New technologies are emerging every day, every hour. How might they affect the way you do business? At UKcentric we aim to keep on top of new developments.

Three Things Affecting Paid Search Coming Down the Line

Here are three important things that are going to be big news in the world of PPC and SEO.

Local search ads

Ads on Google Maps will lead people straight to your location.

Find out more

smartphone_flickr_philcampbell_2Call-only ads

70% of mobile searchers call a business directly from search results. Mobile users don’t necessarily want to click through to a website. They want to call you right now, especially if their need is urgent – for example, breakdown services, dentists, or pizza! Call-only ads bypass the website completely and you bid for calls, not clicks.

Find out more

Expanded text ads

This new type of ad will be rolling out soon and in time will likely overtake the text ads we have now. Google is doubling the length of the title, and this can lead to a doubling of clickthrough rates.

Find out more

Is Digital Marketing the New Marketing?

We are now in a fully-fledged digital age. The internet of things is fast becoming reality, mobile phones scan codes on products bought in a shop, and even toddlers are naturals with touch-screen technology. We are at the stage where digital interaction is unavoidable throughout our daily lives – but has it now absorbed the more traditional world of marketing?

Read more

How to Appeal to Generation Z

They’re ambitious, mature and ready to change the world with the confidence of their own convictions and creativity. They are generation Z.

It’s no surprise if you’ve grown a little tired of the word “millennials”– it’s everywhere at the moment. And rightly so – as one of the most fascinating generations, we as marketers should pay them close attention.

But what about the next generation? UKcentric recently had our very own generation Z in our midst for work experience, so we took this opportunity to get their take on everything digital. Making up about a quarter of the UK’s population, it’s definitely worth dedicating time to reach out to this group.

Nathan, a 15-year-old pupil, chatted to us about his regular digital routines and his views on each of them.

Facebookfacebook

“I hardly ever go on Facebook”, he admits. As a bright and energetic teen, Nathan said that Facebook definitely seems like a network for older people.

“There’s nothing people would need to contact me on Facebook about,” he said. “If my friends really wanted to tell me something they’d do it in person.” Not to mention the lack of relevant news that Facebook seems to produce for our generation Z.

“I don’t want to see everyone’s selfies. It’s boring. I’d rather spend my time finding interesting stuff on Twitter…”

Twitter

Surprisingly perhaps, most of Nathan’s friends have Twitter accounts.

“I don’t tweet though – I don’t have anything I want to say, I use it to find things.” Unlike the #hungry and #selfie cults of Twitter, Nathan does not use his own account for what some critics describe as ‘digital shouting’, but to find articles, videos, comics – anything he has an interest in.

But this is a generation of do-ers. Should they not be actively joining in with the conversation specific hashtags like #GBBO or #xfactor? No doubt some do; but Nathan prefers to engage in one thing at a time, leaving the tablet browsing whilst watching telly down to the millenials and upwards (sorry to anyone who spent a long time learning how to multi-task in order to do this).

Instagraminstagram

Nathan’s younger sibling is a young generation Z and does not have a Twitter or Facebook account, and this isn’t unusual.

“They all use Instagram. It’s the fastest way to get a message across – that and Snapchat.”

As the younger generations find their digital voice, the content becomes more and more image focused.

General online use

As a very pro-active generation, there are no surprises that the Zs like the most up-to-date websites to browse. This extends further than preferred aesthetics – they also place more trust in the newest looking sites.

“I wouldn’t buy anything from a website that looked like it was designed a few years ago. It might work fine, but there’s something untrustworthy about it looking old …”

As a more visually driven age than the millennials and beyond, Nathan told us how memes were also a large part of not just his social media interaction, but meetings in person with friends and classmates.

“There are certain memes that are very funny and really relevant to you in your everyday life at school.”

As well as being good comedy material, memes also play a large role in community spirit for this young generation. If a classmate makes reference to a particularly well-shared meme, most people will understand the joke. This is a fascinating new approach to bringing what is online into the classroom.

“There was a boy who come late into a maths class and entered with, ‘Sorry I’m late. I’ve just picked up a Mayo Chicken for 99p’. So if everyone knows a particular phrase or something from TV, it’ll often become a sort of meme in real life.”

Being able to embrace the online world and immediately use it in social situations gives us a key insight to the Z-style:

  • Things must be immediate
  • Things must hold factual or interesting content yet other ads can still triumph with a catchy, gimmick approach (but it doesn’t last long)
  • Illustrating concepts, products and philosophies through imagery is absolutely key

Something that Nathan has really taught us, is the rapid ability that generation Z’s has in adapting to new technology. So whatever marketing strategy you choose next – it had better be cutting edge, to the point and happen quickly, or this generation will have moved on.

BBC News Moves to Responsive Design

BBC News WebsiteToday the BBC has announced that after several weeks of A/B testing it will move all users to it’s new responsive website design.

Responsive design means the same site present itself differently according to the kind of device that it’s being viewed on.

Usually this means having more horizontal content on desktops and on mobiles using bigger text, and fewer or just one column of content, with content stacking up vertically instead of horizontally. This means less pinching and zooming on mobiles, links that are easier to click, and forms that are easier to fill in, while at the same time delivering the rich user experience that desktop users demand.

We’ve been using the responsive design for a few weeks and we like it. It focusses the user on the content not on the presentation, which is Rule #1 of great web design. We didn’t much enjoy being directed to a separate website when viewing the site on mobile, but now we’ll stay on the main bbc.co.uk/news URL.

The BBC news team have said that up to 65% of their traffic is now via mobiles and the old desktop site was built four years ago when the conventional wisdom was to build different sites for different devices. They also have a great mobile app which is specifically designed for mobile and there are no signs that will be withdrawn.

  • Visit the new BBC News website
  • UKcentric build all new websites as responsive as standard.

 

Case Study: Creating PDFs From ASP.NET Automatically

We completed another interesting project using technologies that we don’t normally use – creating PDFs from ASP.NET.

Our client supplies materials around the world to research institutions. For decades, every year they produced a paper-based catalogue – an impressive heavyweight document – which they send to all their clients and anybody else who wanted one anywhere in the world.

This was a successful marketing strategy and great customer service, but extremely expensive and very time-consuming.

They approached us to find out if we could automate the production of their product catalogue and make it downloadable from their web site. We said “Of course!” Then we had find out how to do that.

PDFs from ASP.NET

Since their web site technology stack includes ASP.NET, C# code, and Microsoft SQL Server, it made sense to source a software library that would easily fit in. We looked at several PDF libraries for ASP.NET and found the  most popular to be iText – but when we received a license quotation from them we realised it would not be financially viable to use this software. In the end we plumped for PDFSharp and MigraDoc.

Getting the data

Once installed, these libraries allow programmers to create PDF documents, add pages, images, paragraphs, tables of data, tables of contents, headers, footers, page numbers – exactly what we wanted.

First we created software classed that would extract the relevant data from the database, using the specified currency – our clients sell in GBP, Euros, US dollars, Japanese Yen and Swiss Francs.

Then we created classes using PDFSharp that would inject the product data in the right format and right currency into the document.

Once that was done, we focussed on building a table of contents.

Tables of Contents

Seemingly simple, the table of contents turned out to be one of the most challenging parts of the project. The client wanted two nested levels of contents – the main material and within that, the form of the material (sheet, rod, wire etc). All these had to linked to the relevant pages in the document, but of course it’s impossible to know which pages those products might appear on. Fortunately PDFSharp provides a way of setting up a bookmark and taking care of the page numbers itself – a very handy feature which makes internal linking easy.

Finishing touches

Finally we added a full-page cover image with the company’s logo, a terms and conditions page and introduction pages. We added headers and footers to the product pages with the company’s logo as a watermark to add polish and panache to the finished product.

Automatically generating the catalogue

The last piece of the project was to get the catalogue to be generated daily in each of the five currencies. To do this we set up a .net page which generates the catalogues and saves to the server’s filesystem, making them available to be linked to for download. We set up a scheduled task to allow this to happen daily at 5am. Finally, we added links to the catalogues from all the relevant points of the web site.

Good outcomes

This automatic system now does away with the heavy, expensive and out-of-date catalogue. Now our client can point their customers to a brand new downloadable catalogue that is produced every day so has the most up-to-date prices. They will save considerable amounts by not having to send the paper-based catalogue around the world. And customers can now download the catalogue in their preferred currency at any time from anywhere in the world.

Visit the client site

Case Study: Geolocation and Automatic Currency Detection

Globe
Photo credit: Kevin M Gill

Our client has a thriving e-commerce site which we built a few years ago. They sell all over the world and accept payments in a number of different currencies. The challenge with this project was to ensure that customers outside the UK were presented with prices displayed in their home currency.

For this we implemented a geolocation lookup using the reliable ip2location service. This takes the user’s IP address and performs a lookup against ip2location’s database, returning the country the customer is in with extremely high levels of accuracy. The service is fast enough to be done on-the-fly without any noticeable slow-down in accessing the site.

Performance – speed is king

Geolocation

The process of identifying the geographical location of a person or device by means of digital information processed via the Internet

Performance in any web application is key, so instead of performing the lookup every time a visitor arrives at the site, we cache the lookups in the database. We first perform a check against the database to find out if we have already done a lookup on the IP address within the last few days. If so, we don’t need to call ip2location for the country, and we retrieve it from the database. This makes things even faster.

Testing

One of the challenges of web development is finding out what your site/pages look like in countries outside the UK. To do this we employed several techniques. We tested using many web proxy services, and also utilised a great service called GeoPeeker to get a view from the USA, Brazil, Singapore, Ireland and several other locations.

Success

Now the service has been launched, so customers around the world are presented with their “home” currency. This is great customer service and is a handy time-saver for customers who no longer have to change their currency from UK pounds to their home currency.

What is Responsive Web Design?

iPhone UKcentricHave you ever wondered what all the fuss is about “responsive” web design?

Responsive design aims to present a site that’s tailored to the device on which you are viewing it. For example, on the web, screens are generally wider than they are tall (landscape format). But on mobile, screens are usually taller than they are wide (portrait format). So a site that looks great on the web probably won’t look so good on mobile.

On the other hand, if you turn your mobile sideways, you’re back to landscape format again!

Responsive design aims to solve all these problems by delivering a different layout according to your device. The general aim is avoid the user having to scroll in more than

Mobile web traffic now accounts for about 28% of all web traffic 1 – so if your site is not mobile-friendly or responsive then you risk alienating an entire quarter of your audience. No business can afford that.direction (up and down scrolling is fine) and to avoid pinching and zooming.

The task of the web designer is to ensure that sites can detect the device (known as browser sniffing) and deliver a user-friendly format in response.What’s more, mobiles have much smaller screens, meaning web-size fonts are going to be difficult to read without pinching and zooming.

If your site is looking nasty on mobiles, then get in touch with UKcentric – we can redevelop your site in a responsive way to ensure it is fit for purpose no matter what devices your users prefer.

Mobile traffic now 28% of total report

Collection of smartphones

UKcentric’s ever-growing collection of test phones

UKcentric’s New Brand

UKcentric | Be Brilliant OnlineWe’re excited to reveal UKcentric’s new look! Several months in the planning, we’ve refocussed our site on what matters most to our customers.

We’ve a fresh new logo and colour scheme to take us into 2014. We also have several new ways to get in touch – Facebook, Twitter and Skype to name but three.

Read more

Use HTML5 for Killer Cross-Platform Graphics

PrezzieFrames screenshot

We’re pleased to announce the launch of a graphically intensive site developed in HTML5 using the Canvas technologies.

Read more

HTML5 Development

HTML5 is the new web standard for delivering web content to browsers, mobiles, tablets, smartphones. It’s adoption is now mushrooming rapidly, so all web developers should have a clear idea of its capabilities and new features. At UKcentric, we have been building new sites using HTML5 for some time. One site we recently released is PrezzieFrames. Let’s look at how this site uses the functionality provided by HTML5.

Read more