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 A website full of out of date information is no use.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 rethinking.org.nz

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 Picnik.com 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.”