Inside the industry and inside the agency
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
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.
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.
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.
All of my development life I have been fumbling around trying to fit the flash, text, and other content into each page of websites, always worrying about what will break or what will have to be changed. This became more and more frustrating and I was sure there must be an easier way...
After a while I started looking around for ways to ensure structural integrity of my web pages and faster ways of creating and uploading my new pages, I started to realise the only solution was to use a content management system (CMS); Although these seemed to have many drawbacks.
The first problem I encountered was the layout of these CMS’s. They were too confusing and often required more understanding of HTML and CSS than I was led to believe. Other problems included slow navigation time due to poorly written programs, no SEO automation, costs that were not represented by the product and poorly set up support.
Then something happened that never happened before...a team got together and said "we are going to build a CMS that has none of the ridiculous problems that the others hold on so tightly too" and so the CMS to conquer all other CMS's was born.
I was inspired to write about the Wickedweb CMS after the latest version was released with amazing updates including this tool that can crop your images while uploading!!
The Wickedweb team were excited and proud to be working with the London Vet Show in its launch year, designing the website and integrating it with the WickedwebCMS platform and suite of event specific modules.
Now, after the success of the inaugural event in November 2009 and along with the CloserStill Media team, we are thrilled to announce that the London Vet Show has been shortlisted for an award as the Launch Event of the Year by the Exhibition News Magazine.
The atmosphere at the show was buzzing, created by the packed lecture theatres and exhibition stands, making the event unmissable for the industry. This exciting new format for veterinary conferences is set to impress again in 2010, and is already booked to take place in a bigger venue based on the record delegate pre-registration figures and exhibitor floor sales, well in advance of the event.
For more information about the awards and to support the London Vet Show, visit the Exhibition News Website.
Charity websites have recently started realising that their website can be a very useful way for them to increase the interaction between themselves and their supporters, both existing and prospective. Whether it be through an online game or some other medium supporters of a charity can feel more involved than ever.
If you have signed up to sponsor an elephant there is potential for you to see ongoing photos and videos as it grows up. You can physically see the difference that you are making. With the addition of a content management system the charities employees themselves can keep their site up to date with latest developments. Whether that be the extra funds raised after a live event has finished or the number of animals rescued that day the charity can keep in touch with its support base and let them know what their donations are being used for.
Charities such as Concern Worldwide have created facebook pages with upwards of 2,000 followers who can easily be contacted when an event is taking place and also be kept updated on any relevant issues to them. The supporters can also easily invite their friends to join and the charities message can get to more users than ever before - one of the many benefits of social media marketing. With bandwidths increasing and more efficient media being introduced the charity websites of the future will be able to keep their support base informed and donating. Videos and photos of events will let people catch up with new found friends and through instant news updates see what a difference they made.
With increased numbers of potential supporters being contacted and through maintaining a fun, ever evolving and informative website, charities can hope to see the amount of money raised for their causes continue to increase year after year.
Wickedweb is delighted to be working with Kings Hall and Kings College, both based in Taunton, Somerset, to design and develop the new Kings websites.
The decision was based on Wickedweb's expertise in the education industry (having designed and developed the Bedales and Roedean websites) Wickedweb's intuitive content management system with school specific modules and the agency's approach to user centered design.
The brief is simply to better communicate the ethos at Kings Hall and Kings College, capturing the strong sense of community and "inclusivity" coupled with excellence in academia, sport and the arts. The website will be positioned as an internal communications tool to aid interaction between all the audiences at the schools, and a key sales and marketing tool to engage the external community.
The first step in the project is requirements capture meetings with the key stakeholders and user research focus groups to discuss the target audiences' needs and wants for the new websites. This will ensure that the strategy and end result is perfectly defined and that the website delivers return on investment.
The success of two recent exhibitions organized by CloserStill Media is hugely significant, given the current economic climate, and Wickedweb is proud to have been a part such record breaking achievements. The Pharmacy Show has just announced the highest attendance figures to the UK’s leading two-date training and education event, celebrating an increase of over 78% on last year. The Vet Show too, in its inaugural year, enjoyed packed lectures, delegate attendance in excess of all targets and stand sales for 2010 are already at 40% higher than this year’s event.
Wickedweb contributed to these fantastic results through digital marketing consultancy and web design and development. Taking the new brand guidelines for each event, we created websites that were fresh, vibrant and professional, and integrated them with the Wickedweb CMS platform and our event specific modules including exhibitor management, showguide entry form, seminar and conference timetable and book an appointment facility. The CMS provided intuitive administration control to the event organizers and even allowed a variety of users - the keynote speakers, clinic consultants and exhibitors – to manage their own pages too.
St Katharine Docks is London’s best kept secret location right in the heart of the city. Situated next to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London on the river Thames, St Katharine Docks offers a premiere luxury yacht marina and upmarket shopping destination in one, benefitting from great transport links and a wealth of fantastic restaurants.
The new look website for St Katharine Docks now positions the marina as sophisticated and stylish. It is contemporary in design and powered by Wickedweb’s CMS system which, with the photo gallery and news modules, will ensure the website is always be up to date and intriguing. The web design brief, to showcase the location and facilities and to promote the fact that anybody has rights to film at this exciting and trendy Dock, has resulted in a website that is impressive from the first glance, setting St Katharines apart from competitors and encouraging new business investment in the area.
The exciting new Rank Hovis website has risen! Freshly baked, the new web design features a vibrant and unique design, presenting the content in a modern and attractive style and injecting life into the trade information for the audience of bakers.
As a trade website, it has sifted Rank Hovis apart from its competitors - the intriguing and colourful design is a break away from the traditional B2B websites that will help the flour miller build vital loyal and retained relationships with bakers. Incorporating an enhanced fault finder to help the bakers improve their recipes, an animated history, healthy baking suggestions and quick access to Rank Hovis' services, the new website has gone down a treat.
The member login provides bakers with even more benefits, such as quick online ordering of merchandise packs to use in their window and shelf displays and a recipe finder. Packaged in the Wickedweb CMS platform, the content is served straight from the oven, to the screen, with many additional enhancements planned over the next year.
Rank Hovis said of the new website, "we are really proud of the new site and all the hardwork that has gone into it, with already loads of positive comments it's great that the website is having such an impact. The feel and look of the website, including all the extra features is sure to sustain Rank Hovis as the UK's leading flour miller and help to build the business in the future. Working with Wickedweb was an absolute pleasure and from the outset gave us full confidence in delivery of a top notch website. We have been more than happy with every idea, recommendation and expertise they have provided and we endeavour to work closely with them in future to help build our website and communication tools further."
Wickedweb's first website launch of 2009 was the all new Mitre website. With a high profile in the sporting world, this marks one of Wickedweb's most famous developments to date, and what a way to start the new year!
The new website features a strong, modern web design, improving the Mitre brand communication online. The user journey is clear and we've delivered a complete technical solution, integrating our Wickedweb CMS platform and building an international extranet system for Mitre's global partners. We are also pleased to be working on Mitre's international search engine optimisation, helping to develop organic traffic too.
Following a competitive 8-way pitch, Wickedweb has recently been appointed as the preferred digital marketing agency to Bedales Schools, the independent school based in Hampshire. The digital agency has already started to develop an innovative and engaging digital solution that will position the Schools in a league of their own, undertaking user research focus groups and conducting telephone interviews to capture the target audience requirements and preferences.
There are three Bedales Schools - Dunannie, Dunhurst and Bedales - catering for ages 3 to 18. Founded in 1893 as a liberal alternative to the rigid and authoritarian regimes prevalent in independent schools, Bedales has just introduced a new Prospectus which captures the schools' unique selling points - the dynamic and creative culture, the caring personality and the broad and imaginative approach to learning. It also conveys the breadth and quality of the schools' offering, including the unique mix of 21st century teaching methods and traditional hand-craftsmanship skills including bread baking and outdoor work, with enthusiasm.
The key objective of the web design brief is to capture this same sense of energy, diversity, spirit and quality online, as well as introducing an improved user journey and enhancing functionality for the target audiences, which is why Wickedweb's user centred web design process offered the perfect fit. Following the focus group research and persona creation, which has involved students, parents, governors, staff, and alumni, Wickedweb is working on the user experience strategy, information architecture and web design.
Bedales Schools will be running on the Wickedweb content management system, which provides the web editors and contributors at the school freedom to update and manage their own website and both internal and external communications. Following the initial launch, which will see the introduction of a dynamic events calendar, a 'My Bedales' login area for the parents to view their child’s timetable and progress reports online, the 12-month development plan includes webcams, multimedia content, a staff directory and a virtual school tour, creating a fully interactive solution.
With plenty of time spent in the classroom, soaking up the informal and innovative atmosphere at Bedales, the Wickedweb team are enjoying being back at school... we're off to the canteen!
Proving that we're well and truly on a roll, Wickedweb has been appointed by the Premier Food Group to launch a new website for Rank Hovis, the UK's leading flour miller.
We'll also be using our loaf to put together a flash animation of the workings of mill, and a recipe archive and fault-finder to help bakers in need of both inspiration and help.
We'll re-work the site's infrastructure, mix in our own bespoke CMS platform and then we'll serve it up in late September. It should be the best thing since...
Contact us to discuss your digital requirements
Tel. +44 (0)20 7183 4999
- Accessibility (2)
- Advertising (7)
- Alterian Immediacy CMS (6)
- Analytics (3)
- Application Development (9)
- Awards (17)
- CMS (19)
- Copywriting (2)
- Ecommerce (10)
- Email Marketing (7)
- Fun Stuff (48)
- Hosting (4)
- Intranets (1)
- Mobile (4)
- News (72)
- Pay Per Click (2)
- People (32)
- Project Management (11)
- Rich Media (6)
- SEO (17)
- Social Media (21)
- Systems Integration (7)
- Usability (12)
- Video (2)
- Web Design (48)
- Web Services (15)
- WickedWeb CMS (16)
- Windows Application Development (2)
- Application development
- Content Management Systems
- Digital Marketing
- Email marketing
- Fun stuff
- Online marketing
- Print design
- Social media
- Strategic Consultancy
- Systems Integration
- Web design
- Web design and build
- Twitter feed unable to load