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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Content Management: Keeping Things Fresh

So you have a bright and shiny new website, the launch went well, people have complimented you, and everyone is excited. What happens next? Do you just let it sit there for the next couple of years? In that case, you shouldn't wonder if your visitor statistics are disappointing, the search engine ranking goes from poor to non existing, and the site generally doesn't do much for you.

The importance of regular updates cannot be stressed enough. There are the obvious reasons: Information, prices, services, timetables will go out of date. It is frustrating for a client to look up information on the site, then find, when they call you or visit your store, that the model they are after has gone out of production last year, or the class or event they were coming for isn't actually taking place. Do you think it promotes trust in your business if it presents information which has not been updated for the last three years?

The other good reason is that search engines favour fresh content. The principle behind search rankings is, simply put, that the engine tries to find the content which is most likely to be relevant to the person doing the search. The four main factors which play into this are: keyword match, popularity of the page (i.e. the number of previous visitors), number (and reputation) of sites linking to the page, and how recent the content is. So updating your pages regularly already takes care of one quarter of your search engine optimization!

This is one reason for the popularity of blogs: blogging sites allow users to input text and other content themselves, with no need for any web design or programming knowledge. Blogs are, by definition, frequently updated - and it turned out that search engines really liked this! Many people even choose to only set up a blog, not an entire website with their own domain. For some businesses this makes perfect sense - especially if you're only just putting your feelers out in the online realm. Most blogging sites are free to use: some of the most well known are Blogspot (which is hosting this blog), LiveJournal, and more recently, WordPress.

Wordpress even offers the ability to sign up for your own domain name, and a few other features which allow you to set up an easy to manage site yourself. These services are available for a monthly fee. Again, this can be a good solution for a first web site - but as with all out-of-the-box solutions, there are limitations to how well you can adapt this system to your own requirements.

Easy to use online content management systems are quickly becoming the standard for personal websites. They are often built using one of the available content management packages as a backbone - Drupal is one such package, which is popular with website developers. These packages offer a wide range of advanced interactive features: blogs, forums, image galleries, shopping cart solutions, password protected areas, you name them. The capabilities and adaptability of such a system go well beyond a humble Wordpress site - but it still is limited in some ways, particularly in the ways you can lay out and structure your site.

My personal preference is to create my own content management systems for my sites. The last two sites I have built - and - are both fairly small sites, and using a massive online content management system requiring hours and hours of setup or programming, seemed like overkill. Instead, I choose to work with text files, which can be updated by the user in one of the common word processing programmes, without the need for special web authoring software, or being fluent in html. This does require a certain level of feeling comfortable with computers, and a willingness to familiarize yourself with setting up an FTP connection, folder structures, and a minimal amount of html tags. But it helps to keep the cost down - in both cases, adding an online administration area would have doubled the work, and hence the price.

The site I am currently working on is a gallery site for a photographer. Here, one of the main requirements is that the client can easily add new images, and the associated information. This site will have a full featured online content management system - fully flexible, and adapted to this specific client's needs.

Asni: Multimedia Art & Design:: ::

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Success Stories

It seems that in my eagerness to spread online knowledge, and promote other people's sites, I have completely failed clap myself on the shoulder and pass on the fantastic feedback I got from a recent client, Margaret Hiley (I've introduced her site in a previous blog post). So here is what she said:

"When I set up my translation and proofreading business, I knew that having a professional-looking website was a must. However, I also wanted it to stand out from the crowd and have a quirky, creative feel to it that would attract my clients, many of whom work in the creative industries themselves.

Astrid has created exactly the kind of website I was hoping for. In fact, she obviously realised exactly what I wanted right from our initial consultation, as the first draft she provided me was so fantastic we decided to go ahead with it! Astrid also provided me with valuable feedback on what to include on the site, and kept me up to date on her work throughout the entire design process, so I felt fully included in the creation of the site.

The website was finished to deadline, and Astrid even gave it a first publicity push through her own blog and website. If you want a professional, individualised and creative web design service (and who wouldn't!), I wholeheartedly recommend Asni Multimedia!"


"Online Promotion for Everyone" kicks off again at the Featherston Community Centre on April 12, through to May 17 - six evening classes, Tuesday nights from 7.30 to 8.30 pm. The classes need to be booked and paid for in advance. The price per class is $ 15 for any individual class, or $ 72 for all six classes - this amounts to $ 12 per class. Please contact me to book your place! The maximum number of participants is 12, on a first come, first served basis.

The course will cover the following topics:

12 April 2011: Planning your website — When planning an online presence, ask yourself: who are my visitors, and what do I want them to do? We will draw up a site map and think about how visitors should navigate through a website. We will also discuss alternative options, such as using a blog, Facebook page, or other online service as your main web presence.

19 April 2011: Internet: how does it work — This session will explain some of the basic technologies used on the web. We will look at some samples of static and dynamic websites built with HTML & CSS, PHP, and Flash. This knowledge will be very helpful when communicating with your web designer. We will also look at security considerations, and what to watch out for when choosing a web hosting service.

26 April 2011: How to be found — SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is only one way to promote your site. Understanding the logic of search engines and optimizing your web presence so it comes up on top in search results is important., but we will also look at other ways to drive traffic to your site: the use of social media, email, offline promotion, and paid advertising such as Google Adwords.

3 May 2011: Content management — There is nothing worse than a website which is hopelessly out of date. This session will introduce ways to keep your site fresh, and interact with your visitors: Content Management Systems which enable advanced interaction, as well as more low key options such as regular news updates and blogs, RSS feeds, and feedback forms.

10 May 2011: Selling things online — E–commerce presents the chance to sell your products to a potentially worldwide market, quite literally from your bedroom. This session will look into some of the available options for trading on the internet: auction sites (Trademe, Ebay), online marketplaces dedicated to a particular kind of goods (e.g. Etsy), using Paypal to process payments, or setting up your very own online shop.

17 May 2011: Getting fancy: Multimedia on the internet — With the increased availability of fast broadband internet connections, videos, podcasts, and other multimedia content on the internet continues to be on the rise. Youtube, anyone? This session will take a look into the future, and introduce some creative options to share your content, which are available even on a modest budget.


Speaking of online promotion, here is a strange thing that happened recently in the weird and wonderful realm which is cyberspace. Some little while ago I posted a drawing of The King of Elfland with the face of David Tennant (he of Doctor Who fame) on my Facebook profile, with a comment along the lines of "wouldn't this face make a great elf king face". As indeed, there are persistent rumours flying around of David Tennant's possible involvement in the Hobbit movie, and I am a great advocate of him being cast as King Thranduil. I mean, David Tennant in a blonde Legolas wig? Who could resist.

A couple of weeks ago, it came to my attention that IMDb now semi-officially lists "The Hobbit" as one of David Tennant's upcoming movie projects ("rumored", it says) – and the part he is supposed to be cast in is King Thranduil ("rumored", it says – mind you, most of the other possible parts are already very officially taken). Well hurray I thought, just what I've always been saying – but I wonder how much substance there is to that rumour. It turned out that there was an article posted on TORN on 11 January, citing an article from, to the effect that there are persistent rumours of a possible involvement of David Tennant in the Hobbit movie, and "he has been linked to the part of Thranduil".

Not to sound paranoid-megalomaniac or anything, but it did seem like a bit of a weird coincidence. I posted that image, and my suggestion that David Tennant has a great Thranduil face, on Facebook on 8 January. The people on my friend list include Michael Regina of TORN, and a few others prominently involved in the fan community, or indeed the making of the movies themselves. Serendipity, or a butterfly fluttering its wings? I guess we'll never know for sure, but I have begun to think that at $12 per class, my online promotion tuition is *REALLY GOOD VALUE*. :D

Asni: Multimedia Art & Design:: ::