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30 Apr 2010

With the world of digital and technology opening up new ways for us to engage and interact with each other via email, blogs, forums and social networks to name but a few got me thinking generally about the wider issue of online etiquette and the unwritten rules of digital engagement…

Here at Wickedweb, defining a social media strategy that is in-keeping with your business and brand values is vital to success and a key part of our integrated digital planning and the opportunities resulting from this are dramatically increasing.

But what about on an individual level? When we go about our social life, day to day and face to face, there are certain social and behavioural codes of conduct that (for the most part) we adhere to as part of living in a society, we clearly all have different voices and opinions and how we choose to express ourselves to a certain extent is dictated to by our upbringing and individual experiences but the difference here is that we have a clear defined audience and may temper our behavior accordingly.

This all instantly changes when we converse online.  Do the same rules of human etiquette apply or do we need to learn new methods of  online communication?  When we choose to post a new comment or respond to a thread  - a whole new potential audience comes into play and what may have been intended as an innocent comment can suddenly be the centre of a hot-fired debate or personal attack.

We have already witnessed the major shift in written communication with short-hand text messaging and a whole raft of new abbreviations for online  In fact recent  developments in the US now mean we can start introducing the Sark Mark to our online communications – so what’s next?



30 Apr 2010

Rarindra Prakarsa is a photographer and Photoshop artist working out of Indonesia who has an incredibly rich portfolio of work to show off. His stuff is reverberating around the Web right now, but it’s worth repeating here. Even if you don’t like the style (and some people may perhaps find it to be a little cheesy or overblown) you have to admire the sheer style of the compositions and the amount of effort these photos take.

I was inspired by his art and tried to handle photo in the same style. I've chosen one unsuccessful picture and a couple hours of painstaking work has turned out rather interesting result:

Original photo:

Denis retouch original photo (500px)

Final result (clickable):

Denis retouch final result (500px)

30 Apr 2010

The way each of us view the World Wide Web is an experience unique to our own interests, dictating on where our digital travels take us. So with the digital world becoming more dynamic by the day from more real time results, (provided by the more popular search engines and dynamic websites continuing to upgrade the content) we are constantly required to install, upgrade and update our systems no matter our travels. 

This move to become more dynamic has pushed "static" websites out of the picture and more importantly out of the search results, seeing more of us creating our own network with a large amount content being updated regularly. A common example for a business keeping digital sees them maintaining and optimising a dynamic website, tweeting about notes of relevance, providing customers/clients with Facebook activity and more. This is a task not lightly approached compared to the previous "static" website with the same content for months on end. 

As we know the WWW is always moving forwards, although I believe we can happily say creating and maintaining a large digital presence will be hugely beneficial regarding business for some time yet, even if the tools we use achieve this take a few turns here and there. 

Living in this digital world we are never shocked when technologies move forward, but sometimes we are impressed. Some of the changes that caught my eye recently included the way we browse. We haven't seen many new brands moving in new browsers over the past couple of years until Chrome came along. As the power struggle continues with the long lasting few we saw this new browser emerge in the top three, which set out around September 2008 saw a continuing rise, from 3% of the whole market in September to a staggering 12.3% in March 2010. (stats). This means Safari and Opera are providing a browsing experience for only a small part and the market is left between Internet Explorer (34.9%), Firefox (46.2%) and Chrome (12.3%). If Chrome’s presence shows no sign slowing down I can see some real competition starting here.

For the future we have had seen Facebook claim to be taking on Google: "Facebook's bid to rule the web as it goes social" and similarly Yahoo are confident "Google will have a problem" for its future due to lack of branching out in terms of business as well.

To confirm the strength of Social Media think back to a time Before Facebook, would you of thought a social networking site would give people the ability to join groups and unite for or against public concerns, seeing headlines like "Facebook groups strength"? on BBC news. We are truly moving a large amount of economy to our digital business’ which is in turn providing a larger and smarter digital world.

30 Apr 2010

Answer: Yes! HTML5 is going to form the foundations of most websites within a few years, and most modern browsers including FireFox, Chrome, Safari and Opera already support it. Here is a cool demo of just some of what can be achieved without any plugins.

Previously visualization like this which play music, displays smooth animations, and hooks straight into Twitter, would've been something you'd have to build in Flash or Silverlight, requiring developers to know multiple languages, and viewers to download weighty plugins. Now it's possible to pull this off using just HTML5, which includes support for video and audio embedding, a canvas for scriptable animations and all kinds of other rich content that'll make current HTML based webpages look weak and bland in comparison.

Big names like YouTube are already looking at ditching their Flash player in preference of a full HTML5 offering, it's also fueling the fire heating up between Apple and Adobe over Flash on the iPhone. The latest models of the iPhone coming out will heavily feature HTML5, offering some great features for advertisers that you can check out here.

So grab the latest build of your favourite browser and have a look at what it can do. You'll be seeing a lot more of this before too long, so if your newest gadget's software supports it, consider it a worthwhile feature.

30 Apr 2010

With the release this week of The Official Charts website which is hosted on our Wickedweb CMS platform it's a good time to look at some of the CMS features that make it possible.

The Official Charts website is a busy site throughout the week but with the chart release at 7pm on Sunday we also have to serve an incredible peak of traffic.

One of my central design goals for the Wickedweb CMS was speed under load. Under load the weak point in any content management system is normally the database. Whilst it is reasonably straight forward to increase your ability to serve http requests just by adding hardware it is a lot harder to increase your ability to serve database requests in the same way.

A normal content managed page will contain a number of modifiable content areas, a number of modifiable menu structures and possibly some custom elements (for example the chart listings on The Official Charts site). A naive CMS implementation would fetch each item from the database and render them into the page on every page view. The Wickedweb CMS avoids this by integrating caching at every level. What this means is that we only have to fetch and render content once for any change. Even on page elements that change at the level of seconds this can be a big win for a busy site. If you are serving 50 pages a second and have content that changes once a second you will still be reducing the load for this element from 50 database calls per second to 1 per second. By integrating the caching at every level from individual database rows, to module page components up to entire pages we are able to not only reduce database load but also the work done for each page load. This means many more pages per second can be served by the same hardware.

Another way of reducing your server load is to move static content off of the server and onto a content delivery network (CDN). Using a CDN not only means freeing up your server to serve more dynamic content but also moves the static content nearer to your customers, improving their page load times. The Wickedweb CMS integrates CDN hosting seamlessly, you upload content to the CMS as if it was stored locally and the CMS publishes to the CDN for you.

It should go without saying that a quality hosting platform is essential to a quality CMS driven site, however many people are attracted to the low prices of bulk shared hosting providers. It is a false economy as your site will be at the mercy of the hundreds of other sites on the same server. This can mean not only a bad customer experience but also poor search engine ranking.

For the Wickedweb CMS we have partnered with leading managed hosting provider Rackspace who provide a powerful, highly reliable, secure hosting platform for our CMS. By serving the CMS on hardware dedicated only to that purpose we are in control of all the elements that affect performance from the server configuration, the code and the maximum load. Depending on the demands of your website the Wickedweb CMS is able to scale from shared hosting, to a dedicated server or multi-server solution.

30 Apr 2010

When designing and building a website it is imperative that you get the balance right between functional and fascinating. While some clients and their products lend themselves to being highly visual and attention grabbing it is not always a good idea to use too many fancy techniques to obtain your goal.

Use too much javascript and you are in danger of confusing the user and cluttering up your webspace as well as possibly hindering SEO.

Use javascripting techniques sparingly and your website can subtly guide the user to where you want them to be.  Be it the shopping basket for an e-commerce site or the donate page of a charity organisation.

Some sites, such as the award winning lend themselves to being fun and interactive whereas other sites are there in order to inform the user using facts and figures and do not require any sort of extra "va va voom".

When used properly javascript is a powerful tool for enhancing a users experience and keeping them navigating in the way that you want them to.  Provided there is no disruption to the user either through slow loading times or the screen being too cluttered with movement then javascript is a powerful weapon in the web developers arsenal.

29 Apr 2010

Unperturbed by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, Mitre has taken flight with its latest international digital incarnate. 

Mitre Russia now has its own web presence which utilises the Wickedweb CMS and the result can be found at

Testament to the multilingual capabilities of Wickedweb CMS, the Russian Mitre team was able to create a localised version of the "mother" site and the software can easily cope with different alphabets and character sets.

Part of Wickedweb's remit to Mitre is to roll out the international phase of their digital strategy, initially launching the global portal; next steps to bring the different territories in line with the UK "flagship" site.

Wickedweb's digital recommendations included the provision of rigid design templates to protect the brand's integrity around the globe, with flexible content areas so that images and copy can be tailored to the local territory market.

We're proud to adhere to the famous marketing mantra, “think global, act local!” ensuring that Mitre's global digital strategy is consistent, albeit with localised nuances.

Watch out for the Chilean version coming very soon, volcanic ash dependent of course!

29 Apr 2010

Wickedweb are happy to announce that the Ella's Kitchen Website has won the IMA Best in Class Award.

Ellas Kitchen Web design award

The Best in Class web design award is the highest honor bestowed by the Interactive Media Awards. It represents the very best in planning, execution and overall professionalism!

29 Apr 2010

London Vet Show Web design Award

We are delighted to announce that our entry into the IMA competition, under the category 'Events', has today won the IMA Outstanding Achievement Award with an impressively high score.

The London Vet Show, part of the CloserStill Media event portfolio, was a new event launched in 2009 and we partnered with the organisers to deliver a creatively refreshing and functionally exciting website for both the visitors and exhibitors alike.  In its inaugural year, exhibitor participation and visitor attendence exceeded expectations and 2010 stand sales are already well ahead of targets.  The presentation of the IMA award positions the London Vet Show event as an industry leader in the digital sphere too and we look forward to building on this brand success by enhancing the online experience further later this year.

The Outstanding Achievement award is the second highest honor bestowed by IMA and an extremely challenging award to win.  The London Vet Show website excelled in all areas of the judging criteria, including design, usability, content, functionality and cross browser compatibiity, and represents a very high standard of planning, execution and overall professionalism.  Click here to view our IMA awards gallery and find out more about the awarding body.

28 Apr 2010


This week sees the press announcement of The Official Charts website.  The final result is one that we at Wickedweb and The Official Charts are proud of, and a vast improvement in terms of front end appeal to the consumer and the technical development that operates behind the scenes.

With a complete design overhaul, and fantastic new functionality, fans of the UK Charts can now hear, watch, and purchase chart entries on the site through 7digital, Tunetribe and Muzu.

The feedback from the users of the website has been phenomenal since launch, ‘superb’, ‘looks amazing’,  ‘congratulations’, ‘great clear new look’.

Managing Director, Martin Talbot, stated that “it was important that our new site was as advanced as the charts now are – it is designed to be the ultimate destination site for anyone looking to find out what is happening in music right now, as well giving the option to delve into five decades of British music history.”


Check out the awesome additions - the historic timeline, the countdown clock, video preview of a track, listen to a track. The website is controlled through Wickedweb CMS, along with some rather clever automated features through which we hold back on the charts releases until precisely 7pm every Sunday. The CMS gives The Official Charts the much needed flexibility to instantaneously edit features such as the main home page, selecting which charts feature on landing pages, and many more.

For more information on the project check out The Official Charts Company Case Study page.

Plus there's even more exciting elements being released very soon. Watch this space to see future developments and check out the site now ... if you haven't had a sneaky peak already.

27 Apr 2010

April; the month where bluebells flood our woodlands and thousands of people worldwide strap on their trainers and take to the roads for an epic run. People run for every cause imaginable and will never fail to surprise you with their inventive costumes. The London marathon this year, for example, saw a man walking with a fridge on his back – Yes a fridge!! Now if that isn’t the perfect analogy for determination I don’t know what is!

As part of my new year’s resolution this year I decided I would get involved in this ‘marathon fever’ and took on the Paris marathon. Two weeks later I found myself cheering on London marathon runners at their last 2 and painful miles. Having now experienced both sides of the crowd barrier I understand what a difference it makes when your friends and family are cheering you on; but as a spectator finding your running friend is a challenge itself....

In the wake of the mobile application revolution everything is becoming more accessible. With this in mind I knew there had to be an application out there that would help me track my running friend from the palm of my hand - and no better than Google was there to help me with my plight. Using Google Latitude combined with this handy online guide  you can now follow your running friend and support them at those crucial moments!! No longer will you get dizzy looking into the face of every runner to spot your friend. All you need is a phone that can run Google Maps version 3.0+ or higher and a list of motivational cheers to callout to those determined runners.

Hoorah for Google Latitude!

26 Apr 2010

The term ‘lifelog’ is referred to by a variety of names such as ‘lifecasting’ and ‘lifecaching’. If you’ve not heard of this form of social networking, then read on...

Lifelogging is not a new concept and has been around since the early 1980s but in today’s blogging climate, this type of activity is becoming more popular with individuals and more interestingly forming part of brand consumer research.

It involves a small camera being carried by an individual, usually worn around an individual’s neck. The purpose is the ability to document their actions 24/7 to gain a deeper insight of their daily routine.
Unlike other forms of consumer research such as focus groups and one-to-one interviews, this method allows the consumer to conform to their natural instincts rather than being fully aware of being scrutinised in what they are saying or doing. This is why more and more brands are picking up on this technique, as the results are a truer reflection of the individual. Rather than having an edited version of the truth, the results than come back show the person’s whole life with actual real-life experiences.

The vital areas where results are really beneficial is when information is required for what people buy and when, how people react to media, getting people to change their behaviour in terms of brand development planning.

The insight and innovation director at GSK Consumer Healthcare, Lois Schorah, says it is this element of lifelogging that most attracts her to the technique. “It would be really useful to see what people are looking at on a shelf, how long for and whether they are looking at the information on the back of the packet,” she says. “It has lots of potential for understanding shoppers. It could be quite a flexible tool.”

The downfall of this methodology is that whilst the results are fantastic, the hours of footage that needs to be analysed is vast, but there is a lot of development that is continuing whereby software will recognise certain details, such as an activity or a logo.

Whilst the more popular forms of user research can return an altered perspective of an individual, this technique cannot lie. Many brands chose to replay the footage analysis to the individuals in order to change their behaviour. For example, Dr Bob Cook, board director at a research agency carried out one project looking at levels of environmental awareness among consumers. People had stated that they were very interested in green issues such as recycling and saving energy, but the lifelogging footage showed something different. “They realised that they weren’t being as green as they could have been,” he reports.

From a personal perspective I love this concept but it goes against our nature of our choice of memories which we historically record in a photo album. Rather than a edited version of events to recall happy memories in many years time, you cannot hide from the truth in lifelogging. A scary prospect for some... the camera never lies!

20 Apr 2010


by Chris Merriman / 2 Comment(s)

Cheryl Cole Sausage Roll Social Media Campaign

 “They” say that the forthcoming general election will be won or lost in the Blogsphere. Certainly, the evidence that Barack Obama’s victory was down to his tech awareness and tireless Tweeting is more than circumstantial. That’s not the purpose of this particular blog post, mind. The election is next month and I want to ensure that we (a) stay non-partisan and (b) can say “told you so” afterwards, rather than speculating.

This month, I find myself musing that familiar phrase that has entered our lexicon, namely the Facebook Campaign. It seems like rare these days that we can get through an entire news bulletin without the phrase “after a long fought Facebook campaign”, with all the authority of if William Shatner was asked to recite a paper by Professor Brian Cox.

I’ve always thought that Social Media is a “field leveller”. Suddenly the whole world has a voice. Whilst “the event” we’re not mentioning may be won or lost on blogs, the smaller battles, the ones that affect our every day lives, have moved to Facebook.

Whether it’s the Save BBC 6Music campaign, which so far, seems to have not only garnered nearly 200,000 fans, stemmed thousands to attend a protest and thousands more to complain to the BBC, or the inexplicable Can This Sausage Roll Get More Fans Than Cheryl Cole?, which seems to have captured  a Zeitgeist to the point where they are heading towards their second million followers, Facebook has become more than a Social Network. It’s a tool for democracy, of vox populi, of social change.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting the future of democracy to be MPs posting their views and voting based on the number of “Likes” – though it has given me an idea for a novel – but more that the fight for minority to be heard has been taken to the biggest family in the world.

“Great”, I hear you say, with one eyebrow quizzically raised. “But millions of squawking voices – does anyone listen?”. Of course they do. Let’s start with something that seems trivial but with massive repercussions beyond itself.

Remember the Christmas Number One last year? Unlike the umpteen previous ones, the top spot was held by a 20 year old rock-rap record by Rage Against The Machine. And why? Because a couple – Tracy & Jon Morter – set up a Facebook group.

*thinks* “Hmmmm.... this has more of a smack of the Sausage Roll/Cole page”.

Not at all. This was a protest. This was about Facebook orchestrating a campaign for change. For 500 years* the Christmas Number 1 had been dominated by tracks from Simon Cowell’s various “Guess The Winner - £1 a go” fairground sideshows. And people were getting bored of it. It was obvious (baaaa) that the (baaaa) record buying public would (baaaa) always go for the song that (baaaa) had been fed to them through primetime television.

The choice of “Killing In The Name” was perfect. With its refrain of “(Ahem) you – I won’t do what you tell me”, it screamed a message that the Cowell-tel was unwelcome and that music fans wanted a chart that represented taste, rather than passing fad.

The campaign was launched in under a month, and yet, come the glorious day, Joe Flibblebridges (can you remember his name?) was denied his Christmas Number 1. And Simon Cowell, in between bouts of sell flagellation over his “niavity” in not taking the vox populi seriously, had the front to tell the group members that they had robbed a little boy of his dream, whilst simultaneously offering The Mortons a job. (they declined, he got over it).

The point is, whether you believe that Social Networking is a beacon for modern times, or simply a covert tool used by The Illuminati to track our every waking moment, what’s beyond doubt is that it has brought a new layer of government to the world. The big stuff gets decided in parliament. The little things are subject to instant referendum on Facebook – and if that’s not proof of the power and versatility of the age we live in, then I don’t know what is.

Since I started writing this piece, we’ve had the first of the leadership debates has taken place and seem to have done a pretty good job of changing the landscape of the forthcoming General Election. So perhaps the internet is about the big things too. But more on that next month.


*give or take - my time perception is very poor

Voting on Social Media Networks



19 Apr 2010

Medway Council Website

Last month the Wickedweb team were delighted to be shortlisted in the pitch for the Medway Council website redevelopment project and, following a successful presentation, we are celebrating our recent appointment as the Council's digital agency of choice. 

As an Alterian technical partner, it was fitting that we were brought into the project to deliver an Alterian-compatible web design and employing our usability expertise we will ensure that the creative isn't developed just for the platform, but for the wide range of target users as well.  The potential website audience includes everybody the council serves, from residents of all ages, local employers and elected members to job seekers, public service partners and the media, requiring an all inclusive approach to design.

Our strategy is to convey the Council's core values and deliver an impressive website that works on a number of levels, from a creative treatment that engages all, to simple user journeys and quick access to content so that users find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently. The Council aims to not only enhance the user's online experience and interaction, but also improve the Council's performance in the next SOCITM report.

We are extremely proud to be partnering a Council in our own county and look forward to the next few months as usability testing and focus groups get well underway.

14 Apr 2010

Picture this scene for a few months time if you will. Instead of sitting on the Underground listening to the rustling of newspaper pages as the tunnel dwellers flick through their fix of free gossip and lonely hearts you can expect shaking, spinning, flipping and tipping as excited readers tuck into their new eBook, Alice For the iPad.

This 52 page app features illustrations restored from Lewis Carroll's original book and promises that no journey through the timeless tale will ever be the same - tilting the iPad in a different way will make the Mad Hatter madder or grow Alice to the size of a house.

Take a look below.

Unfortunately I suspect you won't be able to pick up a used iPad on the Central Lines for the journey home though.

9 Apr 2010

Last night Wickedwebers descended on Waterloo’s Dim Sum restaurant Ping Pong for a spot of No. 268 The Sichuan Feast Selection… Chicken, beef and clams individually cooked with Sichuan spice and served with ginger, garlic and chilli soy sauce… there were a few beers too... lovely food, lovely people, just lovely...

Wickedweb digital marketing team

1 Apr 2010

Beachcomber Mauritius Holidays - All Inclusive Holidays to Mauritius

Wickedweb is delighted to be working with Beachcomber Tours, based in Guildford, managing their ongoing search engine optimisation (SEO).

The decision was based on Wickedweb's expertise in online marketing, especially SEO, with the added value of experience working with high-end luxury travel clients.

Beachcomber Tours are a specialist travel company and are one of the leading companies in the UK for Mauritius holidays.  The brief for Wickedweb is to achieve page 1 results in Google for the sector’s major search terms; whilst this is a big undertaking, Wickedweb are excited by the challenge and are confident that we can exceed Beachcomber’s expectations.

The first step in the project is keyword research and defining the Keyword Strategy. This will help to ensure the right phrases are targeted and maximum traffic can be achieved.

1 Apr 2010

On March 23rd Google’s Matt Cutts gave an interview that highlighted a few areas Google look at when ranking and indexing a website. It’s not every day that Google offers an insight into how its algorithm works, so I thought I’d share a few gems with you today. Of course, most of this isn’t new to the SEO community, but it forms the next part of Google’s drip by drip strategy, dangling the carrot in front of Webmasters and SEO enthusiasts alike!

Recently, Google introduced “Site Performance” to their Webmaster Tools platform. It therefore comes as no surprise that Google consider page download speed in their indexing criteria. However, the interesting point here is that if sites have a slow server (typically caused by cheap shared hosting), Google may cap the total number of pages it will index at any one time, limiting your site’s ability to rank better and quicker. This reinforces the view of our own Head of Development who recently published a blog about the importance of good web hosting and follows our best practice recommendations too. Well done Ian!

The number of quality inbound links to your site has always been important in terms of improving Page Rank and keyword positions. However, Google also state that the number of pages they will index is proportional to the number/quality of inbound links. So, developing content is one thing, but if you want it indexed you must develop links.

Duplicate content causes problems. Again, nothing new here. However, Matt Cutts indicated that if you link from one page to a duplicated page, this may affect your page rank. Therefore, it’s very important that if your site does contain a lot of similar content, you should limit the number of links pointing to it to avoid loss of Page Rank.

The final pearl of wisdom relates to site architecture, navigation and how best to influence the flow of Page Rank. In this instance, Matt Cutts said that the best way to flow Page Rank is to link to related and similar content wherever possible. In other words, make important content accessible at all times and recommend relevant content through good navigation structure and links. Again, this sits nicely in line with Wickedweb’s practices of accessibility and usability testing.

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