Category Archives: Technology

Standing still

Update: Since this post was published I have written up these notes in more detail on the website.

I overheard a conversation between two web people a while ago.

One (a web developer) was explaining a tricky situation.

A client had called with news that a button on their website had broken.

The client wanted it fixed.

Elaborating further, the client explained that they had not ‘touched’ the website in the entire time (1 year) that it had been live.

Therefore it was not their fault it had broken.

The developer then explained that they too had not touched the website in that time period – and neither had anybody else.

This leaves two questions:

  1. Why was the button on the website broken?
  2. Whose fault was it that it had broken?

The answer would prove important because it would be the difference between the developer fixing it for free or the client having to pay to have the work carried out.

So how does something change on a website that hasn’t been touched?

It doesn’t.

The website hasn’t changed at all.

The code has stayed exactly the same as the day it went live.

It has remained in a constant state.

But the rest of the world hasn’t.

In the space of a year a lot has changed.

Including web browsers.

Since January 2012 Google has launched somewhere in the region of 12 new versions of Chrome.

Mozilla’s Firefox was on version 10 in 2012, it is now on version 24.

Even Internet Explorer has had a Windows 8 flavoured overhaul.

So the website hasn’t changed at all.

But everything else has.

The website that worked on Chrome 17, or Firefox 10 or Internet Explorer 9 doesn’t necessarily work on their modern day equivalents.

A website can only be built to the standards of the day it goes live.

So who’s fault is it that the button broke?

The answer is no-one.

The website just stood still for too long.

When everything around you is moving forwards, standing still is as good as moving backwards.

Thinking about it

I used to work at a large institution.

My role afforded me the right to meet with the person in charge of the website to find out what they did.

During one such encounter we discussed the upcoming launch of a new website.

Being privileged, I was allowed to see the ‘work-in-progress’ version of the website.

Whilst reviewing the article the person in-charge proudly explained how the first three links in the navigation of the site were; ‘central to the user journey and had taken a matter of 6 months to decide upon’.

That’s a long time to choose what to put in your website navigation.

That’s so long that eventually you have to ask; what is going to be more damaging, rushing out the incorrect new navigation or leaving the crappy old website live for an extra 6 months?

I’d wager that the crappy old website (and believe me, it was crappy) was doing them significantly more damage.

So why do institutions labour so hard over these decisions?

The web isn’t ever in a state of ‘final form’.

If you make a website live and it doesn’t work you can make changes relatively quickly and easily.

In the days of print there was a need to think carefully before you gave the printer instruction to complete the job.

There was no going back.

But the internet isn’t like that.

It is progressive.

You can change things.

The Marketing Director of a large company once told me that the best websites don’t change, they evolve.

It’s true.

When was the last time Amazon completely redesigned its website?


It redesigns features.

Never the entire site.

It evolves.

If Amazon makes a change live and then sales suffer, they just go back and make a new change live in its place.

This could have been the case with the website I was looking at.

Work out the best navigation option your have in a matter of days / weeks.

Make it live.

Watch what happens.

React to the findings.

That is a luxury the web affords you, don’t waste it by thinking too hard.

Twitter for all

I attended Marketing Week Live last week (26/06/2013).

The first presentation was by a man who works for Twitter.

He was a big fan of Twitter.

Engage this.

Content that.

You name it, he had a cliché for it.

One of his big success stories was that of Oreo.

During the Superbowl 2012 was a power cut.

As you’d expect, the lights went out.

Being night-time, it was dark.

Within half an hour Oreo had tweeted:

“You can still dunk in the dark” – accompanied by a picture of an Oreo cookie in the dark.

Very good, they managed to turn that around quite quickly.

To date it has had more than 15,000 retweets and so is officially a success story.

Is it going to help them sell more Oreo cookies? You be the judge.

At the end of the sales pitch talk was a short Q&A session.

One plucky audience member asked this:

You have spoken about how big brands have used Twitter to successfully market themselves…

Can it work for a small company? Something like a local concrete laying company?

After stringing some words together in no discernible order the man from Twitter concluded by sitting firmly on the fence.

In effect, he tried his best to not say “no”.

So in effect, he was saying “yes”.

There’s a challenge for you.

Market a local concrete company on Twitter.

Ok, so there will probably be a smart-arse who makes something go viral – like a blog about strange things you can do with concrete.

But that isn’t going to sell the stuff, it will just make teenagers laugh.

And it can only be done once, it’s not an industry changer.

So there is the problem with social media marketing.

It can and does work from time to time.

But there is a majority group of marketeers who are too obsessed with it.

They feel that it is simply ridiculous to think that it won’t work in some scenarios.

This attitude rubs off on many businesses who begin to question whether they should have a Twitter account.

The man from Twitter did nothing to fix this problem.

He knew that Twitter is perhaps not the tool of choice for a local concrete company.

But he couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

Sometimes it’s ok to say ‘no, it probably won’t work’.

Sometimes you have to admit, Twitter is not for all.


Here is a solid lump of bullshit for you.

On there is an article that reviews the top 5 best and worst examples of brands using Vine.

Here is the review of the first of the ‘best examples':

Urban Outfitters

This Vine is great as it shows two cute dogs, and the only two absolute truths in marketing are that sex sells and people love to share content about animals.

Secondly it just has just two different clips in it, so it’s not painful on the eyes.

Wow, that sure was useful.

Let’s deconstruct this.

“This Vine is great as it shows two cute dogs”.


“the only two absolute truths in marketing are that sex sells and people love to share content about animals.”

Nope, that isn’t true.

“Secondly it just has just two different clips in it, so it’s not painful on the eyes.”

It is painful on my eyes, but not because of the clips, more because it is wasting my eyes’ time.

If this is in the top 5 of the best Vine has to offer then I think it is safe to say that, so far, Vine is a waste of time.

Scrunch or fold or waste money on a crap advert?

Andrex wants to know whether you scrunch or fold.

No, I don’t know what that means either.

Apparently there is a debate raging: whether it is better to scrunch or fold your toilet paper.

This particular debate seems to have bypassed me, but if it had have caught my attention I am pretty sure it would have happened in my local after roughly four and a half pints.

Andrex disagrees, they think prime time TV is the place to pose the eternal question.

Splashing valuable marketing money Andrex has put together this cringe inducing spot:

It is worth remembering at this stage what it is that Andrex wants to achieve.

They want to sell toilet roll.

It is an eternal truth that the aim of marketing is to sell things. Simple.

Therefore, Andrex wants us to think of them when you need to wipe your bum. They want you to use too much Andrex when you wipe your bum so that you have to go out and buy more Andrex to wipe your bum again next time.

That is it. Nothing will make the Andrex Puppy more happy than to see his profits rising as his toilet roll flies off the shelves.

For most companies the aim is to sell their products and that is why the most effective adverts aim to present a good reason for you to buy their product.

Andrex begs to differ, instead their new advert is not aimed at giving you a good reason to buy their product but is giving a (not-so-good) reason to visit their website and ‘vote’.

This begs the question: why spend money producing and placing an ad that doesn’t try to sell your product?

I can only assume one reasonable explanation, a social meda expert has gotten their way into the company.

Only a social media expert would advise such a thing.

Having spent time with social media types it has become clear that to them ROI is only a part of the puzzle and that ‘relationships’ and ‘community’ are just as important.

I disagree.

Who cares about having a relationship with the people who make paper for you to wipe your bum? I just want to buy it (for a reasonable price), use it and make sure it doesn’t make me sore, nothing more, nothing less.

Then there is the thought that the ‘call to action’ posed in said advert actively requires the viewer to go online, type ‘’ and then vote!

I did vote, out of curiosity, and to my surprise I still wasn’t given a good reason to buy Andrex, I was just presented with the same old Facebook guff that every other big brand is pushing at the moment.

Never has there been a better specimen of crap advertising.

How to Give Away Free Things

I just saw something on Facebook by a small e-commerce site.

It said that they had announced the winner of their recent competition.

The competition was to get 20 ‘likes’ to their profile, or the post that they wrote about the competition, I am not sure, don’t think they were sure either.

The result of this modest like-fest would be that one of the people would receive a free set of products.

Those are good odds.

Good odds for the customer, but what does 20 extra Facebook ‘likes’ get you as a business?

In this case it is the opportunity to oblige yourself to send out your products (the things that pay your wages) for free.

As well as this you get the opportunity to turn a potential customer into a freebie-receiver and 19 other potential customers into losers – particularly sore losers when they look at how good the odds were. What a way to remind them how unfair life is.

Doesn’t this seem mad?

I could do the same thing without bothering to get any ‘likes’ at all.

So why do companies fall over each other to get you to ‘like’ them?

I see no reason.

I hear some of you shouting ‘Graph Search‘ but that sounds like a wild goose that I am not prepared to chase.

So please, enlighten me, why should you seek a ‘like’?

About two years ago I remember reading an article that set out a calculation that said that every Facebook ‘like’ your business gets equates to X amount of revenue over X amount of time.

It sounded convincing and was a good selling point for the ‘like’.

I have since decided that this is bullshit and infact it doesn’t matter how many Facebook ‘likes’ you have, chances are you still don’t know how to run a website.

I have had more clients than I care to remember who do not know who their competition is and what their USP is and yet they are happy to lecture me on their need to encourage Facebook likes, sometimes to the point of stand-off.

I’ll tell you what I’d really like, I’d like it if you would all stop wasting time (and ultimately money) trying to get me to ‘like’ you and instead use the savings to lower your prices / improve your genuine marketing knowledge.

I’d really like that.

Screen Shot 2012-11-26 at 21.13.20

The Age of Endless Notifications

I have just returned from a three month trip around the ‘other side of the World’ which has meant that my laptop has also had a holiday of its own, in my cupboard at home. My iPad, due to often sketchy internet connections has also been on something of reduced hours.

The break from these tools of the modern age has been liberating at times, but it is the effect the break is having on my return that is most awakening. Upon firing up my laptop I was greeted with a barrage of notifications. Don’t get me wrong, I usually welcome notifications because they can signal some sort of electronic human contact which means that despite my fears, I am still a member of the social race.

These notifications however were of the other kind; they were notifications of updates. Apparently Apple has launched an updated OS – OK, that is an interesting one, but Adobe have also been up to something and so too have Apache and so too has almost every one of the makers of the apps that I use.

Now I am not complaining directly for these updates, heck it is a good thing that Apple and Adobe and everyone else with a degree in computer science is working so tirelessly to make my user experience so much better all of the time. The problem comes when you want to do something whacky, say such as use your computer to do some work.

I don’t like clutter or unresolved items and that is precisely what a notification is, it is a tiny message saying: “oi, you…you need to do something about me otherwise your computer probably wont be performing as well as it might do, and don’t forget how much cash you laid out for me, what a waste of money it would be for me to not be performing to the best of my ability”. Despite this I sometimes have to forgo the immediate update and continue with work.

This leaves me in a difficult position, because now my computer becomes a little like my mum, reminding me that I still need to clean my room or tell me that my car insurance is due – things that I know I should resolve but just can’t find the will to right now.

So, I am now left in the current situation – Adobe are telling me there is a new version of Flash and that I have to close both of my web browsers as well as my music app, not a good start. Then the Mac App Store is telling me three apps are ready for update, not the most distracting however I do keep mistaking the little red reminder as an email notification which is most distressing. Then there is my iPad which has a record thirty app update reminders which is at such a volume that it actually induces a true headache everytime I swipe the unlock button – just imagine the effect this is having on my spontaneous email checking.

I must admit that this is much more of a rant than a useful article because after some considerable thought I cannot really offer any real solution to the issue other than counselling on my part. Let’s face it, the computer wizards need to update things and I would rather them ask my permission than kick me out of Firefox at will to update something I need to use. I will get round to ushering in the next generation of software updates at some point this week, right after I have just done that thing that I turned the computer on to do…