SGE Travel Coach Tours reaches out to the Midlands from the Highlands

SGE Travel based in Dunoon has recently launched tours to the wild highlands of Scotland from the Midlands via Executive Coach Tours and offering a fantastic deal on their chain of wonderful hotels. We have developed, as part of an ongoing update for the group on their hotel websites, the new tour operator’s website. Available here, the new website also displays the new logos for SGE Hotels’ chain of hotels. Including a hefty element of picture research, illustrator and photoshop work alongside social network integration and a live help system, this site (and her soon to be launched sisters) are state-of-the-art.

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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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Our other development blog at Argyll Communities

During the last 6 months, ARBU has been engaged in one of the most complex installations of WPMU we have ever had the pleasure of working on. With a standing 40 websites already in place on the original Argyll Communities website and requirements for newsletters, community toolkits, external search engines, a portal-wide announcements engine and sundry other items, we had our work cut out for us. But throughout it has been an utter pleasure — not only because the AVA team are feedback positive and precise about what they require, but because the work has involved working with many of the individual communities which run sites through the Argyll Communities site. To gather more insight on the process, and how we have developed the project since November last year, visit the Development blog, here.

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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 ForArgyll.com). 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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On being a happy developer …

… is sometimes enough to get you quoted in the most prestigious circles. I was just skimming through the stats on Forargyll.com and found to my delight 4 hits today from the WPMU Developers site wpmudev.org — had a look, and there’s my profile pic from Facebook (sheesh) alongside a short testimonial from me. Top!

Bassira.com Goes Live!

Arbu’s latest WordPress site, Bassira.com, goes live. The Bahrain-based company delivers state-of-the-art business control and management applications to financial institutions in the Middle East. Bassira asked Arbu to provide a user-friendly, search engine optimised and superfast loading site with an easy-to-use content management system with which to administer it. WordPress was of course the solution.


Perfectly Presented

Hilary Robertson has the beginnings of an excellent blog at PerfectPresenting.com, more so now that Arbu have had a chance to work their magic on the site’s backend. Hilary had made a good fist of implementing the Emerald Stretch theme, but was struggling to find the best e-commerce solution for her purposes. As veteran WordPress users we knew there was a choice between Jason Briggs’ YAK plugin and Instinct.co.nz‘s WP-ecommerce. The latter won in this contest because they have an easily implemented membership module which is superbly easy to use. We’ve used both — Jason’s highly customisable (and easily translatable) plugin on Weeride.fr and PureTherapy.biz, and Instinct’s more corporate offering on BumbleCowalBagpipes.com and Scottishlaird.com.

We then looked at forums: to ensure Hilary’s offering on this website was entirely integrated we decided that a bbpress integration wasn’t going to cut it, and took the option of a forum-by-plugin, the best of which is Simple:Press Forum. Though the backend menu is a bit clunky, this is an actively developed plugin, and one which plays well with admins of all abilities.

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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.

Alexa.com 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 ForArgyll.com, 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. forargyll.com‘s rank this week is 346,703
  2. Lochfyne.com has a traffic rank of: 357,874
  3. Argyll-bute.gov.uk has a traffic rank of:  546,984
  4. Arbu.biz‘s rank this week is 596,532
  5. Dunans.org‘s rank this week is 1,101,285
  6. Colglen.org‘s rank this week is 2,204,430
  7. Watermill-glendaruel.com has a traffic rank of:  3,545,293
  8. TheWalkingTheatreCompany.com‘s rank is 4,469,314
  9. Cowal-dunoon.com has a traffic rank of:  5,008,692
  10. Bumbleargyll.com has a traffic rank of: 5,571,596
  11. Philippaelliott.com has a traffic rank of:  5,694,181
  12. Katesbigchair.com has a traffic rank of: 6,149,160
  13. Dunoon-observer.co.uk has a traffic rank of:  7,737,864
  14. Argyllpublishing.com has a traffic rank of:  10,479,940
  15. Cowalopenstudios.co.uk has a traffic rank of:  17,706,517
  16. Aboutargyll.co.uk has a traffic rank of:  18,078,371
  17. Glendaruelcaravanpark.com has a traffic rank of:  22,858,198
  18. Cowalfest.org 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 Alexa.com – 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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Blogging from The Big Chair

We’re working with leading Scottish hypnotherapist Kate McEwen at the moment on her new hypnotherapy blog, Kate’s Big Chair. It is an interesting project as the idea is to get Kate blogging, which she is on a daily basis, and then as she explores the paradigm, to add layers of complexity to the project.

We’ve set up the site with the default theme, no SEO extras, no stats package, just a name and version 2.6.5 of WP. What the project is doing at the moment is highlighting the necessity of good quality writing which Kate really can do. There’s a great post on drinking water and habits, as well as the beauty of exercise.