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What is GoCardless, and What Are The Benefits?

December 1st, 2021 by

We offer GoCardless direct debit payments via our invoicing system, Xero. But what is GoCardless, and why should you use it?

What Is GoCardless, and How Does It Work?

GoCardless is an online payment service that allows businesses to collect recurring and one-off payments directly from customers’ bank accounts, using Direct Debit.

To pay, users sign up using a form and complete a payment using GoCardless secure checkout. A payment plan will then be set up, meaning payments are automatically withdrawn in the future.

Why Use GoCardless Direct Debit?

Easy Setup

With GoCardless, you only need to set up payment once – simply complete a form and the payments will be taken out automatically. This means that unlike bank transfer, cheque or card payment, you won’t need to remember to pay next time. It also means no accidental disruptions to your service, due to missed or late payments.

No Need to Update Payment Details

Unless you change bank accounts, you wont need to worry about updating payment details – even if your card expires.

Payment Certainty & Planning

By setting up Direct Debit, you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying and when it will come out of your account. Additionally, you also receive a notification before the payment is taken out, giving you a chance to raise any issues if needed. This is a huge benefit to your budgeting – as you can plan in advance the outgoings of your business.

Secure Payments

With GoCardless, your payments are protected under the Direct Debit Guarantee, meaning you can cancel anytime if a payment is taken out by error. GoCardless is also ISO 27001 accredited – a standard for information security.

Time Saving Benefits

Gone are the days where you’ll need to input your card details every time you make a payment – instead, all of your details are saved and payments are taken out automatically when you should be expecting it.

Flexible Payments

What’s more, GoCardless and Direct Debit offer the option to switch from weekly/monthly payments to annual payments – meaning more manageable installments.

Set up GoCardless with Ballyhoo

If you would like to set up direct debit payments to pay your invoices with us, please contact us now and our Accounts team will be happy to set this up for you.

GoCardless for Your Business

We can help integrate GoCardless into your website if you are interested in collecting direct debits from your customers. This helps you to reduce costs and keep track of payments, and is ideal for subscription-based products or ongoing services. What’s more, GoCardless integrates with your business software (such as Sage and Xero), to automate payment collection. Interested? Contact us now for a chat on how we can help.

Google Voice – What Is It and What Is a Reseller?

November 16th, 2021 by

We have recently changed our phone number (0121 295 5352) – which is due to us transferring our telephony services over to Google Voice! But what is Google Voice, and why are we using it?

What is Google Voice?

Google Voice is an internet telephone service created by Google; it allows us to combine call services and forward calls to several devices at a time. This means that calls can be automatically forwarded to our team members if someone isn’t available – ensuring that your message is picked up quickly and efficiently. We can also use Google Voice on desktop and mobile devices – meaning the team can pick up your calls throughout the day regardless of where they are.

Google Voice Features

Ring Groups

In addition to having multiple devices hooked up to our phone number, Google Voice also includes a feature called ring groups. This allows our team members to answer calls from the same Google Voice number, taking turns to answer calls. Calls will ring through the group one at a time – so if one person isn’t available, the call will automatically ring another team member. What’s more, all outbound calls appear from the same number. 

Auto-Attendant

Often when calling a company or support number, you will be given options to be put through to the relevant person – which we can now do with Google Voice. This is called auto-attendant – a first point of contact menu that acknowledges the caller and directs you to the correct team members by allowing callers to choose from options. For example, this may start with ‘For web support, press one’. This allows us to get your call picked up and managed by the correct person as quickly as possible.

Local Phone Numbers

Google Voice also gives us a local phone number, meaning that it stays familiar to callers, giving reassurance that the call is picked up from Ballyhoo HQ in the UK.

Work Schedules

Google Voice also listens to our Google Calendars – meaning that once we set our hours in the calendar, the phone will automatically not disturb the team members number when they are off duty.

What is a Google Reseller?

In addition to using Google Voice, we are also a Google Reseller, meaning that we can sell Google Workspace, Google Voice and other Google apps to our clients and manage their accounts. We can migrate, manage and give you support for your team’s Google Workspace accounts. You can view Google Workspace plans and prices here.

Interested in buying or migrating Google Workspace through Ballyhoo? Contact us now for more details.

Image designed by FreePik.

Safari Redesign & Changes in iOS 15

September 29th, 2021 by

Apple has released its new version – iOS15 – for beta testing, and there are some noticeable differences to previous iOS versions. These changes directly impact user experience, and could impact how your website is viewed by users. Keep reading to see an overview of the changes. 

Safari Changes 

One of the main changes in the update is the core UI in Safari. All UI for interacting with web pages has been moved to the bottom of the screen – including the URL bar. In the current Safari, the URL bar appears at the top of the screen, and tools appear at the bottom of the screen e.g. the back button and share button) – however these two toolbars have now been compacted into one floating toolbar at the bottom of the screen. 

This has likely been done to allow for users to browse and input URLs when using their device with only one hand. And although this change is unique and unlike something we’ve seen before in a UI, it has its drawbacks. 

Firstly, the floating element requires extra empty space – drawing more attention which could disrupt the user experience. Not only that, but it appears in a position that is commonly scrolled in or tapped in – which means users may accidentally tap the URL bar or buttons when they don’t mean to. 

However, since releasing the Beta 4 version Apple has taken on feedback and in Beta 6 have added a switch back to having a top-oriented URL bar if you prefer that. You can change where the tab bar sits by going into your Settings app and choosing whether it appears at the top or bottom of the Safari interface. 

Image source: 9to5mac 

Tab Swipes & Tab Groups 

You can now seamlessly swipe between multiple tabs – swiping left and right to move between tabs that you have open. What’s more, the tab bar minimizes to the bottom of the app – which you can tap back to make it reappear. This makes it great for accessibility and allows users to easily reach different web pages quickly, especially if viewing on larger models of the iPhone. 

There is also a new tab management tool allowing users to have ‘tab groups’. You can access these new Safari Tabs by either tapping the double square icon, or by swiping up on the tab bar. You can rearrange tabs, add new tabs, and customise them. 

Safari Extensions 

Safari is now set to have support from extensions – including content blockers and more. These extensions will be able to be downloaded and installed through the App Store. We will likely see developers build early support for this over the coming months.

Landscape View Tabs 

When you use your iPhone in landscape mode, you’ll see a Mac-style tab bar at the top of the screen – showing your open tabs. This makes it easier for you to move between them. 

Pull Down Refresh 

To refresh your page, you will be able to pull down on the page – rather than previously having to press the refresh arrow. This makes it much easier to do. 

HTTPS Upgrade 

Safari will automatically upgrade sites that are known to support HTTPS from HTTP. Apple is implementing Intelligent Tracking Prevention which will prevent trackers and sites from tracking users across the web. It will also allow you to hide your IP address. Having HTTPS means that your website is secure, and can be the difference between users purchasing from you or using your competitors. Need to make your site secure? Contact our experts who can help. 

Why Are There Big Changes? 

One of the main aims of these changes is to make the browser easier to use when using one hand. Apple has likely listened to user feedback and wants to make the browser even more accessible. What’s more, the browser UI is completely unique – which we all know Apple likes to do.  
Having a mobile friendly website is vital, and if your website is not device responsive, it may result in your users going elsewhere. Get your website mobile friendly by contacting our website developers today who can create a successful mobile friendly website for your business.

Using Google Drive to Share Files and Folders

January 24th, 2018 by

We get many enquiries asking if there is a way for team members to access the same folder or documents in one place, and the answer is yes. Google Drive gives you the option to create, share and access documents and folders with your team, we have created a demonstration below to help you get to grips and understand how to do this.

Step 1 – Access Google Drive

Log into Google Mail and click on the Google Apps button in the top right corner:  Google Apps Drive select screenshot
Select Drive from the menu: Google Apps Drive select screenshot

Step 2 – Create a new folder

Click on the “New” button in the top left and select “New Folder”: Google Drive new folder screenshot
Give the new folder a name and click create: Google Drive rename folder screenshot

Step 3 – Add Content to Your Google Drive Folder

Double click to enter the folder. Once you’re in, content can then be dropped into the browser and added to the folder: Google Drive upload content screenshot
Alternatively, content can be added by clicking the new button in the top left and selecting “File Upload” or “Folder Upload”: Google Drive add new folder or file screenshot

Step 4 – Share the folder

Once your folder has been created and documents have been added, you can now share it with your team by clicking on the folder name located at the top of the screen and selecting Share: Google Drive navigation screenshot
Enter the names or email addresses of the people that you want to share the folder with: Google Drive sharing screenshot

Any files or folders that are now added within this folder, by anyone, will automatically appear for everyone that the folder is shared with.


If you are still unsure or have any questions regarding this process, please feel free to contact Ballyhoo today on 0121 222 5870, email to hello@ballyhoo.co.uk or fill out the contact form on our contact page.

The Ultimate List of UK Web Design, Developer & UX Conferences 2018

January 19th, 2018 by

There’s a huge variety of conferences taking place this year for the web design community – too many to choose from, in fact. To make life a bit easier, we’ve rounded up a selection of the UK-based web design, developer and UX conferences that Ballyhoo staff are thinking of attending this year, along with some key information where available.

a dedicated time and space away from the screen to think about the future of our industry

As it’s still early on in the year, many sites aren’t listing their full schedules and pricing yet, but we’ll be keeping the list as up-to-date as possible. Many are very affordable, with discounts usually available for early birds and students. Although many take place in the capital, they do spread the length of the UK too which means that, with Ballyhoo based in Birmingham, travel isn’t too much of an issue.

At Ballyhoo, we take a proactive approach to industry conferences. These events are not just a chance to get away from the office and have an expenses-paid jolly; they present an opportunity to not only expand your knowledge but network with peers. Most importantly, they allow you to create a dedicated time and space away from the screen to think about the future of our industry and how you can adopt and adapt to emerging technology and design trends.

Things to Consider

Before we get listing, there are a few points to consider that factor into whether going to a conference will be a sound investment for you. Cost can be prohibitive regardless of whether you are an employer weighing up the expenses or a freelancer with precious little time to spare away from paid work.

Total ticket price

Go as far as adding tickets to your basket and getting the full price breakdown. Many have hidden booking fees.

Accommodation

Do you have friends or family in the area? Can you stay nearby and then travel a short distance on the day so that you don’t need to shell out for a city-centre hotel? Does travelling down early on the day itself make sense?

Travel

If you’re on your own, the train is probably cheapest, and you can use the time productively to check out the agenda. If there are a few of you, carpool and don’t forget you can usually claim back the mileage to cover fuel (45p per mile plus 5p per passenger!).

Video content

Many conferences film and release their content on video after the event – often for free, others may charge a small fee. If you don’t have the time or funds to attend in person, this presents an excellent opportunity to absorb and benefit from the content at your leisure.

UK Web Design, Developer & UX Conferences 2018

NDC { London }

Westminster, London
January 17-19, 2018
From £1,090 +VAT

Taking place over three days, this software developers conference covers a huge variety of topics, delivered by nearly 100 speakers, with multiple tracks available throughout each day. You can attend one, two or three days and there are an additional two days of workshops taking place on the days prior to the event, you can purchase these separately or as part of an “All Access Pass”.

Front End North

Sheffield
January 19, 2018
£120 +VAT

A one-day event for front-end web developers, designers or anyone who makes things for the web. Content includes talks on JavaScript, form validation, agile development, React and critical CSS. The first of the conferences on our list that takes place outside of London, meaning those across the Midlands and North may find this one more achievable to attend.

Early bird all sold out, but student tickets are still available. There’s even an after-party in the venue bar which includes a complimentary drink.

Agile Content Conf

London
January 29, 2018
£500 +VAT

Agile Content Conf is one for content strategists and online marketers. Not strictly web design but an essential piece of the puzzle. Current pricing available is until 15th January, and a two-day ticket is available if you also want to attend the workshop on the day after.

PHP UK

London
February 15-16, 2018
From £150 +VAT

This PHP conference takes place over three days, with the first day being an optional, immersive workshop day. You can choose to attend the full programme or pick and choose which days to attend (discounts available for subsequent days). Tickets include breakfast, lunch and refreshments and there are pre-conference and mid-conference socials to attend too.

The UX Conference

London
February 20, 2018
£299

This user experience conference is in its second year now, and its theme is “exploring how to improve collaboration between designers and business stakeholders”. Speakers come from a range of big-name companies, including Uber, British Gas, Zendesk and Deliveroo.

Early bird tickets (15% off) are still available until the end of Jan. Student tickets are available too at 50% off. Included in the ticket price are a breakfast registration event, a buffet lunch and an after-party with a free bar.

Service Design in Government

Edinburgh
March 7-9, 2018
From £190 +VAT

This (predominately) UX conference is one for anyone in the public sector looking to create engaging service design. Whether you are part of an internal design team or contracting for government, this event brings together top speakers on the unique challenges that creating truly accessible and goal-oriented services can bring.

Tickets available to attend 1-3 days, with discounts available when booking across multiple days. There’s a 20% discount for anyone employed by central or local government, with further discounts available for academics, students and groups.

UX in the City

Manchester
March 15-16, 2018
From £135 +VAT

Another event coming back for its second year, UX in the City is delivered by the team behind UX Cambridge and UX Scotland. The Financial Times, Google, Foolproof and University of Nottingham all have speakers attending this two-day event.

You can go for one or two days, lunch and refreshments are included, and there are free evening social events.

London UX Conference

London
March 17 – 23, 2018
From £556 +VAT

Neilsen Norman Group’s UX conference hosts a number of full-day sessions on a wide variety of UX topics. This is one of the pricier conferences to attend, but there are discounts available for subsequent days/sessions booked. You can also pay an additional fee for session certification to demonstrate CPD.

Render Conf

Oxford
March 23, 2018
£250 +VAT

Another front-end event that’s taking place outside of London in the form of a one-day conference covering web developer favourites; performance, JavaScript and React.

Early bird tickets have already sold out and current pricing is only available until 23rd Feb, at which point last chance tickets go on sale. There’s a real social aspect to Render Conf, with both a pre-event quiz night and an after-conference party. You can also book the pre-event workshop day taking place on the 22nd March (various sessions).

Offset

Dublin
March 23-25, 2018
€295

Okay, not exactly the UK, but close enough. Offset Dublin is a creative festival featuring content across multiple disciplines including graphic design, photography, illustration, fashion, photography and film. Creative types will be in their element here. The website itself is a joy to browse.

Early bird tickets are still available. Students and recent graduates get a nice discount too.

UX Camp Brighton

Brighton
March 24, 2018
£TBC

So, this non-profit event calls itself an “unconference”, where they do things a bit differently with 20-minute sessions, such as talks, demos or discussions with a focus on sharing and socialising as a catalyst for learning. The schedule isn’t even confirmed until the day when speakers have to scramble for their desired timeslot. For anyone who’s working in UX design, accessibility, UI, user research, or similar.

It’s only two months away but tickets haven’t been released yet. However, we do know that the price will include free meals, a UX quiz with prizes and an afterparty.

Devoxx UK

Manchester
May 9-11, 2018
From £425 +VAT

Covering a huge array of topics, including Java, infrastructure, server side, web frameworks, browser apps, security, architecture, AI and even delving into cybernetics and the tech of the future.

You can attend up to three days depending on your preference. Currently, only 2 or 3-day tickets are still available.

DeltaV Conference

London
May 10-11, 2018
£499 +VAT

A web performance conference covering site speed, scalability, accessibility standards and more.

A limited number of free tickets are available on a ‘Scholarship Scheme’ whereby applications may be accepted from anyone who feels their personal circumstances hinder their ability to attend the conference.

Camp Digital

Manchester
May 24, 2018
£199 +VAT

Camp Digital brings together digital, design and UX with a range of presentations and workshops from top speakers on topics such as ‘Humanising Data’, ‘Agile: How to Get Stuff Done Without Wasting Money’ and ‘Using and Understanding Assistive Digital Technologies’.

Only last-minute tickets are still available. Even so, this is still one of the more affordable conferences to attend.

Pixel Pioneers

Bristol
June 8, 2018
£125 +VAT

Pixel Pioneers launched in 2017 and is back again this year in Bristol on June 8th. The event promises to be a hub for creative culture and looks to bring together the web community for more than just the latest cutting-edge tech. You’ll get eight practical sessions with actionable takeaways for your money plus a range of extras (goodie bag, exclusive Slack channel, afterparty).

You can also attend an additional user testing or UX psychology workshop day taking place on the 7th June (prices vary). Students get 50% off the main conference!

UX Scotland

Edinburgh
June 13-15, 2018
£585 +VAT

Taking place at Dynamic Earth (sure to bring back memories of school trips for anyone from Scotland), this is an established UX event offering the opportunity for the design community to gain hands-on, practical experience and learn from industry peers and leaders alike. This is a 3-day programme, but you can attend your preference of one, two or the full three days (from £210 +VAT).

User Research London

London
June 21-22, 2018
£200

For user researchers, by user researchers. Some of the world’s best design and user research experts are due to be at User Research London, helping to shape user experience based on the accurate measurement and understanding of user needs.

Only a talks-only early bird ticket is currently on sale (ending 18th May). Presumably further tickets for the workshops and talks will then go on sale at a higher price.

The Lead Developer

London
June 27-28, 2018
From £499 +VAT

Being a lead developer’s a tricky balance between knowing your s*** and having the tools and confidence to lead your team and deliver results. If this sounds familiar, head down to The Lead Developer to network with your peers and stay ahead of the curve. Whet your appetite with your choice of two full-day workshops on the 26th June.

Fullstack

London
July 11-13, 2018
£850 +VAT

This year, FullStack’s theme is Javascript, Node and the Internet of Things. A 3-day intensive learning and sharing programme includes speakers from Microsoft and Adobe as well as Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript, and Douglas Crockford, the creator of JSON.

UX Bristol

Bristol
July 13, 2018
£149

UX Bristol 2018 is now in its eighth year, promising “hands-on UX techniques from leading practitioners in a friendly and sociable setting”. The event takes place over a single day, during which you have the opportunity to attend four workshops (from a choice of 12).

Tickets on sale in late May 2018.

Turing Fest

Edinburgh
August 1-2, 2018
£349 +VAT

Turing Fest is “Scotland’s tech gathering” and this year they present their most ambitious programme yet. The conference takes place over two days, each with three tracks to choose from – which may be a tough decision! On Day 1 you’ll be able to choose from either Product, Strategy or Growth, while on Day 2 your options are Engineering, Culture or Marketing.

Individual day tickets are also available for £249 +VAT. Group discounts of 15% are also available if there are four or more of you.

Future London Academy UX and Digital Design Week

London
August 13-17, 2018
£1,995 +VAT

Create experiences that people will fall in love with. Get inspiration for your current projects and advice on how to build a design team of your dreams. Find out the secrets of what makes products successful and what mistakes companies made when they were building new services.

The UX Conference

London
September 7, 2018
£299

Following a sell-out event in February this year, the UX Conference is back for a day of expert talks exploring the theme of “collaboration between designers and researchers in User Experience design”. Taking place at the The Design Museum on Kensington High Street, you can look forward to seeing reps from Microsoft, Spotify, BBC, NHS, Google and more.

Tickets include lunch and refreshments. Early birds are available for £229 until 1st May, with a second early bird tier at £249 then available until 1st July. Group tickets and video-only are available too.

UX Cambridge

Cambridge
September 12-14, 2018
£460 +VAT

As an established UX conference, UX Cambridge is unlikely to disappoint. the full 3-day programme is available to view online with keynotes announced from speakers Alisan Atvur and Sara Wachter Boettcher.

Current pricing is available until 18th May and you can also book individual days at a cost of £210 +VAT per day.

Generate

London
September 19-21, 2018
£TBC

Generate returns again this September for a 3-day programme at the Royal Institution. Tickets are on sale in April 2018.

Canvas Conference

Birmingham
October 4, 2018
£200 +VAT

Gracing Ballyhoo’s doorstep here in Brum, Canvas is back for another round of inspiring stories from the digital frontline. Join eight of the biggest digital disruptors at the Birmingham Rep (connected to the glorious Library of Birmingham) where you’ll have a day of inspiration, get fed and be able to attend an afterparty.

Earlybird tickets are sold out. Standard tickets will be on sale until August 31, after which you’ll be looking at an extra £30 for late bird entry.

Leading Design Conference

London
October 10-12, 2018
£995

A conference for people leading design teams, overseeing design direction, or instilling a culture of design within their organisations.

Listen to leaders from Lyft, Monzo, Pinterest and other design-led companies discuss the challenges of managing design, and becoming a better design leader..

Early bird tickets are available until 1st September.

UX Insider

Bournemouth
October 16, 2018
£150 +VAT

UX Insider is a new one-day event from the team behind UX Bournemouth. Managing to attract speakers from Google, Sony, The Home Office and Big Lottery Fund for their inaugural event, UX Insider looks promising and hopes to “deliver insight into best practice for creating first-class customer experiences”.

Your ticket includes access to all speaker sessions, breakfast bakes and a hot drink, lunch and soft drinks, and an invite to network with your peers in the evening. From 1st September, tickets will go up in price to £199 +VAT.

Interact

London
October 17, 2018
£199 +VAT

Join speakers from Lego and NHS Digital for Interact conference, whose theme this year is Intelligence in Design. The conference, taking place at The British Museum, will explore how digital design, UX and AI all place a role in today’s society.

There are several ticket releases, starting with early bird at £199 +VAT until the end of June, standard release at £249 +VAT until the end of August and then final release at £299 +VAT.

Northern User Experience (NUX7)

Manchester
October 19, 2018
£TBC

Not much info available on NUX7 yet either other than the date and location, more details coming soon.

UX Brighton 2018

Brighton
November 2, 2018
£170 +VAT

The theme at this year’s UX Brighton is Advancing Research. Topics are likely to include survey design, building research teams, researching for new technologies and taking a step beyond traditional methodologies.

Early bird tickets are still available at £145 +VAT with student tickets also available for only £50 +VAT.

Angular Connect

London
November 6-7, 2018
£685 +VAT

Limited details as yet but a range of speakers have been announced, with the call for proposals still open. The site says “AngularConnect is a 2-day, multi-track conference featuring the world’s leading Angular experts, including the core Angular team at Google”.

An additional day of workshops covering four tracks is taking place on the 5th November, costing £450 +VAT.

Mobile UX London

London
November 11, 2018
£TBC

MUXL is “Europe’s most forward-thinking UX/Design conference”. This year’s 4th annual conference focuses on user-centered design and multimodal interactions (think voice, vision, haptic). Tickets to be announced.

Design It; Build It

Edinburgh
November 12, 2018
£99 +VAT

‘Freedom’ is the central theme of this year’s Design It: Build It conference, taking place in Edinburgh. You’ll be able to attend eight presentations throughout the day.

Design Systems London

London
November 15-16, 2018
£165

Design systems are a hot topic at the moment, with more and more organisations big and small realising the benefits of standardising their design components to ensure creative unification. Enter the first dedicated design system conference, that we’re aware of, taking place in London this November. From the people behind ReactFest, 10+ speakers are already lined up and there’s a workshop day on the 15th preceding the main conference on the 16th.

All talks, food and an afterparty are included in your ticket price.

Halfstack

London
November 16, 2018
£105

Halfstack is a single-day JavaScript conference that takes place in a pub in Shoreditch. The schedule will be announced mid-2018 but will cover an array of modern front-end web development topics. Tickets include food, refreshments, swag and an afterparty.

The User Experience & Digital Customer Experience Conference

London
27th November, 2018
£379 +VAT

A one-day, uniquely brand-led conference and networking event for conversion-boosting user experiences and user-centred digital customer experience strategies. Discover how 20 UX brand-side professionals are driving cultural change and harness cutting-edge technologies to put UX at the heart of the organisation.

Have we missed anything…?

Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any Web Design, Dev or UX conferences off the list that you think we should know about. We’ll be happy to check them out and get them added!

Goodbye Internet Explorer 8, hello Microsoft Edge!

July 31st, 2015 by

At Ballyhoo we spend a significant portion of our project budgets on a serious testing regime, after all we want the fantastic websites that we build to look and work as intended for as many users as possible. We hate the thought of your next biggest client failing to get in touch with you because your website didn’t look spot on while your competitor’s did!

This means trying out the website on as many browsers and devices as we can get our hands on. We’ve even gone to the extreme of establishing a device lab with a huge range of smartphones and tablets to test on as part of every website build.

Future proofing

Not only do we test on older devices and browsers still in circulation but we also ensure the websites we build work well on future browsers yet to be officially released. With that in mind we keep a close eye on the popularity of browsers to ensure we are one step ahead of the game.

For some time now we have been supporting the antiquated Internet Explorer 8 browser, first released in 2009, as there are still a small minority of users stuck with it. In their defence these tend to be users within large organisations that don’t have permission to install software on their work devices. However, this minority has been in decline for some time now and some statistics are now showing that this figure has dipped below 1% of users for the first time in June 2015. Microsoft themselves have now announced that they will not be supporting Internet Explorer 8 as of January 12th 2016.

Meanwhile, Microsoft have been hard at work developing a new web browser, Microsoft Edge, which will be the default browser on all devices running Windows 10 (due for release in July 2015 as a free upgrade for all users of Windows 7 or 8.1).

Getting to the point…

We have therefore taken the decision to drop support for Internet Explorer 8 and focus on testing for Microsoft Edge. Not only will this allow us to better ensure the websites we build are future-proof, there is also an opportunity to build more efficient and interactive websites with the latest technologies available to us that were previously unsupported by Internet Explorer 8.

However, we do still have the tools and knowledge required to support Internet Explorer 8 if that is required for your project. In fact, for projects where historical data is available, we will still be checking to see what proportion of users access your website using Internet Explorer 8 and planning accordingly. However, our default stance will be to not offer support and we’re very pleased to be ridding ourselves of something that has been holding our industry back for many years!

Mobile-friendliness as a Ranking Signal

April 15th, 2015 by

Recently Google announced that they will be “expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal”. The proposed change to the search algorithm will be rolled out on the 21st April 2015. It is predicted it will take around a week to complete and is expected to have a significant impact on search results, ultimately providing users with only relevant, high quality content that is optimised for the device they are using.

When an internet search is made, using any of the multiple search engines that are available, the searcher expects to be presented with a list of results that are best suited to their needs. This means that not only does the website they eventually arrive at need to contain relevant content, be easy to read and provide a well rounded user experience, it also needs to function and display correctly, regardless of the type of device they are using. Therefore the need to have a site that is fully optimised for mobile is very close to being a necessity.

Searches from mobile devices are increasing and are expected by many to exceed desktop searches during the coming year. It is for this reason that search engines are beginning to update their algorithms in order to target mobile-friendly websites and continue providing searchers with the best possible results.

What does this mean for the website owner?

Google’s announcement has generated a huge response among website owners, marketers, developers and designers, with reactions ranging from sheer panic to complete nonchalance. I have even read reports of people blocking their websites from Google until they have made it mobile-optimised in fear of receiving a penalty.

The good news is it is unlikely that any website will receive a penalty for their lack of mobile-friendliness, Google will be simply giving websites that are mobile-optimised more love. The bad news is that if your website is not mobile-friendly you are likely to lose ranking positions for mobile searches, resulting in fewer visits and ultimately fewer conversions.

There are a number of ways to approach this update in Google’s algorithm. You may decide that the majority of your visitors are using desktop devices and therefore you don’t need to be mobile-optimised or you may be of the mindset that you need mobile, and you need it now! Either way there are a few things to think about before you make any rash decisions.

More good news, this update is going to be what’s known as a live algorithm, which means that if your website is not currently mobile-friendly all is not lost. As soon as your website is mobile ready Google will notice and almost instantly reconsider your ranking positions in mobile search.

Something else to consider is that this will be a page by page update, meaning that if some of your site isn’t mobile-optimised then the whole site won’t suffer and only the pages that are not mobile-friendly will be affected.

How do I tell if my site is mobile-friendly?

First of all, if you are not sure if your site is considered mobile-friendly the quickest way to find out is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. This test will analyse the URL of your website and report on whether or not you have a mobile-friendly design. Remember that this tool will only tell you if the specific page that you have entered is mobile-friendly, other pages of your site may not be so it is worth checking a few of your pages, including your homepage, just to make sure. If you’re still not sure then contact your developer or give us a shout and we’ll have a look for you.

What if it is?

If your site is already mobile-friendly then congratulations, you are one step ahead of the game and ready to take on the next phase of Google’s search algorithm. You can skip the rest of this article and celebrate with a cold beer.

What if it isn’t?

If your site isn’t mobile-optimised and you already receive good traffic from mobile search then this will change within a couple of weeks following 21st April. As I mentioned earlier, don’t panic, there is still time to organise a responsive design and develop your site to be mobile-friendly. The last thing you want to do is rush it and end up with poorly implemented designs that will need to be changed again before too long – remember, this is a live algorithm and Google will start to share the love as soon as you’re ready.

However, I would still highly recommend that you make your site mobile-friendly as soon as possible. Get in touch with your developer, or give us a call at Ballyhoo, to discuss what can be done to make your site responsive and ensure that you maintain your rankings in mobile search.

What if I don’t want my site to be mobile-friendly?

You may feel that you won’t be affected by this change, your traffic might be mainly from desktop devices, either directly or through referrals and you are of the opinion that mobile traffic isn’t important. If this is the case, and you can’t be convinced that making your site mobile-friendly is one of the most important things you could do for your business this year, then all is not lost.

As I mentioned earlier – this is a live algorithm, your website is not going to be condemned to the fiery depths of Google hell. When you start to notice a drop in traffic, decide to bring your site up to modern standards or realise that this update has also had an effect on your desktop searches (there are few theories rattling around about whether this will be the case but nothing solid as yet) then there will still be a chance to redevelop your site to be mobile-friendly and hopefully regain any lost ranking positions.

Something else to consider – someone finds your website, through search on their desktop machine and decides to share a link with their friends on social media, in an email or in a text message. What devices are the recipients of the shared link using to view your website?

My thoughts

Regardless of whether or not you think you will be affected by this change in Google’s search algorithm my advice would be to implement a fully responsive design as soon as possible. As I mentioned earlier mobile devices are becoming widely used as the main web browsing tool and mobile search will overtake desktop search in the not-so-distant future.

Google’s decision to consider mobile-friendliness in its search results was not made on a whim and it’s not likely to be just another update from Google that falls by the wayside.

Despite all this, the fact of the matter is people use their smartphones, tablets, iPods, iPads and iPhones to browse the Internet and fewer households own desktop computers. If you want your website to remain a valuable resource and/or make sales and conversions, then it needs to operate well, function well and look good regardless of the device that is being used to view it on!

My final piece of advice would be to take advantage of this update. If your competitors decide that they don’t need to be mobile-friendly then optimising your own website could make the difference in who pips it to the post on the first page of Google mobile search. This could be your opportunity to overtake them!

Take a look at some of Ballyhoo’s recent projects that we have built to be fully responsive and tested across a huge range of devices.


If you need any help in checking your website or would like to discuss how we can help you to make sure you are not affected by Google’s changes to mobile search then please feel free to contact Ballyhoo either by telephone on 021 288 1100 email to hello@ballyhoo.co.uk or by filling out the contact form on our contact page.

Don’t forget you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to keep up with what we have been up-to or signup to our newsletter for regular updates.

“Mobile First” & the Importance of Responsive Design

April 9th, 2015 by

The latest in my series of blog posts inspired by the Greater Birmingham Digital Summit covers a topic discussed extensively throughout the day – the importance of mobile web design and responsive techniques.

In recent years a term I’ve been hearing a lot is “mobile first” – the principle of designing websites first and foremost from the perspective of someone using a smartphone. Mobile first websites present the mobile user with everything they need, on often tiny screens, without fuss or gimmick. Designing websites in this way is supposed to ensure that as you scale the design to accommodate larger resolutions, and eventually desktop screens, that the design will remain uncluttered and present every user with a streamlined, focused experience. As the number of people with smartphones is growing rapidly this seems to make perfect sense as many people now solely use their phones for web browsing.

Why use responsive web design?

So what precisely is a responsive website? Essentially, this is when a website is intelligent enough to know what size of display and resolution it is being viewed on, meaning it will adapt its layout to best fit the space available. This not only makes the website more visually pleasing, it also means that the person on the website will have a better user experience.

Whether you use the mobile-first principle or not in designing websites (we have experimented with both methods), there is no doubt that you must thoroughly understand who is using your website and on what devices and then use responsive techniques to build it.

Several of the speakers at the Greater Birmingham Digital Summit stressed the importance of mobile and reeled off some impressive statistics to drive this home.

  • Google’s Pete Danks told us that nearly 50% of all users time online is on mobile and that 42% of B2B workers use mobile to research business purchases.
  • Barques PR advised us that there are 36.9million mobile internet users in the UK (that’s 58% of the population) and that, of these, 18% have made an online purchase on mobile in the last month.

At Ballyhoo our approach is to design websites responsively from the get-go. On many projects the reason is clear and we have a wealth of Analytics data to back up why this should be the case. On new projects, where the data proving the need for responsive doesn’t exist yet, it’s a harder sell but ultimately, unless there are budget constraints, our clients accept the fact that their mobile audience is growing and that they need to be catered for.

In a blog post Anthony published earlier this year (Do I need my website to be mobile optimised?), he goes into more detail about why responsive is so important just now and why it will continue to be for years to come.

Test, Test, Test

One final thought I will leave you with on this topic is, if you do go responsive, make sure your site works on as many devices as possible! Your web designer should be entrusted to ensure this happens and they should give this the utmost importance (I’d be wary of anyone who doesn’t) but try visiting your website on as many mobiles, tablets and computers as you can for yourself so you understand how your website looks and reacts for your users. If there’s one near you, visit an open device lab where you can spend time testing your site across a wide range of popular devices, usually for free.

We established Longbridge Device Lab (the first open device lab in the Midlands) for this very purpose – to allow us to test our responsive creations across as many real-life mobile and tablet devices as possible to ensure that the websites we create display and function correctly for as many people as possible. To find out more about this free service for the local community please visit longbridgedevicelab.co.uk.

Digital Maturity & Staying Ahead of the Game

March 26th, 2015 by

In my second blog inspired by my attendance at the Greater Birmingham Digital Summit I will explore a topic discussed during the day that really resonated with me – that it’s simply not enough to invest in a great website and feel like you’re winning the internet game.

With so many businesses still coming online for the first time and realising the potential returns for themselves you just can’t be complacent. So-called “digital maturity” is not insurance against the future. Rather, continual investment negates the risk of moving backwards in an ever-advancing climate as the industry and your peers mature around you (and possibly beyond).

The reasons for getting online and staying ahead of your competitors are many. Too many to list here. But what you have to remember is that trading online allows you to reach a wider market and if you don’t take advantage of this there’s always someone else who will, and they may creep into your local market.

By trading online I don’t necessarily mean e-commerce. Whatever you measure conversions by – an online purchase, an enquiry submission or even a comment on a blog – you are essentially doing business with (hopefully) thousands of customers at once.

Digital Is About People, Not Technology

The most recent Lloyds Business Digital Index, an annual report, states that 29% of businesses say being online is not relevant to them. If this is something you also believe, ask yourself, is it relevant to your customers? More people are buying online than ever before and it is reported that people are now spending up to 4 hours a day on a PC or tablet. Of those people 64% have bought something online in the last month. So you may not be internet-savvy or believe there’s a market for your business online, but your customers may say otherwise.

Understanding your customers is key to staying on top of things and according to Nick Williams (Consumer Digital Director of Lloyds Banking Group), “digital is all about people, not technology”.

In a world where potential customers can access the internet 24/7 the key is to understand what your customers want and how to engage with them online. Master this and you’ll stay ahead of the pack. How do you do this? Investment. The industry is moving too fast for you to sit back, you need to talk with customers and experts (like us) to devise an evolving strategy that takes advantage of current trends and attitudes. Act quickly and smartly and invest not only your money but your time too.

The rapid uptake of smartphones is just one example of how the market is changing and just because your business may be traditional and “offline” it doesn’t mean potential customers aren’t searching for your services online and looking for someone just like you. In a world where “to google” has become a verb, it is essential that your services can be found and that your business is represented professionally on the Internet.

And if you need any more convincing ask yourself this, when was the last time you picked up the Yellow Pages?

The Greater Birmingham Digital Summit

March 12th, 2015 by

On Thursday 26th February 2015 I attended the inaugural Greater Birmingham Digital Summit at the ICC. Touted as the “biggest, boldest summit about digital technology for SMEs ever hosted in the region” I was keen to hear from industry peers and experts about how and why clients like ours should embrace the web, the cloud and all things digital.

With speakers from local and national government, education and some of the biggest names in tech (Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn), the day promised to inform and inspire Midlands businesses to embrace digital and flourish economically.

When I first heard about this event I admit I was slightly skeptical about how relevant and educational it would be, especially considering it was new on the scene and may struggle to attract top industry players. I needn’t have feared though as the calibre of the speakers and quality of the venue and organisation surpassed my most hopeful expectations and I genuinely finished the day feeling emboldened and inspired.

What is digital technology?

“Digital” has become a bit of an umbrella term for a number of different sectors. When we use this word it can now mean anything from superfast broadband connection and the cloud to websites and marketing techniques. Although Ballyhoo currently identifies as a web design and development company, we wouldn’t argue that we could also be called a “digital agency” as our business also encompasses complimentary services such as hosting and online marketing.

Digital on the whole is where the majority of industries are going, whether you’re looking to automate processes in a factory, start selling services online or use cloud accounting software to balance the books.

A recurring theme throughout the day was that businesses can’t afford to not be online and using the tools available as soon as possible. Connectivity and cloud-based tools for remote, flexible working were mentioned regularly in the day’s sessions but here I will focus mainly on the findings relevant to what we at Ballyhoo do – in a word, websites.

The Greater Birmingham Digital Audit

One of the summit’s main attractions was the release of the data collected by the Greater Birmingham Digital Audit – a survey of over 400 SMEs, from Birmingham to as far afield as Lichfield, Solihull and Redditch – which reveals some intriguing insights into the attitudes of businesses across the region.

59% OF BUSINESSES DO NOT HAVE A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY

A huge 92% of those surveyed said that digital capability is important for their business, yet 59% said they do not have a digital marketing plan. When asked why they’re not taking advantage of digital 46% blamed a lack of time, 36% a lack of skills and 33% said the unknown cost of investment was a barrier.

89% of businesses already have a website of some form, with 33% trading online, but it was drilled into the audience by our host, Richard Beevers, managing director of Customer Plus, that you need to have “more than a website”. By this, it is meant that you need to fully understand the implications of a well-planned marketing strategy and the foundation that an expertly designed website will provide.

For many in the room this may have been news but for me it was encouraging to hear that what we’ve been saying for years is finally becoming a mainstream idea. For a long time now we’ve moved away from simply creating good-looking, functional websites to trying to create successful online presences that, ultimately, make our clients money. Our philosophy is that the principles of research, strategy and understanding underpin a truly successful online venture where due respect is given to relevant traffic, usability and conversion.

0% OF BUSINESSES THAT DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY PREDICT AN INCREASE IN TURNOVER IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS WHEREAS 58% OF THOSE WHO ARE COMFORTABLE DO.

More than a website…

Your website can be so much more than be shop window. Done well, your website could bring in trade that you never dreamed of winning and bring your product (whether that’s a physical item, a service or your expertise) to new markets that otherwise would never find you.

From our own experience, many clients know that being online is essential to their business future but aren’t convinced by the potential scale of return. However, it is only with ongoing investment, constant analysis and measured risk that you will truly succeed online.


Note

This blog post was inspired by just the first 30 minutes of the summit! I have ended up writing a LOT more about the subjects covered throughout the day which I aim to split into digestible chunks to be published to this blog over the coming weeks. Links will be added below as soon as they are online and ready to read.