An e-commerce website for an architecturally-inspired book publisher

We have worked with Watermark Publications Ltd before, and this time we have created a site which comes closest to the publisher’s print design. Elegant, concise, visually appealing and above all readable. Using WP 3.0 we have made extensive use of a non-flash slideshow, the built-in thumbnail functionality, and a really nicely implemented e-commerce package. The latter is presently using Paypal as its merchant solution – with 220,000,000 users it has a pervasive presence in all the necessary markets.

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Argyll and the Islands Leader

Out of our work on the Argyll Communities website for AVA, came the Argyll and the Islands Leader website. Ideally suited for WordPress, this project utilises post thumbnails, gallery slideshows, custom fields, some php applets within the theme itself, as well as some fairly thorough-going optimisation techniques for search engines and speed (a lot of which we have learned on The main challenge however was to create a sufficiently capable template to cater for the hundreds of projects Leader has funded while making them search engine friendly, both to Google et al. and using the internal WP search. The result we think is an excellent and accessible WordPress implementation which with ‘Thelonius’s’ fab auto-upgrade will stand the test of time.

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How do you measure how successful your site is?

… or Arbu designs the most visited websites in Argyll!

So you’re about to commission a website, you’ve got a competitive tender going and you need some sort of objective criteria to measure the expertise of the companies and individuals quoting. Difficult for SMEs who are focussed on business and products, near impossible for associations and organisations without in-house web expertise. There is an answer though. ranks websites worldwide on how much traffic they get and how long they retain visitors for. The stats look like gobbledegook at first, but once you see the rankings it becomes much easier. I now have the Alexa Firefox plugin which allows me to see the rank of sites as I visit them. The ongoing battle for number one spot is fascinating, but what’s more useful is seeing how successful Arbu’s site designs are in terms of the traffic they pull in.

As you’ll have gathered from this blog, we work on, the region’s premier news service, and top website, and it is this site which has really made us pay attention to Alexa’s very useful stats. Here’s how things looked the week beginning March 2009 with a random selection of other websites from across Cowal and Argyll (Arbu’s websites are marked in bold):

  1.‘s rank this week is 346,703
  2. has a traffic rank of: 357,874
  3. has a traffic rank of:  546,984
  4.‘s rank this week is 596,532
  5.‘s rank this week is 1,101,285
  6.‘s rank this week is 2,204,430
  7. has a traffic rank of:  3,545,293
  8.‘s rank is 4,469,314
  9. has a traffic rank of:  5,008,692
  10. has a traffic rank of: 5,571,596
  11. has a traffic rank of:  5,694,181
  12. has a traffic rank of: 6,149,160
  13. has a traffic rank of:  7,737,864
  14. has a traffic rank of:  10,479,940
  15. has a traffic rank of:  17,706,517
  16. has a traffic rank of:  18,078,371
  17. has a traffic rank of:  22,858,198
  18. does not register

This is NOT a definitive list of websites across Argyll, but it does show how the hierarchy of business turnover or local visibility is completely undermined by the traffic visiting these webpages. For example, there is no way in a sensible world that the ColGlen website should be over three million ranks higher than the main site for the Dunoon and Cowal Marketing Group, but it is. Similarly, and probably more incredibly, a small (but luxurious) B&B run by Michael and Sandra Webster is 15 million places higher than their local friendly-neighbourhood Caravan park.

How do these things happen? Well, aside from saying that Arbu knows what it is doing in terms of attracting traffic, it is probably sufficient to say that a lovely design isn’t as important as knowing how the web works.

So, if you are thinking of commissioning a website in the near future and you want a directly comparable way of measuring how your tenderers’ previous commissions stack up, or if you would like to check these ranking out for yourself, click here

A final thought: if you have a web designer, and you’re wanting a quick thumbnail of how they’re doing in terms of traffic, put their website into – you may be surprised!

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New WordPress Theme for the Walking Theatre Company

We have just restructured and redesigned the wonderful TWTC website. The original was looking a little dated, and was not particularly search engine optimised. The vertical righthand menu, while useful needed to be streamlined, and the client wished to have a horizontal replacement. We decided to utilise the company‘s round stamp logo, as this is the one most used on publicity material by both the company and clients, and this allowed us to create space for the menu which is designed on a twin hierarchy. We’ll be changing the order of menu items and encouraging the company to blog more. In the meantime, here’s a grab:

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News from the Sports Consultancy

The new version of the Sports Consultancy website was launched today, not that you’ll notice much of a change visually – it is more about Search Engine Optimisation. As you’ll no doubt be aware a constantly updated site will attract more attention than a straightforward static site. While you can change pages regularly, it is also better to create additional content and pages. The challenge for the Sports Consultancy is updating the site while they are on the road and leveraging their expertise in a rapidly changing business environment. The answer is to update via email using the excellent plugin Postie which (delightfully) attributes posts to the correct user from whatever device they’re using at the time, be it Mac, PC, PDA, Mobile or Blackberry. We now show two news items on the front page, and have a fully featured post page which fits in beautifully with the very sharp TSC look.

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WordPress Theme Test Website for Arbu

We bit the bullet, the one with “You need a test environment for your freely available WordPress themes” engraved upon it. The site is at and it’s got three themes on it as I write, OneSquareFoot, It is Mighty Beautiful Down There and TwoSquareFeet. Here’s a grab of the latter (they’re all free).

So simple it hurts. But in a lovely way (dontcha just love the pic of iimbdt?)

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For Real Doods who like Real Foods

Exhibition stands and demonstrations, opportunities for publicity and merchandise are all part of what Arbu does. We recently developed a banner and t-shirt solution for Alison Sykora’s Real Food for an expo in Glasgow. Canvass banner and earthen tone t-shirts looked great (ignore the page tiling in bottom left ;-))

Alison will be appearing at Dunans in for the Real Food Consultancy in association with the Walking Theatre Company on Thursday and Sunday this week as part of Cowalfest.

A Perfect Day …

A perfect brochure for a perfect day. A4 format with inserts. Photographs by Philippa Elliott. Weddings. A beach. Wellies. An apotheosis of design to rank with that for the original brochure ordinaire. And by ordinaire I mean for the ordinary stay rather than ordinary design. The two brochures we’ve produced for the Kames Hotel are the epitome of how we design for print: clear, textured, edited and aboveall, visually arresting (tho it does help to have such great photography). Not for nothing are we considered the premier design bureau in Argyll.

Some of the pictures are repeated from the ordinary brochure vs.

Or Int’l vs domestique.
Noticed alot of this. Disparity between the flavours of google. We knew something odd was happening when two of our dead cert. top ten sites were consistently ranked in lower pages for their domestic markets. has recently broken into the top 50 for the search term ‘Argyll’ on, but is nowhere on our domestic Then is on page three for (and the google-powered search solution) having had a run in the top ten for several years — where it still is for .com.

Que pasa?
Simply that needs to have the website’s locality marked. This is mostly and successfully achieved by using a domain, but also (apparently) by the physical location of the server for the website itself. We disagree with the latter simply because both the abovementioned are hosting in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and this doesn’t seem to have affected our rankings at all.

The answer?
Stick “Google Webmaster Tools” in Google — a panoply of SEO google-ness will then lay itself at you feet. We’ll see what the effect is in the coming months … suffice to say the significance of XML sitemaps becomes readily apparent.

Watermill WordPress Theme

We’re presently working on a website for B&B / Self-catering establishment ‘The Watermill‘ and we’ve used WordPress as our platform of choice. The theme uses some random number generation in the header to bring up one of a selection of twenty photos (rather like the Kames Hotel), as well as some nifty css (styled for Mac-only at the moment) to create a SEO header. With some customised calls to ‘wp_list_pages’ and a layout which, while based on Kubrick, utilises only the ‘widecolumn’ class the project is finally coming into sharp focus.

All the photography is ours as well, and lacking a wide-angle lens we decided a multiple stitched photoshop doc would be as good, and actually turned out better than spending four hundred quid on a Canon lens. Now, onto the copywriting.