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

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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.

Brazil Predictor: Football Without Formulas

May 30th, 2014 in Apps, Development 2014 App brazil cup development ios predictor world

With the World Cup rapidly approaching, everyone wants to work out who’s going to win. Nothing could be easier:

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Or at least, that’s how Stephen Hawking, world-famous physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, would work it out. In a press conference this week, Hawking revealed his equation for calculating England’s chances at the World Cup. All those numbers and symbols boil down to two words: not good.

The scientific validity of Hawking’s formula has already been questioned. So what options are there for those of us without maths PhDs? How can we get to play the great World Cup guessing game?

You might want to try Brazil Predictor, a new app for iDevices that gets into the nitty-gritty of the World Cup without asking you to calculate Pi. Available for iTunes, and designed for both iPhone and iPad, we developed this app to help make everyone an expert pundit.

We love our football at Image Plus, and spend some of our off-hours competing with each other to demonstrate the most detailed, most accurate vision of the beautiful game. Brazil Predictor is our attempt to make this easier to do in every office, and amongst every group of friends.

The app allows you to predict the results of every match, and follows the consequences of those scores right through to that final on July 13th. To add an edge to proceedings, the app also allows users to invite your friends and set-up mini-leagues that monitor how everyone’s predictions are doing.

The app assigns points to each user based on how close their predictions are to the actual results of the games. As the tournament proceeds, each user will creep up that league table on the basis of their knowledge of the game: think Cameroon will beat Mexico? Or that Ghana will triumph over the USA? Brazil Predictor will hold you to it!

Want to prove yourself the football expert amongst your mates? Brazil Predictor lets you do just that. And there won’t be a single bit of algebra in sight.

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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.

Learning By Playing: Apps And iOS7

June 28th, 2013 in Development, Web App beta development ios ios7 Web

There’s nothing developers like more than a new toy to play with. On the other hand, there’s also no bigger challenge than a whole new platform: new software means changes to old applications or websites, to factor in the changes made to the operating systems on which they run.

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That’s why we download iOS 7 Beta as soon as it became available: in part because we just wanted to have a play, and in part because it’s important to our products and those of our customers that we figure out how the new OS for iPads and iPhones actually works.

Apple is a victim of its own success: its iOS system became so successful that it was imitated by competitors the world over, and that led to some starting to argue that Apple was losing its cutting edge. So iOS 7 is an exciting opportunity for the firm to make a new start, but also for the apps and websites we design to be viewed and used on those platforms to take on new lives and new functionalities.

We’re not one of the major app developers who are effectively being part of Apple’s free-of-charge testing community, but that means in many ways that we’re free to explore the Beta release with our own needs in mind. The good news is that we like this release – we prefer it to the previous version, and bar a few glitches we thing it’s almost ready for the market.

Where Apple goes, other companies will follow (this piece at Forbes is a good summary of the current lie of the iOS 7 land), and that’s why it’s been so important for us to start testing the release as soon as we could. The testing stage is crucial for any piece of software, and getting to the capabilities and quirks of an Operating System is particularly key: we can now leverage that knowledge for our clients, after all.

Indeed, bespoke we applications in particular demand an in-depth knowledge and familiarity with the platform on which they will be displayed. The special functionalities we build specifically for our clients will only work if we know how to exploit the features of the latest OS. We’ve just delivered abespoke web app to Peugeot for the launch of their new 208 car – so we know what we’re talking about on the web app front.

And now, with time to spare, we know what we’re talking about on the iOS 7 front, too. Time to have another play, I think…