Inside the industry and inside the agency
In my previous post Choosing the Best CMS Platform, I outlined a set of considerations for choosing a content management system from a systems agnostic point of view. In this post, I will discuss one of our preferred systems, Sitecore.
Choosing a CMS platform for your website can be a confusing subject. At Wickedweb, we are on hand to give you all the facts, so you can make an informed choice about which platform is right for you.
Stuart Wells, Managing Director at agency Wickedweb talks to Figaro Digital about best practice within design and build - Article by Jon Fortgang - Figaro Digital
"If you build it," runs the line in baseball drama Field of Dreams, "they will come."
That was back in 1989, but until comparatively recently the same theory underpinned plenty of design and build projects. Now that Google decides on ranking, campaigns are seeded on social and the mobile frontier opens up, brand managers and marketers need to approach the planning and construction of their sites – and in particular SEO - with scientific precision.
Wickedweb are a full service digital agency who specialise in this field. Established in 2002, the company's work with a range of clients over the last decade has provided them with a clear perspective on some of the most persistent challenges – as well as the greatest opportunities – open to digital marketers seeking to optimise their presence across all channels.
"We speak to some new clients now," says Stuart Wells, Managing Director at Wickwedweb, "who've been through maybe two or three versions of a design and build project, and they're a bit nervous at the start. They're saying to us, 'we've made these mistakes in the past, we've seen these errors crop up. How can we mitigate the risk and improve our top level approach to a design and build project?'"
For Wells and the team at Wickedweb, the answer to that has involved establishing a clear best practice procedure which, they believe, helps brands refine their objectives and focus on achievable goals with measurable value. So what, for Wells, does best practice within design and build actually entail?
"Most projects start with a client saying, 'I want to deliver this'," he explains. "'I want to do it in three months and this is how much I've got to spend.' But the reality is, at that point, nine out of 10 clients don't know what it is they're looking to achieve, they don't know how long it's going to take and they don't know how much it's going to cost. And the agencies tendering for the job don't know either, because until you get into those detailed workshops and discussions, you simply don't."
Wells uses a three-part model to describe the approach best suited to streamlining and unifying that process. "There's the budget," he says, "There's the deadline, and there's the delivery. The methodology by which a large scale design and build project is delivered is all-important. In years gone by you'd see the 'waterfall' methodology, where you do one stage of the project, agree it with the client, sign off and then move to the next stage."
The problem with that approach, explains Wells, is an inherent lack of flexibility. Budgets change, deadlines shift and objectives are reconceived. "A lot of times that ends in disappointment. We inherit a lot of clients who've been through that relationship. What we're looking at now is a more agile way of working, where we'll ask the client not necessarily to commit to a definite budget but a budget range, not to commit to an absolute deliverable, but to a deliverable range. And not to set their heart on an absolute deadline but to a range of dates. That way you can enter the project and be far more open and pragmatic and say, 'What is actually achievable here? What are you looking to do as a business and what can we do to give you as much value as possible?'
Given his experience, what, for Wells are some of the most persistent challenges facing brands and agencies as they embark on a project together? Though brand managers may imagine the tighter a brief the better, that isn't always the case.
"Eighty per cent of briefs are actually too specific," he explains. That might sound counter-intuitive in a field where clarity of purpose is key, but more information, it transpires, doesn't always mean better information.
"Most brand and marketing managers will have a good idea of what they want to achieve. Let's say it's an integrated campaign – they'll be aware of some of the things they can do in social media, some of the things you can do with a CMS. But they may not know the best things that can be achieved at that point in time. Often agencies will respond to those client requirements because the clients have been very prescriptive. But that may not be the best way to achieve a client's underlying objectives, because there are new methods or more technically advanced ways of doing things." As an example, Wells cites advances in browser-technology versus Flash. But the point, he says, is that agencies should be able to analyse a client's top-level objectives and then present that client with the best routes to achieving those aims, rather than having to stick to a rigid, pre-ordained road map.
Starting with SEO
Key to any design and build project is SEO. For Wells and the Wickedweb team, it's the foundation on which everything else rests. So how does best practice apply here?
"To get the best results in SEO," says Wells, "you have to be there right at the beginning. Your organic search strategy has to be considered right at the start of the project. And that search strategy needs to filter through to the content audit – understanding where content is going to be placed. It needs to filter through to the information architecture stage, ensuring that the structure is correct around the content and search strategy. And on the back of that it should fall into design and build in a way that's fairly straightforward. You're then at the point where you've got the right foundations for search."
Dealing with data
Though the focus is inevitably on the launch of any campaign, when it comes to looking at data, this is the beginning rather than the end of the story.
"The brands that we see doing best in digital are the ones who understand their data best," says Wells. In the past this meant relying on disparate methods of analysis. "Now, with newer platforms and technology – Sitecore for example - we're able to work with customers, look at the data, look at the audience and actually prescribe the user-journey we want people to go down as we engage with them. That strategy can be put in place right at the beginning of the project and be constantly checked and progressed throughout."
While agility and flexibility are key, Wells acknowledges that the speed with which digital technology moves means specific strategies must themselves remain fluid. What works this year may need revising next. But remaining nimble, adaptable and open to change is a surefire way for brands to protect – and see measurable returns on – the investments they make in digital.
Best Practice in Practice – 10 Tips For Design & Build
- Choose you partner agency on who they are – as people!
- Get the background on senior figureheads leading all key roles within the agency
- Ask about their internal project management processes and methodology, status updates and meetings
- Ensure you know your SLA, response times, maintenance and support retainers
- Ensure you know how they and you will measure the ongoing success of the project
- Ensure you have portability
- Ensure you have performance
- Ensure you have scalability
- Ensure you have targeted content
- Ensure you have data and information
Mosbuild is Russia's largest trade event, uniting the construction industry and Wickedweb has been working with ITE Exhibitions to deliver the new show website for 2012.
The challenge for next year's event is the new two-week format, but with a focus on usability, communication and strong creative, Wickedweb has achieved a solution that delivers this with clarity. Positioning Mosbuild as the premier event for construction and interiors specialists, the new website provides an engaging and useful business tool, rather than just the information portal of past websites.
Stuart Wells, Managing Director, comments "the digital visitor experience is just as important as a physical visit, and this year the Mosbuild website includes integration with multiple systems to facilitate tasks such as seminar booking - all housed within the new My MosBuild area. The result will be an intuitive solution which showcases why ITE Exhibitions is deserving of its coveted position in the industry”.
For more about this exciting website launch, visit the Mosbuild Website.
Wickedweb are the lead digital marketing agency for The Lifehouse spa, and we have had an exciting time working on their website launch and full technical systems integration.
The Lifehouse case study focuses on an interesting challenge: the marriage of brand positioning, technical consultancy and creative execution. There were a range of objectives that needed to be considered as part of the brief spanning functional, business and creative requirements. The solution executed by Wickedweb weaves these together. In addition, The Lifehouse spa was not visible online. At the start of our work there were no keyword listings and little brand awareness beyond their name. Therefore, an SEO strategy was implemented to turn this around.
This has been a successful case study and the results showcase the impact of the website and the SEO strategy. Want to find out more? Read on to discover how we did it…
Stacey Hedges, Marketing Manager at Lifehouse comments:
"Wickedweb have provided us with invaluable support, guidance and creatively in launching the website. The team have been a true extension to the marketing department and play an integral role in the development and evolvement of the site. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them and we look forward to continue to drive traffic to the site and future developments"
Schülke are the international specialists in infection control products, hygiene, disinfection and preservation, and are a long standing client of Wickedweb. The UK website was over - hauled by us a year ago and Wickedweb manage ongoing developments to the site and the digital strategy. One of schülke’s key objectives is to maintain their leading position in the market by ensuring the brand engages with its audience in an innovative way.
Following the website re-brand, schülke were keen to enforce this re-positioning, increase traffic to the site and encourage repeat visits. It was also paramount that we worked on raising awareness for the brand. Wickedweb advised creating a members area for the main schülke website as part of the content strategy, in order to bring engagement with the audience to the fore. In addition, a dedicated microsite for the dental portfolio was created to support a key campaign.
Our recommendation also included launching social media activity for the first time, which underpinned their data acquisition objectives. Furthermore, Wickedweb rolled out an SEO strategy.
Find out more about the overall strategy Wickedweb implemented for schülke and how this met the client’s objectives.
Nicola Furniss, Senior Product Manager for schülke comments:
“Wickedweb were integral to the launch of our re designed site which was intended to make us and our products and services more accessible to our customers. Wickedweb continue to support us both creatively and technically in our online activity as pioneers of infection prevention.”
Paul Scally appoints Wickedweb to deliver a suite of digital services across Gillingham Football Club’s portfolio.by Sue Akam / Make a Comment
Wickedweb are pleased to announce we are the agency of choice for Gillingham Football Club, and look forward to delivering a suite of digital services across the Club’s portfolio.
We have recently won the opportunity to deliver a range of websites for the Club, and will begin with the brand identity for Priestfield – the club's conference & banqueting facility. The brand strategy work will roll out into the design and build of the new website for the largest purpose-built venue of its kind in the south-east.
In addition, Wickedweb will also execute development work on two further websites for charities supported by the Club in order to raise awareness and funds. More details will follow.
We will also be developing a new approach and image for the Club’s online merchandising site.
Following the website builds, Wickedweb will conceive the digital media strategy to take the websites to the next level, and will begin with traffic driving initiatives via SEO and Social Media.
Murray Evans, Marketing Manager for Gillingham Football Club, said: “We searched for a partner who could deliver a range of innovative ideas and solutions for several very different needs. We have started with our conference and banqueting business, because it is crucial to the company's success off the pitch, and we look forward to working with Wickedweb on this and our other digital projects in the foreseeable future.“
Wickedweb adds Gillingham Football Club to our existing sporting credentials which include a global strategy, design and build project for Mitre International, a microsite for the Rugby World Cup in conjunction with The Telegraph and a website for Ben Garner, a top ranked squash player.
Wickedweb have published a new B2B case study today for our client Chaucer. Chaucer is an independent global management consultancy, providing tailored, hands-on and flexible support to clients in the delivery of strategic business projects and programmes.
Chaucer approached Wickedweb as they were aware of the limitations of their existing website. It was clear the site had not been an active marketing tool, and could work much harder at lead generation. With an impressive set of credentials and clients, Chaucer is very well positioned within the market – and Wickedweb were keen to harness this potential and build a solution that would maximize Chaucer’s growth for the future.
At the outset of this project, Chaucer put challenging KPI’s in place with regards to enquiry generation via the website. Wickedweb were tasked with a complete design and build overhaul of the website. The need for this was two-fold: to showcase Chaucer’s brand values and personality, and to manage a strategy around content which needed to be engaging and credible to prospects.
Furthermore, there was also a requirement for Wickedweb to implement a Content Management System for Chaucer that met the current brief and was scalable for future needs. Wickedweb’s proprietary PHP CMS was used, with a suite of modules executed to ensure the functionality was in place.
Overall, underpinning this project was a salient challenge that had to be met: How can Wickedweb convey and implement Chaucer’s approachable and friendly business approach across their website?
See how we did it.
We are delighted to welcome Riley Consulting to Wickedweb as a new client - a leading UK construction and property consultancy with over 100 years experience in the market.
Wickedweb have won the opportunity to focus on the design and build of the Group’s nine websites. Following delivery, our approach will be to launch Riley Consulting’s digital marketing strategy which we are confident will take the websites to the next level.
Our focus will be to build awareness of Riley Consulting and its affiliated brands within the construction industry. The key objective will be to build on their excellent position in the market by showcasing the Group’s specialised services to a diverse portfolio of clients.
Account Director Neil Narain comments “We are looking forward to optimising the brand and are driven to deliver a customer centric solution. It is essential that we engage the individual audiences, and the feature rich content we have planned will look to deliver this”.
Wickedweb have built up a solid reputation for delivering digital projects in the B2B sector, including clients such as EC Harris and our award winning work for Bluefin Solutions. We are perfectly placed to deliver a large scale web design and build project for Riley Consulting, with a design led approach. Furthermore, our solid experience across numerous CMS platforms has enabled us to identify moving forward with Umbraco as the CMS of choice.
This project launches in the Autumn 2011.
Wickedweb are pleased to add a further Content Management System platform to our portfolio as we are awarded partner status for Kentico.
The Kentico CMS is a .NET solution, and as a Microsoft Partner we are extremely well placed to implement websites on this platform.
Our clients will find this scalable, and with 30 modules it offers vast functionality. The user friendly interface is a key feature of this CMS. Kentico can be implemented across corporate sites, extranets, intranets, community sites and e-commerce.
For more information, call Anna Dixon on 0207 183 4999.
We are delighted to welcome ITE Exhibitions to Wickedweb. We were shortlisted and subsequently won the fantastic opportunity to deliver design and website build services for ITE Exhibitions; the organiser of over 180 leading international events a year.
Stuart Wells, Wickedweb’s MD says “I have no doubt the Wickedweb team will take one of ITE Exhibitions leading brands to an exciting new level. We will confidently deliver a website that showcases why ITE Exhibitions is deserving of its coveted position in the industry”.
Wickedweb have built up a solid reputation for delivering digital projects in the exhibitions sector, including clients such as Internet World, The Destinations Show, The Vitality Show, London and Southampton Boat Shows and our work with Closer Still Media. Furthermore, our award winning work in the B2B industry means we are perfectly placed to deliver a hard hitting digital solution for ITE Exhibitions.
As the project unravels, Wickedweb will be focusing on the key objectives of the new website; to increase visitor registrations, sales leads and overall traffic. This will be achieved in a number of ways including championing the brand vision, implementing usability studies to determine optimum user journeys and delivering strong message hierarchies. This site will launch in the Autumn and so watch this space...
Our trip to Sitecore's London office provided great insight into their critically acclaimed product. The trip also left our egos fully-bloated, as we departed on Friday being the only qualifying delegates on the entire course. Bragging rights aside, here's what we really thought:
Our first impression was the user interface, and how it resembled nothing we had ever seen before (in a good way). When in full-screen mode the experience was analogous to a remote-desktop session; the interface had in fact been modeled so strongly around Windows that it even had a 'Start' button. At one point I actually found myself trying to shutdown via Sitecore, but then sanity settled in.
We were also very impressed with 'sublayouts': a feature which allows users to add both content and structure into a page. Each sublayout may in-turn have additional sublayouts placed within it, and so on. This concept overcomes a problem present in many other CMSs, whereby developers have to be involved when new layouts are required.
On a more technical note, it's worth mentioning that the application's architecture is highly generic, although probably more so than you'd actually want. Simply put, the core architecture has few known truths: everything is an object, objects sit in a tree, ...and that's about it. There is no strict concept of types or constraints, which sits in contrast to more statically-typed systems like Umbraco. The CMS is in fact so dynamic that most of Sitecore is actually written on Sitecore (think Inception).
Whilst my colleague and I both concurred this is very clever, we also agreed it isn't necessarily smart. You have to ask: How dynamic is too dynamic? In the realms of enterprise application architecture, we need to make strong assertions about the state of a system to reduce the likelihood of errors. This is difficult with systems which are too dynamic, so it's going to be difficult with Sitecore. The oddity here is that the languages used to interface with Sitecore are statically-typed, but Sitecore's API promotes dynamic-typing: thus leaving us with two conflicting principals. There's almost a contradiction with how Sitecore claims to devote themselves to Microsoft technologies, but avert from embracing the statically-typed nature of their key languages.
However, for all of the following merits I'm willing to overlook this slight complexity, so let us conclude with the pros:
- Frequent upgrades. Sitecore has a fast-paced development team whom appear to concentrate most of their efforts into new functionality; a refreshing change from overly-cautious vendors. That said, we did notice several bugs in Beta, so let’s just hope they have regression testing nailed for RTM.
- Lively community. Despite being a commercial CMS, Sitecore has a sizeable following of users who are willing to share their code for free.
- Outstanding user interface. Because Sitecore's GUI was written on XAML, the interface has an uncanny resemblance to Microsoft Windows.
- Incredibly flexible layouts. Sitecore allows you to modify pages quite significantly without having to consult a developer. The whole process is very intuitive as changes can be performed in-situ.
- Support for Windows Azure. Sitecore informed us that considerable time was spent at the Microsoft Campus to integrate with this behemoth; a great example of their strong relationship with the software giant.
- Loads of generic CMS functionality: most of it useful (e.g. workflow), but with the odd 'peer-pressure' feature thrown in for good measure (e.g. Office integration - don't get me started).
All in all a fantastic CMS which is unparalleled to anything we've ever seen. Here's to innovation.
Wickedweb are excited to share the details of a website we have recently launched for Cosmetics à la Carte, a complex eCommerce solution delivered on the award-winning WickedwebCMS.
Cosmetics à la Carte are a premium, multinational brand and have enjoyed customers such as the late Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana to Blondie, Kylie, Kate Moss and Lady Gaga. Conceived in 1973, Cosmetics à la Carte pioneered the concept of 'made to measure' make up, and have been pushing the boundaries ever since for innovation. With the desire to overhaul their image and launch the brand online, Cosmetics à la Carte approached Wickedweb for an exceptionally stylised e-commerce solution.
Our brief was quite simple - to create the most interactive and personalised experience possible for a cosmetic brand online, and to replicate the 'human' element usually experienced in the stores. Wickedweb were tasked with elevating the existing Cosmetics à la Carte brand, and rolling this out across the website.
In terms of reporting, it is early days. However, Google Analytics already shows conversion to be anything between 2.9% and 5.9% which is well above average.
Goal conversions are strong at 6%, indicating that key junctures of the user journey are robust and intuitive.
The email campaign that followed the launch of the site is extremely encouraging, with click through rates at 30%. We look forward to building on this as we work further with Cosmetics à la Carte’s e-marketing strategy going forward.
Wickedweb's partner network keeps on growing!
We are very excited to become a certified partner of Sitecore, a very impressive .NET Web Content Management System that we can now offer our clients. Sitecore's offering continues to dominate a leading position in the market and we look forward to building award winning solutions for our clients using this platform.
In Gartner's Magic Quadrant report, Sitecore was identified as a leader in it's field - "The usability of Sitecore's offering continues to be one of the best within the market and is highly acclaimed by the many different user types that work with the solution".
This content-based CMS is a fully integrated platform including additional modules such as the Online Marketing Suite, Email Campaign Manager, SEO, eCommerce, Analytics and Intranets. Wickedweb's developers are keen to work their magic with this platform as it gives our clients a creative, cost effective and scalable solution. It can be implemented in both B2B and B2C, and although smaller companies have reaped the benefits, it is particularly suited to large design and build projects.
Not to mention, clients will find Sitecore a joy to work with due to its unrivalled ‘Best in Class' status for usability.
Call us to find out more about this Sitecore Partner platform – 0207 183 4999.
EPiServer have now released their second generation CMS, it’s fully integrated with EPiServer CMS 6 and EPiServer OnlineCenter and includes increased functionality to answer the needs of the market by following up the visitors’ behaviour with data and statistics.
EPiServer CMO is the perfect tool where you receive an instant answer on how your campaigns are performing and which landing pages are delivering the best results. You do not need any technical skills and can easily test and analyse the results yourself. It has never been easier to measure your web presence.
EPiServer CMO allows marketers to test and measure the result of any online campaigns. The campaign can be adapted in real-time to ensure that the desired return of investment is achieved. With EPiServer CMO you can easily measure and monitor online campaigns and optimise your landing pages.
The latest version, EPiServer CMO 2.0, not only has more user-friendly user interface and is more robust, but also includes improvements in user experience through increased responsiveness in the user interface. EPiServer CMO is one of the most requested add-on products for EPiServer CMS based.
The key features of EPiServer CMO are:
- Campaign management, analysis and statistics
- Budget and measurement of your online activities
- Live and real-time visibility of your web visitors
- Real-time measurement of activities through KPI’s
- Monitoring of the conversion rate against predefined goals
- Easy export of statistics and test data
MediaPro is an exhibition about delivering effective integrated communications across digital, social and print media for marketers, brand managers, agencies and the media. We are very proud to have been chosen by CloserStill Media (the organisers), to deliver the website for an event which is so pivotal in our industry.
Wickedweb assisted with the fantastic results through digital marketing consultancy and design and development. We created an informative, corporate yet clean and fresh design, integrated with our own WickedwebCMS platform and our event specific modules including exhibitor management, entry forms and seminar and conference timetable. The CMS provided intuitive administration control to the organisers and allows a wide range of users, keynote speakers and exhibitors, to manage their pages themselves allowing the site to change and reflect individual campaign messages.
We are proud to announce the launch of Prime CFD’s new look website, the site is powered by WickedwebCMS our own custom built content management system, allowing Prime CFD to update all areas of their website with ease.
The new site features CRM integration allowing contacts and leads to automatically feed data from forms to the database, removing the need for manual input of data received by email.
The site is user-friendly through clear presentation of information and easy user journeys, and particularly, features an easy to fill in form to boost registrations and data capture.
Long-term, the aims for the Prime CFDs website are to improve organic ranking results so that increased traffic volumes are driven to the new online offering, and improved data capture – both volume and quality of data. In addition, one key performance indicator of the website over the long term is the growth in funds invested with Prime CFDs.
Wickedweb has been working with Bluefin Solutions, a global SAP consultancy, over the last four months to fully understand their audience, design and develop their new website and integrate with Alterian's new Content Management System, ACM-p.
Bluefin Solutions works with clients to improve their business performance, including the BBC, Barclays, Royal Mail and Shell, to name a few, and the website was tasked with reflecting the organisation's premium position, and service, to present a more credible online solution and powerful tool for growth.
Objectives included awareness building, lead generation and improved communication of the company's focus on delivering better outcomes for clients through a higher level of expertise, versus key competitors.
Our strategy included user research, with consultants and clients, to fully understand the website's audience. Conducting one-to-one interviews provided invaluable insights and shaped the user experience strategy. Personas focused the creative rationale and the concept, which considers the end user throughout, answers both business and target audience requirements.
The website is dynamic and engaging, with unique and compelling creative and photography taken with the Bluefin Solutions team, at their new Chiswick Park address, portrays the approachable personalities and people-focus at the heart of the consultancy.
Using a different design template for the careers section, the website caters for both clients, existing and prospective, and employees, as the very best candidates are encouraged to apply by the high level presentation and confident, professional approach.
Optimising the website from the ground, up, means that it is set to excel from an SEO perspective too.
We are closely monitoring the website's performance to ensure it delivers against key targets, and will work with Bluefin Solutions to continually enhance the website and grow ROI long-term.
The Glass-House Community Led Design is a national charity working with community groups across the UK to promote a wider understanding and practice of community led design. The organisation provides free project support and design training to community groups who are leading regeneration projects in their area. This includes projects focused on local housing, public spaces, community buildings, play areas, facilities for young people or entire neighbourhoods.
With a website that is underperforming and inconsistent brand communication online and off, Wickedweb's brief is to develop the brand identity, presenting new brand guidelines that demonstrate a clear understanding of the complex range of services the charity offers to communities across the UK and the varied audience that The Glass-House needs to engage. Refreshing and clarifying the brand to provide a set of guiding principles will ensure clear communications and successful marketing campaigns long-term.
Wickedweb's next focus is to develop the charity's digital strategy and reflect the new branding online to raise awareness and the profile of The Glass-House amongst key audiences, generate interest and new clients for The Glass-House’s paid services and encourage online donations through the Just Giving link. In addition, Wickedweb will deliver key benefits to the organisation's administrators, including an intuitive content management system (The Glass-House will be using the WickedwebCMS platform), enchanced data collection mechanisms to grow the subscriber database, exciting feature functionality and a superior hosting solution for maximum uptime and quick loading.
Check back soon for news on the website launch and more information about the WickedwebCMS modules that will deliver an impressive user experience.
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