Desk space available in creative, friendly, open-plan London office

OPPORTUNITY

Download PDF overview here: London-SME-Desk-Offer_

MintTwist have a limited number of generous desk space available to companies from start-ups to SME businesses in the professional service, agency, media and digital sectors.

Desks come with all the essentials including, chair, draws, unlimited access to kitchen/communal areas with unlimited tea and coffee. The open plan shared office space provides a fantastic working and social atmosphere and you’ll be sharing with like-minded professionals like MintTwist (www.minttwist.com) and LadyGeek (www.ladygeek.com). Internet access both wired and wireless through high-speed broadband is available.

As well as a spacious desk, chair, drawers, internet, meeting rooms, kitchen with free tea/coffee and milk. The all-inclusive charge will also cover cleaning, gas, electricity, water, rates and service charge. On-site at Highgate Studios there are free shower facilities, free moped/bike lock-up areas, a fantastic on-site cafe, pizza house and the infamous ‘Dirty Burger’ and ‘Chicken Shop’ joints. Access to the office is 24×7×365.

Benefits include:
 Highly flexible terms
 High-speed broadband internet
 Wireless internet
 Completely free use of meeting room
 Every desk has a chair and drawers
 Onsite office manager
 Air conditioning
 On-site shower room
 Full serviced kitchen with tea, coffee, dishwasher, microwave and fridge.
 All utilities included (electricity, gas, air conditioning, water and cleaning)

CONTACT ELLIOTT KING ON ELLIOTT@MINTTWIST.COM OR 020 7284 9755 TO ARRANGE YOUR VIEWING.

PRICES

Comment Cost Deposit Notice Period
Flexi Desk £450 PCM 1-month Pay as you go
Flexi-4-Desks £1650 PCM 1-month Pay as you go
6–Desk Island £2250 PCM 1-month 3-months

LOCATION

Based Camden, London, the office is perfectly situated between Kentish Town tube station (3-min walk), Camden market (1 tube stop), King Cross (2 tube stops) and Parliament Hill fields (3-min walk).

MAP

Office Location

Making every word count

People do not read websites like newspapers or books. Reading from a computer screen is a more laborious process and can be 25% slower than reading from paper. Readers are put under pressure to scan the page and select information relevant to them.

With this in mind, writing copy for your site can seem terrifying.   How do make sure visitors find what they want? How can you engage them more? Writing good content is not impossible but it does take practice.  Here are our top ten tips to get you started:

  1. Headlines should tell users what the page is about. Being too clever can backfire.
  2. Make the first sentence after the heading count.
  3. Use 50% less copy than you would for printed material. If you have more to say, move it to secondary pages or make it available to download as pdf.
  4. Put keywords, statements and important information in bold. This helps users pick out what is important to them quickly.
  5. Break copy up. Use bullet points and sub-headings to make copy more scannable and easy to read.
  6. Structure copy using the inverted pyramid style so users get the most important information first before drilling down to detail.
  7. Avoid marketing language. This bogs users down with unnecessary words to process. They need to get information quickly. It can also turn them off.
  8. You don’t have to be polite. This delays users so “welcome”, “please” and “thank you” can be dropped without being rude.
  9. Avoid using “Click here”. As well as being lazy, it is a no-no for disability standards. Replace it with an action and tell you reader what will happen, e.g. Visit the MintTwist blog for awesome posts.
  10. FAQ and Help pages should get to the point. Don’t be afraid to say yes or no – it’s the answer people are looking for. Say it, then explain.

Check Out These Awesome Web Design Tips

Many people want to learn to become a good web designer, yet they aren’t sure if they have what it takes to become good in the subject. Anyone can be a good web designer they just have to learn how to first, the more you learn from places like this article the better you are sure to become at web design.

A great source for learning about how web design really works is to visit
Continue reading

The Social Capital Model for Business Growth

This article is highlighting MintTwist’s proposed ‘Social Capital Model’ for delivering continuing and sustainable growth of its business.

The proposal was introduced to people working within the business at the MintTwist Annual General Meeting on 30th November 2011.

This article is written so that people working within the business and other interested parties may use this area to facilitate discussion, questions and comments on the proposal.

What do MintTwist want to do?

MintTwist aims to be the most successful supplier of Digital Agency company services for businesses in Europe by 2016.

How?

MintTwist is aiming to do this by developing and further growing its network of clients and by adding more value to their businesses by devloping and further growing its network of highly skilled people working across the organisation and together, with well defined process methodologies.

How will the growth be funded?

MintTwist have been seeking a sustainable growth model that accurately represents the key value drivers for the existing growth that MintTwist has experienced to date and one that will incubate, encourage and reward the key value drivers for future growth of the business.

MintTwist’s Proposed ‘Social Capital Model’ for facilitating sustainable growth of its business

MintTwist’s proposed solution is a key component for facilitating the continuation, development and expedience of its market/service diversification growth strategy … MintTwist have termed it ‘The Social Capital Model’.

social capital model

social capital model

The social capital component represents a portion of the company that cannot be bought, sold or owned.

Access to the benefits of the social component is for people who are working within the business.

Key elements may include:

1. A share in governance with direct representation

2. A share in the profits

???

Weighted access may be representative of:

1. Length of service

2. Relative value of contributions

???

What are the Benefits of a Mobile Website for Businesses?

MinTwists’s August meetup debated the benefits to businesses of creating a mobile websites or mobile applications to communicate with their target customer groups in a manner optimised for mobile platforms.

In essence should a dedicated mobile platform be created, or should businesses simply allow their mobile users to be served up their ‘normal’ website in whatever way the browser software on the given mobile platform chooses to do so?

It’s a tough question and one which the group mostly debated from an ROI perspective. Given that mobile usage rates in the UK are still fairly low (5% of a websites traffic may come from mobile users), one might be tempted to conclude that for typical small and medium sized b2b businesses the answer is no.

However, it is not that clear cut.

Firstly, there is the issue that mobile usage is growing incredibly quickly (see article : What will Smart Phones Do to our Websites? for more on this) and there may well be material benefits for ‘getting in quick’ (including SEO benefits).

Secondly there is ‘how mobile users are behaving issue’. The data is not entirely accurate at the moment – but early signs are clear: mobile users do not use the internet in the same way on their mobiles as they would do on their PC’s or laptops.  Usage is driven by factors such as location (users accessing their mobile devices to find information on ‘where they physically are at the moment’) and impulsivness (users accessing their mobile devices to find an answer to a fairly immediate question/problem).  Factors such as these all feed in to the ideal way in which the information should be presented to the mobile user, i.e. b2b businesses could have a ‘mobile optimised homepage’ that clearly presents a clickable telephone number link and clickable interactive google map so that visitors to the business can quickly get the information that they may be after if they are accessing the website from a mobile device.

A difficult topic for business oweners and marketing manager to grapple with; here are MintTwist’s high level thoughts on the subject …

  • Mobile is an important consideration, however, it is not necessarily a vital immediate concern for ‘most’ small businesses (because well designed website designs will render correctly already).
  • The trend towards increased mobile usage is growing.
  • The differing user goals and usage habits of users on mobile platforms needs to be properly understood on a case by case basis for a useful and quality mobile solution to be delivered.
  • The group felt that businesses that should be immediately addressing mobile users (because they could potentially see a real ROI) are:
  1. Businesses with large visitor numbers
  2. Media businesses
  3. Some retail (e-commerce) businesses
  4. Businesses running functional websites / website applications
  • Other groups of businesses may want a mobile solution (even if it won’t provide them a clear ROI) for other reasons (e.g. to get ahead of the competition, brand identity etc).
  • Two main categorisations of mobile website solution exist, these are outlined by the information chart below:
Solution Useful for situations like … Ballpark Costs Useful for businesses like …
Mobile websites (extra pages that are specially built to be auto-delivered to mobile users) Making a ‘normal’ website have a dedicated set of page(s) that will show up (in a manner optimised for small screens) when a user goes to the website on a mobile phone.  Principal Benefit: Increased conversion rates from mobile users. From £3k e-commerce / Retailb2b businesses with very high visitor numbersb2c brands
Mobile Apps and/or Web Apps* (Android, Apple, Web apps that are downloaded) Information that can be delivered in a potentially highly functional and potentially highly interactive way.  Principal Benefit: Increased engagement levels/brand identity. £5k++ Any big brandApplication/Web service vendors

Thoughts and feedback on this post are very welcome :)

What is mobile search?

Follow the leader: mobile search leads the way on the search engines

Posted on 10th August 2011

The growth of smartphones and tablets has surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic commentator this year. It’s now estimated that smartphone and tablet usage will overtake PC and laptop usage in the US before the end of the year. In the UK, Ofcom has just released its own study, the annual Communications and Marketing Report, which states that 1 in 3 UK adults own and use a smartphone on a daily basis. What this means for the marketing industry is that marketers will have to re-think their strategies and increasingly concentrate their marketing efforts on the mobile audience if they wish to continue to drive traffic to their sites. IBM’s recent study, The Mobile Sweep, has already identified that such mobile search strategies are already being adopted by some of the more forward-thinking companies. So, is your business forward looking? Have you already optimised your mobile search engine strategy to target this ever-growing market?

In its report IBM looked at the fortunes of the website Priceline.com and noted that it had benefitted significantly from the growth of mobile search. As users get used to searching on the go and using e-commerce, they become increasingly comfortable and are prepared to spend money more freely, it appears, than their non-mobile counterparts. IBM reported that 82% of Priceline.com’s, mobile visitors booked their hotel rooms within a day of discovering the website: only 45% of non-mobile users did the same. Of the mobile bookers, over 50% were within 20 miles of their hotels when they booked them, which would suggest that location and proximity are key drivers in helping them to make these decisions.

All the available statistics indicate that the total number of consumers who search and buy on mobiles will continue to rise exponentially. Using data from Morgan Stanley, the conclusion IBM reached was that mobile internet devices will lead the market in the coming years and will produce the bulk of internet sales. But why has the smartphone had such an impact on search and sales? IBM believes that it’s the availability of 3G internet, and the promise of fourth generation broadband, that has been the major driver in the smartphone and tablet market, along with the ability of mobiles to deliver enhanced context awareness. That may sound a little high faluting and complicated, but in essence what they’re getting at, is that the mobile is very good at delivering information to mobile users in real time which answers all their needs – that is physical and geographical location, social context and time.  The implications for those businesses that haven’t yet optimised their websites to deliver locally optimised content to mobile searchers is that you’d best do it quickly, or you’ll miss the boat.

If businesses need any encouragement to optimise their sites for the local market, and also for mobile users, then surely this is this it. The market is out there and growing all the time, and it seems this sector of the market is more willing to spend online than any other. So, go on: you know it makes sense. Mobile search engine optimisation is the trend of the future. Don’t let your business lose out.

Web development in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates has undergone a profound transformation since 1973, seeing tremendous growth and achieving an incredibly high income per capita.  It is widely recognised as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with industries such as tourism, manufacturing, real estate, financial services and trade playing a major role alongside oil.

With such opportunity and competition it is extremely important for new and existing companies to make effective use of modern marketing strategies.  Internet marketing is now a major multi-billion pound industry and a method suitable for the progressive nature of the UAE business community, particularly for the two major Emirates; Dubai and the capital Abu Dhabi.

Web development UAEInternet penetration in the UAE is on the rise as regular web usage has reached 67% of the population, with 55% of the population using it on a daily basis.  Currently, the web is used primarily for emails and searching for information, with a smaller percentage accessing the internet for business or for making online purchases.  The internet is inevitably changing the dynamics of how we structure our business, culture and society, with the UAE being no exception.  As internet penetration in the UAE grows, businesses must respond by developing high quality Arabic web design.

A modern well-presented website is now expected for most businesses and organisations.  With good quality website design, Dubai and Abu-Dhabi based companies can benefit from improved information distribution and an expansion of reachable markets.  It is an effective way of winning new business and retaining existing customers, while responding quickly to new competitors.

With competition becoming more demanding and search engines more concerned with the user experience, the web business owner should consider the importance of web development.  A UAE company immediately commands respect from web visitors with a professional Arabic web design.  In order to compete amongst the ever-increasing market in the UAE, it is wise to invest in a well-constructed website with a strong logo, a harmonious colour scheme, simple and professional looking graphics, and effective navigation options.  UAE consumers have high expectations from companies, expecting high levels of service from them.

As internet use in the Arabic world has grown faster than anywhere else since 2000 and access costs have shrunk, businesses should now increase investment in web content in order to gain a place in the highly competitive world market.

How to get divorced on Twitter

Have you ever found that you are just growing apart from some of the people you are following on twitter? Maybe you followed them at first because they were popular, powerful, cool or just damn sexy?

When they followed you back you were a rush with emotion. Digital acceptance into their inner circle meant you were connected, accepted and had one very cool ‘follower’, earning your digital self that bit more kudos.

But over the months and years things change. Your digital avatar has grown up, moved on from an adolescent obsession with popularism and found it’s place in the digital world – with like minded individuals from whom they can garnish and share genuinely relevant information.

Get divorced on Twitter

Get divorced on Twitter

That popular connection of yours is still uber cool and successful but somehow their musings just don’t do it for you anymore.

Eventually you decide that clogging up your timeline with randomised, automated ‘quotes of philosophers’, ‘links of the hour’, ‘daily funnies’ and the occasional interaction from a low paid intern feigning coolness is just not worth the kudos…. So you resolve yourself to unfollow your childhood sweetheart!

But how do you do it, how do you get divorced on Twitter!?!?  How will they feel, what will they do and most importantly will their auto-unfollow script kick in, meaning one less follower for you and one very cool one too!?!?

I was faced with exactly this dilemma recently.  Having followed the eminent Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) since the very early days (he was a tweeting pioneer) I had felt a special bond of kinship… I was sure he held me in high regard amongst his 360,000 loyal followers.  I used to wait, tweet-deck at the ready on his every word – but after the years and much to my dismay his tweeting just doesn’t do it for me anymore :(

And so I give you; ‘How to get divorced on Twitter’ …

Elliott King

elliott_king Elliott King

Sorry @GuyKawasaki - I have to let you go :( … it was great while it lasted, I just think we’re in a different space right now.

Guy Kawasaki

@GuyKawasakiGuy Kawasaki
@elliott_king No problem. Have a happy rest of your life.

Elliott King

@elliott_kingElliott King
@GuyKawasaki thanks guy … I won’t forget you.
And that was it – it was done!  No tears, no drawn out discussions, he accepted it, duly un-followed me ( :( ) a few hours later and we’ve both gone our separate ways … with no hard feelings … none at all … I’m in a good place right now …
I only hope that somewhere deep down Guy Kawasaki still wants to follow me.

Middle East Netizens are on the Rise

Web design UAEOver the last couple of decades the Internet has become a huge worldwide phenomenon.  Latest global figures show that the number of internet users (also known as ‘Netizens’) now stands on the verge of exceeding 2 billion!

Of that total a whopping 64 million of them are in the Middle East, accounting for a staggering growth rate of 1825% over the past decade.  Amazingly this growth rate is 15x that of what was seen in North America over the same period.

As more and more people are gaining access to the Internet, it is the perfect opportunity for companies to move their business to the Web.

At the start of the Internet age Europeans and North Americans were by far the largest users. However, this is gradually changing as other continents embrace the World Wide Web. In recent years there has been a big increase in Internet users in regions such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Since 2000, the number of users in Africa and the Middle East has increased by around 1,800%. Meanwhile, Asia has gathered 704 million users – over 300 million more than any other region, encompassing about 42% of worldwide users. This can be attributed to large population in Asia; a staggering 3.8 billion of the 6.7 billion people on earth (that is 56%) live in Asia.

Another change is that Europe has overtaken North America as the second biggest user of the Internet. In terms of percentage of their population Asia is still quite far behind, with North America having the highest figure. Only 18.5% of Asians use the Internet, while half of Europeans do and three quarters of North Americans do. In the Middle East, 30% of people use the Internet today, however, this reach is rapidly increasing and as it does the importance of businesses being well presented online becomes ever more apparent.

Computers and the Internet are modern inventions which therefore effortlessly fit into modern life of Europeans and North Americans. Many Africans and Middle Easterners have very different lifestyles and this is reflected in the figures. Asia is a mixture of old and new, but modernising all the time, thus the increase in Internet users. As developing nations like Asia, Africa, and the Middle become more technologically advanced this trend is likely to continue.

Businesses and organizations in the Middle East that want to capitalize on everything the Internet has to offer should look no further than the web design and development firm, MintTwist. Originally based out of London, MintTwist has successfully created websites and marketing strategies for a wide variety of companies over the past eleven years. They are now entering into the foreign marketplace with the opening of Mint Twist Dubai. The growth of business and Internet seen within Dubai and the Middle East could not be better supported and facilitated than by the experts at Mint Twist.

21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

A considerable portion of my consulting time has recently revolved around the optimization of corporate blogs (or the addition of blogs to revamped sites). As usual, I find a pattern emerging in the strategies that need attention and the pitfalls that must be avoided. So, rather than charging $400 an hour to give advice on the subject, I thought it would be valuable to share many of the most common pieces of advice here on the blog (business part of Rand fights with open source Rand, but loses, as usual).

  1. Choose the Right Blog Software (or Custom Build)
    The right blog CMS makes a big difference. If you want to set yourself apart, I recommend creating a custom blog solution – one that can be completely customized to your users. In most cases,WordPressBloggerMovableType or Typepad will suffice, but building from scratch allows you to be very creative with functionality and formatting. The best CMS is something that’s easy for the writer(s) to use and brings together the features that allow the blog to flourish. Think about how you want comments, archiving, sub-pages, categorization, multiple feeds and user accounts to operate in order to narrow down your choices. OpenSourceCMS is a very good tool to help you select a software if you go that route.
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  2. Host Your Blog Directly on Your Domain
    Hosting your blog on a different domain from your primary site is one of the worst mistakes you can make. A blog on your domain can attract links, attention, publicity, trust and search rankings - by keeping the blog on a separate domain, you shoot yourself in the foot. From worst to best, your options are – Hosted (on a solution like Blogspot or WordPress), on a unique domain (at least you can 301 it in the future), on a subdomain (these can be treated as unique from the primary domain by the engines) and as a sub-section of the primary domain (in a subfolder or page – this is the best solution).
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  3. Write Title Tags with Two Audiences in Mind
    First and foremost, you’re writing a title tag for the people who will visit your site or have a subscription to your feed. Title tags that are short, snappy, on-topic and catchy are imperative. You also want to think about search engines when you title your posts, since the engines can help to drive traffic to your blog. A great way to do this is to write the post and the title first, then run a few searches at OvertureWordTrackerKeywordDiscovery to see if there is a phrasing or ordering that can better help you to target “searched for” terms.
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  4. Participate at Related Forums & Blogs
    Whatever industry or niche you’re in, there are bloggers, forums and an online community that’s already active. Depending on the specificity of your focus, you may need to think one or two levels broader than your own content to find a large community, but with the size of the participatory web today, even the highly specialized content areas receive attention. A great way to find out who these people are is to use Technorati to conduct searches, then sort by number of links (authority).Del.icio.us tags are also very useful in this process, as are straight searches at the engines (Ask.com’s blog search in particular is of very good quality).
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  5. Tag Your Content
    Technorati is the first place that you should be tagging posts. I actually recommend having the tags right on your page, pointing to the Technorati searches that you’re targeting. There are other good places to ping - del.icio.us and Flickr being the two most obvious (the only other one is Blogmarks, which is much smaller). Tagging content can also be valuable to help give you a “bump” towards getting traffic from big sites like RedditDiggStumbleUpon (which requires that you download the toolbar, but trust me - it’s worth it). You DO NOT want to submit every post to these sites, but that one out of twenty (see tactic #18) is worth your while.
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  6. Launch Without Comments (and Add Them Later)
    There’s something sad about a blog with 0 comments on every post. It feels dead, empty and unpopular. Luckily, there’s an easy solution – don’t offer the ability to post comments on the blog and no one will know that you only get 20 uniques a day. Once you’re upwards of 100 RSS subscribers and/or 750 unique visitors per day, you can open up the comments and see light activity. Comments are often how tech-savvy new visitors judge the popularity of a site (and thus, its worth), so play to your strengths and keep your obscurity private.
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  7. Don’t Jump on the Bandwagon
    Some memes are worthy of being talked about by every blogger in the space, but most aren’t. Just because there’s huge news in your industry or niche DOES NOT mean you need to be covering it, or even mentioning it (though it can be valuable to link to it as an aside, just to integrate a shared experience into your unique content). Many of the best blogs online DO talk about the big trends – this is because they’re already popular, established and are counted on to be a source of news for the community. If you’re launching a new blog, you need to show people in your space that you can offer something unique, different and valuable – not just the same story from your point of view. This is less important in spaces where there are very few bloggers and little online coverage and much more in spaces that are overwhelmed with blogs (like search, or anything else tech-related).
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  8. Link Intelligently
    When you link out in your blog posts, use convention where applicable and creativity when warranted, but be aware of how the links you serve are part of the content you provide. Not every issue you discuss or site you mention needs a link, but there’s a fine line between overlinking and underlinking. The best advice I can give is to think of the post from the standpoint of a relatively uninformed reader. If you mention Wikipedia, everyone is familiar and no link is required. If you mention a specific page at Wikipedia, a link is necessary and important. Also, be aware that quoting other bloggers or online sources (or even discussing their ideas) without linking to them is considered bad etiquette and can earn you scorn that could cost you links from those sources in the future. It’s almost always better to be over-generous with links than under-generous. And link condoms? Only use them when you’re linking to something you find truly distasteful or have serious apprehension about.
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  9. Invite Guest Bloggers
    Asking a well known personality in your niche to contribute a short blog on their subject of expertise is a great way to grow the value and reach of your blog. You not only flatter the person by acknowledging their celebrity, you nearly guarantee yourself a link or at least an association with a brand that can earn you readers. Just be sure that you really are getting a quality post from someone that’s as close to universally popular and admired as possible (unless you want to start playing the drama linkbait game, which I personally abhor). If you’re already somewhat popular, it can often be valuable to look outside your space and bring in guest authors who have a very unique angle or subject matter to help spice up your focus. One note about guest bloggers – make sure they agree to have their work edited by you before it’s posted. A disagreement on this subject after the fact can have negative ramifications.
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  10. Eschew Advertising (Until You’re Popular)
    I hate AdSense on blogs. Usually, I ignore it, but I also cast a sharp eye towards the quality of the posts and professionalism of the content when I see AdSense. That’s not to say that contextual advertising can’t work well in some blogs, but it needs to be well integrated into the design and layout to help defer criticism. Don’t get me wrong – it’s unfair to judge a blog by its cover (or, in this case, its ads), but spend a lot of time surfing blogs and you’ll have the same impression – low quality blogs run AdSense and many high quality ones don’t. I always recommend that whether personal or professional, you wait until your blog has achieved a level of success before you start advertising. Ads, whether they’re sponsorships, banners, contextual or other, tend to have a direct, negative impact on the number of readers who subscribe, add to favorites and link – you definitely don’t want that limitation while you’re still trying to get established.
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  11. Go Beyond Text in Your Posts
    Blogs that contain nothing but line after line of text are more difficult to read and less consistently interesting than those that offer images, interactive elements, the occasional multimedia content and some clever charts & graphs. Even if you’re having a tough time with non-text content, think about how you can format the text using blockquotes, indentation, bullet points, etc. to create a more visually appealing and digestible block of content.
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  12. Cover Topics that Need Attention
    In every niche, there are certain topics and questions that are frequently asked or pondered, but rarely have definitive answers. While this recommendation applies to nearly every content-based site, it’s particularly easy to leverage with a blog. If everyone in the online Nascar forums is wondering about the components and cost of an average Nascar vehicle – give it to them. If the online stock trading industry is rife with questions about the best performing stocks after a terrorist threat, your path is clear. Spend the time and effort to research, document and deliver and you’re virtually guaranteed link-worthy content that will attract new visitors and subscribers.
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  13. Pay Attention to Your Analytics
    Visitor tracking software can tell you which posts your audience likes best, which ones don’t get viewed and how the search engines are delivering traffic. Use these clues to react and improve your strategies. Feedburner is great for RSS and I’m a personal fan of Indextools. Consider adding action tracking to your blog, so you can see what sources of traffic are bringing the best quality visitors (in terms of time spent on the site, # of page views, etc). I particularly like having the “register” link tagged for analytics so I can see what percentage of visitors from each source is interested enough to want to leave a comment or create an account.
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  14. Use a Human Voice
    Charisma is a valuable quality, both online and off. Through a blog, it’s most often judged by the voice you present to your users. People like empathy, compassion, authority and honesty. Keep these in the forefront of your mind when writing and you’ll be in a good position to succeed. It’s also critical that you maintain a level of humility in your blogging and stick to your roots. When users start to feel that a blog is taking itself too seriously or losing the characteristics that made it unique, they start to seek new places for content. We’ve certainly made mistakes (even recently) that have cost us some fans – be cautious to control not only what you say, but how you say it. Lastly – if there’s a hot button issue that has you posting emotionally, temper it by letting the post sit in draft mode for an hour or two, re-reading it and considering any revisions. With the advent of feeds, once you publish, there’s no going back.
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  15. Archive Effectively
    The best archives are carefully organized into subjects and date ranges. For search traffic (particularly long tail terms), it can be best to offer the full content of every post in a category on the archive pages, but from a usability standpoint, just linking to each post is far better (possibly with a very short snippet). Balance these two issues and make the decision based on your goals. A last note on archiving – pagination in blogging can be harmful to search traffic, rather than beneficial (as you provide constantly changing, duplicate content pages). Pagination is great for users who scroll to the bottom and want to see more, though, so consider putting a “noindex” in the meta tag or in the robots.txt file to keep spiders where they belong – in the well-organized archive system.
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  16. Implement Smart URLs
    The best URL structure for blogs is, in my opinion, as short as possible while still containing enough information to make an educated guess about the content you’ll find on the page. I don’t like the 10 hyphen, lengthy blog titles that are the byproduct of many CMS plugins, but they are certainly better than any dynamic parameters in the URL. Yes – I know I’m not walking the talk here, and hopefully it’s something we can fix in the near future. To those who say that one dynamic parameter in the URL doesn’t hurt, I’d take issue – just re-writing a ?ID=450 to /450 has improved search traffic considerably on several blogs we’ve worked with.
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  17. Reveal as Much as Possible
    The blogosphere is in love with the idea of an open source world on the web. Sharing vast stores of what might ordinarily be considered private information is the rule, rather than the exception. If you can offer content that’s usually private – trade secrets, pricing, contract issues, and even the occasional harmless rumor, your blog can benefit. Make a decision about what’s off-limits and how far you can go and then push right up to that limit in order to see the best possible effects. Your community will reward you with links and traffic.
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  18. Only One Post in Twenty Can Be Linkbait
    Not every post is worthy of making it to the top of Digg, Del.icio.us/popular or even a mention at some other blogs in your space. Trying to over-market every post you write will result in pushback and ultimately lead to negative opinions about your efforts. The less popular your blog is, the harder it will be to build excitement around a post, but the process of linkbait has always been trial and error – build, test, refine and re-build. Keep creating great ideas and bolstering them with lots of solid, everyday content and you’ll eventually be big enough to where one out of every 20-40 posts really does become linkbait.
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  19. Make Effective Use of High Traffic Days
    If you do have linkbait, whether by design or by accident, make sure to capitalize. When you hit the front page of Digg, Reddit, Boing Boing, or, on a smaller scale, attract a couple hundred visitors from a bigger blog or site in your space, you need to put your best foot forward. Make sure to follow up on a high traffic time period with 2-3 high quality posts that show off your skills as a writer, your depth of understanding and let visitors know that this is content they should be sticking around to see more of. Nothing kills the potential linkbait “bump” faster than a blog whose content doesn’t update for 48 hours after they’ve received a huge influx of visitors.
    -
  20. Create Expectations and Fulfill Them
    When you’re writing for your audience, your content focus, post timing and areas of interest will all become associated with your personal style. If you vary widely from that style, you risk alienating folks who’ve come to know you and rely on you for specific data. Thus, if you build a blog around the idea of being an analytical expert in your field, don’t ignore the latest release of industry figures only to chat about an emotional issue – deliver what your readers expect of you and crunch the numbers. This applies equally well to post frequency – if your blog regularly churns out 2 posts a day, having two weeks with only 4 posts is going to have an adverse impact on traffic. That’s not to say you can’t take a vacation, but you need to schedule it wisely and be prepared to lose RSS subscribers and regulars. It’s not fair, but it’s the truth. We lose visitors every time I attend an SES conference and drop to one post every two days (note – guest bloggers and time-release posts can help here, too).
    -
  21. Build a Brand
    Possibly one of the most important aspects of all in blogging is brand-building. As Zefrank noted, to be a great brand, you need to be a brand that people want to associate themselves with and a brand that people feel they derive value from being a member. Exclusivity, insider jokes, emails with regulars, the occasional cat post and references to your previous experiences can be off putting for new readers, but they’re solid gold for keeping your loyal base feeling good about their brand experience with you. Be careful to stick to your brand – once you have a definition that people like and are comfortable with, it’s very hard to break that mold without severe repercussions. If you’re building a new blog, or building a low-traffic one, I highly recommend writing down the goals of your brand and the attributes of its identity to help remind you as you write.

Best of luck to all you bloggers out there. It’s an increasingly crowded field to play in, but these strategies should help to give you an edge over the competition. As always, if you’ve got additions or disagreements, I’d love to hear them.

p.s. Note to self – starting long blog entries at 11:30pm is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. At least Angela got kicked off Project Runway tonight.

The browser war continues

For those working in the web design industry, browser choice is often a topic filled with debate. For anyone who surfs the net browser choicer can also be a very personal matter and recent data suggests that browser choice is increasingly diversified.

In the beginning there was Netscape Navigator. However by 2002 the browser had all but disappeared. This was primarily down to the growth in Internet Explorer, and the dwindling development efforts by the Netscape Corporation.

Internet explorer is a bit like Ghenkis Khan and the Mongol Empire. Perhaps not the most obvious comparison, but give me a chance. So, Internet Explorer was launched in 1995 and by 2003 had a market share of close to 95%. Between the year 1206 and 1280 the Mongol Empire grew to stretch from Korea to Moscow.

The rapid expansion of the Mongol Empire is much like Internet Explorers rapid growth in popularity. The development of Internet Explorer was also fairly rapid and progressive. The Mongols were also progressive and introduced new technology and new thinking into a medieval Eurasia.

However like all Empires, over time cracks begin to appear. For the Mongols, their days of power were numbered and to make matters worse the epic trade routes that were built up now helped spread the Black Death which decimated both Mongol and other populations.

browser warsIn 2010 Internet Explorer had a market share of 60% which is a long way of its 2003 peak of 95%. This begs the question, what happened? The answer is quite straightforward. Mozilla happened.

Mozilla created the web browser Firefox and it really came into its own with its 3.5 and 3.6 versions and now their latest version, Firefox 4 is available to download. The browser is currently competing with Internet Explorer for top spot, but right now it has a market share of about 30%.

Internet explorer was never going to maintain a market share of 95%. Competition from Mozilla, Google’s Chrome and Safari ensured this. In my own experience having started with Internet Explorer, then on to Google Chrome, I am now using Firefox 4 and have found it to be an excellent web browser.

In my field of SEO and web marketing I believe Firefox offers me the best web browsing experience. It is well designed, easy to use and highly customable. The amount and variety Firefox Add-ons available is exceptional and definitely provides me with very important data and information.

Greg Jacobs

Content Manager
MintTwist

Digital Advertising – Are You Aware of New Regulations?

On 1st March, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) extended its CAP Code to regulate non-paid for online marketing communications. This covers a company’s websites and other websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, where a company’s marketing messages are being communicated. The ASA already has the power to regulate paid-for online advertising such as banner ads, pop-ups and pay-per-click.

Why is this happening?

Over the last three years, the ASA has received over 4,500 complaints about non-paid for advertising. They were unable to act in these cases. A government review last year on the sexualisation of young people highlighted how more and more messages to this group are communicated online but the existing Code could not protect them. The ASA have said that it has the “protection of children and consumers at [its] heart”.

What do the extended regulations now cover?

Any non-paid for marketing communications where a product or service is being promoted, such as the company’s site, are now included. Crucially the marketing messages you send through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are part of these regulations.

Are any websites exempt?

This applies to all UK websites, even if the domain is not .co.uk.

What should I do?

You may want to review your company’s website and non-paid for advertising. The CAP code has been developed “to ensure marketing communications remain legal, decent, honest and truthful.” Ifyour marketing communications reflect this (online and offline) then you have nothing to worry about.

What happens if someone blogs or Twitters about my company and what they say violates the regulations?
The CAP Code calls this “user generated content”. The ASA cannot regulate what people say about your product or service. However, it would be subject to the regulations if you were to use what they have said in your marketing communications.

What will the ASA do if it finds a company in breach of the code?

The ASA will do one or more of the following:
• “Name and shame” the company on the ASA website
• With the co-operation of search engines, remove paid-for advertising links to the page that has the offending marketing message
• Place ads online that brings attention to the company’s non-compliance

Where can I find out more?

Check out the ASA’s Digital remit advice. They are also running seminars and offer a website audit service.

The future…

It will be interesting to see in the coming months how the ASA discovers non-compliant sites and messages, and how realistically it can deal with marketing messages going out via social media. Given the thousands of websites in the country and marketing messages thrown at us every day, it is impossible for them to police each one. They will need to rely heavily on the public to complain about adverts and messages they think are misleading.

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This post was written by Victoria (Marketing Manager at MintTwist). MintTwist are a leading web design London agency offering a full web service that also includes web marketing and SEO in London.

The Where, Why, and When of the World Wide Web

HTTP

Hypertext Transfer Protocol is essentially the dialogue that allows distribution and collaboration to take place across the Web. While its technological creation can be considered a modern venture, there were several precursors to the concept, which arguably has its roots in ancient times.

The desire to categorise and organise information is almost second nature, and has existed for centuries. Reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopaedias, index annotations such as the Dewey Decimal Classification, and even pre-printing press texts such as the Talamud were accompanied by annotations and symbols that would guide the reader/follower/surfer around the text. These systems were separate to the process of documentation – they were concerned with the connections between texts, and the ease of information retrieval.

The springboard for the etymology and electronisation behind HTTP came in the 1940s, when Vannevar Bush – an engineer associated with the analogue computer and atomic bomb – created the term Memex, based on the words “memory” and “index”. Memex was proposed as a compressed store of documents that could be indexed numerically, with the aim of making it a more efficient mechanical Rolodex. It was described as “an enlarged intimate supplement to one’s memory” (Lev Manovich, New Media Reader).

The Birth of the Internet: Vannevar Bush

In 1963, Ted Nelson – an American philisopher and technology pioneer – coined the phrases hypertext and hypermedia, which imply an overcoming of the constraints of written or tangible media. The terms refer to things displayed on an electronic device with references (hyperlinks) that lead to other text/media that are instantly accessible. Nelson’s IBM-funded research project at the time was the Hypertext Editing System (HES), which sought to organise data into two categories: links and branching text that could easily be pinpointed and recalled using labels.

The flexibility, immediacy, and collaborative nature of these ideas made them an ideal basis for creating the World Wide Web. It was Douglas Engelbart, while working on a rival to the HES, who became the first person to publicly present what is now known as “The Mother of All Demos” in 1968. This showcased the computer mouse, video conferencing, email, hypertext, word processing, and real-time editing – things many of us consider to be ultramodern.

Doug Engelbart 1968 Demonstration from Nathan Garrett on Vimeo.

The Mother of All Demos

Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web) carried out a breakthrough in hypertext development when he integrated it with the Internet. He created ENQUIRE, a hypertext-style database of unique identifiers (what we now refer to as Uniform Resource Locators – or URLs) in a customised language that would become the basic building blocks for links and branching text (Hypertext Markup Language – or HTML), which could then be transferred between servers and computers through “conversation”. This was the first example of what we now refer to as the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

The World’s First Web Server – Tim Berners-Lee’s workstation.

This epic article was guest written for MintTwist by Shreena from Anastrophe and Cheese. Check out her Twitter here: http://twitter.com/shreenas. Thanks very much Shreena! This article is awesome.

For more information on web design in London please visit the MintTwist website!

Making Every Word Count

People do not read websites like newspapers or books.  Reading from a computer screen is a more laborious process and can be 25% slower than reading from paper.  Readers are put under pressure to scan the page and select information relevant to them.

With this in mind, writing copy for your site can seem terrifying.  How do make sure visitors find what they want?  How can you engage them more?  Writing good content is not impossible but it does take practice.  Here are our top ten tips to get you started:

1.     Headlines should tell users what the page is about.  Being too clever can backfire.

2.     Make the first sentence after the heading count.

3.     Use 50% less copy than you would for printed material. If you have more to say, move it to secondary pages or make it available to download as pdf.

4.     Put keywords, statements and important information in bold.  This helps users pick out what is important to them quickly.

5.     Break copy up.  Use bullet points and sub-headings to make copy more scannable and easy to read.

6.     Structure copy using the inverted pyramid style so users get the most important information first before drilling down to detail.

7.     Avoid marketing language.  This bogs users down with unnecessary words to process.  They need to get information quickly.  It can also turn them off.

8.     You don’t have to be polite.  This delays users so “welcome”, “please” and “thank you” can be dropped without being rude.

9.     Avoid using “Click here”.  As well as being lazy, it is a no-no for disability standards.  Replace it with an action and tell you reader what will happen, e.g. Visit the MintTwist blog for awesome posts.

10.  FAQ and Help pages should get to the point.  Don’t be afraid to say yes or no – it’s the answer people are looking for.  Say it, then explain.

Writing great copy is important for web design London and SEO London campaigns.

Create a slug with jQuery

These days web design URLs are not as meaningless as they used to be. Everyone always makes sure they use SEO-friendly URLs.

For this example let’s consider the title “Web design London

Let’s say that MintTwist have a website with a content management system and let’s consider the average CMS.

Most CMS will automatically generate an SEO friendly URL from the title of the page, as mentioned in this case, “Web design London“. This means that our SEO friendly URL will be web-design-London. But what if we don’t want that as the URL?

What we could do is have a field that allows us to enter the  URL we want. Makes sense right? So we can add that, but isn’t it a bit of a bother remembering that you have to format it for a URL? Well if you use our little function below it will sanitise your input string without it having to be done on the back-end.

$.fn.slug = function()
{

return this.val().replace(/[^a-zA-Z 0-9-]+/g,”).toLowerCase().replace(/\s/g,’-’)

};

This simple function will make sure that there are only alphanumeric characters and hyphens in your string so you can write your page URL without having to do it all in lower case and remembering to add a hyphen instead of a space.

You can use this function very easily; consider the example below:

$(‘#pageName’).val();

var pageSlug = $(‘#pageName’).val();

To use this function on the page slug variable you would simply append the jQuery function we have created.

var pageSlug = $(‘#pageName’).val().slug();

Easy, no?

Why your website content shouldn’t be an elephant

You’ve spent months planning and talking about your new website.   Agencies have been interviewed and briefed, you’ve looked at designs and waited patiently for the build to finish…but one thing is missing.   Content.

Content is often the last thought but it should be one of your first. Writing what goes into your website at the beginning:

  • Helps you focus on the structure and aims of the site.   By thinking through what will go on the site, you are more likely to drop redundant sections and develop better ones.
  • Assists web designers in producing better more accurate designs.   What you have written informs and inspires them about your company.
  • Minimises development time – you will receive a test site that is 95% complete, leaving you free to concentrate on fixing bugs and making final tweaks, rather than feeling the pressure to produce hundreds of words.
  • Gives you a head start with SEO.   With your content written, you can start planning your SEO strategy and give your site the best possible launch.

Creating content can quickly become an elephant – weeks away from launch it is a small speck in the distance. Suddenly it’s large and looming. One of the biggest reasons people put it off is that they are unsure how to write engaging copy, and copy that will work for SEO. Good copy can reap big returns so it is worth taking the time to research how to do it properly. Check out our Top Ten Tips for Web Copy and the Short Guide to SEO from MintTwist and kick start your content today.

What to expect from web design in 2011

2010 was a difficult year for many people in many different industries. After the difficulties of 2008 and 2009, 2010 was never going to be a boom year. Many economic analysts had forecast 2011 as a year of recovery and maybe a bit of growth in the economy. However, with widespread government spending cuts due, 2011 might be slightly premature.

Web design is quite a fast moving industry. Web design companies are constantly striving to improve their abilities and their knowledge in an effort to get ahead of the competition. This requires a web design company to pay close attention to what the likes of Google are doing.

Search engine optimisationThe pace of life today is incredible. Google has obviously picked up on this because loading speed is now part of the Google algorithm. Some websites contain huge amounts of data and others not very much, and both present challenges. For new websites your web design company should be aware of the latest Google algorithm and ensure the site is developed with it in mind.

Images are everywhere on websites and they are prime example of loading items which could hamper your site. It is imperative that the image file size is kept to a minimum and that they are ideally formatted in JPEG and GIF.

Another challenge for web designers and developers is to make sure the site being built is suitable for the various screen resolutions available today. The can range from 640 x 480 to 1024 x 768 and as technology improves resolutions are only going to get bigger and better.

There is also growing demand for websites to work with mobile devices such as the Apple iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet. Web designers are quite used to having to perform cross browser testing. Cross platform testing is certainly a growing aspect of web design and represents significant opportunities for various businesses.

The style of websites has changed so much in recent years. At first the web was all about bright flashy bold colours and fonts to grab the eye. Now, the best sites are those which use neutral colours and fonts which are easy on the eye and easy to use. Take Google, the world’s most successful site, notice anything?

Guest Blogging Part 1 – An Introduction

In this series of blog posts, we will be looking at a SEO tactic.  Guest blogging is an underrated SEO and web marketing strategy.  Often, search engine optimizers will focus on building links and social media.  However, writing guest blog posts is a great way to not only improve your search engine result positions (SERPs) but also improve your traffic and get your name and brand out there.

Web design London

Writing quality content is arguably the best thing you can do for your search engine optimisation goals.  You can not underestimate the importance of having great, useful content to offer.  The Internet is all about information and resources.  Aside from the social and entertainments aspects, the Internet is mostly used as a news and information source.  Thus, the majority of searches on search engines are normally for answers or finding out about a specific thing.  If you can offer genuine, helpful and useful content then visitor numbers will increase naturally.

This is also true of guess blogging.  Blogs are personal things – a direct point of communication between the writer and the reader.  Therefore, most bloggers care personally about their blogs.  They pride themselves on their content and spend a lot of time writing it as well.  You should make the same amount of effort, if not, when writing a guest blog.  They’re a great way to reach potential new readers/visitors and you wouldn’t want their first impression of you to be a negative one.

In the next part of this article series we will look about how to get a guest blog post published.

10 Steps for a Social Media Campaign

In today’s current culture of social networking and constant digital connectivity, social media marketing is becoming more and more important for advertisers, companies and customers.  Social media gives you a direct channel of communication with customers.  Making use of social media has numerous advantages – it opens up conversations, it allows you to monitor what is being said about you and inadvertently promotes your company too.  Here are ten great tips for anyone starting a social media campaign.

1. Plan Ahead

Planning is key for all decisions but you need to determine your goals for your social media campaign.  Ask yourself why you should become involved with social media?  Is it to build brand awareness?  Open up customer relationships?  Or are you trying to promote a new service or a special offer?  Knowing the answers to these questions will mean you can better focus your efforts meaning you get maximum efficiency.

2. What Resources Do You Have?

Social media is an umbrella term for a lot of different activities which require a lot of different skill sets.  Who is going to maintain the conversations that arise from your social media efforts?  Will it be you or someone else?  Can anyone in the team afford to devote the time to sustaining a social media campaign?  One of the most important aspects of social media is communication.  Setting up a great campaign and then keeping up with the conversation from it will mean that it’ll inevitably fail.

3. Who Are You Talking To?

Who Are You Talking To?The Internet is a huge place and there are online communities for everything.  Furthermore, these communities all act in different ways and spend their time doing different things.  Knowing who your target audience is, what they enjoy doing online and genuinely being able to engage with them will make all the difference.

4. Create Epic Content

This is definitely the most important aspect of all social media interaction.  Offering your customers and potential customers something interesting, engaging and worth sharing will mean they keep coming back for more and also send your content on to their friends.

5. Integrate Resources

Good social media marketing campaigns utilize lots of resources.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and so much more.  Using them to cross-promote your campaign will mean greater traction and more interaction.

6. Schedule Social Media

Schedule Social MediaAs mentioned earlier, the nature social media requires you to continually interact with other people in order to get the most of your campaign.  This can be hard to sustain if you have a million other things to do.  Create a schedule of when to check Twitter or when to post Facebook updates.  Set aside 5 minutes in the morning, at lunch and before you leave to monitor your campaign and sustain the conversation.  You’ll gradually get into the habit and it’ll become second nature like checking your emails.

7. Devote Your Time Properly

So much about social media is being a genuine contributor – endless self-promotional will get you nowhere fast.  Devote approximately 80% of your time to communicating without self-promotional and then the rest of the time feel free to plug yourself.

8. Quality Over Quantity

It can be tempted to judge the success of a social media campaign purely on the numbers.  However, quality is more important than social media.  Having an engaged audience of 1,000 people is better than 5,000 people who do not engage with you at all.

9. Allow Your Audience To Lead The Communication

It can be tempting to want micromanage your social media campaign, unfortunately this is practically impossible and is also not something to be encouraged.  The nature of the Internet means that it’s difficult to control what people will say about you.  The advent of blogs and micro-blogging means it’s now easier than ever for people to say what is on their mind.  Many companies will want to limit any negative conversations about their brand which is understandable.  However, instead of trying to silence them – engage with them to learn from any criticism.  This will is great for public relations.  As the old saying goes, the only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity.

10. Learn and Refine

As with everything, you can always learn more.  Continually devote time to learning new tactics and ways to engage with people.  You can then go back and refine your campaign strategies and continually grow.

Social media shouldn’t be something to fear.  Learning to interact with online communities can appear daunting but it is something that will ultimately improve customer relations, boost brand exposure and can be enjoying to do.  What is becoming clear is that companies need to embrace the online social phenomenon and those that fight it are quickly getting left behind and have to play catch up.

Social Media

Choosing the right UAE web design company

The market for web design in the UAE has grown at an astonishing pace. 2010 has been a big year for the region, most notably the completion of the worlds’ tallest building, the Burj Khalifa Skyscraper and in Abu Dhabi the world’s largest indoor and first Ferrari theme park was opened.

The region has seen huge investment over the last two decades and created an oasis in the desert. Cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi have emerged and are now key drivers for the region. The region is home to the offices of numerous multinational companies and corporations. In addition to this there is very healthy growth of small to medium sized business.

In today’s business world there is no doubting the importance of a web presence and the UAE is no exception. The problem is that the vast majority of web development firms in the UAE do not have the same level of knowledge or experience as professionals in the West.

Internet usage is growing at a rapid rate in the UAE amongst the 4 million or so people that live there. Companies are investing millions of dollars in the region and the internet is a vital communications tool which is only growing in use and importance. Choosing the right web design company to work with can be difficult but below are some useful hints to help with that difficult decision.

Check the Portfolio – For web design companies having a portfolio is a simple must have. It gives a web design company the chance to show off their work and you can quickly gauge what kinds of styles are possible. However, be warned because seeing them in a gallery is not enough. It is vital that the functionality of these is thoroughly checked.

Talk to the owner of the business – Before any deal is made it is essential that you meet with the director of the web design company. This gives you an opportunity to test their knowledge and gives you an opportunity to talk about their previous and future projects and get contact details for referrals.

The kitchen sink – The very best web design companies will do more than just develop a website. The best firms will begin with a free consultation which will be based on a very high level view of your business and who it is targeting or which markets are most relevant. It is also common to discuss the design and development process used by the web design company because this will help in organising time scales.

Following on from this the Dubai web design company should be able to demonstrate their skill in keyword research, content management, digital graphic design, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and web marketing. If your web design company can fulfil all of this then you are speaking to the right people.

The people – Knowing that there is a team of dedicated professionals with specialist skills, working on your behalf is hugely important and can give you a lot of confidence in the web design company you are working with.

The vibe – Finally, the design company you choose to work with has to feel right. The communication needs to be friendly but professional and constructive. In other words you must be able to question the design company and you should expect good answers in return. Companies who don’t listen to their clients inevitably let them down so if you are ignored head somewhere else.

Draw in Readers with a Custom Website

There are over 175 million blogs on the internet today and that number only grows rapidly each and every day. It is easy to start a blog with free-hosting sites like Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, and many more offering easy, 5 minute set-up. Bloggers don’t have worry about hosting issues and can choose pre-designed templates to begin writing right away.

However, to get noticed by readers and advertisers, it is much better to put in the extra work (or spend the extra money) and self-host a custom-designed website. Simply put, it will differentiate your blog from the rest of the pack by looking more unique and professional. Since anyone can create a blog through Blogger etc., anyone can use one of their limited number of pre-designed templates. That means there are thousands, if not millions of people using the same exact designs on their pages.

Be unique. A custom-designed blog will more be more eye-grabbing and will be give you more design options, obviously. You can create a design that fits better with your blog’s topic, image, and brand, and it affords much more creativity. Bloggers with custom-designed sites do not have to go the conventional “blog look” route, with new posts scrolling down the page, but can get more innovative with layout, colors, backgrounds, fonts, images, everything.

Plus, self-hosting (with “yoursite.com” rather than “yoursite.wordpress.com”) allows you to own all the content on your website and makes your site easier to find; remembering that extra “blogspot.com” can be detrimental to traffic. Also, again, it simply looks more professional. And being able to own your site and its design allows for you to put outside advertisements on your blog, which means you can earn an income from the site.

It certainly takes more work, and to have it really done right, you may want to buy a professional blog template (£30-£50) or have a graphic/web designer custom design it themselves, which can run hundreds of dollars. But if you’re serious about blogging — and earning an income from blogging — you need a custom-designed website. It will draw readers in, ones who are quick to click away from a subpar looking site. Internet users are ones to judge a book by its cover; don’t let your design detract from the great content written. Enhance it with a unique, eye-catching, and innovative custom design. It will bring the readers — and the advertising money.

Top ten blog writing tips from MintTwist

1)      Form an opinion

2)      Ensure its well linked up

3)      Less is more

4)      300 words bare minimum

5)      Make the headline snappy

6)      Be passionate

7)      Fine tuning

8)      Keep it easy on the eye

9)      Be consistent with your style

10)   Get those keywords in

1) Form an opinion

Blogs are enjoyed by so many because people enjoy reading about others opinions. A blog is written by an individual to share their thoughts on a matter and form and opinion. People like opinion because we all form our own opinion on matters and enjoy comparing it to others.

2) Ensure its well linked up

A blog post should not be one link after the other. Overloading it with links is off-putting so choose appropriate words at appropriate intervals. If you want a link to your services or products page make sure the word which will link to that page is related.

3) Less is more

Do not get sidetracked. It is easy to start typing away and forget what the core point of the blog is.

4) 3 minutes

The longer the post the more the reader has opportunity to lose interest.

5) Make the headline snappy

Often the hardest part of a blog, try to condense your argument into a few words. The tabloids have mastered the art.

6) Passion

People like passion and it is easy to pick up on. The most successful bloggers are incredibly passionate about what they write about. Controlled passion is the key.

7) Fine tuning

When you have written your blog read it again, and then again. Try to find any mistakes and ways to improve the structure, the words and the tone. The first draft is never perfect.

8) Easy on the eye

Ensure that the blog does not contain huge paragraphs and endless sentences. The font needs to be easy to read, so not too small or too big.

9) Be consistent

Readers enjoy consistency because people like to know what to expect. That’s why so many people have favourite writers. If you read a book and enjoy it is quite usual to buy another book theirs.

10) Get those keywords in

Try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What keywords would people use to search for your blog post? Include as many of them in the body as possible and try to keep them as natural as possible.

Is cloud computing the future of web design?

Cloud computingWith the 7th International Cloud Expo being held in America this November and the announcement that New York City and Microsoft are teaming up to provide the city’s 100,000 employees with access to cloud services, it is evident that cloud computing is now at the forefront of computing technology and a current buzzword in the field.

Cloud computing refers to anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet and encompasses any subscription-based or pay-by-use service that, in real time, extends IT’s existing capabilities.

A clear benefit of this provision is the inevitable reduced cost incurred by any organisation.  The provision is not owned, with any resources being consumed as a service.  The company only pays for what is used as a utility, therefore avoiding capital expenditure.  According to New York City’s Mayor, “Through our partnership with Microsoft, we’ve found ways to offer our employees Microsoft’s newest computing tools while reducing costs to taxpayers.

By capitalizing on the city’s buying power, consolidating dozens of separate city agency license agreements into a single one, and paying for software based on use, we’ll save $50 million over the next five years.”

Until now, New York City’s agencies each purchased software individually, comprising more than 40 separate license agreements and even more maintenance and support contracts. With the new cloud agreement, all of the city’s software and services will be under one unified agreement, saving money and eliminating confusion.

Organisations also benefit from increased storage capacity as compared with that available on private computer systems.  With a phenomenal growth in data quantities, companies are under pressure to store and protect not only new data, but older existing data that is kept ‘just-in-case’ to protect against any future difficulties.  With this storage requirement comes additional costs associated with the greater need to manage and protect the data.  Cloud computing provides a cost-effective solution for this ongoing problem.

With the continued advances in technology and ever changing needs of organisations, cloud services ensure that the most up-to-date software is available to companies.  Similarly, the evolving nature of such provision ensures that companies are offered greater flexibility in how they access services and the many different combinations of services that may be required.

Possibly the most significant benefit arising from this shift in technology is the ability to access information from anywhere, resulting in greater mobility for employees.  In the case of New York particularly, this benefit is exemplified by the fact that many of the city’s workers are not office-based and so will have improved access to services with resulting improvements in communication between agencies.

Despite the significant benefits associated with the cloud computing revolution, there is also concern surrounding cloud computing and its attendant security risks.  The main concerns about cloud computing are security and privacy as data inside the ‘cloud’ is outside a company’s firewall and that brings with it an intrinsic threat of risk.  With an increase in hacking attempts, companies need to implement stringent security measures such as proven cryptographic methods to authenticate users.

This security risk extends beyond data storage to web development.  It is evident that an unsecure server is bad for search engine optimisation and for a company’s website.  As identified by an SEO London company, a lack of security in the cloud can result in the loss of search engine rankings.

As part of the ever growing and evolving IT industry, we must be open to advances in technology even if we maintain some reservations about potential security issues or associated concerns.  A spokesperson from a London web design company recognises the potential for cloud computing and the advances in technology in our every day lives.  “As web designers we frequently find ourselves caught up in the everyday workings of the internet”.  Cloud computing may very well be the new technology to drastically change the web design market but ultimately only time will tell.

To outsource or not to outsource?

Both private and public sector organisations are faced with the ongoing challenge of deciding whether functions or individual projects should be carried out internally or externally. Within the broad context of the annual review cycle, MintTwist re-evaspxaluates the merits of outsourcing project work just as one would with every other business decision.  It is important to recognise outsourcing as a strategic business tool, but to also determine the specific benefits that externally sourced work brings to the company.

It is wise for all companies to recognise the benefits of outsourcing for the continued progress of their business.  For the web development company, self-contained projects are easy to outsource and reap numerous benefits.  This type of organisation can help managers to set priorities more clearly and focus on core projects, which thus improves productivity.

Outsourcing converts fixed costs into variable costs and therefore releases capital for investment elsewhere in the business.  In this way it is possible to avoid large expenditures.  Inevitably, labour costs are reduced.  Hiring and training staff for short-term projects can be expensive while using temporary workers is often ineffective.  Therefore, with specific projects outsourced, human resources can be focused where most needed within the business.

The use of outsourced agencies enables new projects to begin quickly, without the need to commit weeks or even months for preparation and setting up.  Companies see an increase in productivity and gain access to a broad range of services which place businesses on a level playing field with other, possibly larger, companies.

Conversely, there are costs associated with outsourcing project work that impact on more than just financial growth.  The greater number of outsourced projects, the more potential for communication difficulties between the outsource provider, the company and the client.  More specifically, the field of web site design necessitates ongoing dialogue with the client in order to meet expectations whilst achieving maximum results.  It is far easier to manage the client relationship and achieve consistent service levels without the introduction of a third party.

It is always prudent to keep in mind that, while functions can be outsourced with each project, accountability cannot.  Web design companies, such as MintTwist, deal with sensitive data for each client that must be managed carefully.  While it is possible to identify and outsource provider’s portfolio of work, it is more difficult to assess its ethical conduct and personnel practices.  Such issues can be easily managed internally within the ethos of the organisation and under direct managerial control.

With a long-term perspective it can be an excellent decision to invest in training for staff in order to achieve a consistency in output for the company.  Whether it be skills related to website design, sales, marketing or SEO, London web design companies require employees to have the current knowledge base and associated skill set to contend with the competitive market.  The ongoing use of outsourcing does not allow for the development of high level functioning internally.  With competitively high service levels and excellent client relationships, MintTwist determines that the costs of outsourcing project work outweigh the benefits for the company.  Outsourcing introduces an unknown quantity for the web design company, where projects are in fact better managed in-house.