Our next article in our ask the experts series is all about photography. Photography can make – or break – a website, so we’ve compiled this list of tips for your website photography to help.
Peacock Carter talk to North East photographers to get their best tips for making the most of photography on your website. A good photograph can really make a good website design brilliant. And whether it’s portrait photography for your team members, or product photography for your ecommerce website, these tips should help you to make the most of your website imagery.
“Pick your photograph’s perspective carefully” – Graeme Rowatt Photography
Image: Graeme Rowatt Photography.
We all have a viewpoint about things in life… in the current circumstances there appear as many “viewpoints” as there are experts and critics… and from where they stand what they are seeing is important to them.
Photography is no different… where we choose to take a photograph from is personal and based on too many emotions and conditioned behaviours to count. But choose we should… don’t just accept the viewpoint of 5ft 8”… or however tall you are! Climb up… get down low… move to the left… move to the right… and by doing so include other elements that help tell the story. Indeed only by exploring the possibilities of the subject/object we are trying to photograph will we find a viewpoint that instinctively feels right for that picture.
Looking up at buildings, or people, makes them appear taller and more important… why do you think speakers stand on a podium? And the next time you fancy a burger (other fast foods are available) check out the viewpoint… it’s usually from slightly below and makes your quarter pounder seem so much bigger than what arrives in the wrapper… you know why they chose that viewpoint now!
Graeme is a photographer in the North East of England. You can visit his website at graemerowatt.com.
Peacock Carter are experts at web design and development, but it takes a huge variety of skills to design, build, and populate your website with content and imagery, and then to market it to your customers.
Our new ask the experts series takes to Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to bring you hints and tips from experts in their own fields, and today we’re looking at writing content for your website, or “copywriting”.
What do our copywriting experts recommend to those small business owners trying to write their own website content?
“Only write to one person”
“Only every, ever write to one person. Not “as many of you know”. Not “Hi, everyone” – write every word with a laser focus on your one reader and, while we’re on the subject, make sure use the word “you” far more than the word “we”. People are interested in one thing. Themselves. It’s up to you to tell them how you’re going to make their life easier.”
Katherine Wildman is founder of Hadyn Grey Copywriting Agency
“Your visitors want clarity, not poetry”
“If I had one piece of advice I could give to someone who was struggling to find the right words for their website, it would be this:
Your visitors want clarity, not poetry.
Most of the time, people get scared of writing because they have the wrong idea about what those words need to do.
You are not writing to make your reader fall in love with you.
Yes, your text should reflect your personality, and express what matters to you (and them). And yes, a good copywriter will be able to craft sentences that are neat, clever, fragrant, and enjoyable to read.
But that’s secondary to the main role of words on a site, which is to tell the reader who you are, what you do, what you can offer them, and HOW THEY CAN COMPLETE THE TASK OR ANSWER THE QUESTION THEY CAME FOR.
It’s like being a doctor. If you’re giving a diagnosis, the most important part of that exchange is to get that vital information across clearly, so they can act on it.
Of course, the way you speak, make eye contact, stand, and express yourself play an important role in how much they trust you, or are comfortable around you.
But if your method for getting that stuff across is to tell them a 40-minute story about how you’re cool under pressure, then you’ve failed the big test – which is to give them what they need, and get out of the way.
Plus, you’ve probably bored them to tears, and their parking has expired.
So, by all means think about how you talk, how you’re different, and what you offer. And when you’ve done that, make sure you offer REASONS AND EXAMPLES of why you’re special, rather than just say you are. Keep practicing, and drafting, until you’re happy. Even the best writers do that. It’s okay.
But the most useful work you can do is to find out who your users are, and what they want from your site. What questions they’re asking. What they need to know. And how to satisfy that need in as simple and useful a way as possible.
And if your site doesn’t answer those questions, or doesn’t help them get where they need to go, no amount of flowery adjectives or wild word-magic will win them back.”
John Hill is a freelance writer and audio journalist, and also a head of content at Pickle Jar Communications.
“Not every can write effectively”
“One point I always come back to – and which it took me years to truly realise – is that not everyone can write effectively. Don’t feel ashamed if you’re struggling to write your website content, but conversely, don’t think it’s a breeze and your copy will never be the root of any issues you’re having.
If you have budget for it, hire someone who does it day in, day out. Your copy is the first piece of brand engagement someone could have with you. Make that first impression count. If you don’t have budget, write regularly and analyse your results. The more you write, the more you’ll realise what does and doesn’t work. Learn from this and you’ll end up producing content that’s perfect for your audience (but this does take time – it’s a process that you’ll hone over months and years, not hours or days).
For B2B organisations in particular, tell your audience what problem your solution will solve. Put yourself in their shoes – what do they want to hear? 9 times out of 10, they don’t want to know the ins and outs of your technology (at least not at first). They want to know how it’s going to make their life easier, save them money, improve their processes, etc.”
Dan Smith is Head of Strategy at Quadrotech.
Approach your topic from the perspective of your customers
“Approach your topic from the perspective of your customers, not from your perspective. Think about the language they use, the things they ask for or search for and write to make things easy for them. Having a specific customer in mind (the sort you want more of!) when you’re writing web copy will help you focus your tone and content to your target audience.”
Jessica Rose is a copywriter and founder of Co Relate, a content creation agency.
Is WordPress’ latest change to automatic updates for plugins and themes a good idea? Should you enable them on your own website? WordPress experts Peacock Carter discuss.
What are automatic updates in WordPress?
Automatic updates – or Auto Updates – are just as they sound – WordPress will try and automatically update plugins and themes on your website, as of version 5.5. This feature is not enabled by default on WordPress websites, so you will need to enable
Previously WordPress has required a degree of proactivity in order to maintain plugins and themes, as well as the WordPress core updates, but a move to automatic updates is a step to making maintaining your WordPress website much less intensive, time-wise; with a few caveats, of course. Updates to plugins, WordPress core, and themes, will be triggered by the wp-cron.php now, up to twice a day. In essence, this means that updates can be run automatically twice a day – without any need to log in to WordPress and click buttons.
How will Auto Updates effect my website?
How Auto Updates effect your WordPress website will vary hugely depending on your website hosting arrangements, and the plugins and themes you have installed. As a first port of call, you may find our article on getting help for your WordPress website helpful if you are struggling with this.
A handful of WordPress plugins (such as Wordfence, a popular WordPress website security plugin) already update automatically, so you may notice no difference at all. For more information on WordPress Auto Updates, see WordFence’s article on this topic.
Disadvantages of WordPress Auto Updates
Updates are vital in keeping your WordPress website secure, so this move to automatic updates is largely a positive, but, as with many things,there are some side effects.
- The major disadvantage of automatic updates in WordPress is that features can suddenly fail without you realising – this can mean, for example, that your contact form stops working overnight, without you realising. This can be somewhat mitigated by using popular and reliable WordPress plugins.
- Many updates add fixes for security issues, but some updates can introduce security issues of their own for your WordPress website. Automatic updates could make these issues hard to detect.
- The quality of WordPress plugins and themes varies greatly. This means some plugins will be able to update automatically without issues most of the time, whereas other, less tested plugins, will not be as thoroughly tested and may be more likely to cause issues.
Should you enable Automatic Updates for your WordPress website?
Thankfully, WordPress allows you some options as to whether you should enable updates on your own website:
- Don’t enable WordPress Auto Updates at all – continue to manually update everything
- Enable Auto Updates for certain plugins in WordPress. As we’ve mentioned, some plugins already do this, but chose carefully!
- Turn on Automatic Updates for everything – a riskier proposal, but you’ll certainly discover which plugins and themes you use are built more robustly. Not recommended without some serious research!
As ever, if you’d like any help with your WordPress website, Peacock Carter are an established WordPress agency in Newcastle upon Tyne, and offer ongoing WordPress support packages for corporate and third sector clients.
When dealing with new web design clients, one topic that crops up regularly is how we can migrate content from an old website system in to a new platform such as WordPress.
As with many web development tasks, there are many ways to address the challenge of moving all of your content, files and images to a new website platform – and potentially a new web server, too. We take a look at the options available to businesses wanting to move their website to WordPress – a process known as migration.
Why move to WordPress?
There are a number of good reasons to move your website to WordPress:
- Moving to WordPress can potentially reduce your ongoing website support costs by allowing you to manage a lot of your own website’s content
- Migrating can also save on potentially expensive license fees for proprietary content management systems – WordPress is free to use, open source software
- Your staff are already familiar with the WordPress platform
We love WordPress at Peacock Carter for providing a solid base for building all variety of websites, from simple brochure websites, to ecommerce websites and membership databases.
Of course, before we begin – if you’re attempting this yourself, please make sure you back up files and database of your previous website before attempting anything!
1. Migrate your website manually – copy and pasting!
This is one – very painstaking and slow – way to move your website to WordPress, and we wouldn’t recommend it! Copy-and-pasting your website’s content in to a new WordPress installation is one way to migrate your website, but it’s a potentially long and painful experience.
Copy-and-pasting your website is prone to introducing errors in to your content, and you may miss content that isn’t publicly visible (such as draft content which hasn’t been posted yet) doing it this way.
2. Use a WordPress migration plugin
WordPress is open source software and is also free to use, and supported by a huge worldwide community who contribute extra features you can add to your website, known as “plugins”.
Some plugins are definitely better than others, but we highly recommend the WP All Import plugin if you’re going to attempt it yourself – it makes it about as easy as it can be to migrate even larger websites to WordPress. No plugin can deal with every content import situtation, though, so you may find limitations in even the premium plugins which call for a little help from a WordPress developer.
3. Ask the WordPress experts
Peacock Carter have migrated countless websites to WordPress since we started in 2006, from custom built content management systems, to Drupal, Weebly, Wix and Shopify. Each platform comes with its own challenges when migrating to WordPress, and as experienced web developers, we can work with you to solve them.
Hello? Is it us you’re looking for?
In those infamous lyrics from Lionel Ritchie, the purpose of a website contact form is described; it adds the ability for your customers to complete a form and send you a message without requiring them to open their email program. If you’re running a business, this can be a useful feature for your website as it gives customers another option to contact you about your services or products.
Here we look at ways you can improve contact forms on your WordPress website to make them easier to use for your customers – and hopefully therefore increase the number of sales enquiries you might receive via your website.
1. Keep your contact form simple
As people, we only tend to have so much patience when completing forms, whether they’re on paper or online. Keeping your contact form as simple as possible should help more people successfully complete your contact form.
Here are a few guidelines to help keep contact forms simple:
- Do you need this information to process a proposal or quotation for the customer?
- Can this field be merged in to another, reducing the total number of fields being asked for?
- Have you already asked for this information in another format? If so, remove one!
- Do you have a way of contacting the person making the enquiry? Be sure to ask for an email address or telephone number.
Of course, data protection laws in the UK mean you need to have a clear reason to ask for – and collect – information, so think carefully about the information your contact form asks for.
2. Use the correct field type
Once upon a time, there were only limited types of field available. These days, there are a multitude of field types available to use which can help customers enter the information you need more quickly, and with fewer errors:
- URL (web address)
- Email address
- Number fields, which allow you to set a minimum and maximum value that can be entered
- and many more!
For older browsers that don’t support these new field types, don’t worry – they fall back and customers will see a normal text field. Dropdown fields can be an excellent way of preventing customer errors when filling in forms, giving them a preset choice of options to chose from.
The benefits of using the correct field type are increased validation – modern browsers on computers, tablets and mobile phones – meaning the information customers are sending you is more likely to be correctly formatted. For things like email addresses, this can help prevent customers accidentally giving you a wrongly spelt email address. Handy!
3. Test your contact form
Finally, testing your contact form once it’s ready – and then on a regular basis – is a useful bit of website housekeeping for your website. The best way to test your contact form is to try and break it! That means entering the wrong information and experiencing what your customers might face when trying to complete a contact form.
- Do the error messages make sense to you? Will they help a customer to work out what they did wrong so they can fix it and complete the form?
- Does the email you receive from the contact form make sense? Does it have all of the information you ask for in it?
- Do messages sent through the contact form have a back-up? Do you check this regularly. For example, if you’re using the Contact Form 7 plugin for WordPress, you may want to add the Flamingo plugin, which stores a copy of every message submitted through the website. This is really helpful if you have issues with your email, or the form malfunctions and doesn’t send the email to you.
- Have you tried the contact form on your mobile phone? Completing a contact form on your laptop or desktop computer is one thing, but have you tried completing it on your mobile phone? Customers using their mobile phones to browse your website (which can be over 50% of visitors to websites in our experience) may struggle to fill your form in, as they have smaller screens to see your form with, and smaller keyboards, leaving room for more errors. Using the correct field types (see above) can help here
As the government announces lockdown to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus known as COVID-19, we’d like to reassure our web design, and website support clients that Peacock Carter remains open.
Our Proto office is currently not in use as we have moved to work from home, but you can reach us via firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a message on 0191 375 5713 with your email address and telephone number, and we’ll get back to you.
We will update this post if or when services change.
Our web design services
- Website hosting – running as normal. Please contact email@example.com for support if required. We may be slightly slower than usual to respond to new requests.
- Website design and development projects – running as normal; project timelines are unaffected.
- WordPress training courses – we are contacting clients to rearrange schedules sessions to be virtual training courses via Zoom and other video call software.
Clients in difficulty due to COVID-19
We understand that some of our clients may experience difficulty due to the lockdown restrictions. Peacock Carter aim to support our clients as fully as possible, so please contact us if we are able to help support your business in any way, including discussing payment plans for existing projects.
Last updated 21 May 2020.