The Blog

Who’s been slacking at Boson?

Who’s been slacking at Boson?

Have you heard about Slack yet? Slack is a fun, clever tool for team collaboration.  The benefits of effective collaboration are well known… it fosters innovation, helps productivity and keeps everyone pulling in the same direction. Of course it’s not easy to get right… That’s why we love Slack.

Slack stands out for 2 reasons… It’s synchronised and it has the ability to surprise you.

Slack is synchronised

The synchronisation allows you to communicate easily with team members, wherever you or they are. Everything from the web, desktop app and mobile app syncs together, fast.  This means you can start a conversation on your office desktop and carry on from the train (or from the loo if you really can’t resist!). If you’re not online (heaven forbid!) it will send you an email and/or mobile notification so you don’t miss anything. But you can also choose the messages you’d like to receive notifications for (e.g. only work related).

Slack is fun

Now and again, Slack surprises you with a curve ball.  For example Tom found himself in desperate need of an espresso.  Slack pops up with a message:

I think it’s about time Fiona made one, can’t remember the last time she made a round

SlackBot - Using Slack at Boson

At the heart of Slack is Slackbot! Slackbot is a virtual user which can be tweaked and tailored to your business’s sense of humour. You can add keywords to Slackbot’s library, which when entered during a conversation triggers Slackbot to pop-up with a comment. We added a keyword ‘drink’ so whenever anyone sends a message containing the words ‘drink’, Slackbot pops up with it’s own comment.  Fiona has bit of a reputation around the office for being slack (see what I did there) when it comes to making drinks.

Slack helps productivity and keeps things organised

The entire team communicates through channels, designated by project, topic or anything you decide. We’ve created a channel for each business function to keep ourselves organised.  We have channels for Marketing, Operations and Technical Development so it’s easy to find relevant information and limit conversations to the appropriate people. The entire team has access to the main channels in Slack but private channels can be created, so that users can be granted access, individually. You can even have public rooms with customers and invite potential clients to chat with you, at the same time keeping irrelevant information private. We find it useful for sharing articles and resources. Then if we want to find them again in the future, Slack makes it easy to search entire archives and you can pin information you’d like to save instead of routing through e-mails – it makes things a lot more efficient.

Slack is growing rapidly. It’s free for unlimited users and you can chose to upgrade to a paid plan and access more features. The free version is great for small businesses and provides a way to really experience Slack without financial commitment. We also love that it integrates with other software such as Google Drive, Twitter and Dropbox.

Slack integrates with other cool tech

Making communication fun is a key to Slack’s success because it really entices you to use it. One of our favourite plugins is the Giphy extension (You may have seen these mini animations on other apps) and Slack allows you to include such animations in messages. For example rather than just responding to someone’s question with a boring response, why not respond with a giphy (animated gif) which will put a smile on their face?

Example of an Slack Animated Gif - Using Slack at Boson

In summary, Boson love slack.  It’s a useful tool, but more importantly it’s also a good example of how software can surprise and delight you – and in doing so, actually make you want to use it. Why not try Slack? Try Slack here.

 

 

Transcend Consultancy Solution

Transcend Consultancy Solution

Transcend help to improve an organisation’s performance through effective change leadership. They asses characteristics and develop awareness of an individual’s behaviour in relation to leading change.  And help to develop wider individual skills within leadership roles. These results are achieved through a proven framework and an advanced algorithm, developed by Transcend’s experienced practitioners.

As Michael Thorley put it:

“We want more people to lead more effectively.  Our aim was to make our framework accessible to more and more people so we needed to reduce costs while enhancing the overall quality.”

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Customer Portal, Coming Soon…

Customer Portal, Coming Soon…

At Boson, we’ve started work on something that we’re really quite excited about.  It’s early days, and I wanted to share it with you because I need to hear what you think.

We’re calling it our Customer Portal (that’s a working title for now) but you could think of it as a members’ area for your customers and staff.

Batman vs Superman

Batman vs Superman

Who would you pick? …Difficult eh! Everyone has their favourite, both have their own strengths, weaknesses pros and cons.

When potential clients come to us for website advice we often find ourselves exploring the ‘Wordpress Vs Boson CMS’ question. (CMS = Content Management System) It’s a similar process to picking your favourite hero! There are many elements that come into play to determine the outcome.

So, we’ve conjured up some handy tips below to help, if you find yourself in this predicament.

Reasons to choose WordPress:

  • If you (or one of your team) are familiar with using WordPress.
  • If what you need can come ‘out-of-the-box’.  i.e. you don’t have any bespoke requirements
  • If the are no plans to change the website and / or integrate business processes
  • If you want a LOT of flexibility when it comes to layout and customisation that you can do yourself
  • If you have a limited budget

Reason to choose the Boson CMS Framework:

  • If you want to expand your website at some point in the future in more unique ways
  • If you would  prefer a more simplistic, cut-down approach to content management
  • If you require bespoke web apps within your website
  • If security is important

Simply ask yourself the questions below to help you decide which approach is best for you:

  1. Do you have any bespoke requirements, unique to your business?
  2. What is your budget?
  3. Are you looking to expand in the future?
  4. Is it important to you to have an exclusive website, or is something more off-the-shelf appropriate?
  5. Who is going to be managing the website content?
  6. Is security important to you?

These principals can be applied not just to our CMS but to any bespoke CMS. Not only will they guide you in the right direction, but should help you make the correct choice for you….

But sometimes people just prefer Batman!

Mobilegeddon

Mobilegeddon

Have you noticed the phrase #mobilegeddon flooding your inboxes and newsfeeds recently?

In case not, Mobilegeddon refers to the latest release for Google’s search algorithm. Google searches now take into account a website’s ‘mobile friendliness’ suggesting that that your website will have a better ranking in a Google search if it is mobile friendly.

So what’s the impact of this change and what should you do?  If the web is an important part of your business, it’s wise to understand what this all about…

Click here for Google’s official release details

We asked Tom Vaughton of Varn Media, an SEO expert, for his views on ‘Mobilegeddon’:

“The general reaction in the search marketing community has been “was that it?”  We have seen position swaps (ex. #7 with #8), but these are fairly common in search anyway.

Regardless of the impact of Mobilegeddon, having a website that’s easy to use/read and navigate on a smartphone or tablet is crucial for your conversion rate and doing business with today’s online consumers.

Essentially I am saying it was over-hyped and if people focus on having great websites that are designed and built properly with the end user in mind they will be fine.”

So is it essential that your website is mobile responsive?  Well, your website is still going to function, responsive or not.  And Google uses many indicators – mobile responsiveness is one aspect in a large range of other factors.

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Improving the daily grind

Improving the daily grind

This week was a fantastic week at Boson HQ. We are fuelled by coffee, from sugary to milky, double espressos to lattés and the odd cappuccino. Coffee is at the heart of all of us and radiates through to our work. You can imagine the sheer joy when the new coffee machine arrived. The same excitement levels as a child at 6am on Christmas morning.

There was no funeral for the old coffee machine. The old machine had served us well but it was becoming a bit of a grind to use (pardon the pun). Let’s look at what we had to do just to make one cup:

  • Press button to heat water
  • Fill filter holder
  • Level off & press down
  • Attach holder to the machine (some times requiring several attempts to get it in the groove)
  • Wait for water to heat up
  • Place your cup under the nozzle while your cup fills (you must hold it as it vibrates off the edge)
  • Detach the filter holder, empty the contents and wash

Then you were free to enjoy your beverage. Unlucky if you are included a prestigious office coffee circle and it’s your ‘round’, you then have to repeat this process multiple times!

The new machine is amazing and certainly helps to keep the spirits high. Look how short the list is now:

  • Put one scoop of coffee or beans in the top
  • Press two buttons
  • Place your cup under the nozzle while cup fills

We all know the saying is ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ but if the upgrade is affordable and going to be more efficient, why not?! It struck me that’s a similarity between this time saving gadget and what we do day in, day out for our clients;

Does the principle apply to your business too?

If you are still completing onerous tasks, perhaps manually imputing spreadsheets and collating reports daily or weekly, could you change? Is time being wasted that could be better spent elsewhere?  Maybe it’s time for a new coffee machine?

P.S. Our client FTX Logistics, struggled with manual data entry; recording information into spreadsheets for weekly reporting. They radically changed that by creating an automated process – this case with an online timesheet systems. To read the timesheet app case study, click here.

Design: emotion or science?

Design: emotion or science?

In a world where content is king, and small business owners have filled the internet with sites designed by their 12 year-old nephews, website design has suffered. So to uphold the virtues of good design, I’ve come up with a few thoughts to help you navigate through it.

The first thing to consider when designing a website is space. Yes, that’s right, empty space. But empty space doesn’t mean just nothing. Empty space in its right place (small rhyme there), can visually strengthen the content you do have. Using space in design is important to bring focus to the right areas of your site. Don’t be afraid of space, it is a faithful, albeit neglected friend of good web design.

With any business site, it’s also important to honestly reflect your company and what you can actually deliver right now. If your site gives the impression that you are ten times bigger and better than what you actually can deliver, you will set yourself up for longer-term failure. The online consumer is becoming more and more intelligent, and they have immeasurable power to affect the opinions of others.

A good rule of thumb is not to jump too far ahead of yourself. Make your website design reflect where you want to be in two years time. Styles change over time, often having a shelf life of no more than two years. Make sure your site design changes with the times, keep it looking current.

One of the common mistakes made by people redesigning a business website is to get feedback on the design from all the wrong people. Friends, relatives and pets make good companions, but often the wrong choices regarding what is and isn’t appropriate for your business website. Make an effort to get feedback from people relevant to the business.

Ask yourself questions like: Who is my target market? Will this design appeal to them? Good brand recognition and marketing opportunities can come from getting some of your good clients together for their feedback in some kind of fun focus group forum.

Design is often touted as a subjective thing. Remember though, that design is not necessarily art. It has a mission to accomplish and it is a whole lot more technical than often perceived.

Good design will elicit an emotional response, but the process of good design is enhanced when business owners are willing to sacrifice certain emotional attachments.

How to buy a website

How to buy a website

Buying a website can feel a bit daunting. Unless you’re an expert, all the technical jargon can be overwhelming. You’re left wondering how on earth you’ll make the right choice.

The key to a smooth commissioning process is a little bit of thinking ahead. If you know what the web developers will need, it can make your life (and theirs) a lot easier.

Here’s are few tips on buying (or commissioning) a website:

  • Give the developers as much information as you can right from the start.
    Don’t hold anything back. Adding new information later will complicate things, adding to the time and cost of getting the new site up and running.
  • You don’t need to know geek-speak.
    Tell the developers what you want in plain English. A good web development company will translate what you need into technical specifications. To commission something, you say what you want the supplier to supply. Let them worry about the nerdy stuff.
  • Plan ahead a little.
    Before you go visiting web agencies, think about the questions they are likely to ask you.

We normally ask things like:

  • What business are you in?
    We want to know what sort of business sector you operate in. What’s your place within it? Give us a feel for the landscape.
  • What are the primary objectives of this website / web application?
    Think about what you are hoping to gain from the project – e.g. saving time, increasing sales, increasing your company’s profile, etc. Tell us simply what your goals and objectives are.
  • What’s your target audience?
    There may be more than one. List them all. Tell us about the audiences you want to appeal to, and why. Give us as much detail as you can.
  • Do you have an existing website you are looking to replace or upgrade?
    If so, tell us why. If there are aspects of it that are working fine, tell us what they are.
  • What features do you need?
    This can be tricky, because you might not know what features you need in advance. Will you want to update your site yourself, frequently? Will you be selling products online? Do your customers need access to any special services, multimedia files, or access to secure members-only sections? As I said above, you don’t need to know the geek-speak. Just tell us what you need, and we’ll tell you how we can build it. Feel free to ask us for advice at this point. If you’ve been able to tell us plenty of detail about your industry, your business, and your aims, we’ll probably have some suggestions.
  • Is there a brand or visual identity for the project?
    Make sure you pass on any brand guidelines as well as logos and other visuals.
  • Who are your competitors?
    What do you think of your competitors’ websites? Are there any other sites you particularly like? Tell us which ones, and why. Tell us about sites you don’t like, too. What is it about a site that annoys or frustrates you?

It will also help to consider the following:

  • Are there any important timings or deadlines that can’t be altered which will affect the website development schedule?
  • Do you have the resources within your team to stick to a schedule once its been agreed?
    You’ll need to allow time for progress meetings, adding content, and testing once development is complete.
  • How will you be marketing your new website?
  • How will you measure the project’s success?

OK, so that’s a long list of questions and things to think about. But it’s worth going through them; you’ll save yourself time, and your business money, if you plan ahead a bit before starting the commissioning process.

The Zend Framework

The Zend Framework

Typically, our online software is built on the open source platform ‘LAMP’ (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP 5) and developed using Zend Framework (ZF).

Lots of web developers use a framework to provide basic building blocks for a website or a software app. A framework is like a car engine, packed with parts. You can use standardised parts, or use your own custom ones. You could design and build your own spark plugs if you wanted to, but in most cases it will be much quicker and easier to use off-the-shelf spark plugs that you know will do the job.

Using a framework means you have lots and lots of parts to choose from, and a community of fellow framework users to discuss problems with.

At Boson, we settled on the Zend Framework back in 2007, and we’ve not looked back.

Zend is extremely flexible. You can build something solely in Zend, or just use the Zend components that suit the job. You can even mix-and-match Zend components with those from other frameworks, if necessary. There are Zend components for nearly everything, and if you find a need for something new – well, you can write your own.

Zend also comes with excellent documentation, an official certification programme, and a thriving community of users.

By choosing Zend as our framework, we’re giving ourselves the best of both worlds. We have the freedom to develop a new website or webapp in the way that best fits what our client needs.

There is a small price to pay for this freedom and flexibility – unlike other frameworks, Zend makes greater demands on us as developers. You need a certain degree of skill to use it. But we think that’s a price well worth paying if it gets us the programming tools we need to do the job properly.

That’s why we use Zend.