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It’s official – Bamboo Manchester has spent 365 wonderful days as Clockwork members at Ziferblat Edge Street!

We’ve had a fantastic first year co-working from Ziferblat Edge Street. We still love coming to work knowing that each day will be different – from how the space is used by everyone in it, to the people we meet or the eclectic events constantly going on in the northern quarter’s very own eccentric grandma’s living room.

The origins story

We were actually looking for a fixed office space in the area when we first decided to take the plunge and become northern quarter co-workers. We’d rented an office in Bury for a few years but felt the next logical step was to work more centrally and have a Manchester post code.

We decided to start looking at offices in the Northern Quarter and spent a whole morning traipsing around the quirky red brick streets. By the end of the morning, we’d gone from one white washed room to another and hadn’t really felt that lightbulb moment where you think ‘this is our kind of office!’.

After what felt like the millionth drab space, we went for a much-needed break and decided to put our feet up and eat some cake at Ziferblat. As we sat in the communal living room café, we watched the friendly buzz mill about the room. People were playing chess, working from their laptops, playing on the piano, and having a good chat over a cup of tea on the balcony.

We realised right then that Ziferblat was the sort of place that we’d love to work in. It was the complete opposite to the standard office spaces were looking at. It was brimming with creative character, was friendly and sociable but also had a calm feel about it – exactly what we needed for our web design business!

We then bumped into Ben Davies, the Marketing Manager at Ziferblat, who genuinely loves the living room area so much that he works in the open space with fellow Ziferblatters. We told him our plight over a cup of tea and he told us about the Clockwork Membership.

Let there be cake

Sometimes in life those perfect moments just come out of nowhere, and this was one of them. We’d stumbled across not only the ideal space for us but also the perfect office package. We didn’t even realise that co-working would be ideal for us until we walked into the Ziferblat doors looking for refuge from a draining morning. And there we were, happily signing on the dotted line for membership and a Manchester post code.

Since we became loyal Ziferblatters, a number of surprisingly brilliant things have happened to us. We firstly realised how truly great co-working is and how much it suits what we do. We then noticed a lot of freelancers congregating and eating a lot of cake together on Fridays.

Katy Carlisle, who is the founder of Freelancer Folk, welcomed us with open arms and we are now part of her friendly remote worker community. We meet every Friday and not only socialise but help each other out and even work together on projects. It’s what all offices should be like – open, supportive and motivational.

We’ve also had the privilege to collaborate with other inspiring people just by working in a space that is social and open to genuine conversation with strangers. We’ve even met new clients by having a good chat in the kitchen, sharing co-working tables or having collective breaks in the sofa areas.

We also realised that having the flexibility to work how you want and in whatever type of space you feel like, is helping us be more creative and work more productively. We’ve even branched out into video creation and are working on a rebrand to reflect our Mancunian co-working awakening (watch this space!).

In the end, having that break was one of the best decisions we’ve made, not only for Bamboo but also as individuals. It still makes us tremble in our co-working boots knowing that we could’ve missed working here if we hadn’t given in to our love of all things cake!

Bamboo’s coffee adventures at Ziferblat, Edge Street

Coffee has been married into our lives for a very long time. From the first people that discovered the beans, to the millions of coffee shops across the planet. We just can’t get enough of the stuff.

In recent years, coffee culture has been working fervently underground. Coffee experts have been toiling away in backrooms to ensure that the coffee poured into our porcelain cups is lovingly cared for before we put coffee to lips. Experts, such as Sean from 92 degrees in Liverpool, concentrate on sourcing good quality beans and meticulously processing them into great coffee. The time, temperature, and nature of the roast all adds to why some brews beat the rest of the flock.

Good Coffee is also a staple for any urban co-working space, and very important to the average freelancers and remote worker. So when Ben, Marketing Manager at Ziferblat, invited us and other Ziferblat friends to a coffee tasting of the most expensive brew in the world, Gesha Village Coffee, we threw out the Nescaf’ and listened to Sean from 92 degrees with bated breath.

Freelance folk, Manc Made, MCRhookup and Fraiche Ink were also the resident coffee drinkers, on hand to taste the record breaking brew and listen to Sean, who explained the legend of Kaldi, or the Ethiopian goat that discovered coffee, and why Gesha Village sold at auction at an eye watering 85 dollars.

According to Sean, Gesha village has ideal natural conditions and ecosystem for making the best coffee in the world. The farmers also did something very unusual for the coffee world, they left the coffee plants alone and let them do their thing. Their gamble paid off when the beans went to market and broke coffee bartering records.

So is coffee ever worth paying £85?

All we can say is that tasting the best coffee in the world is like when you think you know what vodka tastes like, and then you try a good vodka and you realised you’ve been sipping on fuel for most of your life. Or more poetically, a bit like seeing colour for the first time, the colour of velvety brown.

Following a series of unfortunate events, which I won’t go into here, we have decided to relocate. Bamboo has run from rented office space for over ten years now, and it’s never been as simple as it should be – Landlords take note, your tenants are NOT on-site maintenance staff, estate agents or fire marshals.

We decided to try some kind of co-working space instead. This would allow us to do be based where we wanted and hopefully cut costs and meet more like-minded people. Having viewed a few options, we decided that the Northern Quarter in Manchester was the place for us. It’s where we felt most comfortable, and it’s full of similar, exciting businesses.

We had heard of Ziferblat before, a strange, but simple concept ‘Everything is free inside; Except for the time you spend’, so we gave that a go. The principle is very simple, it looks and feels a bit like a cafe, except you server yourself. There are plenty of drinks – tea, coffee etc, and lots of snacks available – cake, biscuits, cereals, that kind of thing. The big difference is that all the food and drink is free, as well as the superfast WiFi, all you pay is eight pence a minute for the time you spend there.

The first time we tried it we were hooked, it is such a fun, cool place to work that nothing else came close, so after speaking to very friendly people who run it we signed up for a co-worker account which means we get unlimited access and get to use it as our postal address. Now the last bit might sound a bit odd, but in our industry location is everything (Google ‘web design Manchester’ to see what I mean), and this has allowed us to ‘relocate’ Bamboo to the Northern Quarter in Manchester, without moving anything physical and more importantly without signing any kind of lease.

So after ten years of being based in an office in Bury, Bamboo is now based in the Northern Quarter – and we love it!

Bamboo Migration does what it says on the plugin.

A week ago we released Bamboo Migration, our eighth plugin for WordPress. This plugin is a bit of a departure from the type we normally release, in that it’s of more use to developers than users.

In keeping with our usual ethos for creating plugins, Bamboo Migration  does one thing, and does it as  simply as possible – it makes moving a WordPress site from one domain to another really easy. It does this by generating a custom .sql export file of the entire WordPress database, with all references to the old domain name replaced with the new one.

A nice surprise side effect of releasing a plugin for developers is that it attracts more attention than a normal plugin. In this instance the plugin has been listed by Web Designer Depot in  ‘The Best Free WordPress Plugins For November 2014‘. While we don’t normally chase accolades and awards (its just not what we’re about), we’re really chuffed when somebody finds one of our plugins useful.

We’re planning to release our ninth plugin before Christmas, and I’m sure we won’t be too far into 2015 before our tenth one sees the light of day. We just hope that the WordPress community find them as useful as our other plugins.

Taxonomies vs permalinks.

If you are creating custom taxonomies in WordPress, either as part of a theme or a plugin, you may encounter 404 errors when navigating those taxonomies on your website.

What on earth
is going on?

It generally only occurs if you are using the taxonomy within your permalinks, i.e. if your permalinks are set to something like this:


At first glance everything will seem to be OK, until you navigate to page 2  of the archive page in question. At this point WordPress will send the browser to a URL looking something like this:


The appended ‘/page/2’ will conflict with the custom permalink setting, resulting in an a 404 error.

Don’t give me problems,
give me solutions.

We need to achieve two things to solve this problem. Firstly we need to remove the offending parts of the URL before WordPress tries to process the URL. Adding the following code to your functions.php (or as part of your initialisation code if you are a plugin author) will do just that:

function bamboo_request($query_string )
    if( isset( $query_string['page'] ) ) {
        if( ''!=$query_string['page'] ) {
            if( isset( $query_string['name'] ) ) {
                unset( $query_string['name'] );
    return $query_string;
add_filter('request', 'bamboo_request');

Yeah but
what about the paging?

Assuming you would still like to have paging for your custom taxonomy, the follow code will take the page number from the URL and append it to the WordPress query in the required format. Again the follow code should be added to your functions.php or your plugin initialisation code:

function bamboo_pre_get_posts( $query ) { 
    if( $query->is_main_query() && !$query->is_feed() && !is_admin() ) { 
        $query->set( 'paged', str_replace( '/', '', get_query_var( 'page' ) ) ); 

That’s great but
do I really have to do all that?

If you don’t like the idea of writing all that code, or you’re just feeling a bit lazy, there is also a plugin available to fix this problem automatically available here: http://wordpress.org/support/view/plugin-reviews/category-pagination-fix (but where would the fun in that be!).

Deciding Between a Mobile Website or Responsive Website?

In early 2011 Bamboo started to see a shift in the amount of visitors accessing our clients websites on mobile devices such as smartphones (like the iPhone). In those early days businesses would most likely only see upto 3% of their traffic coming from these types of devices. Fast forward to 2014 and there has been quite a noticeable shift. Nearly all our clients websites see at least 15% of their total traffic coming from smartphones and tablets. In some cases mobile access is upto 50% or more.

What does this mean for businesses?

So what does this mean for businesses who already have a website that is not mobile compatible? and what choices are available to business website owners today who want to deliver their content to mobile devices?

It is certainly time to make sure your website is mobile and tablet compatible or you could be loosing a significant amount of leads and sales from your web site. The first step to deciding wether to optimise your website for mobiles and smartphones is to gather information on your current traffic. To do this you need to install some analytics to your website so you have some statistics and reports on the type of traffic your business is currently attracting.

The good news is the best analytical traffic reporting tool on the market is free to use and its supplied by Google. Google Analytics helps you analyse your web sites visitors and will paint a complete picture of your audience and their requirements. For instance if you see 80% of your traffic are all using mobile phones and tablets, then you would most certainly want to serve your website to that target audience in the most suitable way. This is a sure way of increasing leads and sales.

There are x3 different ways of delivering your website to mobile devices

Responsive design

A responsive website serves out the same html to everyone but will change its appearance and layout based on the size of the screen the website is displayed on. This means your website can look easier to use on small screens such as mobile phones by increasing font sizes and making buttons easy to press. This is Google’s recommended configuration.

Dynamic serving

Using detection techniques you can show pages that are optimised specifically for the device that has been detected. For instance if your visitor is using an iPhone, Blackberry or laptop they all receive different looking html pages and optimised content specifically for their device. This is great for optimising your website for a very specific device but will result in the management and maintenance of your website more costly.

Separate mobile site

Using detection techniques your website will redirect users to a different web address if they are using a mobile device. This website will deliver content specifically for mobile devices with optimised imagery and content.

Google prefers responsive web design because:

  • Using a single web address for a piece of content makes it easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to your content, and a single web address helps Google index your content.
  • No redirection is needed for your site visitors to get to the device-optimised view, which reduces loading time. Also, user agent-based redirection is error-prone.
  • Responsive web design saves resources for both your site and Google’s crawlers. For responsive web design pages, any Googlebot user agents need to crawl your pages once, as opposed to crawling multiple times with different user agents, to retrieve your content. This improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of the site’s contents and keep it appropriately fresh.
    – See Google https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/details

In summary

The wide variety of different screen sizes and resolutions that people are using to browse the web is widening each day, and creating a different version of a website that targets specific devices is no longer a practical way forward. This is the problem that responsive web design delivers for businesses.

Bamboo are experienced in designing and developing responsive websites. If your company is looking for a manchester web design agency who can deliver mobile and responsive web sites then contact Bamboo today.

Breaking Ads – Google Adwords Heisenberg Effect

Setting up a Google Ads campaign is exciting for any business, generally it’s the first time they’ve advertised their website online and the whole prospect seems a little nervy as well as being exciting. Everyone likes to see how the ads are performing and who else they are competing with. But if you do not search and analyse your ads the correct way, you can, and will affect your ads and search results.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle says:- You cannot measure observe something without changing that which you are measuring/observing.

As an example –  If you have an ad campaign setup for ‘Your Search Term’ and you google your search term to see where your adverts are but do not click your advert then you have inadvertently affected your ads relevancy for ‘Your Search Term’ in a negative way.

It doesn’t stop there either. I have heard many times people ask me “will my competition click my ads?” and “If I click my competitions adverts will it raise their bill and waste their budget?” – Both of these approaches will damage your own google ad campaign and improve your competitions ad campaign.

How? If you search Google for  ‘Your Search Term’ but click on your competitions adverts and not your own, you are inadvertently telling Google your competitions adverts are more relevant than your own. This will improve their ads relevance compared to yours which will make their adverts appear higher than your own, and also lower their cost per click.

Whilst clicking your competitions adverts Google track IP addresses, use cookies and probably track much more information such as MAC addresses and other geeky data that help them to analyse if your ads (and your competitions ads) have received any invalid activity.

What is Invalid Activity?

Invalid activity refers to clicks and impressions that Google suspect aren’t the result of genuine customer interest. Google don’t charge you for invalid activity on your ads and credit those ad click costs back to your account.

For Example – Invalid activity includes clicks and impressions performed by automated tools, as well as accidental clicks – for instance, if someone double clicks your ad.

If you want to track your ads and search results without receiving skewed results due to cookies and ip data then you need to use the Google tools that available in your ad account. The tools Google supply allow us to monitor and track your ads and Google positions the right way 🙂

Download 1200px Photoshop PSD Grid Template

Today I decided to recreate my blank web design Photoshop template file that is retina ready – When I say retina ready I mean its basically 200% larger than my original Photoshop file. The reason I have had to re-draw a new retina ready 1200px grid template instead of just upscaling the original file is so I know 100% that all the dimensions are pixel perfect. Photoshop has a knack of anti-aliasing edges even if you snap to point or grid etc – It never works perfectly, the only way to make sure all grid widths and columns are correct is to re-draw them… So I did today. It’s a tediously boring job and a couple of years ago I would rely on all my web designs to fit and snap perfectly to my grid.

I’ve decided to give my Photoshop file away as a download here – Retina Ready 1200px Grid Template Photoshop PSD

The file has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 and 12 column grids for 1200px width layouts as well as a 960px width grid thrown in there with 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 and 16 column grid layouts.

At the time of writing this article this is the basis Photoshop file we use to design all our web sites at Bamboo. We all work to a set grid and width before a project starts and this file helps the design process. This is not a finished file by any means though… in fact I am already working on anew file with media break grids in there with columns and I may start to group certain widths and columns together with their common responsive counterpart to make the file even more useful.