Cardiff web design blog The latest news, hints and tips from Cardiff web designers VSI Thinking - www.vsi-thinking.com http://www.vsi-thinking.com/ en (C) 2015, VSI Thinking, www.vsi-thinking.com Sat, 30 May 2015 04:59:43 GMT Sat, 30 May 2015 04:59:43 GMT VSI Thinking, www.vsi-thinking.com Web design and web development Android Mobile Apps Cardiff http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/android-mobile-apps-cardiff http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/android-mobile-apps-cardiff Thu, 28 May 2015 09:09:00 GMT Cardiff web design Android Mobile Apps Cardiff

Our mobile apps developer has been utilising several different apps available on Google’s Android platform to help out with developing apps and getting the most from their Android device. Take a look...

Astro File Manager for Android Astro File Manager

File management is vital on Android as most mobile and tablet devices can expand their storage with memory cards so it’s sometimes necessary to transfer files from the card to the device, and vice versa; Astro File Manager makes it easy and it can even copy and transfer files from the cloud. Our Cardiff app developers like the ability to launch the appropriate mobile app to open a file you’ve located, so there’s no need to go sifting through your apps to open something.

EverNote for Android EverNote

When developing our app developer needs to take notes from clients to keep track of their requirements and requests, EverNote has proved to be a great solution. Not only can it be used to jot down text notes, it can also be used to collect photos and web pages which is great for collating example design elements. EverNote even works across multiple platforms so our Android developer can pass their notes on to other team members.

CleanMaster for Android CleanMaster

A vital part of Android app development is testing; as we thoroughly test our apps we have to ensure the device doesn’t have any previously stored files. CleanMaster is an app which can clear out the device’s cache and download history. This helps ensure our testing is carried out on a clean device, rather than using stored files. CleanMaster can also be used to free up space and resources on the device.

Fenix for Android Fenix for Twitter

Twitter is a great way for our Android developer to keep up to date with current news and local events however the standard Twitter app can make things a little hard to digest; Fenix adapts your Twitter feed into a user friendly, Android 5.0, style. It also has support for multiple Twitter accounts, making it easy to switch between personal and professional users.

IFTTT for Android IFTTT

Our Cardiff app development team has recently been using IFTTT on Android; this handy tool allows you to create tasks or processes which run when something else happens. So if the phone calendar has a meeting event the phone automatically goes to silent, or if a note is created it emails a copy to another contact. There’s a whole range of “recipes” available and it’s compatible with a number of different apps and services making it really versatile.

Think there’s another Android app out there which we should be using? Let us know in the comments section below our Cardiff app developer is always interested in great mobile apps.

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Ski Chalet Mobile Website Design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/ski-chalet-mobile-website-design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/ski-chalet-mobile-website-design Tue, 26 May 2015 01:02:00 GMT Cardiff web design Ski Chalet Mobile Website Design

Mobile traffic for travel websites has increased exponentially over the last few years, with over half of all traffic coming from tablet or mobile devices, as well as an increase in the number of users with mobile devices in general. Luxury Chalet Book have recently launched a new website for ski chalet booking, created by VSIthinking, which has been designed to allow for an adaptive approach to mobile styling whilst maintaining consistent content and options for all users. This article looks at four key areas of the website and how the design has considered the various device sizes.

Navigation

The first key difference when viewing the homepage is the menu. On the desktop site, this is a menu bar at the top of the page; however, this format is not ideal for touch screens, particularly for sub options of the top level menu items. For Luxury Chalet Book, both the tablet and mobile designs use a touch friendly menu, which slides in from the left hand side of the screen when clicking the ‘hamburger’ menu icon that has become a standard across web and application design.

Since the website features fantastic photography, the banner section had to remain prominent on all three devices, while maintaining the aspect ratio of the images to prevent stretching and distortion. The tablet and mobile designs take advantage of gestures to swipe between banner images, this is a substitution for the left and right arrows which appear on the desktop version when hovered over. Doing this makes the site more interactive and improves the user experience.

Chalet Search

A search panel is displayed at the top of the page when the ‘search’ icon has been clicked; the level of detail on this button varies depending on the device, with the mobile version using only the magnifying glass icon to keep the page header uncluttered as well as styling it to match the menu button. The search panel pops up on the screen with a variety of filter options, with the size of the inputs optimised to match the adaptive design, such as larger checkboxes and dropdown lists on the mobile layout. This further improves the usability of the site when on mobile.

Search Results

To improve the user experience on mobiles, the number of results displayed per page was reduced to avoid excessive scrolling, links to individual ski chalet pages were also increased in proportion to the screen size to aid navigation. Using an adaptive design allows the styling to make use of extended features for the different platforms, such as on the desktop site allowing hover over actions to create a more embellished design. An example of this is the chalet image zooming in when hovering over it. Search filters have also been designed to be easier to tap on, in a similar way to the ski chalet search.

Property Pages

The layout of property pages has been arranged in a grid format to allow for easier manipulation of content when adapting to various devices. This is shown most clearly in the mobile design, which takes the two column layout from the desktop and tablet designs and combines them into a single column design all while keeping the same level of detail in terms of content.

Take a look at the new Luxury Chalet Book website for yourself.

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Travel website Luxury Chalet Book http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/travel-website-luxury-chalet-book http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/travel-website-luxury-chalet-book Thu, 21 May 2015 10:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Travel website Luxury Chalet Book

Travel company chalet booking service ‘Luxury Chalet Booking’ has engaged VSIthinking to create an exclusive looking new website design. The business, run by Simon Gill, specialises in luxury chalets for the rich and famous throughout France, Switzerland, and Austria. Chalets can cost over £100,000 per week to hire and offer some of the most luxurious features such as discos, butler services, and fitness gyms.

The web design is aimed at high net worth individuals with an exclusive premium feel. Our travel web solutions combine the thinkCMS content management software and search engine optimisation with a product database. The product database has an easy to use web application allowing properties and prices to be added or amended with just a few clicks. Our travel web solutions automatically create search engine optimised chalet pages that can be found in searches and saved to a customer basket.

To complete the website experience there is not only social media integration, but visitors can create a basket of properties and share with their friends. Luxury Chalet Book are able to view and track all enquiries, chalets sent to a friend, and emails with the thinkVISION customer relationship management CRM solution.

Take a look at the newly launched website for Luxury Chalet Book, and find out more information about our travel websites.

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Windows Mobile Apps Developer http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/windows-mobile-apps-developer http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/windows-mobile-apps-developer Wed, 20 May 2015 10:08:00 GMT Cardiff web design Windows Mobile App Developer

With the range of software and apps available to help with app development, our resident Windows Mobile apps developer has taken us through a few different apps they use regularly to help them stay organised, create great content, and stay in the loop with the latest developments.

OneNote OneNote

If you just need to take a quick note or put together a list OneNote is a great tool. Our Windows app developer uses this for jotting down details in meetings and their notes can then sync to multiple devices. It’s even cross platform and works online so the notes can be shared internally, or passed along to a customer.

Files&Folders Lite Files&Folders Lite

Finding and organising the files on your mobile or tablet device can be quite tricky, using Files&Folders Lite our mobile app developer can quickly find the files they need, and organise resources into the correct folders. The finger friendly interface is actually a little easier to use than the standard Windows Explorer. It can even sync with files stored on Dropbox, to transfer and update files stored on the cloud.

To aid with developing apps we’ve previously used a few different app services including...

Trello Trello

With content for a mobile app often coming from a few different sources, such as text from a copy writer, images from the design team, it’s helpful to keep everyone on track. Trello is a project management app where you can assign and organise tasks and it works on different platforms as well. It’s been a great help and even inspired us to create thinkProject, our own project management service, which improves on many of the features of Trello.

Windows Insider Windows Insider

A crystal ball might offer a prediction but Windows Insider lets us see the future of Windows; giving us access to pre-release updates to Windows and review what changes are coming in the future. We can also access new app development tools the moment they’re available. Our Cardiff app developer is always checking this out and is hot on the heels of any new technology.

Fresh Paint FreshPaint

Finally we have FreshPaint, a great painting and photo editing tool which our Cardiff app development team us to create and mix colour palates and quickly draw out layouts and wireframes. We can even use it to enhance and augment regular photos.

Did we miss a great Windows mobile app? Let us know in the comments section below, our Cardiff mobile app developers are always on the look out for great apps.

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iOS Mobile Apps Cardiff http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/ios-mobile-apps-cardiff http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/ios-mobile-apps-cardiff Fri, 15 May 2015 03:42:00 GMT Cardiff web design iOS Mobile Apps Cardiff

Our iOS mobile app developer has shared their expert knowledge when it comes to getting the most from Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. Here are a few iOS mobile apps they use regularly that helps make their day to day work quicker and easier...

Swiftkey SwiftKey Keyboard

While the iOS autocorrect tool is helpful, it can still miss the occasional spelling mistake. The SwiftKey mobile app is an alternate keyboard for your iPad or iPhone where you swipe over the keys to type; it also includes auto correction to fix any inaccuracies making it a great way to type while on the move. It even learns what you’ve typed before to improve its suggested words. We have found that it dramatically decreases the time it takes to write on iOS phone and tablets and is a simple but must-have app.

File Browser File Browser

While it might sound like a simple file management mobile app, File Browser is actually far more useful. Our mobile developers liked the simple interface not only helps you manage and organise files, but it can also connect to different networks and access files stored on different servers. This handy feature makes it easy to transfer photos or notes on the device to the shared network in the office.

When it comes to developing apps, our mobile app developer uses a few different tools; aside from the programming this also includes producing text and images.

Dragon Dictate Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is an accurate speech recognition tool which is great for quickly producing copy from spoken word. It’s compatible with different apps, so it’s possible to write emails, draft blog posts, or even to take down a quick note for reference later. Developers use this to jot project notes and then transfer then to documentation.



VSCO Cam VSCO Cam

The stock camera app offers some basic functions but the VSCO Cam mobile app is a great improvement allowing full control over the camera settings. There’s a wealth of options over the shutter speeds, focus distance, exposure levels, and more. These options can either be set before taking a picture, or can be applied to a copy of the photo afterwards, ensuring you never lose the original.

 

Photoshop Touch Adobe Photoshop Touch

The last tool in our Cardiff app developer’s arsenal is Adobe Photoshop Touch, Photoshop is widely recognised as an industry leader for photo editing and the touch version is no different. All of the familiar tools and layer functions are available so it’s great for adjusting images while on the move. Our mobile app developer uses this to quickly sketch out wireframes and layouts when inspiration strikes.



All of the mobile apps are available in iTunes so why not give them a try, and if you think that we’ve missed a killer app feel free to add a comment below.

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thinkPROJECT - Track and Fix issues fast http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/thinkproject-track-and-fix-issues-fast http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/thinkproject-track-and-fix-issues-fast Wed, 18 Mar 2015 11:04:00 GMT Cardiff web design thinkPROJECT - Track and Fix issues fast

At VSIthinking we strive to deliver the perfect solution for our customers, be that in an online booking system, a bespoke piece of integration, or with our constantly improving content management solution. To make sure our work is robust and functioning correctly we carry out extensive testing of our developments before releasing them to the client so they can carry out their own testing.

To help make testing easier to provide feedback on, VSIthinking have developed thinkProject, a new online tool to help our customers quickly and easily report any issues or discrepancies that they experience on their website. Our latest version of the CMS incorporates our thinkProject module as standard, allowing customers to feedback on all aspects of their website. So what can thinkProject do for you?

  • Provide access to website information 24 hours a day, from wherever you are
  • Improve communication, giving you an instant view of how your issue is progressing
  • Speedy resolution with feedback from the team at VSIthinking to clarify the resolution
  • Reduce time spent reporting an issue, giving you more time to work on more important things
  • Improve customer satisfaction with a website that continually improves

Using screen capture technology, CMS enabled users can now simply log in to the Admin area, enable the CMS and a feedback button will appear on the front end of the website. Clicking this will allow the user to highlight the sections they’re encountering difficulty with, add some further details to clarify the problem and then send it off to the team at VSIthinking.

Reporting issues on thinkProject takes seconds.

The issue is instantly sent to the VSIthinking team, who can access all reported issues related to the customer’s website and allocate them a priority and a designated team member to work on the issue. Customers can access the thinkProject system to see how their issue is progressing, and provide further details if they’re needed.

Once the issue is resolved, thinkProject automatically sends an email to the customer to notify them the moment the reported issue is fixed. The issue is then closed and archived so it can still be revisited should there be a similar issue in future.

The thinkProject system is a simple way to report and manage bugs, which includes the following handy features...

  • Report an unlimited number of bugs and issues.
  • 24/7 web access from anywhere in the world through a standard web browser
  • Full issue history; all comments on the issue are saved and logged
  • Filter outstanding issues in chronological order, or priority
  • E-mail notifications keep you updated of new bugs or changes to current issues
  • Quick and simple bug reporting, using screen capture and formatted text comments

thinkProject is simple to use, our aim was to allow all site administrators to report on any issues, be they minor appearance issues or something more complex. Reporting an issue takes just a few clicks and the issue is then sent to the team at VSIthinking immediately. thinkProject means you spend less time reporting bugs and more developing content for your website.

As with our thinkCMS service, we constantly working on improving the features and functions of thinkProject. We will soon be utilising thinkProject to handle pre-launch website testing for our clients, and adding tools such as task lists and scheduled events.

If you would like an online demonstration of our thinkProject feedback solution, please don't hesitate to give us a call on 02920 331188.

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Sabre Computers Launch New Website http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/sabre-computers-launch-new-website http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/sabre-computers-launch-new-website Wed, 11 Mar 2015 10:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Sabre Computers Launch New Website

Sabre Computers, a South Wales based IT support and solutions company working with small and medium sized businesses, have recently launched their new website, designed by VSIthinking. The site is designed to showcase the wide range of products and services Sabre Computers can provide. The team at Sabre were keen to give the site a modern feel, whilst improving the user experience by making the site easier to navigate.

Social media integration was also a key consideration in the design of the new website; the site features a regularly updated Twitter feed on the homepage, which comes as standard with our website packages. The footer of each page also feature share buttons to post the website to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Our content management system (CMS), thinkCMS, gives Sabre Computers full control over the content and imagery throughout the entire website. Sabre can also add and manage pages and menus easily.

Geraint Griffiths, Sales Director at Sabre Computers, is delighted with the new website...

"VSI-Thinking have been great from the initial discussion right through to our site going live! We are very pleased with how our website looks. The training we received on the website was very informative from both an SEO and administration point of view."

Take a look at the new Sabre Computers website - http://www.sabrecomputers.co.uk

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VSIthinking Release Updated Template http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/vsithinking-release-updated-template http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/vsithinking-release-updated-template Fri, 06 Mar 2015 09:06:00 GMT Cardiff web design VSIthinking Release Updated Template

At VSIthinking we're continually reviewing our template, listening to customer feedback and including new features we feel will enhance the user experience. The latest update to our template is now available to both new and existing customers, with several new features in areas such as security and document handling. Read on to find out more.

New Document Library

Including images and documents on your website increases user engagement and enhances the user experience, breaking up large chunks of text with images encourages users to keep reading; which is why the major change in this update of the VSIthinking template is a new document library to make it easier than ever to upload new files, as well as manage them in a way that fits with your personal preferences.

Drag and Drop Uploading with HTML5

Making use of HTML5, our new drag and drop uploader allows quicker uploads and the ability to upload multiple images or documents at the same time. Simply drag the files you want to upload into the upload area and those files will be transferred to our servers, ready to add to your page content in seconds.

Image Cropping

Third-party image software can be intimidating for some users, and professional editing tools can be too costly to justify. Our built-in cropping tool allows you to manipulate larger images to resize them to a selection of pre-defined sizes specifically for your website, or just to reduce them for use in your page content. To improve page load times all cropped images are compressed to ensure the images keep their quality with the smallest possible file sizes.

Rename Files for SEO Benefits

Filenames are a key source of a search engine optimisation (SEO) benefit, so the new document library allows for the renaming of files to better describe its contents, or to use keywords to improve a website’s search rankings.

Navigation & Management

Several new features improve the speed and ease of document management. To help you find files quicker, our library auto-suggests tags based on those applied to files when uploading. We have also improved navigation and validation to keep the library running seamlessly and to keep the user informed on their changes. Finally, the library allows users to add multiple folders to organise files in a particular way specifically for your business.

Improved Login Security

Having a strong password for logins is a vital part of web security. When creating an account or updating a password, our template indicates the strength of the password, using indicators such as length and the inclusion of numbers or symbols. For those that would rather stay logged in for a longer period of time, the ‘Remember Me’ feature automatically logs in using your details when viewing a private page. In addition, all validation messages are kept consistent throughout. These changes help to improve the security and usability of our template.

Adaptive Design

In addition to our mobile template, we now offer a tablet-specific template using an adaptive web design, this utilises the same CMS content as the desktop site so there's no need to create dedicated content. This is available on request, as with the mobile version, this provides an alternative to a responsive website design if an adaptive one is a more suitable solution for your website.

New Feedback Facility

Using a project management system aids collaboration, allows detailed reporting capabilities, and keeps both developers and customers up to date on a new or existing project. These are often a third-party system and can be quite costly. We have developed a new feedback system, thinkPROJECT, to work in conjunction with our customer's websites, giving customers a quick and easy way to give feedback or report bugs on their website. To find out more about thinkPROJECT, view our blog post on the subject.

These changes join those from our last update, which include mobile previewing, creating draft pages, and mobile optimisations. To request a free 15-20 minute demonstration of our latest template platform, including the recently updated thinkCMS content management system along with a free consultation, please use our contact form.

As always, we're continually reviewing our template to ensure that it conforms to the latest web technologies and changing user habits, you could say we’re very responsive.

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Neilson Launch Responsive Web Design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/neilson-responsive-web-design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/neilson-responsive-web-design Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:07:00 GMT Cardiff web design Neilson Responsive Web Design

Neilson Active Holidays have launched a new responsive website, developed in partnership with Cardiff web design company VSIthinking. The responsive design takes its inspiration from the TravelMole award winning website already in use, and optimises it to further improve user experience on tablet and mobile devices.

The responsive design ensures that content is optimised according to the screen size of the user. As internet traffic on mobiles overtakes desktop computers many companies have adopted a responsive website design, as Neilson have done, helping to improve the user experience for all users. The responsive design also brings SEO benefits, as Google look favourably on responsive websites giving them a "Mobile Friendly" label in the search results.

When designing the new website, Neilson wanted to ensure that all existing functionality was maintained, including integration to Anite services, the thinkCMS content management system, and thinkVISION, all services provided by VSIthinking.

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Responsive Website Design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/responsive-website-design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/responsive-website-design Wed, 21 Jan 2015 12:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Responsive website Design

To paraphrase the famous Lord of the Rings quote, responsive design is basically "one design to rule them all". As you may have noticed, the VSIthinking website has been redesigned from scratch, making use of a responsive web design across all platforms, giving a fluid and consistent style to all users.

When designing a responsive website, there are many considerations to be made. This post focuses on some of the technical considerations for designing with a responsive site in mind.

Mobile First?

The most important consideration is in what order you want to design a site’s layout and functionality, do you start with a mobile version and work up, or start with the desktop and go down? This is still a matter of debate amongst web developers, most subscribe to the view of starting from the mobile display, but in reality it is down to the designer’s personal experience and preferences.

Breakpoints

Using CSS3 and javascript libraries allows developers to dynamically alter the layout and size of elements on a web page. These can be used to manage the breakpoints at which the design will cater towards. In general, it is best to initially concentrate on three types; desktop, tablet and mobile. This is not, however, the end of the issue. While desktop displays remain quite consistent, tablet and mobile displays can alter in size and pixel density, so it is possible that you will need further breakpoints to accommodate the variety of devices that your visitors may use.

An emulation tool is a must for responsive design. In addition to Chrome’s built-in facilities, there are a range of options to be found online. One example is Mobile Phone Emulator, which offers a selection of device options to test your website against. It is impossible to style for every device because the market continually evolves and user’s tastes differ, but focusing on the most popular is a good route to follow.

Showing and Hiding Elements

It is safe to assume that not all features on a desktop site would be appropriate for a mobile display, and vice versa. Most of the content on this site remains the same regardless of the device being used, but there are functionality changes targeted towards a touch-screen display, as well as limited screen space. We have made use of jQuery technologies to adapt the website menu and footer for reduced displays, allowing the user to toggle whether the information is displayed, whilst maintaining the layer structure of the design through opacity. This gives a better user experience and allows the actual content to stand out.

Flow & Layout

When outlining the content of a page, the flow of information and its layout are important considerations. For example, if you have a grid of six images, scaling down the size of the window would affect the layout that they are displayed in. On the VSIthinking responsive website, the ‘Our Work’ section starts as a two row structure with three columns. As the screen size is reduced, the images dynamically reorder through CSS3 to a three row, two column structure. When viewed on mobiles, this becomes a one column list.

Alongside this, the font and image sizes should also be appropriate. If the font size isn’t changed dynamically, the text could be too small to read or so big that it distorts the design, and images should always be scaled down to maintain their inherent aspect ratio.

While these are some considerations, they are by no means the only ones. But mastering these four points is a massive step towards a responsive website. If you are interested in a responsive website, don’t hesitate to call or contact us for more information of VSIthinking's systems, including thinkCMS, and a free demonstration and consultation.

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Celtic Manor Launch New Mobile Site http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/celtic-manor-launch-new-mobile-site http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/celtic-manor-launch-new-mobile-site Sun, 04 Jan 2015 10:02:00 GMT Cardiff web design Celtic Manor Launch New Mobile Site

The Celtic Manor Resort, in conjunction with Cardiff web design company VSIthinking, have launched a new mobile site, making use of adaptive techniques to provide a fully functional mobile experience across a range of devices.

With an ever increasing diversity in how users are accessing content, Celtic Manor’s new mobile and tablet sites provide a fully functional experience, rather than offering a cut-down version of the desktop site. The design has been chosen to take advantage of touch-screen gestures to allow scrolling through images and options, enhancing the user experience. The mobile website is predominately image led, with integration to social media accounts on all pages to increase visitor engagement.

Through VSIthinking’s content management system, thinkCMS, Celtic Manor can create content specifically for mobile visitors, offering the same options as updating the desktop site. In addition, aspects of the mobile site have been incorporated into a tablet optimised version, which makes use of the desktop site’s content but also utillises touch friendly menus to make navigation easier.

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SMC Kitchens launch new web design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/smc-kitchens-launch-new-web-design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/smc-kitchens-launch-new-web-design Mon, 15 Dec 2014 10:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design SMC Kitchens launch new web design

South Wales based kitchen suppliers SMC Kitchens reached out to Cardiff web design company VSIthinking to design their new website to coincide with their expansion to a new showroom. Having traded for over 25 years both locally and nationally, SMC were looking for a website that would stand out from the crowd, whilst keeping up to date with the changing browsing habits of visitors.

Combining the thinkCMS content management system with a responsive web design, in line with the company’s logo and branding, for desktops and mobile devices, SMC can exhibit their kitchen ranges with detailed images and descriptions, as well as promoting previous work. The VSIthinking solution also tracks enquiries made through the website, allowing SMC to keep track of all customers details for organising home visits and, eventually, installations.

“Having been self employed as a sole trader fitting kitchens, I decided to open a kitchen showroom. Amongst the first steps in this new venture was to find a website developer. After speaking to many web developers to what my idea of a website should look like not many understood my thoughts, this all stopped when I contacted VSI, from the initial meeting through to the completed website I have been completely satisfied with all aspects of the development stage through to training and online support. I will certainly be recommending VSI.” – Steve McCormick, SMC Kitchens

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Celtic Manor launch new forum http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/celtic-manor-launch-new-forum http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/celtic-manor-launch-new-forum Fri, 12 Dec 2014 12:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Celtic Manor launch new forum

Celtic Manor Resort has launched a new members discussion forum on their website, developed by Cardiff web design company, vsithinking. 

To ensure continuity with the other sections of the site, and based on the recent redesign of the resort's blog, the Celtic Manor Resort forum has a responsive design for desktops, tablets and mobile, to handle the increasing traffic from mobile devices. The forum is also integrated to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of the resort, increasing engagement with visitors. 

The forum has a range of features, designed with the requirements of Celtic Manor Resort in mind:

  • Customisable, add new rooms with just a couple of clicks
  • Users can personalise their accounts with biographies, username and avatar options
  • Options to ban users from posting, or logging into, the forum for a period set by administrators
  • Filtering of inappropriate language, controlled again by administrators
  • Tagged posts and threads to make them stand out in search results

The vsithinking forum is available to new and existing customers. If you would like to see a demonstration of the forum in action, please call or email us.

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10 Features of thinkCMS http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/10-features-of-thinkcms http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/10-features-of-thinkcms Sun, 30 Nov 2014 02:21:00 GMT Cardiff web design 10 Features of thinkCMS

At VSIthinking we're always working on improving thinkCMS, our Content Management System (CMS), to make adding and updating pages easier, faster, and more intuitive. We’ve recently added a whole range of new functionality which makes site updates a breeze. Here are ten great features of thinkCMS...

1. Adaptive Website Layouts

With the massive, and still growing, use of mobile phones and tablets for accessing web content it made total sense to build our newest CMS with scalability to suit to the user’s device. Our websites include mobile and tablet optimised versions which are able to utilise the same content and render it in a format ideal for the screen size. There’s no need to create new pages or content, our CMS will do all the work for you.

2. Touch Optimised Features

As a result of the rise of mobile usage, the fingertip is fast replacing the mouse; so we added touch enhancements to our websites. Banners can now be swiped to move through the images, menus and site searches are hidden until needed and form inputs will load the correct keypad for the job; all of this makes our mobile websites intuitive and user friendly.

3. Enhanced Usability

Moving into the CMS itself, to make updating your pages quicker and easier we’ve made efforts to declutter the toolbars, hiding lesser used icons and placing a focus on the commonly used tools. We’ve also made it simple to add complex styled elements in just a couple of clicks with a template insertion tool.

4. Translated Formatting

Most users take advantage of the formatting and spell checking options available in Microsoft Word and then transfer the content into the website; with some content management systems this can result in a loss of formatting, or a lot of unnecessary HTML being generated. The thinkCMS platform is able to automatically translate the formatting into the correct HTML tags resulting in clean HTML that looks the same as the original copy.

5. Add Rich Features

A website is often more than just text and images; widgets can be used to pull in content from elsewhere on your website, such as a blog feed or product listing. The thinkCMS makes it easy to add and tailor these widgets in just a few clicks.

It’s also simple to embed external content to your pages; the thinkCMS can easily embed video from sites like YouTube and Vimeo, it also supports HTML 5 video and audio as well as legacy content such as Adobe Flash.

6. Easier File Management

The document and image libraries have been improved in the thinkCMS, files can be dragged and dropped into the library and then associated with keywords to make them easier to find in future. We also have a date search facility to help you find older files which might not have any search terms.

7. Save as Draft

Another new feature in the thinkCMS is a drafting facility; this allows you to save your changes without updating the live page. This is ideal if your content needs final approval before being set live, or if you want to plan ahead and update the page ahead of time. It’s still possible to overwrite the draft and edit the live page so there’s no need to commit a draft if it’s no longer relevant.

8. Preview Your Changes

As well as a draft facility, we’ve also updated our preview tool to show you how your changes will look in the website without saving. The preview also offers emulation for mobile devices, so you can see how your site will look on different devices without having to build up a collection of phones and tablets.

9. Easier SEO management

Good search engine optimisation (SEO) is vital to helping your site position well on the natural search results and the thinkCMS will help you make the most from your pages. There’s a dedicated SEO tab which has a flag to let you know when this hasn’t been filled in. The keywords field also auto-suggests the keywords you’ve used before to make it easier for you to keep your keywords consistent.

10. In House Development Team

Not only do you get a great range of features, the thinkCMS also has great support. It’s not an off the shelf product with no assistance, the team at VSIthinking not only developed it but they use it on a daily basis.

As the thinkCMS is our own software it also allows us to customise and tailor the system to suit your needs, for example we could remove icons you have no use for, or apply user permissions to restrict access to site critical features.

Take a look...

If you’d like to see more of how the new thinkCMS platform could work for you, please contact us for a free demonstration.

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Web design for GRECON http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/web-design-for-grecon http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/web-design-for-grecon Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Web design for GRECON

Grecon UK is an architectural stone company that needed a new website and turned to Cardiff web design company VSIthinking. With so many poorly designed and bland looking websites in the industry VSIthinking wanted to create a web design that stood out from the competition. The image driven website uses large background images of previous work and overlays content with HTML 5 and CSS 3 techniques.

The new website includes a mobile optimised design, for tablets and mobile devices. The mobile user interface includes the latest features found in industry leading mobile and tablet websites, such as menu control and responsive design. The mobile website is ideal for potential customers to view when on site and see the range of options from GrenconUK.

Content in the website is driven by our latest content management software, thinkCMS, which has a feature rich editor built into the site. GreconUK have full control over all aspects of the website and can easily add and manage pages and menus. One of the most useful features of the thinkingCMS content management software is the ease at which content can be transferred from MS Word, with a simple cut-n-paste. The thinkCMS will even correctly apply the relevant styles for copy and headings when content is pasted.

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thinkVISION http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/thinkvision http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/thinkvision Sat, 22 Nov 2014 10:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design thinkVISION

VSIthinking have launched their latest customer relationship management (CRM) solution thinkVISION. Previously branded VISION, the new software thinkVISION has a number of key improvements. With a new web application for administrators, including a slick search facility and extended customer transaction history. Another key improvement is in the auditing of contacts in the database, where changes from import routines together with web updates and administrator amendments, are all tracked in a continuous log. This ensures historical customer insight can be analysed as the relationship with the organisation becomes extended.

The Celtic Manor Resort is using the thinkVISION CRM solution to bring together a number of business systems to improve customer insight and develop a loyalty program for customers. None of their key systems are able to share and manage customer information; hotel availability system Micros Opera, tee time booking Concept, mailshot system Adestra and restaurant manager Guest Connection. VSIthinking extensive experience working in the hotel and leisure sector has enabled them to call all systems working together, drawing the information into a central CRM solution thinkVISION.

Other customers such as the England Sports Group are using thinkVISION to manage customers that book their coaching courses, schools and camps. Each booker has a booking history, associated players and communication log of emails with tracking. As the database of customers expands England Sports Group will be able to gain useful customer insight and focus their marketing more effectively.

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Responsive Vs Adaptive Website Design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/responsive-vs-adaptive-website-design http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/responsive-vs-adaptive-website-design Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Responsive Vs Adaptive Website Design

With an ever increasing amount of traffic originating from mobile and tablet devices year on year, the importance of optimising for these users has grown. The practice of having multiple versions of one site, often with multiple subdomains and URLs, is becoming less prevalent. However, a one size fits all approach may not be suitable for all website owners, who face a choice between a responsive or adaptive website designs.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive design works on the principle of flexibility. The idea is that a single fluid design based upon media queries, flexible grids, and responsive images can be used to create a user experience that flexes and changes based on a multitude of factors. The primary benefit is that each user experiences a consistent design. One drawback is a slower load time.

The website uses the same URL on all devices, and serves the same content to any device but will change the view and order depending on the size of the device. In other words, it rearranges the content to fit onto any screen size. Responsive design is client-side rendering, meaning that the browser will have to download the entire web page, and then resize it according to the screen size.

Advantages

  • One URL makes it easy for users to interact with the website.
  • If built properly, responsive design automatically adjusts to whatever device the user is currently using.
  • When making changes to your site, you only have to make those changes in one place instead of two if you have a separate mobile website.
  • You will have to change your entire existing website.

Disadvantages

  • Initial Cost. Because responsive design can be tricky, and there is more time involved in building it and  it will probably cost more.
  • Mindset shift.
  • All content is downloaded whether it is used or not. This means that if you have a large slideshow, it will have to download the entire full size slideshow to the mobile phone, then resize it.
  • Pages load slower; full-size images are downloaded, then resized to fit the device.

Adaptive Web Design

The website uses the same URL on all devices. The server (where the website is hosted) detects the device whether it is a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop, and will load the version of the site that is optimized for that device. In other words, only mobile-optimized assets are downloaded. This method is the server-side approach, because all the work is done by the servers before it even reaches the client.

AWD maintains the end goal of creating a site which is applicable to a variety of different mobile platforms and layouts, while improving end user experience through better performance and a UI that is specific to their device.

Adaptive design is more like the modern definition of progressive enhancement. Instead of one flexible design, adaptive design detects the device and other features, and then provides the appropriate feature and layout based on a predefined set of viewport sizes and other characteristics. This can result in a lack of consistency across platforms and devices, but the load time tends to be faster.

Advantages

  • Compared to responsive design, adaptive web design is website-optimised for each platform separately, and makes use of the opportunities presented by the platform, as well as the models and functions.
  • Efficiency - Adaptive loads much faster because the server pushes only the needed information to the mobile device.
  • Adaptive can adapt if you have different needs for mobile devices than on a desktop.
  • When the setting is correct, the user should be able to switch to the “large” version of the website designed for desktop computers. This option is not available with responsive design.

Disadvantages

  • Development of the site is time-consuming because of the need to optimise the page for each selected platform front-end and back-end. Before development it is essential to determine for which platform the website will be optimised.

There are strengths and weaknesses in each of these two methods, which in many cases are fully complementary. Determining whether your site should be using a Responsive web design or Adaptive design structure really depends on the needs of your users. If the goal of the site is to deliver a lot of content to users and doesn’t have much in the way of advanced functionality, then responsive is probably the best way to go. In other words, if most of your users will be accessing your site from a desktop browser and won’t lose anything by using it on a mobile device, it’s the simplest – and cheapest – option.

However, if mobile is going to be your primary focus while maintaining eCommerce or other complex capabilities, and you can afford the investment of additional time and money to create it, then Adaptive would be the best route.

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10 Reasons to use AdvancedBooker http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/10-reasons-to-use-advancedbooker http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/10-reasons-to-use-advancedbooker Sat, 15 Nov 2014 12:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design 10 Reasons to use AdvancedBooker

AdvancedBooker is an adaptable online booking system built by VSIthinking that has been tailored for hotels, activity centres, soccer schools, and golf clubs. Essentially, if you offer a product or service which requires online booking, you could benefit from AdvancedBooker. In order to turn site visitors and enquiries into paying customers, an online booking system that can convert is essential, reducing administration costs at the same time as providing 24/7 access for your customers and therefore increasing your customer base and revenue. A successful booking system will also provide great customer service, with a clear view of availability and a post-booking contact system as well as giving you a valuable marketing database.

After comparing some of the existing bookings systems to our own, we've identified the key advantages to using the VSIthinking AdvancedBooker system for your online bookings:

Improvement in customer engagement and reduced drop off rates 

Customers need to be able to book quickly and easily. If your competitors are offering this service and your business does not you are giving them a competitive advantage over your business. The increasing demand for online booking is such that the customer expectation is at a point where they expect to be able to make a booking quickly and easily online. In order to fulfil this expectation all of our AdvancedBooker online booking journeys aim to be completed in less than 90 seconds, drastically reducing drop off rates and exceeding the customer’s expectations. 

Tailored to your needs and requirements 

Unlike off-the-shelf booking systems, AdvancedBooker allows bespoke tailoring and modification to the booking journey process based on the needs and requirements of your customers or business.

Multiple payment vendors

AdvancedBooker has been integrated with the following payment gateways:

 

eCommerce website - HSBC eCommerce website - PayPal eCommerce website - RealEx eCommerce website - Sage Pay eCommerce website - Secure Trading eCommerce website - Verifone

 

Multiple booking paths for different products 

All courses and products that you offer are heterogeneous, with differing needs and requirements. These differences may require different levels of information from the customer, e.g. dietary requirements have to be recorded for a day course that has lunch included. Using AdvancedBooker, we can tailor the booking path to appropriately fit the information requirements for the courses and products that you offer.

Desktop / Mobile and tablet ready 

Our responsive design approach and implementation allows all courses to be rendered and optimised for the user's device, whether that be mobile, tablet or desktop.  However, if a separate mobile booking journey is required from the desktop, AdvancedBooker can also be adapted to fulfil this requirement. 

Multilingual booking journey 

Previous installations of AdvancedBooker have included multilingual booking journeys for French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian. This resulted in an upsurge in participation for target market users and an increase in the conversion rate. 

Bespoke Extras - Upselling to your customer base

Our AdvancedBooker online booking solution allows the inclusion of extras to be sold within booking journey.  The extras offered can be added dynamically and in the past our customers have used the system to offer welcome packs, football shirts, supporting reading material and even late pickup times.  The extras that are offered are related to the initial booking purchased using the administration area.  We also have the capability to include a stock fulfilment system for any extras items with limited availability.

Change what you like, when you like

Our online administration area allows authorised users to change all aspects of the products and services offered on the online booking journey whenever they require. By allowing customers to login using the secure customer’s area, they can update the required details after the booking has taken place, offering convenience and saving administration at the same time.

Support your existing sales and marketing process

Our secure administration area allows for the creation of bookings by administration staff. Existing offline sales and marketing channels can use this enhanced functionality to streamline processes and reduce bureaucratic administration time and costs.

Management information reporting

Online management information, such as reports on bookings, is available as standard. Using our AdvancedBooker online booking system, administrators can interrogate orders and bookings in real-time.  Bespoke reports, such as course registers, tee-times and expiry reports, can also be included.

AdvancedBooker is a great way to ensure that you can offer a proven and robust online booking solution that can adapt and fit your specific product offering, increasing your customer engagement and reducing the administrative burden.

If you would like a short 15 to 20 minute demo of our AdvancedBooker systems via a webcast, without leaving the office, feel free to to call or contact us for more information on VSIthinking's systems, including thinkCMS, and a free demonstration and consultation.

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Emily's social media work experience http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/emilys-social-media-work-experience http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/emilys-social-media-work-experience Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Emily's social media work experience

During my week here I have been helping to promote a badminton tournament that VSIthinking are supporting. I have been using their Facebook and Twitter page to post updates with pictures because insights show that they are more popular. I encouraged the other sponsors of the even to get involved and I also got Badminton Wales involved as well. To make the campaign more successful I posted regular updates and scheduled Facebook posts for times the majority of the audience would be online to see them.

Badminton Wales event on FB

I was also asked to get feedback on several possible designs for a new VSIthinking logo to help them gauge their popularity. I posted the designs on Facebook and asked for feedback and had some helpful responses. I also used Twitter to communicate with people and asked our Twitter followers what they thought; this was useful as we were able to connect personally and have a direct conversation. I noticed we received more responses on Twitter, likely down to this more personal touch. I made sure to keep a tally of the votes so that we knew which ones were the most popular.

What I also found helpful was using my own personal Twitter account to connect with my friends and followers, gathering their feedback and opinions. It was helpful to hear what my friends thought because they are people I can communicate with them quickly and it was interesting to see the opinions of a different audience.

Here are five useful social media tips, based on my experiences in the last week…

  1. Using images on Twitter and Facebook posts is good as we have seen that posts with pictures got a lot more attention, roughly five times more views than those without.
  2. Connecting and engaging with your audience and getting their feedback can help you to find out what your audience wants.
  3. Keeping the audience informed is important as it helps expose your brand to your audience, regular posts will help build familiarity. This week there were regular posts on the upcoming badminton tournament, improving awareness of this event.
  4. Scheduling posts and tweets is useful because they can then be posted at times when the audience is most active, scheduling posts can also help you reach clients in different time zones.
  5. Reviewing the performance of your posts is useful as it shows you what posts are working; you can also see what you need to improve.

Scheduling on FB and Twitter

I have previously worked with these tips while carrying out a personal social media campaign on Twitter, in an attempt to get the band Union J to attend a local signing event. I used a Twitter hashtag to try and get them to notice the cause; this was quickly adopted by other fans in the local area with a viral effect.

#CardiffWantUnionJDollSigning trend page

While the campaign ultimately didn’t succeed it still shows how social media can attract likeminded individuals. However, social media wasn’t the only tool utilised in the campaign; I also used emails and phone calls to contact record executives and store managers to try and amplify the online efforts.

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Web application supports Thomas Cook UK stores http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/web-application-supports-thomas-cook-uk-stores http://www.vsi-thinking.com/blog/web-application-supports-thomas-cook-uk-stores Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design VSIthinking web application support Thomas Cook UK stores

VSIthinking is helping Thomas Cook deliver online services in store. The web application for agents is being used in over 1500 Thomas Cook, Co Op Travel and independent Travel Agents throughout the UK and Ireland. Principally the application helps agents create a personalised brochure for the customer from over 100 brochures.

Customers can discuss a wide range of holidays with an agent and the information is held within the secured agent web application. On returning to the agent, customers can expand on their personalised content or request the information for themselves using the brochure store website. This allows Thomas Cook to recall the customer’s preferences and service every customer exact holiday choices.

One of the key aspects of the project is the reduction and management of brochure production and distribution. The solution reduces waste and helps Thomas Cook manage brochure runs more efficiently as agents use the web application to order brochures to stock their store.

The system is an extension of the Brochure Store, developed by VSIthinking for Thomas Cook, a hugely successful project which has over 8 million visits each year. The mobile app version for iOS and Android phones and tablets have been downloaded over 300,000 times. Together the website and mobile app have saved Thomas Cook over £2 Million in operational costs over the past 4 years.

"Software as a service in a new area for eBusiness thanks to cloud computing, a model which VSIthinking has delivered for many years" explains Mark Thomas Managing Director of VSIthinking. He continued, "We are proud to have been working with Thomas Cook for 15 years, delivering websites and eBusiness applications that are fundamental to the running of their business, with this latest solution a key part of their agent offering."

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