Enovate https://www.enovate.co.uk/ Latest news from Essex based web design company Enovate Design, as well as commentary on responsive web design and other website design related topics. en-GB Wed, 08 Nov 2017 13:30:00 +0000 Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:37:14 +0000 Boosting Google traffic to your blog https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/11/08/boosting-google-traffic-to-your-blog Wed, 08 Nov 2017 13:30:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/11/08/boosting-google-traffic-to-your-blog

When a blog author has finally published a new blog post and is sitting back and basking in the success of their achievement, one thing is guaranteed. That it won’t be long until they use Google to try and find their newly published prose and they may well be disappointed with the result. Perhaps they can’t find the new blog post at all or it’s a long way from the prime ranking positions.

When thinking of boosting traffic to your blog from Google looking at inclusion in Google News is a great place to start as it delivers over 6 billion clicks to publishers every month. That said, your website needs to be approved for inclusion and Google is fairly selective so you may need to be realistic that if you’re not really blogging about newsworthy topics on a regular basis perhaps Google News isn’t where you should focus your efforts. If you think you might have a chance at getting included in Google News great, their quick start guide is where to get started.

For the rest of you fear not, there’s still lots you can do to boost your traffic from Google:

1. Blog about popular topics, it’s true that in journalism timing is everything. So if you’re able to keep your finger on the pulse and write blog posts that tap into events or topics of the moment that’s a great strategy to increase traffic to your blog as there’s no point blogging about topics or events that are only of interest to a narrow audience.

A popular blog post on our website is about implementing Brotli compression in Nginx, “what?!” you may say but in our field it was quite popular around February this year, exactly when I published the post and it was our most popular blog post for a number of weeks thereafter.

2. Make sure you’re not doing your content a disservice when it comes to the blog post’s title and meta description, these should be carefully considered. Don’t leave this to an automated tool, it’s definitely the most important few characters you will write so do take your time.

3. Whilst this won’t necessarily have a big Google search impact I’d still recommend you invest some further time to compose an eye-catching Open Graph image (example below), this is the image that displays when your blog post is shared at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If design isn’t your thing consider employing the skills of a designer for this purpose. We’ve noticed more retweets and shares when we’ve put more effort into the design of our Open Graph images, so don’t neglect this.

The Open Graph image for our blog post “Why we love Craft CMS”
The Open Graph image for our blog post “Why we love Craft CMS”

4. Make sure your blog has an XML sitemap and it has been submitted to Google’s Search Console, this XML file gives Google a list of all the pages in your site so it can quickly identify new additions it needs to index.

5. For particularly time sensitive blog posts, from the Google Search Console, use the “Fetch as Google” tool, which then provides an option to “Request Indexing” this is effectively a notification to Google to ask the search engine to crawl your new page as soon as possible. This may well be functionality that is built into your chosen CMS but it’s worth checking if that’s the case, and if not doing so manually as it should mean new blog posts are indexed in a matter of hours instead of days.

6. Boost your reputation as an author by making sure your blog posts are attributed to you as the author, if you’re lucky enough to get blog posts published on other leading sites in your field this is great as it should boost your reputation in Google’s eyes as an author and in turn increase your rankings as a result.

7. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source initiative Google launched in October 2015, with the aim to improve page loading times and reduce data use of web pages on mobile devices. It’s been very successful with many major news publishers quickly adopting the approach. You can often see AMP enabled web pages listed in a carousel at the top of the search results so also serving your blogs posts via AMP is a surefire way to increase their search engine prominence and drive more traffic.

So there you have it, that's our top strategies and tips for boosting traffic to your blog from Google and achieving faster entry into Google’s search results for new blog posts, I hope you've found it useful.

]]>
Van Vynck Craft CMS re-build goes live https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/10/12/van-vynck-craft-cms-re-build-goes-live Wed, 11 Oct 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/10/12/van-vynck-craft-cms-re-build-goes-live

Enovate first began working with Van Vynck over twelve years ago and in that time we have designed, developed and hosted three versions of their corporate website.

This latest version of the site is the first to use Craft CMS. The reason for switching from MODx to Craft was for two main reasons: the need for an improved editing experience for Van Vynck’s content authors and a desire to boost their search engine rank by totally replacing the underlying code with search engine friendly code. After discussing all the benefits to Van Vynck, they were more than keen to relaunch their site using Craft CMS.

Van Vynck were, for the most part, happy with the site’s original design, the only exception being the homepage, which was redesigned and redeveloped to include a carousel and to better display the key information and calls to action. Working closely with the client and communicating regularly helped keep the project on track and ensure expectations were met.

Following the completion of the development work we handled client training, teaching the content editors how to use Craft CMS, and then we worked through an automated content import process, bringing all the text and images from the old site into the new.

After adding the final touches and addressing any bugs that came up in testing, the client was happy with the finished site and we were proud to deliver a fast website that is easy to navigate and runs smoothly on any device.

]]>
ScanmarQED goes live https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/10/11/scanmarqed-goes-live Tue, 10 Oct 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/10/11/scanmarqed-goes-live

ScanmarQED approached Enovate with a requirement for a modern, innovative website, that would clearly describe the marketing products and services they offer to clients around the world as well as integrating with a host of third-party systems that they relied on.

After a detailed research and discovery phase we created an initial site design based on our understanding of the client’s requirements which they provided feedback on, specifically what they liked, disliked and what they wanted to change. Following this feedback process we revised the design until we reached a version the client was happy to approve.

On completion of the design and development work, we moved onto delivering the client training, which involved teaching the client how to add content and images to the site, create new pages or remove redundant ones and how the various integrations had been implemented within their Craft CMS installation.

Both Enovate and the client are very happy with and proud of the finished site and it achieves our goals of delivering a fast website that is reliable and responsive, ensuring it is usable on any device, whether that be a desktop or mobile phone. We hope the new site serves the client well for many years and we looking forward to working with them as the site grows and evolves.

]]>
Progressive Web Apps https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/10/02/progressive-web-apps Mon, 02 Oct 2017 14:30:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/10/02/progressive-web-apps

"Progressive Web App" is a term first coined by designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell back in 2015 to describe web apps that narrow the gap between web and native apps. Progressive Web Apps take advantage of modern web technologies such as service workers and web app manifests to provide a user experience nearer to native apps without the chore of an app store download and install.

PWAs are exciting for us as web developers and web designers as it has the potential to bring greater demand for our skills and a broader canvas for our work to be consumed. For brands large and small it presents a fantastic opportunity to potentially reduce the costly development and maintenance of mobile apps across multiple platforms, along with managing the legacy of older versions of an application still being in existence. Instead brands can continue to invest in their web apps and take advantage of PWAs to deliver a rich native-like user experience from the "web platform", which is constantly up-to-date.

But what's the difference between a web app and a progressive web app? Progressive Web Apps have the following characteristics:

  • Progressive - Work for every user, regardless of browser choice because they're built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
  • Responsive - Fit any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or forms yet to emerge.
  • Connectivity independent - Service workers allow work offline, or on low quality networks.
  • App-like - Feel like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation.
  • Fresh - Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
  • Safe - Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and ensure content hasn't been tampered with.
  • Discoverable - Are identifiable as "applications" thanks to W3C manifests and service worker registration scope allowing search engines to find them.
  • Re-engageable - Make re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
  • Installable - Allow users to "keep" apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
  • Linkable - Easily shared via a URL and do not require complex installation.

Browser support for Progressive Web Apps is excellent in Google Chrome and Opera, followed by good support in Firefox and Samsung Internet with Microsoft Edge improving fast. Safari on the other hand is notably lacking, perhaps because of their reliance on apps and the app store and PWAs could be seen as a threat to that business.

Whilst most demos of PWAs focus on the mobile experience PWAs are also set to make an impact on desktop devices by being built into Chrome OS and Windows, launching what feels far more like a desktop application rather than a web experience. This makes PWAs even more exciting as they have the potential to not only consolidate development effort across mobile devices but desktops and beyond, using the universal support of web standards and the advances in the web that PWAs are forging.

Microsoft is taking an interesting approach in Windows, where they speak about the "web platform", meaning the triad of cornerstone technologies for the web (HTML, CSS and JS) with Edge being one application built upon that web platform. Their implementation of PWAs in Windows is not taking the approach of another manifestation of Edge but rather a secure and sandboxed environment for a real application to exist with its own identity, ratings and comments on the Windows store. Which can then be installed and pinned to the start menu and taskbar like any native Windows application.

Microsoft has also indicated plans to crawl the web for PWAs and automatically present quality examples in the Windows Store (source), if the idea takes hold I imagine it wouldn't be long until the Google Play Store follows suit.

Some notable examples of PWAs already out in the wild include the Financial Times, Forbes, Twitter Mobile, Paper Planes and more examples can be found at PWA.rocks.

Whilst the concept of PWAs may seem new it's actually been quite a long journey to get here. The first seeds of PWAs were sown as far back as 1999 when HTML Applications, with .hta file extensions were first introduced into Windows. More recently we’ve seen the Electron, Ionic and Cordova platforms package up applications developed in web-based technologies into forms that mimic native applications.

If you are itching to get started and develop a PWA, there are some good places to start, first off Google has a great tutorial on building your first PWA. The "Hello World!" of PWAs is a Hacker News Reader app and so HNPWA is a great resource to discover common approaches and architectures for PWAs that serve the same purpose as a Hacker News Reader. Many of the JavaScript frameworks of the moment provide tooling to scaffold out the groundwork of a PWA, take a look at Preact CLI and Vue.js. But that's not to say a PWA requires a JavaScript framework, Google have released a JavaScript library called Workbox, which helps to build some of the more complex aspects of PWAs such as Service Worker caching strategies.

It will be interesting to follow the story of PWAs over the coming months and years. With the likes of Google and Microsoft throwing their weight behind PWAs it's likely we'll see more and more brands turning to PWAs as a viable alternative to native apps and reaping the benefits.

]]>
An introduction to structured data https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/26/an-introduction-to-structured-data Tue, 26 Sep 2017 09:23:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/26/an-introduction-to-structured-data

As website designers and developers, it is our job to ensure the content on the sites we build is efficiently presented to the end user.

A customer looking at the website for a local beautician will want to, on a basic level, know what services the company provide, how much those services cost and whether or not the company is local. A customer looking through an online store will not necessarily be concerned where the company is based, but more interested in which products they have for sale, how much those products cost, images of the product, and whether or not the product has good reviews.

Something that can be overlooked by designers and developers however is how the website content, and its context, is delivered to search engines, not just the end user.

Search engines, such as Google and Bing, obtain information from websites using crawl bots. These bots don’t have the same level of intelligence as you or I. They can’t look at a number on a page with a currency symbol next to it, and immediately or reliably associate that piece of content as representing a price. And even if they could, what is that price for? Is that price related to a special offer?

There has been some huge advances in the way of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and this sort of ability is well within the grasps of Google and others, but the resources needed for such a task are, at the moment, far greater than sending crawl bots to a page and analysing the provided structured data.

Search engines are very intelligent, but they just need a little helping hand. And this is where structured data comes in.

What is structured data?

Structured data describes your site’s pages in such a way that search engines can decipher its content and its context. I previously mentioned a few examples of the types of content you can markup with structured data (services and products), however the ever expanding library of data types or schemas includes (but is not limited to) events, recipes, local businesses, articles, music, TV shows and movies, reviews, and videos.

Each of these types of content has completely different information to the next. A recipe will need a list of ingredients along with cooking instructions to become a valid recipe, but an event won’t need any of this. An event needs dates, locations, and ticket prices, to name but a few.

Structured data allows web developers to present any of these properties and provide the necessary pieces of information for each one, helping search engines to make sense of it all. When search engines get a better understanding as to what your pages are about, they are able to surface this information to the end user, but only in situations where it becomes relevant to their needs.

What language do I write structured data in?

Structured data can be written in a few languages, there is no right or wrong approach. However it’s a good idea to understand the different formats you can use to markup this information to help decide which is suitable for you and your website.

We quite often turn to the guidance of Google when deciding which approach to take. Currently, Google support three formats:

Google recommends using JSON-LD, and that’s also the format we use for our website projects, so in this post I will focus on implementing that.

JSON-LD provides advantages over Microdata and RDFa, as you don’t need the structured data as HTML markup for it to be used. JSON-LD sits at the bottom of the page, before the closing <body> tag as a chunk of JavaScript. It has no visual impact on the website, and is only read by the search engines that support it.

Below is a very basic example of some markup I could use on my Meet The Team page. Here I am taking my information and defining myself as a Person schema using RDFa:

<div vocab="http://schema.org/" typeof="Person">
  <p property="name">Jamie Wade</p>
  <p property="jobTitle">Front-end Developer</p>
  <p property="worksFor">Enovate Design Ltd</p>
</div>

As you can see from the Schema.org documentation, there is a plethora of information that can be associated with a Person schema. It’s great to define as much as you can, but we don’t always want all of this information to be visible on the website. And it can be a bit of a hindrance having to hide the extra information using CSS that we don’t want to be visible. This is where JSON-LD shines.

What does JSON-LD look like?

As mentioned previously, JSON-LD is a chunk of JavaScript that has absolutely no visual impact on your website. You can define as much, or as little information as you like, and you won’t need to worry about hiding the excess using CSS.

Take the example again for defining a Person schema for my Meet The Team page. This is what the same information would look like (as a basic implementation) of JSON-LD:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "Person",
  "name": "Jamie Wade",
  "jobTitle": "Front-end Developer",
  "worksFor": "Enovate Design Ltd"
}
</script>

What also makes JSON-LD shine above the alternative formats, is we can very easily nest further information. Again, taking the example from before, we can modify the 'worksFor' property into a 'workLocation' property, define Enovate as a 'LocalBusiness' schema, and include all the information about Enovate inside that:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "Person",
  "name": "Jamie Wade",
  "jobTitle": "Front-end Developer",
  "workLocation": {
    "@type": "LocalBusiness",
    "name": "Enovate",
    "alternateName": "Enovate Design Ltd",
    "description": "Creative Web Design agency based in Chelmsford, Essex. Offering Website Design, Web Development, SEO, Internet Marketing, eCommerce and Hosting.",,
    "url": "https://www.enovate.co.uk/",
    "telephone": "01245 646 464"
  }
}
</script>

What do search engines actually do with structured data?

This is a very good question, and something I quite often find myself explaining to customers who can’t quite understand the benefits (and cost) of having structured data implemented on their websites. In fact, structured data has more than likely been under our noses for quite a while, we have never just made the connection.

We all know what a Google search result looks like. Take this result for a search for “apple pie recipe”. This is what you will see for a site that does not provide any (supported) structured data:

A screenshot of a basic Google search result for 'apple pie'

Pretty standard, and not very eye catching. All we have here is a title and description. However, using structured data we can get our results showing up like this:

A screenshot of a Google search result for 'apple pie' showing the differences structured data makes

This page is, after all, a recipe. So with the correct structured data markup, we can tell Google all about the recipe. Google can then take this information and present it to the end user. Straight away, we can see an image of the apple pie, and we can see it’s very highly rated, but we can also see how long it takes to prepare, and how many calories it contains. Straight from the search result.

These results are taken from Google on a desktop device. The results look even better on mobile:

A screenshot of a structured data Google search result for 'apple pie' on a mobile device

This is the real, sell-able benefit of structured data. Results like this are far more eye-catching than standard Google results. Plus, on mobile devices, structured data results will feature much more prominently than standard results, which can have a huge impact on your organic search traffic.

Hopefully I have given you a thorough introduction into what structured data is, and my recommendations for implementing it into your site.

]]>
AATi goes live https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/22/aati-goes-live Thu, 21 Sep 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/22/aati-goes-live

AATi approached Enovate, along with several other Essex website design companies, looking for a wide range of services from designing and hosting a new website to creating new business stationery and updating their suite of product brochures. 

The site’s design phase was very much a collaborative process between our design staff and the business development team at AATi. As with all our projects, we worked through a detailed research process to get a firm understanding of what the client liked and needed in terms of design and how they wanted to present themselves within their industry sector. The finished design is both striking yet understated, making a visit to the site memorable but also enjoyable.

As with all our new website projects, the site is built on the Craft CMS (content management system). This particular project relied heavily on Craft’s locale feature, allowing us to effectively build three separate sites under a single domain, one for each aspect of the business: Rail, International and Commercial.
 
Following on from the website design and development process, it was time to add the content and images to the rapidly evolving development site, making sure to constantly update the client with our progress, gather their feedback and make any changes required. AATi were a great company to work with and we are proud to have launched their new site and look forward to being involved in its development in the years ahead.

]]>
Branding and rebranding https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/18/branding-and-rebranding Mon, 18 Sep 2017 09:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/18/branding-and-rebranding

Many clients and consumers that have an interest in web design and development may ask what does branding and rebranding mean and when is a good time to rebrand?

Branding is a term used to define the features a company uses to differentiate themselves from other companies. Companies develop their brand in a variety of ways, using their name, logo, design style and slogan. You can display branding either physically or digitally.

Physical branding can be leaflets, posters, billboards or newspapers. Digital branding refers to online branding such as social media marketing or Google AdWords which would both feature the company’s branding.

Companies want to market their brands as much as possible, so creating a bright and original logo is just that. You want your company to stand out from the rest as there is a lot of competition out there, no matter what industry you are in.

Rebranding is a marketing strategy, very similar to branding, except it aims to update and refresh tired or out of date branding. This can include coming up with a completely new name, design, slogan or logo. Rebranding is usually completed with the intention to target a wider audience. Usually a company will rebrand with consumers, investors, and other competitors in the same industry as the company in mind.

An example photo of a branding image from Pexels

When is a good time to rebrand?

  • There are several reasons why a company will want to rebrand. If the market is growing too fast, an owner will want to keep their website competing in the market as much as possible and will want the services to be constantly at top form, otherwise clients will see them outdated and choose a different company that just has that cutting edge. You always want to be unique compared to your competitors and stand out.

  • If an established company wants to target a different demographic, your branding needs to appeal to a new audience, and revising your branding is an essential part of this change. Very complicated or difficult to understand branding can make consumers click away from your site. If your logo is over-complicated with graphics and text it can be hard to understand the tone the brand is going for and what they are trying to achieve as a company.

  • A brand slogan that is too long, unclear or is not relevant to its market can also reduce your impact in comparison to your competition. Often, the more your brand becomes successful the more you overlook your branding. Is your branding childish or outdated? If you are a company that wants to target an older audience, certain colour schemes can be seen as childish. Bright colours may want be toned down or switch to using pastel/low opacity colours.

  • If a certain part of your branding, such as the name of the business or logo is misleading and gives potential clients the wrong impression, consider why these exist and what you can do to change and improve them. Research and focus groups would really help here, allowing you to test branding styles to see which resonate best with your target audience.

There is no time limit on how long it takes to rebrand a company or product. Some companies will complete the task quicker than others depending on their size and how strong their current brand is, but it’s a critical element of any organisation that must be done well. It may seem trivial but branding is vital when it comes to conveying your message to clients.

]]>
The Boardroom relaunched with Craft CMS https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/18/the-boardroom-relaunched-with-craft-cms Sun, 17 Sep 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/18/the-boardroom-relaunched-with-craft-cms

The Boardroom have been a client of ours for over eight years and in that time we have delivered a wide range of services to them; from website design, development and hosting to logo design and business stationery.

Most recently, they asked us to redevelop and relaunch their corporate website on a modern and easy-to-use content management system (CMS), replacing the MODx system that their existing site was built on which was proving difficult to use for their content editors.

As Craft CMS specialists we wholeheartedly recommended Craft and outlined the many features and benefits the client would receive by switching to a Craft site. For example, our Craft sites are responsive, ensuring the sites we build function on any device, they are search engine optimised and clients often report a bump in their search engine rank following the launch of a new Craft site and the are super-fast thanks to our advanced caching, hosting and content delivery strategies.

The Boardroom team indicated that they were happy with the site’s design so the front-end wasn’t changed from a visual perspective, although it was rebuilt using the latest HTML, CSS and SASS techniques to mimic the existing look-and-feel.

Alongside the front-end work we integrated the site’s design into a Craft CMS installation and wrote and ran an automated content import process to extract the content from the existing site and bring it into the new site, saving both us and the client from a fairly laborious and time consuming task.

On completion of the development process we carried out a thorough phase of testing and bug-fixing, where necessary, and then progressed to launching the finished site. We can’t wait to see how the new site grows and we’ll be following the content updates the site editors make with much interest.

]]>
Gmail Actions https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/14/gmail-actions Thu, 14 Sep 2017 10:14:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/14/gmail-actions

The vast majority of web applications send some form of email notification, with larger and more complex web applications having a long list of the various email notifications they send to users and admins. Often these emails require or encourage their recipients to complete an action, for example clicking on a link to confirm their email address or to view a record.

Gmail Actions allow web developers to surface these actions right on the subject line in the inbox at Gmail. Just like Google’s rich snippets and structured data the recommended approach to accomplish this uses JSON-LD and utilises schemas from schema.org.

Sadly Gmail Actions aren’t available to all as there are a number of requirements that must be met prior to being able to register with Google for the privilege. Email senders must be sending an email volume in excess of 100 emails per day to Gmail recipients for several consecutive weeks along with authenticating emails with either DKIM or SPF, which should be the case anyway.

At the time of writing Gmail supports three Gmail Actions:

  • RSVP Actions for events

    • RsvpAction - For emails where recipients can RSVP with either “yes”, “no” or “maybe”.

  • One-click Actions for just about anything that can be performed with a single click

    • ConfirmAction - For emails requiring recipients to approve, confirm and acknowledge something. A ConfirmAction can only be interacted with once.

    • SaveAction - For emails where recipients can save a voucher or adding songs to the listen queue. A SaveAction can only be interacted with once.

  • Go-to Actions for more complex interactions

    • ViewAction - For emails requiring recipients to go to your site to complete the action.

    • TrackAction - For emails requiring recipients to go to your site to track packages being delivered.

A Go-to Action in an email will display a button as shown below in the recipient's Gmail inbox:

Gmail Actions

To accomplish this we need to include some JSON-LD code within the email the recipient is sent, Gmail detects this code, which is invisible to the recipient and outputs the necessary action button.

The following JSON-LD code is for the ViewAction that outputs a “Watch movie” button:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "EmailMessage",
  "potentialAction": {
    "@type": "ViewAction",
    "target": "https://watch-movies.com/watch?movieId=abc123",
    "name": "Watch movie"
  },
  "description": "Watch the 'Avengers' movie online"
}
</script>

The following JSON-LD code is for a ConfirmAction that outputs an “Approve Expense” button, this is a One-click Action, which as you have no doubt guessed can only be interacted with once:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "EmailMessage",
  "potentialAction": {
    "@type": "ConfirmAction",
    "name": "Approve Expense",
    "handler": {
      "@type": "HttpActionHandler",
      "url": "https://myexpenses.com/approve?expenseId=abc123"
    }
  },
  "description": "Approval request for John's $10.13 expense for office supplies"
}
</script>

Google have recently (July 2017) deprecated the ReviewAction and within Google’s own documentation they mention more than once that the schemas from schema.org that these Gmail Actions are based upon are still being standardised and therefore are likely to change so the on-going maintenance of Gmail Actions should be consider with any implementation.

Gmail Actions provide a useful way for web developers to make emails more actionable and encourage recipients to complete the actions we want them to with greater ease. Despite being called Gmail Action, these also work in Google’s Inbox also.

There’s more information and code samples available on Google’s Gmail Actions documentation. Google also provide a useful Email Markup Tester to check your JSON-LD code is valid.

]]>
The Worshipful Company of Curriers Members Area goes live https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/04/the-worshipful-company-of-curriers-members-area-goes-live Sun, 03 Sep 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/09/04/the-worshipful-company-of-curriers-members-area-goes-live

A Currier is a specialist in the leather industry. Currying is one of the ancient and essential leather processes of cleaning, scraping, stretching and finishing hides, by oiling, waxing or colouring the desired surface finish after the tanning process.

During the development of the members’ area we worked closely with the staff within the Curriers Company that would be responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and management of the area. This ensured the code we developed for each feature was thoroughly tested and fit for purpose, fulfilling all the criteria specified in the statement of work.

As with the public element of the site, the members’ area was all built as custom code within the site’s Craft CMS environment. This make life much easier for both us and the Curriers team as there's only one environment to maintain for both elements of the site and they work together seamlessly.

We’re incredibly pleased with the site we’ve built for the Currier’s, especially as it marks our third Livery Company project, following The Worshipful Company of Farmers and The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers, and also adds to the rapidly increasing number of secure, members’ areas we’ve developed for our clients.

]]>
Lois' first week at Enovate https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/28/lois-first-week-at-enovate Fri, 28 Jul 2017 16:22:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/28/lois-first-week-at-enovate

I started my Digital Marketing Apprenticeship on Monday the 24th of July. Digital Marketing is something I have always been interested in as I see myself as a creative person.

I have never been able to complete any work experience previously in this particular industry unfortunately, so I had to rely on research. It is safe to say I was never nervous coming to work with the Enovate team, after meeting most of the team during the interview process, they were all nice, hard working people. Something that is important in a business and to be able to work well together in a team. The office is extremely clean and a safe environment to work and the air conditioning ensures it never overheats or is uncomfortable.

The receptionist Sandra, was the first person I met during the interview process and she is one of the nicest receptionists you could ever meet. Not only was she beaming and happy but she was so welcoming when I walked in, it is a pleasure to be working with someone like her.

Now onto the team. The people I work with in the office are Michael, Mike, Jamie, Rob and Jake. All of which have different roles and tasks they are working on, which is often the more technical side of creating and maintaining websites. I have never worked in a more relaxed environment, which is not a bad thing I can assure you, completely different to my previous job. Everyone is busy and productive but no one ever has portrayed any feelings of stress because the office environment means everything is easily accessible and is very calming as the location that we are based is very quiet.

A photo of me working at my desk at Enovate Design, a web design company based in Essex.
A photo taken of me whilst I am working at my own desk.

In just one week I feel I have gone from a young adult to an adult, I have never been so independent. Travelling to and from work and using my own initiative, which I had to do in my previous job but getting used to doing that in a different environment can be hard, but if you are passionate about something then that is something you would work for.

The tasks that I have been set are interesting for me, especially keeping up with the Social Media aspect using Hootsuite and blogging using a content management system  called Craft CMS which I found very easy to  use, even though Craft CMS is a huge piece of software that ranges from letting you add content to a website to creating the Meta Description that people would see underneath your website's title in the Google search engine results. This lets us include keywords in the Meta Description of a page, a tip for improved SEO which then leads to higher rankings.

I have also enjoyed using a new piece of software called Affinity Designer, which is a mix between Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I have enjoyed getting to know this software as it is vector-based, which means no matter how far in you zoom, the quality stays the same. As when you use Photoshop (with raster files) the quality weakens and becomes pixelated and when it comes to a professional website and creating the Open Graph Image, (This is the image you see when you share the blog post on Social Media, to add interest and fun.) It means that the quality is impeccable, which is very important on a professional website.

There are many opportunities here at Enovate to experience the different aspects of Digital Marketing, some I had no idea about prior to starting the role. This includes PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and courses that you can complete to improve your skills in Digital Marketing. Ones I have looked at so far are:

Certificate of Completion for the Google Analytics Course for Beginners.
The certificate of Completion I received for the Google Analytics Course for Beginners.

These are all useful courses to look at and at the end you can earn a certificate of completion, which can advance your skills further. The main highlight of my first week at Enovate was completing the Google Analytics Course for Beginners, but there will be a blog post about completing this course in the future, when I have also tried my luck at the Google Adwords course.

]]>
Lois joins Enovate https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/24/lois-joins-enovate Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:01:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/24/lois-joins-enovate

Lois has joined the Enovate team in Chelmsford as a Digital Marketing Apprentice, following the completion of college, where she studied for BTEC and A Level qualifications. Lois is excited to be taking her first steps in a career in Digital Marketing and was delighted to be offered the role at Enovate.

Lois already has a working knowledge of many of the tools used in digital marketing, having studied Graphic Design, Photography and Media at college. Her experience and knowledge will only grow and improve as she begins her career at Enovate.

Lois will be working closely with all members of the team, taking on an array of digital marketing tasks under the guidance of more experienced staff.  Lois is looking forward to gaining invaluable knowledge and experience in the workplace as she studies for a BCS Level 3 Diploma in Digital Marketing.

When Lois is out of the office, she loves to spend time with family and friends but also likes to be creative whether that is drawing, painting, colouring or even writing a blog post for her own website.

]]>
Rob joins Enovate https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/21/rob-joins-enovate Thu, 20 Jul 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/21/rob-joins-enovate

Rob's former role was as Senior Web Developer at the City of London Corporation, where he was one of the lead developers that delivered the most recent iteration of their public-facing website, which is built upon Microsoft SharePoint.

After graduating from university with a 2:1 honours degree in Systems Development, Rob applied for a job as a Web Developer at a local company in Chelmsford called Netforce Group Plc. This is where his path first crossed with both Dan and Michael, who were also working at Netforce at the time.

Soon after joining Rob became involved with the redevelopment of the City of London Corporation's public website, which he worked on until Netforce closed and went on to join the Corporation's internal web development team as a Senior Web Developer. Whilst there, Rob was one of the lead developers on two major redevelopments of their public website using the latest Microsoft technologies of the time.

His development background is predominantly in server-side programming using C# and ASP.Net, but he does also have experience of client-side technologies, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery. He has also written many scripts in his time using a variety of languages like Python, Bash and PowerShell.

]]>
Patterns Day 2017 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/03/patterns-day-2017 Mon, 03 Jul 2017 17:42:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/07/03/patterns-day-2017 Patterns Day at the Duke of York's Picturehouse, Brighton

Jeremy Keith's Clearleft is an agency with a huge amount of respect and admiration in the web design and development community and they are no stranger to curating, organising and hosting hugely informative and enjoyable events so when we heard they were putting on Patterns Day at the Duke of York's Picturehouse down in Brighton we were hugely excited.

Pattern libraries or design systems are the hottest topic in web design right now but to put it in layman's terms, they attempt to find a consistent and extendable approach to website design that enables a site to grow in a consistent manner without needing constant reinvention or a full redesign.

In any pattern library conversation you'll hear people mentioning Brad Frost's atomic design principles or the concept of modular design but what you won't hear is a definitive how to... explanation. That's understandable because no two sites are the same so there won't ever be a one-size-fits-all approach but, well, I digress, let's get back to the event...

Following a swift drive down the south-bound M roads we arrived in Brighton just in time for hot coffee and delicious pastries and then into the beautiful Victorian auditorium for the first speaker, Laura Elizabeth, who took us through the concept of design systems and highlighted the ever popular Lonely Planet style guide.

Following Elizabeth we were treated to talks from other leading lights in the patterns community, namely: Ellen de Vries, Sareh Heidari, Rachel Andrew, Alice Bartlett, Jina Anne, Paul Lloyd and Alla Kholmatova all introduced by Jeremy in his inimitable style.

Sareh Heidari spoke about how the BBC use their own framework called Grandstand, which builds upon GEL foundations.  Sareh gave an overview of Grandstand and how it consists of object and utility classes along with example markup and class names, which followed familiar BEM syntax. Sareh also presented some interesting uses of mixins to aid the BBC with localising their CSS for right-to-left languages such as Arabic. This was accomplished by using a Sass variable to change the text direction globally, which could then output a localised build of their CSS for right-to-left languages.

Rachel Andrew's talk I found particularly interesting as she talked about how she'd utilised Clearleft's Fractal component library during the redesign of Perch CMS. Rachel talked about using a "pattern library first" approach, which I really liked and also making that pattern library the "source of truth". So with Perch CMS it isn't possible to edit the CSS in the product itself only within Fractal, which is a great way to ensure the pattern library remains up-to-date.

Alla Kholmatova's talk looked at how teams were implementing design systems such as pattern / component libraries into their workflow and the on-going maintenance and stewardship of them. She found some organisations were quite open to allowing new patterns into their libraries, which tended to dilute their effectiveness. A balance is needed between accepting new patterns, whilst not allowing a pattern library to become too bloated.

Overall, the content of the talks ranged from technical to abstract but each and every one was interesting and inspiring in its own way and we left with heads full of ideas and ready to begin designing and developing our own pattern library for use in our upcoming projects so watch this space to find out how we get on!

]]>
Join the Team! https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/06/27/join-the-team Tue, 27 Jun 2017 09:59:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/06/27/join-the-team

Our new office is a short walk from Chelmsford High Street at the Anglia Ruskin University campus and roughly 1 mile from our previous home for nearly 9 years at Oliver House on Hall Street.

We're excited to announce that we are recruiting for two new positions:

  • Junior Front-end Developer
  • Digital Marketing Apprentice

The Junior Front-end Developer role will involve working closely with Jamie our Front-end Developer, who will act as mentor to the successful candidate as they code up new web page templates as well as adding changes and additions to existing websites and web apps that we maintain.  This will include our own web app designed and developed in-house under our sister company Enovate Healthcare.  This is a great opportunity as we welcome applicants who are looking for their first job in the field of web design and development providing they already have some grasp of the subject and are willing and able to learn quickly.

The Digital Marketing Apprentice role will involve working with several members of the team along with a degree of autonomy.  The successful candidate will be tasked with the planning and execution of digital marketing and social media campaigns, to increase customer acquisition for both Enovate and our clients.  In addition, the role will include assisting with the design and development of our website design projects and also the upkeep and continued growth of our own company websites.  Last but not least the apprentice will be provided with training to work towards a BCS Level 3 Diploma in Digital Marketing along with being supported by senior staff at every step of the way.

We're looking forward to welcoming two new members to the team in the near future.

]]>
ioScan goes live https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/06/13/ioscan-goes-live Mon, 12 Jun 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/06/13/ioscan-goes-live

ioScan Ltd approached Enovate as they needed a very quick turnaround for the website of their upcoming project; we had just 4 weeks to provide a fully designed, developed and content managed site. A challenge we were happy to take on!

We began by engaging with ioScan's IT consultant to quickly and efficiently work through the research and discovery phase, which enabled us to begin wireframing and designing within the first week.

Designs were iterated and subsequently approved in good time, and we were soon rolling out a working Craft CMS development site that we could share with the client to collect and implement feedback as we worked, and also add content and images to.

Between completing the testing phase and launching the site, we delivered a comprehensive Craft CMS training session and following that it was time to launch the finished site - all completed on time and within budget, much to the satisfaction of the client.

We're really happy with the finished site and that we were able to deliver a robust product within such a tight timeframe, take a look for yourself and if you'd like to discuss a similar project don't hesitate to contact us.

]]>
Enovate move to larger offices at The MedBIC https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/06/12/enovate-move-to-larger-offices-at-the-medbic Mon, 12 Jun 2017 13:04:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/06/12/enovate-move-to-larger-offices-at-the-medbic

After a very busy weekend we have completed our office move from Oliver House in Hall Street, Chelmsford to a much larger office at The MedBIC on the other side of Chelmsford only 1 mile from our old office.

Oliver House had been our home for nearly 9 years so it was a little emotional to leave.  It was an excellent office and a great location that enabled us to grow.  But in recent years the office had reached capacity so the time had come to begin the search for a new home for the team in Chelmsford.

Both Dan and I are Anglia Ruskin University Alumni so we were thrilled when our application for an office at The MedBIC was accepted and post-haste set about planning for the move, which was completed over the weekend.

The MedBIC office building in Chelmsford, Essex

The MedBIC is Anglia Ruskin’s Business Innovation Centre, which was completed in 2014 and provides office space for a start-ups and tech companies.  The MedBIC office is the new HQ for both Enovate Design Ltd and Enovate Healthcare Ltd.

The new office has ample parking for visitors but this does need to be arranged in advance, so please let us know if you’d like to drop in for a coffee, we'd love to welcome you. It’s also still in easy walking distance of Chelmsford train station, which is 35 minutes from London by train.

We’re excited about what the future holds for both Enovate Design and Enovate Healthcare and proud to be based at the fantastic facilities of The MedBIC.

The new address can be found on the contact us page.

]]>
Teamwork Projects Review https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/05/26/teamwork-projects-review Fri, 26 May 2017 08:16:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/05/26/teamwork-projects-review

We use Teamwork Projects for almost any type of project including web design, web development and web applications along with managing day-to-day ad hoc support and maintenance tasks.

We started using Teamwork when it was called TeamworkPM way back in 2009, so we’re pretty well qualified to provide a review of the platform!
 
These are the top features of Teamwork we use on a daily basis:

  • Managing tasks - This is probably our number one use for Teamwork, every time we start a new project we use tasklist templates (saved lists of tasks) to populate the project with nearly 200 individual tasks that we need to complete as part of a web design project. This ensures that we don’t miss essential things during a web design project such as checking that Google Analytics is tracking correctly.
    • Board view - The paint is still drying on this latest addition, the board view of tasks has been an instant hit in the Enovate office, they allow us to set-up columns that our tasks can then transition through. This allows us to visually present to both colleagues and clients the latest status of a particular task.
  • Messaging - Following quickly after managing tasks, the next most used feature of Teamwork Projects for us is the messaging facility. We encourage clients to use this in preference to email as it allows us to easily communicate with clients whilst allowing all team members to easily refer back to previous threads that they may not have been directly involved in.
  • Milestones - Teamwork allows us to link task lists to milestones and each milestone has a due date, this helps to keep projects on track by linking a group of tasks (a task list) to a due date. Teamwork can also send out reminders when a milestone is approaching and due.
Michael at work in the Enovate office

The team behind Teamwork Projects does not shy away from adding new features and functionality if there’s a genuine need for it and it provides a good improvement for users and I can personally vouch that their judgement in this regard is very good.

Over the years there’s been a whole host of functionality and features added, but at no point has the user-interface started to struggle to offer its bulging swiss army knife of functionality to users. Every change Teamwork have made has been done in such a way that has not left the more long-term users hunting around to find something they used to know where to find. That’s pretty impressive given how much the platform has evolved.

Tasks in Teamwork offer a rich array of functionality, which is often lacking in other platforms. This functionality is offered in such a way that it’s there if you need it but if you don’t you won’t feel like the user experience is any worse off because of it. Such as:

  • Sub-tasks - Being able to group tasks under a main task is extremely useful and it’s a feature of Teamwork we use every single day.  It helps to keep the overview of tasks clear as you can choose to hide and show sub-tasks as needed.
  • Recurring tasks - Being able to configure tasks to recur on a certain basis is really useful and we make use of this to carry out regular content management system updates and other repeating tasks.
  • Task priority - As the number of tasks grows it’s quite useful to be able to assign a priority to tasks of high, medium or low without having to keep shuffling the order of tasks in a task list.
  • Task due dates - Often a certain task needs to be completed by a certain date, adding a due date is a useful way to indicate this and overdue/late tasks are displayed in red to attract attention.
  • Task comments - Being able to have a discussion right on a tasks with colleagues and/or clients is very useful.
  • Task tags - Prior to the introduction of task boards we used tags to highlight the status of a task such as “in progress”, “on hold”, “in discussion”, etc.
  • Task progress - Being able to indicate how far through a task you are is useful, we often update the progress of a task (as a percentage e.g. 60%) if we know it’s under particular scrutiny.
  • Task reminders - Being able to configure an email notification to be sent at a certain future date and time often comes in useful.  For example setting a reminder on a Friday of something you need to do first thing on Monday.
  • Task dependencies - This enables us to specify that one task needs to be done before another task can be completed.

Lastly, no long-term review would be complete if I didn’t cover the platform’s uptime.  Over the many years we’ve been using Teamwork I’m pleased to report that I can’t recall a major incidence of downtime that has greatly interrupted our work. Yes, there has been downtime but I’m sure Amazon Web Services has seen its fair share of downtime over the same period. But on the whole, and considering how much the platform has evolved, the uptime has been little short of excellent.

Teamwork is one of those tools that we have grown to rely on and I would go so far as to say is essential for us to conduct our projects in an organised and efficient manner. So in conclusion I would highly recommend Teamwork Projects for any business regardless of whether their projects are web design related or not.

For more information please visit Teamwork Projects.

]]>
E.J. Taylor & Sons goes live https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/05/02/ej-taylor-and-sons-goes-live Mon, 01 May 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/05/02/ej-taylor-and-sons-goes-live

E.J. Taylor & Sons (EJT), established in 1963, is an Essex-based construction company that tackles a diverse range of construction projects from large civil engineering and groundworks projects up to £5m in value right through to a new bathroom and almost everything in between.  

A recent project of note was the completion of a roundabout for the well known jam producer, Tiptree Jam, at their factory in Essex. The company’s fleet of liveried vans and cars (totalling 177 vehicles at the last count!) are a frequent sight on the roads of Essex.

EJT have been a client of ours since 2005, and we’ve worked with them on a number of graphic design and print projects and we’ve always been eager for the chance to redesign their website so we were thrilled to finally be appointed to complete the project.

The company’s existing website, which we’ve always hosted, but was designed and built internally was over 10 years old and was long overdue a complete redesign and redevelopment.  It was no longer a good representation of the business, which has benefitted from significant growth in recent years to a staff of 265 and £40m turnover and did not showcase any of the company's more recent projects, which made it an ineffective tool for promoting the business to prospective customers large and small.

So working with the IT Manager at EJT we set about delivering a website the company could be proud of and to properly showcase the award-winning projects they have completed and celebrate the proud history and achievements the company has made.

The website is responsive and adapts to the user’s screen size, which required careful consideration in terms of how the company’s branding would be presented.  The website is built using Craft CMS, which enables EJT staff to quickly and easily update and add content to the website as necessary.

We’re excited to be working with EJT to continue to expand and grow the website.  Soon we’ll be launching a new case studies section, which features stunning aerial drone footage of EJT’s recent projects.

We took the opportunity of redeveloping the website to also migrate it to our load-balanced cloud web hosting infrastructure at Amazon Web Services, which was conducted as part of a zero-downtime switchover as the new website launched.

Have a read of the portfolio case study.

]]>
Website longevity https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/04/21/website-longevity Fri, 21 Apr 2017 10:10:00 +0000 https://www.enovate.co.uk/blog/2017/04/21/website-longevity

As a result decision makers can sometimes feel disillusioned, and that they are constantly being told that their website needs to be redesigned. These voices of dissent can originate from inside the organisation or from external sources, and they may be voiced even before the dust has settled on a brand new website launch.

Web design and development is a very fast moving industry, and every so often a genuinely superior approach, technique or tool comes along and as web designers, we feel it's our duty to ensure our clients are able to benefit from these advances.

For example, "responsive web design" was a term first coined by Ethan Marcotte in May 2010, and since then many websites have been redesigned to follow a responsive web design approach, ensuring the website displays across mobile, tablet and desktop devices. Google was quick to spot the improved user experience that responsive websites provided and encouraged website owners to make their websites responsive by favouring them in the search results.

A few years later in 2013, Craft CMS emerged onto the scene and broke new ground in terms of what a content management system could be. It allowed us to build websites with far greater speed and ease, and also enabled us to place more control of the websites we built into the hands of our clients, which meant real savings in terms of the ongoing cost of maintaining a website. Craft also accomplished all of this with a level of ease-of-use that was a revelation for site editors and made client training sessions a breeze.

Over this time we've also seen the slow but steady demise of Flash, and many websites that had elements of Flash have needed to repurpose these into native web technologies that enjoy wider browser/device support, such as HTML5 and JavaScript. Whilst we're on the subject, over a similar period coding best practices have shifted towards the newer HTML5 and CSS3 languages.

Google is constantly advancing best practices for the design and development of websites and with lucrative search rankings at stake, keeping pace with these recommendations is a worthwhile exercise. Google advocates performance best practices via it's PageSpeed metric and recent initiatives such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Google has also encouraged web designers to include more machine readable data within web pages via Structured Data, and currently recommends this additional semantics is provided via JSON-LD, shifting away from previous methods such as Microdata and RDFa.

Along with these advances in web design approach and content management systems, one of the most frequent reasons that can prompt a website redesign is changing design tastes. I'm still fond of the fact that one of our longest lasting web designs, for Victor Hall Antiques, lasted for 9 whole years (delighting visitors from 2006 to 2015). When we were commissioned to complete a redesign in 2015 the existing design, albeit feeling dated by then, had almost taken on an antique quality of its own which perfectly suited the website's subject matter!

Lastly, a redesign can often be prompted a by a shift in priorities of the organisation it serves. An organisation may broaden or focus it's offering, and the website needs to change to better serve those new requirements.

Coming back to the topic of website longevity, we can't guarantee that there isn't another big change in the world of web design just around the corner, such as the shift to responsive web design that emerged in 2010.

But key to achieving greater longevity from a website is a deepening relationship with your website design agency. Forging a relationship that doesn't just extend to a redesign every few years but rather an ongoing monthly relationship of constant improvement and refinement. This removes the need to undertake large scale redesigns, and instead the website gradually evolves over a longer period of time and constantly keeps pace with the organisation it serves.

]]>