A website can be many things. Unearthodox is an organisation dedicated to research, change and getting their word out. Their website is a marketing and information resource to share their pioneering work.
My role was taking the concept designs made by Radley Yelder and building the site in WordPress. There were plenty of moving parts in getting the 250+ page website up and running, and WP scaled brilliantly to the task.
What do you use your website for, and what do you need it to do?
Getting down to the nitty gritty, the Unearthodox website had great design, and engaging case studies. The team wanted to be able to add content easily, and categorise projects so they could keep track of the diversity of their output. I added interactivity and motion to create a really modern website.
In terms of getting the word out, the new Unearthodox website uses Google Analytics 4, and pulls the statistics directly into the site, so no need to go to the rather complex looking Google control panel to see what visitors are clicking on, it's all there to see in the website dashboard. This is really helpful see whats popular and help your content strategy.
I'm biased as a website designer, but a website will give you a level of control that social media can't. With your website sitting on your own bit of internet 'land', you can do whatever you want with it and choose how you present yourself to audiences and search engines.
Why not just use social media?
Sure, social media is easy to use and services are often free, but you'll never own the content you post. Social media can change how they function too (I'm looking at you twitter) which can have a knock-on effect of how you're seen. The key difference is SEARCH. On social media, you're just one of the thousands of companies being catered for, so how you appear in searches can be limited.
Is WordPress any good?
In my opinion, it's the best tool out there. Certainly, this 250+ page website would be impractical with other off-the-shelf website builders. Of course, not every website starts at 250 pages, and WP's scalability is one of its great assets. Need a 10-page website? WordPress will do it, and will still be there in 5 years as you grow to 50 or 100 pages (the area where other builders become more cumbersome).
I still see WordPress websites that are mishandled, and I think that's just WP becoming a victim of it's own popularity. WordPress is open source. That's great for progression and innovation, but means it can fall prey to intrusive plugins and page builders. Getting a skilled WordPress developer is key to a good WordPress website.
Here's an example of a bespoke website I built recently for the dispute advisor. This is a Blog website for a legal adviser Melissa. Melissa previously had a website on wordpress.com, and wanted to take it to the next level.
I designed her new website using modified brand colours she chose, to give her website a professional look for the legal industry she is in. We looked at websites like moneySavingExpert and Compare The Market for inspiration, then simplified those into something more personal.
If you are a small business looking for an effective website solution where you have control, get in touch.
All the websites I create are bespoke. I don't use existing design templates for any of my clients websites.
All the work is done in-house nothing is found out to external agencies.
I deal directly with all my clients to assess their needs.
Initial website and SEO audit to see what can be improved
Melissa's legal advice website has inspired me to answer some of the questions I often get asked;
"Is Squarespace better than WordPress?"
There are many ways to build a website and many services that do it well. WordPress is an excellent website creation tool, and makes very good websites for businesses of all sizes. Every once in a while I'll can websites to fix, that have been poorly implemented with it. Nearly all of the website services can make good websites provided the designer knows the tool well enough. You just need to pick one. I focus all my expected expertise on WordPress and helping my clients get to grips with it.
WordPress was originally designed as a blogging platform and very quickly became a website creation tool. It is one of the biggest website creators in the world.
"Why is my website so hard to update?"
If you have a website that's not easy to update or is very slow, chances are it's just that your website has been poorly implemented. More likely it's just been created quickly to maximise costs. I can provide a website audit reviewing the condition of the website and making suggestions on how to improve it.
Your website is a marketing tool and should be set up right, so it lets you get on with shouting about your services to yo
"Why does my website is not appear in Google?"
If you can't find your website in search engine results like Google then it needs better search engine optimisation (SEO).
SEO has become a massive industry itself with companies spending a great deal of money to rank highly in search engines. For smaller businesses who don't have large budgets there are simple practical ways to do your own SEO. Using a flexible approach and experimenting yourself may help improve your results the for spending lots of money with with an SEO agency. I offer an SEO audit to look at how your website ranks and how that can be improved.
In the last few years, WordPress has gone from strength to strength. I last did a video on WordPress when version five had launched, and now WordPress has 6 even more layout features, making it even more powerful as a website designer's editor of choice.
While new features like page templates and new layout blocks mean that it's not as easy to 'pick up and go' as it used to be, the premise of WordPress is still core - putting the power of editing into the hands of non-technical uses so they can get on with adding content to their websites without worrying how to do it.
The ability to edit headers and footers separately, and change templates and colour schemes on the fly are very helpful and I hope in time will make cumbersome page builders a thing of the past.
As a website designer helping my clients get the best out of their websites and I recommend WordPress for websites.
John Cooper is a website designer and developer working directly with Global clients. Nothing is outsourced. John designs WordPress websites for small and medium businesses around the world since 2008.
Contact John today for a website quote.
Full-service design for Wentworth Festival
'Full-service design' means 'we do everything'. From logo, branding and website, to social media, graphics, illustration and print design - everything. If I'm honest I'm not a fan of the term as it's a bit too broad and every client is different.
Wentworth Festival has been building its brand since 2017 and each year's look is fresh, vibrant and different, bigger and better than before. As with all the work I do, nothing it outsourced. Creative conversations are direct, and nothing get lost in translation. I wonder what next year will look like?
A logo, a poster and a quick loading responsive website that sells tickets, for a new music festival. I love it when I get a project that covers all design disciplines for great cross branding experience.
One such recent project was Wentworth Music Festival. Working with a client I've had for many years they said 'this is what we want, and this is the deadline. It needed to be bright and punchy, but also put on show the spectacular venue itself, Wentworth Woodhouse. A large privately owned stately home outside of Rotherham.
The choice of font and colours were a delicate process of finding something loud and energetic enough to capture the identity and vibrance of a music festival, while also being respectful of the venue. Chatting with the clients while knee-deep in organising big name bands , I put forward a big-splash illustration. Working up a detailed sketch of the venue would show it off with a lot more vibrancy than a photo alone could achieve. There was also a tight deadline and go-live date. Four bold colour silhouettes of non-specific singers and musicians meant the pre-publicity for the event could be while waiting for the confirmation of the big names to come. After sign off the graphics were reformatted for social media covers and the project was- quite literally - ready to rock!
With over 18 years of industry and design studio experience and a dedication to researching the latest design trends and web technology, it's not just about creating a look and feel , but solving design problems. JCU is more than just the final product, it's a design service.
Design is everywhere. John understands the DNA of great design communication and how to get you noticed. Rocket Steps has clients throughout the UK and overseas.
Building the new Luc Hoffmann Institute Website
Way back in December 2019 I was invited to help relaunch the Luc Hoffmann Institute's website, an environmental organisation dedicated to maintaining biodiversity in life on earth through innovative projects.
I'd already been working on updating the site in its previous form which was showing a little bit of age and using a page builder. Page builders are good to get websites up and running quickly, but are cumbersome on larger websites. This site had become slow and somewhat of a technical chore to update. That needed to change.
The Luc Hoffmann team were great to work alongside, very clear and thorough in what they needed. We reviewed the development of the site continuously as it evolved in line with their mission statement. In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund they are "the world’s leading catalyst for innovation and transformative change to maintain biodiversity, the foundation for all life on Earth".
I ran a demo of WordPress 5 past the team, showing the new features that could be achieved, then stripped down and rebuilt their content on a fresh install of WP5, running to around at around 150 pages and no page builders in sight.
This was a big project, but the goal was the same as any good website; ease of use. Training and video tutorials allow the team to focus on publishing and promoting their work, without calling on a developer every time they want to update the site.
Since it's launch I've used WP5 on my own website and am impressed with how the new block system allows for dynamic page layouts. It also keeps the best basic functionality, templates and categories - which help automate publishing content to site with minimum fuss, all of which came into play here.
On a technical level, I used tried and tested plugins to manage content and SEO. Content views is great for automating news articles and Yoast is a great gateway into Search Engine Optimisation that helps users write content with search engines in mind. I also coded some custom blocks for the project timeline pages.
There was a lot of feedback and de-bugging required before a site with this many moving parts was ready to go live, and I had a real sense of achievement when we went into soft launch in April.
At this scale it's impressive to see WordPress flexing its content management muscles, a long way from the simple blogging platform it was ten years ago.
2020 also marks 10 years since I began creating websites in WordPress, watching it become the industry-standard platform it is today. Before WordPress, a website of this size might have been created by a team of 2 or 3 developers. I'd like to think my knowledge and experience have paid off with this project.
As I became familiar with The Luc Hoffmann Institute and their work, they really do some fascinating work in innovation and the environment. Check them out here.
“John was wonderfully proactive and efficient in getting our new website up and running. He took the time to understand our needs and always strove to find solutions. His keen communication sense, positive attitude and good sense of humour made the process of updating our website clear, easy, and even fun!”
If you're thinking of moving your business online we can help. From taking payments through your website to adding booking systems, we can find a solution that works best for you.
In this project for Willow Glow Yoga, we helped yoga teacher Wendy with her website, adding a booking system to take payments online, with a minimum of technical fuss.
Yoga teacher Wendy wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to attend her online yoga class without having to email zoom links individually or get caught up in technicalities.
I helped get her business online by taking her old brochure website and updating it with an online booking system, so she could focus on running her classes while the website took care of the bookings.
We converted the old website to WordPress then looked at booking services. The service we went with is BookWhen, a reasonably priced monthly service. It was added to the website and customised so keen attendees could book classes and have a good user experience doing it.
It was important to make the process as smooth as possible. As with all the projects we take on, video tutorials were provided to show to update the pages of the website, and most of the 'heavy lifting' such as the scheduled classes and calender were done via BookWhen, with the website providing a wrap-around design so the logo was present throughout the process.
Website Design for Environmental agency 'Biodiversity revisited
I recently finished work on a new biodiversity website for the Luc Hoffmann Institute, and agency of the WWF. This website follows the themes of the institute and their work in the environment.
Promoting a fresh look at biodiversity by encouraging scientists and researchers interested in future sustainability to contribute essays and thought pieces to the website. The site has been built in WordPress 5 with a minimum amount of plugins, to make it easy for users and contributors to create new content without getting bogged down in any technical maintenance issues. The photography across the site has been sourced from unsplash and hive, the World Wildlife Fund's own repository of inspirational images. The Luc Hoffmann Institute are a great client to work with, they are very clear in their aims and very communicative in getting their message across. I look forward to seeing this site build into a solid repository of knowledge and information on this subject.
New Client, The Luc Hoffmann Institute
At the beginning of the year, I was referred to the environmental and conservation organisation The Luc Hoffmann Institute to help out behind the scenes with their website and social media requirements. It's a pretty straightforward job for me, but worth mentioning as looking over their website, the work they do is very important for the environment and the planet.
I'd already been working on updating the site in its previous form which was showing a little bit of age and using a page builder. Page builders are good to get websites up and running quickly but are cumbersome on larger websites. This site had become slow and somewhat of a technical chore to update. That needed to change.
The Luc Hoffmann team were great to work alongside, very clear and thorough in what they needed. We reviewed the development of the site continuously as it evolved in line with its mission statement. In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, they are "the world’s leading catalyst for innovation and transformative change to maintain biodiversity, the foundation for all life on Earth".
Spring Design update - web design and illustration
Time for a Spring update of what has mostly been web design and illustration work. Back in February, there was plenty of illustration going on helping the guys at GroundBreak productions with another ambitious TV advert. Moving from digital to hand-drawn and back again, the 'Great Mirth Run' got a new flyer and poster, created for the comedy charity event which takes place in May.
Playwright and journalist Ian Winterton got his website of the ground, with a bit of WordPress training. I love empowering people with the WordPress platform, and it was a great choice for Ian who wanted a shop window for his work. His website is also an online archive of his movie interviews for the various magazines he's worked for in the past. It's easy for work like this to get lost over time as technology updates and culture moves on (as happened with all blogs I wrote for SFX magazine). Online doesn't always mean forever, so by cataloguing his own work on his own website give's Ian a portfolio that can easily be shared when seeking new freelance work.
A couple of smaller jobs for two of my long time comedy industry pals, Dan Nightingale and Toby Foster. Dan wanted a new logo ident for a podcast, while Toby over in Sheffield is always looking to add new content to the Last Laugh Comedy website, to keep it looking fresh.
Upgrading WordPress & using blocks
What is WordPress 5 and is it worth upgrading? Let me try to explain that in under five minutes, and hopefully showing how quick and easy it *should* be to use.
Getting the most out of a WordPress Website
This blog is a bit long in the tooth, there's a more recent blog about WordPress...
This week I've done a short video to answer the most common questions I get asked regarding WordPress websites. In it I talk about what WordPress is, how to get the most out of a WordPress site and how no two sites are the same. I also briefly discuss what to do when the questions arise such as, "My website is really slow" or "my website has stopped working".
There are two versions of WordPress. WordPress.com, where you can get the free version and what I call 'full fat WordPress', when you purchase a bit of hosting space and install WordPress on that space. With the free version there are restrictions - because it's free. With the full fat version you can add a lot more features (called plugins) to your website.
Refresher - What a website is.
A story I often tell to describe a website is, imagine a website is a house. The bit of land the house sits on is your hosting space, the front door is your domain name and the letterbox is your email address. Those the parts make a basic website.
Creating and sharing content.
If you spend much time sharing photos and stories on social media for yourself or promoting a business, a big advantage of having a website (with WordPress) is that you have full control. With platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, sure there's massive traffic going to those sites, however, they can change what they show and how they show it. You don't have control over that. WordPress is really good at categorising and archiving so it's far easier to go back and reference older content, and search engines like websites that cross-reference and backlink effectively.
How do I get seen by search engines?
With free services like wordpress.com, Wix or Squarespace, it's a real limitation. Imagine free websites as an infinite block of flats going up into the sky, and google is the postman. He's going to have a hard time finding you. Having your hosting space for your website is like a little patch of land, the postman can find you more easily, and you can run your own Search Engine Optimisation tools too.
Speaking of SEO, WordPress has a plugin called Yoast which guides you through the process of making your pages get seen easily by search engines. Search engines don't like waffle and Yoast is very good at guiding you into condensing what you have written into something that search engines like Google or Bing will digest quicker.
Using WordPress should be a comfortable experience. If you're ok using computers in general you'll be fine with WordPress. The original intention of WordPress was a blog, to share photos and stories - it was designed for non-technical people - so if you're logging into your website and finding it very technical and hard to use - something's gone wrong in the design process.
All WordPress websites are not equal.
Plugins are extensions that add to your website such as search engine optimisation but also features like event management and E-Commerce (woo-commerce) in which allows you to sell online. There's are thousands of plugins of varying quality, and it's up to the website developer to know the right plugins to use on a website and implement them properly.
One of the main bugbears I have personally is page builders. These are extensions to WordPress which allow for very impressive design but can make updating your website complicated and time-consuming - as they change the way WordPress fundamentally works. There are good page builders out there and some really bad ones. If you're having problems updating your website, or find that it's fiddly or confusing, check with your web developer to see if you have page builders on your website and if they can be removed. At the time of posting this article, WordPress has released their own drag and drop Page Builder called 'Gutenberg' which in time will probably be the best of the bunch, but my advice is to go with what feels right for you.
Having your own WordPress website should be a user friendly and enjoyable experience you should enjoy putting projects onto your site and then sharing them under social media.
Ecommerce website for 'At The Kitchen'
Just finished an eCommerce website for at the kitchen, a great new Kitchen space in Cheadle Hulme (Greater Manchester) offering cookery workshops to all ages and tastes. I met with owners Angela and Craig who already had a website, but it wasn't quite doing the job they wanted, to see how I could help.
The story of their business is pretty cool. Angela is a cook, writer and food stylist with a background working with the BBC's good food guide. If you take a look at the website you'll see just how gorgeous the food they make looks, and that's down to Craig. Craig is a food photographer and you can see a lot of both Angela and Craig's work in BBC food books.
I really wanted to make maximum use of the great photography by Craig (which the old website was doing) but also tie that into the SEO, making sure the photos of the food were correctly tagged and captioned, fine details that help get the website ranked properly. Naturally, both Angela and Craig are busy hosting their workshops, so equally important was to make sure the new website could be updated easily with as little technical fuss possible.
Using the WordPress twenty seventeen base theme as a starting point, and as with every site I build, the layout was then customised at the code level, adding and adjusting the HTML, CSS and PHP to get the right result. The training was provided using videos that were created showing Angela and Craig how they could add new workshops to their own site.
I really appreciate a clear cut brief and with this project that's exactly what I got. As the dark nights draw in and their seasonal workshops for festive dining have started appearing on the site, I can only see them getting busier in the new year. All this talk of food is making me hungry!