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Bridging the divide - communicating at work

Communication is...difficult. Especially in business.

Not physically. Physically, communication is easy. In this, the year 2020, we have thousands of ways you can get in touch with your clients and colleagues  - wherever they may be.

Communication is difficult because it takes a lot of work - everyone involved needs to want to communicate effectively or it just won’t work. You can very easily exchange a multitude of words without anything really being said.

We don’t want to work is silos where we never share information or talk like robots and ask people to confirm receipt of all knowledge but there are ways to make sure you and your team communicate better.

 

Never Assume 

Many communication issues arise because people make assumptions. You may assume that because you shared information it was heard, understood, and retained. This does not mean that this is necessarily the case. You may also assume that you don’t need to verbalise the issue because it’s obvious but in reality, nothing truly ‘goes without saying’. 

Never assume that other people think like you do. Just because you think something is obvious, doesn’t mean the rest of your team does. The clearer you can be (without being patronising, obviously) the better. 

 

Crystal Clear

Say what you mean. In the UK especially, we can be prone to trying so hard to be polite that we don’t say what we mean and we don’t communicate our wants or needs. If you need a webpage to be complete by tomorrow morning say so. Give as much advanced notice as you can but even if that’s not possible don’t say you ‘Just thought it might be nice if you could possibly maybe' have it by tomorrow. Your coworkers aren’t going to be annoyed that you asked them to do their own jobs - they’ll be grateful that they don’t have to try and decode what you’re asking of them. 

 

Mixed Medium

As mentioned, we have many, many ways to share information and, although it’s important not to waste time being too repetitive, if you’ve said something in more than one format you have a greater chance of getting the point across. People learn in different ways and it can be easy to forget a point that was made in a meeting if you’re a visual person who needs to see it written down or maybe illustrated in some way. Send emails to confirm conversations you had on the phone, share meeting notes and if you’re talking about a visual project, make sure people get to see what you’re trying to say.

 

Getting RACI

Try a RACI matrix. This Project Management tool is great for accountability - you literally list a team member as ‘Accountable’. 

RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. On one axis you put everyone involved in the project and on the other, milestones within the project. You then cross reference and, for each milestone determine who is Responsible (does the work; who is Accountable (makes sure the work is done); who is Consulted (asked for input or advice); who is informed (told about what you’re working on). 

Creating and sharing a RACI matrix lets everyone know at which points during the project they are required and what they are expected to do. There’s then safe ground for anyone to chip in and ask why they weren’t informed of a certain action when they should have been or why the responsible person hasn’t finished the work. It keeps everyone on the same page and that page can be referenced at any time. 

Shared Documents

Shared documents are commonplace - this isn’t new information but you may still find that the one document you need is on your colleague's desktop and they’re on holiday for 3 weeks. If other people need to see a document, make it shareable by design, put it in a shared area and tell everyone involved that it’s there. We’ve all felt the unique frustration of trying to guess what a colleague might have named the quote from 2017 you need to reference and how their esoteric personal filing system works. 

 

No Man (or Woman) is an Island

In 2020 the office is not necessarily ‘the office’. Your team may work together in one location, some people may work from home, or you may be a team of digital nomads scattered to the wind. Even in our perpetually connected world, this can make it hard to get your message across. If you feel like your team are moving like planets out of orbit, find a central point of communication. This could be ticket system that you all update, a series of calls where you check in or a stand up meeting if you’re in person. You may not be in the same time zone but make sure you have a central point you can come back to.

 

Lead by example

You may not be able to cover all of the ideas above but the most important thing about communication is to make sure that you are communicating. There may be some hurdles to overcome, some issues to iron out, and some people may not enjoy change but as long as you’re actively trying to share information, you’re halfway there.  

 

Frances Smolinski
Frances

Created on Tuesday January 28 2020 12:33 PM


Tags: website blog communication


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Your web presence - are you doing enough?

Do more. Mac on desk workspace

What is web presence?

Web presence in a nutshell is all things digital that represent and showcase your business or organisation and brand online.

This can include your website, targeted email campaigns, regular e-newsletters, digital branding; where areas of your branding is adapted for web use, this should match any physical or offline branding but be optimised for web use such as colours, logo size and quality or fonts. Web presence also includes the following:

·Social media, the use of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or online networking through LinkedIn to build reach.

·Content; On page, regular blog posts or videos.

·Organic Search on and off site, or PPC campaigns through Google or even Facebook depending upon your audience.

Importance of an online presence

Why is this so important? Well, your web presence is your voice before a prospect gets to talk to you, it is your virtual shop window. It creates a platform for businesses and organisations to strengthen their brand and entice prospects.

A professional looking site has the potential to level the playing field between the smaller and larger businesses.

Your web presence is where you can raise your creditability, show your expertise within your industry and increase the trust and authority you hold over any niche services.

I hear a lot of people say that they gain their new business through referrals. Well that may well be true, but that referral will more than likely check the website to ensure they do in fact offer what the referred person needs. For example, when someone recommends a restaurant or hotel you most likely check it out on TripAdvisor and go through their website too. If they didn't have a website or had no offsite reviews or social media presence at all would you trust that referral? Probably not, you would click else where just as this prospect would.

Your website needs to showcase your brand, who you work with, what you do and how you do it and the other avenues of your web presence should align to this too. This in turn will aid the sustainability and growth of the business.

B2B customers get up to 70% of the way through the buying journey before they're ready to talk to anyone about making a purchase and the average paying customer will have had 7 touch points before converting. These touch points can vary in platform hence why the web presence is so important. They may read a leaflet, see a post on Facebook, follow you on other social media channels, sign up to a newsletter, visit a shop and have numerous visits to the website, all before making a purchase or signing up for a service. For 81% of people looking to make a purchase they will look to the internet, if you aren't there then that potential customer will find someone who is.

To stay ahead of the game with this trend you need to show up in the initial research phase which will most likely include a Google search and looking through the first few organic rankings. You should also have a fast loading, easy to use, responsive website that has https on any data gathering pages at the very least. Having reviews or case studies available to users and relevant, engaging content can also be a real game changer in conversion rates for you.

Working on digital content

Doing enough?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether you are doing enough with your web presence. No one expects a business or organisation to necessarily be covering every point that's been mentioned within this post. Generally speaking, to get going you need a good website that is built professionally so that it can achieve what you want it to, is fully responsive and secure (https) that is then filled with engaging, relevant content.

Having a blog as part of your website is a great way to keep people coming back as you can let them know when new content has arrived. You can use a blog to promote certain products and services or tell customers and prospects what the company has been up to! As part of this content (including blogging) there should be potential to cover some on site SEO (search engine optimisation) this can be done by creating on page quality content that covers services, products or information that you want to rank for. The rest of this can be done with the set-up of your site or through most CMS (content management systems) post going live.

It is also best to set up a Google my business profile and ensure all the details match those of your website. Finally having some sort of social media presence is becoming more and more important and relevant. Rather than trying to cover every platform choose one or two that seem good for your audience and master them through regular posting of great content and sharing of other relevant content that you may come across. Remember you can do PPC campaigns on social so when you feel confident and have some budget for extra marketing they can be a great area to expand into.

Talk to us more about your web presence and how you're doing by emailing: simon@thisisfocus.co.uk or stephanie@thisisfocus.co.uk and we'll organise a call.




Google's changing stance on secure sites

We posted at the end of last year about Google’s preferential treatment of secure sites and in 2017 they have extended their public warning system a step further. 

 

 

As of January 2017, Google is now clearly marking all websites that do not have an SSL certificate with an information icon (i) that informs the user that the website should not be used for entering personal details (below). 

 

 

 

 

On any pages that do have fields for entering payment details, personal information or passwords but the address is HTTP not HTTPS, this message changes to NOT SECURE with a warning symbol. As you can imagine this can make visitors to websites wary, especially as Google specifies that this information “could be stolen by attackers”. 

 

 

 

 

Chrome plan to eventually display a Not Secure red triangle on all HTTP pages, whether they contain sensitive input fields or not. Ideally all sites will have migrated to HTTPS for all pages by the time this happens.

 

It is not certain how the other market leading browsers will monitor SSL certificate usage but so far it looks as though Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera are all rolling out a very similar systems.

 

Although there is no real threat to the user if no information is entered into the website, the only real way to avoid triggering these messages is to acquire an SSL certificate from a reputable supplier, and make sure that any pages that deal with sensitive information (passwords, financial details) are secure. Fortunately this is quite straightforward and not as daunting as it may at first seem.

 

If you’d like to have a chat about SSL changes and what they mean for your website get in touch.

 

You can see Google’s original post on the changes.

You can find out more about SSL, what it means and how it’s monitored
here and here 

Frances Smolinski
Frances

Created on Monday August 21 2017 09:08 AM


Tags: blog google ssl http


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Accessible blogging - Top tips

Accessible blogging - Top tips

I sit, staring at a screen more blank than my expression. Sometimes it can be so hard to write a blog, let alone write one that's accessible to people with disabilities. When doing so, there are many things to consider, for example Screenreader compatibility. Below is a list of things to keep in mind that may help you.

(So that you don't abandon my blog to instead watch a YouTube cat playing the piano, I've kept it brief, plus we all love a bullet point, right?)

Text

- Use real text not text within graphics.
- Choose simple, easy to read, sans serif fonts such as Arial.
- Limit number of fonts.
- Ensure sufficient contrast between the text and the background.
- Avoid small font sizes (less than 12pt).
- Limit the use of font variations such as bold, italics, and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
- Underlining is best kept for hyperlinks.
- Numbers: Use symbols (1,2,3), not words. 

Language

- Avoid jargon.
- Avoid too much information on one page/blog.
- Bullet points should be used to break up information (avoid numbered lists).
- Abbreviations and acronyms should be avoided if possible. If not possible, first refer to it in full with the acronym in brackets for example ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)’
- Always check spelling and grammar before publishing. 

Punctuation

- Don’t use 'eg / ie', write ‘for example / specifically’. 
- Don’t use '&', write ‘and’.

And a few final points:

- Images should be used as much as possible.
- Blogs should have meaningful titles that help users identify the page in search results.
- Avoid using ‘click here’. Ideally the purpose of a link is clear, even when the link is viewed on its own.
 

For those of you who aren't by now listening to the sweet sound of paws on a piano. Here are some links to my other blogs about accessibility that may also be of help:

Accessible Colours and Web Design 

Designing for Accessibility

Screenreader Compatibility Tips

Making Information Accessible

Accessibility at the BBC

Accessibility and the Web

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Wednesday November 11 2015 10:53 AM


Tags: blog accessibility


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Bootstrap Foundations

We blogged a while ago about our use of Twitter's Bootstrap project on some of out internal sites. We're in the middle of a redesign for Bristol Balloons and we've been using Twitter Bootstrap as the CSS foundation for the design of the site. We've found that the process of styling internal pages has sped up considerably whilst still producing excellent results (if we do say so ourselves). We get good looking styling from the get go which can then be customised to fit the design rather than starting with a blank slate. We've also found that we're producing CSS/HTML builds which are rock solid in IE (7 and above) without the need for time consuming debugging and CSS hacks.

Twitter Bootstrap seems to be to internal styling what a grid system is to page scaffolding.

We're still in the process of deciding when we use this approach but it's certainly an interesting one. There is still much for us to explore here, particularly the responsive design elements it provides, so watch this space.

Created on Thursday April 19 2012 12:00 AM


Tags: website blog new-web-site twitter


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Increasing User Engagement

Increasing User Engagement

We've been doing a lot of work for one of our favourite clients, Bristol City Council on two of their web sites; Go Places Do Things and Go Places to Play.

In the Autumn of 2011 we had a review of the first six months of 2011/12 regarding the performance of the web sites and from this put together a plan for the next six months. The main aim was increasing traffic and user engagement of the sites.

Over the last 6 months we've been working closely with the BCC team and introduced a monthly update schedule that is used to create new content for the site; this includes news articles and polls along with updates to the video content on the site. 

In Q1 and Q2 of 2011/12 10 news articles were created for Go Places Do Things with the news page achieving an average of 15 views per month. In Q3 & Q4 we produced 35 news articles and achieved an average of 40 views per month, not bad considering that Q2 is the busiest period for the site and Q3 is the quietest.

The additional news articles and regular updates made to the Go Places To Play web site meant that we have DOUBLED the traffic between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Our news articles have also ensured that we were ranking for specific keywords in organic search rankings. The figures really do show that content is a brilliant way of engaging and increasing users whilst ensuring that your site is refreshed. A news / blog page is a very simple way of achieving this.

Another really interesting statistic which can up was the increase in mobile traffic. We had a jump from 4% average in 2010/11 to 14% average in 2011/12 for Go Places To Play (including a massive 20% in Q4). We know mobile traffic is increasing on a weekly if not daily basis, but the 1 in 5 visitors statistic for Q4 was one which really did surprise me.

We'll be working closely with BCC to ensure that mobile visitors are as engaged as our desktop visitors.

Created on Thursday April 12 2012 08:36 AM


Tags: website blog bristolcitycouncil goplacestoplay content news


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How, What and When to Blog?

How, What and When to Blog?

At Focus we love to blog and we’re sometimes asked by clients how often should they be blogging on their site, what should they be blogging about and how long should the blog post be?

We don’t think that there are any hard and fast rules for the above but all are genuine questions that should be asked by website administrators.

First thing would be to identify your goals of blogging in order to develop a clear strategy. Why are you blogging?....is it to provide information, content or SEO?

Best practice decitates that you should try to blog as often as possible, we would say once a week is a minimum, but it’s important to make sure the content is relevant to your audience, current affairs and time of the year. Don’t blog for the sake of it – make sure you have a point to each post and ensure it will engage your audience.

Blog posts can be any length but we would suggest something short and snappy if your posting something more general (a few paragraphs) and a bit longer if you trying to enforce a point, provide information or engage your audience.

One other key point we would say is spread the load between employees – one person only has so many ideas and it can be a great to get different writing styles and opinion into your blog posts. 

Created on Monday November 14 2011 03:41 PM


Tags: website blog


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IE9 Launch - is it time for you to break up with your browser?

IE9 Launch - is it time for you to break up with your browser?

A browser can be like that comfy pair of old slippers, it’s your friend, to take your walks around the internet in. It can be hard to break the habit of those old comfy slippers though, and try a new pair of slippers, even if they may allow you to walk a bit faster and trip you up less. You might not know your way round in them so well at first, they might not be the right fit for what you need or they could be a great improvement; maybe those old slippers are holding you back? With the launch of Internet Explorer 9 last week it’s time for us all to consider if our current browser really is the best fit.

For those less technical savvy amongst you, you may be shocked to know that there is more than one way to view the internet. You may still be using Internet Explorer thinking that that is as good as the internet can get, but let me introduce you to my friends, Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari. These different browsers offer different functionality some are better for macs (Safari) some are faster (Chrome) and some are safer (Firefox). 

Internet Explorer has dominated the browser market for many years; in 2002 95% of web users were browsing through it, now that’s more like 45-50%. This is because the browser market has revolutionised in the last couple of years with the invention of browsers like Chrome and Firefox which offer faster web browsing, better functionality and a more intuitive web browsing experience. Internet Explorer 9 is Microsoft’s latest offering that is trying to win back its market share. It offers integration with Windows 7 to make browsing your favourite sites easier, and gives larger screen space to site contents by reducing the tool bars. 

It’s free to download any of these browsers, so why not find out which is the right fit for you? 




Opening the door to the new Trade Store!

Opening the door to the new Trade Store!

It's been a very busy month for us all at Focus Towers! We've had a number of client websites going live and excitingly today we have launched the Trade Store for our long term client Barriers Direct. This has been a great project for us to sink our teeth into; it's given us the challenge of creating a sub brand which is part of the Barriers Direct family whilst having a sense of being its own entity. We've also had to tailor the site to a very specific audience making it as useful as possible for our target audience to get the service they need. The technical demands of the project were also high - grouping all the many, many products into easy to navigate categories was a great challenge. We're really pleased with the result! Take a look and let us know your thoughts.

Created on Tuesday March 22 2011 02:24 PM


Tags: website blog bristol focus social-media trade-store construction site-launch


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To Facebook or not to Facebook!?

To Facebook or not to Facebook!?

Yesterday I attended a training and consultation workshop on Social Software and Promoting Participation with Young People, hosted by Katie Bacon (what a great name!).
 
We went along with CERNIS our new partners (see previous blog ) to find out more about how social media platforms such as Facebook can be used safely, in particular for sensitive projects such as ours which is in relation to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
 
Primarily we were looking to understand what measures can be put in place with regards to managing the posts and comments yet still facilitating an environment where young people can participate freely.
 
The session was great, very informative, interesting and interactive.  We looked at how youth workers can manage their own social networking site (SNS) and the advice that can be given to young people. We discussed the implications of creating an online community and how you can facilitate a balance between functions that enhance the content but also functions that protect the members from harassment.
 
We’re looking to use a virtual platform to support the workshops with young people that are being carried out by CERNIS across the country – where information and feedback can be shared and participants can monitor the progress of the project and see feedback from other sessions. We’ve decided to use a blog called More Thoughts as the main platform but were also considering a Facebook profile page to help to communicate with the young people when new content is posted (as an alternative to email) and to generate interest. All of the tools seem to be available for controlling who see’s, edits and moderates the content on the page, however the one big stumbling block that we could not see a way around was the inability to be able to hide the friends list from the profile.
 
However, even though on this occasion we have decided not to use Facebook in particular, lots of other ideas and suggestions were made on how to generate interest and bring our blog to life with free tools that are available online. We’re going to include a video introduction to welcome people along, we will also look to include videos from the sessions (creatively preventing anyone from being identifiable), use Google maps with points to show where Anna and co are holding their workshops as well as photos and progress so far, and other little features such as a Wordle to make the content more interesting.
 
There’s a lot to do as the first workshop begins in Norfolk on Tuesday!

Created on Friday August 06 2010 08:45 AM


Tags: blog google youth young-people online-tool cernis facebook social-media


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