Silken seaweed

Silken seaweed

I popped to the coast at the weekend and whilst walking I came across an area of large round boulders covered in silky smooth seaweed that was so vivid it was almost luminescent (and also bone jarringly slippery to stand on). With the midsummer’s sun directly overhead, the harsh shadows cast by neighbouring boulders made for a stark contrast between the bright green of the seaweed and the near black of the shade. I took quite a few shots but opted to put this one on the blog as I love gentle curve that falls around the edge of the boulder, with dark shadow one side and the crisp green lines of the seaweed on the other.

GeoloGIS website design

GeoloGIS website design

GeoloGIS, Westruther
Scottish Borders Website Design launched the new GeoloGIS website design today. The new brochure site was required to help outline the many services provided by the Border’s based geoscience company, whilst also being the starting point for further content development by way of an integrated content management system. The site is split into sections that help explain the core services and recent projects, and there are plans to develop a resource area for related companies (with the original content aiding online promotion).

Spring fields

Spring fields

I have just upgraded my camera, and whilst experimenting with a new lens and filters, the setting sun cast its last rays of light across a newly ploughed field on the not too distant Merse. The perfectly straight and deeply shadowed plough lines accentuated the smooth curve of the hill, and in black and white the vivid markings look quite mesmerising; like a screw thread cutting through the landscape.

Plum of London logo design

Plum of London logo design

Plum of London, London
Scottish Borders Website Design is now working with the new luxury British knitwear company Plum of London. Logo design, brand development, social media integration, online shop design and ongoing online promotion are all covered by the brief.

As with all start up projects, getting the new logo perfect for the client and brand is crucial. Plum already had some concepts sketched out and colour schemes in mind, but that doesn’t mean that there’s little work left to do for the logo designer. Trialling different fonts, adjusting letter tracking and height, altering spacing, tweaking alignment, changing the typeface case, producing and refining the plum shaped brush stroke and making minor amendments to the tone and hue of the colour were all vital.

It can be a time consuming process, but the end result is an strong, elegant, original, crisp logo that visually defines the new company and the visual starting point for the brand. Next stage in this project is the website concept for the forthcoming online shop.

Smart Swing Solutions website design

Smart Swing Solutions website design

Smart Swing Solutions, Melrose
Golf is a game that is enjoyed in my family, but the skill sets required to play well seemed to skip a generation in my case. Working with a PGA professional to design, build and promote a website geared at improving your golf game was therefore highly insightful.

The design brief for some professional websites requires clean lines, soft pastel colours and a business-like appearance. However, the brief for this website was quite different, with the use of black and gold a specific requirement. What’s more, it became apparent that the strategic use of graphical design elements could quickly help site visitors understand the core service – learning to improve your golf swing using mobile phone video analysis and by watching video lessons.

To that end, the top of the page features the new Smart Swing Solutions logo (designed earlier the project) with a background comprised of blue sky and the short cut crass of a perfect golf course green. A golf ball (complete with company strapline: “From phone to fairway”) sits right on the edge of the hole, with a mobile phone featuring a video of a golfer in mid-swing, balancing the page layout to the right. The visual elements immediately paint the picture, and the headline confirms the core service (Improve your golf swingwith 3 simple steps) and leads the visitor further into the site.

The website features video advice and tips from a PGA professional, all of which are viewed within a mobile phone graphic. Other golf related imagery has been used to create promotions and navigational elements, with the foot of each page punctuated by a golf tee and a couple of golf balls. When designing a website it is of crucial importance that visitors instantly understand the nature of the business, and in this instance it’s pretty difficult to misinterpret!

And the clients thoughts on the design? “The site is fantastic. I’m delighted with the finished item, well done.”

Winter returns

Winter returns

This wasn’t the scene that I expected to see from the window in late March. A thick layer of frozen snow blanketing the fields of the Merse, punctuated by dark bales of uncollected hay and ominously low moody clouds closing in on the only light of the day. It still feels like the middle of winter, rather than the dawn of spring.

Chirnside Hall Hotel website design

Chirnside Hall Hotel, Chirnside
I must admit that I am very lucky when it comes to the locations of some of the client meetings that I have. Sitting in the grand Victorian lounge of Chirnside Hall Hotel, with it’s opulant decor, elegant furniture, roaring open fires and stunning views across the Merse toward Cheviot, really was a special location to discuss the project requirements.

The brief required a new, clean, professional, elegant and trustworthy web design that would showcase the grandeur and luxurious nature of the hotel; an online brochure that was easy to browse through, each page highlighting stunning interior photos or amazing outdoor views.

In additional to the more standard elements within the site, the ability to quickly check availability and book rooms via a third party booking system was required, along with a separate section optimised for shooting parties and sports packages.

Following the launch of the website feedback from the client was short but sweet: “Fantastish!”

Castle Wood

I went for a walk around Hen Poo at the weekend and managed to capture a photo of the pond in Castle Wood. Traditionally photos of reflections have bright skies and dark hills mirrored by a pond or lake. This scene captured my imagination as it almost appeared as a negative. Instead of light skies the background the trees were almost black in the long winter shadows, with the delicately frosted reeds vivid white in comparison.

Website marketing for 2013: Is SEO still SEO?

Recently I’ve had quite a few clients asking new questions about search engine optimisation (SEO). I must admit that after 15 years of designing, building and promoting websites I do tend to spit the term out without comprehending that it may mean different things to different people. Just like the web, internet marketing is ever evolving. A quick glance online indicates that there are numerous new views about SEO and the best way to tackle recent changes to search engine algorithms, not to mention the growing potential of social media marketing.

Is SEO still SEO?There is absolutely no doubt that SEO is changing. I’ve seen articles recently that question if the term “SEO” is dead. Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, recently asked if SEO should be given a new name. Ultimately SEO as a phrase is not dead, I don’t believe it needs a new name and it’s never going to go away. However, with an eye on truly effective website marketing, and in the context of the ever changing world wide web, I believe that SEO should only ever be mentioned as part of a greater whole. This is a key change (particularly post Penguin and Panda).

“Search engine optimisation” has often been thrown around as a term that summarises website marketing. Effective marketing of websites has never related to doing just one thing however. So what should SEO be bundled with for 2013? Well I think that at the most basic level you can’t promote a website without all the following:

  1. Traditional search engine optimisation
  2. Natural link building (“natural” seems to be the new “organic”)
  3. Social media integration and marketing
  4. Content marketing

Obviously the above elements can all be considered organic, and there are paid solutions that can provide instant rewards, however, I’m only looking at non-paid long-term marketing solutions in this post.

SEO itself requires the ongoing analysis of website metrics, keyword analysis and search engine performance of site pages. Are people staying on a website long enough? Are a healthy number of users returning to the website? Are there individual pages that could perform better? Where do web pages feature in search engine results for a given number of search terms? Are those search terms accurate or could they be improved? The questions are endless, but these are all queries that need to be addressed on an ongoing basis and dealt with using a consistent strategy. However, if you carry out this type of SEO work and don’t bother with link building, social media marketing and improving your content, then your website will never perform well in search engines.

To get the best out of your site you must combine all four elements: ongoing SEO, continued natural link building, rolling social media integration and regular content development that has been planned in advance. These days content is at the heart of all this; get your content marketing strategy right and it makes everything else a lot easier. How? Great content gives you more to optimise and an increased spread of keywords for users to find when searching. Net result: improved chance of more site traffic. Inspiring content will interest people, make them stay on your website longer and give them a reason to come back. Net result: improved website metrics and more repeat visitors. Unique content increases the chances of people mentioning your website on social media platforms. Net result: free social marketing by word of mouth. Trustworthy and authoritative content means it’s easier to obtain links from other websites, plus webmasters and bloggers will be more likely to choose to link to your site without needing to be asked. Net result: more inbound links for less effort.

For me, SEO isn’t dead and doesn’t need a new name. SEO is what it is, search engine optimisation. However, if you’re planning website SEO for 2013, consider that the most effective use of search engine optimisation is when it is combined with natural link building, social media integration and content marketing. What’s more, get your content marketing strategy right, and link building, social media integration and SEO all become that much easier.

Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland website design

Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland, Alnwick
Designing the logo for the Fusilers Museum of Northumberland was a real privilege; so it is especially rewarding to be able to advise that the new website  launched today. The colour scheme, style, design and graphical elements were all very much inspired by visits to the museum, the tradition of the regiment and wealth of history that is on display in the Abbot’s Tower at Alnwick Castle.

To raise curiosity and to encourage a visit to the museum, the site design makes use of several randomised elements; each page loading a range of exhibits, photos, facts and snippets of information. As a charity, the museum needs financial aid to operate, so it was important to promote the need for support too. After photographing the displays and items at the museum (a lot of which were very personal and told their own unique story of war), one piece really stood out; a food tin that an ingenious soldier had turned into a mug. This item features on every page of the site, along side a request for support and a donation; a simple thing on it’s own, but compelling nonetheless.

And the feedback from the client: “Wow! Very pleased indeed with the concept. I think it’s excellent. The design and imagery are tremendous.”