Thursday, December 20, 2012

Your Online Goals for 2013

A new year gives many of us a fresh chance to look at things. A chance to look at what we might be doing differently over the next year. In the online context this is particularly important as the web can change so much in 12 months. There are always so many new ways every year to use the web to your advantage.

So where should we start? Yes there is a lot out there that is new but for small businesses in particular you'll want to be focusing your efforts on a few key areas. The good news is that you should have heard of these areas to focus on. There is a lot of new software out there but there is no need to start the year by going out and puzzling your way through a series of increasingly more esoteric social media platforms.

In fact the starting point is usually your website. Even now in the age of social media the website remains the bedrock of your online presence. If someone hears about you and wants to know more, then chances are your website will be their first port of call. The start of a new year is a great time to make sure that your website is fully up to day and to give it a bit of a general review. Check that all of your details are correct and update any staff changes or other basic information. Then you might want to make sure that you still have the right keywords in your pages. Can Google find you easily? Do you need to do some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to ensure that you are being found? Finally you'll want to have a look at the overall design of the site. This is the part that will change the least; all you need to be doing is checking that your design is still relatively fresh. You certainly don't need to be changing this every year but the example below really shows how even cutting edge website design will eventually need replacing.

Does your site look like this?
Facebook is another area we recommend having a look at. This is a platform that becoming increasingly important and I see as having too parts to it. The first part can in some circumstances take over some of the roles of a traditional web page. A business Facebook page should have on it your location and contact details so that anyone searching on Facebook can easily find you. It is also a chance to take people browsing Facebook back to your main website. The second part revolves around engagement. This is simply putting stuff on the page. It doesn't need to be fancy it just has to be there. If you put links to your Facebook page on your website or email marketing you can build a community. Ten minutes each day or even just each week gives you a chance to interact with this community and show off the personality of your organisation. Simple things like photos of an office lunch can show a different side to your clients or customers and help to build a stronger relationship between you. Have a look at our page here.

Our Pinterest Page

Perhaps other social media options interest you? Twitter is a great way to get you message out there. One retweet can mean you'll reach tens of thousands of people. Pinterest is a fantastic way to post images of product you are selling. The images will always link back to their original location no matter how many times they are shared or repinned so for anyone with an online store it can be a golden opportunity to gain exposure in new areas.

Follow us on Twitter here

Email Marketing is one of the most effective tools an organisation can use to keep connected with their client base and it offers one of the highest returns on investment of any marketing tool. A well designed campaign can be prepared in a few hours or even less than one hour for a shorter "announcement" style message. The problem is that it can be so easy to put off sending out a monthly announcement and it eventually can get to the point where it falls off your radar altogether. So the new year is a great time to be looking into bringing back your old campaigns or starting from scratch if you've never used it before. A new email template and a schedule of sending can be all you need to keep yourself sending them out each month. We've found that the best way to make sure that campaigns go out on time is to have two people that share the responsibility for creating and sending. The two of you can remind each other and having someone else working on part of the campaign makes the job feel a lot less daunting.

If you take these tips to heart you can really make the web work for you in 2013. The key in all of them is keeping things current and maintaining contact with your client base. You name will be fresh in people's minds and your branding will become familiar to them. You don't need to be on every new platform that comes out to get the most out of the web. You just need to make sure that those platforms that you do use are utilised to the best of your ability.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

My personal favourites of 2012.

The web changes every year, growing constantly and opening up new ways to share. There have been so many new innovations this year on the web. Here are just a few of the things that have come over my horizon this year and that I consider to be the best of the web in 2012.

Listening to music online has been getting progressively easier over the past few years and Spotify has taken the experience to the next step. You get a six month free trial period that includes radio style advertisements or you can pay a simple flat rate fee and you can listen to as much music as you want ad free. As permanent connections to the internet have become more and more pervasive this sort of service has become much more practical, especially with the explosive growth of smartphones. To me, Spotify represents the movement of data away from our personal devices and into the cloud. It is the mainstream of society finally taking advantage of some of the larger potential of the web.

You cant have the internet without pictures of cats apparently so I'd better add one of those to the list as well. Because not everything has to be useful, sometimes it's just cool.

Pinterest was launched a couple of years ago but it has really exploded over the last twelve months. A simple way for users to share pictures they've seen online it has become one of the fastest growing sites in history. People are sharing everything from travel dreams to favourite recipes.This is a great site to browse if you're looking for inspiration and it is a great way to organise images online. See something you like? Just pin it and you can come back and have a look again later. And because it always maintains a link back to the original source it has huge potential for selling online. Any image someone likes can be shared virally and it will always link back to the shop it was originally pinned from. If that isn't exciting for anyone selling online I don't know what is.

This has got to be up there as one of the biggest things to hit the web in 2012. The most popular video on YouTube of all time it is of course Psy's K-Pop sensation, Gangnam style. Where else but on the web would a Korean pop song have the chance to spread across the world. It is so easy to share anything and everything with friends online these days that even something as strange (and amazing) as Gangnam style can get to the point where is has been viewed nearly a BILLION times on YouTube. People of all ages will recognise that opening beat and Psy's dance moves are being used in clubs, at sports games and anywhere else this incredibly catchy song is being played.

Making this list has made me wonder about what the future has in store for us. What is being developed out there right now and what might the internet look like in a year's time. It's an exciting time to be online as social sharing makes it even easier for products and services to gain access to larger markets. It could be a cute picture of a kitten and a funny video that spreads like wildfire or it could be a new service offered online. You never know what's going to be next.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tips for great business photos.

Written by Jin Cowan -

We don't get a second chance to make a good first impression. A good business portrait is one of the most effective tools to build credibility and rapport with your potential clients.
The purpose of business portraits is to:
  • Convey your brand image
  • Portray trust and professionalism
  • Capture your passion and your individuality
Here are a few tips that will help you to have a easy session and achieve a great result:


For a great head and shoulder shot,  the rule of thumb is keep it simple.

Solid colours and simple classic cuts photograph the best. In another word, avoid stripes and patterns, bold graphics, complicated cuts and bulky jewellery.

Wear something with a conservative neck line, such as shallow V-neck or turtle neck. Similarly wear long sleeves rather than short sleeves. Bare arms, shoulders and low cuts will not look flattering in head and shoulder shots.

Last but not least, for us to look relaxed and confident, always wear comfortable and well fitted clothes.

Make up and grooming

Think it as the makeup / grooming for a nice evening out. Well done but not over done.

Many of us prefer a natural look and some don't normally wear makeup. However a well applied layer of foundation will help even out your skin tone under photographic lighting, and help achieve a natural and flattering result.


A great portrait is never about staring into the camera with a stiff smile. Go into the session with the confidence that you will have a great result. Your photographer should be an expert to coach you to feel relaxed, and guide you as to how to pose. Once you're relaxed and feel confident, your facial expression will follow. Whether it's a heart-felt smile, or a mysterious look, your photographer will capture the natural expression, with the most flattering or interesting lighting and angle, to create a compelling portrait of you who has a great story to tell.


A class studio head and shoulder shot is the convention, but who said this is your only option? Include your work place in the image, go to an interesting location, use a prop, have actions. You will be surprised how a simple change of approach could add context, depth and individuality to your portrait, and engaging your audience on a more personal and emotional level.

Talk about different options with your photographer, and they will help you to realize the image in your mind!

Your photographer should have checked out the location before the session, so he or she is prepared with the knowledge and the equipment to capture that unique and timeless portrait.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Why you should have team photos on your website.

In a busy world with so much going on it can be hard to keep even the most critical parts of your website up to date. Sections that seem less important often barely warrant a thought. Images of your team may seem to be a trivial addition and often the "About Us" section of your site can be sadly neglected.

However even some basic photos can make a real difference. The image below is of a long page cut into three that has tracked where the user's eyes have been looking. As you can see their interest is less and less as they go down the page but critically you can see that their eyes stop on almost every image on the page. The larger the dot the longer their eyes were fixed on that point. This user actually spent 10% more time looking at the photos than reading the bios.

People images are where the eye is spending much of its time.

Studies have shown that this kind of engagement only comes with photos of real people. Stock photos often will be completely ignored. The more time a user spends on your page, the more time they have to take in information and be convinced to buy your product / use your service. The longer a user is on your site the more likely they are to take the next step and contact you.

Team photos are a great chance for you to get some images on your site of real people. It will give users something to engage with when they visit your site and it will help to keep them on the site for longer.And by putting these photos in an "About Us" section, possibly with a few short bios you're also giving clients and potential clients a chance to get a feel for your staff. Don't neglect that poor section of your site any longer. "About Us" may be working harder for you than you think.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Why I like Hootsuite.

Keeping on top of all your social media accounts can be a bit daunting and rather time consuming. For maximum impact you need to spread out your posts over the week but spreading your time out across the week can distract you from other tasks and hamper your productivity. Thankfully there is software out there that can help you manage all of this. There are a few options out there including TweetDeck and Seesmic but the one I personally use is Hootsuite. It allows me to see several different social media platforms at once, it allows me to see stats on things like links clicked on and it allows me to schedule posts to appear anytime in the future. Best of all the basic version of this software is completely free.

The ability to schedule posts is particularly useful as you can set up what you would like to post for the week (or the month, however long you want) in one big chunk without all of it appearing on your pages at once. While it remains really important to continue to monitor what is going on on your pages so you can engage fully with your followers this can make posting to social media a much more efficient process.

The free version of Hootsuite has a few options around reporting as well. They are not nearly as in depth as those of the full version but it can show you how many people have clicked on specific links that you have posted. While limited it is always good to be able to get some feedback on which content your followers like the most.

Another neat feature is the link shrinker. This is especially useful for Twitter with its character limits on posts but it can also be really useful if you want to post a long, messy looking link. Put it on the link shrinker as you can see I have done below, hit the "shrink" button and you'll have one much shorter link.

I have not needed to use any of the pay features so far. I think for a small or medium business the free version of Hootsuite is more than enough. I could see the full version becoming much more useful when you have multiple people working on your online social presence and catering to a large audience. The best way to find out more about it is to sign up and try it out. It has loads of features that even I don't use due to the nature of our community but some of you out there might find really useful.

Have a look at to see if you might find this tool useful for your business. For anyone that does give it a try I'd be really interested to hear how you find it and what you use it for the most. Just send us an email or leave a comment below.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Get the most out of your business Facebook page.

As Facebook becomes more important for businesses it is becoming more common for your Facebook page to be the first point of contact that you have with your customers, at least for basic information about who you are. To ensure that you are getting the most from your Facebook page you need three basic things. You need some basic information about your business so that potential customers can get an idea about who you are after a quick scan. You need to have your contact details available, particularly a link to your website. Finally you need to make sure that your page is optimised to be found. Thankfully Facebook has made this easy with a couple of simple categories.

Facebook gives you the option to add "Place Topics" or sub-categories to your business Facebook page. This will not only display on your page but will also be indexed by search engines, meaning your Facebook page is more likely to come up in a search. On Facebook it is already possible to search a location for a specific type of business. Adding place topics to your business page will make it easier for you to be found.

Your location is also important to have available on the page because Facebook already has the location of most of its members. If someone is searching in Facebook for a particular type of business or even for your business' name it will provide a list of those businesses closest to the searcher before listing businesses further away. If you don't already have your location listed then you can do so by clicking the 'About' button on your own page then editing in there.

With these simple additions you can get more impact from your Facebook page with minimal effort. As more people see Facebook as an alternative source of information to traditional websites it really pays to have some basic information up there and to have done some simple optimisation. Even if heavy social media engagement is not part of your online strategy at the very least it will help to point traffic your direction.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Podiatry website launch showcases new software.

Congratulations to Jennifer and the team at Butler Pelvin & Associates who’ve just launched their new administrative software at the NZ Podiatry conference to rave reviews. As Jennifer said, “everyone loved the new website.”

The administrative software means Butler Pelvin can easily manage the membership database for any not for profit organisation. Features include:
  • Membership joining and renewal
  • Membership insurance
  • Advertising and registering for events
  • Membership CPD
  • Classifieds
  • Supplier Information
Podiatry NZ is the first organization to use this software. Members can promote their business to the public as well as mange their own education and membership details online. Check out the website here .

We’d like to thank Jennifer for the opportunity to be involved in this project.

-Audrey and the team at Spiral Web Solutions Ltd.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Do you need a mobile website?

Spiral just recently created its first mobile site for a customer. It has been exciting for us as this is a great area to be working in. We can see so much potential for some of our customers. People are staying plugged into the web more and more. It is increasingly common for information to be accessed from a smartphone or tablet far from any traditional computers. The web is now in your pocket wherever you go.
Our latest creation
Why is a mobile site important to have? Well it depends on your business. The key advantage of a mobile site is always going to be its portability but equally important for good mobile access is its simplicity. It is never going to be more complex than a full website but it shouldn't be. It should be as simple as is can be while still maintaining the basic functionality you're aiming to achieve. One of the key limiting factors with mobile internet is the potentially low speed of the connection. The internet simply will not be as fast climbing up a cellphone signal as it is sprinting along a high speed broadband connection. So if your business would benefit from being more accessible for people on the go perhaps a mobile site would benefit you.

Looking quickly at the site Spiral has just recently created we can see these aspects at work here. NZRAB has a mobile site that is very simple but does exactly what needs doing. In this case a Real Estate Agent can easily check the credentials of an architect while on the go. Perhaps while showing or viewing a building. It is a great example of the benefits of having a simple, portable website that can be accessed easily. It is quick to load on any mobile device due to the streamlined design but it also conveys all of the information that it needs to.
A mobile website will be particularly useful if many of the people who will be looking at your site spend a lot of their time away from an office. It is great if providing access to a database is one of the key goals of your current website. The key of every mobile website is to be simple, easy to use and effective. Perhaps your current website works well on mobile devices and fits these three criteria. But if not then it might be something you should be looking into. Feel free to give us a call or send us an email if you're curious and would like to hear more.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

My Favourite Things Mobile.

Mobile seems to be the flavour of things this month so to go along with this theme I've come up with a quick list of all of my favourite things mobile. The mobile internet allows us to tap into the vast potential of the web from anywhere with phone service. These apps and mobile sites are just a few that I think are the most useful or interesting.

Metlink Mobile
Metlink - So useful for anyone who uses public transport. It can help you find the nearest bus stop or relevant timetable. And as most buses now have gps units installed in them this mobile site can tell you exactly how far away from your bus stop they are. I find this useful every morning as I can check if the bus has gone past already once I get to the bus stop.

Google Maps - Handy when you realise you don't know how to get somewhere in your own city. A lifesaver when you get lost somewhere you don't know, whether you're on holiday or heading off to a business meeting. If you can get a data connection when you're in another country this can be particularly useful. I'm usually pretty good at getting my bearings but I got completely turned around coming out of a subway station in Toronto once and had no idea which way I was supposed to go from there. Luckily I could check the maps on my phone which showed my location and I could easily see where to go from there.
London 2012 Results - So the Olympics are over now, though the Paralympics are only halfway through, but this was a great app to have while it was on. I'm expecting something like this from all major sports events from now on. Not only did it have schedules and results but it also had the option to be notified for specific events. I just had to select my favourites and I'd get a notification when they were starting.

An Example game of Words
Words With Friends - This is basically just scrabble but you can play with anyone anywhere. You can play with your friends who have the game too or with a random opponent. I have an ongoing game right now with a friend who moved to the USA and with its inbuilt chat its a great way to keep in touch.

Flipboard - One of the greatest things about the mobile internet I think is the ability to access personalised content anywhere. Flipboad allows you to choose which media sources you want to hear from. It can pick up images from your Facebook and Twitter accounts and mixes it in with stories from the Economist and BBC News to create a personalised magazine on your mobile device. Whatever mix you want.

Stuff - While Flipboard is great I do need to get my fix of New Zealand News as well. Stuff has a great app I can have a look through in the mornings to catch up on the top stories in the country. While the layout and content are great I have noticed a few times that it can crash unexpectedly. It is still a fantastic application and despite the occasional frustrating episode it only takes a few seconds to get back on so it still makes my list.

The mobile web is one of the great areas for potential growth in the future. As more and more people are connected to the net 24/7 through smart phones and tablets there is a great opportunity to move into some of this previously underutilised time. I'll still read a book on the bus sometimes but I am equally likely to be checking the latest news. Not only that but a good mobile site or app will make people's lives much easier. I like these sites and apps because they either help me or entertain me at times when I previously had much more limited choices.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Adding a newsletter subscribe button on Facebook.

This might seem we're going a little overboard but how can we not be excited! It is a combination of two of our favourite things. A sublime combination of both Facebook and Mailroom. Well, maybe just a slight overlap but we think it is exciting all the same. 

It is a great new feature we can do for those of you who have a newsletter you send out through Mailroom. You can now have a subscribe button added to your Facebook page. Check out the Spiral one below.

The Spiral Facebook page. Now with the option to subscribe to our Websavvy newsletter.
You can even have your own image as the logo for the button. All anyone has to do to subscribe to your newsletter from there is to enter their name and email address and presto, you have a new subscriber.

We love everything to do with both Facebook and Mailroom right now so we loved having the chance to combine the two in one project. It's a great opportunity to leverage your position on Facebook into more subscribers to your newsletters, giving you another chance to get your message out there.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How often should you update your website?

This subject has come to our attention a few times of late. Most recently when Audrey realised the Spiral website was in need of a bit of an overhaul. I guess we just get so busy working for you that we forget to work for us sometimes. So how often should you change your website? How do you know when the best time to make the changes is?

To start with a quick look will usually show you that some things that need changing are fairly obvious. A website full of out of date information is no use. A site that still has a banner on the homepage about a long past event just looks bad. But what about the less obvious stuff. Is it just the content that needs to be updated or are layout and design changes necessary as well? I had a bit if a look around the web to see what the general opinions were and if they matched up with what we think here at Spiral.

A lot of what I ended up reading recommended change but the exact times to do so varied massively, from every few months to daily! If any of you do a similar search I'm sure you'll find the same wealth of unhelpful information. I decided to take more of an in house approach and see what Audrey thought about the subject.

Basically it boiled down to keeping the information current. The design work that you have originally should last if it has been done well but as your business changes so should the information on your website. We know how hard it can be to keep on top of something like website content when running a busy company. It has a low priority when you're looking after your customers first, which is of course exactly what happened to us here at Spiral. Audrey came up with a list of times that are great for updating your website based on what is happening to you and your business rather than based on the arbitrary passage of time. Her key suggestion was that you establish a pattern or a plan and follow one of the following strategies:
  • Try updating anytime you have staff leaving or new staff arriving. Changing the 'About Us' and 'Contact' pages can be a catalyst for having a quick check of the rest of the website.
  • Update your site every time you finish a big project. This is a particularly good option as it gives you the chance to add some information about the project to the website to highlight what it is that you have been doing. You'll also hopefully have a bit of extra time just after completing a large project.
  • Anytime you have any new print collateral produced for the business it is a great opportunity to update your site and to make sure it fits well with any changes to the look and feel of your business.
  • If you've won any awards or recently been featured in any publications then you should certainly be looking to update your site. Here is a chance to show off your achievements while at the same time you want anyone brought to your site by the extra publicity to be receiving the most up to date information about you.
So with a plan in place you can ensure that your website is kept up to date. Not everyone has the time or the inclination to check their website regularly to make sure they're up to date and arbitrary time periods can make it a chore. Planning to update around events breaks up the regularity, provides a reminder and can provide extra motivation. This is particularly true if the event would have required a change to part of the site anyway. Your website should be updated when it need it. By establishing strategies like these you'll know when that is.

The scrolling news box and how to use it.

 Have a look at this nifty little addition we can add to WebShell sites now. Just another example of our ongoing innovating.

As a start we'll have a look at what the scrolling news box is. It is simply a small box that can sit on the side of your page that contains a scrolling list of text that slowly moves downward and will freeze if the mouse pointer is hovering over it. 

The box from

To edit the content of the box you simply login to the website editor in the usual manner. The Box will then have an 'edit' button at the top that you can click on to add or change the content of the box.

How the box appears when logged in

This is how the editor looks. It is the same as the basic WebShell editor for any of the other pages. Simply add or alter the content however you want then hit 'save' to update the box.

The editor

This is a handy new feature that is incredibly easy to manage and can add that little extra something to your site.

Why I like Picmonkey.

Here is a nice free option for editing images that we've had a quick try of recently. It's useful both for your personal photos and for any images that you might be uploading to your website. The basic image editing software that everybody has can be pretty limited but buying software can cost hundreds of dollars. Picmonkey can be used from any computer as it operates online and most importantly it is both free and relatively easy to use.

Similar in concept to the now closed Picmonkey gives you a variety of editing options. It also gives you a chance to have a bit of a play around with a photo of a cat if you're interested in having a look at what can be done before editing any of your own images.

I like this website because I see it as another part of the move to online operation and the provision of more and more free services in the cloud. A democratisation of the web. Anyone with an internet connection can access these services and access the tools that were once so expensive they were only practical for professional image editing. Obviously not everyone will want to use Picmonkey but I think the fact that the option is there is amazing. It's one more step towards the integrated online future that I and the rest of us here at Spiral are excited to be a part of.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pinterest from a beginners point of view.

Spiral is new to Pinterest. I signed us up this week in the hopes of discovering a little more about it and with the hope that it could be useful. Both to our clients and to us here at Spiral.

At first glance it looks like a bit of fun. There are thousands of cool pictures already pinned up there to browse and anything that catches your eye you can repin to your own boards. Any pictures you see on another website you can also grab and pin to your boards with the click of a button (your boards are just the way you organise images by category on your page). It's like having an online scrapbook. The key feature I can see is the ease with which you can pin images from anywhere at anytime. From amazing landscapes to stunning culinary creations, there are great pictures of everything out there.

Spiral's Pinterest page so far. Check it out!
But why should a business have a Pinterest page? Well we originally wanted to be on Pinterest because we are a little bit nuts about the web. We want to try everything that might be useful to us and our customers. However it quickly became apparent to me the constructive ways we could use Pinterest. We could post a portfolio of websites or software that we've created so that others can see what we do. We can post pictures of things that we like so that others can see who we are. We could even post pictures of products that we sell. One of the great features of Pinterest is that the pictures contain a link back to the original source no matter how many times they have been repinned. I can see this being particularly useful for any business with an online store as images pinned to Pinterest will contain a link back to the original product page and (if it's a popular picture) the image could be repinned over and over again around the world.

Is it worth it? From a personal perspective I would say this is a great way to have a look at some of the amazing pictures out there and a great way to create your own online scrapbook. From a business perspective it could be a great way to get some exposure. A great way to display who and what you are on the web, particularly if your products are visually appealing. It doesn't replace other social media options but it does complement them well. Images have been shown to be one of the most evocative and powerful resources in the online world. Maybe now is the time to get a few more pictures out there of who you are and what you do.

Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter to hear more in the future!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

HEAT Trial: Our software in use across Australasia.

After months of development, we're preparing for the roll out of our innovative software system in one of the most ambitious clinical trials to be undertaken in Australasia.

Involving over 700 patients across 22 Intensive Care Units in Australia and New Zealand, the HEAT Trial focuses on the effect of paracetamol on critically ill patients with known or suspected infection.

Co-ordinated by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, in collaboration with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Group, the trial begins on 15 June, and as Chief Investigator and Intensive Care Specialist, Dr Paul Young points out, relies heavily on having effective IT systems. “At each of the 22 ICUs involved in the study there will be at least 100 staff involved, which means a total of over 2000 staff contributing, so our IT systems need to be very intuitive and Spiral has delivered just that.”

Pilot testing of the software is currently underway at Wellington Hospital, and Spiral Managing Director, Audrey Shearer is pleased with the initial results. “In a trial of this nature the integrity of the data is a key factor, so we’ve had to build lots of checks and balances into the software and provide a clear audit trail. At the same time however we wanted it to be easy for medical staff to use, with minimal training required. And from the feedback we’ve had, it looks like we’ve achieved that. Staff are able to input data directly into the software, which is a huge time saver and reduces the chance of error. Using cloud based software, with all information stored on the same server, it’s also possible to get accurate information in real time, a huge advantage when you’re dealing with critically ill patients.”

In selecting a software supplier for the trial, being Wellington based was important to the MRINZ. “We found the regular face to face meetings and the fact that they operate in the same time zone really valuable,” says Dr Young. “Spiral’s cloud based solution has also come in at a fraction of the cost of previous systems and is likely to set a new benchmark for multi centre research.”

The HEAT Trial follows closely on the heels of another cloud based software solution developed for Hutt Valley company Medent Medical, who came to Audrey with an idea for integrating their customers’ ordering process with their website. Now Medent is rolling out its innovative system to medical centres throughout the country, transforming the way their customers order medical supplies.

Audrey maintains there’s a growing market for taking local software solutions and publishing all or part of them on the web, particularly where you have multiple users, multiple locations and a need for real time information. “For a self confessed ‘software developer who loves the web’, it’s an exciting time.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why I like Facebook email.

So my last post was also about Facebook's email features and it wasn't particularly positive. That had a lot more to do with the way they had been thrust on us rather than the fundamental features though. Facebook email is actually kind of neat. It has the potential to be the start of integration of the two things I check the most online. Ever since Facebook rolled out the email addresses for every Facebook user the potential has been there to have emails sent directly to your Facebook messages or to send messages to any email address from Facebook. Here is an example below where I was testing the service sending a message from my Facebook account to a gmail address.
Sending the message from my Facebook account.

What the message looked at in my gmail inbox.

While not everyone has or uses Facebook regularly the ability to manage your emails and social networking in one place could become very useful. The service handles attachments well and can easily be used for quick messages while on Facebook. However, until it can integrate with current email addresses I can't see it being particularly popular. It is fairly basic at this point and there are not a lot of options for organising messages easily. Particularly for personal emails though I would say there is some serious potential here. Like us on Facebook or follow us on twitter to hear more tips and tricks in the future!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Facebook changes email addresses.

Yesterday I noticed a small change to my Facebook profile page. Where I once had my personal email address displayed in my contact info under the 'about' button I now had an address. I see this an attempt on the part of Facebook to have a larger presence in another area of our internet lives. This desire to take a larger chunk of the pie is not necessarily either a good or bad thing but I am not a fan of how they have gone about making this change with no warning or notification. I had specific reasons for having my personal email address available in my contact details for my friends to see and you might have as well.

Luckily changing it back is fairly simple and can be done in a few easy steps:
  • Navigate to your profile page and click on the "About" button just below your profile picture in Timeline.
  • Scroll down to the "Contact Info" section and hit "Edit". You should get a drop down like the one below.
  •  On the far right of the image click on the drop down menu next to the circles. You want to switch the setting for your personal and your email addresses so that your personal one has "display on timeline" selected and the address has "hidden from timeline" selected.
This should change things back so that once again an email address that you actually use is displayed. Check us out on Facebook for more posts like this or follow us on Twitter for helpful and interesting titbits. Coming up... Why I like Facebook email addresses.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Password Security: How good is yours?

How bad would the damage be if your passwords were stolen?

Last week's online attack that led to the theft of several million passwords for professional networking site LinkedIn and for online dating site eHarmony highlighted the vulnerability inherent in having an online presence. Perhaps the theft of your password for one website doesn't seem like it could do much damage but consider how many of your passwords are the same over multiple websites. How many sites or profiles could a hacker gain access to if they had your email password, especially with all of those helpful "I've forgotten my password" buttons on so many sites? How much information do you have stored online; either in email accounts, documents or online photo albums? In this story on Stuff a Christchurch nurse lost all the information she'd saved over the years in her email account which she'd used as a "filing cabinet".

Is there no hope for password security?

This isn't to say that there is nothing you can do. We are not all just playing a giant game of chance with our online information. There are some simple steps you can take to minimise the risks. Obviously the best step would be to have totally different passwords for every site you use, especially when you combine numbers with both upper and lower case letters. Passwords that are completely unrelated to anything and that look like you generated them by dropping a cat onto a keyboard are very secure. "y7Gs55sUt" or "jc8B5p7Qq" would both be very difficult to crack. While those would be great I know that I would have absolutely no chance remembering one of those passwords, let alone the dozens many of us would need to use over different websites.

One option is to use software to store and even generate passwords. 1Password and LastPass are a couple of examples of programs which can be used to shift the responsibility for remembering passwords away from your memory, which opens up a huge variety of ludicrously complex password options. Suddenly "jd6FF8sJ8v" becomes just as practical as "cat" as far as your memory is concerned. Of course you then need to make sure you have a very secure password to log in to the service in the first place but one complex password is much easier to remember than twenty would be.

A few tips for creating stronger passwords

  • Avoid using words from the dictionary.
  • Include a mix of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers.
  • Don't use "password" as a password. You'd be surprised how many people do this.
  • Try using the last or first letters of a memorable sentence for a secure password. e.g. "When I was 13 I lived at 3 Makaro Street" = "WIw13Ila3MS"
  • If you have to use the same password for multiple sites think about what would happen if a hacker stole that password from one site and tried it on them all. Try at the very least to have different passwords for your email, your online banking and for the rest of your internet presence.

Final thoughts on password security

It is incredibly important to be thinking about password protection when online. The web is an open environment with tremendous opportunities for making connections and for organising data but its same openness creates opportunities for hackers. There is always inherent risk in the world around us, we just need to be sure that me do our best to minimise those risks. Follow us on Twitter or 'like' our page on Facebook for more tips in the future.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Human readable URLs, and Routing in WebShell

It’s been on the to-do list of WebShell improvements for a long time. Turning the URLs (addresses) in our content management system (CMS) into something a bit better for humans.

I will use a client site for an example, the address of the “about us” page for Boyd HQ used to be “” but with the upgrade it becomes “” (note: the old address still works to so any bookmarks search results and links are still good).

Why did we do this?
Two reasons
1) It just looks nicer
2) The addresses are much more memorable and easier to direct people to

Why now?
While there have been ways to do this in the past, with things like URL rewriting or generating a file for each page, they were mucky and not that robust. The routing technology introduced in previous versions and improved in version 4 of the .net framework has changed things.

How it works for anyone interested
Neither “” or “” actually exist as real files or directories, "/c" (c for content) exists only virtually as a rout to "/default.aspx" (the same page used in the old system) the rout passes with it the page variable, (in this case "About-Us")  WebShell uses this variable (just like it can use "Page=4099") to pull the correct content from its SQL server database and display it within the page template. Routing can be used for much more complex URLs with many more variables and we look forward to using it more in the future to produce better and more human friendly URLs in other projects.
And in case you were wondering where the page address "About-Us" comes from WebShell first tries to use the navigation title of a page (in this case About Us), then the long title then several combinations of the 2 titles with parent pages until it finds an address that is unique within the website so even if you give 5 pages the same name in the navigation they will be given different addresses by WebShell. In most cases there will only be one and your page is just named the same as it is in the navigation with spaces replaced with a dash.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Log in to make changes to your website

Making changes to your website starts with logging in to your dashboard. You do this by going to, on the right hand side you will see a box for client login. Enter your username & password here and click on the "Sign In" button.

If you enter the wrong password for your email address you will get the alternative login screen so you can have another go at logging in.
If you don't remember your password, you can click on the "Forgot your password" link to have WebShell send you an email that enables you to reset your password.
or call us in the office on 04-5862686

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Twiggy's Broadband Mistake & the Power of Social Media

Talking to my friend Twiggy in the village yesterday I discovered she had a received a $1300 bill from her broadband provider. "How the hell did that happen?" I exclaimed, after-all, Twiggy is real computer savvy and not one to waste her earnings.

Seems she left her browser open for several days and one of those little tabs, like the ones on the right, had a small "widget" on the page which was refreshing every 3 seconds. Each time the widget refreshed data was pulled, from the server in North America, and added to Twiggy's broadband usage.  Its easy enough to do, you're browsing the web where you find something interesting to read and, with no time to read it immediately, you leave it open in one of your browser tabs to read later - something I have done a million times but won't be doing again.

What happened to Twiggy's account from her broadband provider is a story in itself, after-all she was the unwitting recipient of some stupid web development. She called the provider  to  sort out her bill and was told that there was no requirement to reduce the charges, but out of compassion a reduction to about $900 could be arranged. Bugger! So she posted a comment online in one of her regular social media spots, very soon after, the broadband provider asked "please get in touch so we can sort something out" ... the upshot was Twiggy was able to obtain a more satisfactory settlement of the charges.

The lesson is that it is worth getting hold of the right person to sort out a problem like this, and social media can be a good way to achieve this.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Using WebShell to add links to your webpage

Heres a short write up for WebShell (was Nautilus) users on how to add links using WebShell.

Decide on the destination
Find the document or page you want to link to. You will need to know its location on the internet eg. if I wanted to link to the Mailroom homepage, I know that its location on the internet is, so I can use that.

Select text
Select the text you want to use as your linking text. This would normally be something descriptive so the visitor knows and understands what they are linking to - for example this might be - Read more about how Mailroom helps professional marketers connect with and analyse their database. This may seem a little long but Google uses this link text in its "relevance" algorithm when indexing the Mailrrom website.

Make the Connection
Click on the chain-link image at the top of the editing window.

The "Hyperlink" box will appear. The hyperlink box has 3 elements - Link Info, Target and Advanced.

Link Info
There are 3 Link Types URL, Link to anchor in the text and E-mail. Here are some of the

  • URL: Protocol http://. Where you enter the full address of the destination link eg.
  • URL: Protocol http://. Where you enter the full address of the destination link, when it a secure webpage eg.
  • URL: Protocol ftp://. Where you are linking to an ftp site. Very rarely used.
  • URL: Protocol news://. Contact us if you need to use this.
  • URL: Protocol other. For all other links.
  • Link to anchor in the text. Where you link to a previously setup anchor on your page.
  • E-Mail. Where you can create an email pop-up

... and "Browse Server" which allows you to insert links to PDF files on the web server (you must upload them to make them available online)

Target Info
Target controls where the new document will be displayed when the user follows a link. Most of the time, clicking on a link simply loads a new document in the same window. With the Target attribute you can have the link open in a new window.Target has four predefined values:

* "_blank"
* "_parent"
* "_self"
* "_top"

Where you enter the name of the destination frame on a page with multiple frames.

Where you want a pop up window. 

New Window (_blank) when you want the link to open in a new browser window.
Topmost Window (_top) when you want the link to open in the topmost window of a set of frames and the page is to occupy the whole screen.
Same Window (_self) when you want the link to open in the existing window (this is also the default).
Parent Window (_parent) when you want the link to open in the parent frame of a set of frames.

Advanced Info
Take a look at this one - if you know what these terms mean then go ahead and use it otherwise you may want to read up on HTML before you attempt using this element.

Creating smart, meaningful links will help you get a higher Google listing and help people find your website.

Good luck with your links and remember you can call us in the office for a refresher on what to do.

Friday, March 16, 2012

What we've been up to so far this year ...

This is, of course, the quarter that often speeds by the fastest because it starts off with holidays in January. Apart from holidays the team have been busy on:
  • writing patient management software for a clinical trial running across NZ & Australia
  • developing and delivering software to speed up the stocktake process for businesses,  by using handheld barcode scanners
  • overhauling a clients website, adding new graphics and extra functionality
  • database work for both the NZ Registered Architects and the Rail Heritage Trust of NZ 
  • styling RSS feeds
  • learning more about the Facebook developers platform for an upcoming application we are writing
and Cain went to Webstock, an inspirational conference for web professionals - designers, developers, usability experts, content writers etc ... he's back at work, refreshed, inspired and ready to implement all the cool stuff he learned.

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Zealand Browser Stats 2011

Looks like Internet Explorer is not as popular as it once was in New Zealand, according to Statcounter Global Statistics. While holding its number 1 spot it has dropped below 40% of browser usage.  Google's Chrome browser has overtaken Firefox to becomes NZ's number 2 browser.

What does this mean for you?
If you are not already using Chrome it means, after you have done website updates, you need to look at your website in

  • Chrome
  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
because sometimes they will display your updates differently/unexpectedly.

Stats for mobile devices show the iPhone browser useage far exceeds any of the other mobile browsers.