“Serious about getting to know our brand? Then drink this!”Detox-Delivered

We pride ourselves on completely immersing ourselves in our clients’ brands but a new client Detox Delivered set me a challenge which took a little more commitment than usual.

I must admit, I don’t know a great deal about juice detoxing. Ok, it was a complete mystery and so was keen to understand more. We were, after all, going to be coming up with a new identity for them.

What I perhaps hadn’t realised though, was that to feel the benefits, it turns out that a green salad on Sunday night was to be my last proper meal until Thursday. This was going to be tough. Detox Delivered gave me the full service though; they delivered six fruit / veg juices to my door every morning and to my astonishment, they actually tasted good. Even more amazing is that other than mild hunger pangs on day one, and the inevitable espresso withdrawals on day two, I felt good. Great in fact! By Thursday, with not a single proper meal past my lips I felt terrific, I’d lost six pounds and was starting to get an insight as to what detoxing was all about!

A couple of days later we had some mood boards back to Detox Delivered with samples of imagery, suitably fruity colour palettes and typography to help kick off discussions. We quickly worked through the options tightening up the brief until we’d identified a potential winner – something suitably fun and fruity.

Yes, there are some identity jobs where it can be very tempting to dive right in, but with a bit of discipline (or rather a lot in this case) the benefits are clear: we get to know our clients and their services better, and as such, they get creative work that’s much closer aligned with who they are and how they want to present themselves to the market.

If you’d like to talk to us about identity work, and you promise we don’t have to give up espressos, then we’d love to hear from you!

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f-l-3We are pleased to announce a new addition to our ever flourishing client list. We pride ourselves on our reputation for design and reliability, qualities which other creatives both respect and thankfully recognise.  And Furniture produce some quite exquisite pieces of design for the home and office, our personal favourite here is the ‘Boris’ stool and as you might expect it has a bit of a spidery feel.

We would like to take this opportunity to welcome one and all at And Furniture to the South experience.

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Spellbound works with space. They design interiors to be proud of and also are involved in events and trade stands. Recently they have decided to rebrand their outfit to a more professional and recognisable level within their market and we’re pleased to announce that they will be working exclusively with South.

Branding a design related organisation is never an easy task. With creatives on both sides of the process things can often get bogged down in discussion as firey creative types battle it out but South has many years experience in getting the best ideas and routes out of both our team and theirs. We are confident that all the combined team will be happy standing united behind our solution.

To all at Spellbound; welcome aboard!

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South is delighted to have been appointed to brand Waste Oil Collection Services.

There comes a time in every organisation’s life when the logo and identity that launched it is no longer communicating the values it works with. Whether it’s a brand new venture, relaunch of an existing brand or developing a current identity, we are proud that our work stands the test of time. We aim to create brands that are fashionable and current yet are based in a sound foundation giving them real staying power over long periods of time. Some of our works still remain unchanged a decade later!

With South on your side you can be sure to have a identity you will be proud to stand behind.

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Martin Houlden

Past winners of this rather dubious accolade include such cellulite-free ‘personalities’ as Felicity Kendal, Anneka Rice and (unbelievably) Su Pollard. Class! Of course in recent years PC has dictated that the competition awards men too, so I’m in good company with the likes of Russell Watson, Robbie Williams and Richard Fairbrass (neither of us too sexy for our shirts anymore).

So I was pleased that following a short training session on our Content Management System our latest client found our South CMS so easy to use that she proclaimed “Martin’s got the best backend I’ve ever seen”.

Ahem. I’d like to thank my manager, my family, the people that voted for me etc. etc.

So ok, the pedants among you will point out that the award those ‘celebs’ won related to their physical attributes, where as mine wasn’t an official award (in fact it was only said as a off-the-cuff remark) and was about a piece of software. But hey, at my age you have to take compliments wherever you can, and the worrying thing is that I probably take more pleasure from having a well built application, that simply from being ‘well built’.

So the lesson is simple, if you want to live ‘The Good Life’ than make sure editing your website isn’t a chore, and head over to the CMS demo area to try it out for yourself. http://cms.south.co.uk

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South has always been conscious of its place in society so it is a great pleasure to announce a win for an ongoing relationship with Community Action Southwark.

South will be responsible for a number of avenues within the organisation on a consultancy level including brand development, website and external communications. We’re no stranger to the charity sector and have repeatedly found that working with the third sector and becoming part of the ‘Big Society’ has rewards far beyond the usual business benefits.

We consider ourselves to be a financially and environmentally friendly organisation giving regularly to charities and stretching our contracts to go that little bit further for them. We may not be able to donate hundreds of thousands of pounds but to temporarily poach a strap line from an organisation who does… “every little helps”.

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Martin Houlden

Our two most popular applications, SouthCMS & Sendit have been chosen as the web and marketing solutions by the Wiltshire Chamber of Commerce to power their news site at www.chambernews.biz and also manage the weekly email blast.

Editor and former Chamber President Peter Davison said “South˚ CMS is incredibly simple to use – turning the arduous task of regularly updating a website into a daily doddle: copy and paste text from Word, upload photo, hit send, done – the site even includes a dynamically updated ‘top 10’ list of the most popular stories from that day.”

Peter also uses Sendit to create and send a weekly news bulletin to all the subscribers and is delighted at how much time he saves using the new systems.

You can check out the latest stories here: www.chambernews.biz and follow them on Twitter as well: http://twitter.com/chambernewsbiz

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Martin Houlden

A few days ago, I received a polite email from Companies House, informing us that our emails were not complying with section 82 of the Companies Act 2006. Oh good, I now had to talk to someone from the public sector, and make them listen to reason. Experience suggested this was not going to be a simple process…

The issue was to do with a small (yet annoying and relatively pointless) piece of legislation, that insists all company emails should have their full details within them – including the companies registered address. Now this seem reasonable in principle, but back in 2006 when this law was introduced, we tried to comply, but found lots of our post going to the wrong place.

You see, our company operates at three different addresses, and so we have our registered address recorded as out accountants office. This is a common practice and avoids having to update records each time an office location changes. However when we added this information into our email footers, we found a dramatic increase in post being sent to them (no matter how many times we told our clients!) and it caused a lot of problems and delays. The simple solution seemed to be to include two addresses, one for the registered office, and one for the actual office… but having two addresses didn’t cut down the confusion!

So, tasked as I was to try and solve the problem, I dialled the number for Companies House Compliance Department, and readied myself for an afternoon’s worth of ‘blood out of a stone’ jobsworthiness.

Now, I’ll admit that I do occasionally like to ‘do a Victor’ and attempt to instil a bit of common sense into those who are bereft of it (especially public sector organisations), and so I have several choice phrases at my disposal designed to win an argument. So I was slightly miffed when, having explained the situation, the lady on the other end of the phone simply said “Yes, I can see your point, ok let’s see if we can find a sensible solution”.

After a few seconds of stunned silence, I thanked her and we proceeded to come to a very acceptable result, whereby we’d include our office address, but also include a link to the registered address on the main website. This seemed very sensible to me, and shouldn’t give us any problems with post redirection either. But then I started thinking…

Who was this mystery lady? Do her bosses know she’s being polite and efficient? And if so, what plans do they in place to put a stop to that sort of behaviour as soon as possible?

Of course this recent experience may have simply brought my attention to a wider shift in practises within organisations that are publicly funded. I find myself wondering if it’s possible that the impending cuts to the public sector have managed to focus the minds of those employed there?

If so, it’s win-win as far as I’m concerned. Less national debt, and at the same time we’re getting efficient employees who don’t want to hinder growth in the private sector. I only have one question:

Can someone promote this lady to the head of the Civil Service?

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Martin Houlden

Back in 2005, you took your business online with the latest and most cutting edge eCommerce technologies. Now, almost half a decade later, your website is still chugging along, but that once shiny layer of digital paint is now showing signs of age.

Does this story sound familiar?

Standards, styles, and best practices on the web change at lightning speed, and although your website may still be completely functional, you may be warding off potential customers and clients unknowingly. Here are 5 questions you need to ask yourself to see if your website needs a redesign, pronto.

Question 1:
In terms of speed, how fast is your website?

You’ve worked hard to get your visitors to show up at your website’s door – don’t put them to sleep with long load times. Numerous studies have been conducted and all of them have found the same result: Longer load times = less visitors = less business.

A study conducted by Akamai in 2006 found that if your website takes longer than four seconds to fully load, 33%, or one-third, of all visitors will abandon your site. Additionally, Amazon found that a 100ms increase in site load time would result in a 1% decrease in sales, while Google found that an increase of 500ms on load time would directly result in a drop in traffic and revenue by 20%.

Whatever numbers you go by, the one takeaway is that your website needs to load, fast. Try optimising your website by compressing images for the web, aggregating and cleaning out your CSS, and removing old, unnecessary content to reduce HTTP requests. You can also try switching hosts if loading issues persist.

Question 2:
Does your website lack consistency?

Although it may not seem like it, consistency in major elements on all pages of your site is a must. Elements like navigation, fonts and colours, URL format, and editorial style should show consistency throughout your website as it shows your professionalism and attention to detail when conducting business.

If your site is riddled with typos, mismatching font sizes, and non-loading images, not only will it impact the credibility of your website but can also negatively affect your search engine optimisation strategy, which can result in lowered sales.

Sites like Yahoo!, eBay, and the BBC have hundreds if not thousands of pages online at any given time, yet almost all of those pages have a similar feel, design, and editorial style. Browse through, compare, and take notes, and see if your website maintains a solid level of consistency when compared to some major leaguers.

Question 3:
Does your website scream sensory overload?

Don’t try to throw text, imagery, links, icons, buttons, ads, or whatever else at your visitor right off the bat. Information overload will prevent you from surfacing the most important information on your website while delivering a load of clutter your visitor will have to sift through. You’ll be shocked to see how quickly a set of eyes can glaze over!

Question 4:
Does your website look old-school?

Technologies aren’t the only thing that evolve at a break-neck pace online – styles do too. Whatever style was hot back in ’05 probably isn’t what’s hot right now.

Just like hairstyles, websites date. What was all the rage a couple of years ago is now seen as passé… Sometimes this is down to design trends – like the 3D buttons and interfaces that were so popular a few years back when graphics tools made it easy to create bevel and emboss styles. Other times it’s because the web is maturing and web designers develop a better understanding of what visitors want. For instance, Flash intro pages were all the rage until web designers realised that users didn’t like them and wanted to get straight to the content. Flash introductions are the beehive hairdo of the web design world: dated, impractical and utterly pointless.

Question 5:
Does your website render perfectly?

And by perfectly, I mean perfectly, in all browsers on all operating systems, and on all platforms with no text overlapping and no extra scroll bars anywhere, etc. You absolutely do not want to degrade your customer’s user experience based on their choice of browser, regardless of if it’s Internet Explorer on Windows, Firefox on Mac, or even Safari on iPhone.

So, how’d your website do? If you need to revamp your website, don’t fret. Whether it’s a minor facelift or major reconstruction job, we’ve got the experience and the creativity to get it right first time, on time.

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Martin Houlden

When it comes to business, yes. Sadly though it seems it’s an inverse relationship, and the larger the company, the poorer the service. Take BT for example…

We’ve just had a new line put in at home, a fairly easy task you’d think, and normally you’d be right. However we also wanted to keep our very good broadband provider Zen, so we asked for our new number so that we could pass it onto them and get the broadband provisioned without delay. This is where the problems started….

For some reason, the number BT had given us wasn’t the one they first said we’d have. After ringing them they said they’d try again. And so the next day we had a new number… only it was now a completely new one (Zen of course, were unable to provision the line without the right number.) So, another placed call to BT and another new number (the fourth so far) so Zen on hold again.

By this point, I was getting slightly annoyed, as Zen said there was a problem on the line at BT’s end, but BT were blaming Zen. Now considering that Zen have won the ISP best service award more often than anyone else you can probably imagine who I thought was telling porkies. So I was not surprised the next day when I called BT’s bluff and asked them to do a proper check as if provisioning the line and then they finally admitted that actually there was a problem, and it was their fault (hurrah!).

It seems that there was still an open request for a job (probably one of the thousands of number changes they’ve forced on us for no apparent reason). Sadly the order couldn’t be removed by that department (that would be far too sensible), and so I was put through to the service dept. who’s number was of course – out of action and cut me off. Great.

I called back and decided to take pot luck with the service department, and was eventually connected to a young lady from one of the sub-continents who, whilst very professional and keen to help, did seem to struggle with the English language. Now I’ll happily admit that her grasp of English was better than my comprehension of any of the ancient pictorial languages of the Aztec’s… but not by much. However, at least having an enthusiastic helper on a telephone line that didn’t keep getting disconnected was a huge improvement. After all, perhaps she might know what the fifth new number we’d been given was going to be…?

After doing yet another useless line test, then running through their ‘idiots guide’ (which asks you to check that the phone cable was intact, that the main box isn’t on fire, or hasn’t been nibbled upon by an escaped Puma etc. etc.) I tried to persuade them to not transfer me back to the department that had cut me off, but my requests fell upon dead ears, well another dead line to be exact, but who’s counting? Fortunately a few minutes later they called back – no apology of course – and then they did test some more tests, before miraculously managing to clear the outstanding order block and free up the line… along with another new number of course! (nb. Total number of apologies still zero).

Honestly, how do companies get so big by offering such woefully lame services, backed up only by inadequate support?

Anyway, it turns out that the line ‘should’ now be ready BUT it may still take 24 hrs for the line to show up clear on the systems (and then the standard 5 working days for Zen to provision). If it doesn’t I suspect you’ll be hearing my name all over the evening news tomorrow night. Do not be surprised to also hear the words “rampage” and “assault rifle” in the same sentence too!

Though I suspect a High Court Judge may consider “taking 3 weeks to get broadband” as a mitigating factor in any level of civic disobedience…

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