VistaPrint – business cards for (almost) free

Warning: I’ve found out since writing this article that VistaPrint are well known for being involved with dubious charges. I’ve not been stung (yet) but Buyer Beware.

This weekend has been a bit of a washout, what with me having another wave of not-wellness yesterday and the weather turning bad today. Still, every now and again I take a look at by new toys and it brings a smile to my face.

Business cards by VistaprintOn Friday my new business cards arrived from VistaPrint, and they’re great. Not necessarily because they’re well printed, but they are, or because the design is cool, and it is, but because they cost me under £4 for 250. How come, I hear you ask? Well, I just paid for shipping, the actual cost of printing was free.

It seems that VistaPrint are a company that can’t help but give things away, and that’s the sort of company I like. So head over to their website, register with your email address and you’ll soon be getting emails offering you fantastic deals. If you have a business that requires any form of printed literature (business cards, brochures, leaflets, postcards etc) then I would highly recommend them.

I really want to claim my 25 free glossy leaflets, but can’t think of a subject to write a leaflet about. Any suggestions?

The Village Soup

The estimable Nathan Smith has just written a really interesting article on Digital Web Magazine called The Village Stew. Suffice to say I’ve been that chef on a number of occasions, and it’s galling to see what would otherwise be a great dish get messed up by the inclusion of myriad random ingredients. As these guys would say; keep it simple.

It’s a shame that web designers and developers are seen in this way – as people with unimpressive skills, a commodity. After all, the world is being changed precisely because of what we make happen (even if the original ideas may come from someone else). Nathan outlines some of the problems we can face when working in a large organisation, and some ways we can mitigate against having our work over-commiteeised.

Of course not all projects and clients are going to be a dream to work with, so we need to be prepared for the problems we could encounter along the way. Until web developers and designers are rightly given the same respect as, say, architects, we’ll just have to take the rough with the smooth.

Link-o-rama

I’ve had a folder full of text files containing links to interesting stuff for months now, and I’m just not going to have time to write full blog posts about all of them. So here are a few of them, with some quick thoughts from me.

1) theundersigned.net/2006/06/why-business-blogs-are-important/
It’s pretty much all there in one page. Print it and leave it on your bosses desk.

2) redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2006/04/too_much_good_s.html
If you’re going to get into this business, you’d better make sure you really are unique – or streets ahead of any competitors.

3) escapefromcubiclenation.com/get_a_life_blog/2006/05/all_the_worlds_.html
When things are getting you down, it could always be worse. At least you still have your trousers on. (You do, don’t you?)

4) redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2006/04/individual_vs_t.html
Team blogs can be good, but they aren’t always the answer.

5) domscripting.com/blog/display/69
A great little solution to a simple problem.

6) marketposition.com/blog/archives/2006/07/seo_in_a_nutshe.html
Does what it says on the tin: search engine optimisation in a nutshell.

Happy drivers

On the box the other night I caught the latest Skoda advert, proudly displaying their new tagline ‘Manufacturer of happy drivers’. It’s a great ad (using unexpected sounds appeals to me); you can see it here. And what a fantastic change it is for such a large company to put the focus so much on the customer, not on the "brand" or product. Of course, it could all be moonshine, but companies nowadays should be wary about talking what they can’t go walking. If you see what I mean.

As the wise people know, creating passionate users – in other words happy, satisfied customers – is the an important key to being successful long-term. Being the only, or cheapest, or most powerful will work for a time (being all three will work for a lot longer) but if you want people to stick with you even when your competitors get plentiful, cheaper, and have more features, you’ll need people to be – not just happy – but passionate about you and your products/services.

A quick real-life example. I was in a restaurant about an hour ago and while I was waiting I overheard a conversation between a couple and a gentleman at the bar. The gentleman asked the couple if they visited the restaurant often, and the couple said they went every week. In fact the gushed about how much they love the place (it is a great restaurant) and I’m sure that gentleman went away with a very positive impression of both them and the restaurant.

How much do you want people to be passionate about what you do, so much so they act as a salesforce and evangelism team all by themselves? It’s worth the time and trouble to make them happy, I think.

You may have notice I didn’t link to the video on the Skoda site itself, but it’s a shining example of how to get it wrong (in fact their main site is a mess as well). It’s a shame, because not only is their site design very simple (and rightly so, it’s a refreshing change from the Flash-heavy monstrosities you normally get with car manufacturers) it’s actually been done relatively recently, as the use of .Net technologies testifies to. Don’t tell me it’s impossible to create a decent, web-standards compliant website using .Net because it is – I do it every day at my new company. They may be in the mood for creating happy drivers, but creating happy browsers is obviously not high on their list of priorities.

A new job

I have a new job, as I announced late last year. I actually started a couple of weeks ago, and so far it’s going very well. Eventually the website will have something on it, but for now you just get a nice logo (made a bit more Web 2.0-ish by me).

Figure Out logo

I would tell you what we’re doing, but it probably wouldn’t interest a lot of you. Still, we got a little write-up in the Money Marketing magazine. 2Plan is the company we’re building software for, by the way.

The directors were unavailable for comment, but Steve my fellow developer had this to say:

Are you going to make a cup of tea yet?

Which is nice, I think you’ll agree.