marketing }

Digital Marketing Show overview

Last week we attended the Digital Marketing Show at Excel. This was the first exhibition hosted by the guys that publish Digital Marketing Magazine.  As it was the first exhibition of its kind and offered some interesting speaker sessions and exhibitors we gave it a go and it seemed to be worthwhile. 

We attended a few of the key seminars mainly involving content strategy, organic SEO, PPC and monetisation of mobile content. There were some really knowledgeable speakers on each subject and helped brainstorm ideas and strategies for our clients at NXT. One of the reasons we all love working within the digital environment is because it constantly changes and keeps us thinking.

Some of the key ideas we picked up were mainly around content marketing successes (a really useful presentation from the guys at the IDM and a few SEO agencies) and the changes to Google search i.e. Panda, Penguin,Venice and Hummingbird. It was good to learn that some of our best practise checklists we use are still important but we also picked up some useful new tips too. We've listed some key points below, should you like to discuss these further and how they could relate to your website, give us a call.

Content:

Content does not mean copy! Content can be anything but it must be relevant, timely and useful to visitors. Ideas for content generation should include; imagery, videos, white papers, guides or infographics. These however should not be sales orientated or overly “keyworded.”

Organic SEO:

Still one of the most important factors in driving organic SEO is earning links from credible sources that are related to your business or search terms. With the new amends to search, local content has had a greater emphasis paid to it, so make sure that title tags are specific to page location(s) as well as keywords. Also, if your using local content, make sure it’s personal to the local location. This could be in form of local links or personal information to that area. There is also more emphasis made on long tail search terms. One the statistics quoted that Google now is made up of 40% new search terms each year, i.e. users are using more and more unique search terms and Google is reflecting results to show websites that reflect this.  Check out how it works. 

Pay Per Click:

One of the big changes in paid search is the incorporation of reviews and feedback on products. Services such as Feefo and Trust pilot are increasing relied upon to differentiate products and with an active review base, it will help promote and reassure customers to click through to your products rather than competitors. If your working with B2C marketplace, use the Facebook exchange too, as this, in conjunction with a PPC campaign achieves the greatest ROI on CTR (click through rates). 

Social:

Finally, the news we all knew was coming but Google + will have more and more emphasis placed upon it especially when it comes to organic search. At the moment, the key focus is for authoring content. You may have noticed when searching particular phrases, some articles and blogs may appear with the author’s picture/name. These are referencing G+ and the authors have linked their blog to their G+ profile. If you haven’t got an account, it's maybe time to build this into your social marketing mix.

There was loads more but time is precious, so give us a call to chat about it. 

NXT Digital Solutions becomes a recommended digital agency

Peter Hinchliffe 05 November 2013 { News, Awards }

NXT Digital Solutions becomes a recommended digital agencyWe would like to thank our clients who completed the RAR survey and reviewed our recent work for them. As a result, NXT have now been rated highly and have achieved the "Recommended" supplier status as a member of the Recommended Agency Register for web design and digital development services.

 

We’re also in the process of designing a new NXT website, which like most agencies is at the bottom of the current priority list, however we’re hoping to get the ball rolling with design concepts soon. We may tweet some ideas soon, Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook so you don’t miss out. 

PlanItOut.com has arrived

Richard Matthews 19 September 2013 { News, UX, Web Development, PlanItOut; PlanItOut.com }

PlanItOut.com has arrived

Our Software as a Service (SaaS); PlanItOut.com has finally arrived in Beta. Our solution is designed  to  help manage businesses more effectively through collaborative project, task and time management. It also helps effectively manage their staff time and leave through our holiday booking system.

We’ve been quietly plugging away whilst working on client projects to bring PlanItOut.com to the market. Some of our key client accounts  have been already using it for quite some time but we have made some major improvements and are finally ready to bring it “officially” into Beta for everyone to use it.

How can PlanItOut help you?
It can help you save money!! How you ask? By reducing down the most expensive resource for any business.... time. This one stop, online SaaS has been specifically designed to help teams, businesses, agencies, departments and contractors manage their time and tasks more effectively. By creating a system that helps coordinate time efficiently in a user friendly way, you can spend more time doing more important things in your business. Check out our Feature list to see how it can benefit you.

So what is happening during the Beta period?

We aren’t just sitting here and watching the signups. We are building the accounts pages, adding in the eCommerce steps for subscriptions and making more user improvements to the Projects/Jobs/Tasks section to make it as simple to use as possible. We are also inviting users to share their feedback of using the tool so we can track any user issues and fix bugs. We are offering a limited number of free subscriptions to Beta subscribers who share useful feedback with us! Finally, we are half way through creating the PlanItOut Application. This will make the system even more flexible across the major Smartphone operating systems to access your content on the go.

How do you Sign up?
Simple – follow this link, it’s free during the Beta period to Sign up.

If you have more questions – check out our FAQs.

To stay posted for our latest updates, follow PlanItOut on Twitter or Google+ or keep track of NXT’s social channels (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIN).

Are doorslams on the mobile web the next splash screen?

Scott Agass 23 May 2013 { Mobile, Web Design, Applications }

Are doorslams on the mobile web the next splash screen?

Mobile website users are getting increasingly frustrated with their online browsing experience of being “trafficked” to native applications. This has been tagged within the industry as a “Doorslam!” Some readers may recall (and can still be found across the web) splash screens. This is where a website includes an introduction screen (usually Flash related) and a skip intro button to move users directly to the main website. Most digital evangelists would agree that these pages were completely unnecessary, annoying and have harmful effects on  website SEO, hence being scrapped in modern web conventions.

However, they seems to have been a resurgence within the mobile web arena, when relating to a company’s mobile website and its native application. An example can be seen with sites such as LinkedIN or Tumblr. Upon arriving at these mobile sites, users are blocked by buttons and are usually moved to access the native app and are forced into taking extra steps to get to the web version. By accessing the site through a web browser, these users have already expressed the desire to use the web version and many are frustrated by native apps being pushed on them.

We try to advise clients that focussing all your attention on a native application isn’t always the best route. We are still heavily involved in responsive web design (check out our recent example with Publicitas) and mobile website development. What we don’t want is more and more Doorslams happening which could have a detrimental effect on overall traffic especially if an application is removed. Some sites provide the option to open a native app even when the app has already been installed on a mobile device, making things more frustrating.

Site developers should recognise the web as a global distribution channel and harness the opportunities that it provides. Forcing people to install an app when they visit a website is a waste of time that may cause visitors to cease their interaction. When users visit a site, they have made a conscious decision and developers should respect this,  making the user experience as simple and convenient as possible regardless of what devices visitors are using.

Let’s hope that this practise fizzles out before it becomes too widespread and frustrating when browsing on a mobile device. We would love a web that offers excellent desktop, tablet, mobile and application based browsing depending upon your requirement.

Digital industry exhibition listings for 2013

Peter Hinchliffe 15 February 2013 { Digital exhibitions }

Digital industry exhibition listings for 2013

As the New Year kicks off, a new wave of events and exhibitions start to fill up diaries. NXT have decided to outline the big, upcoming industry events relating to website development, website design and digital marketing.

At NXT, we work in partnership with events, interactive technology and marketing partners across the UK to support their digital development requirements.  We always like to keep our finger on the pulse of new digital ideas, concepts and products so that we can take these to our clients. The diary listings are below, we might see you around if you are planning on attending.

EVENTS: 

SES London - Covering the latest trends and challenges facing the online marketing industry
http://sesconference.com/london/
Dates: 18-21 Feb 2013
Location: QE2 Conference Centre

TFM&A – Technology for Marketing and Advertising
http://www.t-f-m.co.uk
Dates: 26-27 February 2013.
Location: Earls Court 2, London.

DevWeek 2013 – UK’s biggest event for software and web developers
http://www.devweek.com/
Dates: 4-8 March 2013
Barbican Centre, London. 

Confex – Event organisers exhibition

http://www.international-confex.com/

Dates: 19-21 March 2013
Location: ExCeL London

Internet World - UK's largest event for online and digital business

http://www.internetworld.co.uk

Dates: 23-25 April 2013.

Location: Earls Court 2, London.

eCommerce Expo - Replicating the fast changing world of selling online

http://www.ecom-manchester.co.uk/

Dates: 15 May 2013.

Location: Manchester Central, Manchester.

MarketingWeekLive - UK’s largest marketing event

http://mwl.marketingweek.co.uk/

Dates: 26-27 June 2013.

Location: Grand Hall, Olympia, London.

SSL Certificates: Can you compare them like for like?

Rich Wilson 09 January 2013 { SSL Certificates }

SSL Certificates: Can you compare them like for like?

With the ever increasing threat of data security and demand for eCommerce functionality, we have discussed the options in deciding an appropriate SSL certification for your website. Prices start from £45 per year ranging up to £1,000+ for seemingly the same product. So why the differential in cost and do you get what you pay for?

SSL or secure sockets layer are cryptographic protocols that provide security to any transactions or data transfer over the internet. Almost all Internet software including web browsers, web servers, email clients, VPN clients, etc. support SSL encryption out of the box. However, they require a certificate before SSL can be enabled. This is because the certificate contains the public key that identifies the server, a critical part of the process. The certificate also contains what is called the “subject”. This includes the identity of the certificate owner (organisation name and location). The most important part of an SSL certificate is that it is digitally signed by a trusted authority. Why is that? Well, anyone can create their own certificate in a matter of seconds. Just like making your own driver’s license, it doesn’t do much to prove your identity. You can ensure that the driver’s license you are looking at was created by your government, you can trust that is accurately identifies the person it was issued to. Your web browser contains a list of organisations called Certificate Authorities that are automatically trusted, just like your government would be trusted to create driver’s licenses. This means that a Certificate Authority (e.g. GeoTrust, GoDaddy, Symantec, Thawte etc) can issue an SSL certificate identifying your organisation and the certificate will be trusted by nearly all the computers in the world because they all trust the certificate authority by default. It also makes it very difficult for an attacker to set up a phishing site to phish your visitors because a Certificate Authority won’t issue them a certificate for your website. Using an SSL certificate from a trusted authority allows you to be authenticated, gain your customers’ trust and protect your site against phishing.

So we now know we need an SSL certificate but which one should we use? Good question. The first few questions to ask would be:

A) How many domains names do you need to secure? (One domain name, one domain with multiple sub-domains and wildcard or multiple domains)

B) How important is gaining your customers trust? (This might include features such as a green address bar, name displayed on a certificate or have no visible warning messages)

C) What is your budget?

So when comparing your SSL choices here are our top 10 points to consider:

1) Number of certificates included – as stated in point one above

2) Domains secured – most vary so worth checking with your chosen provider

3) Speed of having a SSL issued – this can take 1hour or up to 14 days and can be quite annoying when in a rush

4) Encryption strength – Most run up to 256 bits which is pretty standard but some may go up to 1000+bits depending upon the security required

5) Includes a Trust seal – this helps build online trust

6) Support options – seems obvious but limited support can be frustrating when setting up or changing website details  

7) Warranty – this can range from £1,000 - £10,000,000 this will make a big influence on price, similar to that of insurance premiums

8) Refund Policy – worth checking, especially if you have placed the SSL on the wrong domain (it happens!)

9) Validation requirements

10) Browser compatibility- important if you are using old versions of IE.

At NXT we use a variety of SSL’s depending upon client circumstances. Do you need help in setting up your web services or hosting with encryption? Please let us know, we would be happy to help.

Lego Dino on Popfun.co.uk

Scott Agass 21 September 2012 { News, Flash Games, Game Development }

Lego Dino on Popfun.co.uk

This September and October 2012 Lego’s exciting new range, Lego Dino is sponsoring POPAll online promotions are being managed and maintained by NXT Digital Solutions. The campaign features sponsorship of POP’s peak programming from four to seven  which includes some of POP’s popular kids science shows as well cartoons. In addition Lego Dino will be sponsoring POP’s in house production of Alan and the Last Dinosaur. The twenty four, two minutes episodes feature a Dinosaur puppet called Alan sharing stories and facts with the POP channels audience.

Reaching a core of boys aged five to seven years old  and their parents , the campaign will also engage  viewers with animated Lego Dinos Idents. The six Idents (also produced in-house) uses stop animation frames to show the Lego Hunters epic battle to save the city from the ramping and terrifying Lego Dinosaurs.  

The online  branded area which includes, a Lego Dino game, the Lego Club, product info and  competition information is also a key part of the campaign. Rich with colours and images, the website offers children an exciting platform to venture and connect to the Lego Dino storyline.

The deal also includes a fifty second television competition commercial spot. Children enter the competition by roaring down a free phone line provided by POP channels and will be given the chance to win the entire Lego Dino set.

“The sponsorship campaign we ran with LEGO in 2011 was shortlisted for a Hollis Sponsorship Award and we’re are equally as proud of the creativity we’ve delivered in this 2012 campaign. All the sponsorship collateral, which will run on POP, as well as our new dinosaur fact show were created in-house and all perfectly bring to life the new LEGO Dino range.” Will Vicary, Commercial Ops Director, Aqua Moon Games and CSC Media Group

NXT welcomes its newest recruit

Richard Matthews 11 September 2012 { News, New recruit }

NXT welcomes its newest recruitA big, warm, NXT welcome to its newest recruit; Andrew King who joins the Development team as a Senior Web Developer in our Guildford office on Monday 24th September. 

Andrew joins the ever growing Development Team at NXT from Logica where is developed software and web applications in .NET, C# and VB. Andrew will help to support our clients through development of ongoing web applications and systems as well as helping push forward some internal SaaS tools we have been working on. 

We understand that Andrew is a keen martial artist, so we hope that he can judo chop his way through a minefield of diverse projects we have to offer! 

Welcome to the team. 

W3C approves responsive web design

Peter Hinchliffe 23 August 2012 { News, Web Design, Responsive Web Design }

W3C approves responsive web design

You may have heard us talk about responsive website design (RWD) in the past but recently there has been some great news advocating its usage across the web from W3C (The world wide web consortium).

RWD – what is it?

According to Wikipedia - RWD means that a website has been created to use CSS3 media queries to allow a browser to adapt its layout to the viewing environment. This simply means that websites can react to a range of devices (desktop, tablet or mobile) and still use a single source of content without re-sizing, panning or scrolling.

Why is RWD useful?

Put simply, it allows website owners to offer a more flexible and accessible website designing content and layout across all digital platforms. The benefit of a RWD site is that it offers users easier browsing of the website content without creating dedicated mobile sites, overall reducing down the cost of website design and development.

What’s the news about RWD?

Since its launch, designers and developers have seen the benefit of this new opportunity and it has been talked about across the industry for over a couple of years. Now as of July 2012, W3C (the web consortium for development of online standards) has advocated RWD’s usage online. The industry has welcomed this change of status from W3C and it has now received its official “approved” status.

RWD Example

Take a look at our clients website; Channel 3 Consulting. We responsively designed this site, why not view it on your mobile or tablet? http://www.channel3group.co.uk/

Interested in re-building your website, why not look at including a responsive website design as part of that brief? Talk to us about it.  

Cookies: A practical guide to comply

Richard Matthews 20 June 2012 { News, Cookies }

Cookies: A practical guide to comply

Following on from our previous blog last year regarding the EU announcement on cookie legislation, we have written part 2 on this subject as a guide for our customers and those who are interested. This guide is our suggestions for an appropriate response to the legislation and practical ways to keep your website compliant.

As a background to the subject, 'Cookies' are small text files that are stored by the browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Chrome) on your computer or mobile phone. They allow websites to store such things as user preferences. You can think of cookies as providing a "memory" for the website, enabling it to recognise a user and respond appropriately. Cookies are used for varying reasons, from site performance, analytics, geo-targeting, registration systems and third party advertising. Most websites have web tracking for collecting information about visitors to the site.

The most popular and widespread cookie usage will be associated with Google Analytics (GA) web tracking - which we use across all of our client websites. The Google Analytics tracking code is set by JavaScript and augmented by the proprietary GA tool.  It sets four cookies automatically. Google Analytics sets a first party cookie. 

The EU Cookie Directive stipulates that all cookies must be given "consent". Because Google Analytics is first party cookie consent is needed only once. In other instances where a third party cookie is deployed a new consent for each deployment would be needed. For example each time a user visited a site. Google has previously agreed with the EU that Google Analytics cookies would be limited to a 24 month lifespan. Prior to this Google set anything up to and beyond a 30 year expiry on cookie files.

In early May 2011 the ICO issued guidelines on how to interpret the new EU Cookie Law. In the PDF document entitled "Changes to the rules on using cookies and similar technologies forstoring information" they say: "An analytic cookie might not appear to be as intrusive as others that might track a user across multiple sites but you still need consent. One possible solution might be to place some text in the footer or header of the web page which is highlighted or which turns into a scrolling piece of text when you want to set a cookie on the user's device."

A recent survey by Moore Stephens Law Firm found that only 10% of technology companies were compliant. Read their article here

Our quick suggestions to comply are as follows:

  • Check which cookies your website uses. This could be from forms, registration components, advertisement placements and analytics
  • Review what the main purposes of the cookies e.g. strictly necessary, performance related, functionality or targeting
  • Decide how you will obtain consent (if you want to) – we would suggest something subtle and simple, if at all. We are suggesting a HTML widget in your header or footer outlining a request for users to accept their Cookie Policies. For example: “By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can change this and find out more by following this link” – Link to Privacy/Cookie Policy Page. There are other options such as banners, scrolling text, pop ups, tick boxes.
  • Communicate with third parties that you have relationships with such as agencies and ensure relevant staff are aware
  • Update your Privacy Policy and / or create a new page outlining your Cookie Policy – take a look at our revised page. Some of our clients already list out their exact cookies that are being used e.g. __utma (for Google Analytics) its description and its expiration date. We have chosen not to go down that route and instead, just outlining basic cookie requirements, details and consent.
  • As part of your annual digital strategy review, include cookies as part of this discussion as they could change with new developments
  • Finally, you could just ignore it – but you do run the risk of being fined by the ICO.

For further information on the current legislation and how you can control cookies on your machine, visit either The Information Commissioner’s Office or Your Choices Online.  

User Experience (UX) Research

Scott Agass 25 April 2012 { UX, Web applications }

User Experience (UX) Research

Building a bespoke web application solution doesn’t have to be stressful. Follow part of our project research plan to make life simpler. At NXT Digital Solutions, we regularly create (from scratch) bespoke web applications (.NET) for our clients. These range across various sectors from event registration systems, to database driven eCommerce tools and member based Intranet systems. The requirements and outcomes of these tools are very different but all of them have user requirement functionalities which must be addressed and the method for collating these requirements is usually the same.

We always undertake this research stage before we complete projects design concepts and the results from this research helps formulate our technical specifications, which we use with clients to agree site goals and create really intuitive ideas. As part of the project planning requirement for any website application, an integral part of this process is the mapping out of goals from stakeholders and users.

What is Stakeholder Analysis?

Stakeholder analysis tools are used to identify and understand those that have an interest or stake in an issue. Stakeholder analysis can be especially useful in the context of collaborative and participatory processes where all stakeholders in an issue are convened to discuss issues or make decisions.

When building technical web applications or any other software tool, this understanding is critical. Web apps are tools used to articulate means of communication between end users and stakeholders who conceive the site. In order to be successful, a web app has to be stakeholder centred. On one hand it has to offer content and interaction capabilities which best meet the goals of end users. On the other hand it must also satisfy the business and communications objectives for the client who pays the bill. 

We have in the past gone down several routes/methods for collating feedback from stakeholders.

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • Observation
  • Content Analysis
  • Secondary Data Analysis
  • Crowdsourcing polls

If we are revising legacy systems, we do like to research sticking points of usability to get under the skin of a user. There are many tools available to help support this sampling work. We have used Silverback 2.0 to help gauge screen activity in testing a developed application. 

So what do you do with this data?

This is where we either pull our hair out or smile! At this point in any project it’s time to develop a design and development strategy and start creating practical and usable ideas. 9/10 times  this is done in conjunction with the client team. We usually have our concepts ready to present and be discussed. At this point we would be referencing our overall technical specification (and revising the original version) as well as creating sample information architecture and wireframes.

There is plenty more to discuss within the initial usability research, evaluation and planning phases of any project but time is running out. Stay posted on Twitter (@NXTDS) or Facebook for more Blog updates. 

Celebrating our 10 year anniversary

Peter Hinchliffe 14 March 2012 { News }

Celebrating our 10 year anniversary

So, where did it all begin? Here's our story....NXT Digital Solutions celebrating 10 years. 

It all started back in 2001. Scott Agass and Richard Matthews were, at the time, the leading designer and developer at 247 New Media in Southampton. They looked after clients such as NTL and HP and between them developed some really creative, cutting edge web tools, and viral marketing games. 

Scott Agass leading on design and Richard Matthews on technical development – a perfect partnership was formed and they decided to take the leap into the unknown and start their own business. Next New Media was born.

In the beginning, Scott and Richard luckily managed to pick up previous 247 client accounts and began their own style of creating innovative digital web applications, websites and games.

The company was initially based from Scott’s house and Richard worked from his bedroom or kitchen or conservatory depending on the weather. In the early years, the client base growth was nurtured slowly and organically, all won through client recommendations. Having acquired and developed a growing client base and having built a portfolio of business tools, websites and online flash games, the company started growing sustainably. Next New Media acquired clients such as Hewlett Packard, BBC, Sky, Konami, Event Insurance Services and Digital One for ongoing development and digital web support.

Initially the company was inspired by two key elements. Design being a pivotal part in everything created. The company mantra was: “professional, consistent design and planning should be at the centre of everything delivered for clients”. Our second inspiration was the expansion and growth of Adobe Flash. Richard and Scott championed the use of the software, creating games and ground breaking applications. The company created a portfolio games website called GamesArcade.Net which still hosts over 20 free online flash games that Richard and Scott have designed and developed themselves. The site also still receives over 1 million unique visits per month.

With a growing client base, support contracts and maintenance agreements in place, the company recruited three new staff in 2008 to support more clients and expand the company’s knowledge base. Having grown organically and carefully (and saved up enough cash in the bank without borrowing), the decision was made to invest in an office and recruit a sales/marketing professional to grow the client base and grow the company.

In December 2010 the business was re-branded and became NXT Digital Solutions. The general consensus was that “New Media” had become a bit “old hat” and it was time for a fresher look and feel for the brand. This also created the opportunity to be creative with the company design and brand concepts and in December 2010, NXT officially became a new business resident in Guildford, opening our offices right in the city centre.

18 months on and the business is flourishing. We have 25 key client accounts across business sectors such as; events, insurance, manufacturing, finance and IT. The team has grown to nine full time members of staff (three with the name Richard!) in Guildford and we have an exciting year ahead with new tools and client projects going live. 

Stay posted by following us on Twitter: @NXTDS

5 tips to keep your business ahead in digital for 2012

Dan Birch 23 January 2012 { Mobile, News, Social Media, UX, Web Design, Web Development }

5 tips to keep your business ahead in digital for 2012

This blog is a quick guide to maximise your time to help improve your businesses digital presence for 2012. If you are like most of our clients, investing time in digital is part of an overall marketing plan and time is scarce.

If you are conscious that your strategy is outdated or just needs a kick start for the new year, here are some ideas to push your company in the right direction. We have collated the top 5 tips to keep your digital presence fresh and your business ahead of the competition, online.

Social Media Engagement – If you haven't heard of Facebook you're probably late for your shuttle flight back from Jupiter.  A recent E-consultancy infographic suggests that Facebook has grown by 200 million users in 2011, and now has a user base totalling 800 million. But it’s not all about Facebook for social media interaction. A recent Twitter survey shows that 34% of marketers have generated leads using Twitter, and 20% have closed deals using Twitter. LinkedIN now has 36% of American professionals signed up. Many businesses will have social media accounts but struggle to maximise, or more importantly, monetise it's potential. We have a few tips to whet your appetite but if you are interested in talking further, then we have plenty of business focussed customised ideas. First tip to engaging socially is, invest in some time. Spend time researching competition or potential customers and start conversations. Another tip is not to overly sell your business, instead, provide an information resource that others will find useful and share. This is the major benefit of social media, the ability for content, offers and news to be spread virally and for more people to come into contact with your services.

Finally, save time by pooling resources together. There are many different applications that you can plug in to publish content across different platforms and monitor interactions too. Couple of cool ones we like include: Minggl - a very cool and interesting application that integrates your internet browser with the following: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIN, and Digg and speeds up your social networking. Tweetdeck works seamlessly with Twitter, and provides you with advanced statistics, local trends, Facebook integration, easy messaging, url shortening and more. Ping.fm is a free service that allows you to ping a message to any of your social media profiles across the web, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plurk and many more – Over 40 social networking sites are currently supported. This saves you a ton of time trying to post similar content to several social networking sites individually. As you can imagine, this is just the tip of the iceberg...we’ll blog more about this later in the year.

2) Get Mobile Friendly – We have blogged about this subject before and it still remains a growing arena for development and activity. Smartphone ownership continues to grow, have you viewed your website from your mobile phone recently? Do you need to re-size it or zoom in on content? We can create simple mobile versions of your website, increasing functionality and improving user experiences.

3) Keep yourself Fresh – Bit of a cheeky double post with maximising SEO potential. As we experienced all the changes to Google’s new algorithm Panda last year, one key point to consider is keeping news and content on your site; fresh, original and relevant for your services. We can all be guilty of ignoring our websites when we get busy but to keep generating leads and traffic, invest time on keeping content fresh.

4) Maximise your SEO potential – This still dominates for marketers, with both B2B (57%) and B2C (41%) businesses stating it makes the biggest impact on the lead generation goals. Now, more than ever, investing in your search engine optimisation is pivotal to helping improve business exposure. One element, as we mentioned above is keeping content fresh but there are many on and offsite techniques to improve your organic search potential, time to act.

5) Update your browser!Many people are coming around to the fact that IE (Internet Explorer) is not the best browser available and many alternative options offer more interactivity and really useful add on applications. If you have one digital New Years Resolution this year, please just update your browser to the latest version or ask your IT department to help, it will make a difference!

Scaling up to the cloud

Richard Matthews 20 December 2011 { Hosting }

Scaling up to the cloud

This month’s blog we are going to talk about cloud hosting and hopefully explain its benefits. We regularly have conversations with our clients in Surrey and beyond about their existing hosting and the benefits of hosting and managed back up with NXT Digital Solutions.

We have recently diversified our hosted environment and have scaled up to the cloud. So, if you are asking yourself, what is cloud hosting? Let us explain:

Cloud hosting is a web hosting service delivered from a group of connected servers. The term cloud hosting (also called clustered hosting) is not precisely defined yet. In general, however, a hosting service can be considered cloud hosting when it is delivered from a fully redundant, multi-server system, in which the resources are dynamically scalable and often virtualized.

In less technical terminology, cloud hosting uses a number of servers all connected together (a cloud), and sites on the servers can use resources from all the servers in that cloud. Processing power, hard drives, and memory are shared. Servers can be easily added or removed as necessary, and if one server is down, sites use resources from other servers instead. This can be in one location or multiple locations connected across the internet.

So why is this important or useful to me? Well, there are quite a few benefits of cloud hosting:

  • You pay for only the resources you need
  • It provides good scalability
  • You can easily increase or decrease resources without moving sites to other servers
  • Servers can be deployed instantly
  • It provides better uptime than other types of web hosting
  • Traffic spikes aren't a problem; the cloud can handle them
  • If the servers are in different datacenters, datacenter problems can be less of a concern.
  • Different technologies can be used together that can't be used together without cloud hosting. For example, .php and .asp files can work on the same site, even in the same folder, drawing on technologies within the cloud.
  • You don't need to install hardware or software. Instead, you connect with a cloud that has the hardware or software you need.

We manage and host over 50 client sites and would be more than happy to discuss your situation further. 

South East Business Show

Peter Hinchliffe 07 October 2011 { News, Exhibition }

South East Business Show

The NXT Digital Solutions team will be attending the South East Business Show, on Friday 15th October at Copthorne Hotel in Gatwick. Why not come and visit us on stand 133 for a chance to win a bottle of pink champagne.

The event is free to attend and offers visitors the chance to meet and communicate with local businesses in the south east in an informal, relaxed environment.

We will be offering visitors to our stand (133) an opportunity to review and critique their current digital presence and discuss future strategies. We will be demonstrating some of our latest projects and offering advice, information and inspiration for businesses that need to refresh their online activity.

For more information on the exhibition, please visit: http://www.b2bsoutheast.com/

Investing in a consistent user experience

Scott Agass 16 September 2011 { UX }

Investing in a consistent user experience

If you are a business and you feel your digital presence doesn't fully reflect the quality of service you're providing or just looks out of date and you are considering updating it. One extremely important element to consider during the planning stage is a consistent user experience (UX) across your new site.

UX is a term used to describe the overall experience and satisfaction a user has when using a website or application. It is extremely easy to create a website design but if consistent UX is ignored, the results can be very bad indeed. Well structured, thought out design can improve your digital engagement and success, depending upon your chosen site goals. At NXT Digital Solutions, we feel that planning and researching users and their goals for a site is paramount to its success. Investment into UX design will require time and budget but successfully created, can demonstrate dramatic returns on investment.

A key message for UX we regularly discuss with clients is consistency, both in terms of design and content. Users don’t want to spend forever finding what they are looking for. A consistent site should offer users a predictable and therefore learnable experience, helping them complete their goals effortlessly.

An extremely important area for consistency is design. This sounds obvious but it’s not always practised. Users remember the details whether consciously or not; for example, they may associate a certain colour with a link and others with body copy. We come across all sorts of faux pas, such as multiple typefaces in one area of sites, which is confusing. Please don’t get us wrong, we are all up for experimentation but keep it consistent and clear.

 In terms of content, it should be coherent in tone, quality and quantity and should reflect the design surrounding it. If you have floral elements in your design and are selling cupcakes, you shouldn't use business language and formal terminology. Seems obvious, but it does happen. If you are regularly updating your content then this should also be reflected too. Finally, each user will interact differently with the site but the way your website responds should be identical in its output each time. For example opening of links or displaying pictures.

Your visitors should feel that the site has been designed and arranged so they can navigate to logical information quickly and then they are more likely to return again, maximising your ROI on re-development.

Should you need any help looking at your website design, speak to us here at NXT Digital Solutions.

Does Google + add up?

Rich Wilson 22 August 2011 { Social Media, Google+ }

Does Google + add up?

The number of users the site has gained, in less than 2 months, would seem to suggest it does. The figure of 25 million makes it one of the fastest growing websites in history and it certainly seems to be scoring top marks for the hype it's created within the digital world.

For those who've missed all the build up, Google+ Project is Google's new social networking site incorporating some of the key features of Twitter, Facebook and Skype. Access has been restricted to a limited group, as it's still in the field trial stage (or Beta) with the official public release date yet been announced.

But does it add anything that we don't already have, as its name suggests? We've done our own maths by comparing it to Facebook and here's how it scored:-

UX (User Experience)
Google+ is clean, slick and easy to use just like the rest of Google's products. But we wouldn't say that Facebook is particularly hard to use either and we suspect its 750 million users would agree with us!

So we score this Google+ 1 Facebook 1

Circles/ Groups
Using the neat drag and drop functionality, users of Google+ can organise their friends easily into appropriate social circles. The use of circles should minimise the noise in your stream and allow you to keep business and pleasure separate if you choose to. However, we think by organising our friends in this way we might miss some of the randomness of Facebook, such as the daily gaffes of someone you barely knew at school to remind you someone else is having a worse day than you are!

Many users have already stated that Google+ is the easiest system for organising friends into groups and we would have to concur... It certainly is a cut above Facebook friends or twitter lists. We also think people will really like the animations in Google+ when you perform these actions as it gives the site some real character.

Points are allocated accordingly..... Google+ 1 Facebook 0

Hangouts
This is a really cool feature of Google+ which allows 10 people to simultaneously video chat.  But no sooner had this feature been released and a week later Facebook came back with its own reply, Skype calling.

Facebook has a group messaging chat for up to 20 people at a time, although its video chat is only 1 to 1. But, call us old fashioned, 10 people on video chat might be a bit chaotic at times!  Some users have reported that Hangouts is pretty poor for 1 to 1 interaction so Google might want to fix this to be able to compete with Facebook's Skype service.

It's a close call but we score this Google+ 0 Facebook 1

Sparks
Google+ has a recommendation tool which looks for videos and articles that it thinks you'll like.  Facebook doesn't have anything like this at present.

Simple -  Google+ 1 Facebook 0

Accessibility
Google + allows you to get notifications, comment and interact with circles without leaving Gmail or other Google sites. You can broadcast anything you find interesting to your social network with a single click, right from the search results or from within Gmail.

On the one hand, this is impressive. But on the other, we're not sure we're comfortable with this attempt to take over all our web services, in the same way we felt nervous about News Corporation taking over BSkyB and we all know how that turned out.

So for this reason, the score is Google+ 0 Facebook 1

The final result is Google 3 Facebook 3.

Google+ has better control over who you share your information with and integrates well with other Google sites.  It's also added a couple of funky new features, which has got people talking, in the form of Hangouts and Sparks but there is nothing revolutionary here, yet. We don't think 750 million users of Facebook will find this enough of an incentive to switch and keeping track of more than one network isn't something most internet users will want to do. In the same way that Hotmail responded quickly to the limitations that Gmail was meant to overcome and remains the world's largest free email service,we expect Facebook will have a few more tricks up it's sleeve to prevent users from switching.

However, they have called it Google+ project for a reason, as it's still being developed and the probability is that there are some more exciting things to come soon.

QR Codes – The truth is out there!

Dan Birch 09 August 2011 { News, UX, QR Codes, Marketing }

QR Codes – The truth is out there!

We thought it’s time discuss the curious subject of QR codes for marketing and product promotion this month.

QR codes (abbreviated from Quick Response code) are two dimensional barcodes (see our code above) that are readable through QR  reader software adapted for Smartphones. The information encoded within these barcodes usually consists of text or most  commonly a URL. QR codes started life as a method of tracking parts in manufacturing plants but now are widespread and used to  target consumers. They work by using the camera on the phone in conjunction with specific reader software to scan the image and  allowing the mobile device to activate additional phone functionality like email, mobile web browsing, phone or SMS.

QR codes essentially can be shared and used in a variety of different contexts such as: 

• Business cards – e.g. telephone number and email of the contact added to your contacts list  
• Brochures or marketing materials – additional information or link back to a website 
• Product tags / packaging – further purchase vouchers or discounted offers 
• Exhibition or event nametags – downloads of videos, case studies or mp3s 
• Point of sale receipts or tickets – returns information 

There are lots of practical applications for these codes and in terms of development the future seems limitless with evolving  smartphones and code developments. The question is, do people really use these codes? 

Having researched the impact of QR codes, there seems to be mixed reviews. The common consensus suggests that to have maximum  effectiveness in your particular campaign, QR codes should be effectively rolled out across all communications media. For  example, publishing on a Facebook page, tweeting it, linking on to a website and included it on all marketing materials and  brochures. It is also clear that if you have a larger target customer audience, QR codes seem a cost effective additional  medium to communicate deals or offers with customers.  According to Google Trends, roughly one in five FTSE 250 companies use QR Codes, although this usage is mainly to extend  information distributed in advertising. With the mass evolution of mobile social media interaction, it seems QR codes could  well be here to stay. 

Need help setting up QR codes with your latest campaign, use the code above or contact us. 

Guildford web design - the story so far

Richard Matthews 15 July 2011 { News, Web Design, Web Development }

Guildford web design - the story so far

It's been six months now since we relocated our web design and development business to Guildford city centre and we couldn't be happier with our new location. The office is taking shape - slowly, but surely - and our new recruits have settled in nicely. We've been focusing on attracting new web projects from businesses in Guildford, Surrey and surrounding areas to grow our portfolio and increase our presence in the Guildford area. So far, so good...

Surrey, and Guildford in particular, is home to some of the UK's finest design, web development and SEO agencies who've all made us most welcome in the area. Most of said agencies attend Web Meet Guildford, an event hosted just up the passage from our offices and a jolly old time is had by all. Thanks for the invite guys.   

We're looking forward to a busy second half of 2011 and beyond, creating and developing some awesome web applications, mobile apps and down-right funky websites. 

Databarracks new website is live

Scott Agass 22 June 2011 { News }

Databarracks new website is live

Our latest client website has gone live for Databarracks.
Check out our client case study here.

EU law restricting website cookies

Rich Wilson 02 June 2011 { News, Privacy Legislation }

EU law restricting website cookiesThe latest changes in privacy laws from Brussels might have a major impact on your business, are you up to date with the new digital restrictions being implemented?

New privacy laws will require firms to obtain customers consent before using cookies to track their behaviour on a website. Cookies help form and support statistics, affiliate advertising, marketing and content personalisation. How many times have you browsed for a nice pair of jeans to be reminded a day later on another website (in an advertising box) that those jeans are on sale and that you should buy them now?

The directive has been designed to protect your consumer privacy. The directive doesn't however clarify what constitutes “gathering consumer consent.” Will it be enough for a browser to accept all cookies or will users have to do more on a website to accept these new changes? Less than a third of the 27 EU member states have decided to comply with this directive, currently the UK is not likely to meet the deadline which passed on 25th May. The directive is designed to protect consumers privacy but many agree it is too strict, with digital advertisers and marketers arguing that there must be some compromise.

Businesses could be fined a maximum of €806,000 if they are found to be in breach of these new laws. The information commissioner’s office has said that there will be a “grace” period to allow business to set up their websites in a way to adhere to these changes. Many business analysts suggest that there will have to be levels of compromise as many business owners will fail to have even heard of these changes.

As you can imagine for our industry this means a lot of website changes for clients to comply.Our advice is don't rush out and change your website straight away. Instead, it might be a good time to review your site and find out where cookies are being used. If you are using a shopping basket, these cookies are being excluded but take a look around and find out what you have and where. Our guess is that browsers will play a part in helping consumers choose whether to allow cookies on a per site basis.

If you need help auditing or reviewing your web presence, let us know.

The Big Debate: Mobile Application or Mobile Web?

Peter Hinchliffe 26 May 2011 { Mobile }

The Big Debate: Mobile Application or Mobile Web?

Here is the big question which we regularly get asked by our clients and new customers, so we thought it’s time to clear up a few mobile issues up for you. Do we develop an application or should we have a mobile web site for our business?

There are several pros and cons for both, so to make it easier we have decided to discuss these and let you make your own mind up. The beauty of working with NXT Digital Solutions is we develop both mobile applications and mobile websites for businesses across Surrey and UK.

Firstly, we must remember that now when we are talking mobile applications, we are not just thinking about our good friends at Apple (even though this will be the first image that pops into your mind and image we used above). We must now be inclusive and consider the growing market share of Android Smartphone users and Blackberry’s App World. In a recent piece from Gartner’s mobile market report (May ’11) they showed that in Quarter 1 of 2011, Android now has 36% of the global market share. Compelling evidence that this isn’t a fad but an evolution in mobile technology.  My point is, if there is to be a business case for traditional application development then it must show special capabilities from that particular device (e.g. GPS usage) that are not accessible through the web. Can you afford not to develop across all platforms?

My first thoughts are that initially the majority of businesses will benefit from more traffic going through a mobile web route. The benefits are clear with lower development costs, larger target marketplace able to access your content and it’s easier to find through traditional search engines. So, option chosen – mobile web? Well, no because the financial benefits are clear if your application becomes a success, it is another revenue stream (minus the 30% Apple and 20% RIM/Blackberry fees) for your business. As successful Apps go, use of GPS, camera, voice, address book or calendar make great features to integrate with your business model and useful to both consumers and businesses and overall offer a great user experience (UX) especially if your business has a large user/stakeholder base. However, to quote a recent report by Pinch Media they suggest that to become “Top 100” you need to invest on average $1,875 a day and you are still at the mercy of the Apps Store’s controls. I haven’t mentioned bug fixing or ongoing maintenance but you get the picture.

But mobile web has its limitations too with issues such as Flash (on iPhone) animations. Developers such as NXT Digital Solutions are trying to combat this with developments in HTML5 and CSS3, we can develop extremely functional stuff which doesn’t look bad either but obviously doesn’t wow like an Apps UX. I can give you an example. I personally bank with First Direct and for sometime (being champions of online banking) they have had an excellent online banking website, which has worked quite well over mobile to access account information etc. Recently, First Direct advertised (via their website and direct mail) their new iPhone application which was free. I gave it a go (and deleted my previous bookmark on my phone) and I was impressed that the layout remained the same but was easier and offered a more enjoyable browsing experience then the previous mobile website – a great example of when an App is worth investing in for new business or existing customers.

I think there will always be a place for mobile applications but there will be a growing need for businesses to address their mobile content too. 8-9 times out of 10 you probably don’t need an application, instead a mobile site that is functional and offers users, clear calls to action and a design that is simple and clear to use plus quick to load.

Contact us if you are interested in mobile website or mobile application development in Surrey or London. 

Guildford Means Business

Richard Matthews 20 April 2011 { News, Exhibition }

Guildford Means Business

In less than a month, NXT Digital Solutions will be exhibiting at Guildford Means Business in the Spectrum centre on Wednesday 18th May 2011.

 

We will be showcasing some of our latest client projects and offering visitors a chance to win a bottle of champagne in our prize draw. If your business is looking for a professional website designer in Surrey, look no further. We will based on stand 22 near the seating area.

 

Pop by and meet the team, have a chat and take part in our Trapshoot game.  

How safe is your website design?

Scott Agass 12 April 2011 { Web Design, Website Design Plagiarism }

How safe is your website design?

This week we came across a design plagiarism of one of our clients' website (Events Insurance) which NXT designed and built well over 2 years ago. Take a look for yourself and see what you think on the screen shots above. On closer inspection it’s not only the layout and images but also some of the copy too! Let’s just say our clients solicitors are currently looking into it.

We thought we might also take this opportunity to share some more information on website design copyright. With most professional website designers, competitor analysis is an important part of creating any new concept for a client when designing a bespoke website.  Unfortunately, stealing someone else’s designs is not only unethical it's also illegal. Some people still believe that, because it’s on the net, it’s fair game – not true!

So if you do find someone who has mirrored or completely plagiarised your design here are a few key steps to follow (if it’s not done through initially through legal channels):

Step 1: Contact the website owner and educate them on your intellectual property rights

Step 2: Communicate with them that the website is copyrighted and that unless they can prove they have paid for it they must then with draw the website immediately

Step 3: If there is no response then you can issue a 'Take-Down Notice' 

Step 4: Make sure all your documentation is in order with the agency or designer you used e.g. design sign offs, emails, proposals etc. 

Step 5: Get some good legal advice

At this point, I would like to thank Smashing Magazine for their help with this blog. For those of you that like reading the legal T&C’s on website design, here is a link to the Copyright Service

There is always light at the end of the tunnel, Google likes to penalise duplicates on their rankings, so we thought it would only be right to let them know by reporting the alleged copyright infringement directly to them. 

5 reasons why you should be updating your business website

Rich Wilson 01 April 2011 { Web Development }

5 reasons why you should be updating your business website

Not updated your website in a while? If your website fits within any of the following subheadings, maybe it’s time to start thinking about speaking to some professional website designers for advice.

1) Gratuitous usage of Flash animation

Before the second coming of Apple, Flash was the no.1 choice for web designers using funkily designed movements or creative visual styling (we know as we used to do a lot of it). As most people are becoming aware, Flash isn’t compatible across the iOS platform used by Apple. This means, in simple terms, that if your relying upon using Flash animation across large parts of your website, it will not work on any versions of the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch! Apple believes Flash is buggy and unreliable and instead prefer to back themselves using HTML5. As you would expect Abode (current creators of Flash) are working around this but be prepared to wait some time.

2) Size is important

The most noticeable sign that you're in need of a makeover is the width of your website. With more and more computers being sold with widescreen monitors, your site that was originally designed for 800 x 600 pixel screen resolution will now look very small on a 1280 x 960 or larger screen resolution. This is now a commonly designed for width but there are ways you can resize your resolution depending upon the browser you are using. If your website was created a few years ago, there's a good chance that your site was designed to accommodate smaller screen resolutions and needs to be brought up to date, especially if it was built with an inflexible, unresponsive design.

3) Fresh content is king

We constantly come across websites which are out of date. Some of them may as well have cobwebs hanging from the corners of their home pages. Simple things, such as keeping your copyright date current or keeping on top of your news feed gives the impression your business takes your website seriously. As we have blogged before, your website is your 24/7 salesperson that should stay fresh and relevant. If your last news post was before Dec 2009 then we would like to suggest some alternative ideas to save you time and keep your website rejuvenated. Oh, let’s not  forget that this will also have a detrimental effect to your natural search marketing. Have you noticed visitor numbers declining recently?

4) Tiny / Inaccessible area

Another area of outdated design are websites that have a large web space with tiny clickable areas. For example, a large box on the home page which says “News” and a tiny hyperlink at the bottom of the box saying “Read More”. It’s the simple things, but as we (the general public) are used to using well designed, navigable sites (e.g. BBC / Easyjet etc.), poorly designed, out of date corporate sites really give a detrimental effect to the company or brand.

5) Bad Navigation

Another bug bear of ours is out of date navigation or links to pages which don’t exist. Sometimes businesses will try to cut corners and bolt on additional content to existing sites. When done well, this works fine but we regularly see broken navigation/links/errors and when you consider that the average time for a new user viewing your website is well under 30 seconds, then you have to get this right first time. 

To summarise

Our micro-rant is over but essentially your website works for your business in providing updated information on products or services. Even if you’re not selling something online, it still will provide new and existing customers and partners with useful content. Get in touch if you want to maximise your online presence with the friendliest website designers in Guildford.

Make the most of 2012 in Surrey

Peter Hinchliffe 16 March 2011 { News, Marketing, Guildford }

Make the most of 2012 in Surrey

As people are probably well aware, there has been a big publicity push in the media as tickets went on sale for all the Olympics yesterday. But as the final stages of the Olympics build to a crescendo, businesses still have an opportunity to take advantage of the five coloured ring gold rush. Last week, NXT attended a Surrey County Council funded Business Information event. The event was billed as “Making the most of the 2012 Games” but more specifically focused for Surrey businesses.

The event was opened by Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton who emphasised the importance of the legacy to the area. The event then opened into discussing the potential for the Olympics in Surrey by Surriya Subramaniam of Surrey 2012, from Surrey County Council. The speeches focused on preparing businesses for the two events Surrey are hosting (Road Cycling/Time Trial) and the potential to host foreign delegations/tourists within Surrey due to its close proximity to London and various attractions. One point raised in these presentations was there is a lot of potential for marketing products and services to these new visitors.

We feel visitors will soon start to prepare and research their visits and our advice is to start your business preparations early. Think about your marketing proposition and how you can better promote your business to these new visitors. A question went out to the audience to see if any enquiries had been received, only Holiday Inn (surprisingly official accommodation Olympic Partners) had! NXT is a digital partner to a number businesses in Surrey supporting their website design and development needs, we are ready to help new customers in get the most from this opportunity.

The only problem with this event was that there was a big emphasis on businesses preparing but no mention of Surrey businesses interacting together to support one another to ensure businesses are connected and doing business together - locally. The good news is that NXT has raised this issue with Surrey County Council team and the Surrey Chamber of Commerce (of which we are proud to be new members) and they are both looking at ways this can be addressed. We have suggested focussed networking meetings for those businesses that may need advice or support.

If you need help promoting your business online and feel there could be potential for new business linked to the Olympics, give us a shout and we would be happy to throw some ideas around with you.

The Winner is....

Richard Matthews 03 March 2011 { News }

The Winner is....

Stephanie Osborne from Absolute Health & Safety in Binfield, Berkshire.

Stephanie was chosen at random from our Top 10 high scoring participants from our viral marketing game; Trapshoot notching up a respectable 821 points. Stephanie, please drop us an email or a call and we'll arrange for the Rose Veuve Clicquot to be delivered or come and collect it from our Guildford office.

A quick mention must also go to John Bragg who topped the leader board all day with 1325, top shootin' partner.

The game was part of our exhibition stand at yesterday's Bracknell and Berkshire Business Expo where we met local Berkshire businesses and discussed our digital portfolio of services.

If you did meet Scott or Pete yesterday and are interested in any of NXT's services for web design in Surrey, please do get in touch. If not, we might see you next time at Guildford Means Business in May.

Are you ready for the new statutory changes for marketing on websites?

Scott Agass 15 February 2011 { News, Web Design }

Do you have responsibility for digital marketing/advertising or managing the content of your organisations website? If so, read on.

Statutory changes being enforced from 1st March 2011 means that the ASA will be extending its remit to cover marketing communications on organisations’ own websites and in other non-paid-for space under their control.

So what does that mean?
Well, if your website, digital marketing or social media promotion is not adhering to the full UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code) your business could be sanctioned and fined. The code includes general rules that state advertising must be responsible, must not mislead, or offend, and specific rules that cover advertising to children and ads for alcohol, gambling, motoring, health and financial products.

So, don’t say we didn’t warn you – give us a call if you’re not sure if this affects your business or not!

Social Media and eCommerce – it's not rocket science.

Peter Hinchliffe 28 January 2011 { Social Media }

Social Media and eCommerce – it's not rocket science.

Does your business include an eCommerce element to your online presence? Do you also market and communicate to customers and suppliers through social media? Now is the right time to mix it up and integrate them together. But, with anything technical, the clever (or science) bit is determining, who your target audience will be and offering the best avenue for tailoring your new eCommerce / social media campaign to them. According to media monitoring site Pingdom the age of social network users varies across different sites, so be specific. Here’s a few quick ideas: build a facebook store just like ASOS are launching or push a twitter promotional code discount and re-tweet campaign.

If you do want to discuss any of these ideas further, give us a call at NXT.

Expect something from Flash this year....

Scott Agass 25 January 2011 { Web Development, Flash }

Expect something from Flash this year....

Apple still refuses to include support for Flash on its iPad tablet device (as it will "reduce reliability", according to Apple), so the future still looks bleak for the handy little plug-in. The debate continues amongst developers as to whether or not Apple will ever support Flash, sure you can jailbreak an iPad to get Flash but that's not the answer.

If Flash does die, it will die fighting, the best innovations happen when companies are fighting for their survival. Think about how Apple struggled in the 90s, and now they are the hottest innovators with products such as iTunes, iPad, Macbook Air, and iPhone.

I doubt Flash will ever vanish from the web completely, think how many sites still use Flash video and how many games sites are thriving on the Flash platform, even amidst technologies like JavaScript and HTML. But with this battle ahead, Adobe must fight back, Flash must prove itself worthy, move on and do something that HTML5 and JavaScript won't be able to.

Adobe knows that it's under serious threat against open HTML5 APIs such as canvas, audio, and video that use JavaScript for creating rich media components with animation and dynamic drawing capabilities and because of this realisation, Adobe are working on creating an HTML5 editor/IDE, starting with their HTML5 prototyping tool codenamed Edge. They have also incorporated HTML5 canvas-exporting capabilities in Flash CS5.

Adobe has continued the development of Flash mobile devices with the release of Flash Player 10.1, so expect to see something out of Flash this year, whether its innovation, a new direction, or a significant drop in usage.

EvocoGroup.com launched

Richard Matthews 24 January 2011 { News, Web Development, Evoco Group, Website launch }

EvocoGroup.com launched

Evoco Group is revolutionising the healthcare recruitment market. They approached us to create their fresh new online presence. Check it out.

Top 5 web trends for 2011 you can’t afford to miss

Richard Matthews 17 January 2011 { Mobile, Social Media, Web Design, Web Development, Predictions, Marketing, Tablets, Guildford }

We thought this week would be a perfect time to share our ideas we have had about the new up and coming website design trends for 2011. Our research isn’t that scientific but we would say that we are the guys in the know about this sort of stuff as we live and breathe it. It’s our passion to be techies and hopefully we can share some snippets of cool stuff that you didn’t already know.

Mobile
The now-widespread options in both hardware and apps means mobile web technology is here to stay...and grow too! Businesses are no longer tied down and this makes use more flexible than ever to be on top of what’s moving and shaking.  2011 is the year when mobility morphs into standard operating procedure. As trends are already beginning to declare the Android OS looks to overtake iOS in 2011. As a company who believes in open communication and development, not a quality Apple possess, this is music to our ears.

Tablets
This is the boom market place for hardware this year (tips hat to Apple) and the other major manufacturers following suit. Luckily we’ve been working in this area for a while developing bespoke applications for our clients such as @TheLiveGroup with their LiveInteractive audience engagement tool.

Stayin’ Local
Groupon's huge value and quick profits will inspire many more businesses to offer special deals to specific markets. They turned down a $6b buyout from Google, probably due to their massive permission email list – approximately 30m+ around the world and they are growing rapidly.

Social Media
If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve probably heard us harping on about this, but yes, face it, it’s true. Social Media will become second nature to your marcomms strategy. Have you noticed adverts on TV have started mentioning facebook pages or news readers with twitter contacts... this is only the beginning. You heard it here (again). Oh and don't forget to follow us @NXTDS.

Investment and budget increase in IT
Supposedly the recession came to an end in 2010. So here’s hoping that companies place priority on their digital agenda again and improve their brand and visibility by investing in IT. Let’s not forget websites are front of house sales tools that are on duty all the time.

So, we're not quite at Maxtrixesque web technology yet but our Surrey web design team are all looking forward to seeing what new technologies are coming our way this year.

Happy New Year from the team at NXT

Peter Hinchliffe 05 January 2011 { Social Media }

We hope that you had a restful festive season. Most people are back to work this week and probably contemplating ideas or strategies for the year ahead. We would like to continue our new blog with some useful nuggets of information to our clients and new contacts for 2011!

You have probably thought about the power of social media at some point in the last year and heard a lot of news about information from Twitter or Facebook. This story from today’s Guardian illustrates the speed and viral distribution of news and information across the web. A young 14yr old girl who was reported missing was safely found after a subsequent appeal from a celebrity Twitter and Facebook campaign. So what! Well, this shows the increasing demand for information through digital social media channels including the web and mobile infrastructures. Have you now considered how you can potentially communicate better through these channels and harness the power of social media for your business?

If you want to throw some ideas around or need a hand, give us a shout!

Rolling back to simple, effective design

Scott Agass 04 January 2011 { UX, Web Design }

Rolling back to simple, effective design

It's been a while since I began working in the website development field so it goes without saying I remember the days when we had to count the kb's on our home page to ensure we hit our users with some content before the 56k modem blew up. With the advent of broadband and ever increasing download speeds this practice has been lost in the abyss. People blessed with a little more youth than I have been happy to develop websites with a couple of YouTube videos, a Flash game and an image gallery all on one page without a care in the world... until... one day... the web actually went mobile (forsaking the WAP era which was, essentially, a non-event). Due to this revolution, bleeding-edge web designers have been dropping the heavy-weight content in favour of text-based content, stylish and light imagery and great typography.

Just as it takes some time for the latest fashion to make it from the catwalk in Paris to Top Shop on the High Street in Wigan it will take some time for this approach to web design to become the norm, and by which time (from my experience) chances are there will be good reason to design sites in a completely different way. This is why I love working in this industry, my job has never been the same from one project to the next and fingers-crossed never will be.

HTML5: the biopic

Rich Wilson 20 January 2010 { Web Development, HTML5 }

HTML5: the biopic

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) has been around for a while now, since the Internet was in black and white. It is an evolutionary language, based on the angle-bracket tagged syntax of Standard Generalised Markup Language (SGML) and then trundling along from various versions to HTML 4.01, growing ever-larger with new and exciting and propriatery tags.

At this time, HTML was getting a little unruly so its parents (the W3C) decided to set the naughty little child on the straight and narrow. It came back from eXtensible Markup Language's (XML) boot camp a changed spec. Whilst the tags were still the same, it now had to behave itself. No more unclosed tags (even empty/replaced elements like img and br required a closing slash); tag names and attributes were to be lowercase only; and the latter correctly quoted. Then something dark and lurid happened: HTML got a little drunk and hooked up with a puritanical sort by the name of eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Due to the lack of appropriate precautions, a little while later XHTML was born. Rather than evolving, HTML had now mutated; XHTML had a much stricter upbringing: whilst the tags were still the same, it now had to behave itself:

  • all tags had to be closed (even empty/replaced elements like img and br required a closing slash)
  • elements must be nested correctly
  • tag names and attributes were to be lower-case only
  • attributes correctly quoted

Like a man dressed in a shirt and tie, with the top button done up, it was a little constricting (attributes that could formerly be declared as checked now needed to be checked="checked"), but its general appearance was a lot sharper and it was a simple style to copy. Plus his mum thinks he looked much smarter. Developers working on other's code could pick it up easier without needing to resort to a house style, pages loaded more efficiently as browsers wouldn't need to handle so much malformed or ahem special markup and the source code looked cleaner so easier to read.

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Drunk on their successful mutation the W3C then went too far in the other direction. Focusing on specification purity rather than the real web; XHTML 1.1 was to be served as XML but the majority of the browser market , couldn't serve pages with a MIME type of XML. Oh. You could blame the browser maker, and a lot of people hate(d) Internet Explorer (IE), but this was the current reality. The W3C was taking the head-buried-in-the-sand approach rather than practicality, so went more extreme with XHTML 2; no longer backwards compatible with HTML, it was to be a brand new language. So pure it only worked in their heads.

People inside the W3C rebelled, breaking away to form the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). They were probably so angry and focussed on getting HTML back to reality that they couldn't come up with a good name or even an acronym, ending with the annoying acronym/initial combo WHAT-double-u-gee instead. They had bigger fish to fry, making it easier to build web applications with HTML. Their hard work resulted in Web Apps 1.0 and Web Forms 2.0, two specs to extend HTML.

The W3C realised their pretty pure corridor might not be leading anywhere, so decided to create a Plan B. Whilst keeping XHTML 2 going (at least initially), they began working on HTML 5. That's HTML-space-5. Thankfully, they are made up of smart people so put their pride aside and used WHATWG's work as the starting point for the future of HTML. Hooray. Once the dust settled and people had got their heads around all the confusing terminology (deciding on HTML5) people could get on with the process of developing HTML in the same direction.

Well, that was a nice little story but I've got work to do!

The big question for most people is when can they use HTML5? The scary answer given by Ian 'Hixie' Hickson, the WHATWG kinda-overlord, was 2022. Well, that was when he believed the spec would become a proposed recommendation (PR). You should probably read up on the W3C's ratification process to see what the steps actually mean but for the lazy, reaching the PR stage of HTML5 means the whole spec has been completely and successfully implemented in at least two browsers. In reality, 2012 is the big deadline as that is when the spec should reach the stage before PR, CR or Candidate Recommendation. This stage will mean the spec is set.

Phew. So I'll start using HTML5 in 2012?

You sure can wait that long. Your XHTML sites will still be fine, however, if you wish you can start now. You will not be able to use all the new features right away (without the aid of some wonderful JS scripts and templates), but can add things as they are added to browsers. A future post will detail what you can do now and how you can do it; just to put your mind at ease, as Remy Sharp put it:

Let’s put this in context of another spec that has taken a very long time: CSS 2.1.

CSS 2.1 is CSS that I’m certain you’re familiar with. I’m certain you use it day to day without any thought as to whether it’s a completed spec.

It’s been in development for over 10 years, and it’s only just become a candidate recommendation (23rd April 2009).

That said, it doesn’t have two browsers completely supporting it. Only Internet Explorer 8 supports the full CSS 2.1 spec.

Did that stop you from using CSS 2.1? I suspect not. Will that stop us from using HTML5? It certainly shouldn’t. HTML 5 is available and ready to be used today.

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