Latest Posts

  1. New Dart Music Festival Website concept to Completion

    Comments Off on New Dart Music Festival Website concept to Completion

    A bit like a mobile phone add – a few steps were removed in the below process!

    When I was first contacted about the possibility of creating a new website for the Dart Music Festival it was a pretty great prospect – I’m a musician myslef and have played at Dart Music Festival for many years, so the event is close to my heart. In 2015 I almost contacted the organisers as I felt I could improve what they had in place, but never put pen to paper (fingers to keys!)

    After a couple of initial conversations about the feel that was wanted for the festival website, in particular the need to get across the variety of acts and venues, plus the community aspect of the Dart Music Festival, I put in my proposal.

    It then transpired that I was up against tough competition and needed to compete agains a much larger outfit than myself. I don’t usually do visuals before getting a project, but in this case, that was the next step of the tender process.

    Initial webdesign idea for Dart Music Festival

    I created my look for the festival site, and some wire frames for the act and venue pages in particular. In the past, individual acts and venues were not really featured on the site, and for me, getting across what the festival is all about meant sending the viewer on a journey of discovery to establish the variety and vibrancy of the music festival.

    Wire Frame for Act Page

    Needless to say the actual build was pretty challenging and technical, in particular the need to fit an act into a venue, but also on a day whilst maintaining cross promotion of acts and venues and the ability to search by genre or day was a bit of a headache (it’s even hard to write down). But in the end, I finalised how the site needed to function, created e-commmerce functionality (and then removed it as the festival wasn’t quite ready for that step yet – maybe another year!) and started to teach the guys from the festival how to finish populating the acts and venues.

    Dart Music Festival database drive act search

    All in all, I’m super happy with how the website turned out, and so are the Dart Music Festival which is the most important thing.

    Take a look:

  2. 4 mistakes I’ve made as a freelancer

    Comments Off on 4 mistakes I’ve made as a freelancer

    I’m fast approaching my 2 year anniversary as a freelance web designer and marketing person (I don’t say it out loud, but I consider this being a freelance marketeer – in my head I’m think of musketeer!)

    Over the last few days I’ve had to sit back/been awake at night evaluating where I am and where I’m going!

    I’ve been very lucky with my web design and digital marketing work, getting some great local Devon businesses to work with, usually having enough work and generating new leads purely through recommendation. There’s a month to go, but it looks like year on year I will have increased my sales by 20{56e242a5b6133d6ea308e8a3295681fe2673e4dcbe4f550044505754735ed754} (and when I go through things, I hopefully won’t have increased my costs by the same margin). This sounds like a great position to be in, but… looking long term, I’ve had to ask myself a few questions….

    What is the future for me as a freelance web designer in Devon?

    As I’m sure many freelancers and self-employed people find, how when and where the money falls is extremely important, perhaps the most important thing as I try to support my young family.

    I love what I do, but having recently done my self-assessment tax return (with the help of Lisa from Ivybridge Accountants and Freeagent), having a few unexpected bills, and an upcoming 2 week holiday – which is both positive (time off, hopefully in the sun) and negative (if I ain’t working, I ain’t making any money, and there’s no holiday pay when you work for yourself), a few self-truths have come to light.

    So, looking back over 2 years where have I gone wrong?

    (NB this isn’t all negative, I may well follow up on the things I’ve got right)

    1. Do as I say, don’t do as I do.

      1. As a digital marketeer, I spend my time creating content for others, and if I’m on a retainer – keeping their website up to date, or telling them they need to do so. Have I been religious about doing this fro myself?  NO
      2. I tell my clients to make sure if they start a blog, to keep it up to date, otherwise there is no point in having one. Again, back to me – NO
      3. Always ask every client for a review or recommendation. NO
    2. Strategy

      1. The original strategy for my business when I started was quite focussed in a particular area of my expertise, but more importantly, the business model was based on a subscription idea. This meant that not only should growth be quite easy to track, and after a while forecast, but having clients paying on a monthly basis for ongoing work there would mean less unexpected surprises on when work, and in the end pay end up reaching me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great projects and will continue to work with a diverse range of businesses, but to have an idea of how much is coming in 6 months time would be fantastic – and offer the potential for a holiday with less stress and guilt attached, even the ability to pass some regular tasks onto someone else for a week, or get some done in advance.
    3. Counting chickens!

      1. You meet a new client, they say it’s urgent (always is), you work frantically to fit it into your schedule, even possibly risk reducing your service to some existing clients, all for things to get delayed, potentially by months by the new client, and depending on the pay structure resulting in a mismatch of what you expected to come in when. I need to learn to pace myself – sprinting towards a non-existing finish line just leaves you out of breath! I need to make the client understand the timeframes, but similarly that they are likely to change – often due to the client themselves For larger projects, I need to spread the payments more evenly through the project to ensure there is a trickle of money coming in.
    4. Pipeline

      1. I have been extremely lucky concerning work coming in – there have been a few times when I’ve been unsure as to what I’ll be doing next week, and so far, over 2 years something has always fallen into place. Last year my new years resolution was to attend networking events – like many resolutions it didn’t last, I attended 2 events, abd did actually get one potential client call me a couple of months later based on hearing my introduction at one fo them.  Even with two years of work coming in by recommendation and a growing portfolio of work, two years of networking would have left me with more people to call on when work look lite – or even helped me increase the size of my business.

    Watch this space for ongoing blog posts, clients reviews and website updates – or call me out on being full of crap!

    Click here to take a look at my portfolio (soon to be updated!!!) and here to get in touch

  3. Couple of Pieces of Artwork for Food & Drink Devon Guide

    Comments Off on Couple of Pieces of Artwork for Food & Drink Devon Guide

    It’s not that often that I do much artwork or print design – I’m in and out of photoshop nearly every day, but mainly for resizing images and creating graphics for websites and newsletters.

    Most of the time, I don’t even do a visual mockup of a new website, but instead spend the time creating the start of a website so that the client has a chance to actually feel what their site might be like – if I get it right, this means that the process of developing a site is speeded up no end, as by the time we get to agreeing visuals, the first couple of pages have now been built.

    This week more of my time in photoshop has been spent creating some simple adverts to go into the upcoming Food and Drink Devon Guide.  This annual celebration of all this food and drink within Devon (the best county for food produce!) is a great way for local Devon businesses whether big or small to get their name out there even further.

    It’s always a huge pleasure to see a website that I’ve created out in the wild, looking at the stats from website visitors or sales from an e-commerce store.

    Print design isn’t quite the same – in some ways, clicking the final publish button is a more final process as once you’ve gone to print, there is no changing the work that you’ve done. But in contrast to that, there is a different joy of flicking through something like the Food & Drink Devon guide and coming across adverts you’ve created.  Similar happened recently with some artwork I created a couple of months ago which ended up in the South Hams magazine for a Dartmouth business – a little bit of joy at unexpectedly turning the page and seeing some of my work in the flesh.

    If you have any printwork, website design, digital marketing or an e-commerce site to build, please get in touch – I love working with local businesses.

    Artwork for Dartington Hall's Food & Drink Devon Guide AdArtwork for South Hams Markets Food & Drink Devon Guide Ad

  4. Website Design for Sally Everton Associates

    Comments Off on Website Design for Sally Everton Associates

    Really pleased to have quickly got up an elaborate holding page for Sally Everton Associates

    The website for Sally has been in the pipeline for a while – I also made her logo and business cards a short while ago, another asap job, but that’s how it sometimes is.

    Sally Everton contacted me only a couple of days ago asking if I could quickly get up a holding page for her as she’s soon to be away on an international marketing trip, and within a few hours of the site being live, it was already seeing international visitors.

    I look forward to developing this website further.

  5. Nailed It – first draft of new website design approved

    Comments Off on Nailed It – first draft of new website design approved

    Every time I send out the first draft of a new project to a client, I always keep a close eye on my emails for the reply to see if we’ve been talking on the same page all along, or if there has been a misunderstanding somewhere along the lines and the client is after something else than what was in my head.

    Yesterday I sent the first look of a new website for a local Gym to a new client of mine.

    I patiently waited….

    And the reply came in…

    You’ve absolutely nailed it

    It’s a great feeling to get it right first time – there’s not many occasions when I don’t, but often when talking to a client for the first time and discussing their needs for a new website or e-newsletter I’m already forming ideas in my head of what it will look like and how it will function.

    I have to admit that I’ve found getting going again this January a bit of a struggle, not sure why particularity and I have a few new things on the horizon – but with nothing urgent nagging at me it’s been harder to sit down and get on than usual.

    Good to say that this feedback has really given me a boost and I’m eagerly working away to finish the project and get it launched. I’m very happy with the way it looks, and it’s great to also be integrating an e-commerce function as well. Even though it’s only for a few products, the ability to sell items through a website is such a great thing and I look forward to helping this South Devon Gym increase it’s membership through their first website.

    Watch this space for when the project goes live.

  6. Website Design from a shed in South Devon

    Comments Off on Website Design from a shed in South Devon

    Lets cut to the chase – I mostly work from a shed in my garden, it’s not big, in fact it is a pretty small affair, a custom design (I modified a tin shed, cut a hole for a new door, put in some insulation etc.)

    Depending on what my clients needs are, I sometimes work within other organisations/workplaces and at those times it is nice to be part of a team face to face, rather than working by myself (which I enjoy), or as I frequently do as a digital extension of a wider team. These digital teams can be fantastic, with modern services like dropbox and the ability to have team chat with slack or hipchat, it is possible to integrate into a much larger team that is spread across the county – all seamlessly delivering our specialisms and having a streamlined workflow where it’s easy to ask for a bit of extra information.

    After a few days out of the office (read tin can) it’s great to be back though.  The recent addition of a window, not only increases the light, but gives me a view of the goings on in the garden. A bird feeder about a meter away provides a close up of our garden robin and it’s dominance of the small birds – having recently seen it bully a blue tit away from its prize, I’m not sure anything else gets a look in at the seed. I’m sure I’ll see it take on a pigeon soon!

    This week is a bit of a mixed bag, working on new website designs, a couple of new e-newsletter possibilities and bits of design work and pay per click advertising. These are mixed in with school Christmas plays and the upcoming end of term for my daughter, but that’s the way I like it – the benefit of being a freelance web designer in South Devon is the variety of work mixed in with the beauty of the local area.

  7. A day playing with webdesign effects

    Comments Off on A day playing with webdesign effects

    Today was one of those days when I’m waiting for the all OK to get on with a few different website design and development projects that I have on in December, they need finishing by the end of the month, but really need that little bit more information before I can get on and really get stuck in.

    So today has been about playing with different webdesign effects – working out different ways of displaying information whilst keeping usability levels high.

    I’m pretty pleased with the video background now featuring on local Devon band Dodgey Practice‘s website – it might not be something that stays in the long run; this site has a bit too much information right in the center of the page to able to show off the video in the background properly, so maybe a new video is needed in the future, and possibly not having the music play straight away as I’m sure this won’t be to everyone’s taste – otherwise it has been quite a fun website development experiment.

    Take a look at the site here – you need to stay on the homepage for a little bit to see it, and it needs to be viewed on a desktop or laptop rather than a mobile or tablet (It also might be changed back to the old static background after a while).

    I’ve also been experimenting with text based websites for a client who doesn’t really have much imagery at the moment, making a change to my usual image based websites. Along side this I’ve created some scrolling backgrounds with translucent text areas for another – it’s a pretty cool effect, and I’ll share both of these new webdesign projects soon.

  8. Dartington International Summer School Launched

    Comments Off on Dartington International Summer School Launched

    I’ve been a little quiet of late on the updates front – not because I haven’t been working, but because I’ve been in the middle of one of my biggest projects yet, which went live last week.

    Not just any webdesign and development project, this latest adventure included linking up systems, creating a booking interface and customization of the back end of a booking system to deliver a product that would punch above it’s weight in terms of the limited budget available.

    The background…

    Dartington International Summer School had it’s 60th anniversary last year, and each summer turns Dartington into a hub of musical activity where aspiring students rub shoulders with international musicians of high acclaim.

    It’s a complicated beast – students get a variety of accommodation types to choose from, close to 100 courses over a four week period as well as 80 concerts which they could attend – these concerts are also available to the public to come and watch, giving the summer school a dual function of a music festival as well as place to learn and improve musical technique.

    The Summer School this year spans a 4 week period, with participants able to come for either one week or multiple weeks. Alongside the vast majority of courses which are available to people of any ability (including some for those with no musical experience at all), are a series of advanced courses and masterclasses. Students for these advanced courses are selected in advance by audition, or the submission of a cv and contrasting recordings.

    It is a very labor intensive process taking all the bookings for this four week festival, which brings me to the brief.


    The Brief…

    To enable online booking for the first time ever for the Dartington International Summer School.  To link bookings taken online to the Spektrix box office system to enable real time reporting, as well as valuable data for analysis in helping shape the summer school in future years. To launch the Summer School earlier than ever before (on November 26).


    The Project…

    Unlike most of my work, this project required a lot of collaboration, so big thanks to ATWORK who provided visual guidelines for the website, as well as creating the print brochure, and super big thanks to Logo Design who created the bookings interface, and had the technical knowledge to help really push the boundaries on what is normally available through this box office system.

    For my part, the website itself was a pretty standard affair, Dartington’s website is currently built using a relatively clunky CMS system which provides some unique challenges, but the real challenge was to look at the what is on offer to participants and then shoehorn it into a box office system which is more used to dealing with cinema and theater bookings on a day to day basis – not a bespoke package, made up of multiple items for each booking. I’ve lost count of how many items I have loaded to the back end of the box office system, as well as the number of new attributes created to enable the system to work. Needless to say, my fingers have been frantically bashing at the keys to get it all done, as well as help the Summer School team understand what decisions have been made and why for the system to work.

    Take a look and see what you think – – although there are ways that I already know to improve the system if there was budget to do so, I am still impressed at what has been created, and it is fantastic to see bookings coming though the new website.


  9. There’s no news like E-news

    Comments Off on There’s no news like E-news

    Are you wondering if an e-newsletter should be added to your marketing mix?

    Each Thursday I send out the Dartington newsletter to approximately 24,000 people. I usually pull together the content on a Wednesday and schedule the newsletter to send around 6pm on a Thursday, giving me a days grace in case something unexpected were to happen and allowing Dartington time to proof and request alterations. The newsletter is a mix of upcoming events, news, articles, the occasional recipe etc. and is designed to increase brand engagement with Dartington as well as drive sales. Each article is short and to the point, but designed for the reader to click through to a relevant page or section on Dartington’s website

    As Dartington is a complex organisation and the newsletter promotes Barn Cinema films, Arts productions, the White Hart Restaurant, the Bed & Breakfast, the Shops and more it’s not that easy to directly tack all revenue generated by the newsletter, but the benefits can still easy be seen.

    I would estimate that Dartington’s ROI on the newsletter is close to 20x the cost of me compiling and sending the newsletter.

    If you’re not already sending regular communications to your customers in a newsletter a highly recommend you consider e-newsletters as a cost effective marketing option.

    To see what is going on at Dartington and recieve the What’s On, visit and sign up at the bottom of the page.

  10. Wishlist added to eCommerce site BigFire

    Comments Off on Wishlist added to eCommerce site BigFire

    Part of my ongoing website development work with BigFire includes looking at this eCommerce site and identifying possible areas to increase sales.

    I have already been through the site and re-categorised some of the products so that they appear in a different order, or on slightly different pages.  Cross sell items have been added to all the main products; so if you add a kadai fire pit to your cart, it will suggest a couple of suitable accessories on checkout.

    Last week, my new addition to this site was wishlist functionality.  As always with something like this, there are plenty of stats being bashed about as to the impact of having a wishlist on an eCommerce site, I have read that it can lead to an average increase in cart size of 200%! – we’ll see. But I can really appreciate how, particularly in the lead up to Christmas, having a site that allows you to create a wishlist and then share this on social media or via email is not a bad thing.

    It’s always to get a gift that you really want.

    This new feature alongside others will be monitored over the coming months, to see how close to the 200% increase it gets.

    And as always when working on the BigFire website, I have been eying up products on the site, and the La Castellamonte CookinStack is on my wishlist for the colder months ahead – unfortunately it’s definitely more than a 200% increase on my basket size!