the By the Scruff blog

Articles about what we do, where we eat and what our industry is doing.

Adventures with online shopping – Part 1/504 – Chance encounter

In 2015 I bumped into an old friend at the local recycling depot. The last time I had seen him was when we both worked at Stansted Airport where we worked in a restaurant when we were about 16 years old. Fast forward 25 years and thankfully our careers had moved on a little since those days, and we weren’t still washing up and cooking sausages.

We got chatting and soon got onto what we were both doing for work and it turned out he had been working in the railroad industry and I was running a digital design company. “Interesting” he said, “I might have some work for you with the other businesses I run”, and so I kissed goodbye to the old Dell I had bought up to the skip and we exchanged details and picked up the conversation a few days later.

It turned out that as well as his main work he was also running an online shop selling workwear clothing called Largam Works and he needed some help with the shop. He was an official reseller for Carhartt workwear, Filson and Red Wing boots. All of which I liked the look of. They were really good quality brands and I think that helps. You have to believe in a product in order to honestly sell it and these were all brands i knew reasonably well. I owned a pair of Red Wing boots and had worn Carhartt in the past. Filson was more of a premium American brand that I was wasn’t familiar with but having seen the clothes I was really happy with the quality and range they had. At the very least i might be able to get a cheap jacket for my troubles.

He wanted to know if i knew anything about online retail and if i would be interested in having a look at his website to see if I could help out with some changes he needed as he wasn’t happy with the company he had been using and wanted our opinion on the setup and how to take things forward. He didn’t know anything really about websites or marketing but he did have good connections and an entrepreneurial spirit that I could connect with.

This struck me as a good opportunity and so I took him up on his offer and started investigating the business and how it worked.

My background has always been in supplying material for marketing teams that either worked for an online store or for owners of such businesses, so I was in a good position to at least asses what they had been doing to date and see if there was anything we could do to support the business and do it better. By the Scruff has designed websites for online shops in the past and we are also very knowledgeable about email marketing and advertising. At our heart we are creative digital designers, so our job is to promote a business or a brand, using familiar techniques that essentially get people to buy a product. This could be a really good fit for us.

Magnus was concerned that the fee he was being charged for ongoing management and hosting was not getting him the returns he wanted and that he was a better way to work. The company he was using was going through a difficult patch and changes in staff meant that the level of service he was getting was below the standard he expected. I agreed to investigate the business and see what the setup was before we go any further.

The first steps

  • How is the website built and managed
  • What control over the website page templates do we have
  • Is Analytics installed
  • What payment gateway is being used
  • Who hosts it
  • Who manages the orders
  • How is the fulfilment of the orders managed
  • How many people are involved in the business
  • How many sales are there each month
  • How much money does it make
  • Can I make any money out of this

So the process began. We were keen to get some new business, especially through a past connection that had been ignited through a chance meet at the skip. Referrals are always the best way to get work I have found and this way we have already got a level of trust that takes time to establish. Even though the local skip was not a place that i was expecting to have this meeting, it did work all the same. Maybe I should think about more visits to the skip and leave a load of business cards scattered around place. Its a bit like some networking events I’ve been to in the past where you have to sift through the crap to get to the people who you really need to speak to. In this instance it was the card & paper recycling unit that hooked me and Magnus up.

The journey continues…

Part 2 – Discovery phase

 

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Take control of your on site promotions with Bannermate.

For a while now we have been developing our own banner system called Bannermate. It’s a simple to use banner content management system (CMS) that allows marketeers and webmaster to control in-house banner ads using a pre-designed template that can run on your own website or a partners website.

Using an embed code, the banners can be inserted anywhere on your pages and are controlled through a secure dashboard. The changes are made instantly wherever the banners are embedded and require very little time and knowledge to get them published.

This is what the dashboard looks like

Bannermate dashboard

 

This type of system is not uncommon online and there are many services out there. But Bannermate is a little different. We design and code your banner for you, rather than you having to think about design and layout. Being an established creative agency and having years of designing banners, we are great at design for your brand and making the banners work for all types of messages.

We’ve found that marketeers are time poor and have very small budgets so we help by designing a reusable banner template that can be used to carry many different types of messages. All you need to do is write decent copy and crop images. That’s easy right?

Who’s it for?

Marketeers – you are responsible for promoting monthly subscription offers for your website or print publication, software release, new product for sale etc and you want to be able to update it when you want.

Editorial teams – you’ve got a new article or competition you want to cross promote throughout your website and you need it quickly.

How you used to work

You brief a designer to create a new banner or set a task for the web editor to update a promotion area with new copy, images and links. Then you feedback on design, approve the changes, sign off, send assets to the web team to upload. Then you wait…

So the problem our clients used to have was the cost and time it used to take to get the banners produced and live online. We have removed the middle men and now you can simply choose the banner you want to use and add the text and images. If it’s the first time you have used the banner you’ll need to grab the short HTML embed code and get that added onto the pages you want the ad to appear on. If the banner is already embedded then you simply update the details and save it. The changes are pushed live into the banner immediately and thats it!

The dashboard provides tracking information that displays impressions and clicks and the source page of the clicks so you can see how your banners are working.

What does it cost? Just £40 a month!

We are running a promotion to get you using Bannermate, so we have cut the cost for setting up a new banner from £250 a banner to ZERO. You will have expert design advice from our designers so we make the banner just how you want it.

You will be charged just £40 a month per banner for a minimum of 3 months so you can trial the system properly.

Find out more information

Go to Bannermate on our website to see some examples of it in action.

Let us show you a demo

Get in touch with Stuart Edwards on 020 7033 4269 or email me at stuart@bythescruff.com and I will give you a demonstration of the system.

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Should I use a WordPress theme to build my website?

Like all business owners, our clients understand the importance of having a great website. They also know that learning to write code isn’t the only route to success.

At By the Scruff, we’re often asked what’s involved in using a website theme and whether it’s a better option than hiring a web developer.

If you’ve been wondering the same thing, keep reading…

Browsing for themes

When you’re looking at themes, there are three key factors you need to consider:

1. Design

Begin by thinking about the purpose of your website. Depending on your profession, you might want to look for themes with a portfolio design, a blog set-up or e-commerce capabilities. Once you’ve found the right ‘skeleton’, it’s just a case of re-skinning it for your business.

As an example, let’s look at a WordPress theme called ‘Divi’, built by ElegantThemes.

You’ll see from the link above, that ElegantThemes have produced a video and live demo, showing you what types of website you could create, using Divi. This allows you to visualize how your site could look, before spending your cash.

On the subject of money…

2. Budget

In general, a theme is usually a cheaper option than building something from scratch. On average, themes range from free to around $150, at the premium end.

Themes can also be relatively quick to use, as you’ll be starting with a template that you can customise as little or as much as you need. Of course, building anything yourself will require more of your time, than hiring a developer to do the job for you.

A word of warning: Most reputable themes come with plenty of online support and documentation. However this isn’t always the case. If you encounter issues with your site further down the line, you’ll want quick access to reliable help. So do your research and choose a theme provider you can trust.

3. Hosting

Because of its popularity, many hosting providers have chosen to specialise in the WordPress platform. Hosting companies like 123-reg offer WordPress packages, which get the basics set up for you. Alternatively, you could cut out the middleman and get your hosting directly from WordPress themselves. These are both great options, if you’re new to the process and want to get up and running fast.

That said, if you have some technical knowledge, you might prefer to use an independent hosting provider who will let you configure your server and install WordPress yourself. This will allow you greater freedom over the website and its code.

Making a purchase

Buying a theme is usually a pretty straightforward task. If you’ve chosen a third party theme, you’ll simply need to pay for it online, download it as a .zip file and then upload it to your WordPress account.

You’ll also need to think about domain names. Ideally you should use something that’s on-brand, simple and easy to remember.

Websites like 123-reg allow you to search for available domain names. Once you’ve found a good one, we’d advise buying it as quickly as possible, to ensure nobody else snaps it up. Keep in mind that ‘example.com’ and ‘example.co.uk’ are separate domain names. So if you want to own both (or other variations) you’ll need to purchase them all.

Creating your website

Once you’ve got the ‘back-end’ set up, you’ll need to think about your website’s structure and appearance. If you’re not a web developer, this is where using a theme can really help to simplify the process.

Divi, for example, comes with a pre-built dashboard and content management system (CMS). These let you create pages containing different elements such as text boxes, images, forms and buttons. The interface is easy to use and there are plenty of ‘help’ instructions, if you get stuck.

Essentially, a theme will allow you to create an entire website, without touching a line of code.

However, technical ability isn’t everything…

To create a really effective, professional website, you need to have an eye for design and user experience. Without these parts of the puzzle, your customers will struggle to understand and navigate your site. It’s also worth keeping in mind that although themes like Divi offer a wide variety of features, you will always be limited to the options you’ve been given. If you’re after something very bespoke, hiring a developer to build it from scratch might be a better approach.

And then there’s a third option…

Perhaps you want to use a theme but you don’t have all the skills mentioned above? Or maybe you just don’t have time to build a website and run a business simultaneously?

If that’s the case, you can always bring in specialist help, to fill the gaps.

A web designer, for example, will be able to suggest ways of aligning your logo, colour scheme and typeface with your brand. A copywriter can help you communicate your message effectively and a photographer will make you look the part.

With themes like Divi, you can even bring in a developer, to tackle specific requirements, through the website’s code.

How much outside help you use is your decision. Just make sure there’s a solid plan in place, to bring it all together.

An example of how we can build a site using DIVI theme is Perfect Fit Pilates, a Hertfordshire based Pilates studio.

Perfect Fit Pilates wordpress

www.perfectfitpilates.com

Key takeaways
  • If you know how to use it well, a theme is a relatively quick and cost-effective choice
  • You’ll need to spend time getting to grips with a theme’s dashboard and CMS
  • If you’re a time-poor business owner, consider bringing in outside help for specialist areas
  • Always consider the future. Choose a theme that’s well supported and which you can update accordingly, as your business grows
  • All themes have limitations. If you want complete freedom now or in the future, invest in a web developer from the offset.

Whether you use a theme or not, creating and maintaining a website is a big commitment. If you’d prefer to spend your time elsewhere, give By the Scruff a call and we’ll lend a hand.

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