WordPress helps techno-incompetent redesign our site

Stewart hard at workAs part of International Bring Your Luddite To Work Day we allowed our Content Marketing Director, Stewart Kirkpatrick, to redesign our site. 

Now, the boy can do words, pictures and what users like but, to be frank, couldn’t code his way out of a paper bag. In fact, getting him to make a cup of tea involves a map, a torch and painstaking discussions on the essential nature of the word “kettle”.

It does sound a bit of a risk entrusting the care of our corporate site to somebody challenged by the technical problems of turning on a light switch. But we had a secret weapon: WordPress.

WordPress is the free, open source, Web 2.0 content management system. It is so simple to use that if you can handle Microsoft Word documents (or not in the case of Stewart) then you can make WordPress work for you.

As well as offering simpicity it can also be as complex as you need. And this is where the rest of us weighed in with our technical expertise. This site uses a heavily customised version of the Atahualpa theme. To make it as sophisticated as we wanted it to be we’ve given it a cocktail of plugins that we have found to be particularly effective – though some  needed a tweak or two.  These range from SEO to mobile versions to video display and beyond.

As for how the new site looks, it’s less Stalinist than the previous version but remains true to web guru Clay Shriky’s dictum: “behaviour first, design second”.

What’s a widget?

Web 2.0 is a dizzying whirl of buzzwords, abstract concepts and downright obfuscation.

In 2008, one particular word came to prominence that people flung around with great seriousness and clearly no idea what the damn thing meant.

That word is “widget”.

First and foremost, in this context, widgets have nothing to do with beer cans, though the internet would be a better place if they did.

Nor, despite all appearances, is “widget” a word you throw in there when you don’t really know what a thing is.

So, what is a widget exactly? Well, Wikipedia describes it “a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation”. This explanation leads us to the question: what is a widget exactly?

It’s a box.

Now, the guardians of the arcane knowledge of the interwebs won’t like us putting like that but it’s true.

It’s a box (or rectangle or whatever) for putting content in. Or a game. Or another bit of software. Think of it as a  window on another bit of the web.

That box can appear on your Facebook page (along with all that “pirate” nonsense) or on your blog or webpage. It’s a simple way of easily adding something extra to your online presence without having to write any code.

It can also be a way of getting your content onto somebody else’s website or Facebook page. If you build a widget to display your content or message – and if that widget is useful or interesting – then people will recommend and spread it for you.

With the rise of social networking, people are increasingly getting their content this way, rather than through the more traditional routes. If you have an online message then you need widgets to get that message to certain demographics.

It is important for content providers (and that includes advertising and marketing) to be aware that, because of things like widgets, content lives on its own.

Thanks to widgets, your content can be spread far and wide without anyone needing to visit your site.

Merry Christmas from w00tonomy

Tony, Stewart and I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy new year with our 2008 Christmas video which was created from the wonderful world of web 2.0.

Content marketing watch – a new more absorbing Pampers website

Content Marketing Watch is our weekly opinion piece on the latest news from the digital sector.

Pampers logo

The Pampers website is a great application of the principle of content marketing – by providing content that is of real value, Pampers has created an engaging web presence for its customers. There is no hard sell of the pamper range on the site. Product placements are subtly targeted within highly relevant and useful information depending on the options (e.g. baby, toddler) selected.

Called the Pampers village (from the concept that it takes a village to make a child) the website provides articles, videos and newsletter to provide valuable information to help parents such as

  • nutrition and health advice for mothers
  • feeding and development for new babies
  • bedtime and potty training for toddlers

There are web 2.0 elements such as forums, blogs and commenting to create the sense of the village with people sharing experience, rating articles and staying connected. In addition there are a range of practical tools available such as

  • a pregnancy widget that can be downloaded onto your PC
  • a baby name finder
  • an Out and About Guide for those child friendly restaurants and cafes

What we like about this site is that is built around a simple concept of building a long term relationship with the customer through content.

Pampers know that the lifetime of one of their customers is from the time when they become pregnant to when their child is potty trained. The site cleverly provides content that is relevant as each stage of their child’s development allowing Pampers to build their relationship over time

You can read another analysis of the website on David Meerman Scott blog.

Content Marketing Watch: ScotWeb2, the web and the public sector

Content Marketing Watch is the latest feature section to be added to our interviews and opinion pieces. For those of you in the industry who are looking to maximise the most value from the content on your site each week we will have a piece on the latest industry news; covering areas of content marketing such as analytics, internet marketing, content optimisation, search engine marketing and digital communications.

Hotfoot from ScotWeb2 – a get-together of those with an interest in the public sector and the internet. Organised by Alex Stobart, a recovering civil servant, 

The highlights, apart from my workshop on making the most of content, were talks by James Munro of PatientOpinon and Simon Dickson of Puffbox.

James’s described how his site offered patient feedback on NHS services. He demonstrated that inviting the public into the conversation, even with negative comments, led to positive outcomes. He also demonstrated PatientOpinon’s automated tagging system for comment, which was one of my “wow” moments of the year.  

Simon Dickson caused everyone’s ears to wring with his revelation that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website cost £19.2m, with the CMS alone costing £1.47m.  Staggered by this he set up a business that builds websites using WordPress, which costs zilch.

This event was a great start to the coming debate over how public sector websites embrace the future.


Why we and dancing Filipino prisoners like social media

It useful to step-back sometimes and understand some of the psychology that underpins the social media channels we are using for our online marketing campaigns.

Here is very interesting seminar on Social Media by Mike Wesch of Kansas State University who produced the popular video ‘web 2.0 – what is and how to use it’ – you can watch this video in our favourites at w00tonomyTV.

Using YouTube as a case study it looks at why social media had become such a phenomenom in the world by appealing to humans need for individualism and community. Interestingly the audience demographics for YouTube for over 35 are 25%, the same as 12 -17 year olds; the largest group is 18 -24 year olds at 50%.

It is an academic video so you may not wish to watch it all the way through but the first 20 minutes is a very entertaining introduction to Social Media with examples of the viral effects of videos in Youtube – look out for the dance with the prisoners from the Phillippines.

Also for those of you who want to really understand ‘what social networks mean’ without the technical jargon he provides a very clear way to explain it all

  • YouTube is user generated content
  • Digg is user generated filtering
  • del.icio.us is user generated organisation
  • Technorati is user generated commentary

Hope you enjoy it!

Web 3.0: the future is now, says Tim Berners-Lee

For those of you who are still struggling with what this Web 2.0 thing is, I’ve some bad news (though really it’s great news): Web 3.0 is just around the corner, according to the man who invented these tangled Webs.

Tim Berners-Lee says in an interview with Paul Miller that the Semantic Web – a crucial part of the Web 3.0 vision – is open for business.

“Wow,” I hear you say. “Web 3.0. The Semantic Web. Great … Err, what the **** does that actually mean?”

Well, the sainted Sir TBL puts it this way:

Web 2.0 is a stovepipe system. It’s a set of stovepipes where each site has got its data and it’s not sharing it. What people are sometimes calling a Web 3.0 vision [is] where you’ve got lots of different data out there on the Web and you’ve got lots of different applications, but they’re independent. A given application can use different data. An application can run on a desktop or in my browser, it’s my agent. It can access all the data, which I can use and everything’s much more seamless and much more powerful because you get this integration. The same application has access to data from all over the place.

Now in my view all data is content. What we are looking at is a future where you will be able to access all data (or content) from any device or any application anywhere. But that does not mean that the Facebook Vampires application will stalk you to the toilet or “private personal enhancement medication” emails will start tumbling out of your iPod. One of the key characteristics of what’s known as Web 2.0 has been the organising of data (content) to enhance relevance. As technology allows the universal sharing of data this trend towards completely targeted relevance will become even more pronounced.

It’s good to know that TBL believes William Gibson’s oft-quoted dictum: “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”