Archive | May, 2010

SEO is not a means to its own end

I recently had a chat with the director of a small engineering company who wanted to improve search engine rank. They had been advised by a representative of a well known business directory (that has something to do with the colour yellow) that by tarting their website up with some new content, graphics and a whole bunch of keyword-laden hidden text (I can only assume this guy had been on a loooong holiday) that their search engine results will trump those of their competitors’ – ergo, their company would somehow, perhaps by osmosis, become more successful than their competitor.

I couldn’t conscientiously take this work on without enquiring why the gentleman thought a better search engine result would guarantee he would get more business than his competitor. A higher ranking does not mean you will crush the competition. Only high quality, relevant and helpful content is going to convince them that you are the guys for the job. Read More…

Another logo design goes live –

The brief was to create a fun logo for a company dealing in kids clothing and accessories. I didn’t want to create an image specifically of babies, or at older kids, so I pitched somewhere in between – kind of young toddler looking, with a cheakiness and bounce. I really didn’t want to follow the modern trend for ultra minimalist presentations, and owner Kay Dickinson was more than happy to let the brakes off!

Setting the mood

We started out with the head – so big stick out ears, and a gummy tooth was the order of the day – and the curly wisp of hair added a finishing touch to the little fella.

The face I had drawn really set the mood for the rest of the design, so then I started trawling through typefaces for something suitable. It had to be playful, without being too whacky. Typically, Ray Larabie came to the rescue with his MinyaNouvelle font – which proved perfect once it had been beefed up with some outlines. Then it was a case of adding some feet, finger tips, tummy, and a few other tweaks until we arrived at the final approved design – ta da!

Tiny Steps Kids Logo

We are happy to be helping relaunch their website, and hope to add another customer to our portfolio soon!

Font combinations that work together well

I’ve got a logo and I’m going to use it! This is the attitude of many companies after purchasing a shiny new logo. However, your brand or trademark is only part of the story when it comes to presenting a professional image to the world at large.

A poor or non-existent house style is a recipe for diluting your message, and confusing your prospective customers. Engaging different people to design your website, stationery, and marketing materials requires a strict set of rules, otherwise your company image is going to dissolve like a sugar cube in a hot cup of tea! A good house style will define at least things like:

  • logo usage, particularly minimum spacing from surrounding elements, if it’s colours and background colours are mixed, and so on.
  • Colours to be used in presentations – in particular to type/text.
  • The typographical rules to follow – in particular, the font families to be used and where they should be applied.

There are so many fonts – which do I choose?

Some designers can become truly evangelical about their beliefs on the topic, and may even appear to vanish up their own posteriors – so be careful not to get too bogged down with the finer nuances of type design – keep your feet on the ground, and get some advice from a designer who respects your budget and has a proven record of sensible typographical design under his/her belt.

Although there are literally tens of thousands of fonts out there, there are two main classifications which almost all fonts fall into, and everyone can understand without being an expert – Serif typefaces (e.g. Time Roman), which have terminators (serifs) of some sort on the end of their strokes, and Sans-Serif (e.g. Arial) which don’t.

In this example I am going to look at a simple masthead/heading and body text font combination. This is a good starting point for any typographical design strategy. I’m not a great fan of rules – and any designer like me will probably try it on from time to time with something different – but even designers who bend and break the rules (usually) do so with the following minima in mind. Read More…

PHP 301 Redirection – Web forwarding done right

HTTP RedirectionPHP 301 Redirection

Redirection is usually better done via .htaccess files, but in case your hosting provider doesn’t support this method, then you can achieve simple redirection on a per-page basis using PHP. This is the method I am going to discuss in this article.

When to use redirection

Lets’s say you had a page that was quite popular, but it had to move to a different place in your website. It is listed in google, and you don’t want to loose out by the page being unavailable after you delete the old one. Rather than just keeping the old page, and putting a message on it saying “this page has moved” (yuk!) – it would be much nicer if we could tell google (the the rest of the world) that your page has permanently moved. Read More…

Mission NPPL – 1st Cross Country Flight Completed

Another mission in the Ikarus C42 completed

Just an update on the Microlight flying front. For those who are reading this (does anybody?!) and don’t already know, since last year I’ve been training to get my pilot’s license – albeit the NPPL (a slightly more restricted version in terms of aircraft weight, but then I can’t afford to fly “real” aircraft on a regular basis). Last week, I managed to do my first qualifying solo cross country for my NPPL license. Quite a warm day, so I knew it was going to be a challenge for me, so I didn’t fly until the afternoon.

Once I had checked the NOTAMs, METARs and TAFs, I printed out the Met Office 214 and 215 charts and headed off down to the field to finish off calculating the wind/drift and fuel calcs, and inspect the trusty steed for flyability.

The plane (my old instructor, Ben, used to hate me calling an aircraft a plane) had recently been serviced, so was running sweet as a nut. Apart from almost flying into a buzzard on the way out to Shobdon, the trip was uneventful (the best kind).

Again, many thanks to Steve Wilkes of for letting me loose in his lovely Ikarus C42, and to Les for the constant encouragement!

Hardening WordPress – Password Protected Directory causing 404 errors

Securing WordPress Guide

WordPress SecuritySecuring your WordPress blog is quite important, especially once you start to get any attention – the hackers and script kiddies won’t be far behind! It’s not hard to take a number of steps to make life much harder for people who want to spoil your blog.

I’m going to document “timeless” techniques first, then look at some plugins. There are dozens of plugins for securing WordPress that can help with security, but plugins come and go (apart from a few), so I’m sticking to solid security measures.

Because there are always bug fixes, and new security exploits being patched, I won’t insult your intelligence by stating that you should keep your copy of WordPress up to date on your server  – oops, I just did!

Seriously, though, installing WordPress is the easy bit – you must keep it current to be secure. I could show you excerpts from our application firewall logs, and your toes would curl if you were aware of how many times your blog gets probed for various weaknesses and exploits. Read More…