Status Awarded Best New Digital Agency at Big Chip 2012

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Proud doesn’t cover it. We are utterly delirious and quite bewildered after attending our first Big Chip Awards ceremony in Manchester last night.

But enough about our hangovers, we’re ecstatic to say that we were awarded Best New Digital Agency at the very prestigious digital industry awards.

We had a great night meeting lots of folk from all over the north of England, and were really proud to be part of the small but successful contingent representing the north east. In fact, one of the night’s biggest winners was Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle.

Looking forward to next year!

Thinking Digital: Look at the world, not your phone, man.*

Thinking Digital 2012

The hugely charismatic and entertaining Professor Sugata Mitra poses (and answers) some small questions.

The 5th Thinking Digital Conference at The Sage Gateshead took place this week, and was typically buzzing with ideas, philosophy and technology either connected to or just to inspire the digital industries. Needless to say, it succeeded in generating that inspiration.

The only time I thought ‘what the bloody hell is this guy on about?’ is when I went to the wrong lunch time seminar – I ended up in some public-sector-innovation-funding-hell with only a chocolate brownie to hide behind. The rest of the time though, I was enjoying some enlightening, interesting and occasional “open mouth” or “holy fuck” moments. (We now have names for those moments thanks to Adrian Hon of Six to Start and the effect some of their creations have on people).

I’m not going to talk about the detail of the conference and the speakers (no doubt the full coverage will be on www.thinkingdigital.co.uk soon) – I didn’t take any notes anyway, so couldn’t if I tried – but also because the impact for me was much simpler than the mind-blowing innovations or just great speakers: Instead of coming away with lots of little tips and tricks to quickly forget about, I had only two messages in my head, which is much easier to manage.

1. Look at the world, life and time holistically instead of the micro events of mass and social media.

Several speakers suggested that to make a difference, humans shouldn’t get absorbed with events that are ultimately inconsequential to the world, but to step back and look at the things that happen over decades, centuries even; Address things that are fundamental to being human, not things that will be gone tomorrow;  The meaning of life is bubbles.

2. The culture of work has changed, openness and collaboration are here to stay.

Although the audience was probably made up of exponents of ways of working which embrace openness, collaboration, hacking, trying, failing, iterating and succeeding, a few talks really brought home what it means, why it’s good and why it’s here to stay: Small actions can have a big effect; work with other people instead of against them; School is dead, long live Google.

Roll on TDC13!

*The title of this post refers to what the iPhone might have been called if Steve Jobs’ original suggestion for naming the iMac – the MacMan – stuck. Thankfully, Ken Segall‘s proposed name was more widely embraced.

Posted by Stu Marlow.

Results from the start for Southampton

Status have recently been appointed by The University of Southampton to provide design and development services for digital marketing campaigns and the main university website.

The team at Southampton are a pleasure to work with and our first project with them has been a great success, and a lot of fun…

The campaign was targetted at prospective students who had been offered a place at Southampton, and aimed to encourage them to choose Southampton over any other offers they may have received.

We produced this animated piece to communicate the reasons to choose Southampton, and an email to promote it to that audience. The email generated click throughs to the video of more than double the sector average and sharing of the video added 24% more views on top.

We’re now working on larger web development projects with Southampton including improvements to the mobile user experience of their main undergraduate site.

Posted by Stu Marlow.

Status nom nom nominated in the Big Chip Awards!

Launching the GO Activities website. Mike Griffin from GO Outdoors (centre) with Nick Salloway and Stu Marlow.

We’ve woken to the fantastic news today that GO Activities – the outdoor activities and accommodation booking website we produced for GO Outdoors – has been nominated for Best E-Business Project in the Big Chip Awards (which, sadly has nothing to do with chips).

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, we’re also up for their Best Newcomer award which is open to companies who started after March 2011.

What makes this year’s Big Chip Awards special is that after many years mostly confined to the North West, 2012 sees its highest ever number of entries from businesses all over the North of England including eight firms from the North East. We’re incredibly proud to be part of that and really looking forward to representing the region along side some great regional talent.

Posted by Stu Marlow.

Initiation Test: Heather Peacock

Heather Peacock

Like a game of Hungry Hippos in a ball pool, our Client Services team has been quite busy recently.

So we’re therefore very happy (and relieved) to welcome Heather Peacock onto the team. Heather has previously worked in a variety of roles at Codeworks and has lots of great experience that proves she’ll fit in really well at Status. We were so impressed in fact, that we thought it best to pose some very serious and challenging questions to her… read her interview transcript here and see for yourself …

What’s your favourite biscuit?

Has to be Ginger

What’s your favourite chocolate bar?

Anything Green and Blacks, but ideally Maya Gold

Ok, seriously, given your experience in working in Digital and Marketing, can you tell us your favourite cake?

I’ll pretty much eat ANY cake. But, I do like baking with my girls – we make very girly fairy cakes covered in icing and hundreds and thousands, although half of it usually gets eaten before it goes in the oven!

Your 8 years experience at Codeworks must have given you a great insight into the digital industry. Considering the interesting and influential people you worked so closely with there, can you get us free tickets to Thinking Digital?

Absolutely NOT! I still heartily believe that Thinking Digital is the best conference of it’s kind in the UK – and incredible value for money. They have amazing speakers, and fantastic networking opportunities. It’s worth every penny, and I’ll definitely be attending as a delegate this year. I’m really looking forward to it!

I understand you have a passion for sky diving, windsurfing and paddle boarding. How much do you think you’ll get for all that gear on eBay since you won’t have time to use it anymore?

Well, I have actually given up skydiving now, so that’s been sold already – but now the summer’s on it’s way, I think I can still get in plenty of work, and also get time out in the water. I’m a firm believer in having a good work-life balance, which is one of the reasons I joined Status – Nick and the team have a great attitude towards ensuring employees are happy (no, he didn’t pay me to say that!). But, i am really looking forward to getting stuck in, and hopefully adding some real value to the team – it’s exciting for me to be working in a new environment. I love the creativity that comes from working in an agency, but also being able to deliver real business focussed, strategic solutions, which i think is something that Status is really good at.

Know any good cat videos?

This one really made me laugh a few weeks ago…

Henri 2, Paw de Deux

So, as you can see Heather really is the icing on the cake of our team. She’s added her own slice of expertise and her approach to digital marketing really takes the biscuit. I think we’ll get on famously. Welcome to Status!

Posted by Stu Marlow.

Tips for Effective User Research Groups

Steve Jobs famously said:

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

This clearly works for Apple’s product designers who rely on their experience and skill to get the products right, but in marketing, knowing your audience is crucial in helping you create campaigns and websites that will reach, engage and convert those users.

Conducting focus groups is a good way of getting to know your audience – it won’t give you all the answers, but done well, it can reveal some useful and sometimes suprising stuff.

The most critical part of this task is to find out what users really think, and not what they think they think or what they think you want to hear. This is difficult because they’re not in the actual scenario you’re researching for, they’re in a focus group.

Getting a natural response is what you should focus on when creating your focus group format. Here’s some tips:

Relaxed, engaged subjects

The most effective user groups, i.e the ones in which you get the most realistic responses from, are ones in which the group are relaxed and engaged with the discussion. Acheiving this is difficult unless they want to be part of the discussion. The following points might help you acheive that:

Environment

It goes without saying that if you bring people into a dull meeting room, they’re not going to behave as naturally as they otherwise might. Wherever possible, visit them in their own environment so they feel in control and confident.

Warm-up discussion

Start the session by asking them about about something they can identify with or questions they might all agree on. For example, if you’re interviewing students you might ask them who uses facebook or twitter – they’ll all have something to say. You can even ask something negative such as what’s your least favourite advert at the moment, people find it easier to be open and animated about something they dislike, and the group may find affinity with one another here.

Two People

To ensure the moderator doesn’t keep stopping to take notes etc. and is left to keep the discussion flowing, a second person should record the points made by the subjects on a laptop – it can at sometimes be very fast paced, especially if a few of them are very involved.

Informal format

It will be necessary sometimes to use formal questions or handouts, but wherever possible, try to get all of your questions asked within a discussion. It will help if you think about this when you write them – try to put them in a logical order. However, don’t lead the discussion just so you can get it onto a relevant topic.

Misdirection

A useful tactic to avoid the group telling you what you want to hear is not to talk about what you want to know. Try to find ways to ask questions which seem unrelated to your research area, but actually tell you about how they think in similar scenarios. For instance, if you’re researching how people are influenced by their friends to visit a website, ask them about being influenced to visit a shop.

Humour

It definitely helps if you can keep things light hearted, but don’t do a David Brent.

Posted by Stu Marlow.

DIBI 2012

DIBI (it stands for Design it. Build it.) is a two-track conference held at the Sage in Gateshead that I went to for the first time earlier this week. As a designer I stuck to the Design track which covered a range of UX and front-end subjects.

Creative Coding

The conference was kicked off a talk to both Design and Dev tracks by ‘creative coder’ Seb Lee-Delisle. He bridges the gap between design and development and encouraged more people to do so. Designers should learn to code, and equally, coders should play around with visuals. This was demonstrated (rather bravely) with a live coding demonstration. It showcased how you can use coding languages in a very creative way.

Seb Lee-Delisle live-coding at DIBI 2012

Gov.uk

Next up were Paul Annett and Tim Paul from the Government Digital Service explaining more about how they’re developing the new gov.uk site. The problem they are trying to solve is the fact that there are many disparate sites for the government – such as directgov.uk, business link… and then all the individual government departments too. Quite often you need to know how the government is structured to know where to even start looking for the information you’re after. We’ve had a similar experience with universities we’ve worked with grouping their courses by school rather than by subject. As with our university sites, their solution is to get rid of the smaller individual sites (already 1500 have been closed) and amalgamating all the information into one global site. Their approach to such a huge task is documented on their Design Principles website; a very interesting read.

Psychology

The next speaker was Susan Weinschenk, acclaimed psychologist and author of books including ‘Neuro Web Design‘ and ‘100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People‘. Her talk was an interesting insight into how the unconscious mind has an affect on web behaviour. People make a lot of decisions that they’re not even aware of, and as web designers we need to talk to the unconscious mind as well as the conscious one. For example, research has shown how people use peripheral vision more than central to get the gist of a situation. Therefore when a user is reading the ‘main’ content on a webpage, they are also processing any images and graphics around the edges. If these can be perceived as discomforting or scary in anyway, they can have a negative impact.

Client Centric Web Design

As a follower of Paul Boag‘s Boagworld, I was looking forward to hearing him speak and I wasn’t disappointed. He delivered a very enthusiastic talk on his new book, ‘Client-Centric Web Design‘. The idea behind this is to avoid the animosity that can build up between agencies and clients, to a detrimental effect on both parties. He suggests using approaches such as mutual respect, good communication, and education (on both sides) to build a strong relationship – with the benefit of producing better websites, happier clients and happier workers. Web design shouldn’t be about showing off to peers and trying to get in CSS galleries, but providing a strong product that produces results. A lot of what Paul talked about reflected our ethos at Status, and I have a feeling his book will be doing the rounds in our office in the coming weeks!

Cameron Moll

Special mention to Cameron Moll who presented the keynote speech on The Burdon of Creativity using two iPads, one for his material and one to draw his slides as he was talking. Fascinating!

Cameron Moll presenting at DIBI 2012

Slide by Cameron Moll

It is great to have such a strong conference attracting both speakers and audience from around the world right on our doorstep. It makes you very proud of our city and our thriving digital community. Well done to all involved and roll on DIBI 2013!

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