This week sees Royal Mail increase the cost of a first class stamp from to 44p to 60p in the largest increase it has ever made. A second class stamp will rise from 34p to 50p, also up 14p (and therefore 39%). It is unclear how Royal Mail expect to reassure the general public that an increase of this magnitude is justified, especially considering usage of the service has already dropped off from 84 million items being handled by Royal Mail per day to 25 million in the last five years. With the closure of thousands of local post offices and the loss of the early morning delivery, is this another echoing clang of the final nail being driven home?
As always, we need to consider the impact on business users. For a small business sending, on average, 35 letters per week, the annual cost of postage will rise from £618.80 to £1092. Scale up the amount of letters sent and the figures get scary. If you send, on average 100 letters per week your costs will rise from £1768 to £3120 per annum. In effect you will be paying more for a lesser service.
So, should this be the push we all need to go paperless? More and more businesses are reducing the amount of paper they use in their offices and this could be the incentive we need to go one step further. If you aren’t already using email as your main form of contact then WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Save yourself money and time and come gently into the new century, it won’t bite.
The recent upsurge in retailers offering contactless payment is set to rise further if figures from Visa are to be believed. Their predictions suggest that the number of contactless terminals will rise to 150,000 in the UK during 2012. That is a rise of 50%.
Busy retailers like McDonalds are increasing the number of stores with contactless payment facilities in a bid to reduce queuing times and with giants such as Tesco, WH Smith and Waitrose set to follow suit, will payment the ‘traditional’ way become a thing of the past?
London 2012 is set to be the first Olympic Games run on contactless payment, and you will soon be able to pay for your bus fare with a wave of your hand.
Barclaycard’s latest offering on the contactless payment front is ‘PayTag’, a stick-on credit card which attaches to any item such as your phone or wallet and can then be waved at a terminal to complete payment. In an effort to speed up the drudgery of queues, payment can be made without PIN verification in cases of transactions under £15.. It comes with 100% fraud protection guarantee in a bid to calm fraud fears.
So, could this be the future? How do you feel about it? Are you sold? Are you left feeling cold?
I’ve just got used to chip and PIN so I’m keeping contact, for now at least.
Firstly, let me say that I’ve been using Photoshop since Photoshop 3 and I mainly use Photoshop for Web Design so I’ll be looking at the features the will directly effect myself and other Web Designers.
Having used Photoshop CS6 for just over 5 days now the first thing that strikes me is the performance! It feels a lot faster than CS5 and more sturdy. Cmd + N (New document) and the new document panel opens up almost instantaneously – pixels don’t need 4-5 seconds to render properly and even better, applying filters is now faster than ever! I don’t have a particularly fast machine but even I can notice the difference.
Without going into photo effects too deeply I feel I must mention the new blur filters you can apply. The new Tilt-Shift & Bokeh (A design trend which makes me gag) filters are an absolute dream to use, they’re so easy to use you won’t have to invest much time in learning how to use them. The Tilt-shift filter in particular is so powerful you can create the miniature feel to any photo within a minute. Although it was possible to replicate these effects in Photoshop without the aid of these new tools, having the facility to do so really lets you explore the possibilities and puts you in full control of the results.
The visual indicators on CS6 are a massive jump in the right direction. Instead of inserting markers where an object should be, visual indicators tell you the items margins and how far you’ve moved it and if you change the dimensions of an item, they tell you how much you’ve increased it by. When using a brush, the indicators let you know its diameter, hardness and opacity – small stuff I think you’ll agree, but useful none the less.
Layer Search – Yes my friends, the time has finally come. So you’ve designed a websites home page, you’ve racked up nearly 200 layers / 30 groups and you haven’t got the time to trawl though the groups to find THAT layer, this is where layer search comes in. For Web Designers this is something that we’ve been hoping for, for a while now. It works amazingly well too, you can search by name, mode, effect attribute and colour.
Type styles are a great addition to CS6. For front end developers like myself this feature brings the world of CSS closer to Photoshop than ever before. This tool enables us to apply styles to text elements within a single text box which are re-usable throughout the PSD. So you can create classes called Heading1, Heading 2, paragraph, and link etc and Photoshop will use your defined classes through out the PSD. Brilliant!
The new GUI (Graphical User Interface) is interchangeable and great to use. There are four light/dark options which can really make the canvas be the point of interest. My personal preference is the dark option but I’ve only been using it a week so that may change! I think I may change the UI dependant on the design I’m working on at the time.
There are many other new features for photographers and other users alike such as the new set of content aware tools and the video editing suite so there’s plenty to get your teeth stuck into.
Overall, I think there has only been a handful of really impressive Photoshop upgrades, Photoshop 7 & CS2 spring to mind – but I really feel with the features added to CS6 this is a giant leap for Photoshop and really improves its overall usability. The fact that a lot of the new features are aimed at Web professionals helps enormously. Adobe seemed to have realise the we use this application every single day so improving the small things leads to a more pleasurable way of working.
Well it’s fair to say I’m smitten but as I’ve said, I’ve only used it for a week. I’m sure I’ll find a glitch or two!
Whats missing – I believe there is still a gap in photoshop for a tool which makes it easy to add Depth of Field to photographs, sure there are tutorials on how to do this but a specific tool would save time and would be a welcome addition. Maybe a level of theme creation linked to WordPress would also be a good feature, but hey! Thats just me being selfish!
Here’s some useful video’s which illiterate some of the new features of Photoshop CS6
Download the Beta for yourself: http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/photoshopcs6.html
About Photoshop CS6 Beta: http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/photoshopcs6/
In 2012 it will become more and more easy to add a little sparkle to your web site with animations and traditions. Improved Animation is set to take hold , providing new ways to display and animate content on your web site. Banner animations will diversify too and will feature new ways of animating such as Nivo Slider.
Responsive Design will really make strides in 2012. A web site built in Responsive Design will display in different ways dependent on the environment it is displayed in. There will be easier ways to implement this capability on site builds and Media Queries will develop and become the first port of call for any web designer / developer.
1 page web sites will come back with a vengeance in 2012. Sites like Minimo will become a viable option for start-ups and small businesses worldwide. Their simplicity and easy-to-use UIs (user interfaces) make them the perfect type of site to generate business and Google rankings!
Web Typography is also growing at a rapid pace. Gone are the days of Time New Roman and Arial! With the use of services such as the Google Web Font it is becoming easier to make a websites content look beautiful and engaging! This is sure to a massive influence on how we view the web in 2012.
The capabilities of CSS3 will lead to progressive user interfaces, which is a great thing for UI Designers and users too! CSS3 will let Web Designers render web elements the way they were intended, leaving much of the bug fixes and such like behind. This will also lead to more time designers spend designing in the browser which is about as hands on as it gets! For more info on CSS3 go here
But, to be perfectly honest all I want from the web in 2012 is for one browser to rise up and become the dominant browser. If 99% of all people browsing the web used just one browser, my days wouldn’t be filled with fixing browser bugs for INTERNET EXPLORER!
Not going to happen – but a web designer can dream can’t he?
The Raspberry Pi computer went on sale today priced at just £22. The coveted device immediately sold out, crashing the product’s the website and leaving many gadget buffs disappointed.
So what is everyone so excited about? The Raspberry Pi doesn’t have any bells and whistles, in fact, you even have to provide your own keyboard and monitor to use it. The unique selling point is simplicity – the Raspberry Pi is fully programmable by the user.
The Raspberry Pi is capable of internet browsing and has a USB port, Ethernet port, SD card slot, and an HDMI port for video output. At its heart is an ARM chip, also found in mobile phones and tablets, and it runs a version of the free open-source operating system Linux.
It is hoped that the Raspberry Pi will inspire a new generation of children to learn computer programming, just like its forebears the Sinclair Spectrum and BBC Micro did in the 1980s. Eben Upton, the founder of the charity behind Raspberry Pi, thinks one should be given away to every child as they reach a new school year – something that will be achievable thanks to the low cost of the device.
Upton got the idea for the Rasberry Pit when he found that applicants for computer-related degree course places “[didn’t] seem to know enough about what a computer really was or how it worked….”
As one of the non-technical staff at eSterling, I’m certainly familiar with knowing how to use a computer, but having no idea how it actually works. Perhaps the Raspberry Pi could revolutionise the way we think about computer programming and make technology accessible to schools and businesses alike.
If you’ve decided it’s time to have a new web site but don’t really know what to do about it, here’s an insight into how we operate and how we deliver your brand new web site.
One of our Web Specialists will come out to you and talk about your requirements over a coffee. As we’re the specialists, we will also offer up alternatives and other idea’s which you may have not thought about. Once the initial Web Site Spec (site navigation, functionality requirements etc) is in place we are then able to give a fair an competitive price. The choice is then yours to go with us or to seek alternative quotes.
If you choose us, we will send you out a Welcome pack which features your Web Site Spec, Contact Information, Terms & Conditions and an introduction to your team. We also normally require a deposit of around 30% with all new web site orders.
Our Project Coordinator will then get in touch to discuss, in more detail, your design requirements, functionality and any other requirements you may have. At this point we also request any content and imagery you might want on the web site. We appreciate that the day to day running of your company must be your priority but without content a web site is simply an empty shell so if you need help writing content about your company and what services/products you offer simply give us a call or read our How to write content for your web site article. If needs be we can source images from iStock Photos on your behalf.
When the above is done, we then commence designing your brand new web site.
Web Site Production
Depending on your requirements we will offer two different types of initial proofing.
We will either show you an initial working version of your new site or we will show you a static version of your newly designed home page. You then have the opportunity to fine tweak it until you are happy with the new look. Once the visuals are agreed we then continue with the development of the web site and insert your content and imagery.
Once the web site is packed with all your new features, content and imagery, we then show you a functioning proof which is basically a finished version of your web site for you to check over and approve. At this point the onus is on functionality rather than anything visual. Once you are happy with the web site, we request that you sign our Web Site Acceptance Form which confirms that you are happy for the new web site to go live. Then we make steps to put the site live, add any SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) that maybe required, double check all contact forms and general functionality.
Once the web site is put live we double check everything to make sure your new web site is perfect!
If you have any questions about the above simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0121 766 8087
Yesterday Tom joined 15,000 other runners to take part in the BUPA Great Birmingham Run. The 13.1 mile course winds through the streets ofBirmingham, going past famous local landmarks such as Edgbaston Cricket Ground.
Tom completed the course in 1:52:16 – a great result for the eSterling SEO expert. “It feels great that I completed the course in a similar time to last year, although the two mile hill at the end is an absolute killer!” Tom said.
It was his second time running the course for charity Macmillan and eSterling showed support by sponsoring him to wear an eSterling t-shirt during the race. The t-shirt was kindly provided by one of our clients, White Lodge Promotions.
Tom was joined by the distance running legend Haile Gebrsalassie, who raced to victory with a time of 1:01:29. The women’s race was won by Brit Gemma Steel in 1:12:21, a personal best.
People will remember the legacy of Steve Jobs: a visionary, inventor, designer, entrepreneur and icon. But we all need to remember that the people that will feel the loss more deeply are those who call him a Husband, Father, Brother and friend.
His creations have touched the world in so many ways, the iMac, iPod, iPhone & iPad have literally changed the way we go about our daily business. As a Web Designer his creations have changed the way I do my job – I cannot understate the influence he has had, and continues to have on my career.
I’ve read many articles already today relating to what he gave the world and what type of man he was but one of my favourite articles is written by someone who didn’t know him very well, but lived just a few doors away from his home in Palo Alto, a fascinating read:
The fact that I learnt of his death while using one of his devices is really not lost on me. I own quite a few Apple products and they all do their job perfectly and seamlessly, I would dearly love to list benefits of my Apple products but I could be here for quite a while! But all I will say is that they make life easier which is all you can hope for really.
Steve you truly have made a difference, ‘Thank you’ doesn’t really seem to cut it.
Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011
“Don’t be sad because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Three seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s the time it takes for a visitor to make up their mind about your website.
Just having a website is not enough. An amateurish website will imply that your business is not a serious one, and can tempt your potential customers to choose your competitors over you.
The top offenders when it comes to bad websites are;
- Poor colour schemes
- Broken links
- Poor graphical layouts – cramped text, irrelevant images
- Confusing navigation
- Outdated content, typographical and grammatical errors
- Horizontal scrolling
Is your website guilty of any of these web design sins?
Rightly or wrongly, people judge your business by your website – so it must be good! Be honest and think about what conclusion a first time visitor may form about your business.
Ask yourself these questions about your website…
- Does it enhance your brand?
- Is it appealing and clean?
- Is it free of bugs and glitches?
- Does it promote credibility?
- Does it boast rich content?
- Have a smooth functionality?
- Is it compatible with popular browsers?
- Does it have a consistent navigation area?
- Do the design principles enhance rather than distract?
- Is there a good balance of text/graphics/white space?
Visitors see any lack of credibility on your part as a warning, not a welcome, so avoid giving visitors an excuse to not do business with you!
Make those first three seconds count and give eSterling a call about our web design services.