Spicerack Creative technology agency 2018-04-20T13:47:17Z https://spicerack.co.uk/feed/atom/ WordPress admin <![CDATA[Our website IS something from 2014]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4634 2017-07-25T14:24:26Z 2017-07-25T14:24:26Z We're not particularly proud of that. However we definitely are proud of the global online campaigns and rising star ...

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We’re not particularly proud of that. However we definitely are proud of the global online campaigns and rising star social creative we’ve been producing for brands including Clarks, Häagen-Dazs, Food Should Taste Good and Dyson.

Not to mention the OOH digital ads we’ve been building for Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs.

And, we can’t wait to show off the web platforms we’ve been working on for Foresight Factory, Centrica, and even a boutique hotel in Norfolk.

We’ve been so busy, we’ve neglected our own website. But we’re working on it. If you can’t wait, why not get in touch – we’d be delighted to show you our wares, in person.

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admin <![CDATA[Small Agencies are a thing of Beauty]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4544 2017-01-13T12:49:51Z 2017-01-13T12:49:51Z The post Small Agencies are a thing of Beauty appeared first on Spicerack.

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With a new year come new opportunities, sometimes in the form of clients’ team members jumping ship. As a partner of a small creative technology agency, I find it’s a common theme in January.

I’m not suggesting only small agencies are capable of retaining individual relationships as they channel-hop, but it is often in their DNA. When it happens, it’s the sweetest form of business development; an opportunity to cultivate multiple client relationships, through one great one. On top of that, the opportunities often grow in stature, in line with the client individual’s career trajectory.

Small agencies offer big things global outfits often can’t. So why is it that many brands ignore smaller agencies? There are a number of reasons and, speaking from experience as a one-time director at a global agency, now a director at a small independent, they’re largely unfounded, and often a missed opportunity.

Smaller creative agencies are often run by, therefore permeated with, exactly the kind of person you want to be dealing with. Typically, they are headed up by someone who has eschewed a career in agency-land, in order to work for themselves. This can be for a number of reasons; often it’s underpinned by a basic desire to do things right.

These individuals work for themselves but, if they’re good, eventually it becomes too much and their offering becomes an agency. These individuals are not new biz gurus; their opportunities arise through recommendations and referrals. New business is important to them, but it doesn’t define or solely drive them, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

So why would some brands never consider a small independent? Often it’s down to a fixed idea of risks that are, at best, myths which can often be expounded with minimal research.

The most obvious concern is whether a small agency is solid, or whether it’s likely to fold halfway through a critical brief. This is a groundless assumption. It would be crass to mention names but, so far this year, 12 days in, I’ve learned of two familiar national agencies folding. I had no idea either was in trouble until I heard that it was game over. It’s only relatively recently that I’ve become aware of how many big agencies there are which I’ve never even heard of. Digital remains a reasonably incestuous arena; a common theme I’ve easily gleaned is that many big agencies consistently barely break even. That’s a scary and distracting fact to permeate a team you in fact employ to be confident and focused.

Because of the assumed importance for agencies to grow exponentially, ultimately being bought for huge sums, it can also be easily assumed that smaller agencies are failing that objective. But again, these agencies are often headed up by individuals whose primary concern is to do things a certain way by their own rules and beliefs. It’s not hard to believe that some of these agencies aren’t driven by an end goal to sell up. That is a good thing for potential clients.

We have always worked with at least 3 global brands at a time, no name dropping required. All of these brands have benefitted from the advantages of working with a smaller agency. I will come back to those benefits, but first, the opportunity doesn’t always have a chance to sail. I’ve worked with a particular global brand for nearly 20 years; first at a global agency, then as a freelancer, and latterly through Spicerack supporting 2 big agencies to deliver what they weren’t always able to. So, when a team member of one of those agencies left to go client-side for this brand, and almost immediately directed them to Spicerack, the initial signs couldn’t have been rosier. The referral was so strong, it looked as though the first brief would drop before I’d even had a chance to meet and greet. And then, very suddenly, procurement axed the opportunity. Our size, in headcount and billings, fell short of their policy’s minimum requirements – by almost 3 times.

And that was the end of that; and not just for now – but forever. Because, believe it or not, I have no intention of growing Spicerack to their criterion of a viable headcount.

Is theirs a wise policy? Well, one of their agencies is one I’ve just mentioned having folded this year, seemingly out of nowhere, unable even to pay their redundant staff respectfully. I know of many small agencies, run by friends, who are extremely solid – largely because they’re small, lean and grounded, therefore manageable.

What are the other benefits of working with a small agency, beyond the motivations of their leaders? For a canny brand, there are many. If you don’t believe me, you can check out Spicerack’s client list; ask me for a contact, and I will provide one.

But first, please consider the following:

You want to work with the same person. In my experience, smaller agencies have a healthier retention of staff, often because client-facing roles tend to be more fulfilling due to their access to business-critical responsibilities. There’s also often more opportunity to flourish. Build a vital relationship with an account handler at a big agency, and it’s reasonable to suspect they’ll leave the company within a few years.

You want accessibility. With small agencies you can phone an individual, like you might phone a friend. With bigger agencies, that can be trickier. What’s more, accessibility comes in many guises. How many times is the agency so big, they make you seem small – resulting in a role-reversal of feeling like they’re in charge?

You want good value. With large agencies come large overheads, a greater pressure to charge you more, and to keep charging you more with calculated stealth. This often stems from the remit of a network within which that large agency sits. Small agencies are permeated with the founder’s own measurement of success; often simply great work, great relationships, and peace of mind.

Many of these larger agencies are beyond even the distraction of selling up. They’ve already sold, and are now pressured by ‘the Group’ to focus primarily on the bottom line. What’s more, the founder’s values are now sidelined by the enormous criteria of their own exit strategy; either that, or they’ve already left. They rarely stay because, guess what: they don’t want to be the employee of a big agency.

As for the network, the agencies within are at least encouraged, and more usually bound, to work with the other agencies within their group. No agency can always deliver everything to the best of a client’s requirements. Why would you work with an agency only allowed to pool from their club? An independent can partner with anyone. I was in a situation co-running Spicerack where we took on a high-end development project from a well-known agency because their network’s specialist didn’t have specific skills. The specialist ended up going through a convoluted process of rejecting the work due to lack of resource, simply in order for us to qualify to get involved. Otherwise they would have been forced to take on the project with inadequate skills.

So next time your brand needs to engage a new agency, you might ask yourself what puts you off working with a small independent. Are you content to refer to a checklist of generic risks, committing yourself to a draining exercise, contractually likely to be far more complex to extract yourself from than with a smaller agency; a smaller agency who haven’t been shaped by a timeline of mutually costly relationship breakdowns?

Thankfully, there are a few easy considerations to make before discounting that interesting smaller outfit:

You can easily get a feel for the company at source; the boss is easy to get hold of. Phone the office – they probably sit within a few metres of the main phone.

Ask to speak to one of their clients. If they have a client that makes you look small, and they’ve worked with them for more than a year, ask to speak to them. I know our clients will give you the time; that’s what good relationships are about.

Check the agency out on Companies House. If they’ve got 10 staff and made a 10% profit last year, they’re probably a safer bet than the agency with 100 staff who only broke even.

Check out the boss on LinkedIn. What’s their background? Have they worked for big agencies? If so, they know the best of both worlds. Did they start the company – do they own it? If so, they probably love it almost as much as their children.

Finally, don’t be restrained by generic formulae. Nothing big ever grew out of playing by the rule book. Small can be beautiful, and rules are meant for re-writing.

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admin <![CDATA[Watch this Space]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4421 2016-06-07T10:44:34Z 2016-06-07T10:44:34Z When Foresight Factory invited us to pitch for the opportunity to reconstruct the FFonline platform from the ground up, we knew we had to be part of it ...

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Spicerack have worked with independent global consumer insight company Foresight Factory for 3 years. Specialising in generating unique and profitable insights for their clients, FFonline is a proprietary platform providing practical, convenient and proven routes to the future.

When Foresight Factory invited us to pitch for the opportunity to reconstruct the FFonline platform from the ground up, we knew we had to be part of it.

Heading for a global launch in August 2016, we have devised a content platform which will enable the creation and publication of world class marketing research data via digital devices.

We are utilising cutting-edge search technologies and HTML5 content editing, to transition the Foresight Factory team from publishing content as complex powerpoint documents and spreadsheets, to a truly interactive online experience.

The platform supports subscription-based payments, as well as existing client accounts. It will facilitate the easy sharing and curation of content between users within Foresight Factory’s many prestigious clients’ teams.

This highly ambitious project is fully integrated with a new data warehouse, linking the raw survey data with HTML5 interactive data charts, giving clients a truly rich user experience from which to explore the data sets within a browser environment.

The August launch will be announced alongside the new global Foresight Factory marketing website, which we have designed and built in harmony with the new FFonline platform.

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admin <![CDATA[The Etiquette of a Black Book called LinkedIn]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4404 2016-03-23T11:04:49Z 2016-03-23T11:04:49Z I keep reading comments that LinkedIn is losing its potency. This morning a marketer complained (on LinkedIn) about an increase in spam ...

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I keep reading comments that LinkedIn is losing its potency. This morning a marketer complained (on LinkedIn) about an increase in spam, irrelevant content and unwanted advances. This, she said, was leading to her considering closing her account.

I try to treat LinkedIn as a black book in the traditional sense. Pre-LinkedIn, my own ‘black book’ (a folder of business cards) held the details of cherished contacts with whom I’d either done business, or met with and found inspiring.

As a logical progression, nearly everyone in my LinkedIn contacts fits that bill. I admit I can’t remember how I connected with 15% of my contacts, but the same could have been said for my black book.

I believe that LinkedIn’s millennial users are moving away from this kind of approach, and therefore won’t get the full value from it as a business networking tool.

If I accepted the invitation of anyone who tried to connect, I’d feel it was opening a gate to hassle my valued connections. To me, that would be akin to being careless with my black book, which I would never have been.

Also, I see little value in an enormous collection of people with whom I’ve never dealt. The more you dilute a network, the weaker, more transparent and, dare I say, tasteless it becomes.

It can be uncomfortable dismissing invites on LinkedIn, but it’s often the right thing to do; remember, that person has reached you by claiming you are a colleague, classmate, that you’ve done business together, or that you’re a friend. It’s hardly crime of the century, but it’s bypassing a system that’s there for a reason.

For me, common-sense allows exceptions to the rule. As an example, I commented on a post last month. The author then connected with the personalised comment, “We haven’t done business together but you made a witty remark on my post and I can’t like it without “knowing” you.” In that instance, the combination of enjoying his post enough to comment on it, our similar backgrounds, and our shared connections, was reason enough for me to accept.

I can’t help thinking that if everyone approached LinkedIn more like the old black book, it would be a better-connected community.

David Harrison: Creative Partner | Spicerack

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admin <![CDATA[Web, Email and the W3C – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4283 2016-01-25T16:33:26Z 2016-01-25T16:33:26Z We explore the innovations within web, e-mail standards, and the W3C

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Web, web, web, In my last article, I wrote about how we can all use third-party technologies to our advantage. The Internet gives all of us the ability to use and contribute to the work of others; as developers, this resource pool can be such a valuable asset.

It was, perhaps, a little one sided… I’m not usually a negative person, but it is nonetheless important to give fair and constructive criticism. If we want to work within a better tech ecosystem, it’s not helpful to ignore areas that are lacking or could be improved.

And so, whilst the spirit of cooperation and shared knowledge is alive and well in many developer communities, I’ve decided to focus this piece on the lesser-known forces behind innovation within the industry; Web and e-mail standards, and the W3C.

Web

The Good

The W3C are moving forward with their iterative improvement of web standards. From personal experience, some of the issues I’ve encountered when developing for Web (some of the gaps in functionality, or quirks of standardisation) are soon to be solved.

I love SVG 2. As an example, SVG 2 will bring in the move from a circle’s radius being considered an HTML attribute to it being considered a CSS property and, as such, will further unify the two Markup Languages.

I also like FlexBox. Dealing with positioning and alignment in CSS has always felt, to me at least, as if you’re fighting the system rather than benefitting from it. To have an entirely new layout paradigm on the horizon, with dynamic space allocation at its heart, is an incredibly exciting prospect.

Web

The Bad

Some have criticised the efforts of the W3C to standardise a ‘Do Not Track’ request. The move was intended as a way of championing user privacy, however (since advertisers and other trackers are under no real obligation to acknowledge DNT) it was rendered largely ineffective. The failure to get digital advertising organisations onside was seen as a significant set back.

Equally, the W3C have come under criticism for their involvement in the institutionalisation of Digital Rights Management; the proposed standards for Encrypted Media Extensions would enable DRM streamed content to play through HTML5 Video. Organisations such as the Free Software Foundation consider it a restrictive practice, and one that constrains user freedom.

Web

The Ugly

Of course, a lot of these criticisms are focused on individual decisions, or temporary shortcomings; they will be relatively easy to change. On the other hand, the truly ugly side of the Web was born from a systematic resistance to change.

There is a deep and systemic problem at the heart of internet usage today. Coincidentally, it is the same deep and systemic problem that has been at the heart of internet usage for over half a decade; internet users continue to use the same software to access e-mail and Web pages, despite their age and nonconformance to standards.

The lack of consistency with regards to the rendering of HTML and CSS, far from being just mildly irritating to the more obsessive of developers, causes real and quantifiable problems to businesses. The time taken to cater for older Web and e-mail clients (and the lengthy testing processes that follow) all contribute to the final build time of a project, and its total cost.

The work of the W3C, and others, to innovate and modernise digital standards comes to nothing when over 10% of Web browser users were using IE 8 as of December 2015; a significant proportion of currently used browsers are simply incompatible with the improvements.

It is an exciting time to be a front-end web developer; every day I’m exploring the pitfalls and shortcomings of the status quo, whilst at the same time eagerly reading through the work-in-progress proposals for some truly fabulous solutions.

Whilst the Web seems to find a new way to frustrate me everyday, and the time I’ve spent on StackOverflow poring over lists of hacks and workarounds is truly cringe-worthy, it simply makes my aspirations for the future all the more powerful.

The future is, as always, uncertain. It will probably be a bumpy road. I am, however, quietly optimistic.

 

Nathan Russell: Junior Developer | Spicerack Media Ltd

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admin <![CDATA[How to Avoid the Hangover from Overdoing It on Data]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4248 2015-12-17T16:30:24Z 2015-12-17T16:30:24Z Our top tips for defining a data strategy appropriate for your specific needs

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It’s late 2015, and we’re only a matter of weeks away from holding hands in an awkward fashion, singing Auld Lang Syne and moving into 2016.  I think few would argue with the case that society can now be truly regarded as digital. With the development and progression in technology, even those with with very limited knowledge of digital marketing, now have access to a large range of intuitive tools, allowing them to hit the ground running.  To name a few of the most usable tools and resources – Google Analytics, Strikingly, MPZmail and Hootsuite

Data

The main driving factors behind becoming more digitally focused are glaringly obvious: greater control of activity and budget, full transparency, instant access to an active and responsive audience, and most importantly collecting data that specifically relates to your business.

As a business we are fortunate enough to work on a broad range of digital projects. Irrespective of their size or complexity, what interests me more than virtually any other aspect of the process, is the consideration for data collection, its management and how actionable it is.  I take genuine pleasure in introducing clients to new tools or suggesting activity that may result in a deeper, more meaningful understanding of their business and their customer behaviour.  Ultimately I enjoy seeing how these insights, or nuggets of invaluable data, assist in generating a stronger response.  

The broad challenge is how to impress upon clients the importance of collecting and using some data, but also why having a strategy appropriate to their circumstances is just as significant.  By being appropriate, I am referring to a number of factors such as:

  • Number of facets to business model
  • The scale of the business
  • Resource and capability of person(s) responsible for data management
  • Scope for implementing changes

 

The opposing ends of the scale represent virtually no data, right through to vast data sets that are just far too large to interpret into anything vaguely useful.  
Data
The objective therefore is to create equilibrium: having enough data to have practical application, but not so much you are overwhelmed.  A great place to start when identifying your data requirements is to simply outline a set of achievable business goals.  

Example: Let’s say you own and run an online store, selling a small range of consumer gadgets such as drones, remote control cars, phone accessories, travel aids and helpful kitchen devices.

 

Scenario 1

As the founder of the business you will (hopefully) have a genuine interest in gadgets and technology and, as such, regularly write or post articles about the products you stock, would like to stock or simply like/don’t like.

Objective and data requirement 1

  • Encourage site visitors to like, follow or comment on social media.
  • Grow your email database through email sign-up.

 

Scenario 2

In order to ensure you have enough of the right stock on your site you must order 4 months in advance with your supplier.  In addition, the stock you order needs to move quickly and offer a good return.  

Objective and data requirement 2

  • Understand how frequently items are added to shopping cart.
  • Understand how frequently items are purchased.
  • Understand how often items are interacted with.

 

Scenario 3

The number of transactions you record are healthy and consistent, however you wish to increase the average basket value.

Objective and data requirement 3

  • Highlight if there are trends between one item being purchased and another; i.e. are there a significant number of people who bought X and also Y, either in one or multiple transactions.  This would allow you to build a suggestion model.

 

Scenario 4

The volume of traffic coming to your site is reasonable but the people visiting don’t tend to make purchases as often as you would hope.

Objective and data requirement 4

  • You need to increase the volume of traffic.  Collecting demographic/behavioural data from social media and your own site might help you narrow your targeting options for some paid activity.  This would allow you to attract the right  visitor.
  • Qualify and pre-qualify the traffic coming  to your site for the first time or revisiting.  Essentially you need to concentrate on attracting the right people.  Running a site survey, creating a loyalty program or measuring your exit/ abandonment will help you understand what you are doing right or wrong.

 

All of the points above clearly outline what basic tasks you, as a business, may wish to achieve.  Underneath the tasks are listed what type of data and activity driving data is required.  A simple analogy might be using Google Maps on your phone; once you establish where you are and where you want to go, the path is clear.  However, without the data you would simply have a start and end point on a blank background, containing no reference points.  Data unveils the path of least resistance – it is effectively the names of all roads, towns and cities you could pass through for the most efficient journey.

 

Data

 

The data requirements of your business will constantly adjust and evolve, however the best advice I could offer would be to keep things simple.  Test and manage the use of data and what impact these actions have on your business over time.  If you can’t easily make use of the data – don’t collect it.

 

Duncan Burgess: Head of Delivery | Spicerack Media Ltd

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admin <![CDATA[Making Creative Development Tools Accessible to Our Future Designers and Developers]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4103 2015-12-08T11:15:39Z 2015-12-08T11:15:39Z Free creative tools for the next generation of designers and developers...

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On opening Photoshop this morning, it asked to score the likelihood I would recommend it to a friend out of 10. Along with my score I was able to submit comments, and used all the characters available to offer the following:

Adobe should make products more freely available to amateurs. My eldest son is 12 and a budding web developer; he’s using open source products. When I was a teenager I could get hold of Adobe products because you made it easy. You’ve now made it nigh on impossible to escape paying for it. We respect your pricing structure for professionals – we’re happy to pay for the licenses as we make money out of your product. But it’s shortsighted to lock kids out – especially as the free alternatives are getting really good.

Having stated this, I thought I should back up my claims by highlighting 5 great development tools out there for Mac users, all of which your little geniuses can access for free:

 

Tools

 

Indesign versus Scribus

Scribus can do most of the things you can do in Indesign. Its interface falls short, but to lay out a straightforward page, leaflet or small book design, Scribus is totally viable.

It’s less adept at image handling, and less precision is available for really fine-tuning, but it’s usable – and free!

 

 

 

 

Tools

 

Photoshop versus GIMP

Version 2.8 of GIMP has a tidy interface, making it highly usable. A recent addition is a new single-window mode, copying the tabbed view of Photoshop.

GIMP gets better and better with every release, which arguably can’t always be said for Photoshop, and I think it could be viewed as a serious contender even for professional use.

 

 

Tools

 

Illustrator versus Inkscape

Inkscape is widely labelled as the top subscription-free alternative to Adobe Illustrator.  The interface is well thought out, offering a fuss-free working-space, and giving users room to focus on the task in-hand.  The UI may involve a few trials and errors, particularly when using filters and setting up palettes, but this tool is robust. It’s certainly up to the job, and has gained respect amongst those within the industry.   

 

 

Tools

Dreamweaver versus SeaMonkey

SeaMonkey is an all-in-one internet application suite which continues to develop and deliver high-quality updates. It contains a browser, email & newsgroup client with an included web feed reader, HTML editor, IRC chat and web development tools. It’s also standards-compliant, and comes with some clever development tools such as an Error Console and DOM Inspector.

 

 

 

Tools

 

Acrobat versus Preview

Us Mac users can get by with Preview for most PDF editing and creation. Preview covers annotation, highlighting, editing, signatures and more. For the majority of people who need simple editing tools Preview works great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summing up:

The few open-source tools I have chosen to compare against Adobe products are a sprinkling of what’s available.  There really are some great alternatives out there and, whilst testing them might be time-consuming, the beauty is that there is likely to be a solution that suits your personal needs or preference.  This still doesn’t stop me wishing Adobe would engineer some kind of free or affordable iteration of their products for those under 16.

Dave Harrison: MD | Spicerack Media Ltd

 

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admin <![CDATA[“I’m sorry, I don’t speak gobbledygook. Ways to improve project communication.”]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4058 2015-11-24T11:50:12Z 2015-11-24T11:50:12Z How I've overcome the language barrier with clients...

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How I’ve overcome the language barrier with clients…

 

The Tech Industry perhaps more than any other has a pervasive culture of buzzwords, anachronisms and downright confusing esoteric jargon. Just think “Cloud Computing” and you’re there. We also have a wonderfully diverse ecosystem, nay universe, of incredible tools, techniques, theories and practices, all of which have their own bewildering set of terminology. As acolytes, we strive to understand them; as outsiders, we struggle to grasp them. This is not conducive to clear communication and understanding on cross discipline technical projects.

communication

I admit that the geek in me takes pleasure in being able to hold court on the semantic differences between programming languages and in whiling away an hour or two arguing the toss for mico-services. However, I am also painfully aware of how alienating tech speak can be: you only have to clock the eye rolling and head shaking from less tech infatuated better halves to know how annoying it can be. As developers we need to improve our communication when it comes to explaining key technologies and concepts and thus engage a wider audience.

When I was younger there was a temptation to use this shroud of mystery surrounding technology for commercial advantage, and indeed there are some for whom this is a tactic still today. My own personal journey has taken me on a less esoteric, more informative path where I have found there is no question that can’t be answered with an A3 flipchart, a suitable array of Sharpies and a helping of creativity and patience.

I have found that clients really appreciate being let into the inner circle. Furthermore, once they have grasped core concepts, particular those that relate to back end development, and become relaxed enough to admit when they don’t know what a term or concept means, we can have really meaningful communication around the use of technology within their business.

communication

This is no one way street: all organisations big, small commercial, or social have their own domain specific language where a shared understanding of terminology is alienating to outsiders. One of the first things I do when establishing a new project with clients is to create a language dictionary / project glossary where each side enters terms and descriptions including usage examples to help all project collaborators communicate better about the project. Transparency is key to the success of all collaborations, and this is no less true when it comes to technology projects.

These are a few key lessons I have learnt along the way that may be useful to adopt in your own projects:

  • Maintain a glossary of key terms / phrases – This is not restricted to technical terms. It should include any domain specific language used by the project team, and will include technical, UX, design and product / brand terms used by your client.
  • Use diagrams – “A picture speaks a thousand words” is a truism. Just remember to keep it simple and, if it’s getting crowded, break it out into smaller chunks.  Try: Balsamic, Gliffy53 Paper, or the more traditional pen and paper.
  • Think clearly about how much detail your client / co-workers need to know – A little knowledge is dangerous; a lot can be overwhelming. You are aiming to empower them in their role through better understanding of key concepts, not drown them in the vagaries of garbage collection.
  • Encourage a learning culture – Project collaborators should feel empowered to ask and answer questions about their specialities. This can easily be facilitated by setting up a Slack team for the project. (Other collaborative messaging / communication platforms are available.)
  • Be confident in what you know and understanding of what others don’t

In conclusion, every project is different and technology evolves at a pace so this process will be a living part of each project. Remember to encourage team members, stakeholders and project participants to ask questions but don’t necessarily feel pressured into giving detailed technical answers there and then: take your time to think through the best way to explain your answer and come back with something measured and pitched at the right level for the knowledge base of your target audience.

As always, if you would like to have an informal chat with us about a build or development project, please feel free to send a note to hello@spicerack.co.uk

Justin Boynton: Technology Director | Spicerack Media Ltd

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admin <![CDATA[Digital Brand Fatigue – How to Avoid Being given the Cold Shoulder]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=4020 2015-11-17T10:02:20Z 2015-11-17T10:02:20Z Avoid brand fatigue. Understanding the environment you exist in...

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The term ‘brand fatigue’ might sound like the latest to join a long list of terms engineered by people within the marketing industry for the industry.  The immediate question(s) therefore is…  is this a real thing, and do we need to worry about it?

 

This is by no means a definitive answer; it probably is ‘a thing’, but to ‘worry’ about it might be a bit extreme.  Brand fatigue certainly isn’t on the same worry scale by comparison to visiting your GP or dentist.  In our opinion, it’s simply being conscious of overdoing doing it with regards to push messaging.  Working towards a better balance of what you say to your customers and how frequently you say it is the challenge.  Understanding when your activity runs the risk of becoming excessive before it actually is, and applying some control mechanisms is ultimately the goal.

 

To define what balance is correct for you and your brand is likely to take some time.  This is because this balance will be largely unique depending on a number of factors such as how established / respected your brand is, and what sector you exist within.  We recently published an article on best practices in content marketing.  This post might be worth a few minutes of your time having a look at this post, as many of the same techniques and considerations will be relevant to maintaining a healthy brand (covered in this article).

 

With regard to managing the frequency of your marketing efforts, try to focus on the three main areas: email marketing, blog posts and social media.  Below are some tips on how to approach each area:

Brand Fatigue

Email Marketing
Email marketing is probably the key area to concentrate on; after all, it’s likely you’ve worked pretty hard to build up your subscriber database.  The last thing you want is for this list to diminish as result of recipients frantically looking for the ‘unsubscribe’ link.  Once they click they are gone for good.  Don’t give them a reason to do this.
In this day and age we have so many subscriptions and accounts linked to our email addresses, and we’re happy to trade those addresses for money off, special offers, and as an entrance fee to join virtual clubs.  Unfortunately, as a result, our inboxes quickly fill up with rafts of emails, often telling us about services or products we no longer have an interest in.

 

With this in mind, it’s important to be mindful of changes in open and engagement rates.  Additionally, pay particular attention to higher-than-average numbers of people unsubscribing.  This might be the most obvious of suggestions, but it’s the most important, so I had to mention it.  Whilst the content within your emails, and also the layouts, are likely to change over time (as they should), it’s still worth analysing the response from each shoot, and plotting them on a time line.  By creating your own set of benchmarks, you’ll be more reactive to changes in recipients’ behaviour.

The most likely reasons for changes are more often than not down to:

  • Sending emails too frequently
  • Not taking the time to segment the lists and produce personalised messages
  • Failing to identify true value in the promotions that are sent out
  • Lack of A/B testing, in terms of content type, length, tone etc

Go back to basics and work towards producing good quality content, consider incentives that could make the difference to the recipient, and limit the amount of broadcasts.  Quality over quality feels like the most appropriate take away point.

Brand Fatigue

Blog Content
Avoiding fatigue, especially in the context of blog activity, is a tricky area to navigate.  Unlike the insights and analytical tools both social channels and eCRM platforms offer, blog distribution channels can be somewhat restrictive when looking for useful information.  Whilst it’s going to be a clunky, inconclusive process, it’s worth putting in the legwork to discover as much as you can about each outlet.  This might be in the form of best day / time of day to post, appropriate tone, frequency or length.  

 

Brand Fatigue

Social Channels
Working towards the same methodology we have already discussed, trialing and testing content ideas before building on them further and posting everywhere is, undoubtedly, best practice. Twitter is a fantastic platform for a snack or abbreviated content distribution. It can be used as that first toe in the water when it comes to discovering which tweets receive a positive response, and can be given the green light to become longer form content ideas. Once your content pillars have been defined, you might then want to consider other platforms such as Facebook. With Facebook, unless the posts have been pre-qualified for a healthy response, low engagement will inevitably follow.  This translates to poor visibility through Facebook’s algorithm. The result: your page will fall between the cracks – a difficult place to come back from.

 

There is a plethora of great social management and analytic platforms to help you make sense of, and use, the hundreds of different buzz metrics out there.  Here are a few we think are worth considering; Hootsuite, sproutsocial and a wildcard, BirdSong Analytics

 

If you’d like to talk to us about any form of digital campaign, build or strategy planning, please feel free to send us a note: hello@spicerack.co.uk

 

Duncan Burgess: Head of Delivery | Spicerack Media Ltd

 

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admin <![CDATA[Adopting Third Party Technologies for the Long Haul]]> http://www.spicerack.co.uk/?p=3990 2015-11-13T09:01:51Z 2015-11-13T09:01:51Z For developers, choosing the right third party technologies to use in a web project...

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For developers, choosing the right third party technologies to use in a web project can be as important for the success of the project as the content the site contains.

This is especially true for commercial work. The businesses that you work with will likely have standard requirements in terms of security, compatibility, and the lifespan of their finished product; how you decide to approach the project technically will have one of the largest impacts on these considerations over time.

 

The Long Haul

For most, if not all, developers, the tools and libraries we use are going to be third party. Building up dependencies on other software can feel a lot like putting the success or failure of our projects into the hands of strangers, but it would be unfeasible for the majority of us to do it any other way. We must, therefore, be confident that the people who maintain these external resources will not only continue to do so, but will continue to innovate in a stable manner.

How, I hear you ask, do we decide what kind of third party technologies to integrate with our web project?

It is a difficult question; in an ever-changing digital landscape, how can we be sure that the resources we depend on will continue to be there? How can we predict the future and protect our interests?

Uncertain Future

The answer is, of course, that we can’t. Unfortunately we must take the risk and make informed decisions based on what we have seen or read about, historically.

Although the factors affecting a development project’s trajectory can vary, and their ultimate success can only really be determined post-mortem, there are a small number of steps we can take to help manage the risks involved with their adoption:

  1. Know the market. Before committing to anything in the development process, check out the alternatives. It’s a simple step, but often overlooked. The temptation is to opt for what you’ve used before, and not to look any further.  While this may be preferable in the short term, things can really start gathering dust within the space of three or four years. By giving yourself alternatives, you are injecting competition into the situation; you have the power of choice.
  2. Don’t double up. There’s a whole list of cliches I could use to describe this step (less is more, two birds; one stone, etc.) but trying to reduce the number of different technologies currently used in your project really can make resource management simpler, and keep your list of dependencies to a minimum. By going with the most versatile tools available to you, putting all your eggs in fewer baskets isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  3. Go with the professionals. The final, and perhaps the most important, point I’d like to make concerns the group of people who back the resource’s development. Countless articles have been written on the benefits of open source vs. proprietary software, so I’ll try not to cover old ground. All the same, it’s worth noting a relatively recent trend; for-profit corporations maintaining enterprise-standard versions of open source software. In my opinion, this provides the best mix in terms of innovation, speedy bug patches, long term support, and security. A wide range of developers can work on generating new ideas and features, whilst their successes’ open source code can be filtered into a definitive and secure end product with the backing of tech titans.

(Notable examples include Google’s Chrome web browser, Facebook’s React javascript library, and Digia’s Qt GUI Framework.)

Eggs in one basket

A final thought; procrastination is an easy space to get into.  Whilst the temptation might be there to kick a few decisions into the long grass, it goes without saying that this really won’t solve anything. Instead, tackle problems intelligently and head on, before they have a chance to fester.  Treat it like homework, suck it up and get it done – the sooner it’s done the quicker you can move onto the fun stuff. We all like the fun stuff.

If you or your brand are facing the challenge of deciding on the right 3rd party technologies to use, feel free to get in touch as we would be only too happy to help you qualify the most likely solution.  hello@spicerack.co.uk

 

Nathan Russell: Junior Developer | Spicerack Media Ltd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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