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2014 reflections oh, and about that Unicorn...


So that was 2014!  Pretty good year if you ask me.  I know some of you struggled, particularly in the retail sector but others thrived and there seems to be a general optimism for 2015.  About bloody time!

When I look back at the businesses I worked with this year a number of things stand out:

Web Platform

All sites this year were built on the Squarespace platform , I haven't built a new WordPress site since 2013. Not only are they great to look at, scale beautifully on Mobile and are easy for the business owner to update and use, not one of you has had to deal with an outage or a hack - this is huge!

New websites  from Simply Friday in 2014

New websites  from Simply Friday in 2014


The whole "managed" website idea, which can initially turn people off because they don't have full control is actually perfect for small business owners who don't have in-house tech resource.  If you're still futzing with servers, updating plugins and responding to ever more prevalent security alerts - you might want to think about changing.

Content Production

So we're all pretty familiar with blogging nowadays, but what I'm thoroughly enjoying is how everybody has their head around the use of Imagery.   Whether you're sourcing from the creative commons or getting creative yourself with iPhones and digital cameras, content is looking better than ever and of course that helps spread your message through your social networks.

What I'm perhaps most excited about is the development of video.  I know a few of you have it on your Q1 Ed. cal for next year but I've got to give a shout out to Keith at Greenstate Insurance and Winky at Schatan Optical Gallery for buckling down and learning how to do this.  Like everything, video is not difficult, but it takes time to learn and to find your voice.  For pure ease of information delivery and SEO value, you can't beat it - just watch this short video on who is covered to drive your car - and watch out for the rooster!


Outsourcing the boring but essential bits

We all know how hard it can be to actually create good content in the first place, but the whole image sourcing, adding of alt tags, proper meta descriptions, correct formatting and then sharing etc can be a pain in the butt.   Fortunately there are resources like Nicole Paulus over at Nico New Media who has been doing this for years and is great at her job.  She's now working with several people on this list and I know she makes their lives so much easier.

If you'd like to focus on the creative aspect and leave the formatting and delivery to Nicole get in touch with her.  Also, she's a fantastic writer, if you're not a natural wordsmith Nicole is a great resource for getting your ideas into well written SEO copy - check out this latest newsletter she wrote for Casa Victoria

Finally - about the Unicorn

It's the classic cobbler's children have no shoes thing, but for three years I have been growing this business without a defined brand or logo.  However, next year I will be developing my visual identity and defining my product offer on the website.  I had had an idea for a logo and sent it out to the list for feedback and while the younger online crowd loved it, the more traditional physical location business owners thought it was lame!

As I explained to a few of you - the color palette comes from the Scottish flag - The Saltire - which represents my background and heritage.  Blue is also a great color for a consulting business as it is seen as a very trustworthy color (and it's pretty masculine too!)

I like the circle approach as I think it will work well as a 50 by 50 pixel icon plus I like how the text works around the central image.  Below is a second iteration from a designer friend of mine in Berlin, Maja.  I like where it's going and I think a few more tweaks of the font and actual wording and we'll be pretty close.


As for the Unicorn, well, the Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland - bizarre but true - but in addition to that, amongst the digital marketing community a Unicorn is someone who possesses both Marketing and Technology skill sets, which would sum up my business pretty well.

But perhaps more importantly - it's a frickin' Unicorn!  And I think that's cool.

So - that's it for 2014, I wish you and your families  a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.  I will see you all in January and we'll continue to build on the great work you have done in the last 12 months.



lauren // associates

Last week saw the launch of the latest web site from Kilted Chaos:

lauren // associates - non profit consulting

For this write up we’re going to look at some of the key design elements that we addressed when putting the site together:

White Space, Use of Color, Navigation as Information and Images.

White Space

People scan your home page – they make an assessment of what’s there and what’s important in the first few seconds.  If it is busy with lots of text and flashy things, you’re making it harder for people to quickly identify what they’re looking for.

The approach here is to remove anything that can’t be represented through navigation off the front page and leave a simple core message.  The intent is to leave the eye free to take in the logo and tag line – and then wonder what the hell the green circle is for.

Use of Color

Color is awesome – used sparingly it is like a policeman for the eye: “Go directly to here – do not look at anything else.”  Aside from the big green circle – we use green to highlight certain words: Lauren (the name of the company), Profit (something that everybody wants – especially people in non profit!) and Changing (‘cos if they weren’t looking to change something about their business – they wouldn’t be on the site!)

The purpose of the circle is to create an independent platform within the space that can be used to spotlight text information.  The circle draws the eye to the words running around it and a mouse over effect pulls the explanatory text into the space.  The interactive nature of the tool encourages the user to try out the other words and in doing so get exposed to a deeper level of information about the company.

Navigation as Information

Over the years I have found that I learn just as much about a site from the navigation as I do from the content.  Navigation will tell you very quickly what the site priorities are and shape how you as a visitor move through it.

The primary navigation on Lauren Associates presents a visitor with 4 options - in effect saying: this is what we do, this is what we think, this is what we are about, and you can get us here.  Nice and simple and no horrible multi-level drop downs that you have to scan in order to work out where you’re going.

Secondary navigation shouldn’t detract from the primary message but should make it easy for the visitor to get around the site.  We used the mouse over effect on the front page but you can only really do that once - for the inside pages, the icon driven “micro-menu” sits nicely on the top right, we could have used small font text but the icons just look cooler!

An Image says a thousand words

And those words are often “this site blows - I hate stock photography!”  Over the years we have moved away from stock photos – we’re not saying they’re bad in all cases – but the idea of showing a happy smiling man in a business suit next to your new credit card offer not only seems banal to us, it also feels fake.

No real human being gets excited about mundane stuff  – we’re big fans of the Kotex tampon ads – in a world of overhyped bullshit and  exaggerated product marketing, the minute someone tells it how it is – we’re hooked.

Instead of using photos that had no relationship with Lauren Associates we designed a set of icons that represented each area of work and actually felt like they were part of the site.

Websites are not dead

If your website hasn’t changed in the last couple of years then you’re doing it wrong.  Lauren // Associates are adopting a content strategy so there is always going to be new content added but we’re not just talking about the blog.

The design of Lauren Associates is very clean, very simple and doesn’t have any photographic images (Cindy’s bio pic aside.)  Going forward we think a couple of great shots of Cindy working with clients would really accentuate the site and give the service area pages some additional color and relevance.  However, the shots have to be great and make sense within the overall design.

We prefer to develop long term relationships with our clients – we don’t just drop you when the site is launched.  New technologies arrive, standards are developed, things that could make your website perform better come on stream faster than ever before and we want you to benefit from them. 

There is no better marketing for Kilted Chaos than a successful client with a successful website – just checkout hip Los Angeles Realtor - Smilay Properties

Lauren // Associates is ready to go, we wish Cindy and her partners all the success in the world and we look forward to continually improving and developing the site as she grows.

Let us know what you think - considered input is always appreciated.  If you'd like to chat with us about your own site - then...

“We want to move towards a content marketing strategy and need to integrate our UK, French and Czech payment card and applications businesses into one .EU website with a design that is easily translatable into all three languages – would you be interested in pitching for the business?”

Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?

This was our biggest project to date and we beat out a couple of European agencies to win the business.  We're in the process of translating the site into French and Czech and will be launching them under their own country top level domains in the next month.

The only thing the client gave us was the estalished pink ABnote logo and a confirmation that pink was actually a key color for them!  Working closely with the client side project manager we produced a loose mood board, site plan and ultimately a series of wireframes to arrive at a functional layout which we then turned into photoshop mock ups which were eventually approved by the clent technical executive.  Then it was a matter of installing WordPress and getting to work; in a nutshell:

  • Custom icon set, driving the design feel of the entire site
  • Heavily customised Thesis framework
  • Frontpage Slidedeck
  • Pop up contact forms
  • Easily inserted call to action buttons for end user
  • Client branded and customized WP login and dashboard

This is the fourth project we have delivered for the ABnote group in the last 6 months; after wining the project we also won pitches to provide an analysis of their global digital footprint, re-skin of a credit card customization and tracking portal as well as some nice graphic work that Alex knocked out of the park.

You can see more examples of Kilted Chaos work here.

Find out how we can help your business:


“So our designer just fell off the planet and we need to launch in 4 weeks and the budget is half gone – can you help?” 

Yes – we can help ‘cos we are Kilted Chaos and we are awesome.

Ok – so it didn’t really go down like that but it was close – either way – we think you’ll agree – the site turned out pretty nice!

3Gsignage are a European based technology firm that make it super simple for any size company to build and manage their own smart phone application and digital signage.  We’ve built a few iPhone apps here at Kilted Chaos; it kinda reminds us of the early days of the web – you’d hire a programmer to build you a site and then when you wanted to change anything it cost you an arm and leg and took four weeks.  3gsignage have built an easy to use content management system so that businesses can change information inside the app without spending a fortune – genius!

The key message for them was to get across that they deliver Content Management Systems for the iPhone and for Digital Signage systems, plus they then wanted to funnel the visitor by customer type so they could better shape the language.  They are just starting out with Social Media but they wanted a simple way to add blog entries and have everything hooked up to Twitter and Facebook.

We built on Wordpress using the Thesis theme - we had an outline of what the front page should look like - the font and the iPhone image but that was pretty much it.  Much of the design involved some subtle image and CSS work and we learned a few new things along the way.

We worked pretty much round the clock for a couple of weeks and hammered the site out.  We moved them from their existing host (who we won’t name but seriously – having to fax in a signed copy of your passport just to change DNS and waiting all weekend for it to happen seems ridiculous in 2010) moved them to a new registrar and reduced their ongoing monthly costs – nice!

If you would like to know more about 3Gsignage's services - you can contact them here.

If you would like some Kilted Chaos in your life – or maybe just on your website – give us a shout – although we’re out of here until the 5th – have a great holiday American people – we love you!

Casa Victoria

Casa Victoria is a funky furniture shop in the hip Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. With inventory ranging from 1930’s art deco pieces through to matching President Lincoln book ends – they have a lot of stuff to show off and were looking for an easy way to do it that didn’t involve trekking to a “web guy” every week.

Casa Victoria La - by Kilted Chaos

The approach here was to make the site as image heavy as possible without slowing it down. Use of CSS image sprites add interest while keeping page loads light and a cunning twist on category management allows the owners to easily arrange their inventory while maximizing visibility.

To keep server space down, product images are stored on Flickr and to ensure maximum visibility have a creative commons license – increasing the possibility that Casa Victoria inventory will be seen on other sites. To add a new item the owners simple create a new blog post – paste in the id of the product image on Flickr and the Flickr product set into the shortcode and bam – a new product is listed within the right category – couldn’t be easier.

Add to that a simple styling job on the Casa Victoria Twitter and Facebook pages – hook everything together and you have a super easy to use and incredibly effective approach to promoting a local business.

  • PLATFORM - Wordpress
  • Theme - Thesis 1.6
  • Key Plugins: Flickr Gallery (Easy images + added SEO)
  • Price point of Site: $550

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