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June 2019


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We love our customers :)

We love our customers :)

Recently some of the Focus team attended an event where we spoke about the work we do and the way do it.

It made me realise that one of the most rewarding elements of my role is our ongoing customer relationships. We've worked with many of our customers for several years, and developed trusted and enjoyable relationships with their teams. Because of this, we keep in regular contact, and review their Website or App progress, report on and explain Analytics, gain yours - and your end-user's - feedback, and hold consultation sessions to ensure regular and angling improvement and development. It's this deep understanding and commitment that means we continually improve and enhance our digital solutions for you, because we understand your needs, objectives and KPIs. We also understand digital - so it really is a winning combination :-)

I talked honesty and passionately about this at the event - and it wasn’t hard because it’s completely true. How lucky am I to have a job that I genuinely enjoy and that sincerely matters to me - and to work with such an engaged and enthusiastic team.

Annette Ryske
Annette

Created on Thursday June 20 2019 12:17 PM


Tags: clientservices


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Welcome Stephanie!

Hi I’m Stephanie, or Steph, the new Account Manager here at Focus. I’ve just about finished setting my new laptop up (I’m the only one in the office to choose Windows over a MacBook!), I’ve sorted my desk out how I like it and am done with all the various downloading, signing up and signing in that needs to be done. I’ve read all those first day documents and have started looking at some of our clients and the work we do with them.

I’m so excited to get stuck in and start helping our local authority clients. No doubt a few of you will hear from me soon or see me in various project meetings as I’m sure I’ll be out and about visiting on a regular basis.

Before starting at Focus HQ I had been doing Account management and new business sales for a digital agency that specialises in accountants for 5 years so I’m all too familiar with the importance of a digital presence and how it can help a business or organisation grow whether in revenue or the special message they want to purvey to their users.

Outside of this new adventure I am a mum of two and family is everything to me. I’m a huge foodie, carbs and cheese are my biggest downfall and I love a good film or boxset (I have no idea what to do with myself now Game of Thrones is over!). I also try to keep fit, I enjoy running and have recently signed up for my 2nd full Tough Mudder to raise money for Macmillan cancer support, a charity super close to my heart.
 

Steph Liddington
Steph

Created on Monday June 03 2019 08:55 AM


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Being Content with Content

Being Content with Content

You’ve built the website, the client loves it and the early stages of testing are looking promising, there’s just one problem – you don’t have any real content.

The word ‘content’ can be daunting and overarching. There’s an entire website/app/platform and somebody needs to fill it with engaging, witty, relevant words and images that will bring users from far and wide. No pressure then.

What is content?

Content can be used as a catchall term but at its core it is information – pages, events, blogs, videos, illustrations, graphs, photos can all be described as ‘content’.

Without it, most websites would be a series of shapes and colours that didn’t communicate anything.

Staring into the abyss

Timing is crucial. Get the content as early as you can. If the site is replacing an old one and the client already has content, fantastic, ask them to send it to you as soon as they can. This is mutually beneficial as it can be used to influence the design and they can see it in situ to get a feel for how the finished site will look.

Whether you have content already, or you’re starting from scratch, the first step to dealing with the content behemoth is to break it down. Break it into small, manageable steps and then break it down again. Figure out what type of information you need for each page type, and what format it needs to be in. Then make a list of the minimum amount of content you need to launch.

For instance, if your new website has events, news and cms pages you may need a minimum of 3 upcoming events, 3 news stories and 17 specific pages of information.

 

Bridging the divide

Now that you know what you need, you need to know who is responsible for creating it. If you’re working from the ground up, you may need to assign content. Perhaps you, as the digital agency will be writing some of the support documents, such as a list of cookies used and the client is doing the rest? Maybe the client has the words but they need some help with the images? Maybe they have it all in hand.

Figure out what is being created, or sourced by who and keep track as your content folder starts to fill.

Writer’s Block

You may be met with resistance ‘I’m not a writer’, ‘I don’t know what I want to say’, ‘There’s too much to do in the time frame’. If you’ve worked out the minimum amount of content you need and who’s creating it, all that’s left is to know what you want to communicate and who you want to communicate it to.

If you have a page of fact sheets, maybe a bulleted list of links is the way to go? If you’re reporting on a recent workshop, perhaps a captioned video with a small amount of text underneath.

Being content

The most important thing is to factor it in. It’s all too easy to spend hours building a beautiful backend, throw yourself into absolutely nailing the CSS and then discover that there’s nothing to fill the page but 3 stock images and some well-placed lorem ipsum.

Don’t be complacent about content – you want users to come to your website for the content and stay for the excellent UI.

Frances Smolinski
Frances

Created on Wednesday June 26 2019 08:00 AM


Tags: website web-design content contentstrategy


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18th Century Mathematician Helps Us Check An Algorithm

18th Century Mathematician Helps Us Check An Algorithm

The other day, I was discussing with one of the developers here at Focus how to approach a problem whereby we’d send off a message to a third party software service, and we wanted to know when they’d processed our message.

The problem was: we didn’t know exactly how long it would take - perhaps it would be a few seconds, perhaps a minute or more - but it seemed unlikely (from our testing) to take more than a few minutes.

We could have checked to see if they were finished every second, but that seemed a little too often - but we did want to know fairly quickly, so we didn’t want to wait minutes before checking.

We decided on a solution of a simple “backing-off” algorithm - we’d check, wait 1 second, check, wait 2 seconds, check, wait 3 seconds, check, and so on.

This means that if the process does take a while, we get gradually more relaxed about checking again as time goes on; after the 30th check, we wait 30 seconds before checking again.

(Significantly more advanced approaches may be used for this kind of algorithm, but this simple approach seemed good enough here.)

However, I thought we should sanity check ourselves - if we allowed, say, 50 of these checks, how long are we waiting at a maximum? A few minutes? An hour? Several hours? More? How can we tell?

Carl Friedrich Gauss

Gauss was an 18th Century mathematician who made a large number of contributions to many fields in maths and science, and demonstrated his skills from an early age.

There is an anecdote, which may or may not be true, but remains a good story, that whilst at primary school, his teacher asked him (perhaps to “keep him quiet” for a while!) to add up all the numbers from 1 to 100.

His teacher, we can assume, thought it would take him quite some time  to add 1 plus 2 (3), plus 3 (6), plus 4 (10), plus 5 (15), plus 6 (21) ... and so on - and of course the additions would get harder as you went onwards.

The teacher was therefore rather surprised when Gauss gave the correct answer - 5,050 - within just a few seconds.

Gauss had realised that, if you imagine the sequence of numbers in a line, the first and last numbers - 1 and 100 - when added, would produce 101. Imagine, then, the next pair inwards - 2 and 99 - they also add up to 101. So does the next pair - 3 and 98 - 4 and 97 - 5 and 96 - and so on.

In effect, you’re adding 50 pairs of numbers, all of which add up to 101.

50 times 101 is 5,050, as a primary school child can indeed tell you. (A theory I’ve tested successfully on my youngest primary school child!)

Back to our algorithm

Our problem is, of course, the same - we’re adding 1 second + 2 seconds + 3 seconds and so on, up to 50.

So, we have 25 pairs of numbers, each adding up to 51.

25 times 51 = 1,275 seconds, which equals just over 21 minutes.

This seems to fit our requirements well - 20 minutes is a fair amount of time to wait - if the third party service isn’t complete by then, it seems reasonable to assume it’s failed, and we can take the appropriate steps to follow-up manually.

Thanks, Carl

Whether or not the anecdote is true, exaggerated or apocryphal, it’s a lovely example of how a little clever thinking can make what seems like a slow manual process (adding 1, plus 2, plus 3, plus 4, plus 5 .. and so on ...) into a fairly straightforward calculation.

If you’d like the team here at This is Focus to see if we can find any clever solutions to your manual business processes, please do get in touch with us!

(Image from Wikipedia, in the public domain.)

Neil Smith
Neil

Created on Tuesday June 18 2019 09:35 AM


Tags: programming


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There are 3 responses to design - yes, no and WOW!

There are 3 responses to design - yes, no and WOW!

“Create a professional logo in minutes with our free logo maker!” - Stop where you are!... now back away slowly before the ‘free’ logo wrecker maker lures you in and costs you money and your credibility.

I can’t deny they can be pretty fun to play with but your organisation or cause is not a game. A logo is one of the most important branding investments a business can make. It defines you. It’s the key to creating a powerful brand.

If you’re thinking big the goal is of course instant recognition without the need to see the name. As a graphic designer Apple’s apple with a bite taken out of it fills me with a joy I ought to be embarrassed to admit (fortunately for this blog I have no shame).

Multinational companies can spend millions on their logos. BP spent £136m on its sunflower design they’ve had almost 20 years of use out of. Longevity in logo design is key. Other big firms with a logo made up simply of their name written in stylised text can spend hundreds of thousands on a new font, or different colour. I’m not suggesting you need to spend obscene amounts of money for a logo to be successful but it does need thought, it needs meaning then it will serve its purpose.

Find a good creative team that’s in it for the right reasons and before you know it you’ll be looking down your nose at the Starbucks mermaid and still have the money to buy a Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato.

If you’re looking to create a brand or rebrand an existing one, keep in mind a good logo is distinctive, appropriate, practical, graphic and simple in form. Here are a few principles to follow throughout the process. Make sure it is: 

  • Simple - simplicity is versatile and sits clearly on promotional material of all sizes, it’s easily recognised and memorable
  • Memorable - distinct, clear, unique logos will provoke immediate association and be remembered for years
  • Timeless - avoid elements that date i.e. a computer icon. Trends change, consider whether it will be effective in 5+ years
  • Versatile - Does it work in black and white? Scaled up or down your logo should still be effective, picture it on a pen and a billboard
  • Appropriate - Who will see it? Is it appropriate for it’s intended audience? You may consider a funky font for young people but ensure it’s not condescending 

Your logo is how people recognise you, it helps express how you're different from others - warmer, greener, stronger, and so on. People need a visual to help build the impression you want to create.

As Milton Glaser, designer of the I ❤ NY logo, once said “There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW!” aim for wow with a creative team that understands you and what you want to achieve, and they’ll help you do just that. If you think focus can help you achieve your digital goals, why not start the process and get in touch?

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Wednesday June 05 2019 10:53 AM


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