Wedding_at_Optix_Solutions

ROBIN AND HANNA GET MARRIED!

Yes you read it right, I need to get a hat (for those of you under 30 that's a Cilla Black reference)  

Let the bells ring out, its official, we have our first ever Optix Marriage! I'm very pleased to announce that Hanna Skillern and Robin Mepstead, who first caught each others eyes over the company pool table are engaged to be married. 

Robin, our Head of Design popped the question last weekend. Hanna, who had been with the business in a marketing role until their relocation to Bristol in 2016 said yes and it was official, Optix had its first ever engagement. 

I've yet to persuade them that Optix pull up banners down the driveway or an Optix themed red and white wedding are a good idea but I have a year or two to wear them down 🙂 

We'd like to send the happy couple our best wishes and every success for many years together.

#optixwherelovelives

 

 

 

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Devon_NHS_Partnership_Trust_Website_Development_Optix_Solutions

DEVON PARTNERSHIP (NHS) TRUST NEW WEBSITE GOES LIVE

Over the last year the entire team at Optix has been busy beavering away on a very exciting new project that we’ve not really been able to tell people about…until now. As part of a regional tender, Optix were chosen by the marketing and communications team at Devon Partnership NHS Trust (DPT), who provide mental health and learning disability services in our region, as their preferred supplier for the design and development of a new website. Their old site had been there for many years and was in need of a decent overhaul. 

On a project of this size, lots of things you might not need to consider in a smaller web build come into play. Information architecture (how the site and its content are structured) is key. There are 1000s of pages of content so working out how the user can get to them is a job in itself. Search engine authority and rankings that have built up over many years are critical to the site's traffic and everything must be done to maintain these as best as possible.  There are also a multitude of key stakeholders to keep happy, all with a view on aesthetics, functionality and content. DPT don’t like to do things by halves, they also wanted to migrate from one domain name which had been around for over 10 years to a completely new one, another key challenge for our team.  

We started the project with a number of workshops. Key stakeholders at DPT were invited to these sessions to give their input. Interviews took place over a number of weeks and feelings on content, designs and functionality were all recorded. Our design team then used an app called Prott to put together 'mobile first' wireframes (designing with mobile in mind before desktop) which helped everyone in the project understand how the site would be laid out and navigated. Particular attention was given to the fact that users of this website could easily be in a difficult personal situation and require help urgently. It was vital that important information was quickly and easily accessible. 

After the wire-framing came the design stage. This is a huge site that needed many different templates in its CMS system. The team got to work and created (we would say this) one of the best sites we've designed to date. You can see the before and after pictures below and for a better look around take a look at the site: www.dpt.nhs.uk

Before: 

After: 

 

A bespoke approach to the back-end build was adopted and towards the end of that period, the team at DPT were able to start inputting their content. A proactive approach to testing was taken with real data while our digital marketing team got to work on the planning of the migration, not just across from an old site to a new site but also changing domain names as well. There is no way to glamourise this process, its hours and hours spent in spreadsheets and analytics programs, tracking important URLs that used to exist and ensuring none of the good authority the site has built up over the years is lost when everything changes over. The day the site goes live and for a few weeks after, careful work is done to monitor any drop off and make changes quickly if necessary. 

The result is one we are all extremely proud of at Optix. A flagship account and website which really displays all the hallmarks of our strapline, digital excellence. 

Alastair Banks, one of our co-founders says, ‘We were over the moon to be picked by DPT in the first place, we’re even more proud of the resultant website and relationship with our client. Very large projects can often stretch the emotional boundaries of the people involved, especially when they are spread out over many, many months. We’ve developed a very strong bond with the team at DPT and we are now very excited about phase 2 and other projects we have running with them. We are already in the process of building a micro-site to help with their recruitment drive’

Sharon Berkhout, Communications Manager at DPT  said, We are really proud of our new website and for the fantastic contribution from Optix in the different phases of the project. They are a creative, innovative, flexible team who really get to know your business and your requirements. Their expertise in all things digital is second to none and we have every confidence that the micro-site will also be a success and help us with our recruitment. 

For more information on how Optix can help you with your next website project why not give one of the friendly team a call on 01392 667766 

 

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Working_With_Optix_Solutions

END OF AN ERA

Its with a heavy heart that I write this but at the same time I feel an enormous sense of pride and responsibility which leads me to put pen to paper (in the electronic sense anyway). 

I remember vividly a young lady turning up on our doorstep in the office before last. This was almost ten years ago. She asked if we had any jobs at the time. We didn't. There was something however that compelled me to have a chat with her. We went through into our meeting room in our Queen Street office and talked about the ecommerce site she had been helping to manage and digitally market. She was a confident young lady who really knew her apples. I was impressed. In fact I was so impressed I went to James and told him I needed him to meet her. He came through and we all chatted for the next hour or so. We were both so blown away that we created a new role there and then and offered her a job. That young lady was Kristen Sousa.

They say that some of your best hires come from these 'fated' opportunities and I believe thats what happened to us that day. There are few days where Kris isn't the last to leave the office. Before I had the responsibility of kids, her and I would often still be working gone 8pm, developing Optix and working out how to take it to the next level. She's been a rock I've always relied upon. 

Unfortunately times change and people need new challenges and Kristen is no different. So the time has come for Kristen to move on. Those of you who know her will know that she hails from Bermuda and having spent over ten years in the UK, she is considering a return to the isles to be with her family. A short break is needed first but its likely that you'll still see and possibly hear from her still as its difficult to say goodbye quickly when you've worked together with someone for so long. Although Kris is actually leaving the business in August and is off to Cuba and then Europe for a bit, we're remaining very close and she will no doubt be around for a bit longer when she comes back even if its on a part time basis. 

I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to a special person for both Optix and me personally. Kristen and I have worked side by side for a very long time now and I often think of our relationship more like one of a close sibling. She's been an integral part of our team and development and will be sorely missed. She'll tell you herself that all my best ideas are actually hers. She seeds them in my mind and happily sits back quietly while I tell everyone I actually came up with them. She's probably not far wrong. She actually told me about Twitter 🙂 

There will always be open arms for you in our office Kris whatever you choose to do next. Please don't be a stranger. If you go on to work for someone else then they will be very lucky to have you. If you work for yourself then I'll look to join forces and collaborate where possible as I know that whatever you do you'll put 150% into. Good luck.

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Internet Explorer 6 – 5 reasons we are dropping support

Goodbye IE 6For almost 4 years now since the release of Internet Explorer 7, Optix Solutions has continued to offer backwards compatibility with older and out-dated browser versions – specifically the one that causes a lot of aggravation for web designers worldwide, Internet Explorer 6.

There was a time when Internet Explorer 6 dominated the market. Now, with upgrades from Microsoft and the competition (Mozilla Firefox/Google Chrome) seeing a massive increase in popularity, latest figures show Internet Explorer 6 usage having dropped below 10% of the market share.

During this time Microsoft has announced it shall be discontinuing support for Internet Explorer 6 in 2014. It’s been a hard decision to make, but with the security vulnerabilities the browser poses to potential secure data we discourage users strongly from using the browser. Continuing to support something that we feel so strongly about just doesn’t make sense. Even world governments and Microsoft themselves have issued warnings about using the browser!

Here are our top 5 reasons why you should abandon the browser now, if you are still using it:

  • Security – The biggest flaw of Internet Explorer 6 is it’s poor security. It opens your operating system to hackers and malicious users, exposing potentially sensitive and personal information. Both Germany, France and even Microsoft themselves have warned against using the browser.
  • Technology – Our biggest frustration here is the technical capabilities of the browser. In the past 5 years, there has been some amazing progress with JavaScript and CSS that Internet Explorer 6 just doesn’t support. It is halting our ability to develop feature-rich and aesthetically pleasing sites.
  • Compatibility – Internet Explorer 6 restricts our ability to conform to internet standards; particularly W3C xHTML standards. Through having to use nasty “hacks” and workarounds simply to get things to show correctly in Internet Explorer 6 , developers are sometimes unable to create sites that are 100% standards compatible .
  • Efficiency – By dropping support for Internet Explorer 6, we are increasing work efficiency by 10%-30% – that’s 10%-30% more work that we can spend perfecting the minor details on your website.
  • Support – Often, days are spent ensuring a site functions and displays correctly in ie6 alone. By dropping support for this browser, we are helping both ourselves and thousands of other businesses worldwide by doing our bit to ensure users upgrade their browsers.

In case you are worrying that by dropping support you will be losing out on 10% of your audience, this is not true. While dropping support for the browser, we will still continue to offer minimal compatibility to ensure the site is still functional (even if it is slow) and users can still navigate as they should be able to. Aesthetics however, may suffer in the browser – but look many times better in a more modern browser!

Upon first visiting any new sites we do, Internet Explorer 6 users will now be greeted with a message asking them to upgrade their browser – with download links to the top browsers out there. Just for certain cases sake, we will also give the user the option to keep using their ancient browser and not prompt them again!

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Site developed for: Just Another Baby

If doing business online was as simple as putting up a nifty looking website and an online shop then we would all be dotcom millionaires.

Unfortunately it’s not that simple, as many businesses, especially in highly competitive marketplaces, have discovered to their cost.

Intelligent online marketing focuses not just on providing product information and the means to buy, but building the sort of relationship with existing and potential customers that creates brand loyalty and leads to that almost priceless commodity – an ever growing word of mouth following.

Just Another Baby started last year as a company run by parents for parents. Its founders wanted to start a business that offered the highest quality products, both old favourites and latest innovations, that take the stress out of parenting and leave mums and dads free to enjoy the rewards of family life.

Optix Solutions were brought in by Just Another Baby to work on two fronts. The first, and key to any online-based business, is an easy to navigate and fully comprehensive online store to meet all their customers’ needs.

But there is no reason for the business to sit on its hands while the ecommerce side of the site is being built and fine tuned, so Optix have also created what is known as a ‘buzz’ site to maximise awareness of the Just Another Baby brand in the meantime.

As its name suggests, the site is specifically designed to create interest around the new business.

It is crammed with news and information on new products and latest company developments, features regular blogs and polls to keep site visitors engaged and actively encourages existing and new customers to keep up with, and spread the word on, the company through Facebook and Twitter.

“The buzz site has really helped us to make sure we get it right by asking our customers to get involved and let us know what they think about what we are doing. Its helping us spread the word on the company, our products and our commitment and values,” says John Williams, Director of Just Another Baby.

Fellow Director Rob Pascoe, added: “We’ve been working really hard with Optix setting up our new online shop and getting it just right, where you will be able to buy quality baby essentials and browse our great selection of hassle-free parenting products and it’s looking great.”

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