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Archive for the ‘Coffee Break’ Category

A week with NSDesign (work experience in the digital marketing sector)

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Hello! My name is Ryan Harley. As you may have noticed from the tweets and blog posts I’ve made, I’ve been with NSDesign from Tuesday until Friday doing my 4th year work experience placement with them. As my final task of the week, of the series of tasks that I have been asked to do, is to write a blog post about my experiences over the week, so here it is.

On Tuesday I arrived at 9 o’clock and was led up the stairs to meet Gary. We had a meeting outlining the plan for the week, set out the tasks that I was to complete, and I went in to the office to meet the team. I was given a computer to work at and started to work away. My first task was to create a Prezi presentation. I’d never used the programme before, so it was a totally new experience, but a fun one at that. It was completely different to anything I’d ever worked with, but was really easy to get used to. I then presented my presentation to the team, and it seemed to go down pretty well. Midway through the day I sat in on a meeting with one of NSDesign’s Web Design clients regarding updates they want to have done to their website.  I then began the second task of the day, creating a blog post on behalf of the company, on a subject of my choice. I chose to do my blog entry on social media and it’s relationship with up and coming independent musicians.

On my second day, I came in and wrote the first of the tweets for NSDesign, that continued throughout the week. I also started working on my third task of the week, a research task on the decline of offline shopping and the rise in the online shopping business and technology that some shops are using in their stores. Gary needed facts and figures for an upcoming workshop that he is doing with shop owners, so as I am here he asked me to get him research on it. Next was to sit in another meeting with a company about to partner with NSDesign on an interesting Web Design/Social Media project.

On Thursday I conducted a brand review on NSDesign, outlining how they have construced their brand and how effectively it is working. Later on, I started to create a Prezi presentation, about myself and a short bit about my experiences at NSDesign. As well as tweeting throughout the day, I started this blog post just before the end of the day.

On Friday, my last day with NSDesign, I finished the Prezi presentation that I had started the previous afternoon, making it much more technical than the one I had created at the start of the week. Gary and I also took on a little side project of trying to get a previously not working piece of equipment to read out RSS feeds, play radio stations and move around, which ended up pretty successful in the end. My final task was to write this blog post.

I really enjoyed my week of work experience with NSDesign. The guys were really nice and were helpful whenever it was required. It was a great experience and I won’t forget it anytime soon. Thanks a lot everyone!

Ryan

@KerrfullRH
www.facebook.com/recklessabandonglasgow
Ryan’s latest Prezi:

We buy any car dot com – Even the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Toy.

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

littletikescarI’m certain that when Lisa from “We Buy Any Car .com” (yes – the company with the really annoying theme tune) turned up at her desk today to (among other things) look after their official Twitter account, she wasn’t quite prepared for what was to follow.

Not exactly renowned for their Twitter activity – @webuyanycar typically gets half a dozen tweets a week (the past couple of days they’ve had no-one talk to them at all on Twitter), so clearly something happened today to result in them attracting over 600 tweets (and counting).

What happenned?  This:

 

 

In summary – Jamie tweeted the letter he received back from WeBuyAnyCar.com after he had ‘jokingly’ tried to get them to buy his “Little Tikes” kiddie car. It does say “anycar” after all.  A bit of playful fun it seemed, resulting in a not so playful response from a representative from WBAC (I’ve resorted to using their initials, as I keep reminding myself of the jingle) called Adam Jennings.  Booo Adam..  it was just a bit of fun, and clearly not intended to offend… so why the grumpy response.  Bad form!

People started Re-Tweeting Jamie, with many of them quick to berate WBAC for their lack of social skills, and “sense of humour by-pass”, many of them also taking the opportunity to “have a go” about other issues they had with the company.  Let’s be honest – WBAC probably aren’t the most liked company at the best of times.  Even @antanddec found it funny enough to RT, and with nearly 3Million followers, it didn’t take long for Jamie’s letter to go viral – with over 20,000 RTs!

Fast becoming a PR disaster, poor Lisa was at the receiving end of a barrage of Tweets.  I’ll admit myself to thinking that they’d made a monumentous cock-up, and had missed what could have been a fantastic PR opportunity – remember the Sainsbury’s Giraffe Bread story, or the Bodyform response?

How could WBAC not see the opportunity here, and why had their man Adam Jennings sent such a terribly unfriendly letter?

Actually – he didn’t.

The whole thing was a lie..  a fake..  a hoax.  Jamie had made the whole thing up.  He admited as much in a follow up Tweet – probably in the realisation that the reach of the whole story was becomming so wide that he maybe risked some form of legal action from WBAC for slander or copyright misuse or impersonation..  There was no Adam Jennings, it was all just for a bit of fun.  But was it fun at the expense of Lisa and WBAC?  After all – even after the admission that it was a hoax, people were still Re-Tweeting the original one, still poking fun at WBAC, and still filling up Lisa’s Twitter “inbox” with 100′s of messages, many of them not so flattering.

So what did WBAC do?  Did they get the lawyers on the case?  Did they demand the tweet be removed?  Did Lisa walk out and resign under the pressure?  No.  They played along.

They realised that Jamie’s tweet was not intended to harm the company, not real criticism or a hate campaign that some businesses see on Twitter..  no – this was just Jamie having a bit of fun.  On a personal level, part of me really admires the guy for his creativity (earning him over 2000 new twitter followers)…  The NSDesign team have done our fair share of Twitter windups over the years, so I kind of understand why he did it..  And so I’m guessing does Lisa.

From her first tweet this morning – “We’ve never had so many tweets! Thanks Adam, whoever you are!” to her witty one-liners, and RT’s of others, Lisa didn’t hide from this escalating story.  She certainly did us a favour with a RT of our own attempt at humour:

 

It didn’t take long for public opinion to sway… as people began to side with WBAC and turn what was criticism into praise, and to congratulate them on their handling of the whole situation.

While they might still not be the most liked company out there, I’m certain that the actions of Lisa, and her fun friendly chat on Twitter today, won’t have done anything to harm them – and I for one am now a follower!  Is this the end of the story?  Probably not… and I suspect that WBAC might continue to turn a negative into further positives in the days to come.  And good on them I say.

 

 

 

 UPDATE: 01 October 2013:

WeBuyAnyCar.com has just launched a new initiative – aimed at proving they DO buy ANY car! Well done on www.webuyanytoycar.com - a nice ending to the whole story.
WeBuyAnyCar-Logo-Toy_v1-2

 

Letter To Fletch

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Norman Stanley Fletcher
HMP Slade
St Albans
Hertfordshire

Tuesday 23 July

 

Dear Norman,

Thank you for your recent letter.

I’m sorry to disappoint you but I am unable to help you hack in to Mr Mackay the prison warder’s Facebook account.

This would be extremely unethical, not to mention illegal, and in any event, I lack the technical knowledge to be able to.

I understand your frustration with your current situation in life, however, I would stress that the way to improve things is not to get yourself into further trouble.

However, should you be determined to cause Mr Mackay embarrassment and post rogue messages under his name, and as long as you accept that you proceed entirely at your own risk, there may be something you can do.

Should Mr Mackay possess a smartphone device, with the Facebook app on it, you may be able to access his account without requiring a password.

His phone will have a ‘pin lock’ function which he may not have enabled. Even if he has, it may well be something as simple as ‘1234’, ‘1212’ or ‘9999’. People are often very lax about leaving their phones lying around and it may be if you can cause a distraction and get your hands on the device, you might be able to crack the pin code and take full control of his phone and Facebook, without inputting any further passwords.

As I said, you proceed entirely at your own risk and I would urge you to resist the temptation.

It might also be worth reviewing your own security arrangements and implementing a series of secure passwords (not words in the English language, not the current month or day of the week) but a seemingly random series of letters and numbers which only you will know.

You are in the company of some fairly dishonest individuals and the fact that you have somehow managed to acquire a smartphone makes you a potential target.

 

Best wishes,

Colin Kelly
Head of Marketing and Training
NSDesign
colin@nsdesign.net

Email To Rodney

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

From: colin@nsdesign.net
To: rodney@titcoplc.co.uk

Subject: E-Commerce Website

Rodney,

Please see below some notes from my colleague Gary Ennis regarding your proposed e-commerce website.

This might prove useful in your efforts to persuade your brother to invest properly in this area.

Also, please note Point 4 concerning our accepted method of payment and Point 5 regarding the structure of your company.

Best,

Colin

 


Begin forwarded message: 

From: Gary Ennis
To: Colin Kelly

Subject: RE E-Commerce site for T.I.T. Co. Plc.

  1. Their existing eBay store does not do their range of products justice. It also costs them money every time they list an item for sale. Their own ecommerce solution would be more cost effective and look much more professional.
  2. I have no doubt that ‘Sunglasses Ron Web Development Inc’ will deliver a cheaper quote than us. But their portfolio of websites does not include any full ecommerce sites. They do however contain 3rd party adverts, do not display well on mobile devices and I would feel less than confident entering my credit card details in the online form their sites use.
  3. All our sites include a content management system which the client can take full control of and update anytime, how they wish. If Rodney has a basic grasp of computing skills and access to an internet enabled machine I’m sure he’d be able to make any neccessary changes.
  4. Regarding the invoice, stress to him that while we are always willing to be flexible and understanding of our clients, his suggestion of 18 months interest free credit followed by 7 monthly installments of £50 and the remainder paid in equity in T.I.T. Co. Plc would not be acceptable.
  5. Are you sure this company is a bona fide PLC? Companies House suggests otherwise.

 

Cheers

Gary

Letter To Paddington

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Mr Paddington Bear-Brown
32 Windsor Gardens
London
W9 3RG

Dear Paddington,

Thank you for your letter. As requested, here is some advice regarding using digital media to keep in contact with your relatives overseas.

It makes no difference to me that you have paws instead of hands although you may encounter difficulties operating a keyboard should you decide to fully embrace this technology.

I understand you are concerned that the letters you are writing take too long to reach your Aunt in Peru and the pace at which your life is currently moving is such that you require a quicker method of communication with her.

In the first instance, I would encourage you to use Skype. It is like a telephone but considerably cheaper – and often free – for international calls. Your local library will have more information regarding how this technology works and the equipment required if you wish to carry out research before committing.

I am fairly certain that the family you are living with in Central London will have wifi internet access in their house and computing facilities. Ask them to download and install Skype into the machine. All you would require on top of this would be a headset and microphone and I am sure your friend Mr Gruber that you mentioned would have several models available in his shop, or would be able to acquire them if not.

There may be situations where you do not require a real-time, 1-1 interaction with your Aunt where you actually hear each others’ voices. In this respect, I would suggest you join Facebook and add each other as friends.

I realise your Aunt has some reservations around this and believes it is ‘for the young folk’.

If we look at the data and demographics of Facebook users, this attitude, while understandable, is in fact incorrect. The 65 plus age group is the fastest growing on Facebook. It has a billion users worldwide and many of them are in your Aunt’s age group. You talked at length about your Aunt in your original letter and it is clear she is a very forward thinking and resourceful character and I’m sure she’d be able to figure it out and would enjoy being part of a modern communications platform.

Facebook would allow you to share pictures with each other and send short ‘status updates’ informing each other as to what you are doing. Some of your other friends – such as the Portobello Market traders – may already be on Facebook and you could add them as friends too or follow their business pages.

Please take care though as, without changing your privacy settings, much of what you say on Facebook could be accessed by the general public and I would hate for you to share private information unwittingly. I know how seriously you are about protecting your reputation. You might not want the market traders to discover your Aunt’s pet name for you and your already strained relationship with your neighbour, Mr Curry, might suffer further if he became aware of what you said about him in conversations with your friends.

You obviously enjoy travel and have a thirst for information about the world around you. So my final suggestion is that you consider joining Twitter. Again, this is free, and I must stress, 100% public.

It can be an extremely powerful way to find out what is going on, anywhere in the world. You choose who to follow and who’s updates you want to receive, or you can conduct searches on particular terms, for example, ‘marmalade’ and very quickly estbalish who is offering the best deals and then buy from them.

The company I work with delivers a very highly regarded social media training workshop and it would be great to see you at our next course. 100% of previous attendees said they considered it value for money and would recommend the course to a friend.

Give me a shout if you’d like me to book you a place.

Yours faithfully,

 

Colin Kelly
Head of Marketing and Training
NSDesign
colin@nsdesign.net

 

Letter To Basil

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

From: ‘Colin Kelly’ colin@nsdesign.net
To: ‘Basil Fawlty ESQ’ mrbasilfawlty@geocities.com

Subject: Social Media Training

Dear Basil,

Thanks for your time last week and I am pleased you are willing to consider a social media presence for your hotel in Torquay.

I’ve had a look at the TripAdvisor website as you suggested and agree it needs urgent attention.

The overall tone is negative and some serious issues have been raised by your guests: a rat in the dining room, a supporting wall in danger of collapse, a couple forced to spend the night in separate rooms, some suspicious looking kippers and even a death on the premises. On top of this, there are frequent mentions of the owner treating guests in a rude and aggressive manner.

Your current efforts to repair this damage to your reputation are not working. Indeed, it appears whoever is currently posting replies on your behalf has only a rudimentary grasp of the English language and an even more basic understanding of customer service.

I suggest you take direct control of the situation and tackle the problem head on, as follows:

  1. Improve the hotel. Your success on social media will be severely limited until you solve the problems people are complaining about. As long as these problems persist, a Facebook page or Twitter channel simply gives them another public platform to criticise you. So, train the staff in customer service, improve hygiene, get the Moose’s head on the wall and consider a course in anger management to help you improve your treatment of the guests.
  2. Launch a Twitter channel. I note your concern about ‘riff raff’ booking stays at your hotel. This is the problem with a local newspaper advert – you’ve no control over who sees it. Twitter allows you to conduct custom searches to identify a particular type of person who is already interested in coming to Torquay to stay in a hotel. You can then read everything else this person has Tweeted recently and establish their social class. Their biography might explicitly state what job they do, or you can figure it out based on what else they choose to share. You can then decide whether to engage with them or not and offer them accommodation.
  3. Use Linkedin for recruitment. It was obvious from my visit last week that various members of your team are less than committed. The waitress seemed more concerned about her sketch pad than delivering bowls of soup, and the lad from Barcelona appeared very much to follow his own agenda. While I can’t condone your threats of physical violence towards him I can understand what drives you towards this. Linkedin allows you to post job opportunities and select people with skills and experience you require. In these tough economic times you might be surprised at the quality of person available for work. It is also worth you being on Linkedin yourself in order to help grow your business. By connecting with other prominent business leaders, you could, for example, win more business from the tour bus sector, or establish your hotel as a conference venue. I realise it has been sometime since you updated your CV but I could help you brush things up a bit.
  4. Improve your website. Your existing Geocities site is looking dated and I’m sure we could deliver something much more contemporary for you.

I think this is probably more than enough to be going on with for now and you will likely have some concerns around the costs of any work I do for you. I’m delighted to say that there is some funding available for a training workshop which I’d be happy to run for you and your team. It’s a simple form to fill out and up to 50% funding can be secured.

Do let me know if you’d like to explore this further.

I have some availability in the next 2-3 weeks and would be delighted to get a date in the diary.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Colin Kelly

Head of Marketing and Training
NSDesign
colin@nsdesign.net

 

My First Spundge Blog – Yes Blog, Not Bob…

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Hey everyone, it’s Thea here with my first-ever blog using a new platform called Spundge. I first learned of it via one the most successful social media specialists Mari Smith (ironically she’s a Scot in California!) I receive Mari’s newsletter and find that there is always at least one tip, link, video etc – worth an interest. Spundge was one of two tools she recommended, and it was almost exactly the type of tool I was after, so I checked it out.

Basically what Spundge does is aggregate your content in things called “Notebooks”. In that way way, it’s sort of like Pinterest where instead of pinning to boards, you “Spunge it” to “Notebooks”.

So if you are a consumer of content, who wants to be more efficient with all your links, or if you write a blog or newsletter, then I recommend you give it a bash like I am.

As I say this is only my first blog attempt. When deciding what to write about for this blog, I thought I’d attempt to do a weekly blog of some of the best things I’ve seen shared across the World Wide Web over the course of the week.

Working for a variety of NSDesign clients, as you might imagine, I consume a LOT of content for more than eight hours a day, so when something really catches my eye, that’s saying something.

The first one was shared by a friend Bob on Facebook and it is particularly interesting if you were around in the 70s and 80s (especially if you were say, a teenager). Even though I am a Californian, I absolutely loved (and recognized) almost all of it.

It’s called We Didn’t Own an iPad

Wasn’t that great?

Now, the other bit of viral content that I thoroughly enjoyed this week was a Disney spoof that follows on from Disney’s typical “Happy Ever After”….films. It’s “what came next” in a sense. The execution of this was pretty amazing. He recorded it over a month but man all his hard work’s paid off.

Here’s the After Ever After video.

I hope you enjoy it much as I did!

Well, as I say, this is just the first blog – of what will hopefully be many. Now I just need to work out how to connect my Spundge account to the NSDesign blog.

Oh before I go, let me congratulate my team at NSDesign for taking 2nd in the Glasgow Rock’s Sponsorship Tournament. I was out due to injury but was sociably impressed (and a wee bit surprised) by their brilliant efforts.

There is a great new cover pic on the NSDesign Facebook page so check it out!

UPDATE: Not as easy as I’d hoped to link Spundge to NSDesign’s blog but hopefully I’ll have it sussed by next week, until then…have a great week!

The Number 7

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Some of the NSDesign team. Colin and Martin were cleaning the boss's car.

We’re thrilled to bits about our 7 RAR* nominations, announced last week. 

Fingers crossed we bring home some silverware** on April 18th and in particular we would love to hang on to our ‘Best Value For Money UK Agency (under 30 staff)’ title.

If we do, it’ll be the 4th year in a row we’ve won it.

The Harry Potter books say 7 is the most powerfully magic number so rather than bigging ourselves up in a press release, we thought we’d have a bit of fun with the number 7 instead.

*Recommended Agency Registrar.
**Actually it’s a nice plaque

7 Things You Didn’t Know About NSDesign

1 Our designer Paul Elliot can run a 10K in under 38 minutes. Our team also includes a golfer that plays off a 1 handicap, a magician and juggler, someone who’s been inside Google’s ‘Googleplex’ headquarters, an accomplished guitarist and songwriter, and a former journalist who once stood in between George Clooney and Bono. And was too nervous to speak to them.

2 In our 15th year in business we’ve now worked with more than 20,000 clients across all our divisions.

3 Our Embrace The Space social media training started as a half hour talk to the local Chamber of Commerce and has now been delivered to more than 3 thousand businesses through a mix of free taster sessions, one to one consultancy and our famous ‘masterclass’ series at Hillington Park Innovation Centre.

4 We’ve been based at Hillington Park Innovation Centre for 7 years, with the exception of a 3 month break following ‘The Great Flood of 2009’. The building suffered serious damage but we managed to relocate to an office in Clydebank. Incredibly, because of our backup systems and use of cloud technology, none of our work was affected and clients didn’t notice any difference.

5 Our current office and our previous 2 office locations occupied were situated on preciely the same line of Latitude. (Weird).

6 Our very first client was Simon Howarth, from Preston, and he’s still with us today! www.theinformationedge.co.uk is his site and at our 10th birthday party he made a speech saying he remembers sending an email with a problem after midnight one night and getting a reply from Gary 2 minutes later. Simon reckons that’s really rare in business these days but it’s a level of service we strive to give every client, all the time.

7 We love sport and have worked with Greenock Morton FC, Braehead Clan ice hockey team and Glasgow Rocks basketball. We took part in their annual sponsor’s tournament last year and lost every single game.

 

7 Tips For Business Success on Social Media

1 Assume everything you say is 100% public.

2 Keep a folder of images on your computer which you can use to liven up your posts.

3 Read every message out loud to yourself or a colleague before sending it.

4 Do more listening than talking.

5 Practice explaining what your business does and what makes it special using as few words as possible.

6 Don’t let it overwhelm you. Find out which networks your potential customers use and concentrate on these.

7 Consider training. Particularly if you have staff.

Team GB’s Top Tweeters

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

542 athletes will compete for Team GB at the London Olympics. Many use their Twitter accounts to keep fans up to date with what’s going on. But who’s worth following..and what are they saying?

Gary Ennis, from Glasgow digital agency NSDesign travels the country helping businesses do social media better.

He’s been taking a look at some Twitter medal contenders. And some who’re definitely not!



Holly Bleasdale (@HollyBleasdale)
Pole vaulter prone to outbursts of excitement. Predicts London 2012 is ‘gonna be the best 3 weeks ever.’ Her anticipation ahead of the games is only matched by the joy she experienced when passing the 5 thousand Twitter followers mark recently. ‘Wow wow just realised I went over the 5000 mark! Thanks everyone for following and supporting me. love you all. And when checking in at the airport she shared, ‘There is a tiny tiny baby about 5 months old and it’s soo unbelievably cute! Awwwwwwww’. If she wins a medal…brace yourself.

Andy Murray (@andy_murray)
If there was a Twitter Grand Slam our boy wouldn’t have been crying at SW19 a few weeks back. It’s taken a while for him to get his personality across in interviews, but Murray’s million plus followers have been enjoying his dry wit, behind the scenes chat, opinions on current affairs and occasional plugs for sponsors for years. Famously shared a picture of himself playing backgammon with his dog but has remained Twilent since that defeat to Federer and for that reason, doesn’t make our top 3.

Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua)
Tipped as a potential star that could emerge during the games, this London boxer might want to up his game on Twitter. His 4 thousand or so followers are subjected to a large amount of chat between him and his mates which lapses into text speak such as, ‘what’s up fi I’m not bad thanks how’s u and Callum?’ It’s not quite ‘I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’, is it?

Jessica Ennis (@J_Ennis)
The golden girl of Team GB is a shining example of good social media engagement. She regularly retweets followers taking part in their own charity runs, thanked a group of school kids who sent ‘good luck’ letters and even chatted with Philip Schofield while watching ‘The Cube’. Always sharing her passion for athletics but her hatred of Mondays seems to be a recurring theme.

Zara Dampney (@Zara_Dampney)
Only 1,800 followers just now but watch that rocket during the games. Zara is part of Britain’s Beach Volleyball team. She understands that fans want pictures and shares them by the dozen…including one of her Ugg boot moments after it had been devoured by her dog. Tweets several times a day with updates from inside the Olympic Village, sharing every aspect of life leading up to London 2012. Recent tweets include, ‘Steak night….my reward after a long day #bringmemysteak Xxx’, ‘The draw has been made . . . Italy, Russia and Canada. Want to get going now! Alarm is set for 3.10 so goodnight xxx’

Sir Chris Hoy (@chrishoy)
Has been known to tweet while lying on the massage table. Wrong.

Hannah Miley (@HannahMiley89)
The reigning Commonwealth Champion for 400m individual medley could end up on the podium in London but don’t expect to see her Tweeting. The Scot disappointed her 6,300 followers last week announcing she was ‘going into social media lockdown’ until she finishes her last swim.

Craig Benson (@craigbenson94)
At 18, one of the youngest members of Team GB with updates along the lines of ‘Cannot stop laughing at the music on the website for our prom photos.. hahaha’ followed a short time later by, ‘Big shout to Andrew’s Driving School for helping me pass.’ Like I said, he’s 18.

Dai Greene (@DaiGreene)
Despite recently receiving a ticking off from the British Olympic Association following a badly judged tweet, the Welshman generally has a decent go at giving his fans some insight into the life of an elite athlete and adds plenty of humour. Recently revealed he was reading Andre Agassi’s biography, that he thought he saw a cyclist eating a pasty during the Tour De France and even shared the breaking news that he was taking his dog for a walk.

Imogen Bankier (@ImogenBankier)
Glasgow based mixed doubles badminton star and another medal hope. Recently Tweeted a moan about the amount of washing she had to do along with a picture of her playing kit hanging up to dry. Had an unfortunate rant aimed at the ‘thieving bandit swaggering around with my purse’ after a night out in Milton Keynes. She discovered later the aforementioned ‘thief’ had actually returned it safely with all her cash and cards inside. Despite the odd hiccup she engages well with her fans and adds plenty of fun and character. Writes a regular blog with playing partner Chris Adcock.


And the winners are…


In Bronze Medal position - Dai Green

Taking the runner up Silver Medal is – Jessica Ennis

And in top spot – our Gold Medal winner is Zara Dampney – Zara gets our nod as Team GB’s Top Tweeter because she understands what her fans want and gives it to them regularly.

She shares enthusiasm, information, loads of pictures and mixes business and personal really well. There’s a lot of fun and even some nonsense from time to time but there are boundaries and you won’t see her tweeting irresponsibly or getting into trouble. She might not be conscious of it all the time, but there’s a clear strategy behind what she’s doing. Increased engagement with her fans equals a higher profile which equals happy sponsors.

A great example to anyone looking to do Twitter better, either as a business or an individual. Well done Zara and good luck in London!

Working in Web Design – Experience or Education?

Friday, May 25th, 2012

This is the full version of an opinion piece that is featured in this month’s .NET magazine.

Something I am becoming increasingly aware of these days is the long list of educational achievements that appear on young people’s CVs.

Whilst these are impressive in their own right, I have to say that as the owner and managing director of a marketing design agency, qualifications are far from the top of my list of priorities when I’m looking to fill a vacancy within my own organisation.

I recently held a series of interviews to fill the position of Web Development Assistant at NSDesign, and I noted with interest the disparity in skillset that exists between the recent graduates and those who had gone straight from school into work.

On the whole I found the latter group to be far more competent and capable of handling the tasks that I would ordinarily task a junior web developer with, as opposed to the former group, even though they had been studying the subject full time at university for three or four years.

Like all employers, I want only the very best web designers and developers in my business to ensure smooth operations, and fundamentally to fulfil and exceed our customers’ expectations.   That is why I employ staff based on a whole variety of factors, rather than on their educational attainments alone.

As an employer, what I’m looking for is staff with the technical know-how, communication skills and initiative to do the job well. Whether a candidate has gained these skills through formal education is secondary – and young people interested in entering this industry should definitely bear this in mind.


Technical skills

First and foremost, what most employers are looking for in a web designer or developer is someone with the relevant skills to do the job properly.   A ‘typical’ day’s work for a web designer will involve anything from visual interface design, wire-framing and user experience planning to front end development and coding using the latest web design standards.   Employers want to see evidence that candidates have these skills and they are able to apply them in practice – and not just apply them, but apply them well.

When I was conducting interviews recently, I was eager to find out from recent graduates what they had been taught about at university.  From their feedback, it quickly became clear that web-design degrees focus on table-based layouts – often ignoring vital and fairly basic web design elements such as semantic mark up, standards and CSS.

By comparison, candidates with relevant work experience were well versed in these elements – they had the practical skills that I was looking for and would be able to hit the ground running.

Unlike other professions, web design doesn’t lend itself to the conventional university learning environment of classroom teaching and library textbooks.  In practice, it requires candidates to be familiar with the latest technologies, trends and software – that means practical skills-based learning, not immersing one’s self in a textbook.

One of our web designers – Paul – is university educated, having completed his Applied Graphics degree in 2005.  Paul says he gained a lot from his studies – he was taught about flash animation, 3d modelling and multimedia presentations and learned the basics of web design.  However, he admits that if he could go back in time he wouldn’t choose the same path again.

After three years working for NSDesign, Paul’s advice to others looking for a career like his is to  concentrate on building a strong portfolio to show an employer at the interview stage.  Rather than go to university, Paul thinks that the best way to learn the ins and outs of web design is through the wealth of web design tutorial websites, blogs and books on offer – these are all geared towards teaching people the principles of good design, high standards and technologies that are being used in the industry.

As an employer, I have to agree – the web provides a huge array of up-to-the-minute learning tools, and youngsters that take advantage of these and come up with the goods are by far more employable than those who have been learning about table-based layouts.


Customer service

Next up on my list of priorities for suitable candidates is an awareness of the importance of customer service standards.  I’m sure most employers will agree when I say that a business can have the best designers in the world, but if they are unable to communicate effectively with clients then that organisation is doomed to failure.  Key responsibilities for a designer include meeting with clients to discuss their requirements, deciphering briefs, and delivering training on how to operate websites, blogs and social media networks.

NSDesign’s Designer and front end developer, Matt, briefly studied graphic design at college but dropped out after a year, opting to teach himself the tools of the trade instead.    He describes himself as a bit of a jack of all trades, having gone on to work in a variety of different jobs, including retail, manufacturing and call centre jobs, learning about web design in his spare time.

Out of all of our staff, I can quite honestly say that Matt is the one that excels at customer service – much of his work involves meeting with clients to discuss their aims and objectives and to train them on WordPress and other content management systems.

At first glance, Matt’s CV may seem quite eclectic, but his experience in the world of work has been absolutely invaluable to his ability to be excellent at his job and contribute to this business.  His background has given him the confidence and business acumen he needs to do conduct his role effectively.

Rather than being a drawback, Matt’s lack of formal education is in fact his biggest selling point – he’s used his time productively to gain business experience and practical expertise that really pays off from the point of view of an employer and from our clients.


Ambition and initiative

Last, but certainly not least, what I’m looking for in a candidate is an ability to show initiative at work.  As is the case in all industries, one of the biggest pressures on employers these days is time.  The majority of my working week is spent outside the office – delivering workshops, meeting clients and following up business development opportunities, so what I need is staff who can deliver high quality websites and designs on receipt of a tight brief.

I was thoroughly impressed with one candidate I interviewed recently when he showed me his own portfolio site with various personal and mock client websites that he had worked on.  He had no formal training, but his dedication and quality of work spoke volumes, and he was the one I ended up hiring.  I could see from the quality of work he showed me that he was ambitious and that he loved this kind of work.  Nothing beats that – showing that you are willing to go the extra mile really speaks volumes at the interview stage.

The same goes for one of our web developers Martin.  He started out in the web industry after teaching himself about the trade through books, tutorials and web forums.  Entirely self-taught, Martin has now been at NSDesign for five years.  Now that he has established his career in web design, he has decided to embark on an Open University course to obtain a BSc degree in Information Technology.

I’ve always admired Martin’s ambition and enthusiasm for his work, and his desire go back to university now speaks volumes about his dedication.  It is interesting because Martin has gone full circle – only now, after teaching himself about web design and succeeding in establishing himself as a web developer, does he feel it is important to provide solid educational foundations for his learning.

Whilst I’m confident that Martin can give his job 110% without a formal education, this recent move demonstrates his commitment to his career – from an employer point of view there is nothing better than that.