Monday, March 5, 2018

Essential Cloud Services for Small Businesses (Mostly Free)

 Leverage the Cloud

At 2 Create360, we love Cloud based services and how they can be leveraged to create efficiencies for SMB's. Here are some of our favourites.

MailChimp Email Marketing

MailChimp free for a limited amount of campaigns$10.00 at Mailchimp is the most popular and most capable email marketing service regardless of your price level or technological savvy. It offers a rich, free plan; tons of third-party integration (much of which is available at the lowest price levels), and it's got many email templates that help you fire off emails at a rapid clip. You can even take advantage of a decent amount of email analytics to let you know whether or not your messages are falling flat.

Agiloft Contract Management

AgiloftFree at Agiloft offers nearly unlimited customizations that bend and twist to how your company typically handles its contract management. There's a free option that's capable of supporting companies with less than five contract administrators. If you need to go bigger, then you'll have to upgrade to the enterprise edition (which is a bit pricier). Either way, you're working with the best contract management solution on the market, one that's limitless in its potential to automate and simplify how you create, manage, and store your contracts.

Zenefits Z2

Human resources (HR) software and management system ZenefitsFree at YourPeople, Inc offers excellent benefits administration, integration with most of the industry's popular payroll tools, and its own regionally-based payroll tool. It offers a sleek UI and benefits marketplace designed to look like an e-commerce portal, both of which encourage users to take advantage of the tool rather than run away from it (as with other HR tools).


If you're more interested in managing your social campaigns than you are in measuring them, then try HootsuiteFree at Hootsuite. This tool scales as you grow by letting you pay for extras (rather than bundling everything into one price package). Hootsuite offers the most comprehensive package of listening, publishing, and third-party integration options for businesses of all sizes.

Spiceworks Network Monitor

Managing your technology infrastructure shouldn't be a task exclusive to large enterprises. If you need to understand how your apps, servers, and websites are performing, then Spiceworks Network MonitorFree at Spiceworks offers incredible network monitoring at no cost. It obviously doesn't have the complexity and extensibility of paid tools, but it's serviceable enough to oversee your network processes and alert you to issues before they become disasters.

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BIFree at Microsoft takes business intelligence—what is normally a very complex and very expensive task—and turns it into something even a tech novice can accomplish. It's a free tool that lets you drag, drop, customize, and analyze data, up to 1 GB. If you need more storage, then you can upgrade for just $10 per month to increase your data tenfold. This will also give you access to custom content packs and the ability to interact with other Microsoft Office 365$6.99 at Microsoft users.


FreshdeskFree at Freshdesk is simple to use, with an advanced feature set, at an affordable price. Freshdesk excels is in its ticket management, which allows helpdesk tickets to be assigned to individual agents depending upon what work is required. The system itself can do a good job of automatically performing certain tasks based upon what an incoming ticket requires, which means those commonly asked questions can have useful replies automatically generated and delivered by the system.
FreshserviceFree at Freshservice isn't the most well-known helpdesk software but it's an ideal tool for small businesses that don't need all of the bells and whistles of better-known tools. What is most appealing about FreshService (especially for SMBs) is that it offers a free plan that's good enough to help you get started. No, this isn't a free trial; it's an actual free service that requires no payment whatsoever. With that, you'll gain access to online help and tutorial videos that will show you how to get started and optimize your service operation.


If you're looking to turn your email and CRM practices into long-lasting customer engagements, thentool. HubSpot is easy to use, scales as you grow, and, though not inexpensive, is nevertheless affordable at every experience level. Additionally, HubSpot lets you add basic CRM and sales tools to your marketing automation software at no extra cost. This is a wonderful feature for startups and small companies that are just getting their operations off the ground.


If your small business isn't very tech-savvy, then you'll love , FREE for 5 Zaps or $15.00 at Zapier. This tool is designed to connect disparate apps to let you run automations (or "Zaps") without having to write any code. Although there is a free tier available for very small businesses and freelancers, the company's Work account connects more than 750 apps and lets you run multi-step automations across three or more different tools. So, if you use three or more of the tools in Zapier's roster, then you'll be able to push and pull data from one to the other to build automated processes. For example, when your marketing automation tool's lead form generates a contact, a Zap will push the contact's data into your CRM tool. A second Zap will add the contact's social media credentials to a social listening tool, and a third Zap will push a chat message to a salesperson asking him or her to reach out via Twitter.


Similar to Zapier, IFTTTFree at iTunes Store connects 400 apps and services without requiring you to know how to code. IFTTT stands for "if this, then that," which is how the company's "Applets" help you automate actions across software (similar to the scenario I detailed earlier). IFTTT is as capable and as easy to use as Zapier, but it has about 350 fewer tools to connect than Zapier. So, when you're deciding between these two automation powerhouses, make sure you run down their rosters to determine which one contains more of your favorite apps.

How to run a great project discovery workshop

Ask the Right Questions.

A common cause of project failure or an unhappy client at the end of a project is that the client didn’t get what they thought they’d be getting. It’s no one’s fault in particular; clients can find it hard define their briefs and as agencies, we can be guilty of not being clear about what we’re actually delivering. So how can we ensure that we’re all on the same page?

It starts off during the project kick-off meeting and continues in the discovery or project initiation phase of a project. In the initial project discovery workshop, we need to ask the right questions to provide our clients with the opportunity to tell us all that the things they meant to, but perhaps forgot about. At the start of any project, we can easily get bogged down in the detail of one particular area rather than thinking about the project in its entirety and asking questions that cover strategy, user experience, content, creative, technical and PM requirements.

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.”  – Francis Bacon

The key is  for us to ask the right questions, at the right time. We need to know what questions we should be asking, when. The purpose of this article is to explore some of those table stake questions during a project discovery workshop – a checklist to capture basic project information so that there are no big surprises mid-way through a project. The goal is to understand one another’s unwritten assumptions.

Simon Ash has a helpful framework for understanding where we should start: “The good news is that the core questions needed are actually embedded in language.  The seven basic interrogative questions of what, where, why, when, who, how and which are the triggers needed to unlock any problem; it is then just about understanding their application.”

Below is by no means an exhaustive list, nor a structure for a workshop, but intended as a starting point for conversation during initial discovery workshops. This list isn’t meant to be used as a questionnaire for clients to complete, but as a framework to help understand our clients’ customers’ needs, and their business problem so  that we can properly architect an appropriate solution.

Goals – Why are we doing this? What are the goals for this website? What are the KPI’s? How will we measure and evaluate success? How will it help your bottom line? What does it need to achieve from a business perspective? What should it accomplish? How do the business objectives align to unmet consumer needs?

Messaging – What key messages to be communicated? What’s the one thing that we want people to think / feel / do? What can we say to make them do it? How does this fit into the broader marketing and communication strategy? How does this stack up against competitive positioning? What are we communicating that’s different; what’s our unique selling proposition (USP)?

User Experience
Audience – Who are we trying to communicate to? Who are your primary/secondary/tertiary audiences? Why? Is that different from your desired audience? What are their demographics? Why would they come to visit? When do they come? Why would they come back?

User journeys – Who are the users of the site? What are their different needs? What do we want them to do? What are the current barriers? How can we increase customer satisfaction? How can we generate loyalty? How can we drive conversion?

Functionality – What types of functionality beyond static content pages is required? Browser detection? Geo-IP detection? Multilingual support? Shopping cart or eCommerce? Data capture? Forms? Print screen? Cookies? Dynamic content? Interactive maps? Store locators? Blogs? Events calendar? Jobs listings? A feed for frequently updated content? A photo gallery? Social integration? Why is it needed? How will this functionality achieve our business objectives?

Usability – What are the requirements for us to do user testing? What devices are we supporting? What browsers are we supporting? What platforms are we building for? What is the minimum screen size we should develop for each? What are the requirements and standards for accessibility compliance?

Types – What is the content we will load onto the site? Is it repurposing old content or creating new content? How many sections of content will there be? What pages are required? What are the different content types we need to support? Why is it needed? What will it achieve? How will the content be meshed together? How does the content relate to other content?

Management –Who will write it? When will it be ready? Who will load content onto the site? Who will maintain it? What workflow and permission levels, approvals are required?

Localisation – How many markets need to be supported? How many different languages within those markets? What are the content differences between different markets? When do the different markets need to be launched? What other market specific requirements should we be aware of?

Look & feel – What creative have you seen that you like? What don’t we like? Why?

Assets – What branding work has already been done? How popular is it internally and externally with customers? Where can we find brand assets – logos, brand guidelines, photography?

Brand Guidelines – How well defined are the brand guidelines? How rigid is the existing style guide?

Tone – Are there existing websites that you like that would provide creative insight into a desired look and feel? Is there an emotional end-state we’d like to have your audience walk away with?

URL – What is the URL for this site? Who is the current domain registrar?  How will we support multilingual markets?

Hosting – Who is hosting the site? IIS or Apache Linux or Windows or other? What is the current load on the server? Are databases being used, if so, what type? Are there database preferences? What backup mechanisms are required? Will there be spikes in traffic requiring a content delivery network (CDN) like AWS, Akamai or Limelight?

Legacy integration – What existing systems will this website need to connect with?

Security – Will we need to create user accounts? Will encryption be required? Will there be password-protected areas? What personal data will we need to store and secure?

Development preferences – Are we building on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal or Sitecore? Is there a development framework we need to use? What devices, browsers and platforms need support?

Tracking – What are the KPI’s? Will we track using analytic tools like Webtrends, Google Analytics or other measurement technologies like ClickTale or something more comprehensive like Adobe SiteCatalyst?

Project Management
Process – How does this project relate to other live projects? What’s the project plan? What are we going to do (SoW)? What is the running order for activities (methodology)?  When (timing plan)? How much will it cost (budget)?

Communication – What are the best communication channels to use? Who needs to be involved, when? What tools will we use to communicate, collaborate and share?

Governance – How are we going to manage the process? Who are the stakeholders? Who’s responsible, accountable, consulted informed?  How will we manage any changes in requirements?

Approval process – How will we effectively manage the project team and the stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle?

Project management – How are we tracking progress to ensure we’re meeting the defined requirements, running on time, and keeping to budget? When is the deadline for live date? Why? What is driving the requirement to meet that date?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cloud Computing: Evolution in the next year or so.

Cloud computing has been developing rapidly since the term was coined in 2006. It’s played an integral role in the transformation of many businesses over the last decade, particularly valued for the reliability, scalability and versatility that cloud technology brings compared to traditional dedicated servers. And this race to the cloud will only gather pace as technology matures.
Having the ability to understand, evaluate and implement cloud computing is crucial for today’s business leaders, regardless of whether they operate in IT or not. As business needs evolve, so too does cloud infrastructure. There has been a strong growth within the private and hybrid cloud computing market, and in the next twelve months we can only expect that the technology will gain further importance and adoption. Research company IDC’s findings back this prediction up, by pointing out that a year ago traditional data centres accounted for 62 per cent of IT infrastructure spending, while public cloud captured 23 per cent and private cloud, 15 per cent. Illustrating a rapid shift, IDG predicts that by 2020 data centres will represent 50 per cent of the market, with public cloud forming just under a third of the market and private cloud making up 20 per cent. In simple terms, data centres’ importance is diminishing, while public and private cloud technology’s value and usability is growing and gaining traction. As the current cloud landscape is changing, what can we expect from this market in 2018?

Hybrid cloud computing will gain traction

Going back to basics, a hybrid cloud enables businesses to use a combination of different cloud model types. For example: a public cloud with a private cloud, or one private cloud with another one, or one public cloud with a second public cloud. Some businesses see hybrid cloud use as a way to deal with IT demand peaks, while others view it as a central management experience. Many companies tend to start working with hybrid clouds to complement their present investments. For instance, as most businesses usually use a sliding scale for what aspects of their operations are most crucial, some would place the less valuable or security-demanding areas in the public cloud. Meanwhile, other aspects that need more control and safety would be directed to the private cloud within that hybrid cloud space. This way, they can control and oversee their operations and systems management. With the increasing adoption of hybrid cloud computing, we will see the market grow steadily.
While last year was important for experimenting and learning about the technology, cloud vendors will continue to crystallise their strategies throughout this year. One vivid example is Microsoft’s launch of private cloud platform Azure Stack, the purpose of which is to mirror the Azure public cloud. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services partnered with platform virtualisation giant VMware, to offer a new hybrid cloud extension. Further, Oracle and IBM now have their own hybrid cloud offerings. These are only a few examples of how, as major cloud vendors’ strategies are gelling, they will gain momentum as their clients continue to seek the best ways to manage their public and private clouds.
Another important development will be the optimisation of connections to the cloud. Very few companies use only one cloud model – many have both public and private clouds. This means that if a business uses a hybrid cloud, it can certainly benefit from access to an optimised network connection to that cloud. This need has led to a growth in the interconnection providers market, known as multi-clouds, and as hybrid cloud computing becomes popular, businesses will need to prioritise creating, maintaining and optimising such connections.

The emergence of multi-clouds

With the increased exploration of hybrid cloud, people will also start turning their heads to emerging options such as multi-clouds, which are naturally evolving from hybrid cloud use. Multi-clouds enable the use of multiple cloud computing services in a single infrastructure. For example, a company can use separate cloud providers for its infrastructure and software services, or it can use a number of infrastructure providers for a variety of workloads. This is when multi-cloud architecture comes into play, as it enables businesses to increase their cloud operations’ availability. So, if one of the cloud vendors in the architecture is experiencing a problem, the business can switch workloads from it to a different vendor’s infrastructure.
There are a number of reasons why multi-clouds will become increasingly powerful and valued. They enable the complete integration of all the prevalent public clouds like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. They also optimise multi-cloud management into one sole activity, by allowing a wide-ranging cloud network to exist in a single platform. Furthermore, multi-clouds enable the automation of IT networking, which makes it easy to connect to and switch between public and private clouds. More importantly, centralised cloud networking management enables a business to access, control, analyse and trace faults in all its cloud resources in one unifying place. This can bring business optimisation and increased efficiency – and what business doesn’t want that?
All of this means that the emergence, and eventually adoption, of multi-cloud computing focuses on connectivity and therefore brings more relevance to networking and to the easier ways of managing networks. Having looked at the emerging cloud options and the changing landscape, we also need to consider the reasons why more enterprises turn to cloud providers.

The hyperscale of cloud providers

Amazon, Microsoft and Google’s cloud infrastructure is on such a large scale, that we talk about them as a hyperscale cloud, as opposed to a mere cloud. While they offer a hosting service that is safe, scalable and global, they are also constantly innovating and collaborating, ensuring that they’re experiencing immense growth because of it. Hyperscale providers are in a features arms race, the latest battleground being the creation of machine learning and artificial intelligence platforms, steadily revolutionising these spaces. Over the next twelve months we can be certain to observe a further consolidation of their services, with hyperscale providers building platforms that are easy to consume and reduce operational costs. This will naturally lead to decreasing cloud expenditure as these become more mature, more accessible and easier to work with, driving a further decline in traditional computing.
Companies’ digital transformations have come a long way, but as cloud platforms continue to innovate and as machine learning and artificial intelligence become increasingly efficient, businesses need to carefully evaluate what is right for them long term. This is not a decision that can just be taken by the IT team any more. Consequently, many organisations, wondering where to start, turn to managed service providers accredited by hyperscale cloud providers, as they can design and deliver bespoke cloud computing solutions that are tailored to an organisation’s specific needs. Using the help of a trusted expert and solution-led infrastructure company is often the best way to solve a business challenge with technology, and to be safely guided through the journey to the cloud.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Experience Design

The Art of Experience Design

"Making technology easy to use."

Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, omni-channel journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions.

A meta discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, product design, strategic design, information design, information architecture, ethnography, marketing and brand strategy, strategic management and strategy consulting, interaction design, service design, storytelling, agile, lean startup, technical communication, and design thinking.

A design practice focused on human outcomes, in particular the level of engagement and satisfaction that the user derives from a product or service and the relevance of the experience to their needs and context.

Nailing down precisely what experience design is and how it relates to design as a whole isn’t simple.

“The terminology is still very new and its definition is in flux,” explains Deloitte Digital's experience designer Jani Modig, who considers the field “the bridge between business and design, combining organisational strategies and different design disciplines from UX to service design”.

David Eveleigh-Evans, chief creative officer at international experience design firm Method, has a similar take, calling it “an approach to design that enables you to think about the connection between business and its customers by defining the relationship they have”.

If this all sounds very abstract - and experience design often is - it's useful to cite some concrete examples of this all-encompassing approach to it. One often-quoted of how broad experience design can be is of the bank whose new website's online services were designed to replace many branch services, and so what branches were for - and therefore their design and branding - had to change to reflect business services replacing tellers.

Another example that always comes up on conversations about experience design is Apple. Seen as being at the forefront of experience design, the company's brand and approach to customer experiences defines what products it develops and how they work through to the minuitest detail of even purely digital apps.
A key reason, then, for taking an experience design approach is the increased interconnectedness of everything. “Customers don’t see differences between channels — mediums of interaction — and so jump from one to the other and expect the same seamless experience everywhere,” says Jani. “Experience design allows organisations to think where, when and how an organisation interacts with its customers.”

This can happen in the most mundane of places. Dan Harris, service design director at service design consultancy Fjord, says because people increasingly use social networks and web-connected services, their expectations of things like banks are now radically different, and so such institutions must change how they work internally and through interfaces (including websites and apps) to meet that challenge — “a huge area of design opportunity, because we can go out, understand what people value and see where their expectations truly lie, and help clients provide that experience and that service”.

David says this extends to countless products and services that have a disconnect with their brands: “They have a certain market image, but your expectation isn’t met when using the product. They have less quality and are poorly executed. Even Apple struggles with its huge ecosystem”.

A key experience design benefit for a business is to ‘fix’ this, and have everything driven from brand intention: “The promise of a brand and delivering that as a pure, clean way of creating the experience, through engagement and relationship to the customers — at every point of interaction.”

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Emerging Web Design Trends 2018.

Simply having a website isn't enough in 2018. Take a look at the web design trends you'll need to stand out this year.
Web design's a fast moving industry. With so many factors at play, from new tech to changes in consumer tastes, there's a lot of moving parts to it.You need to know what you're doing before you dive in if you're going to create something you and your users can get any value out of. In today's article, we'll be looking at some of the biggest web design trends of 2018. With these in your arsenal, you'll be at the top of your web design game.
But why take our word for it? Get in touch with us, today, for more on how you can take your online presence to new heights, this year.
In the meantime, join us, as we look at what's going down in web design trends for 2018!


In April this year, Android has officially overthrown Windows as the primary web-browsing trend out there. While it is true that tablets and desktop devices still have higher conversion rates, smartphones dominate the Asian market, which is currently becoming one of the greatest trading hubs in the world. Therefore, in order to approach the ever-growing demographic of mobile users, you might want to further invest in making your website mobile-first.
On the other hand, it is a known fact that about 90 percent of the time on their smartphones people spend on apps, rather than on browsers. This is what made some people question whether investing in mobile-optimization is even worth the effort. Still, considering how little effort and investment this idea may yield, as well as how great of an ROI it brings, going with mobile-first design indeed seems like a win-win scenario.

Authentic content

Another thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that the online audience values authenticity above all else. This especially takes prominence when it comes to the issue of images and illustrations. You see, using a generic image to back your content may be fairly successful but it will never have the impact of an image taken especially for that situation. With about 1.3 billion websites out there, it is getting harder and harder to appear unique, so tailoring your content to appear as a single-purposed might just be the tool that can win over your audience.

Hand-crafted design

Earlier on, we addressed the issue regarding the ever-growing websites out there. With the number constantly on the rise, it is getting harder and harder to distinguish yourself in a positive way. Sure, going for a free template might seem like a more frugal choice but how can you quantify losses you will endure due to the fact that your website appears generic? The truth is that when it comes to web design there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. This is also why web design veterans from Bapple focus on hand-crafting high-performance business websites, in order to create a unique impression on your audience.

Homepage videos

According to one conversion-rate statistic, including an introduction video before offering your audience a CTA (call-to-action) button can increase your conversion rate by 144 percent. This is why so many companies nowadays decide to use this tactic on their very homepage. One major drawback of this tactic is a fact that the video needs to be of a high-production value, which makes it quite costly to produce. First of all, you need a great script, an adequate gear and someone with either great editorial skills or at least a naturally gifted orator on your retainer. This is also what makes so many websites outsource this function, which is also quite expensive.
Check out two of our latest clients who use home Page Videos

RhythmHealth Clinic

Daring shapes and colours

Finally, even in the era where minimalism and flat design seem as predominant forces, going with daring shapes and colours does have its advantages. The perfect example of this is the trend of brutalism which draws inspiration from the Soviet-era Eastern Europe architecture. Odd and unpredictable geometrical shapes dominate the landscape of brutalist web design, as well as colour combinations that even some of the most experienced web designers wouldn’t even dream of.
The key here is to attract the attention of your website’s visitors at any cost. Surprisingly enough, this design trend which so many professionals deem as ‘ugly’ manages to succeed where all other trends have failed. So, if we are speaking of results only, brutalism is definitely not a force to be reckoned with and not an idea you should outright dismiss.
As you can see, with these few revolutionary ideas at your side, you have all the tools necessary to start making your mark in the digital world. Keep in mind that even though some of these trends may give you great immediate results, there is no guarantee that they will still be valid for several years or even months. The key to survival, therefore, rests on your ability to adapt to the newly changed circumstances in the world of web design. Luckily, succeeding at this daunting task will be more than worth your while.


Where and how to use your lettering. Just because it's a classic design issue, doesn't mean it's not still incredibly important. The size and shape of typography are as big of a concern in 2018 as they've ever been.Companies the world over are incorporating bold fonts that make a statement into their home and landing pages.The idea is to balance this out with simplistic, clean content. The bold typography serves as an anchor, instead of pelting the user with giant letters, with the smaller font toning it down, nicely.
If you're looking for web design trends to help you stand out in 2018, start with typography.
As the user experience becomes more sophisticated, people need simple functions, more than ever. They also want to know, quickly, when something changes On desktops and mobile, we see micro-interactions as web trends becoming increasingly popular.
These are single-use animations, buttons and design elements that affect the way users interact with a website.
Examples of micro-transactions include:
  • Drag refresh, which allows mobile users to pull down on your site to refresh it easily.
  • Like and unlike buttons, which give users a short, easy window in which to comment on your posts or features.
  • Hover animations, which display information about different sections of your site.
  • Scrolling graphs, which allow users to see whatever piece of information they want to look at right now, without taking up the entire screen.
  • These micro-interactions help to make your site more intuitive for the user to navigate.

    Improved Navigation

    As we move into the end of the year, we see web design trends of 2017 starting to drop off the design elements of their past. One field where this is quite obvious in navigation.
    Specifically, the hamburger menu. Originally introduced to remove information off of a website's homepage, the hamburger menu has been around for years.
    The three-lined menu icon found in the top corners of many mobile websites are a great space saver, but they have one very obvious drawback:
    They add to the number of clicks a user needs to get to whatever it is they're looking for.In website design, more clicks are almost always worse. Many websites are starting to shift over to a single bar menu at the top of the screen instead of this classic design element, and have been for some time.
    Expect to see fewer hamburgers in 2018, but, also, new takes on the classic design. After all, the hamburger menu was designed to save space, and it does that well. It makes sense that designers would want to keep it around, albeit with some improvements. Navigation doesn't need to be kept in the foreground of a website, either.
    It's become popular to use pop-out toolbars and hidden menus for maneuvering around a site. This keeps the site clean, showing off all the hard work you've put into your design while giving the user a full range of controls over what they want to do.
    A word of caution on this idea: make sure you keep your tools obvious, even when they're hidden. It doesn't help to tidy up your landing page by moving the buttons out of the way if nobody can find them.

    Conversational Interfacing

    AI's not exactly a new concept. Everything from operating systems to video games has been aping the idea since before the turn of the millennium. What you need to know about AI web design trends in 2018, though, is that they're slowly becoming more common than they've ever been. It all comes down to communication. People are using websites like Facebook and Slack to communicate via text more and more.
    And, with bots becoming more realistic every year, sales automation is set to become fully automated sooner rather than later. What does this change about the design of your website? Not much, practically, but it should influence how you think about what you include in that design.
    Conversational bots are a useful tool for setting yourself apart, especially if you use them to address the actual needs of your users. Incorporating machine learning into the way these bots operate is a great way to give yourself a competitive edge, design wise.

    360 Videos and VR

    2016 was a good year for VR. Hemingway Editor Increased virtual reality development and marketing saw sales of headsets and apps skyrocket. More people began using this tech than ever before, bringing it into the mainstream. With the launch of the refined Hololens in 2017 and improvements in WebVR support, 2018 doesn't show any signs of slowing this trend.
    And then there's the question of 360 videos. With big name sites like YouTube leading the way in VR and 360-degree video support, the tech still hasn't reached a lot of the lower-rung websites. Browser-based VR experiences are set to become the next big thing in web design trends, this year. Make sure you're ready for when it does.

    Thursday, April 13, 2017

    Resize the label column in Gmail

    By default, Gmail doesn’t offer a lot of customization options aside from its themes, display density and inbox tabs. You cannot really adjust or resize some of its elements like its label columns and message details panel. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these limitations.


    • To get started, simply download and install a free browser extension/Gmail add-on called “Gmail label column resizer”.
    • After installing the said extension, just go ahead and open a new tab and then log in to your Gmail account. If you’re accessing Gmail via Chrome Incognito, then you need to make sure that the Gmail label column resize is also allowed to run in your browser’s Incognito window.
    • After logging in to your Gmail account, take a look at the divider that separates your inbox or email messages from your email labels.

    • Place your mouse cursor over the divider. To adjust the size of the left panel, simply left-click, hold and drag your mouse away or closer to your email labels.

      Adjust away !

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    Tuesday, February 2, 2016

    How we work and Deliver at 2Create360: Web Site

    How we work

    The way we work defines what we produce. That is why we work within a framework that ensures high quality. These guiding principles are built on years of experience and best practice within the industry. If you choose to work with us, these will be the principles we follow.

    Work collaboratively

    At 2Create360 we work collaboratively, both with our clients and each other. Designer, developer, project manager, client and other stakeholders in a project should be actively engaged with each other and the project. Effective websites cannot be produced in isolation.

    Design with data

    Design is subjective. What one person loves, another hates. Therefore the only way of being sure of the most effective design is to test and test often.
    We should be gathering data at every step of the web design process, from initial research through to design and usability testing. This data should be informing our design, rather than it being at the whim of personal opinion or company politics.

    Build through iteration

    Developing a website should be an iterative process. A website should pass through a cycle of development, testing and refinement many times before launch. Where possible we should launch early with a minimal viable product and refine that as we observe real users interacting with the site.

    Work from user needs

    The design process should always begin with identifying users and their needs. Early in the process user stories should be created and customer journeys explored. These should be used as the basis for all decisions about the direction of the final deliverable. If a feature or piece of content does not meet a users need, a strong case needs to be made for its inclusion.

    Business objectives focused

    Although user needs should drive a project, this needs to be within the context of the business objectives. Clearly defined business objectives should be established up front. They should be translated into measurable key performance indicators that are continually tracked. If a feature cannot be justified in terms of return on investment, it shouldn’t be built just because there is a user-based desire for it.

    User experience extends beyond the website

     2Create360recognises that the user experience extends beyond the website. We therefore consider it important to map the entire user journey and consider the website within the context of social media, mobile and offline touch points.

    Our work should be accessible

    We believe that websites should be accessible to the broadest possible audience. This means websites should be accessible to users with physical or cognitive impairments, but also users on older technology, with poor connectivity or using alternative devices. We believe this should be achieved not through multiple sites or applications, but using progressive enhancements and techniques such as responsive design.

    We are client centric

    We believe it is not enough to provide our clients with an effective website. We also need to create a websites that our clients love. Our clients have to work with their websites long term so it is important that they are passionate about it. We achieve this by ensuring the process of creating a website is enjoyable and that our clients feel a sense of ownership over the final result.

    Always educating

    Our role is not just to build websites. It is also to educate our clients about digital best practice. It is our job to empower our clients through education and equip them to run their own online presence. Alongside this we are also committed to educating the broader web community and promoting best practice whenever possible.

    Keep looking ahead

    Finally, we are committed to keeping our clients informed about new innovations. New developments in best practice continually appear and we see it as our role to remain at the forefront of these changes.

    That said, 2Create360 does not believe in applying cutting edge techniques to client projects. New techniques need time to mature before being applied to business critical systems. Although we look to the horizon we are focused on what can be safely implemented today.

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    Search Engine Optimization and Why it Matters

    SEO. Sure, you’ve heard about it. The ambiguous, ever-changing process of improving a website’s visibility in search engine results and earning traffic. That was a mouthful. As a business owner, it’s important to know what SEO can do for you. Do it well, and it could be what takes your business to the next level. Do it poorly, and people will have to use the Yellow Pages to find your business.
    Before we get to the juicier stuff about SEO and how it can benefit your business, let’s cover the basics.

    How SEO works

    Google and other search engines use “robots” (often called “spiders” or “crawlers”) to gather and store the information from each page of your website. When someone searches for a term online, those search engines process all of the information they’ve gotten from all the sites they’ve “crawled”. Then they present a list of results with the most relevant sites listed first.
    Google’s search algorithms analyse the quality and relevance of your site’s information. If the material is top notch and the technical aspects of your website are clean, your website’s ranking will typically be pretty high. Of course, other components play a role in your website’s overall rank. But understanding what Google rewards and penalises is critical.

    The parts of SEO

    If you’re a beginner, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation – and it means just that. It’s a practice used to grow visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. To rank highly you need to make sure your website is technically sound. You also need to publish creative, unique and valuable content on your website to make it stand out. Let’s break it down.
    Technical elements of on-page SEO include:
    *list not exhaustive
    • making sure all key pages can be indexed
    • managing redirects and domain migrations
    • optimising title tags and descriptions
    • including primary keyword in header tags, on-page content, image filenames and alt text
    • listing clean and short URLs (breadcrumb structure is advised – example:
    • optimising for mobile
    Creative and strategic elements include:
    *list not exhaustive
    • conducting proper keyword research to understand what people are searching online relative to your business
    • developing quality content (editorial, graphics, video, podcast, etc.) to answer questions that your audience might be asking relative to your business
    • using rich snippet formats to be more visible in search results
    • understanding where your audience falls along the sales funnel and building content to answers those questions

    SEO is not a “set it and forget it” programme

    Once all the nuts and bolts are figured out – wait, no – the nuts and bolts won’t ever be fully figured out, because SEO is constantly evolving. Search algorithms are regularly updated to make the web experience more intuitive and sophisticated. It’s important to understand how these changes affect your website. By doing so, you can be better prepared to manage the consequences – good or bad.
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    Monday, January 25, 2016

    Demystifying the Cloud

    Demystifying the  Cloud

    For many people a computer is all but invisible (until it stops working). It’s something they use every day to complete mundane but essential tasks attached to running a business; invoicing, spread sheets, email and maybe some basic research if they can filter out the noise that’s returned in the average web search. This is especially true if you come from the same generation as we do; digital-migrants. We weren’t born with a silver mouse wired up to our umbilical-cord. We had to learn things the hard way when the desktop computer really was a temperamental beast, little understood and to be feared and revered.

    But now computers and smartphones are more powerful and easier to use than ever before. The processor running your average smartphone packs more digital punch than the ones used to put man on the moon. Around 2.5 billion people are connected to the Internet and that figure is set to explode as mobile Internet takes over. Ten years ago there were just 700 million mobile devices; today there are already nearly 5 billion, and some manufacturers predict that figure will rise to a jaw-dropping 50 billion by 2020; that’s one heck of a lot of ways to connect and only a fool would still be clinging to the notion that the Internet isn’t relevant to their business.

    Because of this accessibility there is an ever-expanding population who are choosing to work completely ‘in the cloud’.

    But what is the cloud?

    In this context by ‘cloud’ we broadly just mean ‘the Internet’. This simplification is no doubt going to rankle some network specialists as they have pretty much hijacked the term ‘cloud computing’ over the past decade, applying it to ‘enterprise platforms’ and special closed networks built and maintained to serve  private companies.

    The dictionary definition of cloud computing is:

    n: a model of computer use in which services stored on the Internet are provided to users on a temporary basis

    By that definition the Internet itself is the ‘mother’ of all clouds.

    So someone who is ‘working in the cloud’ is accessing documents, files and information, through services and applications hosted somewhere on the Internet rather than saved on the computer sitting under their desk. Things stored ‘in the cloud’ are accessible through an Internet browser, or maybe a dedicated application you can download to your mobile or desktop device. This means you can set up office pretty much anywhere you can find an Internet connection, which makes for a very flexible business model.

    We get asked a lot about cloud security – and of course there are risks. The same as there are risks crossing the road to get to the newsagent in the morning. You need to be smart about the products and services you trust with sensitive data – make sure they employ good security. You wouldn’t go out for the day and leave your front door keys with a stranger who was passing by on the street would you? So don’t leave your data lying around on unsecured servers run by companies you know nothing about. Read reviews; ask questions in discussions groups and forums; ask your peers and social connections for recommendations. If you see a company you like a quick Google search will normally turn up any red flags as there will be plenty of people posting negative feedback and complaints online if they aren’t living up to their promises.

    To free, or not to free?

    • While We are big believer in things being free online, or at the very least offered with a free trial or cut-down features, when it comes to secure data  services you are better off looking for a good, well-established provider that charges a reasonable fee and is investing that money into maintaining up-to-date secure technology. ‘Free’ is all very well, but you’re not a customer if you’re not paying for anything, which means your satisfaction is never going to be the number one priority for the service provider.

    • The other question we get asked a lot is “what if the cloud service goes down?” It’s true, servers can crash and if you’re based solely in the cloud this could interrupt your workflow. It’s also possible that your computer could crash. You might spill a cup of tea on it or have a power-outage or fire in your neighbourhood. Stuff happens. At least if you data is stored in the cloud you can recover from localised problems by heading off to your nearest Internet cafe or WiFi-friendly coffee shop.

    • When it comes to connection speed  it’s not as clear cut. Some people still live in areas with poor connectivity – in which case the cloud is not going to be ideal . Likewise if you deal constantly with huge files like high-resolution images and video you will spend a lot of time uploading and downloading from the Internet – so not ideal when it comes to storing and working with material every day. But you don’t need to go 100% cloud to start feeling the benefits. Just using a cloud email provider like Google Apps will make it easier to send and receive emails on the go. And even if you just store a few essential word documents and presentations somewhere like Dropbox or Google Dive, you need never be left red-faced and under-prepared at a meeting again.

    Failing that you could just use the Internet to explore and download the countless array of amazing business tools and resources that can be saved on your own hard drive for use when you’re offline.