Starting off in Design – Qtr end Jul 11 (Final Edition)

By | September 16, 2011

Welcome to my 5th and sadly final boast ahem I mean post.

I’m joking.

I must say that the past year has been terrific. It’s truly amazing when you think of how my fellow students and I have had to survive from having the course condensed from 15 months, for the previous intake down to 12 months for us.

I think we haven’t just survived – we’ve excelled.

The class is full of talented individuals and I have no doubt this is the start of something BIG!!!

So let’s get to it – What are my top tips for “starting off in design” this quarter?

1. Beware Carpal Tunnel and Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)

Okay so this is not a design tip. However, serious hours in front of a computer can lead to back, neck and wrist problems.

As you all know I am on an internship at Pearson’s which I’m glad to say got extended until the end of the year. However, after spending all day using a mouse and then returning home to work for more hours on webdesign I found my body was placed under severe strain.

Presently, I’ve had to stop using my right mouse arm as I am suffering RSI. This can be alliviated through rest and ergonomic devises such as a “rat” (basically a mouse but bigger and higher so your hand can grip as opposed to rest) and splint supports.

Remember, your right arm (or left) is your breadwinner – protect it!

2. See the woods from the trees with a little help from your friends!

Sometimes when you work for days on a project it is difficult to remember the overall picture. For example what is your design trying to communicate? Are you appealing to the right people? This is especially true if you charge into a task with little thought or indeed forward planning.

Sometimes asking friends or preferably friends who have an interest and knowledge about the market you are trying to target can be helpful. Ask them to list their criticisms rather than what they like to begin with.

You’ll find fresh eyes can provide the light you need to lead you out of that sometimes dense and dark forest.

3. David shut up already – and show us what you’ve got!

By now I gather you know everything about design and probably don’t need to hear me bang on anymore.

In which case I shall show you my work at Pearson’s.

In the four months I’ve been here I have designed and had printed over 50 books. These are books specifically for a University audience i.e. students and lecturers. The books contain material sourced from different books relevant to that subject.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog these past few months and I wish you well for your future in Web Design.

Much love

David 🙂

Starting off in Design – Qtr end Apr 11

By | May 14, 2011

Hi All – I’m back again!

Well it’s 1:57am Friday night and unfortunately I’m sad enough to be indoors, unable to sleep and at a computer terminal. Well what better way than to spend it with you guys and write my third installment of “Starting off in Design”!

A lot has happened in the three months since I last updated my blog entry. Firstly, I got engaged (at last, right!), secondly, I finished my penultimate piece of coursework before the big mama itself is due at the end of September – my final thesis! And thirdly, I obtained a 3 month internship at the biggest publisher in the world – Pearsons!

So what are my top tips as per usual this quarter:

1. Read, read and read some more – every night I take a textbook to bed with me. Whether it’s coding or design I make sure I read at least 15-30 mins a night. Hey it doesn’t seem like much but trust me, the more you go over things and challenge yourself with new ideas the better a designer you become!

2. Get your ass out there and hustle – I realised after Christmas that we’d be given four months off to prepare our thesis for submission. This time would be sufficient for the average person however, being a workaholic who regularly does 12 hours days of solid coding and design I figured I would get through quite a bit and therefore might not need the full requirement.

Therefore, after Christmas (February to be exact) I applied or rather I emailed about 15 companies to see if they had vacancies in their design department. I got no love. Not even a reply! As Michael Douglas once said in Ridley Scott’s 1989 thriller –  Black Rain, “I like to get kissed before I get f**ked!”.

However, a break through came and Pearson’s got back to me. They liked my websites and thought some of my designs were very creative. I got a first stage interview. I passed. Then I had a training day and passed that too. I now start at the end of May!

3. It’s never too late – I’m 31 years old. I was a Tax Advisor who obtained a Marketing degree. Throughout my career I was never happy and was confused at where my future would lie. Finally, I took the leap and changed careers. I’ve had to work hard just like everyone else in my class but have achieved more in 8 months doing this course than in my whole 8 years in Taxation.

I was a straight “A” student in Art and Design when I was a teenager at secondary school. I never pursued Design as a career as frankly as a young boy I dreamed of driving fast cars and being rich. Happiness or joy for what you did never came into it. Thankfully, I woke up. I now love what I do and wouldn’t choose anything else. If you want it – go for it!

Final Crit

By | May 4, 2011

Business

The aim is to get clients on to the website and ultimately into the salon.

Main revenue streams to be generated through the website will be:

  • Advertising of Products and Affiliates
  • Voucher Sales (I.e., Spa Days)
  • Money Off Coupons
  • Promotional Offers (I.e., Bring a friend and you both get 10% off)
  • Product Sales

Presently, all revenue is generated instore. Sales are reliant on recommendation and passing footfall.

A website which has something to offer has benefits for both salon and client:

  • Improved interaction and communication through online sales, promotions and articles
  • Improved cash flow through online sales paid directly into bank account
  • Allows to forecast demand through pre-booking

Firmness

  • About – Jquery slider gallery, XHTML, CSS styled
  • Prices – XHTML, CSS styled
  • Offers – XHTML, CSS styled
  • Styles – Jquery slider gallery, XHTML, CSS styled
  • Products – Jquery slider gallery, XHTML, CSS styled
  • Appointments – Jquery calendar/form, XHTML, CSS styled

Commodity

After interviewing staff and customers, the reason Zest is popular is because of affordability and convenience and of course good hair cuts.

The site navigation would seek to display:

  • About
  • Price
  • Special Offers
  • Style Finder
  • News
  • Products
  • Appointments

These pages sum up the customers requirements. Price and saving money is important and are therefore displayed at the start of the list.

Delight
This design will need tweeking. Following changes to make include:

  • Map/Directions on Home Page
  • Staff Interviews on Home Page
  • Smaller Image Slider on Home Page (which will enable other content below to show in the limited above the fold area)
  • Colour to convey Zest Brand
  • Include Promotional Offers and Booking Option within Image Slider

Crit 4 – Delight

By | March 28, 2011

Crit 4 – Delight

Proposed aesthetic and graphic design policy [This should be presented with the help of :

(1) a few screen shots of websites with a comparable graphic policy

(2) examples of non-web art or graphic productions which show a comparable design philosophy

(3) your own collage/montage to show the design policy in non-electronic form].

I have determined through market research the target market of my salon. They are young professional women, young mums and young professional men. They enjoy the value proposition that the salon offers which is quality haircuts, conveniently located and at an affordable price.

Any design must reflect the client’s expectations and what the salon is able to offer. For example it is no good marketing ones self as a luxury supplier of watches when is reality all you sell is disposable plastic watches.

In order to find a design that fits we must consider other offerings that our target market enjoys.

These examples refer to point (1) above. First I shall examine the cognate:

I have viewed some of the leading sites: Toni and Guy, Headmasters, Rush Hair however, although the navigation and site layout is excellent the design is rather repetitive. I.e., young attractive women, the use of silver to indicate the metallic nature of cutting and styling instruments, black and white images to indicate professionalism and style. This is not a bad thing as clients have expectations of what they do and do not want to see.

Here’s a snapshot from Headmasters salon (www.hmhair.co.uk) below.

This is a recruitment page. However, I feel the visual communication is excellent. I am not sure what font-face has been used here for the heading? However, the H1 font-face has a traditional, printing press feel. The body copy is Arial, which is easy to read on screen and is Microsoft’s interpretation of the Contemporary movement’s classic font-face, Helvetica.

The colour scheme is earthy. Browns and greys indicate an organic feel that promote vitality and nature. The white border encases and promotes the content within. White reflects cleanliness and purity.

The model, is shot in quite harsh light, you can see her bone structure and skin clearly. She appears strong and independent. Additionally, she is shot from below. This is a classic camera angle which is often used to symbolise power and authority as she appears to be looking down on you. Further, it gives the model an almost statuesque feel, even though it is only a head shot.

I will now examine the non-cognate. Check out these attached sites. Look at how colour is used to communicate and add life to the brand!

Zest the word means: vibrancy, energy, excitement, passion, vitality, fire, animation, dynamism (Oxford Dictionary, 2010).

The company above is a PR company called Think Zest (www.thinkzest.com). I wanted to examine how the word Zest could be used to communicate a company’s brand proposition.

There are no tacky images of lemons and limes. However, the connotations of the word have been used to illustrate the brand. A fashionable living room delivers excitement and passion for style. When you scroll over elements within the homepage, items of furniture jump out and move, this delivers animation and dynamism.

The overall visual is friendly and inviting however, the company has used colour to balance this. There are really two colours: greys which give a corporate feel and lime green which highlight key areas of importance. Images and shapes are square and sharp which indicate precision as well as the contemporary nature of some modern day design.

My thesis project is to redesign a salon’s website for a company called Zest.

Currently, there is nothing in the salon that reflects the word’s connotations. The salon’s colour scheme is simply black, white and chrome. How do these colours represent Zest as a brand? A touch of colour is badly needed. Zest is not just about black and white, neat and tidy.

Point (2) has really got me to focus on the direction of the design.

I love the use of contrasting colour between the yellow zest and the cool blue marble peel within the Bombay Sapphire advertisement. The marble and the zest represent a complete contrast. The marble is cold and solid and exudes connotations of luxury and wealth. The zest is bright, vibrant, warm and full of excitement. I love how colour is used to educate the viewer and how it ties in seamlessly to the bottle next to the display.

The top right in the composition shows a picture of Spanish bathroom design company Porcelanosa with their Hong Kong store. This store caters to their target market, wealthy professional people and affluent young homemakers. It is marble, statuesque, featuring sharp angles and shiny clean surfaces. The dash of vibrant red gives the image distinction and boldness within the design. Red is also a symbolic colour in China and represents prosperity among other things. I love how the pillars represent authority, wealth and tradition yet the lights above are modern and curved in shape. This frames the store and informs the customer what he can expect when he enters. I can learn from this when creating my home page for my salon. Setting the theme for what lies within.

The bottom right shows the Criminal Court building designed by architect Rafael De La Hoz. The helicoid (spiral) represents the different layers of the justice system. When I was looking for inspiration for my salon, I noticed this image as the helicoid looked like peel from an orange. I also liked the purity of the white and the airiness and lightness created from a large open space which serves to draw people in and is also inviting.

Point (3) I realise this is to be done in non-electronic form however, I confess I do not have a wide range of print to thumb through and to cut and paste on to an A1 board. However, I have brain stormed the concept.

I believe the concept of Zest Salon lies through finding a balance between the black and white appearance and branding of the salon and the meaning of “zest” the word.

Arguably, black and white represents classic photography, art deco, chess, roman pillars, corporate, chic, school blackboard, Chanel, Hugo Boss, newspapers, tuxedos, dinner parties, high society.

Zest on the other hand represents lime, lemon, peel, spray, energy, passion, vibrance, movement, motion.

I have to combine both sets of words to find a unique position to occupy in the minds of potential customers and regulars.

Here are my four finished designs.

This is an Art Nouveau influenced design. Many clients are wealthy and sophisticated. I wanted to give this a 1950s French feel similar to those Stella Artois adverts filmed in Monaco and set during a similar period.

This is more Art Deco. Again, I have hand drawn the model to give her a cut out, old style feel. There are a few more contemporary touches here such as the underlining and choice of font. The colours scheme also mimics the salon’s interior and branding.

This is a modern take on Zest. It is the same format to the others above but features a modern high quality visual. It also uses yellow to represent the Zest brand.

This is inspired by Chanel and Harrod’s websites. It is a mainly image based website. The models are well dressed and reflect the clientele and those who aspire. There are references to classical fashion where black and white colours are used to portray class and elegance.

The Director chose this one. I will now start designing all other pages and will commence site construction shortly.

Editorial and Advertising uses of Images

By | March 8, 2011

4.4 ‘What is the difference between the editorial and advertising use of images?’ (Use examples and legal cases)

Editorial vs. Advertising – An ongoing fight.

Advertising and editorial. Historically, the two have gone together like, to quote a dear friend, ‘bologna and whipped cream’. Meredith L. Dias.

The above quote was taken from an article written by Meredith L. Dias and published by Strat on 16th November 2010 entitled The Ethics of Digital Magazine Advertising (http://www.publishinghelp.com/strat/archive/2010/11/entry_374.html). It refers to the relationship between the advertising department, which attempts to build relationships with sponsors and the editors, which focus on the content. The two should never cross.

Definition

Editorial Images

Editorial Photographers Organisation website – http://www.editorialphoto.com/ has the following definition:

“Editorial refers to the market – primarily books, magazines, and newspapers where images are used to promote the content within.”

Advertising Images

About.com summarizes the definition below. (http://marketing.about.com/od/marketingglossary/g/imageaddef.htm)

Promoting the image, or general perception of a product or service, rather than promoting its functional attributes.

Example

An image showing Jack Daniels with some emotive text below promoting the bourbon would be classed as an advertisement image.

Where as text that recommends good bourbons next to a picture of Jack Daniels would be classed as an editorial image.

Guidelines

In the UK, we have the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). This regulates the content of advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing. The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising_Standards_Authority_%28United_Kingdom%29).

ASA’s guidelines are listed in the CAP Code (http://www.cap.org.uk/The-Codes/BCAP-Code/BCAP-Code-pdf-versions.aspx).

The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) has guidelines for editors and publishers. It attempts to codify longstanding practices governing the relationship between editorial and advertising content.

The guidelines ensure that practices commonly used by editors and publishers to prevent or resolve editorial-advertising conflicts are clearly understood and consistently applied throughout the consumer-magazine industry. (Please click here for further information http://www.magazine.org/asme/asme_guidelines/guidelines.aspx)

Salient points are:

  • Every reader is entitled to fair and accurate news and information
  • The value of magazines to advertisers depends on reader trust
  • The difference between editorial content and marketing messages must be transparent
  • Editorial integrity must not be compromised by advertiser influence

ESPN and Powerade

A 2009 cover design from ESPN Magazine showed a fold-out flap over half of the cover with the words, “You wouldn’t settle for an incomplete cover.” Pulled back, the flap reveals an ad for Powerade.

ASME did not comment on this but in an interview with Gary Hoenig, the general manager and editorial director of ESPN Publishing he exclaimed, “We’re certainly conscious of industry standards, and in retrospect, did we push the envelope a little bit on this one? Maybe.

But we keep looking for ways to help our advertisers out, so we’re not going to be unwilling to listen if there’s an interesting idea.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/media/08adco.html).

Advertorials

Advertorials differ from traditional advertisements in that they are designed to look like the articles that appear in the publication. Most publications will not accept advertisements that look exactly like stories from the newspaper or magazine they are appearing in.

The differences may be subtle, and disclaimers – such as the word “advertisement” – may or may not appear. Sometimes euphemisms describing the advertorial as a “special promotional feature” or “special advertising section” are used. The tone of the advertorials is usually closer to that of a press release than of an objective news story. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertorial).

In the UK and the US and Canada, the advertising standards agencies require advertorials to be clearly marked as such.

However, because there are no penalties that can be administered if a company fails to do so. This has lead to some articles or rather adverts appearing to cross the line.

Canwest Global Communications in partnership with Shell published a six-week feature on climate change. Newspapers in Canada traditionally label a paid editorial ad as an advertising feature, but this was touted as a “special information feature.” The content within raised eyebrows, as some of the claims were dubious and bias, clearly in favour of the oil company. (http://www.ffwdweekly.com/article/news-views/news/canwest-5216/).

It is understandable why a company would want to publish an image that clearly aids the promotion of the company. As the Chinese proverb states ‘a good picture is worth ten thousand words’.

However, companies are aware that images used in editorials by magazines and newspapers, are often used by journalists who try to give a balanced account of the subject or subjects they are reviewing. And of course journalists are usually not on the payroll of these companies. Print thus can have an air of respectability.

Companies may try to present information in this fashion. An image presented as editorial rather than advertising can give the company more room to brag about its benefits and appear respectable, however most likely the article may be entirely one sided.

But, by not declaring the image and its content as an ‘Advertorial’ the company can run the risk of negative publicity by various standards authorities and even be seen to be acting unethically in trying to influence consumers unfairly.

Conclusion

David Granger, the editor in chief of Esquire magazine was interviewed by the New York Times. The article was entitled ‘Magazines that blur the line between ad and article’. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/media/08adco.html).

He mentions that when he and his publisher began working on projects, “they came to an agreement on certain principles, and one was that there had to be real, viable reader benefit to any of the things we did.” He said that other cover treatments, like ESPN’s and Entertainment Weekly’s, “are pure advertising iterations.

They don’t really do anything to enhance the editorial,” he said.

ASME and ASA does not have powers to enforce what they believe in. After all they are an independent bodies which can only encourage good practice through a list of published guidelines.

For publishers and editors, the allure of advertising revenue may outweigh the threat of a strongly worded letter and for that reason editorial images will be compromised over advertising images.

Crit 3 – Firmness

By | March 4, 2011

What problem am I trying to solve?

The problem: The business is dying and we are looking to the web to save it.

No one knows about Zest Salon outside of Battersea. Therefore no one visits the website other than local clients. Even if they do visit the site, they don’t stay long as it has nothing to offer. Effectively, a customer has walked into our virtual salon and has parted with nothing. A website should aim to generate revenue.

The salon’s beleaguered argument has been that because all sales are generated locally through passing footfall, there is no need to provide a decent website.

I have succeeded in changing their opinion. My argument is that a website will offer a platform to communicate with customers and potential customers outside of the salon and to a wider audience. With the aim of generating revenue and building a brand.

How does my website solve the problem?

As mentioned the problem is a lack of awareness about the business. My solution is to increase awareness via an improved website which in turn will increase instore revenue.

How will I do this?

At first I was swayed towards popular content management system (CMS), WordPress. Then I read Smashing Magazines article entitled: Getting started with content management systems (http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/11/08/getting-started-with-content-management-systems/).

This provided a list of criteria to assess whether you needed a CMS:

  • Does your company update its website content frequently?
  • Does your website contain over 10 pages?
  • Do you constantly outsource simple website updates to third parties?

In all three cases the answer was “no”. I realised I did not match the customers requirements with what was needed to be displayed on the site.

The site will now be handcoded with XHTML and styled with CSS. Functions will be performed with Javascript and possibly PHP. I have listed all the pages in the site below and what technology will be required.

  • About (Small Flash animation introduction to deliver delight and communicate brand)
  • Price List (No technology)
  • Special Offers (Jquery calender to deliver online booking facility)
  • Style Finder (Jslider displaying haircuts)
  • News (Possibly PHP to link and display Twitter/Facebook articles and comments)
  • Product List (Jquery Lightbox or Jslider to display images)
  • Contact (PHP or Javascript form)

Will it make money?

I will begin handcoding on my desktop.

Once my client is happy, I will upload the files onto the main server. This is a hosting company called Bluehost. I have already purchased my domain from them.

Customers can view products and read articles online to educate themselves. This gives them a reason to stay on the site.

They can also convert interest into an action and can decide to book in advance online to take advantage of a special offer. The days offered for these discount days will be controlled. Customers will be offered slots on non-peak hours in advance. This will allow trade to be regulated to cover quiet periods.

Keyword Research and Phrases for SEO

By | February 22, 2011

I am presenting 2.3, however I’ve prepared notes for the other points as I found the subject interesting (Thanks Jena!!).

(2.1) ‘Why is keyword research and planning at the heart of web content planning?’

(2.2) ‘What is the Long Tail and how should it be used in web content planning?

(2.3) ‘What are the main techniques of offsite promotion?’ (see Wilsonweb Web Marketing Checklist of onsite and offsite promotion)

(2.4) Show how a keyword analysis tool can be used to produce a keyword strategy for your thesis project, and present the strategy graphically

(2.5) Show how a keyword analysis tool can be used to produce a keyword strategy for your thesis project, and present the strategy graphically,

(2.6) ‘Show how a keyword analysis tool can be used to produce a keyword strategy for your thesis project, and present the strategy graphically [Note: the students doing these seminars must arrange with each other to use different Keyword Analysis Tools]

(2.1) ‘Why is keyword research and planning at the heart of web content planning?’

Good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ensures that your page is listed by search engines higher up the rankings, more often and ahead of its main competitors.

Leaving careful planning time to ensuring your mark up has good and targeted SEO could be the difference to your website being listed on page 1 of Google and having a 1000 visitors or being listed on page 3 and having only 100 visitors. It just makes good business sense.

(2.2) ‘What is the Long Tail and how should it be used in web content planning?

The Long Tail was popularized by Chris Anderson in an October 2004 Wired magazine article. Before I attempt to explain this concept, it might be worth reading this article, it’s interesting and provides good working examples not just for SEO:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

Essentially, The Long Tail Concept within SEO is using the massive numbers of the less popular keywords in searches. The volume in this market is often many times as many as the single hard to obtain keywords at the top of the pile.

This concept can be applied to SEO Keywords. For example when people search for a place to have their hair cut. The most search results would be using a keyword such as Hair Salon, followed by the town they live or work in. These keywords according to Hittail.com are usually 1-3 words in length.

Longtail keywords are usually 4-6 words and are more targeted. A potential hair salon client will usually type into google exactly what he is looking for, so if he wants ‘ Hair cuts for students ‘ that’s exactly what he types in or ‘ cheap hair cuts with student discount ‘. By targeting the one primary and common factor ‘hair cuts’ is not a bad thing but you should always target as many variations as possible of the main keyword with dedicated pages featuring those terms on the page.

Therefore, you would create dedicated pages for those two terms and maybe more! They could be within a blog about hair cuts for students or a page which features rich content about hair cuts for students.

Use the google keyword tool and overture keyword tool to generate lists of terms used and create content rich pages to match. Then hunt the web and find places to advertise your site not forgetting to obtain deep links where possible.

(2.3) ‘What are the main techniques of offsite promotion?'(see Wilsonweb Web Marketing Checklist of onsite and offsite promotion)

Let me first identify what onsite SEO is. It is SEO within the mark up of your own site.

Basic onsite SEO Factors:

-Title Tag ( with Keyword)
-Meta Description ( Consistent with Title Tag)
-Meta Keywords ( Consistent with Title tag and Description)
-H1 Tags ( with Keyword)
-Graphic Alt Text ( with Keyword)
-Keyword Hyperlinks
-Keyword Density in body text
-Keyword in Menu Links
-Footer Page with Keyword Text Links

Offsite linking is generally thought of as the most effective way to raise in the search engine rankings. However if your on site SEO is not complete you are battling an up hill battle.

When planning your off site linking strategy you need to keep in mind that reciprocal links are considered devalued through the latest round of algorithm updates. Textual Keyword Rich links from various C-block IP address are the best links possible.

There are many ways to receive quality links.

Some of the top linking strategies to receive quality links come from the following venues:

  • SEO Friendly directories – get your company and its url listed
  • Blogs – write articles on other peoples blogs and post your url so the reader can learn more by clicking on it
  • Press Releases – submit an article to a local paper online featuring a voucher. Display your contact details and url so readers can learn more and be taken to a landing page if neccessary
  • Social Networks set up your own Facebook group. Once again show your url on the group. Groups as with forums get people talking and generating content, they can follow your link to your site if they want to learn more.
  • RSS Feeds – if you publish an RSS feed and your content is useful and regularly updated, some people will syndicate your RSS content and show your links on their sites.
  • Other relevant popular sites see below.

Linking your url from a popular and similar affiliate site will see your rankings improve.

This is because search engine spiders use the content of the other site you are linked from as well as your own content. More content, means better results. This will propel your site up the rankings.

This is particularly true when you consider that the majority of searches on the web are of a long tail nature. If your site or the site it is linked from has many of the keywords typed in by the user, then it is more likely spiders will visit your site to get the relevant information. Thus propelling your site upwards.

Growing your links in a consistent manor is also relevant. Creating 1000’s of links in a short period of time could set up red flags. You will receive many links via RSS Feeds from the sources described above and be successful in your linking campaign.

I performed a test whereby I typed in the word “hair” into Google. I expected to see Hair the Musical and also the Wikipedia entry, however I also expected to see some of the UK’s big hair salons such as Toni and Guy.

I didn’t see the big franchise hair salons as I’d expected. The sites listed high had great onsite and offsite SEO such as Wikipedia. One site in particular which interested me was a site called Hair Boutique, as shown at the bottom of the picture (above).

The site uses great offsite SEO. Their links appear on other related and successful sites, many of which they have created themselves and are offshoots of the brand.

As you can see their url www.hairboutique.com is linked from many relevant content packed sites. Affiliate sites include:

  • http://talk.hairboutique.com/
  • http://styler.hairboutique.com/hair-styler.php
  • http://blogs.hairboutique.com/
  • http://hairstyles.hairboutique.com/

No doubt you’ve loaded one of these pages up and are wondering where is the www.hairboutique.com url. Well it’s on the home tab.
This site is quite cleaver as the branding and colours used give the appearance that you’re on one site – www.hairboutique.com. Actually, you’re on many different ones.

For SEO humour and also some very good advice, check out:

http://www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml

This gives 101 tips on how to get your website up the rankings. Some tips are good, and some are rather far fetched such as the “Getting Links by Being a Jerk” section or the tip entitled “Get sued by a company people hate”.

Another good site is SEOMoz. I know many of you are aware of this and use it regularly.

Every two years, SEOmoz surveys top SEO experts in the field worldwide on their opinions of the algorithmic elements that comprise search engine rankings.

Each participant was asked to rate more than 100 search ranking factors along with specific questions about hot issues in the SEO field.

Here are the results (http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors):

(2.4) Show how a keyword analysis tool can be used to produce a keyword strategy for your thesis project, and present the strategy graphically

Before a strategy can be implemented, certain questions must be asked according to SEOBook (http://www.seobook.com/keyword-research-strategy-flowchart)

  1. Create a targeted list of keywords.
  2. Use a Thesaurus to expand keyword vocabulary.
  3. Make sure keywords are relevant to clients.
  4. Consult Google Keyword Tool to see keyword usage.
  5. Are keywords generating desired traffic.
  6. Discard useless keywords.
  7. Test your keyword list by running a Google Adword Campaign to verify traffic numbers and test wording.
  8. Are volume levels consistent with your estimates.
  9. Extract URLs and analyse the data to improve page SEO.
  10. Keep up to date with the ever expanding/evolving list of keywords by examing site searches and reading industry news articles.

Google Adwords provide graphs that monitor such information as which area site visitors use their computer from, what time of day generates the most visits, how long they stay for, what pages are visited the most, what links are clicked on the most and more. You must however embed within the code. See below.

Unfortunately, my Thesis project at zest-salon.co.uk does not yield enough visitors for Google to provide any basic data.

Additionally, sites such as Hit Tail (http://www.hittail.com/demo/) offer a keyword search alternative based on the Long Tail principle of using less popular terms.

(2.6) ‘Show how a keyword analysis tool can be used to produce a keyword strategy for your thesis project, and present the strategy graphically [Note: the students doing these seminars must arrange with each other to use different Keyword Analysis Tools].

SEOMoz (http://www.seomoz.org/term-extractor)

This tool allows you to see keyword density within your site. Simply copy and paste the URL into SEOMoz’s search box and it generates a list of keywords that search engines find useful within your webpage. See below.

I pasted in www.zest-salon.co.uk. It shows the keywords and also where they appeared and how many times within the webpage.

As mentioned in (2.3) to generate good SEO use primary keyword term/phrase in the title tag at least once, the H1 header tag of the page etc. However, different combinations could yield different results.

There is no need to put this data into a graph as it is clear.

I will generate graphs from keyword data as mentioned in (2.4) where I will be able to analyse where site visitors use their computer from and what time of day generates the most visits. To generate these graphs I will need to embed the Google Adwords code into my Thesis site (www.zest-salon.co.uk).

Crit 2 – Commodity

By | February 16, 2011

Crit 2 – Commodity

Proposed Content and Information Architecture and Navigation [This should be presented with the help of Post-it notes on a sheet of plastic].

Commodity – These considerations relate to the ‘benefits’, ‘content’, ‘information architecture’ and ‘functionality’ a user will experience when visiting and using the website.

Navigation and Layout

The post it notes have been added to illustrated the importance of good layout in relation to site navigation.

Navigation and Priority

To determine the site navigation it is important to understand the customers requirements and what your business provides to meet them.

Initially, I had determined that there would be six main pages consisting of: About; Hair; Beauty; Men; Products; Offers (as shown above).

However, on closer examination of the client’s needs the navigation does not cater specifically to what they need. The owner does not know what the Zest brand communicates so we need to ask the customers. It seems that after interviewing staff and customers, the reason Zest is popular is because of affordability and convenience and of course good hair cuts.

The site pages would now include instead:

  • About
  • Price
  • Special Offers
  • Style Finder
  • News
  • Products
  • Contact Us

These pages sum up the customers requirements. Price and saving money is important and are therefore displayed at the start of the list.

Crit 1 – Business

By | January 25, 2011

Crit 1 – Business

Explain the Aims and the possible Revenue Streams [This should be presented with reference to comparable websites, with examples of each of the revenue streams].

If you reject the idea of planning for revenue, then you must explain why each of the main possibilities has been considered and rejected. You should think of this crit as a ‘pitch’ of the type which would be made to a client or to potential investors.

The current website is four years old. It was last updated over a year ago. Its appearance is dated and offers nothing of value to the client.

The aim is to get clients on to the website and ultimately into the salon.

Main revenue streams to be generated through the website will be:

  • Advertising of Products and Affiliates
  • Voucher Sales (I.e., Spa Days)
  • Money Off Coupons
  • Promotional Offers (I.e., Bring a friend and you both get 10% off)
  • Product Sales

Presently, all revenue is generated instore. Sales are reliant on recommendation and passing footfall.

A website which has something to offer has benefits for both salon and client:

  • Improved interaction and communication through online sales, promotions and articles
  • Improved cash flow through online sales paid directly into bank account
  • Allows to forecast demand through pre-booking

Vitruvian Principles: Comment on cognate and non-cognate websites with regard to Commodity, Firmness, Delight and Business.

By | January 25, 2011

Content Management: Vitruvian Principles

Comment on cognate and non-cognate websites with regard to Commodity, Firmness, Delight and Business.

Cognate

Zest (http://www.zest-salon.co.uk)

Business

Income is generated through passing footfall. Sales are all instore and consist of hair and beauty services and sales of in-store products. The website is not interactive. It only displays the business’s contact details.

My aim is to redesign the Zest website to make it more contemporary and relevant, especially as it is now four years old. I want to present a site that stands out and competes with larger more established firms such as Toni and Guy. It will need to offer not only a place where customers can research the business but a site tuned to Zest’s target customers lifestyles. For example, this could feature, industry news and styling tips.

Commodity

The hair styling and beauty therapy market is already saturated as you can see from this Google Maps snapshot showing the greater Battersea area.

The sole offer of services alone will not suffice. A unique selling point communicated through a strong brand will need to be developed and promoted.

The website will need to offer something of value. It will need to provide features that consumers can become involved with. For example, online product sales, coupon and voucher sales.

Firmness

It will be built with XHTML and styled with CSS and JavaScript.

There will be four interactive options (as stated earlier as Zest’s unique selling point). These are:

  • Online Promotion
  • Online Appointments
  • Online Product Sales
  • Online Social Network (link to Facebook page)

I will need to build a site with JavaScript to allow these interactions to be handled smoothly. Other good examples of successful interactive websites include: Amazon, Ebay and John Lewis.

I plan to list the website using Google Adwords for a more measured and targeted approach. This is ideal when working within a tight budget.

The Google Analytics function (provided with Adwords) once installed within the Zest site will provide further information on customers that visit.

This will provide me with data such as: where the customers come from, how many visitors the site has had, what pages generate the most attention and how long is spent on the site.

Delight

The aesthetics of hair and beauty salon websites have many similarities in common with each other:

  • Attractive young women (18-30 years old)
  • Strong use of images (for a more emotional, targeted appeal)
  • Use of black and white photos (this conveys chic and professionalism)
  • Contact details present on header or every page (always be selling)
  • Use of promotional offers (discounts always get peoples attention)
  • Layouts are similar (three column design for increased clarity)

Whilst many of the above cannot be ignored, for example the use of attractive women and images, I am open to designing a website that is both contemporary and that stands apart from the competition.

However, I want a design that agrees to Zest’s target market. I do not want to alienate them or other potential customers who find the new website too flash or difficult to use.

Uffizi (www.uffizi.co.uk)

Business

The salon provides one service, the cutting and styling of hair. The business is promoting itself through an online and local press campaign to find the next “Uffizi Apprentice”.

Commodity

It offers a comprehensive list of styling choices from tints, to colours to cuts. Customers can choose their stylist based on price, from art director down to stylist level.

Firmness

The site is written in XHTML and styled with JavaScript and CSS. The site offers an online booking facility.

Delight

Who the website is targeted to is immediately obvious with a picture of a beautiful, fashionably dressed young woman being displayed when you arrive at the home page. This provides reassurance and clarity that this site is for you (if of course you are a young fashion conscious woman). It is aspirational; selling the belief that if you have your hair cut here you too will look beautiful.

The slick user interface provided by the use of JavaScript technology means you have a website that displays content instantly, great for people with busy lifestyles. It is clutter free and offers clear headings to promote its content. This means it is easy to understand and quick to digest.

Teamwork (http://www.teamworkhair.co.uk)

Business

The business has been trading in Battersea for 17 years. They have built up their business through recommendation. Due to its longevity the salon is a business that knows and understands its customers.

Commodity

The salon offers a comprehensive range of beauty services. These include hair styling, waxing and tanning.

Firmness

The website is composed with XHTML and styled with CSS.

Delight

This is a rather poor website with subtly different layouts being used on different pages. This leads the site to looking rather confused and cheap. There are also spelling mistakes that could lead clients to believe the salon is unorganised and the staff uneducated.

There is a lot of clutter with different headings, images and content all screaming for attention, however they are not structured in a way that is both clear and readable. Clients will scan the site and try to establish a hierarchy of information within each page. When they cannot find this they will move off the site.

The prices the salon charges in comparison to the competition places them at the higher end of the market. This website is satisfactory if customers are expecting a value for money, cheap and cheerful, functional hair salon. However, as they are targeting wealthier and more discerning customers, a good website that communicates effectively is paramount to the business’s continued survival.

Non-Cognate

Pets at Home (http://www.petsathome.com/)

Business

A pet store that sells pet care products and offers grooming and care services.

Commodity

There are 10 main categories. Apart from “gifts” each category is an animal. Within the navigation bar is a drop down menu offering different options.

This is great as a pet owner can instantly see which animal he seeks to care for and what exactly he wants to buy.

Firmness

The website is composed with XHTML and Javascript and styled with CSS.

The Javascript provides an interactive platform to display pictures. A new picture fades in and out every 4 seconds with the option of the user stopping the slideshow and flicking through manually at his own pace.

Delight

This website uses colours to guide users to the pet of their concern. There are many products to display so boxes are used to help separate content. They have rounded edges with space in-between to aid visual clarity.

Content is promoted with the aid of pictures of animals and smiling owners. Promotional offers are clear. They occupy large spaces within these boxes and are of high contrast i.e. white lettering on green backgrounds and white lettering on red backgrounds. These are familiar sales discount colours and indicate action to the user.

Kwik Fit (http://www.kwikfit.com/)

Business

They are a franchise of garages based throughout the UK. Traditionally, people book an appointment by calling or visiting the garage. The website has been established to provide more information to users and offer online discounts as a reward for visiting the site.

Commodity

They sell car parts, car accessories, repair cars and offer services and MOTs. The most popular sales are listed on the right. Services are separated into one box in blue and goods/parts are listed in another, in white. This enables the user at a glance, to distinguish what is relevant. Users are aided through the website’s layout and use of colour.

Firmness

The website is composed with XHTML and Javascript and styled with CSS.

The Javascript provides an interactive platform to display promotional offers. These offers occupy boxes which fade in and out with different content on how to achieve money off.

Delight

This is not the most attractive website. It is utilitarian. Clickable links are in large buttons that are clear and easy to find. Kwik Fit realize people are visiting the site to get something fixed on their car and not to peruse through leisurely on a lunchtime.

The purpose of the site is for a user to find how he can resolve a problem and when it can be resolved by.