New Website Launched For FTC !

December 15th, 2016 in Design, Web

Another website that Image+ has designed and built and published in the mad Christmas rush is for The Food & Drink Training and Education Council (FTC), previously the Meat Training Council. FTC is a non profit skills charity representing the whole of the food industry. The FTC website includes information on a range of apprenticeships within the Food Industry and a range of food training courses – mainly around the area of butchery. The website also lists approved training providers.
In order to keep the content of the site fresh there’s a News section where visitors can choose from general news, blog items and press features.

https://www.foodtraining.org.uk/

New Website Launched For Tow Trust Towbars !

July 15th, 2016 in Design, Web

Tow Trust Towbars is the largest manufacturer of towbars in the UK – making high quality towbars  for practically every car model there is. Image+ designed and built the website with a simple but slick user interface so that visitors to the site can quickly find the correct towbar for their make and model of car. The site contains comprehensive information on all Tow Trust’s towbars including fitting instructions and all required technical information. http://www.tow-trust.co.uk/ 

 

 

Why Affording An Agency Website Is Like Eating Cake

October 29th, 2015 in Apps, Bespoke, Design, Development, Marketing, Web apps cake Design development Web website

cake-web-advert

I realized the other day that I’ve been spending a lot of time at networking events in recent weeks. This is not just because it’s a great way of scoring free cake (hardly a networking event in the country now does not supply afternoon tea as standard, I can only-slightly-smugly report). It’s because these sorts of meetings offer great ways to meet new clients, and understand how all businesses are thinking.

One of the constant themes of my conversations with people from SMEs is one of cost – or, maybe more accurately, how expensive many businesses imagine a professional website might be.

We’ve all met the small business owner who asked his friend to build a website, and wound up with one that was half-finished; we’ve all probably tried to build a website using one of these ‘out-of-the-box’ services or web builders, and found it just cannot do the job. The fact is, your business’s website is ever more important – and needs to be professionally tailored to the particulars of your business. That takes a proper design agency.

The people I talk with over all those cream teas, however, are always worried that they simply can’t afford an agency. You might expect me to try and convince them otherwise, and, I confess, I do – but it’s a fact we don’t want to hide that, sure, we’re more expensive than using a website builder’s templates or getting your mate to do it.

But you invest a lot in your business, and an investment repays over time. We believe that the little bit extra we cost – and it’s nowhere near as much as many people seem to fear! – is worth the investment, and will help your business be the best it can be.

Come to think of it, it’s all a bit like cake (yes, I have cake on the brain – why do you ask?): the better the ingredients, and the better the baker, the tastier the final product. If you’re trying to impress, you don’t use value flour, you don’t scrimp on the icing, and you don’t ask someone who’s never made a cake before to whip one up for you. Your business will look worse than it is – and be less accessible to customers than it should be – unless you build your website like you’d bake that special sponge.

At Image+, we build a website around your business: we’ll design it to look uniquely yours, build in the features you need and those customers expect, and write the content for you so that it’s all professional and compelling. You’ll have face-to-face meetings with us; we’ll be on the end of the phone whenever you have a question; and we’ll do it all for you – you won’t have to fiddle with a single button if you don’t want to!

Let’s say you spend about £3000 on your website with us – that’s a standard amount for a fully-featured website, tailored for you, though we’ve done cheaper – and let’s say it lasts three years before it needs a bit of a facelift. That’s just £80 per month, which is a great deal given that proper websites, as opposed to bad ones, are proven to generate leads, improve repeat business, and increase your brand’s reach. From this perspective, dealing with a tricky online website builder that churns out a basic cookie-cutter website and doesn’t offer any after-sales support seems like the bad investment, right?

So. Not only is an all-singing, all-dancing agency website cheaper than you think; it justifies whatever extra expenditure it may incur over the cheap-but-far-from-cheerful alternatives. So why not pop in and have a chat with us about what we can do for you? I’ll even bring cake.

Mobile-First Design: Why Remembering Mobile Is Like Putting On Trousers

October 14th, 2015 in Design, Development, Search Engine Optimisation, Web

We’re all familiar with the concept of optional extras: additional cup holders in your car,

or ‘accent stitching’ on that custom-made suit. But you wouldn’t buy a new motor

without an engine, and you wouldn’t slip on a new three-piece that didn’t come with

trousers. Those are just the basics. But why is it often so different for websites?

In today’s world, your website will be viewed in a hundred different ways. On a

smartphone or a desktop, a tablet or a netbook; it might be loaded up in Chrome or Safari,

Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. This makes demands on your developers that were

absent in the ‘good old days’ of IE’s dominance, always installed on a 486DX2 66 MhZ

machine.

 

Just like an engineer or a tailor, web designers need to move with the times in terms of

what is considered ‘the basics’. That’s why we believe that all websites should be

‘responsive’ as standard. What do we mean by this? It’s simple, really: we mean that

every client should have confidence that their website will display perfectly on any

screen – and that none of their customers will be turned off by a design that just doesn’t

work on their device of choice.

 

This might sound like common sense, but a surprising number of other web agencies

charge extra for building responsive websites. That is, they treat the ability to display

properly on the varied devices people now use as an optional extra. For us, that’s like

forgetting to put on your trousers.

 

Think about it: according to comScore, the number of people globally using mobile

devices of one kind or another to access the internet has now exceeded those using the

traditional desktop computer. If your site is designed exclusively for desktops – still the

‘basic package’ offered by many developers – you will be alienating the largest segment

of your audience.

 

Not only that, but the internet has changed to reflect these new behaviours: Google has

made changes to how it ranks websites in order to reward those which prioritise the

mobile experience. They are not only penalising those websites which don’t offer any

mobile functionality at all; they are denying rankings even to websites which offer

limited responsive features, such as providing a ‘no-frills’ mobile version of their desktop

website.

 

What can you do about this? You can choose a developer who doesn’t simply remove

functionality from a basic desktop website until it ‘fits’ on a smartphone screen. At

Image+, our design philosophy is ‘mobile first’: we start from the smallest screen,

creating a great website which we can then enhance with each move upwards in size

towards the desktop. This, not surprisingly, is the approach which Google endorses.

 

‘Mobile first’ design isn’t just what the world’s biggest search engines expect. It’s what

your customers want, too. Make sure your website is the success you need it to be – and

don’t settle for a designer who forgets to put on their trousers.

How Websites Are Just Flesh and Bone

November 15th, 2013 in Design, Web Design website wireframing

How does a website start its life? All those familiar elements – the navigation bar, the main content area, the splash image – don’t materialise from the ether. They’re planned and carefully placed to produce not just an appealing visual experience but also one which guides the user’s eye and helps them use the website in the best way possible. So how do we do it?

The web designer’s is a shadowy art, half aesthetic connoisseurship and half technical coding which is often unintelligible to the untrained eye. But it’s also a collaborative activity, in which everyone on the team should be involved – most especially the client. Web design is about capturing what makes the client different, special or unique and getting it online – because to do so will be to persuade browsers to become buyers.

For instance, one of the key first steps in any web design process is ‘wireframing’. This is the technical term for drawing up a schematic or blueprint for which elements of content and functionality the website will include, and how it will display those elements. Think of it as the website’s skeleton, the bones of a page layout or content arrangement onto which the designer can later add the ‘flesh’: font styles, colours and graphics. When we look at a skeleton, we see how a joint might move, rather than how the limb will look. It’s the same with a wireframe.

The key, though, is to make sure the joint moves in the direction the client requires. At Image Plus, we work as a team so that each of us understands the wireframe, and thus the project. But every part of it is informed by the client’s needs and goals: wireframing isn’t about detailing every last item about the website, but it is about fundamentals, and the client is best versed in the essentials of their business, product and audience.

Once we know what the website must do, we can turn to how it should look. Again, the client will almost always have some ideas about the look and feel of their site – corporate or contemporary, monochrome or colourful – which we will be taken onboard and applied to the final site. We do a lot of this graphic design work in Photoshop, which has become a crucial tool for every designer.

Photoshop is an image manipulation software package, making it ideal for the building of websites – which still rely on a wide array of imagery if they are to look exciting and pleasing to the eye. Web browsers don’t produce exciting visual effects alone – they read code and display images which have been carefully put together by the design to look good and operate well. That makes Photoshop a good means of putting together the background images, content area shapes, font colours, foreground graphics and other imagistic elements which will make your website attractive as well as useful to your visitors.

The internet is changing – increasingly websites are less like a magazine, designed in Photoshop to certain dimensions and specifications – and more fluid, displayable on many devices in many ways. But graphical content is still key, and the graphic designs we come up with in Photoshop can be laid over the skeleton we built in the wireframe to bring together look and functionality in one highly effective package.

So. That’s web design in a nutshell. But it all starts with that conversation with the client – so drop us a line today!

Why HTML5 Is Alive

November 15th, 2013 in Design, Development, Web code development html5

If you’ve only recently got used to the idea that websites are written in some weird language known as ‘HTML’, we might have bad news for you: we’re already on the fifth version of it! The good news, though, is that this makes a real difference to the effectiveness of your website.

‘HTML’ stands for ‘HyperText Markup Language’ and was invented in the early 1990s by the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. Its primary purpose was to enable users to ‘mark-up’ text on the internet, particularly with links to other texts but also with instructions for how to display the text – as italics, for instance, or in bold.

HTML encloses text within certain tags in order to achieve the desired effect. For instance, text can be rendered italic by enclosing it with ‘<i>’ or, more recently, ‘<em>’ tags. This function has been fundamental to the success of the World Wide Web: HTML is the reason computers can display attractive, navigable text immediately and without any coding knowledge on the part of the user.

Like any successful innovation, HTML has been subject to further developments. The number of usable tags have increased, for example, so that even the apparently simplest function – opening a link from which Google can read some information in a new window, for instance – can be expressed in a number of complex ways. (One of the many far-from-perfect methods might be ‘<a href=”http://www.image-plus-co.uk” alt=”Image Plus” title=”Image Plus” target=”_blank”>’. Clear as mud? Thought so!)

Berners-Lee is now director of the World Wide Web Consortium (or W3C), which exists to promote ‘web standards’ – essentially encouraging the millions of people who write code for the web to do so in as uniform, simplified and accessible a manner as possible. That’s why HTML5 is about to be introduced: to iron out the many kinks and inconsistencies that have developed over the last twenty-five years of HTML improvisation.

So why is this important to you? Because HTML5 will make the World Wide Web work better: it replaces not just HTML4, but XHTML1 and DOM Level 2 HTML (don’t worry, there’s no test later). It adds new support for media – fast becoming as important to the web as text, if not more so – and it eliminates many tags which once existed in order to keep the code manageable and (relatively) easy to read for humans. Finally, it makes sure that HTML will still make sense in an increasingly multi-platform world – on desktop computers, on mobile phones, on tablets and even on TV.

HTML5 is still in the testing stage, and won’t be fully released until the end of 2014. But at Image Plus we’re already engaging with this key new language for the web, and making your website ready for the future: with new functionality, better on mobile, easier and quicker to read and convert for screen, and – most importantly – readable everywhere by everyone.

Your website is your shop window. HTML5 keeps it clean.

Get Sudsy With Pudsey: A Life-Changing Website

October 17th, 2013 in Design, Development, Web children cms need peugeot pudsey Responsive

We make a lot of websites. Our aim is for all of them to change our clients’ businesses for the better… but it’s not so often that we can claim a website of ours might change someone’s life. We’re really excited to be able to say exactly that today!

pudseyscarwash

We’ve worked in conjunction with one of our long-term clients, Peugeot, to design and build Get Sudsy with Pudsey. The website is designed to promote Peugeot’s great idea for supporting this year’s Children In Need: the UK’s largest car wash!

Peugeot is an Official Partner of the BBC charity, and is hosting car washes across the country in order to raise money for what is a great cause. Anyone who takes their car to a local Peugeot dealership will be able to donate to Children in Need in exchange for a good vehicular soak.

It doesn’t end there, either: at the launch event in Chiswick on Tuesday 5th November, none other than Peter Andre will be dipping his sponge in the bucket! People interested in running their own car wash, too, can receive special packs from Peugeot to help them get car-washing at home.

It goes without saying that we’ve built the website free of charge, and we’re happy to do our bit for this great effort. We’re even hosting our own car wash, at which Image+ staff will take a break from their screens and … well, get sudsy with Pudsey!

Children in Need supports over 2,600 projects nationwide, all with the goal of providing children with happy, safe and secure childhoods that can help them fulfil their potential. That means that every penny Peugeot can raise from their car washes will go towards changing a child’s life. We’re really proud to be a small part of that effort.

To learn more about the event, and how to get involved, you can visit the Get Sudsy website. We hear it’s pretty good…

Mobile Web Design: Websites, Faster

August 20th, 2013 in Design, Development Design load time mobile Responsive Web

Websites are many things: entertainment, social spaces, even works of art. Primarily, however, they’re sources of information, ways to communicate a message to the person who views it.

From a business perspective, this function of websites is of course key. The web can represent a significant investment for a company, so it’s important that you start getting ROI on that investment as soon as possible.

We’ve spoken before about the importance of responsive and mobile web design as a key driver of that ROI: it ensures that no user is ever bounced from your website just because it won’t work on their device of choice. We pride ourselves on producing websites that are cross-platform compatible – so that your message can get through across every and any digital medium.

That’s why the latest pronouncements from Google caught our eye. Websites are most valuable to you insofar as they communicate quickly and cleanly, grabbing a user’s attention and keeping it. To this end, in their recently published guidelines Google have adopted a ruthless ‘one second rule’ for mobile web design:

“…the whole page doesn’t have to render within this budget, instead, we must deliver and render the above the fold (ATF) content in under one second, which allows the user to begin interacting with the page as soon as possible. Then, while the user is interpreting the first page of content, the rest of the page can be delivered progressively in the background.”

Keeping on top of what Google say is a good idea in general (after all, they’re the ones who decide how to rank that site of yours!), but these new guidelines are particularly interesting. Quick-loading websites are the holy grail of designers for good reason: users are increasingly impatient, and they want their information quickly.

The challenge, though, is still to design a website which looks great, whilst keeping the load time down. Google’s guidelines are canny on this front, too: only the first part of your content, the attention-grabbing stuff, needs to load immediately. Grab your user’s attention, and let the rest load in the background until they’re read to scroll down.

We’re old hands at this sort of mobile web design trickery, and we’re always expanding our skillset to keep up with the latest developments and demands. So – whether you want a new website or to redesign your current one – drop us a line to discuss how we can ensure they say what you need to, and quickly.

The Three Bears Problem: Who’s Been Visiting My Webpage?

June 14th, 2013 in Design, Web audience capture data marketing

This week at Image+, we’ve been making contact with people we know are interested in our services, but whom we’ve never met or even spoken to. This ability to sell to a large number of qualified leads quickly and easily is the power of a website, and most importantly of data capture.

teddy bear and Mac PC

One of the key means of securing ROI from your website or other digital platform is to include some sort of data capture mechanism. Your content and products can build an audience, but it’s data capture which helps transform them into customers. Whether through engaging blogs or enticing social media, your digital communications need to point the visitor towards some sort of relationship with your company.

The details of your viewers are powerful marketing tools: they’ve already proven their interest in your products and services, and by capturing their email address or other contact details you can sell direct to a self-qualifying market. This is the real role of
your content: to entertain and educate your audience, of course, but also to build a community around your company.

There are all sorts of ways and means of doing this. The easiest is a subscription newsletter, offering regular correspondence to your visitors in return for their email address. Competitions serve a similar function – providing something for free in return for contact details. Of course, Twitter and Facebook by their very nature offer direct marketing opportunities without the need for extra data capture – but, as any salesperson will tell you, more information is always useful!

There’s another level, however, and that’s to analyse the traffic to your website. Google Analytics provides a surprising depth of data for a free service, allowing you to analyse a variety of information about your visitors, from favoured web browser to country of origin.

There are paid services, meanwhile, which allow you to capture IP addresses and other details, however, and at Image+ we’re experts in obtaining and then enabling you to use that data to market directly to hot prospects. This method requires no form-filling by your visitors, no input of any kind other than simply visiting your website. That makes it an enormously powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.

In fact, we’ve been doing that ourselves just this week – so why not benefit from the lessons we’ve learned?

2000 Shades of Grey

May 31st, 2013 in Design, Packaging, Web athlone fifty grey shades

EL James should look to her crown. The author of Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel which has bestrode the world like a whip-wielding colossus since its publication in 2011, might not be quaking in her boots just yet, but at Image+ we’ve just finished work on a new volume that might just out-do her. Forget your half-century of greyscale tones: we’ve just finished work on our opus, 2000 Shades of Grey.

athlone-pic

OK, so we might be going overboard. Hot off the presses this week is a hefty product manual for a client of ours in Ireland, Athlone Extrusions. This replaces a version now two decades old – and so collating the material, designing the pages, planning the lay-outs and project managing the entire production was a big task. It goes without saying, of course, that we completed all this in-house and on-budget.

AE manufacture extruded plastic sheets, crucial in the production of items of all kinds, from packaging to white goods, industrial machinery to sanitary ware. They supply over forty countries worldwide, and their offering is hugely technical and varied. That makes their product manual absolutely essential to their sales: data drives their customer relationships. And in the age of the internet, the printed page still has an extremely important part to play.

The new manual has thirty inserts: brochures, dividers and product data sheets. It’s a big beast, and we’ve printed two thousand as a first run. AE’s customers really appreciate the manual as an important reference work, full of the technical details for each type of plastic with which AE works. There’s a lot of information to include – here’s just one factsheet for a single material – and whilst all of that data can be and is online, there’s also a real business need for the production of a volume like this that can sit on an MD’s shelf, or a buyer’s desk.

That’s why, for all our cutting-edge digital work, we also devote time and expertise to what might seem the old-fashioned medium of print: because it’s still extremely powerful. A volume such as AE’s manual is a physical product, a part of your company which a client can pick up and take away with them, can consult over many years and make their own. It’s a means of imparting a lot of information in an intuitive way, and doing so in a permanent, literally weighty, fashion. When AE gave one of their clients two copies of the manual, he asked if he could buy six more, because they were so useful. That’s a powerful communication tool, and an important means of maintaining a customer relationship over time.

Oh, and about our dreams of publishing a bestseller: the thing is, AE have the capacity to colour-match exactly. They can produce any plastic part in any colour you care to give them. Over the years, they’ve matched no less than two thousand different types of grey (and two hundred shades of white, for that matter). It may not be the same as erotica you can read in polite company, but we like to think AE’s latest volume will be as nice a little earner for them as EL James’s novel has been for her…