Cardiff web design blog The latest news, hints and tips from Cardiff web designers VSI Thinking - en (C) 2014, VSI Thinking, Wed, 16 Apr 2014 07:54:20 GMT Wed, 16 Apr 2014 07:54:20 GMT VSI Thinking, Web design and web development Promote Your Site with Online Advertising Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:04:00 GMT Cardiff web design Promote Your Site with Online Advertising

Promote Your Website with Online Advertising

Welcome to the next in our series of website promotion articles. With our helpful hints, tips, and advice you'll be able to help bring more attention to your website, bringing in more visitors which can help generate more conversions; whatever your goal is be it a higher volume of enquiries, more contacts and connections, or increased sales. In our previous post we considered how to promote your website with search engine promotion, in this post we'll be looking into promotion through online advertising.

Pay Per Click Advertising

We've covered pay per click advertising in a few of our previous posts, and shared some tips on how to improve your PPC campaigns but just to recap, Pay Per Click is advertising that you pay for only when someone clicks on your advert. You set an amount that you're willing to pay per click and if you've set a higher amount than your competitors your advert will usually appear above theirs. Pay Per Click ads appear above regular listings on both Bing and Google so they can generate great visibility of your website, even if the adverts aren't clicked.

Pay Per Click Adverts on Google and Bing
Google and Bing PPC Adverts appear above the organic search results

Social Advertising

If your audience is active on social networks you can also leverage advertising on Facebook and Twitter to promote your profile and content to more users. If you maintain a Facebook page you can boost your posts so they display to a larger audience. You can also create adverts to promote your Facebook page, website, app, or event. You set your budget and customise your target audience and Facebook will display the advert on the right hand side, or in a user's newsfeed; it's possible to use videos in your adverts and even sponsor Facebook's login screen giving your brand huge exposure.

Adverts on Facebook
Facebook ads appear down the side, but are also moving into your newsfeed

Twitter also has advertising facilities, allowing you to promote your Twitter profile, individual tweets, and even a trending topic. Promoted tweets will appear in a user's feed like a regular tweet but they don't need to follow you to see it, promoted accounts appear at the top of the "Who to Follow" section while a promoted trend puts your #Hashtag at the top of trending topics; all options have a little Promoted marker nearby to show it's an advert.

Promoted trends, accounts, and updates on Twitter
Twitter allows you to promote your account, your tweets, or a trending topic

Social media opens you to a different audience than those you reach in a PPC or a print campaign, usually young adults interested in brief, entertaining updates so ensure your advertising is tailored to social media channels with attention grabbing, engaging content.

eCommerce Advertising

If you run an eCommerce website you can utilise advertising to promote individual products, Google and Amazon are common places where shoppers browse for products and compare prices and you can get your products listed on these sites. Google's Shopping Feed aggregates products from a variety of online stores and allows users to see the price you offer compared to your competitors. Google Shopping is a paid service, similar to Pay Per Click advertising, so you have pay for your products to appear, however you only pay if a user clicks the link through to your site.

Google Shopping Feed
Google's Shopping Feed works in a similar way to PPC advertising

Amazon also offers you the ability to list your products on their website through Fulfilment by Amazon; you send your product inventory and stock to Amazon and they list your products on the Amazon website. This is just one way to utilise Amazon though; you can also sponsor products so that your product appears when a customer searches for a related term, again you only pay when the user clicks your advert. Lastly, Amazon offer Product Ads where your product is listed in the search results or appears as an alternative price on the product view. These will link through to your website and Amazon will charge you when the advert is clicked. These are great ways to bring more attention to your products on one of the world's largest shopping sites.

Banner Advertising

Banner adverts have been in use since the mid 1990s; the reason for their continued use after all this time is that they're effective at generating highly visible brand exposure. There are a range of online advertising networks which can distribute your banner graphics to a range of websites which are visited by your target audience.

An evolution of traditional banner advertising is retargeting adverts, these are adverts that follow users as they browse other websites by utilising cookies to remember what they had been browsing previously. Our friends at Neilson utilise retargeting adverts to show you offers and savings on destinations you may have previously viewed or searched for. They're ideal for not only building brand recognition but also for tempting visitors back to a purchase they didn't complete.

Neilson Retargetng Adverts
Retargeting adverts keep track of what you've been browsing to provide the most relevant adverts

Newsletter Advertising

If you've got a list of contacts and previous customers be sure to send out regular newsletters. Not only does it give you a chance to spread your message, be that a new product, a saving, or an important update, but it also gives your brand exposure. Be sure to stay in touch with your recent subscribers and purchasers so that your brand is recognised for regular contact. Make sure the subject lines of your newsletters are well written so that they don't end up going straight in the trash; take a look at our tips on how to improve your newsletter subject lines.

Sponsored Forums

Before many of the social networks became popular, forums were a common way to discuss things online. Despite the popularity of social networks there are many forums that are still regularly updated and visited. Most forums allow for sponsorship in different ways, from banner adverts that appear above, and alongside, the forum posts to messages that appear in the main thread. These sponsored messages can be quite effective as at first glance they appear like a regular forum post.

In-App Advertising

Apps are hugely popular on all mobile platforms with users regularly downloading apps to their phones, tablets, and computers. There are a wealth of apps which are free to download and these are usually supported with adverts; these in-app adverts could be a clickable banner which displays on certain screens, or a short advert that plays between levels in a game. While these are fairly common you could also partner with an existing app and tailor your adverts based upon the content the user is accessing; for example if the app is providing weather data for the week you could show an advert that recommends they buy a coat for the rain that is coming.

In-App Advertising
Ignore the highscore, the subtle advert at the top recommends another game to play.

Text Link Advertising

Linking is an important aspect of SEO; after all, without links how would we get anywhere online? One way to increase the visibility of your site is to gain links from external websites which point through to yours. There are a variety of ways to do this, from guest blogging, to back linking from directory sites. Put simply, more links means more people should be able to find you. Linking can be tricky, especially following Google's recent updates which consider how relevant inbound links are, but links from the right places can be very effective at bringing in extra traffic. We'll be covering more about linking in an upcoming post, be sure to take a look.

So just to recap, here are the main ways to promote your website with online advertising...

  1. Utilise Pay Per Click adverts
  2. Promote your Facebook presence
  3. Promote Twitter updates and trends
  4. Tailor your content for social media
  5. List your products on the Google Shopping feed
  6. Advertise your products on Amazon
  7. Increase brand exposure with banner adverts
  8. Encourage return visits with retargeting ads
  9. Stay in touch with your audience
  10. Sponsor an online forum
  11. Utilise In-App adverts
  12. Get linked from external sites
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Promote Your Website with Search Engine Promotion Wed, 26 Mar 2014 01:48:00 GMT Cardiff web design At VSI-thinking we're always looking into ways to help our customers to promote their websites. After all, the more you promote your website, the more visitors you'll get which can lead to more conversions, whether your goal is sales, sending out a branded message or enquiries. We've previously looked at how to improve your visibility in the search results, in this post we'll be looking into search engine promotion.

Launching Your Site

Upon launching your new website, or after creating several new pages, you should submit your website to the search engines as this is how a large amount of web users will find your site. To help the search engines thoroughly index your website you should submit an XML sitemap to Google which contains all of the pages on your site using your webmaster tools account. You should also submit your sitemap to Bing. Check your current CMS to see if it generates an automated XML sitemap of your website.

VSI-thinking XML Sitemap

You can also create sitemaps for images and videos on your website; an image sitemap helps the search engines discover and identify the images on your website which then be found in an image search, this is a great way to bring some exposure to products images and photos on your website. The image sitemap also lets you specify the geographic location of the image, ideal if your services are in a specific location. You can also create a video sitemap to provide the search engines with information about any video content on your website, such as the duration, content creator, and even allows you to specify a preferred thumbnail image.

Target Your Local Area

Another way to promote your website through the search engines is to claim your listing on Google Places; this enhances your search result listing with business information such as opening hours, address, and photos. Make sure that your company name, address and telephone number are consistent on your website and Google places as this will help your position. Customers can also share their own photos and reviews on Google Places and it also allows you to list multiple locations if you have several branches or offices. As Google Now ties in with local information, helping people discover what services are around them, make sure your business listing is fully filled out.

VSI-thinking on Google Places

Get Listed

Directory websites are a great way to get your website seen elsewhere, think of them as an address book for websites. Although superseded by search engines in recent times, its relevance should not be ignored and you should look to get listed on relevant directory websites. There are a huge range of directories out there including DMOZ which is human edited to ensure it shows the best websites on the internet. As it's a manually maintained directory, rather than using a spider to crawl and index the site, it can take a while for your listing to be reviewed. However, as it's manually maintained it holds high importance amongst other directories. is the online Yellow Pages and allows you to list things like opening hours, photos, videos, reviews, as well as a link to your website. Yahoo also offers a categorised directory, allowing you to list your site in a relevant niche.

VSI-thinking on DMOZ

If your business has a specialised area of expertise, look into submitting you site to specialist trade directories. These will often give you a link through to your site, which is great for search engine optimisation, and will also give your site further visibility. There are directories for everything from auto dealerships to Zumba courses and if you can't find a directory related to your industry there are a range of directories for UK regions, there might even be one for your nearest city.

So just to recap, here are the main ways to promote your website with Search Engine Promotion...

  1. Submit your website to the relevant search engines
  2. Submit XML sitemap to Google
  3. Submit XML sitemap to Bing
  4. Create and Submit sitemaps for Images and videos on your website
  5. Claim your listing on Google Places
  6. Get listed on relevant directory websites
  7. Submit your site to specialist trade directories
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Wearable Tech to Watch Fri, 28 Feb 2014 05:02:00 GMT Cardiff web design As technology has become smaller and more integrated with our daily lives companies are finding new ways to make your digital world integrate with your regular one. Privacy concerns have been a factor with some wearable projects, such as Google Glass which tracks your location and is always ready to take pictures and record video. Wearable technology has been developing for some time but there's some very interesting wearable gadgets coming soon, and available right now, which you should definitely watch.

Samsung Galaxy Gear 2

Starting off our list of wearable tech is the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2, as the 2 would suggest it's an update to the original Galaxy Gear. The Galaxy Gear 2 is a 1.63" wrist mounted display, which was recently unveiled with the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone and will pair with the device offering a way to check your notifications and see incoming calls without having to constantly look at your phone. The bright and colourful display activates with a flick of the wrist, and it even has a built in camera for capturing those "blink and you'll miss it" moments.

Samsung Galaxy Gear 2

The Galaxy Gear 2 also has built in functions for tracking your daily activity, a pedometer and heart-rate monitor can track how active you've been during the day; ideal for those trying to keep fit. There's also a music player and Bluetooth connectivity so you can listen to music wirelessly. It can even be used as a remote control for your television, so you'll never need to search for a remote again. A slightly stripped down, more wallet friendly version, has also been announced, the Galaxy Gear 2 Neo, which removes the camera; there's also the Gear Fit with a curved screen, which closely ties in with fitness apps. All models will be available in April.

Fitbit Flex

Fitbit focuses on tracking your physical activity, rather than notifying you of the digital world. Fitbit monitors the steps you take, the calories you burn, and even the quality of sleep you get. You can set daily goals, for example walk 8 miles, and LEDs will show you how much of that goal you've completed.

Fitbit Flex

At night the Fitbit Flex will measure how long you sleep, how often you wake up and even has a vibrating alarm that can wake you silently, without any abrupt noises. If you're feeling competitive you can challenge a friend, compare your stats, and even earn badges when you reach certain goals.

Pebble Smartwatch

The Pebble watch was an early success story for crowd funding through Kickstarter, receiving support from 85,000 backers. The Pebble is similar to the Galaxy Gear in that it's a watch that can notify you about text messages, incoming calls, and emails; it can also tell you the time in a variety of different ways with a range of downloadable watch faces.

Pebble Smartwatch

Unlike the Galaxy Gear however, the screen is monochrome which gives it exceptionally long battery life, lasting up to a week on a single charge. There's also a lot of support from developers which means the Pebble has a range of downloadable apps to track your fitness, give you sports scores, control your music, and more.

Google Glass

No summary of wearable tech would be complete without mentioning Google's Glass project. Google Glass uses a tiny screen housed in a pair of glasses to augment and enhance your view with a range of helpful Google features.

Google Glass

Using voice commands Google Glass can translate languages, provide directions, give notifications, and also capture images and videos. It's currently in development, so it's only available to a small number of users, but the aim is make these commonplace. They've already designed a range of colours and frames to make them as stylish as regular eyewear.

Which of these wearable projects interests you? Would you want to wear any of them or are you happy keeping your devices in your pockets?

Golf Union Wales launch new web design Thu, 20 Feb 2014 05:08:00 GMT Cardiff web design Cardiff web design company VSI-thinking are proud to announce the launch of the next generation of the Golf Union Wales web site. The web site uses the latest VSI-thinking platform, which includes a Content Management Solution, search engine optimisation, and number of bespoke systems designed to fit the way the Golf Union work.

Golf Union of Wales

Golf Union Wales were aiming high with the web site and design, looking to emulate the usability of the web site delivered for Golf England. VSI-thinking brought together all stakeholders at a design workshop and the stage was set for a new design and a radical new structure. It was important to get the site architecture right, as the Golf Union wanted to keep, and expand, the new site for several years.

One of the key requirements raised at the workshop was the desire to create a number of interactive features to present content. VSI-thinking introduced dynamic HTML5 elements for some pages, which are under the control of Golf Union Wales via the updated Content Management Solution.

VSI-thinking web developers also had to innovate with a couple of some bespoke web applications to deliver the online competition solution and the events management system. The events system allows people to register on an event, with email confirmations sent automatically, the system also utilises an SMS system to send attendance reminder text messages.

Golf Union of Wales

Managing Director, Mark Thomas, said "We were delighted to work with the Golf Union of Wales to produce their third web site. They are a long standing customer and we always enjoy working with them to deliver a fresh new design for the governing body."

Five Tips to Improve Your Search Results Visibility Tue, 04 Feb 2014 04:50:00 GMT Cardiff web design When it comes to getting visitors to your website, organic search engines traffic should be a vital component of your marketing strategy. While some visitors will navigate to your site through a number of alternative online and offline means (social, direct, mailshots, etc), a large number should find your site using search engines such as Google and Bing, so enhancing your visibility in the search results is a vital way to generate more (especially new) visitors to your website. We've got five tips to help improve your website visibility in the search results...

1. Improve Your Page Ranking

When browsing through the search results the majority of web users won't look much beyond the first two results. A recent study indicates that 91.5% of Google traffic from search results to links that display on the first results page, so it's vital to improve your page ranking to move further up the listings. We've previously recommended ways to improve your SEO which helps you gain a better position in the search results. Regular site updates with fresh, original content is a great way to improve your site. Improving your search engine rankings to the first two search engine positions for your customer's relevant keywords is undoubtedly the single best way to improve the traffic of relevant customers to your site.

2. Extend Your Page Titles

The page title tag is the text link you click on in the search results to go through to a site. These should always contain an important keyword near the beginning, if this keyword matches what the user is searching for Google will set it in bold. The title text shouldn't be much longer than 60-65 characters, as most search engines will trim extended titles. Make sure they're descriptive and unique to each page as well; don't just write the name of the page, e.g. About Us, as this isn't very informative.

Optimised search result

3. Enhance Your Page Descriptions

Page descriptions are also used to generate your search result listing, these are the two sentences that appear below the link and are a deciding factor when users look through the search results. This is your opportunity to tell your users why the page is relevant to their search enquiry, think of it as a 5 second elevator pitch. Make sure it accurately and succinctly summarises the page in a way that encourages visitors to read more. Page descriptions should be around 150 characters, if your description is longer the search engines will trim it. Again, make sure you utilise your keyword as this will be set in bold as well but don't pad your description with keywords as this could have a negative effect.

4. Use

Schemas are HTML tags that can be utilised to markup pages so that search engines can easily identify content and data. If the search engines can more readily access your content they can better interpret the data on your site which could help improve your search engine result position (SERP). Search engines are using schema markups to improve their results by offering additional information to the searcher in addition to the page title/URL and description. Find out more about schemas at

5. Set Up Google Authorship

Google Authorship is ideal when the people in the company make the brand, such as journalists, experts, and reviewers. With Google Authorship your listing is enhanced with a profile image which will appear alongside your search result along with some details about your Google+ profile. Whilst not ideal for use in all circumstances, like Terms and Conditions pages, using authorship is a must where the reputation of people within the business is a selling point. Not only does it make your listing stand out from regular results it also provides a way for visitors to connect with the people that create the content and personalises your listing.

Google listing enhanced with authorship

Bonus Tips

  • Make your URL/Pagename more relevant to the users search query.
  • Update your pages on a regular basis as the published dates are included on the page. Newer pages are perceived as more relevant to the user search.
  • Use Google+ on a regular basis - Get involved and create new contacts to appear in more results

VSI-thinking have a wide range of articles on how to enhance your site with SEO, take a look and see how search engine optimisation can help boost traffic, improve conversions, and make your site more visible online.

Erna Low new web design Tue, 31 Dec 2013 12:02:00 GMT Cardiff web design Erna Low has launched a new web site with web development company VSI-thinking. The new web design and booking journey, developed by Cardiff web design company VSI-thinking, is a huge step forward for the brand. The new site allows customers to book accommodation, airline tickets, extras, and rail tickets in one basket, using the VSI-thinking platform which integrates with Intuitive’s iVector reservation system.

A key factor of the project was the full integration of the site and booking engine, unlike many sites which pass booking to another domain. The VSI-thinking solution ensures a seamless customer journey, bringing together content, product and availability. This approach has additional benefits for tracking, site analysis and improved customer service.

Erna Low Ski Holidays

The site has been optimised for search engines with every detail covered from individual page URLs, to keyword seeded alt tags on property feature icons. The VSI-thinking content management solution offers complete control over all aspects of search engine optimisation allowing Erna Low to continue to adapt their site and improve their ranking.

All sites developed by VSI-thinking are mobile and tablet friendly, ensuring the widest possible audience. The site is tested on all the key mobile and tablet devices from Apple, Sony, Google, Amazon, and Samsung. With some customers experiencing as much as 55% inbound mobile traffic from email marketing this was a critical aspect of the project. With such high mobile device usage, social media integration has been added to every page to encourage users to spread the Erna Low brand and products through channels such as Facebook and Twitter, increasing engagement.

Mark Thomas, Managing Director of VSI-thinking explained, “We have worked with other companies in the ski travel sector and delivered multi award winning web sites, we are confident Erna Low will experience the same success.” He continued, “It has been great working with such a forward thinking team, who recognise the importance of a fully integrated web solution.”

Visit the Erna Low website at

Recommended Android Games Sat, 21 Dec 2013 04:28:00 GMT Cardiff web design Following on from last year's rundown of some ideal workplace Android apps we've also put together a list of our favourite Android games that we've with over the last twelve months. In no particular order...

Mini Motor Racing

Mini Motor Racing Mini Motor Racing is an arcade style racer packed with races and loads of upgradeable cars. Races take place in a variety of places, from dirt tracks to city streets and you can race in both daytime and night time. The more races you win the more cars you unlock in the game.

You don't just have to race solo in Mini Motor Racing, 4 player multiplayer is available over WiFi letting you battle your friends for first place. As a bonus, if you have a copy of Fruit Ninja installed you can unlock an exclusive Fruit Ninja Buggy to race around in. Mini Motor Racing also got an update at Christmas adding new tracks and a new championship.

Xbox SmartGlass

Xbox SmartGlass While not technically a game in itself Xbox SmartGlass is certainly ideal for gamers as it's a neat way to bring your Xbox 360 to your Android phone. SmartGlass lets you message your Xbox friends, compare game progress and see preview videos of the latest Xbox releases. You can even update your Xbox Avatar in the app, so that you can keep your virtual self looking sharp while on the go.

The coolest feature however is the ability to use your Android device as a remote for the Xbox, letting you navigate menus, control videos and search for content without connecting another controller. You can even use SmartGlass to launch a game on your Xbox, so you can get your game ready to go before you even pick up the controller.

Lemonade Stand

Lemonade Stand Lemonade Stand is a modern remake of the classic tycoon game which you might have played on the BBC Micro. The objective is to generate the most profit you can from your garden lemonade stand. The game lets you customise your product daily, from adjusting the price to tweaking your recipe. Customer feedback lets you see how to improve your stand.

You can choose how long you want to run the stand for at the start, from a short 1 day burst to a full on 30 day campaign. You can then submit your profits to an online leaderboard and see how you compare to other lemonade tycoons.

Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III Rockstar Games' classic PlayStation 2 game gets an HD graphical overhaul and brings the giant open world of Liberty City to your handset. With such a big world you'll never be short of things to do as there are dozens of missions and a huge range of vehicles waiting for you on the three different islands.

While the controls have been optimised for touch input the game can support USB controllers so you can plug in a controller and get the home console experience on the go. If you're looking for more missions, Rockstar have also released the 80s based, sun drenched, sequel Vice City for Android phones.

Bad Piggies

Bad Piggies Ever wanted to take the Pigs side in the ongoing Angry Birds war? With Bad Piggies you can. Rather than knocking down towers, this time you're tasked with constructing inventive new ways to steal the eggs from the birds. From a few simple pieces you can create cars, planes and even rockets to get those eggs.

Bad Piggies has more than 85 challenging levels, promising hours of inventing fun, and once you've worked your way through you can replay them and try to get the three star prefect score which unlocks an extra 18 levels. If you still want more there are special Sandbox levels where to can really stretch your creativity.

Dark Google Causing Web Analytics Mystery Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:31:00 GMT Cardiff web design If you regularly monitor your website's analytics you might have noticed a quirk in your reports. Some web users have noticed a spike in direct traffic and a drop in their referral traffic, despite seeing a rise in the number of social referrals. What's going on? This phenomena is know as "Dark Search" or "Dark Google".

Dark Google

While it might sound like Google has an evil secret, or taken on a radical goth makeover, it's actually a technical issue for analytics services. Put simply, certain browsers are preventing websites from seeing exactly how the visitor arrived at the site. So while visitors are clicking search results the site they're visiting can't determine the keyword used to find the page. The charts below show how "Dark Google" has affected the reporting, the highlighted section shows users that have arrived on one of customers sites directly in September 2012 and September 2013...

Dark Google Stats

As you can see the "direct" traffic has more than doubled. Since the analytics software can't detect the source or keyword this type of traffic is filtered into the "direct" category, causing this spike in direct traffic and painting an inaccurate picture of where the traffic is actually coming from. Being able identify where your traffic is coming from is vital from a marketing perspective as it helps identify where your audience is coming from. From what the analytics software is reporting this growth in direct traffic could suggest that some visitors to the site are becoming regular, direct, visitors but it could actually be a result of the traffic being incorrectly tracked by the "Dark Google" issue.

Two big sources of the "Dark Google" issue are mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones and also some of the newer versions of Firefox. Both have been recently updated, Apple recently launched iOS 7 while Firefox is regularly updated in the background. These recent updates may help solve the "Dark Google" problem. It's important to remember however that while Google analytics may be unable to identify where some visitors are coming from it may not mean that you've actually lost any traffic, you're only missing the information related to where they are visiting from.

Mobile usage is constantly growing and social media sharing is becoming a big factor in traffic generation; social media has so much power in fact that Bing has worked with Twitter for a few years to factor content shared through Twitter into its ranking process. Have you seen a spike in your direct traffic lately but can't see why? Maybe "Dark Google" could shed a little light on the mystery.

If you're interested in more articles about web statistics, online privacy, and mobile internet you might enjoy the following articles...

Five CSS Web Design Tips Fri, 15 Nov 2013 10:09:00 GMT Cardiff web design Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) help your website look its best; they dictate exactly how the elements on a webpage should appear to create a beautiful web design. CSS is an important aspect of any website design and we've got some simple tips to help make CSS more efficient and effective...

1. Only load the styles you need

Like all things on the internet, a stylesheet takes a little time to load. So rather than loading a single stylesheet which contains all of your styles, break it into smaller files which will only load if they're required. We do this on both the Neilson Holidays and Celtic Manor web designs and it has helped reduce loading times on both websites.

2. Deliver the stylesheet separately

A browser can connect to six concurrent network connections at once, allowing it to download resources from six different places at once. Take advantage of this by distributing different page elements on different servers, allowing the stylesheet to be downloaded at the same time as the content and images. This is another method we used on the Neilson Holidays web design to make the pages load as quickly as possible.

Neilson Network Connections

3. Avoid inline styles

An inline style is a CSS definition which is applied directly to an element on the page, as a result it is reloaded each time the page is refreshed which increases the time it takes to load the page. Instead, apply a class to the on page element and add the necessary style definitions to the stylesheet.

4. Link CSS at the top

Browsers render the code for a page from top to bottom, so if the CSS is at the top of the page the browser will load it first before loading the web design elements like images and text. With that in mind, you should never put the CSS at the bottom of the page as your page content will being loading before the styles have been defined.

5. Re-use styles

Rather than creating new styles for each of your various on page elements instead try to re-use as much as possible as this will help the page load faster. It'll also have the added benefit of helping things look consistent throughout your site and make it easier to roll out sitewide updates as you'll only have to update a few places.

The VSI-thinking Way

Optimising and re-using stylesheets is standard practice for the web designers at VSI-thinking, we also utilise multiple network connections to help render out our customer's websites as quickly as possible. To find out what else VSI-thinking can do for you, feel free to contact us.

Will Barack Obama use VSI systems for NATO summit? Fri, 01 Nov 2013 03:19:00 GMT Cardiff web design Congratulations to the Celtic Manor, as they have been chosen to host the 2014 NATO Summit, receiving such luminaries as Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and David Cameron. Cardiff web design company VSI-thinking, the developers of the Celtic Manor Resort web site, are excited at the prospect of some of the world’s most powerful leaders booking their accommodation online. Online booking for rooms, tee-times and events are made through VSI-thinking web applications and integrated to back office systems.

VSI-thinking has developed three web sites for the Celtic Manor Resort over 8 years, helping to increase online services for customers and members. Earlier this year a bespoke mobile booking journey was developed for room reservation, which is currently being extended with new products. Our web site, content management platform and integration work has helped the Celtic Manor Resort increase its bookings online year on year, expand their marketing database and save money.

Windows 8 Usage Grows Thu, 31 Oct 2013 03:42:00 GMT Cardiff web design Usage of Microsoft's Windows 8 continues to grow steadily, in July it was used by just under 7.5% of worldwide users. Windows 8 is now used by more people than those using the various versions of Apple's OS X combined.

Operating System Market Shares

The rise in Windows 8 usage coincides with a reduction in the usage of Windows XP, which is used by 33% of users. Windows XP is is now 12 years old and will soon lose support from Microsoft for updates and security patches.

Windows 8 was the first operating system to support Internet Explorer 10, however it is now available on Windows 7 as well. Internet Explorer is the most used desktop browser worldwide, used by 1 in 5 internet users. Microsoft began automatically updating users to Internet Explorer 10 which has helped move users onto the latest version, which is now used by around 15% of people.

One of the great things about the latest version of Internet Explorer is that it automatically updates helping ensure users are always running the latest version. Automatic updates are only available on the latest version however which means the six percent of users that are still using Internet Explorer 6 cannot be moved on; despite efforts such as the IE6 countdown to encourage them to move on.

A new update to Windows 8, Windows 8.1, was released recently bringing a number of security improvements and usability changes. It also included an upgrade to Internet Explorer 11.

Data collected from Net Market Share

Neilson Holidays Web Design Wins 2013 TravelMole Web Award Thu, 12 Sep 2013 05:56:00 GMT Cardiff web design VSI-thinking are delighted to confirm that Neilson Holidays have won the prestigious Best Sports Travel & Tourism Site award at the 2013 TravelMole Web Awards for a second successive year. VSI-thinking, web designers of the Neilson Holidays website, are elated to be a part of this success, which sees Neilson become back to back winners of the coveted award, cementing their position as industry leaders.

Neilson Mobile TravelMole Awards

The Cardiff web design team at VSI-thinking helped Neilson build on their previous success with a number of improvements and developments since winning last year, including a new homepage offer system to highlight the best deals, a streamlined booking engine, and a redesigned pre-departure email and tracking system. Even more developments are planned in the future so be sure to keep visiting the award winning Neilson website to see these new features.

Visit the TravelMole website for full details on the winners in other categories.

Richard Scales from Neilson presented with a TravelMole Award
Richard Scales from Neilson Holidays is presented with the 2013 TravelMole Award for Best Sports Travel and Tourism website.
Photo by Steve Dunlop

Neilson Holidays Web Design Shortlisted for 2013 TravelMole Web Awards Mon, 09 Sep 2013 01:30:00 GMT Cardiff web design Neilson Holidays Travel Mole Award Cardiff web designers, VSI-thinking, would like to congratulate Neilson Holidays on their nomination for Best Sports Travel & Tourism Site at the 2013 TravelMole Web Awards. Neilson Holidays will be looking to retain the award after winning at the 2012 TravelMole web awards. This year will be the tenth anniversary of the prestigious travel awards, so it's sure to be the best one yet. As web designers for the Neilson Holidays website, VSI-thinking are delighted to be a part of this success and look forward to continuing our 15 year, award-winning partnership.

The Best Sports Travel & Tourism Site category is sponsored by Cellet and is highly contested. To ensure the Neilson Holidays website maintains its position as an industry leader, Cardiff web design team VSI-thinking have helped Neilson build on their success with a number of improvements and developments since last year's win including:

  • Easy to use, consistent, and mobile compatible navigation
  • Homepage offer system highlighting the best deals
  • New streamlined booking engine
  • Redesigned pre-departure email and tracking system well as background features such as site-wide and on-page optimisation to help the site load quicker and index better in the search engines. There has also been further integration with the Neilson Community both on the website and on through social networks. In the near future, Neilson will also be moving onto VSI-thinking's newest Content Management System to make updating and maintaining their popular website even easier.

The TravelMole Web Award ceremony will take place on Thursday 12th September at the Doubletree by Hilton, in London. The Cardiff website design team at VSI-thinking wish Neilson Holidays the best of luck, we all have our fingers crossed for Thursday.

For a full list of the 2013 TravelMole Web Award nominations visit the TravelMole website.

5 Reasons Why Your Email Subject Line Matters and 5 Ways to Improve Your Open Rates Tue, 30 Jul 2013 11:38:00 GMT Cardiff web design When businesses put together an email marketing campaign a majority of the focus is on the content, images and message of the email itself. Many overlook the importance of the subject line for the email, which is vital if you want your audience to actually open the message. Here are 5 reasons why the subject line of your email marketing messages matters...

1. It's a deciding factor in whether your message is opened

The subject line is usually the first thing a person sees when they receive your message and 33% of recipients decide whether to open emails based solely on the subject line (Source: If your subject line is unappealing you could be missing out on reaching a third of your audience.

2. Short subject lines are opened more often

Not only are shorter subject lines are quicker to read, but they've also be found to be more effective. An Adestra email report from July 2012 revealed that subject lines with fewer than 10 characters had an open rate of 58%. Lengthy subject lines can also be trimmed by the email client, cutting you off mid sentence.

3. Connect with customers

Don't be a stranger; personalisation is a key factor in whether a message gets opened or deleted. Adestra's July 2012 report found that emails with personalised subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened. If you're on first name terms with your customers add the personal touch to your messages.

4. The right word can have a great impact

Putting the right word in the subject line can have a great effect on the open rate. The July 2012 Adestra email report found that subject lines which contained "money", "revenue", and "profit" performed the best for B2B companies. It's clear in B2B cases that money opens doors, or emails at least.

5. It's the deciding factor

Yes, this is essentially the same point as the first one but it really is that important. Did you know that 64% of people say they open an email because of the subject line? (Source: Chadwick Martin Bailey). It really is too important to neglect.

5 Tips to Improve Your Subject Line

Now we know the facts and the big factors on whether your email gets opened or not; so what can we do to adjust and improve subject lines? Working from the statistics we've come up with five ways to improve your email marketing by simply adjusting the subject line.

1. Make the subject line immediate

The subject line of your email needs to immediately catch your reader's attention. Try teasing the content of your email and engage the reader with a call to action, such "Read more now".

2. Target your market

We've seen how the right keyword can be more successful for B2B messages, and personalisation is important when messaging customers so try differentiating and sending modified email to your different target markets. It's unlikely your subject line works as a "one size fits all"; instead give your audience tailored subject lines.

3. Keep it short and sweet

A lengthy subject line takes time to read. Keep them short and snappy, and encourage them to open the message. This is especially important now that people receive emails on the go with smartphones and tablets.

4. Make the best impression

Your subject line is the first impression of your email, make it count. Make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors as it will suggest that the full message is the same. If possible always get someone else (near to your target market) to read the email and the subject message and get feedback before the email is sent out.

5. React to the results

Use tracking to measure your successes and failures and take action to improve your next campaign. If your message had a low open rate, consider what can be changed to improve this. Also consider what made one of your campaigns so successful and try to emulate, and improve, upon what went well.

VSI-thinking offer a wide selection of email marketing services including automated, scheduled messages as well as one-off campaigns. Our email marketing comes with integrated tracking systems so you can see not only who opened your messages but also which links they have clicked, and what web pages they viewed once they reached your website. Find out more about our email marketing services.

Native Mobile Apps Sun, 28 Jul 2013 09:12:00 GMT Cardiff web design In this blog we look at the why native mobile app development is a more appropriate approach than HTML5. Two of the key benefits of a native app are removing the necessity to be online and processing data offline. Connectivity to the cloud or a web service for data are key considerations when developing your app and help to form ideas about how best achieve a great mobile app.

Mobile App cloud access

Many apps require access to the cloud or web service for data, but what happens when there is no connectivity available. There are a number of scenarios to be considered when developing a mobile app, where an app must continue to operate even without a connection.

One of the most popular scenarios is to understand when the user might need to turn off connectivity, perhaps because of expensive data roaming charges. This is often associated with travelling abroad where mobile data roaming charges can be much higher that the UK. It would be damaging to your company and brand if a customer realised you were responsible for a £50 bill while they were on holiday.

Another connectivity consideration is where there is no connectivity, something we almost always take for granted today. However, there are many dead stops in the UK where certain networks do not provide full coverage or coverage so limited that mobile connectivity is all but unusable.

Mobile App Development

In these scenarios the mobile app developer must adopt a model of retrieve and store data. The mobile app connects when Wifi is available to download chunks of data or data requested by the customer and store that information for later us.

The Thomas Cook mobile app is a good example of this, where brochures are downloaded to the mobile phone and can viewed later without a connection. Another exciting example under development with our team of app developers is holiday pricing and availability. In this example a data subset is transferred to the phone for super quick searching, rather than leaning on a massive server side search and download of results.

Native Apps

We have explained and demonstrated why a native mobile app might be necessary and how this is a appropriate technology. When you start to look how your business can best exploit mobile apps you can now consider how best to address data and connectivity.

HTML 5 Mobile Apps Wed, 24 Jul 2013 09:09:00 GMT Cardiff web design In this blog we look at the benefits of using HTML 5 in native mobile app development. Two of the key benefits using HTML 5 content in a native app are creating the right user interface and delivering interactive real-time information. Both these considerations are important when developing your app and help form the early ideas about how to best achieve a great mobile app.

Mobile App Design

User interface is important when developing a mobile app as accessibility and ease of use are key for user engagement. Developing bespoke controls for interactive elements such as calendars can be time consuming and therefore costly. The difficulty is ensuring that you maintain a consistent appearance across all mobile devices.

This can be avoided using HTML5 as it will invoke the mobile phones’ own client side user interface. Not only does this reduce the development requirement but it ensures that users get an interface that is consistent with their device.

Mobile apps are often proprietary software that offer services specific to a company and this can lead to many different user interface designs. Using HTML5 offers a consistent and familiar user interface which will ensure great acceptance and take up of the mobile app.

Mobile App Development

Many apps rely on live data for booking or account information, which means they must be connected to the cloud. Data from the cloud needs to be called into or pushed to a native app, but with a HTML 5 app content is cloud based.

Each function, within a native mobile HTML5 app, calls content from the cloud and can there provide real-time information. This might be take the form of customer offers, availability or account information for a specific customer and associated with their app.

HTML5 App Development

We have seen how HTML5 offers significant cost, usability and data benefits, so when you start to look how your business can best enter the mobile app arena so can choose the right technology.

Fulham Soccer Schools launch with AdvancedBooker Sat, 20 Jul 2013 11:00:00 GMT Cardiff web design Fulham Soccer Schools has launched a new online booking facility to the FFC Foundation’s existing website using VSI-thinking's latest AdvancedBooker:Sports online booking solution. Following on from the success with Manchester United Soccer Schools, where bookings were increased by 100% year-on-year, VSI-thinking has developed a customised booking journey and back office web application specifically for the Fulham Soccer Schools operation. With over 100 bookings in the first two days, the new service has been a runaway success.

Using the AdvancedBooker:Sports online booking solution, enables parents to book their children onto a course in just a couple of minutes. Customer focus was key throughout the project and VSI-thinking delivered a three-stage booking process that is simple and quick to use.

Parents can purchase multiple courses on a single booking, saving them time when booking for a whole summer. Over the holiday period families lead busy and hectic lifestyles and, with this in mind, parents have the flexibility to select individual days of the week for their children to attend the course. In addition, bookers are able to login to the 'My Booking' area and view bookings, update personal data and amend player details at their convenience.

The AdvancedBooker:Sports solution not only offers comprehensive back office administration facilities to run each soccer school, but also provides a mobile / tablet solution for staff at each venue. Coaches and venue administration staff can access the same information as the office-based team, which performs the important task of providing information on players. Child safety and care is a key concern for soccer schools and the AdvancedBooker solution stores medical details, emergency contacts and even dietary requirements for every child in attendance.

Furthermore, parents arriving at the venue in the morning without a booking can simply be directed to make a booking online or with the call centre. Once complete the child's details are available in real-time to be checked at the venue, saving administration time and resources. Steven Day CEO at Fulham FC Foundation explained, "We would often have a backlog of parents waiting to book their children in on the morning of the course. This problem has been greatly alleviated with the AdvancedBooker:Sports solution."

On developing the booking solution with Fulham, Managing Director, VSI-thinking, Mark Thomas explained: "We found many sporting clubs were struggling with existing ticketing systems which are simply not fit for purpose. These systems, often used by the clubs to sell match tickets, are unable to manage the different process requirements of a sports camp or hold the data required for course bookings. The market in the UK and Europe is open to a fully featured solution such as AdvancedBooker and with our multi-lingual solution we can deliver in any localised market."

Mobile App Developer Thu, 18 Jul 2013 09:05:00 GMT Cardiff web design Cardiff mobile app developer VSI-thinking has experience in developing both native and HTML 5 apps. Many of our customers ask at the start of a project about research and target demographics, to help create a business case for developing an app. This blog shares some of our insights and general traffic analysis that is used to help inform the decision making process.

Mobile Apps

Initially mobile apps were or used by tech savvy or customers in the high demographic groupings and downloads were directly proportional to the mobile web usage of a customers’ site. However, the demographic has broadened significantly in the last 2 years and many customers’ have seen mobile traffic accelerating at a rate faster the increase in downloads.

Mobile App Accessibility

One of the key benefits of a mobile phone app for both the customer and organisation offer the app is accessibility. Customers benefit from immediacy of content and information, where the organisation benefits from direct targeted information.

A customer can in a single click open a mobile app and get account or order information, which removes the need to open a browser, enter a URL, navigate to a login, login and finally select orders. You can see the app makes it far easier for a customer to interact, communicate and transact.

App Development

Our most successful app development project has been for Thomas Cook, producing the Brochure Store native mobile and tablet app. The project has delivered over 160,000 downloads in just 12 months, which is a significant percentage of the UK holiday market. The app which is available for iPhone, iPad, Android phones and Android tablets offers digital brochures in an easy to read, offline form.

Based on the thinking outlined in this blog the decision to build the mobile apps for iOS and Android was well founded. Android made the expected gains into the smart phone market and looks to overtake iOS, iPhone and iPad, in the near future. Whilst the BlackBerry and Windows 8 platforms have a minority following, at VSI-Thinking we believe that it is not worthy of development investment at this stage.

Google Places Guide - What is Google Places and How does it affect my business Fri, 12 Jul 2013 02:21:00 GMT Cardiff web design Google Places allows companies to list the exact location and address of their business which in turn enables potential customers to get precise information in their search results detailing where you are rather than having to rely on a physical map or scribbled instructions. If properly optimized, the map listing appears in search results that are location based which can give you an edge when marketing to your local area. Google Places also enable companies to add reviews and photos of their services and products. Getting listed just takes a few simple steps and can give you an increased presence in the search engine rankings which may lead to more relevant web traffic.

Why Local Search is Increasingly Important

20% of desktop queries have local intent (source). Local results are increasingly integrated into Google's core products such as search, maps and Google Now as they generally match the relevancy of the search requirement better. When considering that 95% of internet searches are found on the first page, then appearing in the blended search results can get your site a short cut to a first page listing for local queries.

Example of Google's Blended Search

“Dry cleaners” at Cardiff based web design location

In addition, the rise of mobile usage is also a large factor in the increase of importance of local searches. Recent statistics have shown that more than 50% of mobile search queries have local intent (source). Search engine algorithms are designed to bring back the best results for your query, in order to achieve this the algorithms take into account as many relevant factors as they can. Mobile technology can now pass your location to search engines and this can be taken into account when generating results. For example a search for the term “dry cleaners” should generate better results if the users location is considered as dry cleaning is on the whole a location dependant service. By taking account the geo-location of the searcher and providing location tailored searches, it can be argued that the searcher is more likely to use the search results provided as they suit the general requirement more. All-round better results can be acheived.

Factors that influence local search results:

  • Proximity of location - Your business will appear in a location that is relevant to the users query.
  • Completeness of profile - The more complete your profile, the better the chances of getting ranked.
  • Citations - Simply put, a Google citation is a mention on another website that lists your name, address, and phone number (NAP). A Citation is a validation that the NAP information about your business listing is accurate and consistent.
  • Reviews of your business - By increasing the number of positive customer reviews, you confirm your business' standing as a genuine entity and in turn validate the reason why your listing is relative to the users query.
  • Existing website SEO - Your existing website search engine optimisation is taken into account when a site's listing is shown.

10 tips to improve your presence on Google's local listings

  • Claim your free listing on Google Places
    Google Places for Business gives you access to free tools that help your business get online, be found on Google Search and Maps, and get closer to your customers.
    • Sign in to your Google account that you want to control your listing
    • Find your business on Google+ local using
    • Click on “Manage this page” button/icon on the right of the page
    • Follow the instructions to claim your listing
  • Complete your Profile and set appropriate categories for your business.
    Make sure you add the specific business categories relevant for what you do. You can add up to 5, so make full use of them.

  • Optimize your Google Places title and description
    As with your business title, make sure your product/services and location are also included in your business description text. Ensure a location term (eg London) and category term (eg Hotels) are in the “at a glance” section.

  • Add photos to your Google Places page

    • Upload the images from another website (such as photobucket and insider pages) to include keywords, descriptions and Geo code information in the tags
    • Use your full allocation of 10 photographs
    • Carefully choose the first image as it will be predominately used.
    • Turn your best review/testimonials into picture art
    • Ask customers to upload pictures to your own Google Places account to exceed the maximum 10 picture limit
  • Add Videos to your Google Places page
    This can help your search rankings by improving your chances to appear in the blended search under videos section. You are allowed to upload up to maximum of 5 videos.  For additional relevance,  Geo tag the video in YouTube to increase the relevance of the video to the location that you are targeting.

  • Improve your online reviews using Google+ Reviews
    Customers can leave reviews on your Google Places page and the quantity of reviews you receive matters. Obviously you want good reviews for your business' credibility, but Google places much more emphasis on the number of reviews you get rather than how high your average rating is. However you should be encouraging your customers to add positive reviews as a key strategy in boosting your Google Places ranking.

    Example of Google Map listing with online reviews

    Celtic Manor Google Map Listing with online reviews

    You need to have more than 10 positive reviews for google places to assign a highlighted rating for your business. Highlighted or Star ratings can help draw attention to a Google Places listing and increase the click through rate of your listing. In the example above, this is shown using the highlighted 23 (which denotes the number of very good / excellent) reviews.

  • Google+ for Business
    In addition to claiming your Google Places, promote your business through Google+ with a Google+ badge. Find more information here

  • Business Citations
    Citations are instances where there is a mention about your business or your products and services that you offer. A structured citation is where your business NAP information is mentioned in other web sites. Typically these will be Yellow Pages type listings, business directories, data aggregators. Making sure your NAP is listed and correct in these sites is critical to your Google Places ranking. Claim your free local listings on other locally based sites and directories such as Yelp.

  • Improve your Site's On-Site Local SEO
    Add your address and telephone number to the footer of your website and ensure that the nName, address, and phone number (NAP) is consistent across your web site and Google Places page. If possible add the business city and region in the page title of the web page that your Google Places page references.

  • Use Rich Snippets for Local Search
    Tag your name, address and phone number of your own website so that Google can easily identify your NAP information. Find more information about Local Search Rich Snippets here.

Local SEO is a long term strategy that requires small incremental steps. By understanding and following the tips given in this article, you should see an improvement in your listing ranking over a few months.

At VSI-Thinking, we offer a variety of solutions that we belive could improve your online business. From Google Places Optimisation to Mobile Solutions, VSI-thinking has the experience and expertise to deliver a premium yet cost effective solution for your business. For more information, Contact us to find out how else we can help with your online business.

Cardiff Mobile App Developers Thu, 11 Jul 2013 09:01:00 GMT Cardiff web design Cardiff Mobile App Developer VSI-thinking is currently working on a number of exciting projects, two of which present interesting challenges that should be considered in any mobile app project. One of senior developers explains about the projects and the key objectives for app development.

AdvanceBooker App

Our AdvancedBooker solution has been used by Manchester United and Fulham FC Soccer Schools to allow parents to book soccer school places and for staff to administer the courses. A mobile optimised booking journey and 'My Booking' area have also been developed. However following numerous requests, we have decided to take their mobile integration a step further and develop an Android and iPhone app. The key consideration was to provide access to live course availability and flexibility for booking individual days.

Golf Union Wales Championship App

The Golf Union of Wales runs championships throughout the year with an online booking solution provided by VSI-thinking. The championship database has been extended to include scores and make those available on a leader board in the website. The mobile app will additionally need to display the real-time scores on the leader board in the smartphone or tablet.

HTML 5 App

Both mobile app projects required constant querying of real-time information and therefore needed to access data stored in the cloud. It was decided at an early stage to produce the apps using HTML5 to ensure that live information could be easily accessed by the app. This would also reduce server side resources as data would be request as required rather than a constant push to thousands of mobile apps. In addition, development time is quicker and cost of is lower as HTML5 is mobile platform independent.

Native App

It is important to understand the difference between a native mobile app and a HTML5 mobile app. The latter is simply an integrated web browser that connects to a mobile optimised web site and is required to be online at all times. Where as a native app will hold all content on the phone and does not require a live connection, perhaps connecting periodically for updates.

Mobile App Development

You can see how our mobile app developers arrived at the decision to use HTML5, based on the suitability of the technology and its benefits. Both projects are now at a prototype stage for clients and the clients seem excited by the initial results.