we like

A Bird of Paradise

Glorious, glorious photography exhibited inside and out, and available to buy from Philippa Elliott’s new, cutting edge website.

In time for the opening salvo of ArtsFeastCowal 2, Philippa’s two new collections, Fur, Fins & Feathers and My Favourite Things, are available to buy from the Kames Hotel, and also from our stunning new WordPress installation.

Why stunning? Well, apart from doing all those things that WordPress does as a matter of course, this gallery site, uses cascading style sheets and posts to display Philippa’s work in a dynamic and instantly engaging way. Oh go on, have a look! The exhibitions continue all summer.

Philippa Elliott Photography

(Oh and yes, we did design the poster. Great photo don’t you think?)

WordPress Plugin Search Unleashed Unleashed my Search.

Search Unleased is just wonderful.

I might end the post just here. You’ve got the name, which says it all – you’ve got the link, which means you too can use it – and you’ve got the recommendation … and we do mean wonderful.

Then again we didn’t like the kitten, but we did like the check box, we weren’t sure about the pastels, but note we can change them and we know we could say a great deal more, but feel that would be fiddling at the edges. The only useful contribution we might make is this:

  • We have installed this plugin on WPMU and found it works well, but
  • It would be really lovely to have a WPMU Search Unleashed which searches all the blogs. Especially useful if you’re running a community WPMU like For Argyll.

WordPress Doesn’t Just Blog …

… it rocks, rolls, cleans our teeth and rummages around in our psyche. Well, perhaps not, but while editing the Colintraive & Glendaruel Community Website (which is run using WordPress and a basic hack of Kubrick) it occurred to me that Arbu has implemented websites using WP for all sorts of purposes and rarely for straight blogging. In fact when I thought about it properly, very few of the sites we produce are actually blogs. We’ll start with the above mentioned:

  1. Community: The Colglen.org site, mostly used to republish the quarterly newsletter produced by Michael Kaufmann, holds all the material from a previous incarnation, a photo gallery and other interesting bits and pieces. Its a grab-bag of all that is good in ColGlen. WordPress provides a level of user-feedback which the community have readily taken to.
  2. e-Commerce: Three of our sites spring to mind here, the Raphael Caillé’s WeeRide, Alexandra Marshall’s Bumble and our Scottish Laird. Each uses Jason Briggs superb YAK (Yet Another Kart) plugin, and depends upon WordPress’s peerless stability and useability to flourish.
  3. Members-only website: lairdofdunanscastle.com is the sister-site to Scottish Laird and provides many of the Lairds and Ladies’-only services advertised in the latter. There is a Laird’s blog here, but self-evidently the members’ only thing is paramount for this list at least.
  4. Brochureware: a much under-rated use for sites which depend on the ability for clien-led updates of the material on the website. The transparent and useable interface has enabled many of our clients to update their website without incurring further cost. We only get involved again for redesigns or to add new functionalities. The Sports Consultancy is one of our favourites because it uses a gorgeous branding idea and seamless flash integration.
  5. Agenda Scheduling: The Events Calendar plugin is a superb piece of code and very adapatable. We created a schedule lay-out for training guru Norma Hart at austinhart.org. Norma is able to ensure her clients know when she is booked out, and when she might be available.
  6. Podcasting: We should probably mention ForArgyll.com here, but we won’t as it could also be in item one, or in item seven below (which is where I am putting it). Instead we’ll go to Lee Rosen’s fabulously tech savvy approach to blogging on his websites StayHappilyMarried, KramerVs and Rosen.com. The former, like Lee’s others, is a well thought-out advice-type site with state-of-the-art podcasting from one of North Carolina’s brightest stars.
  7. Social Networking Site: Buddypress is presently being sorted out by Automattic for a future release of WP, but in the meantime out WPMU install at ForArgyll.com uses some plugins we cobbled together to get somewhere close to a social networking format for our author profiles. We use SmartRSS to reproduce the user’s last ten posts, a tweak to allow the user to write an extended profile and then some questions to get things rolling. OK so it is basic, and there’s no real intra-profile connectivity yet, but we think it is quite an achievement within a single blog on a WPMU installation. Here’s an example.
  8. Festival Site: So not necessarily a genre of site in and of itself, the requirements to produce the ArtsFeastCowal site were very strenuous. Each festival provider (as it were) needed a profile page, to display at random on the home page and be totally editable by client and admin alike. There needed to be a thorough-going calendar and all had to have links on the website. We had a lot of fun with this, not least adapting a postcard from one of the artists as the main design theme.
  9. Photo Archive: When Mann photography approached us to produce autofocusimages.com the challenge they set was two-fold, a readily updateable pictorial archive and a similarly updateable text-based archive. Achieved without external plugins, the website is now an exemplar for small picture libraries struggling to maintain their own online archives.
  10. Family Tree: By manipulating the theme and mucking about with the template tags a bit we created this very personal site for Arbu’s proprietor, Charles Dixon-Spain. The site is unfinished as yet, but will give you an idea of what WP can achieve for amateur genealogists.

10 Reasons Why I Love Spam

Sorry, it should have said, “10 Reasons Why I Hate Spam”, or rather, “I Do Hate Spam (and here are ten reasons), but I can’t hate it too much because it would become an all-consuming crusade so I’ll back off and just smile indulgently every time I see the latest Cialis marketing scam, Nigerian laundering opportunity or potential Russian fiancé.”

No, on second (and third) thoughts here are 10 reasons why I love spam (loverly spam) (more…)

Engineering in Argyll

We have just had reason to revisit Martin Stewart’s Consulting Engineering site to update some of the pictures and copy, and reminded ourselves what an elegant design this is. Not only did we theme WP for this contract, we also designed logo, branding, CAD graphics and all the business collateral as well as ICE signage. Working with this Lochgilphead-based engineering firm introduced us to a portfolio of Argyll-centred architectural and engineering work which impressed us immediately both with its fresh take on the West Coast vernacular, but also with the variety of contracts undertaken, which cover listed buildings, marine environments and mineral extraction.

We particularly like the house below, which somehow encapsulates what the modern West Coast is (in our vast experience!!). The use of turf, dry stone wall and oak is particularly striking.

Martin Stewart Consulting Engineers

It’s a Laird’s Gift

(When he is not running ARBU Charles Dixon-Spain is working on the restoration of Dunans Castle, Bridge and Grounds)

At Dunans we have looked for ways for people to become involved with the heritage project, and while locally this has not been a problem, we have been anxious to engage with a wider audience. We have thought about it a great deal: how to offer something which is fun, engaging, represents good value and gives Dunans a higher profile than perhaps it does now. Lairdships have been sold via the internet for a while now, and in our view take themselves too seriously.

Yes, we want our customers to feel they own a little piece of Scotland (even if it is only one foot square), and yes, we’d like them to use their Lairdly title, but more importantly, we’d like the people who buy this product to take an active interest in a project into which we have been putting heart and soul for the last four years. And this is why we have added value to our offerings: there’s a lairds’ website, with the opportunity to have a lairdofdunanscastle.com email, there are discussion forums and the Laird’s blog, you can have native broadleaf trees planted in your honour, and you can visit any time – we’ll welcome you with open arms. There are even fishing rights which you can take advantage of.

And the vehicle for this project? WordPress of course, both for ScottishLaird.com and LairdofDunansCastle.com with slightly differing themes and plugin profiles. For the e-commerce solution on Scottish Laird we used YAK which has proved itself hugely reliable for Pure Therapy among others, and for the member’s solution in LODC.com we used Chad Butler’s wp-members plugin as well as Simple Forum for all those Lairdly discussions. Of course the other element of this has been constructing the product, and ensuring it provides great value as well as an inherent sense of fun.

So go on: this Christmas have a little Lairdly fun and buy one of our great products!

And here’s a grab of the theme just for kicks!


Crema Y Cebolla

Dan Dixon-Spain And Anna Lee in South America on Flickr


Taken by Dananna, Hosted on Flickr and reproduced here (because we like it).


(Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia)

Austin Hart Project Management

Austin Hart Project Management

An enjoyable project from start to end, we worked with Project Management guru Norma Hart on an WP-powered website to provide straightforward updates and an events-based schedule. With strong extant branding we elaborated the design, emphasizing what seems to us the organisation’s signal skill which is bringing structure to creative process or blue-sky thinking. We were also asked to create a schedule to allow clients to see how Norma Hart’s schedule was shaping up over the next few months. This we did using a bespoke installation of Events Calender. The resultant three month view with the 10 most imminent events aligned in a column to the right, works well both at-a-glance and in depth.

By Ardtaraig, Loch Long, Cowal, Argyll, Scotland

By Ardtaraig, Loch Long, Cowal, Argyll, Scotland

The Kames Hotel proprietor and in-house photographer Philippa Elliott has just added this photo to the header rotation of that establishment’s revamped website, and we had to share it. If there was ever a pictorial expression of the reason many choose to live in this part of the world and put up with a crumbling health service, awful connectivity and roads that are falling into the lochs, this is it.

There are over 25 other pictorial gems on the Kames Hotel’s website ….

The Facebook Moment

I’ve been holding off for a while, thinking myspace first then facebook, but I got an invite from Facebook, had to join, and lo! it was revelatory. Suffice to say this post will test the auto update on FB but I have no doubt it will update. I suspect I’ll spend the next few days mining the site’s functionalities and trying to integrate it with the Radio Fyneside project more fully than simply a syndication outlet. As my brother George says of FB, “This is Addictive!” – it is also alot better looking and therefore more useable than the truly awful myspace.