WordPress in Crawley

WordPress is the most popular website Content Management System (CMS) on the web. It has won that position the hard way, by being the best. It’s now at version 4.1 and has evolved into an easy to use and functionally powerful CMS.

Vapour Trail is a web design and development business based in West Sussex with a particular focus on the Crawley and Gatwick area. We have years of experience working with WordPress. We also have a focus on working with small businesses.

For very many small businesses, being able to take control of their website in-house is a godsend. Their needs are probably modest: price updates, blog, news about recent projects. Hiring a web designer to do this can be unrealistically expensive.

WordPress is easy to use. If you can create and save a Word document, that’s pretty much the skill level you need to update your WordPress based website.

So, if you are based in the Crawley area …

  • You have a website and can’t update it. We will analyse it for free and present you with a proposal describing how you can make your website more flexible and useful.
  • If you already have a WordPress based website and need some help with it, we will be very pleased to quote for the work.

WordPress in Crawley

Here at Vapour Trail we want to help small business, charities, sole traders and artists get the most from their websites. WordPress is a great tool to make that happen.

We do not charge to investigate your website or for an initial consultation. We place a high priority on communicating with business owners in everyday language and not technobabble! Since we are based locally, we would be very happy to meet up with you to get to know you and your business.

Contact us on 0333 123 0004 or email info@vapourtrail.biz

 

A New Look with WordPress Themes

Let’s have a think about how a website looks: the layout, colours, font and styling generally. If a website is static i.e. made up of separate HTML pages, the styling is part of the page. But if your website uses a theme or template, it is much easier to change the appearance.

Our preferred Content Management System (CMS) is WordPress which uses a WordPress theme to control appearance. Simply by changing the theme, it’s possible to give your website a whole new look. The content will remain the same but will be presented in a new way. This opens up exciting new possibilities. Your website can be updated as often as you want for minimal effort. You can have seasonal changes: a Christmas theme, an Easter theme and so on. Most themes also allow a degree of customisation: background image changes, changed text colours or similar.

WordPres Themes are available for free download or to purchase at reasonable prices. For example Themify have some great contemporary designs. Or you can even have a WordPress theme created to your bespoke requirements.

So if you are tired of your old website design, it might be much easier to update than you think.

Here at Vapour Trail we create and update websites, mainly for small business. We recommend WordPress as a great business solution and we don’t charge the earth. In fact an initial consultation and a quote are completely free. There’s no pushy sales people (we literally don’t have any). We just want to meet up and find out what we can do for you.

If you need a new look, call us now 0333 123 0004 or email info@vapourtrail.biz

Featured image by Renata Salles

New Year, New Resolve

Happy New Year, I hope you have a great 2015!

Pause.

Now let’s think about what that actually means.

I genuinely offer my good wishes for 2015, I would be very pleased if all my readers had a truly successful 2015. But whilst good wishes are one thing, making it happen is quite another. If you are setting out on a new venture or continuing with an existing one in 2015, it’s success or failure is largely down to you.

If you own that venture, you own the power to make it succeed. So I would encourage you to take some time to make plans, set targets and take control.

Here’s one thing I can really help with. If your business or venture uses a website to communicate with customers or colleagues, take some time to review how well it is working. Does someone searching for what you offer, get directed to your website?

I would be very happy to spend some time with you, reviewing how well your website works. This would be entirely free of charge.

You get a professional opinion of your website and if there are things to be done, maybe we can agree to work together.

So welcome to 2015 and there’s an offer of something free. Pretty good start, eh?

 

Chris

0333 123 0004

 

Add Us To Your To-Do List

Christmas is coming (yes, really) and we are thinking about the celebrations and the end of another year.

But the end of one year means the beginning of a new one. A new year and new opportunities.

If you run a business or an organisation, if you are an artist or performer, you will probably be thinking of new ways you can push ahead in the new year. Any thinking about how you are going to promote yourself must include a consideration of your online presence. How well is your website working, are people engaging with you on Twitter, is your Facebook page effective?

How would you like to talk this over with someone? My name is Chris Jerrey and I run Vapour Trail. I have been building websites for over ten years. I would like to offer you an entirely free review  of your website and social media activity.

I absolutely promise there will be no hard sell! I will help you understand the current status of your website, how easy it is to find, what it says about you. I will also offer recommedations of how you can progress the website to help you meet your aspirations.

Am I looking for new business? Of course, and so are you. So if you would a free of charge, informed discussion about how your enterprise can do more online, add us to your to-do list.

Or just call now!

0333 123 0004

info@vapourtrail.biz

What is Cloud Computing?

If you are at all interested in technology, you will have seen plenty of references to “The Cloud”. You may also have seen the recent stories about celebs having their photos stolen from The Cloud and are wondering if The Cloud is actually a good place to store sensitive material.

So let’s answer the question “What is Cloud Computing”?

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is working with services and resources which are not present on the device you are using.

So, for example, if you take a photo on a smartphone and upload it to Instagram, you are using the cloud. Your photo is not stored anywhere except the cloud but can be viewed by anyone with a browser or Instagram app. Likewise if you receive a file in Gmail and edit and save it using Google Drive, that file is never present on your device, it remains in the Cloud.

What is cloud computingThis is a very powerful tool. If you need files in multiple locations (desktop computer, laptop and tablet), just save the file to the Cloud and it is available wherever you want.

A businessman can create a document at his desk, then save it to the Cloud. The document is then accessible via a tablet whilst travelling.

A student can start writing an essay on their home computer, save it to the Cloud and then continue it on the train or at a friend’s house.

More sophisticated Cloud applications allow work groups to share and cooperate on documents.

Obviously it is important to avoid your resources falling into the wrong hands. Cloud applications come with complex security arrangements but these can be negated by poor quality passwords and easy to guess credentials. It’s incredible how many people still use “password” as their password. Or their name followed by 123.

When setting up a Cloud application (like Google Drive or iCloud) follow the provider’s guidance to create strong passwords and credentials.

If you get the security right, the Cloud can be a powerful tool to make your life much easier.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Cloud Computing

explainthatstuff.com

 Coffee shop image –Yagan Klely

Content Is King!

Are you making changes, or wanting to make changes to your website? Are you dithering over which font or colour would look best? I have some news for you: It doesn’t matter.

“But, but … ” you say. Let me explain.

Search engine results are not based on whether you are using Arial or Verdana fonts. People will not pick up the phone to call you if your website uses #3366CC rather than #0099FF blue.

People will find your website and engage with it based on the content. Content is King!

Your website should look good and should work properly. It should be easy to navigate and display correctly on different devices. But the website is only ever a container for your content. So long as the website displays your content correctly, it is doing it’s job.

Let’s think some more about content, what should it be? In the business context, the website content should all be promoting the view that yours is a reputable, capable business which customers can entrust with their business: Typical content on a business website would be:

  • A statement of what the business does
  • Who owns the business
  • What their qualifications and experience are
  • How best to make contact
  • Testimonials from existing customers
  • Technical information about the products or services you deal with
  • Prices
  • Examples of completed projects
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Industry news
  • Informed comments on relevant topics

If your website is fresh, up to date, useful and informative, it creates the impression that you are the sort of business that is good to deal with. Remember …

Content Is King!

Content is also key to unlocking the power of search engines. If your website content is relevant to popular search engine enquiries, your website will appear higher up the search engine result rankings, meaning that your website is more likely to receive a click through from the results. This is a practice known as Content Marketing and can be a powerful tool to bring in new business.

Take a look at the content of your website. Is it up to date and relevant? Does it provide useful information and insight? Is it worth spending time reading?

If it’s time for a change, call us for a chat. We’ll help you invigorate your website and make your content shine.

0333 123 0004 (free from most mobiles)

info@vapourtrail.biz

PS. This isn’t new, Bill Gates was saying “Content is King” back in 1996

How To Add Pictures To Your WordPress Blog

Pictures speak in a different language to words. Sometimes a picture is the only way to convey the true impact of a thing or situation. Having both words and pictures available to you is a powerful combination. If your website is based on a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, you have that combination at your fingertips.

Adding pictures to your Blog is not at all difficult, but let me first talk about the pictures themselves. You don’t need an expensive camera to produce good quality pictures. But you do need to think about what you are doing and develop a few skills.

The current generation of smartphones, compact digital cameras and digital SLRs will all produce pictures that can be used on a website. However they are not guaranteed to do so. The most important part of the picture taking process is the photographer.

How to add pictures to your wordpress blog

Times Square photographed with a Samsung smartphone

Images for use on your website should be:

  • In focus
  • Properly lit
  • Composed in a pleasing way
  • Have the important details fully visible and not hidden in shadow or “blown out” highlights.

Let’s think about these points in more detail.

Focus – Most modern cameras have auto focus but it’s not infallible. Learn how the system works (read the booklet) and practice. Check your results immediately. If they look fuzzy, do it again.

Lighting – If possible, use diffused natural light. Light from the north is less glaring than light from the south. Avoid flash unless you know what you are doing. The flashes on phones and compact cameras are especially good at producing red eye and other undesireable effects.

Composition – Get the camera level and take time to review what you are looking at. Placing your subjects centrally won’t win any artistic prizes but you will be able to see them and they are more likely to be in focus.

Details fully visible – This is very much a result of getting the lighting right. Inadequate lighting will mean the image is too dark or too much will be in shadow. Harsh bright light will also produce deep shadows and highlights without details. Check your image before shooting and review after pressing the shutter. If it looks wrong, try and move you subject into softer light and try again.

Remember, the quality of a picture depends on the ability of the photographer, just like the quality of a meal depends on the skill of the cook.

How To Add Pictures To Your WordPress Blog

If you are using WordPress, this is easy. Do any editing and save the image file on the same computer as you are writing your with.

With the cursor at the point in the text where you want the image to appear, click the Add Media button. Select Upload Files then click the Select Files button to find the file on your computer. After selecting and clicking Open or OK (depending on computer) you will see the upload progress on the right of the next screen. Add a title and alternative text for the image, select alignment and the size you want it to appear. Clicking the Insert into Post button places the image in your Post. When you Publish the Post, it will be there for all to see.

Further Reading – detailed WordPress instructions on adding images

 

It Need Not Cost a Lot

You run a business. It might be a small business running for awhile, or a start up. Your “to do” list says “Get website”. You think: lots of money, fast talking salesman, technobabble, anguish. You go and do something else instead.

I’ve spoke to a lot of people who have been there. They are very good at what they do, but don’t know much about the internet beyond Facebook. They think that talking to a website design agency is going to cost them a lot of time, money and confusion.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

For a start, Vapour Trail is a small business. We don’t employ salespeople, you talk to the person who will create your website. We are a small business, so we know that value for money is important. We want to build a relationship with our customers so we don’t start off by confusing you. We want to create you an affordable website and see it grow with your business.

We don’t try to sell you what you don’t need.

This is a key point, so let me explain further. If you are a big brand, you want all your marketing (including your website) to be unique to you. You will be spending a lot of money to create a totally unique brand identity. And it will be lot of money because top quality design work is expensive.

An affordable website

In most cases, this is not an appropriate approach for a small business. You want to be distinctive and get your message across, but not at any price. We take readily available, often free to use components and combine them with original imagery and text to create a distinctive, but affordable website. We are big fans of the WordPress Content Management System. This is an Open Source product which means it’s free to use. There are hundreds of free themes to control the appearance of the website. These can be configured to create a distinctive look for your business website.

Do you want to know more?

Call us on 0333 123 0004. We will be happy to discuss your needs and quote you for work.

We will make sure you understand what we are telling you. This is all without any obligation on your part. We believe the web is for everyone, not just the big names. Get in touch and we can help remove “Get website” from your To Do list.

How many people visited my website yesterday?

Do you ever ask “How many people visited my website yesterday”? It’s a reasonable question as it determines to some extent what value you are getting from your website.

But do you know?

How many people visited my website yesterday

If you have analytics software installed, you can answer this question easily. You can either log into your Google account or go to a page on your website to check.

The most popular analytics solution is provided by Google. Like so many of their products, it is free to use. More about analytics here.

If you have a website based on a content management system like WordPress, you can set up analytics yourself. Otherwise you may need some assistance.

If you would like to find out more about who visits your website and why, call us 0333 123 0004

Mariner III website – Case Study

Getting the structure of your website is vitally important. Get it right and the website will provide a great return on investment. Get it wrong and the website will do nothing. Let me illustrate this with a real life case study.

improving search results case study

Case Study

I’ve recently been working with the owners of Mariner III. This is a motor yacht which is available for charters out of New York harbour in the summer. The last version of the website had been created by a marketing consultant with technical work done overseas. Although the website was based on WordPress, the design was poorly executed, confusing to work with and slow to load on the screen. Consequently it did not appear in search engine rankings at all. Even a search on “mariner 3 new york” ( a pretty basic test of a websites performance ) produced nothing at all.

The owners asked me to completely overhaul the website.

I stayed with WordPress, it’s a very good product. We agreed on the use of a freely available WordPress theme that was well regarded for ease of use and all round performance. The structure was carefully planned so that all pages were easy to access and had meaningful addresses. At launch , the website had 22 pages and contained around 16000 words of text. Pages were optimised for search using the Yoast SEO functionality and a large number of pictures were added for visual impact.

The results have been dramatic. Within two weeks of the new version of the website going live, the search engine ratings had shot up. That search on “mariner 3 new york” now returns the Mariner III website as the first result on Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Generic searches have also improved dramatically. A search on “new york yacht charter” now returns the Mariner III site on around page six of the major search engines. It’s these generic searches that will bring in new business and we will continue to work with the Mariner III owners to drive these results even higher.

You will find the new Mariner III website at www.mariner3.com

If you are concerned that your website is not working for you, give me call 0333 123 0004

Chris Jerrey