As an web design agency based in the North East of England for the past 11 years, I’m pleased Peacock Carter still retains its North East roots.
I’ve found the North East a great place to be based for business. In particular, I’ve found the digital and creative community in Newcastle to flourish beyond what was already a great community of talented people in Newcastle and the North East, with regular meetups and talks throughout the year. Indeed, I organise two monthly meetups myself, for the WordPress and Magento platforms.
So, when the North East Local Enterprise Partnership enquired about getting me involved in a campaign to retain more graduates of North East universities in the region, I was more than happy to help.
The beginnings of a North East web design agency
The company had humble origins, starting in a bedroom in Durham in 2006. Founded by 2 Durham University students with a passion for website design and development, we quickly moved in to offices in Felling, Gateshead, before making the jump to Newcastle city centre a few years later. The company has changed its focus a little – like any good business! – since we started, and we’re now a very capable web design agency and ecommerce agency.
Today, Peacock Carter works with clients around the region – and throughout the world – and we are proud to remain in the region with our base at Northern Design Centre on Gateshead quayside.
Work, Live and Stay in North East England
My small feature is part of a much wider campaign by the North East LEP to showcase graduates from North East universities (from Newcastle and Northumbria, to Durham, Sunderland and Teesside) who have remained in the region and been able to contribute to its continuing successes.
You can read more from me and my thoughts on staying to live and work in the North East of England in the NELEP’s PDF here.
As a web design agency who have been around since 2006, we’ve seen a lot of website trends come and go in our time, from skeuomorphism to flat design and the rise of responsive web design.
So, here are our 2018 web design trends to watch out for this year – from more animation to greater use of vibrant colours and a change in direction for typography.
1. More web animation
Animation has been used on websites for decades now, in various forms. Formats such as GIF allowed early web designers to create animations for logos and other uses, but the format could only support a limited range of colours. Then came Flash – a format now largely gone from the web, thanks to the rise of web users adopting their smartphones, which largely did not support the format in favour of more modern technologies.
Web designers now have a broader range of animation tools available to them, making animations, but also more efficient in terms of file size – allowing us to keep website loading times to a minimum. An ideal pairing!
2. Moving away from “the grid” of web design
Mobile-friendly websites have been around for a relatively long time now – in the scheme of the digital world, anyway! – and many are built on a grid system which denotes the relative width of columns for content for different screen sizes.
We suspect that 2018 will see a move towards more assymetric, quirkier layouts for pages, allowing more creative art direction on pages.
3. Vibrant colours
We’re expecting to see much bigger use of bold colours and unusual and striking colour contrasts on websites in 2018.
One thing to beware of with unusual colour palettes is their contrast – poor contrast between text and background colours can cause a lot of issues for accessibility, particularly for those website visitors with colour blindness.
4. A larger focus on serif typefaces
Web designers have typically stuck largely to sans-serif typefaces (i.e., more rounded fonts without “feet” (serifs) on letters) for the web, as they tend to be easier to read. We think 2018 will see more prevelant use of serif fonts, especially with the development of web fonts via tools such as Google Fonts.
Whatever 2018 brings, we can be sure it’ll be another exciting year in web design and development.
If you’ve been exploring different ecommerce agencies to work with, you may well have come across Magento a few times by now. But what does a Magento developer do? How is a Magento developer different from other web developers?
The simplest answer is that a Magento developer develops Magento websites, but that’s not particularly useful or comprehensive as an answer, is it?
So, what is Magento development?
The first step is to look at what Magento development is, and to understand that, we need to understand what Magento is. Magento is an ecommerce platform built to allow web developers a stepping stone in creating ecommerce websites – websites that allow you to sell products, services or downloadable content to customers. Rather than building the same core features of an ecommerce website (a product catalogue, shopping cart, checkout) each time, Magento provides these core features ready for customisation.
Magento development covers a huge range of skills and tasks, from installing and configuring your Magento store to building Magento themes and developing custom features for your website.
What does a Magento developer do?
A Magento developer works to build, support and improve Magento websites. Typically, designing and building a Magento website requires a team of Magento developers, web designers and others to fulfill all of the skills required. A Magento developer is simply a web developer skilled with the Magento platform.
A Magento developer may work as a freelancer alone, or within a Magento agency such as Peacock Carter. Magento developers can be roughly split in to two separate skillsets themselves:
- Frontend Magento developers build Magento themes and work to replicate the design a web designer provides in to Magento – ensuring that your website looks great, and is responsive (mobile-friendly) so that it works effectively on smartphone and tablet devices.
- Backend Magento developers focus on building features for your Magento website, whether that’s via existing Magento extensions or bespoke code.
Magento developers can also become a Magento Certified Developer (MCD), Magento Certified Developer Pus (MCD+) and a Magento Certified Frontend Developer, which means they’ve passed an exam of multiple choice questions relevant to that field.
Typical Magento developer tasks include:
- Installing and configuring Magento
- Building Magento themes from provided designs
- Optimising Magento’s performance / loading times
- Configuring Magento’s stores to support multilingual and multicurrency set ups
- Installing, testing and configuring payment gateways such as PayPal, SagePay, Authorize.Net, etc
- Integrating other business systems in to Magento – including accountancy software, custom relationship management (CRM) software, and other business applications
- Performing audits of Magento websites for search engine optimisation
And, of course, if you’re looking for a Magento development agency in the North of England, we can recommend a good one!
If you’ve been researching ecommerce platforms for your business recently, you will almost certainly have come across Shopify.
As an established ecommerce agency, Peacock Carter love Shopify, and here’s why!
One of the world’s leading ecommerce systems, Shopify provides
1. Hassle free software updates
One of Shopify’s major benefits is that it is a hosted solution. This means you don’t need to worry about keeping your website’s software up to date, and you can focus on selling!
If you’re used to costly and disruptive software updates in other ecommerce software, this may well be a breath of fresh air for your business and worth the investment in Shopify alone.
2. Integrate your business in to Shopify
As a well-established ecommerce platform, Shopify can integrate with other aspects of your business. From accountancy packages to CRMs, Shopify is designed to help you run your business smoothly.
This means you have more time to run your business, and less time worrying about transferring your data between your ecommerce website and other tools in your business.
3. Easy Point of Sale
All of Shopify’s plans come with the ability to use their “card machine” feature which runs from an app on your smartphone. This is really handy if you also have a physical store location, or attend trade fairs or other events where you make sales.
4. Easily customisable emails
Shopify comes with a number of email templates your store can use out of the box, so you can easily customise what your customers see when they order from your store.
5. Shopify is easy-to-use
Yes, really! Merchants seem to love Shopify’s easy-to-use admin panel to manage their product catalogue and process customer orders.
So, is Shopify for you? Talk to us to find out how Peacock Carter can help with your next Shopify ecommerce project.
If you have an online business, then choosing which ecommerce platform you use is perhaps the biggest decision you’ll have to make.
As an online business, your website is your store, and it reflects who you are as a business. If you make the right decisions you’ll attract customers and if you make the wrong decisions you won’t. With stakes this high, it helps to have all the information about the various top ecommerce platforms so that you can choose the one that best suits your business. Last month, we wrote an article about the big companies who use Magento, so this month we’d like to look at Shopify, helping you gauge whether it is right for your online business.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a hosted, turnkey ecommerce service that gives you everything you need to run an online store. Shopify’s selling point is that it is easier to create an ecommerce site with it than the other big ecommerce platforms. With Shopify, you get to make judgement calls about how your site looks and operates, but you don’t have to do a lot of the work involved with getting it up and running. This means that it is perhaps the best platform for any business owner who is incredibly busy or not great with computers, as so much of the work is done for you. There are positives and negatives to Shopify’s fully-hosted ecommerce service, which we’ll go into later in this blog post.
How Does Shopify Work?
Because Shopify is selling a fast, easy service, it is unsurprisingly simple to start up. You choose a Shopify plan that fits your budget and has the features you want for your site. Then you point your domain to your Shopify store (whatever domain you bought from the likes of 123Reg or your domain registrar). However, you can also buy a domain directly from Shopify (because they’ve thought of everything!).
You choose a website template/design from a large selection of Shopify themes – or have a web developer such as Peacock Carter create your own bespoke design to use. You can also buy a pre-made premium template or pay a designer to make a bespoke website for you. We have recently added designing and managing Shopify websites to our list of services. The next stage is to add your products, content, and payment options. Then the website is ready to go and you just need to start marketing your online store!
Shopify Pros and Cons
It’s a good idea to look for reviews of Shopify online, as this will let you read about the different experiences business owners like yourself have had with the service. Make sure you read a range of reviews so that you get a balanced account of the pros and cons associated with Shopify. However, we’d like to include a few of the pros and cons of our own.
Shopify is very fast. It is run by experts who ensure that all Shopify accounts run as quickly as possible. This is particularly important when you consider that users are likely to leave a website if it takes even one second too long to load – and this likelihood is even higher with online stores. Not only are potential customers impatient, but they also associate the speed of a website with its trustworthiness, which is incredibly important to any online business.
Shopify is very secure. All ecommerce stores need to charge credit and debit cards. However, in order to be PCI compliant you have to have many layers of security on your site, which can slow it down massively. To combat this, some stores outsource their payment system to third parties like Google Wallet and PayPal, but this also slows down your store if you don’t know how to implement it correctly. But as Shopify is a fully managed service, they have experts behind the scenes that ensure your site is secure enough to be PCI compliant and still incredibly fast. For many other ecommerce platforms, if you want them to look as polished whilst being as fast and secure as a Shopify website, you’d have to put in a lot of time, money, and expertise (which also costs money).
Shopify also offers fantastic customer support should you encounter a problem. Obviously, any website problems could cost an online business huge losses – not just if a website is down, but also a loss in future customers as online customer loyalty is very fickle. So it’s pretty handy that Shopify’s customer support is fast and very helpful – either when talking to the owner of the ecommerce store or to a developer like ourselves who is managing the account for one of our clients. With email, chat, and phone support, it’s easy to get answers fast and get your website up and running at full power again as quickly as possible. Most business owners are busy enough as it is and they can’t afford to become web development experts, so it’s fantastic that Shopify have put so much time and effort into their customer support service. In fact, it’s difficult to think of an ecommerce service with as good customer support.
Shopify doesn’t offer the most cutting-edge marketing tools out of all of the different platforms. It does, however, do the basics very well. And it’s the basics that really matter – search engine optimisation (SEO), in particular. This is because Shopify creates clean code that is completely crawlable by Google. Put simply, Shopify speaks Google’s language. Shopify also has other SEO features, including a feature that automatically discovers duplicate content and uses canonicals to ensure they aren’t a problem. And as duplicate content is perhaps the biggest bane for ecommerce sites, this feature is hugely beneficial. Shopify also allows you to create quick landing pages, making it perfect for AdWords campaigns. So, if you’re very proactive with your SEO and PPC marketing strategies, then Shopify is a good option for you.
Shopify’s range of design customisations, as I mentioned earlier, allows you to either buy a premade template or employ a designer to make something completely bespoke. Shopify offers a huge range of themes, including free and paid-for options. This accommodates all kinds of different businesses – from small start-ups (who can choose a free template) to large companies (who can pay for a truly unique website design). This means you can start out with a small, free template, then upgrade the look and functionality of your website as your business grows.
Shopify also allows ecommerce web developers to make highly specialised add-ons that can be seamlessly added to its platform. This allows businesses to customise their website as much as they like whilst still enjoying the built-in core features.
One potential con is that the monthly price you pay for the service with add-on fees can add up if you aren’t careful. Although Shopify is definitely worth the price, it is undeniably more expensive than self-hosted platforms like WordPress (with WooCommerce) or Magento. However, as long as you keep an eye on the add-ons you buy and choose the right payment bracket with features that meet your needs, then you shouldn’t run into trouble. And all of the pros listed above kind of make any added costs feel justified.
Shopify’s built-in blog interface is better than other hosted services, but it isn’t as good as WordPress. You can still make your blogs look good, but if you have been used to a WordPress CMS previously, then you may be a little frustrated with Shopify. Blogs, guides, and other content marketing strategies are becoming increasingly important for online stores, so this is something we expect Shopify to improve in the future.
One potential con for people new to Shopify is that it uses a lot jargon that you might not have come across before. This means that there is a slight learning curve at the beginning that you won’t find with many other platforms. For example, it uses the term ‘collections’ instead of ‘categories’ and other slightly unintuitive terms. That said, as a lot of the work is done for you with Shopify, you might not understand how it’s working, but it’ll work nonetheless!
Who Are Shopify’s Competitors
You could perhaps list all the top ecommerce platforms as Shopify’s competitors, but as it is fully hosted turnkey service, its competitors are really Volusion and BigCommerce as they also provide hosted, turnkey ecommerce services. All three services make your job as the business owner as easy as possible and allow your online store to integrate easily with Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Shopify out competes Volusion and BigCommerce, however, and can be considered the superior service because it offers greater flexibility and has a Buy Button that enables customers to click and buy your products anywhere they see them online, such as on Facebook or Tumblr. Also, in our experience, Shopify’s customer support, as I mentioned earlier, is vastly superior. Having this safety net alone puts it way ahead of its competitors.
That’s everything for this guide. I hope it has answered a few of your questions about Shopify and that you have a better idea of whether or not it is right for your business. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about our Shopify, WordPress, or Magento services.
Magento is the most popular ecommerce platform in the world, with both small retailers and large companies making use of its purpose-built ecommerce functionality. Usually, when businesses are considering moving to a new web platform or redesigning their website, the best thing to do is look at their competitors’ websites and other relevant businesses with great websites. So, with this blog post we’d like to look at the big blue-chip companies who make the most of their Magento website.