There are a lot of great blogs out there that tackle what makes a good website, what website tricks to avoid and what new website trends are going to catapult to stardom. But there is one question that comes way before the rest, and that’s – why have a website in the first place?
This might seem a bit simple and you might be looking at your screen with a raised eyebrow, but the number of individuals and businesses out there that don’t use websites to their full potential, because they haven’t answered this question, is a lot higher than you think.
A website is firstly not a static window display or a tool that only serves 1 purpose.
What do I mean? Well, there are far too many websites out there that look great but are basically sitting pretty. They don’t fulfil what they’re supposed to do, because most websites aren’t there to just look good, they are created to achieve specific business goals. Websites are there to strengthen brand loyalty, increase audience interaction, raise your business profile, and for most organisations – help you make a decent living. A great website does all of these things at the drop of a hat.
It’s also easy to forget that window shopping has the word ‘shopping’ in it. If you don’t think about the mechanics of your website properly and just concentrate on the aesthetics, then people looking at your site will see a window and not a shop. They’ll see a pretty but pointless thing. What happens when your audience sees that your website doesn’t fulfil its purpose? Painful bounce rates that just keep on rising.
Keep a keen eye on those pesky bounce stats as your website moves along, it’s a great indicator for what is switching your audience off.
Want an example of what we mean? Let’s take our very own Bamboo website.
Our website is multi-functional and has several reasons for existing. We are a web design company, and so the first obvious way we use our site is to help potential customers find us, get in touch and work with us, so an online and interactive directory of sorts. But, we also use it as an searchable portfolio of our work, evolving proof that we know how to design as well as a place for industry discussion and helpful information (our blog).
All of these elements are interlinked throughout our site and allow people to contact us, to understand who we are and whether we might fit with what they are looking for. Not sure what we mean? Take a look around our website.
Alive and Kicking
Yes website act, in part, as a digital shop front and designing it well ensures that your brand and tone are on point for incoming website traffic. But your website is so much more than that. Your website should be geared to be an interactive and evolving platform which guides users right to call to action heaven.
A lot of people also create the cardinal website crime of not evolving it with the times and with user behaviour. They create fantastic looking websites, build in all the snazzy bells and whistles they need to generate traffic and convert customers, but then as soon as its live and uploaded they leave it alone, free to hover like an aimless digital cloud on the world wide web.
Your website needs to be honed and improved, much like a plant. It needs to be watered and pruned. For a website to grow a following or to nurture loyal customers it needs constant attention. The goal is to keep working on it, improving it and tailoring it more and more to the people that use it.
How do you ensure a website moves with the times and is in tune with your audience? Analytics and feedback are your best mates when it comes to listening to what your users want and ensuring your website achieves your business goals.
Track and analyse user behaviour. If I could put that phrase up in lights, I would. Track and analyse which pages are most popular, average page duration, which months your website is more popular, which time and day do you get the most hits and where do people tend to bounce off. All of this information is like sweet honey for marketing people because it’s basically free feedback and a call to arms to improve websites so that they run alongside customer behaviour.
If you take anything from this article, breathe these 5 golden tips in –
Think about why you need a website in the first place
Assess whether your website is meeting your goals
Track users and what they are doing on your site.
Understand how people use your website and evolve with them
Push your website to interact with your audience
Do these 5 things consistently and your website will no longer feel like the forgotten toys in the back of your cupboard. Your website will be relevant again, will serve a specific purpose and reach far beyond your previous expectations.
Did we mention that we make pretty decent looking websites and love coding to or heart’s content? If you fancy a chat with us, give us a ring our come into Ziferblat Edge street, where all our website magic takes place.
Lights, Camera, Action
We were recently part of a video that celebrated the Northern Quarter for all of its creative flair and independent spirit. The video, to us, is a testament to what this area is about – working together to make a place the best it can be and to support each other to kick down the status quo. To do things our own way, because it’s the only way we know how to be. And most importantly, the friendly and happy vibe that seeps through our graffitied red bricks.
What we love about working in the Northern Quarter is the obvious freedom that mills about the area. People are just being themselves and are encouraged to make that into art or business – and what could be greater than that?
My achy breaky heart
We’ve written quite a few blogs about the Northern Quarter, it’s the sort of place that just needs to be written about. Anyone who’s walked along its streets, socialised in its bars and cafes or worked from its converted warehouses, understands what we mean.
For us, the Northern Quarter is the emblem of a city that was born to break rules. If Oxford Road is the brain then the Northern Quarter is the beating heart of an already iconic city. The lifeblood that pumps creative spirit across the streets and keeps pushing us all to proactively disrupt the norm.
And why wouldn’t it? When you have a surplus of talented people in a teeny tiny area who like nothing more than to do things their own way, you get a cultural hotspot that ticks to its own rhythm.
Define me at your peril
The Northern Quarter is a hard one to define because it has so many different identities and reasons for existing. I also feel like it doesn’t like to be labelled, so every time you try, it shirks it off and shows you another side to its personality.
The area is made up of about 20 streets and is packed to the brim with freelancers, tech entrepreneurs, food innovators, baristas, mixologists and quirky shop owners. A stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Gardens but still manages to feel like a tucked away urban village and part of a global movement. The area is also one of the most popular nights out but still somehow clings to its underground, creative soul.
And let’s not forget the striking graffiti murals splashed across our beloved red bricks. For me, the colourful walls are a physical reflection of what is going on inside our buildings. People living and working together so that we create something that is unique and that can be shared. And so our street art has inadvertently made the Northern Quarter an external art gallery with forever changing exhibitions for anyone who lives there or visits.
The Northern Quarter also loves hurtling itself into innovative ways to create and do business while at the same time cherishing the pubs, restaurants and shops of old. You don’t truly understand the Northern Quarter or the Mancunian mentality until you understand it’s love and respect for the old Manchester scene. That’s because people remember what the old city did for the metamorphosised, global city it now is. The old Manchester’s rich, unique identity acted like the backbone or the strong foundations to help the changing city to flourish and beat its colourful wings.
The streets of old
If you don’t know what I mean by the ‘old city’ or the ‘old Northern Quarter’. In the last 20 years, Manchester has gone through a phenomenal change, thanks to investment and retaining fantastic talent and innovative business, especially so in the tech world.
The Northern Quarter started off as an area mainly used for wholesalers, factories, live music, pubs and adult entertainment – much like Pigalle in Paris, minus the British pubs. The area then slowly turned most of its depots and wholesalers into colourful independent little worlds.
The thing is, even when it was a bit neglected and mainly used to keep stock, it was still very edgy. It is a colossal mistake to assume the Northern Quarter ‘got cool’ circa 2005. That creative rule-breaking heart was always there, it was just bubbling beneath the surface and hanging out in backstreet pubs and underground haunts. Any of the old and still veteran pubs in the area, such as the Castle and Gulliver’s, are a testament to its rich and deep-rooted, alternative spirit.
It’s also where, in my opinion, the village feel comes from and our famous friendly natures. Part of the Mancunian DNA is to help each other out where we can and to talk to each other as neighbours. It’s not uncommon for someone to strike up a conversation with you at a bar, sat next to you in a café or even at a tram stop. And crucially they don’t have an agenda, they just want to have a chat and connect with another person.
And because the architecture of the Northern Quarter is more compact, this friendly nature comes out even more and is allowed to skip and hop across each little business pocket. The will to help others and connect without agenda has naturally infused itself into how we do business and is why creative, independent thinking and business gel so naturally in the Northern Quarter.
I recently read a great article about Bishopthorpe Road in York, where an architect explained that the streets where people feel like hanging around are often the best streets to be on. They stick around because there are activities to enjoy and places to collaborate as a community. And inadvertently, by sticking around they help make the street and even better place for even more people to hang around, both economically and creatively.
The power of human connection works when people create an area together and fashion it to be both purposeful and fun. And when a place hits that magic formula the galleons start to flood into that area. Subsequently, independent business owners who were trying to keep afloat while sticking to their creative guns, have more wiggle room to do exactly what they want and in turn, attract the people that want to see them strut their creative stuff.
The same can be said for the Northern Quarter I think. The more people came to wander around the eclectic streets and invest in our independent businesses, the more creativity rose to the surface and became a viable business option. A lovely social circle, where we all work together to make something really quite special.
A look at who’s killing it in the Mancunian digital scene.
We live in a country of inventors and self-starters, with 75 companies launched every hour in the UK. And what’s more, successful business ventures are no longer a London only affair. We are now living in a time where 3 out of 5 high-growth companies are actually located outside of the capital.
Choosing where to start your business is crucial for any business, and that includes digital trendsetters. London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Cambridge, and Brighton are all spearheading huge digital growth in the UK and are great places to start a tech business. But let’s concentrate on the city that warms our heart the most – Manchester.
Ah Manchester. The home of the Eccles cake, The Smiths, Acid House and Emmeline Pankhurst. The city that spat out the industrial revolution and threw in the computer for good measure. The Northern Giant is now the largest tech cluster outside of London and in the top 5 best UK cities to start a business. It’s also creating a bit of a digital name for itself on the global stage, featuring in Europe’s top 20 list for digital innovation and generating tongue-in-cheek talk about Manchester becoming the UK’s Silicon Valley.
It also happens to be the city where Bamboo is based. We weren’t at all surprised to see Manchester feature in the top 5 UK cities for start-ups and freelancers. Manchester is a city that has lots of business opportunities and room for everyone to make their mark, but also feels a bit like an urban village with really strong social networks. It’s not rare to bump into someone on the street or see someone you know at a meet-up event or working out of a cafe. We are also lucky to have genuinely helpful business relationships and local government support, with some really impressive digital investment, support initiatives and readily available resources in the local area.
We’ve also always found it really important to big up and encourage innovation and community in the Manchester digital scene. One of the things we love most about working in the city centre and out of Ziferblat Edge street is that we constantly meet other inspiring Mancunian businesses, especially start-ups. And even though we’ve been going for a while now, we still remember our start-up days – the excitement of creating something new, the boundless possibilities and of course the massive business fails that you learn from.
It’s fair to say that in 2018, the city has become a bit of a start-up machine. For us, start-ups always bring something fresh and innovative to the Mancunian table, helping to spruce things up and keep the city making digital waves. Manchester has always been doing its industrious, creative thing both in the city and globally. But in the last few years, the city has really got its digital strut on.
So we really wanted to write a blog post that would showcase some of the best new talent out there. To celebrate proper Mancunian innovation for 2018 and the most exciting Mancunian start-ups out there at the moment:
A start-up radio platform that wants to haul radio into the digital age by making podcasts a daily, relevant hobby. The site works a bit like a radio version of Youtube, you can create your own radio station or page and get followers or listeners for your page. They even have a great broadcast live tool. They also secured 300K worth of funding. Definitely one to watch.
Just out of the start-up bracket (est. 2014), Wakelet is an innovative content curation platform and social app that is trying to give users more freedom in the quality of relevant content on the web. Posts are called ‘wakes’ and user can create portfolios, collections, tell stories, annotate and create their own private and public content pages. A bit like myspace 5.0, Instagram and Pinterest all combined. The founder, Jamil Khalil, received 1.1 million in funding to kick off Wakelet.
The founders of Digital Bridge are Mancunian home space innovators who have created an augmented reality platform that allows customers to try home décor in their own home before buying it online. You just need to take a picture of the room and upload to your computer to start digitally decorating your space. Pretty nifty stuff. They’ve already received 450k worth of investment from high flyers such as John Lewis.
A start-up dedicated to building technology that enhances sport training. One of their most exciting inventions is Corner a wearable performance tracking device and app for elite athletes, especially for boxers and coaches trying to push for improved performance.
A crowdfunding platform service that helps start-ups get the funding they need to launch or start a critical new phase. They work on Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns helping flourishing ideas with lead generations and socially powered investment. They helped raise a colossal $18 million dollars in 2016 and 17 for SMes and start-ups.
With all this creative innovation flying about we can’t wait to see what other creative and inspiring people pop up on the digital landscape in 2018. One thing is for sure, Manchester is in pure digital flow right now and, as always, is dancing to its own unique rhythm.
Whose line is it anyway?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, what even is a strapline?
They are basically business catchphrases, slogans or small groups of words that make up a memorable sentence. A good strapline should reflect who you are, what you do as a business and alert your target audience to your main business values in a snappy soundbite.
The almighty strapline basically sits on top of a carefully planned brand strategy, acting like a beacon, streaming out a bold and simple message.
When it comes to branding, the big bad companies out there spend troves of money finding the right strapline for their brand, because they understand the colossal impact it can have on their audience. They know that words have the power to shape perception and buying habits.
Customers buy from brands they trust and can relate to. Audiences flock to websites that have strong stories and values that align with the individual and society.
Great straplines can also make your company look better than your competitors, who are essentially selling the same product or idea. They can create loyal customers who believe they are buying from someone who understands them and their lifestyles.
Up in lights
To really bring home how much sway straplines can have and how they push you to think in a very specific way about a company, here are two of the best straplines out there:
Because you’re worth it
Just Do it
99% of the modern world know which brands these straplines belong to. The clever trick is that we aren’t just thinking about the company, we’re also subconsciously accepting a very carefully planned brand message.
The globally recognised because you’re worth it, is a brilliantly executed strapline. Firstly, it answers the question ‘Why should I buy from you?’. Secondly, it makes you think that buying luxury or treating yourself is a worthwhile investment. And thirdly, it implies L’Oréal Paris is good enough for your tastes.
The brand flatters your ego, tells you that they are better quality than their competitors and so makes you think they are value for money. All in 5 unassuming words.
Just Do it is a fantastic strapline for a sports brand because it inspires action, positivity, a drive to do better, and ultimately to buy a brand that helps you do that. Nike even capitalises the ‘Do’ so you only associate that exact phrase with the brand.
Great straplines tap into our human nature, for Nike that means playing into our need to always improve and be our best selves.
The Perfect Recipe
So what makes a great strapline?
I asked resident graphic designer and co-owner of Bamboo, Simon Nolan –
“Your strapline basically sits next to your brand and acts as a message, helping users to sum up your ethos, your values and what you are about. The strapline is the introduction and summary of who you are. A great strapline should act like the glue that holds your content together and should be the start of a strong and consistent brand story that runs from your website right through to your business cards.”
Creating a good strapline is like pouring icing on top of a cake so that it trickles down between the layers. It strengthens your image, puts a bold idea out there for your audience to digest and helps streamline your business values.
So how do you go about creating a strapline?
Keep it Simple
If you take one thing from this article, it should be ‘the simpler the better’. Flowery constructions or wordy poetry have no place in the strapline cattle market. You want short, sharp words that pack a punch.
Make it Memorable
Along with a simple idea and message, you want someone to remember your brand, and for the right reasons. Whether you are a big or small company, when a loyal customer sees your strapline they should immediately think of you. In an ideal world they should even speak about your strapline to other people, think Budweiser or Specsavers.
How do you make it memorable? Humour is a great trick, as is appealing to someone’s emotions. You need to understand your audience and what makes them tick and then use your strapline as a mirror back to their own values. But keep it honest, consumers can smell a red herring three google clicks away.
So, you’ve got simple and you’ve got memorable, now you need positive. You don’t want to be remembered for making children cry or horrifying your core audience (although sometimes that can work). Stay positive, people always want a happy ending to a story.
One of the big reasons that straplines work so well is that they help you look different to your competitors and raise you up to a new playing field.
I firmly believe that most competitors sell a very similar product, but not all competitors have the same values. Concentrate on what makes you different from the crowd and create your brand message and strapline around that.
Show your Worth
A strapline helps convince your audience that you are worth their time, money and energy.
How do you get them to think that? Like most things in life, start with the basics. When you are setting up your brand or refreshing your image, you need to have a serious think about your core principles before you decide on a strapline.
When I say core principles, I mean the basic values that define your company. Defining your core values is also about what you and your target audience finds important. You core values should create a bridge between your goals and their expectations – – whether that’s ethics, speed, simplicity, or family values.
Once you’ve thought of them, a good trick is to imagine if someone took those 3 or 4 values away, would you still be the same company? No? then those 3 magic words are your building blocks to branding glory.
Next step is your strapline, which should have 1-2 of your core principles worked into the content, and the best straplines do this without even saying those exact keywords.
The road to Tipperary
Even if you’ve never done any sort of branding before, you know your company more than anyone else, so spend some time thinking about who you are and what makes you unique. Then start using our 5 top strapline tips as the first stepping stones to a great brand story and a star-studded strapline.
PSST! Did you know that we have our very own copywriter? If you want to rework your website and freshen up your content, give us a ring or pop into Ziferblat Edge Street, Manchester – where we’ll be more than happy to have a chat about your website project and how we can help over some Zifercake
I recently went to a tech talk in Manchester where a speaker introduced his topic with this – “We are now naturally urban animals” Or in other words, we’ve moved on from our rural origins, have long since walked out of the savannah and our chosen birthplaces are now among skyscrapers.
The hills are alive
We’d certainly be forgiven for thinking that we’ve turned our backs on our old ways and that we’ve evolved into concrete dwellers. As trends go, we have consistently been leaving our rural homes behind since the very first cities shot up. On average, 74% of all developed and 44% of all emerging countries are now urban.
But aren’t we forgetting something? Isn’t nature where our origins lie, isn’t it still our habitat?
Moving to the big smoke has always been about getting a job, finding new opportunities or leaving a ‘worse’ life behind. It’s never been about putting ourselves in concrete mazes away from nature, it’s just become a by-product.
There are also scores of studies that prove flora and fauna aren’t just pretty, they are integral for our health and sanity. Increased exposure to nature is directly linked to decreased levels of stress, depression and anxiety which often have a detrimental impact on physical health – which means we need to be near nature to feel better.
Our online spaces are, in theory, the most far-flung spaces from physical nature, and it is perhaps for this reason that we are constantly designing and coding with nature in mind. Perhaps we are unable to truly design or invent anything completely outside of our own viewpoint or experience and so logically our most high-tech inventions have their origins in something that already exists in nature.
Take the internet itself, which represents a spider’s web in its most simplistic form, and how our brains make connections in its most complex. Or if we think of ‘the Cloud’ it works in a very similar way to how we store memory.
You can link the structure of code to how soil works for living things, it creates strings of organic matter (or code) which forms connections and binds those separate connections to form more complicated organic structures. Even our phones are created to work in tandem with how we think, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to use them or understand how to extract information. Our smartphones sync so well with how we communicate and connect ideas that they now feel like an abstracted part of ourselves.
Our most forward-thinking robotic experts are also building biomimetic robots to either to look like us or to represent an animal or the best parts of lots of animals that already exist.
Let there be light
We are also slowly realising that the concrete gap between us and nature needs to be bridged with metaphoric gardens. Biophilic design, or designing with nature in mind, is a great practical example and is a trend that is moving at the speed of light.
We are quite literally bringing natural elements through our windows and into our internal spaces. Panoramic views, wood, indoor gardens, rooftop greenery, natural colours, open spaces, floor to ceiling windows and circadian lighting are all trendy examples. But biophilic design reaches far beyond architecture or office décor and has jumped right into the digital world.
Gone are the fluorescent colours and jarring navigation of the early noughties. Our websites and social media accounts are now designed with clean lines, simple navigation and fluid connections. We are creating open, light and welcoming digital spaces that mimic our old natural spaces.
SEO is also riding the trend. Most words that have a naturally meaning score highly on user retention and engagement. Words like social, open, organic, natural, green, local, sourced, community and space, are all prime terms for websites and branding, and are all systematically linked to nature and our roots.
Another great example is UX design, which basically foresees what is going to happen to our online behaviours and physical designs around those predictions. If you ask any UX designer they will agree that it’s paramount to create navigation from A to B, B to C and C to A in the most fluid possible way, because it is a sure-fire way to create a positive and productive user experience. It is because of this that internet spaces are now completely interlinked, just like our real lives because conversation and communication are naturally fluid and interconnected.
Our mass urban exodus also doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. In 2050, 70% of the world will be urban. The challenge for the future will be adopting practices and developing innovations that truly merge nature into our physical and digital spaces, so that we create real urban jungles that are healthy for both us and the planet.
I think it would be naïve to think we can go back to a simpler time, but what we can do is use both the future and the past to create a balanced present where urban and digital nature more than just lovely a sounding paradox.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
Look out Mystic Meg! Bamboo Mcr’s got hold of a crystal ball, and we can see…
First things first, everything is going to get a lot smarter. We aren’t just talking about Bamboo’s brilliant website building skills (ahem), but about the entire breed of technical devices out there on the market.
As predictions go, you might feel like it’s a pretty safe bet to assume technology is going to get a bit more quick witted. Technology has consistently become smarter since we started putting together techy stuff to make even better techy stuff. It’s the kind of horse you’d bet on to get a sure-fire win.
But, what we think will specifically make tech even smarter in 2018 is the internet of things (IoT). Now, the internet of things may sound like a loopy science project or a deep space mission, but whatthe internet of things means is connected objects that can exchange and collect information via the internet – think Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri or your fridge that suggests you might want to make an omelette with the egg and cheddar combo on your shelf.
We are obviously right at the start of the IoT movement, but experts are predicting that 2018 will be the year of IoT and where we’ll start to see real changes to our lives. IoT is going to create a completely connected world where all devices and products will form mass networks that communicate with each other and form integrated services and data troves. The internet of things will basically become the backbone for all our consumer goods.
The movement is so huge and set to tip over into our every waking moment that in 30 years or so, we’ll actually look back at the likes of Amazon Echo and have a little giggle about how quaint our IoT systems were, kind of like how we look at the 80s bricks that were apparently mobile phones or existential life before Google.
Two huge IoT examples set to change our lives are smart homes and smart cities. Most of us are already familiar with smart homes – thermostats, lighting and security systems that you can regulate with your phone, or fridges that predict food running out, and fire sensors that contact emergency services when triggered. Smart cities are also set to revolutionise our urban lives by freely exchanging live data as we go about our days. IoT cities have the potential to reduce traffic congestion, noise, crime, and pollution.
User experience or UX design has been coming up on the rear for a very long time. User Experience has always been important, with 88% of users less likely to return to a website if they’ve had a bad experience. A UX designer’s principal role is to make your journey from A to B as smooth and pleasant as possible. As technology gets smarter and more connected, seamlessly smooth user experience across multiple channels, devices and systems will become even more important.
UX designers are also the real Mystic Megs of the digital world, because a huge part of their job is to predict how people will want to use a system and how that might change over time, which is a crucial asset in the quickly evolving technology sector.
So, what will this mean for our digital spaces in 2018? Time saving nudge features, voice-activated experiences, augmented reality, and modern passwords such as biometric activation, are all being excitedly whispered about along the UX grapevine.
No we aren’t going to predict social media happening, that ship has long since sailed past the billionth duck face selfie. What we are going to predict for 2018 is that social media channels are going to become even more integrated and connected, just like user experience and smart technology.
Social channels are already merging their identities to eat up their competitors and keep their valued users. Instagram stories copied Snapchat, LinkedIn news looks very similar to the Twittersphere newsreel and Facebook is now a video tidal wave, akin to the original video titan, Youtube.
Social media will also continue to eat up traditional T.V viewing. Since the birth of Youtube, Netflix and On Demand streaming, the young’uns and the tech savvy have switched off their family tellies and flocked to their portable devices to stream from the internet wherever they want and to their hearts content. It’s very similar to the previous shift from CD to mp3, everything is getting more online, connected and instantly accessible.
TV channels and television producers have been tracking this colossal shift and have done what all savvy business people are now doing – they integrate the competition. Most television boxes now have the option to watch programmed television or go onto on-demand viewing, because it’s set to become the mainstream way of watching our most bingeworthy television programs.
The Future’s bright
So what’s in store for Bamboo in 2018?
Drum roll please!…… We are very excited to reveal our plans for a brand spanking new website, scheduled to be live and kicking early this year. Since our move to Manchester city centre, we felt like a new look was in order, it also gave us the chance to integrate lots of snazzy new user experience and design features as well as a Manchester bee inspired logo!
We are also going to continue to eat cake and live our very own coworking experiment in Ziferblat Edge street. Working in the northern quarter and being around friendly and creative people has definitely brought about some surprising opportunities. We’ve found new clients, friends and even branched out into photography and video creation.
All we can say is, roll on 2018 and let’s hope it builds on the brilliant year we had in 2017!
If you ever want a chat with us about our uncanny crystal ball skills or maybe even how we build great looking functional and modern websites, we are always available via phone, email or even for a cup of tea at Ziferblat Edge Street!
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!
Manchester is a city that has something about it. You can’t quite put your finger on it but it’s there, chatting in the old city pubs, brainstorming in basement warehouses, or weaving along the industrial streets. Northern city dwellers forever doing their own gritty, creative thing.
We first moved into the Northern Quarter because we wanted to be more central for our clients and get a Manchester post code for Bamboo. But in the end what we got was much more than an address, we got to live and breathe what the city is about and reflect that in our work. Breaking norms, doing our own thing, laughing about it and then breaking norms again. Creating something from the richness of the past and making it completely, inspiringly new.
Red Brick Road
In our mind, Manchester’s uniqueness, in part, comes from the fact that it was the starting point for the industrial revolution. To create such a global movement which transformed the planet’s future has to take a very unique way of thinking and some stubbornly forward-thinking guts.
But post-industrial Manchester was in danger of living in the shadows of its past and resigning itself to a very long concrete slumber. Luckily, Manchester’s never-ending love of music and unique art rose to the challenge and kept the creative candle burning, making sure the Mancunian spirit never really burnt out.
Then when Manchester’s time came again, purpose flooded back into our empty red brick buildings and made sure music wasn’t the only thing shining across our city. Warehouses were splashed with street art, Victorian mills adapted into creative spaces, and empty factories became digital hubs. The transformation happened when Manchester needed it most and made it that little bit more special.
Let me go my own way
This city is also in creative flow when it revives the past but doesn’t drown in nostalgia, when it isn’t afraid of blending the old and new by letting them clash and collide until they learn to be in each other’s company.
Manchester also doesn’t care about what is expected of it, and often rebels against that expectation. Which is also where our simmering hatred of most things from London comes from, and why the city quickly wriggled off its ‘Northern Powerhouse’ title – because it’ll most likely achieve the same thing but in its own way.
Even the architecture doesn’t care about what a city should look like. Towering glass structures sit next to elegantly decaying Georgian buildings, as do Tudor houses and concrete tower blocks. Manchester’s architecture is a defiance of standardised beauty and architectural norms, which is the perfect backdrop to what is happening on the streets. Heritage being reaffirmed with innovation. Creativity coming from the freedom of disregarding rules.
Family of strangers
Something we also love is that we work in an urban cosmopolitan city that still acts like a local pub. Stranger talk to each other at bus stops, laugh together in queues and chat about the weather in cafes. It’s this mix of innovation and genuine friendliness that creates the unexplained buzz flitting around the streets and helps to slow down the train to pretentious city living.
Working in the northern quarter, which acts like an urban village, has also helped us be more creative and productive just by being a part of something truly exiting. We are all talking, inventing, and creating an idea of a city together, and it’s inspiring to build and adapt to the times together.
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.
Why Google Rankings strategies matter
Your site is up and running, it’s looking sleek and shiny, ready for the whole world to see. You sit at your computer waiting for the thousands of visits and leads that are going to come knocking on your digital window.
So why have the weeks gone by and you’re yet to receive the tidal wave of requests you expected, and your views are struggling to hit the 100 per week mark?
First things first, you are not alone, many companies navigate through the choppy waters of website traffic and have no idea how to bring the boat into port in unchartered territory.
Google is effectively the gate keeper of high search rankings and organic traffic. Meeting Google ranking requirements is one of the most important things for high website traffic, and ultimately lead generation.
What then is the magic Google recipe to put you above all your competitors and become the cream of the Google ranking crop?
Tell me the truth
One of the most important and relatively easiest ways is with quality content. Writing engaging and relevant information on your website which is often refreshed (i.e. with a blog) is a sure-fire way to see your Google rankings rise.
People react most to genuine content that hits a Zeitgeist or speaks to their values. Which means that no amount of hyperlinking or SEO can replace interesting content that attracts your core audience. You can even attract long-tail traffic, which is basically attracting visitors that are interested in what you do but weren’t specifically looking for you.
A good example of this is if a restaurant, which has a website and blog, posts weekly trend setting recipes. A person might research a recipe that is on the blog and stumble across the post, like what they see, look at the whole website and decided to visit the restaurant.
SEO my heart out
Another way is through SEO, a term which is being bandied about a lot and is being propelled as the new way to write content. Away from the marketing jargon, SEO is just writing compelling content for your brand which contains words that people are likely to search for when they are looking for what you do.
It’s important though, to firstly write quality content and to secondly concentrate on SEO. The worst mistake a lot of websites do is to try and drive content by solely concentrating on searchable words, this often created conceited and jumbled up sentences which tends to lead to high traffic but also very high bounce rates.
SEO works when you can’t tell the searchable words are there. They should never be the gravitational pull in a sentence but should instead sit calmly behind the scenes in a genuine piece of writing.
It’s also not just about the words you write for the whole world to see, it’s also important to get your back-end in order. All I mean by back-end, is the page settings in your editor suite, where you can view each of your pages and write meta-tags or searchable terms which help Google understand what your site does, raised your profile and directs the right traffic towards it.
It is also important to do this for pictures and videos. Google is basically a very complex algorithm and reacts to data (a colossal 20 petabytes per day). If Google processes a picture or video without a back-end description it is basically invisible to Google and won’t help your rankings.
Social media also has a big part to play, because it can help drive more traffic to your website. Having various social media accounts for your company effectively shines a stronger beacon towards your website by picking up visitors from a wider angle.
You are quite literally providing more opportunities to be searched for on the internet, and Google likes knowing that traffic is coming to your website from multiple sources. A bit like the popular high school kid, who decides whether you’re worth their attention based on how many friends you have.
Picking which social media platform is right for you is also important. If you’re a design company, Pinterest and Instagram are probably the way to go, if you’re a street food company Instagram and Snapchat will probably get you genuine engagement, where a data analyst organisation will probably look to Twitter and LinkedIn as a more appropriate route.
The key strategy with social media is to get your branding streamlined and to constantly generate compelling content which will, if all things go to plan, drive increased traffic to your website and give you a healthy boost on Google.
In the end, raising your Google ranking can feel a bit like a shooting star, some days your rankings soar and some days you are left scratching your head and wondering what changed from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Don’t lose faith though, the best sign that your google ranking strategy is working is that the long-term pattern is one of growth and that you are enjoying writing your content. Sometimes that can be a reader’s individual feedback, an average increase in session duration or a few more contacts via your website or social media accounts than last month.
Whenever I write for myself or for companies I always stick to a genuine voice and write about what is genuinely interesting to the core audience, and then I back it up with metatags and SEO. Just like in real life, when you are faking it, people can tell, and tend to back away. The need for genuine conversation reaches all corners of our life, including the internet and our websites.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
Why ethical marketing is here to stay
Social responsibility, conscious capitalism and ethical marketing are all buzzing around the internet, are being pinged across email servers and are heatedly debated in meeting rooms around the world.
Why? because those who are paid to watch out for changes in market trends have already noticed that responsible business practices are much more than hipster fads or great searchable hashtags, they are part of a real shift in business behaviour that is in direct correlation with how our relationship with the planet is changing.
My fair lady
Ethical Marketing is a business philosophy that focuses on promoting fairness, honesty, and responsibility in an honest and valuable way. The idea is essentially that making a profit and doing something that is responsible for the surrounding environment doesn’t have to be at odds with one another.
In the past, charities, NGOs, and social enterprises would take the mantle and fight for our rights and protect our already damaged planet against the profit obsessed wheel. Now people are asking, how can we slowly change profit based companies to also care about social and environmental values? The answer is combining the two.
The very fact that modern marketing content now always involves showing the consumer that the company has ‘real values’ is a sign that ethical marketing is not just the cherry on the cake but is actually becoming the basic recipe for successful promotion.
If I were a rich man
Some may scoff and say just because companies are starting to promote ‘green’ or ‘corporate responsibility’ values doesn’t mean they have changed, they are still making a profit out of being ethical – but that is exactly the point! It would be well intentional but entirely naïve to expect the majority of companies to significantly reduce profit margins just to do ‘the right thing’.
We are living in pragmatic times, and we understand that you can’t dismantle such an ingrained economic model without getting a bit messy and revolutionary. But what you can do is improve it and make it more in line with human nature and in balance with the planet.
Marketing also has a boundless power to affect consumer choice and so ethical marketing promotes a product or idea as honestly as possible to avoid misleading the audience. Working under the banner of integrity, value and respect also feeds into a growing hunger among consumers and so is actually a smart business decision.
It’s been a long time coming
Marketers by nature always have their ear to the ground, and have heard the pitter patter of changing consumer values for some time. They know that people are saturated by information and are tired of being obviously sold something or taken for a ride. Consumers are also slowly but surely prioritising companies that give back and that affect the environment in a positive way or in the very least limit their negative impact.
Which is why ethical marketing isn’t just something to appease the recycling loving millennials, it is an idea that is practical, pragmatic and slowly transforms a profit margin obsessed company into a company that still hits its targets but is part of the system of change our planet and our societies so desperately need.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
Why Manchester is becoming a global centre for digital creatives
The red-brick northern giant, the home of Oasis, the set of Shameless and the birthplace of the industrial revolution. The city today is as iconic as it is infamous, as gritty as it is cosmopolitan and as northern as it is global.
Manchester has always been a rule breaker and a thought-pioneer. The city and its inhabitants like to do things on their own terms and in their own way, which has inspired ground-breaking inventions and an outpouring of creative spirit. From the invention of the computer, the discovery of the electron and the creation of graphene, Manchester has never been afraid of using science to create innovative technology.
From the ashes
Manchester’s regeneration after the IRA bomb in the 90s catapulted the dormant city onto the global stage once again. Huge reconstruction and historic investment were pumped into the Northern Powerhouse. The city was rebuilt, re-modelled and transformed until it inadvertently had everything it needed to become the global tech hub it is becoming today: strong economy, cultural heritage, historic innovation, and a surplus of creative people and ideas.
The tech revolution hit the Mancunian streets like a fish to water and took the city on by storm.
Innovative start-ups, digital collectives and tech entrepreneurs filtered into the once empty red brick warehouses and old Victorian buildings. Modern offices, co-working spaces and freelance friendly cafes are now popping up more quickly than quirky restaurants or independent boutiques. And as the city’s architects plan to build up to the sky, similar plans are set in motion for the Manchester digital scene.
What’s all the fuss about?
Manchester is currently the largest tech cluster outside of London, it has the UK’s second largest GVA growth and has the 4th highest digital turnover at £2.2 billion.
Local and national government are intent on keeping this momentum going to ensure that Manchester realises its global digital potential and has recently granted Manchester £4 million to create a tech hub centre which will nurture start-ups, be a place of digital mentorship and help ingrain digital collaboration across the city.
Away from government investment, the city is receiving masses of ex-Londoners as part of the historic exodus from the capital, and is also importantly retaining northern talent who no longer feel the pull to move down south to be able to realise their professional goals.
Welcoming companies as they decide to relocate, open a branch or be based in the northern city is also becoming a common affair. Companies and organisations such as Google, the BBC and Bohoo.com have all decided that Manchester is the place to be. There is even tongue-in-cheek talk of moving the capital up north.
Whether you believe that Manchester will become a totally transformed global digital mega city, that it will cling to its northern-rooted creative identity from yesterdays, or that it will be a mash up of both identities, one thing is irrefutable: Manchester is going through a phenomenal metamorphosis.
The risk with such a dramatic push towards a ‘better’ Manchester is forgetting the city’s history. We risk, like many cities, favouring gentrification instead of accepting our imperfect but real identity. We risk doggedly pursuing global recognition and lobotomising what made us famous in the first place: being Mancunian.
There is however something that will always save us from ‘growing at all costs’ and that is our thirst for originality and our intransient need to navigating our own way through anything, including becoming a global centre for digital innovation and talent.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.
The sun has been out so instead of sitting for lunch and discussing web design things, we headed out across Manchester to capture our favourite place in the world… Manchester 🙂
– Captured our senior developer Mark on a two step
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!