Clare Associates - Projects

Here you’ll find details of projects that Clare Associates has been working on.

We re-launched our own website in early 2013, and have only included a few of the projects that we have worked on since the company was set up in 2002. We hope this is enough to give you a flavour of our experience. If you’d like to know more about any of our work, please drop us a line – we’re happy to talk about it!

New website for Joshua Preston Marine and Heavy Engineers

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It’s always nice to work on very local jobs, especially when the business concerned is a true leader in their field.

Joshua Preston Marine and Heavy Engineers  are based just a couple of miles from our office. They carry out a range of heavy engineering work, mostly of a marine nature, but what they really wanted their new website to promote was their range of aluminium workboats. Mr Preston himself is a real evangelist for the virtues of aluminium boats (“Better than steel. Better than fibreglass.”).

Our brief was therefore to produce a website that communicated the strengths of these aluminium workboats and the qualities of this small, but specialised and established engineering firm.

joshpreston

We built the site using the WordPress content management system. It’s a fully responsive design (that is, it adapts to different display resolutions and works well on smartphones and tablets). Just as importantly, it’s easy for Mr Preston to update – he can edit text and add new images after only a very brief training session.

Certain pages feature this ‘blueprint montage’ that we created as a background – a nice alternative to a plain background, and one that helps to reinforce the message of the site.

1z7m1pkr

Closer Cornwall : a website to share the wonders of South East Cornwall

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We’re delighted to announce the launch of the new Cornwall : Closer Than You Think website.  Created for the South East Cornwall Tourism Association, Cornwall, Closer Than You Think is designed to show the world the fabulous beaches, wild moors, superb fishing, and amazing adventures on offer in South East Cornwall – and, we hope, will tempt you to come and visit.

Closer Cornwall

The site is still a work in progress: we are expecting more pages on Beaches, more late availability offers and lots more photos to appear as the site develops.  But we hope there is already enough here to give you a flavour of this unique and special part of the country.

We developed this website using Drupal 7, which is one of our favorite content management systems.  It allows us to create a site with lots of quick and powerful  ways to navigate and search content and also to allow the site to be managed by the SECTA committee.   The site is responsive so that it’s easier to use on different devices and in particular the all important mobile phones and tablets which are increasingly the most popular way for people to navigate travel websites.

Website Relaunch for designer swimwear brand

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Marianna G Swimwear is an exciting new designer swimwear brand.  We had previously built a website for them using the WordPress content management system and the Woocommerce online shop system, and they were keen to bring a new look to it for 2015.

We worked with the lovely Terry Bailey of Bailey4Design and Marianna G to pull together their design ideas into a website and online with a fresh new simple feel, where the stunning product photos would not be eclipsed by fussy design elements.  The WordPress layout was pared down to  a stylishly minimal effect very different from any default style, and tested extensively on multiple platforms and devices.

MGhomepage

 

A new website for Cadson Manor

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Cadson Manor offers five star gold B&B and four star self Catering accommodation, and is run and owned by Brenda Crago from her family home in South East Cornwall. The original website for Cadson Manor had been created over a decade ago, and although it had been updated periodically, it was looking very tired and did not reflect the quality brand and experience that Brenda has created.

The brief was to create an elegant, soft, relaxed look for the website, with a floral motif to fit in with the fresh flowers and gardens that are a distinctive feature of a stay at Cadson Manor. We were also asked to re-write the content to give the website a more enticing feel and better search engine friendliness. We created content about golf, local history and places to visit around the area to make the site feel more complete.
Cadson Manor
Click to see it live.
The site does of course adapt to different display resolutions and works well on phones and tablets.

You may notice the parrot on the floral motif subtly shown in grey top right – this was inspired by the Cadson Manor parrot Jewson, who is sometimes introduced to those guests who would like to meet him. We felt Jewson was part of the unique charm of Cadson Manor, and should be reflected in the design.

Google My Business and directories for Simon Earp Building Contractors

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A common problem for many ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses is that although they are great at what they do, what they do doesn’t translate very smoothly to the online world.

One example – literally dealing with bricks and mortar in this case – is our new client Simon Earp Building Contractorsprofilepic

They are a family run building company, producing well-built, beautifully finished houses and extensions across Cornwall.  Their expertise lies in making sure that their customers have water-tight roofs, not building an exciting online experience.      All they want or need from the internet is to make sure that their customers can find them, and that when they do, they can see a good range of photos of the kind of work they do and the quality of the work available.

Exterior18

To make sure this will happen, we have set up a Google Plus / Google My Business page for the company (currently, as I write, awaiting the confirmation postcard before it goes fully live – although the business can boast 30 years experience,  because the company had no online presence at all before their first website went live last month, we could not do confirmation by telephone.)   We’ve also checked that the local and national directory services know about the business, and of course told them about the new website too.

Businesses like Simon Earp Building Contractors can lose out in a world where everything is online.  But it’s not a big job to get this sorted out with the help of web professionals, and once everything is set up, the business should not have to spend a lot of scarce time on maintaining it.   If your business is in a similar mould, we’re happy to have a chat with you about the options available.  And if you are in Cornwall and are in need of a new roof or a wonderful balcony, you now know who to call!

New responsive ecommerce site for ‘The Shop on the Borderlands’

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The Shop on the Borderlands is a brand new website, developed by Clare Associates, selling secondhand, classic and out-of-print roleplaying games* online.

logo

We produced the site using the WordPress content management system and the WooCommerce ecommerce plugin from WooThemes. That’s a very powerful combination for an ecommerce site and also a very well-supported one. Crucially for the business owner, both WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin are very easy to maintain. Once the shop is built, you won’t need to be an expert web developer to keep your stock up to date and handle orders.

We built this site from the ground up with one key objective – we want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to the site to find what they want to and then to buy it. With several hundred different products in stock, that first point – making it easy to find what you’re looking for – is vital.

We decided early on that since this was first and foremost a shop, the home page of the website should simply be the shop page rather than an introduction to the business. We have a simple one line explanation at the top of the page (“Welcome to the UK’s best selection of second hand and out-of-print role-playing games. Wish you’d bought that boxed set, adventure or supplement that you saw in a tiny games shop in 1985 and never found again? Well, now you can.”) and a link at the bottom of the page to “About The Shop on the Borderlands”. Apart from that, what most visitors will see when they first arrive is different categories of product, arranged both as a simple list on the left of the page and as a grid of images in the centre.

homepagesnip

responsivewebsite

The entire site – but especially this page – has been designed to be responsive, and works just as well at different resolutions and screen shapes, for example on smartphones.

Because of the shape of smartphones and their touchscreens, people are more likely to scroll down a long page than they would be on a laptop. So on a smartphone, the Shop on the Borderlands site is tall and thin and scrollable, and this is achieved without having to have a separate mobile site. (Separate mobile sites cost more to maintain, don’t perform as well in search engine rankings and make it awkward to share links with users who aren’t using mobile devices.)

 

 

 

 

The shop’s customers will mostly be enthusiasts who know what these categories mean, so we make it very easy for someone who plays ‘Call of Cthulhu’ to click through to a list of all the Call of Cthulhu products on sale.

cthulhupage

Clicking on any of the products takes you to the detailed entry for that product complete with one or more images and more details about the item and its condition.

sampleshoppage

WooCommerce makes stock control easy. Items that are sold out can be set to show as ‘out of stock’ or hidden until new stock arrives, according to the wishes of the business owner.

Because the site was developed using WordPress – a content management system famous for its ease of use – editing individual pages is very easy for the business owner. If you can edit a Word document, you can edit a WordPress webpage. With this site, the business owner was able to do much of the site development himself – entering product details, uploading product images, writing the text on the FAQ page etc. If you hire a web developer to build you a website and you’re looking to keep costs down, this can be very effective. (Of course if you’re just starting up a new business, you might be short on both cash and time…)

 

A couple of other things you’ll have to think about if you’re starting a new ecommerce business, or if you’re taking your existing business online for the first time: shipping and payment.

First of all, what will you charge for shipping? Will you charge different rates for different products (heavier ones for example)? Will you ship overseas? If so, which countries? And what will your rates be to those? if you’ve never sold online before and if you’ve never exported before, those are difficult questions to answer. You will need to research this properly. You should also talk to your web developer – the more complicated the shipping costs setup, the more work there is for the developer in setting this up. Also, even using something like WooCommerce, you may have to purchase extra plugins to handle the particular distinctions in shipping costs that you want.

The Shop on the Borderlands ships worldwide. They offer free shipping to UK orders of £20 or more, with a flat rate of £2.50 below that amount. European shipping is charged at a flat rate of £12. Shipping to the rest of the world costs £15 plus £5 per item (reflecting the extra costs of worldwide shipping).

Secondly, how will you take payment online? Online shoppers will expect to pay by debit or credit card. Depending on the sort of customers you have, they may want to pay by PayPal too. To take payments online, you need a payment gateway. There are dozens of different payment gateways out there that can integrate with WooCommerce. You will need to research which one is right for you. They each charge you different amounts for each transaction. Some have a monthly fee, some don’t. We will be able to advise which is right for your business. As a rule though, avoid ones where your site handles card data. You want all of the card data handling to be done by big businesses who spend lots of money on IT security, even if it means that the customer leaves your website for a moment to enter their card details.

For The Shop on the Borderlands, we recommended PayPal Standard as the payment gateway as it offered the best combination of low fees and the ability to pay by PayPal, something which would be important for many of the shop’s customers.

 

One final thing that we did for The Shop on the Borderlands was to design a logo for them. The owner had a vague idea in his mind of what sort of theme he was going for – something inspired by the covers of  late 70s / early 80s Dungeons & Dragons books – but not much else. So we were able to design an original logo with a similar typeface, the ‘S’ turned into a dragon, and a horned helmet at a jaunty angle perched on the ‘B’. Oh, and as a final little gimmick, the image at the top of the page changes ever so slightly every time!

 

* Games like Dungeons & Dragons that you play with like-minded individuals and funny-shaped dice.

Tavistock College – ‘Getting the Future You Want’

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For sixteen and seventeen year olds about to make some important life decisions, it is very easy to be distracted by all the advice they receive. Much of that advice will be about which degree they should study or which university they should go to. If they’re lucky, they’ll get advice on what careers they should think about.

However, that isn’t all the advice they need. Crucially, nobody ever seems to ask young people about the sort of life they want to lead. It’s all very well going to the right university and getting a high paying job, but what if the lifestyle that goes with that job is one that you end up hating.

As adults, I’m sure we all know people who have the job they always wanted, but hate their lifestyle. Maybe the hours they work are too long for them to see their family. Maybe they have to work in London and spend four hours a day commuting. Maybe the job didn’t turn out to be everything the glossy brochures and websites said it would be. Maybe university was great, but now that student loan looks like it will never be paid off.

I recently ran a session at Tavistock College that helped year 13 students to think through these issues so that they are better equipped to make the right choices.

 

“Mark Poles ran a highly stimulating, lively and enlightening session on career choices and how to ‘get the future you want’ for our sixth form students.  He started by considering what you want out of life, not just out of a job, and opened students’ eyes to the full range of life factors to consider in making key decisions about your future.  The session was both engaging and amusing, and thought-provoking and pragmatic.  It was praised by students, many of whom remarked that they would re-think some of their plans in light of the presentation.  Mark then ran a smaller, practical session that gave students an opportunity to role play and discuss the reality of applying and interviewing for jobs, and then working in an office, with the inevitable politics that this involves.  Again, the session was appreciated and praised by students for its engaging usefulness.”

– James O’Connell, Assistant Principal

 

We Love the Tamar Valley – a new Drupal 7 website for Tamar Valley Tourism

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We Love the Tamar Valley is a new website project created for Tamar Valley Tourism, a group that brings together businesses in the Tamar Valley that have an interest in tourism – from holiday cottages, to bed manufacturers, to top hotels, to farmer’s markets. We were delighted to win the contract to produce this site – we have lived and worked in the Tamar Valley for 13 years, and it’s always great to be promoting a product you believe in!

tavata

The site was created to replace an older website which had been custom built in php and mySQL. It was a bit difficult to manage, and wasn’t attracting the traffic it needed. We decided to create the new site using the Open Source Drupal 7 content management system as a framework. This approach meant that we could pull together a powerful site with a number of different ways to manage and navigate the content, and do it relatively quickly. The downside was that the content had to be copied over to the new Drupal site, but as all the content needed to be checked and refreshed anyway, and we were keen to add to it, this was one way of ensuring that all of it was looked at.

All of the 200+ member businesses will have their own password-protected access to the site, and there’s also a site administrator who reviews and approves content. This was another reason to go for a Drupal 7 based approach – we were able to build customised login systems and instead of providing a standardised content management interface, we could provide forms with a lot of control over the help text provided and the way each form element worked. This is one disadvantage of the WordPress content management system, much as we love it – it’s relatively difficult to customise the administrative interface, so if that doesn’t fit what you want to do with it, it can be fiddly to provide people with a way to enter information that is clear and easy to use.

Mailchimp is very nifty, but his big brother Mandrill is even better for integrating with websites.

Mailchimp is very nifty, but his big brother Mandrill is even better for integrating with websites.

One task the website has to do is to allow invoices to members to be emailled, managed and reports produced, and we also had to make sure that a weekly email roundup of news from members could be sent. To make sure that emails reached their destinations, we enlisted the help of the brilliant Mailchimp service (highly recommended, and free for low volume use) and also brought in Mailchimp’s big brother Mandrill – a system designed for integration with websites, and for sending personalised, transactional emails, which works really well with Drupal.

Another nifty tool we used was the Open Framework Drupal theme. We chose to base our unique look and feel around a previously developed theme as a framework, because this approach allowed us to quickly develop a very flexible site that was responsive, so it adapts easily to different devices, from mobile phones to laptop computers. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we used the framework and concentrated on customising the design and building content and photography that visitors would find exciting.

The site is not exactly finished – it probably never will be! We don’t believe in finished websites, but in websites that grow organically over time that can adapt to events. We’re pretty clear that the new We Love The Tamar Valley site will be able to do that excellently.

Photo preparation workshop coming up on Tuesday 25th

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Would you like to make your photos look more striking, add text or take out that awkward item that spoils the whole shot? Learn how to use free software on your own computer to give your photos the wow factor at a half-day training workshop from Tamar Valley Tourism.

Photo-editing workshop, Callington, Tuesday 25th February, 10am to 1pm. Courses organised by the Tamar Valley Tourism Association (TAVATA) and presented by Victoria Clare of Clare Associates Ltd.

Photo preparation demonstration

The courses will take place at Langman’s Restaurant in Callington, and there are still spaces available on each. The cost per session is just £35.50 per person.

The content will be:

• Understanding resolution, compression and choosing the right image format.
• Composition & cropping.
• Using unsharp mask, saturation & histogram adjustment to improve the lighting, colour and sharpness of your photos.
• Adding text
• Using black and white, sepia, and other effects.

Important note
The course will use a free editing program suitable for:
a Windows XP, Windows 7, or Windows 8 computer,
a Windows 8 Surface tablet
a Mac with Firefox, Chrome, or Safari 7.
A Chromebook

Your computer will need the Flash plugin. The software will not work on an Ipad or Android tablet. You should bring your computer with you.

To book your place, call Jill Price on 01579 370835, or email Jill at admin@tavata.co.uk .

Evening Workshop for Parents of Gifted & Talented Children

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Parents want what is best for their children. This is especially true when the child is classed as “gifted” or “talented”. But those parents won’t necessarily know what the top universities look for or what the top employers look for.

I was asked by the Gifted & Talented Coordinator at Saltash.net Community School to present a workshop for the parents of gifted and talented children. I was able to draw on my experience of having studied one of the most prestigious courses at one of the most prestigious colleges at one of the world’s elite universities and having worked in graduate recruitment at one of the world’s top graduate recruiters. I know what it takes to get into a top university and I know what top employers want to see in their candidates.

The workshop included sessions on:

  • Experiences and anecdotes from adults who were gifted or talented – what their parents did to help or hinder their chances at success
  • What to expect if asked to a top university interview and how to prepare
  • What universities look for apart from good grades
  • How to improve the impact your child makes and their skills in interviews
  • Hard truths about the graduate job market
  • How the top graduate recruiters go about attracting candidates and how students should use this information
  • The universities that the top recruiters target
  • The degree subjects that top recruiters want
  • The other characteristics that top recruiters look for
  • Getting the right work experience and why work experience is all about acquiring skills
  • Using social media to be more employable

 

“Mark’s session was an interesting and informative experience both for parents and for my colleague and I as G&T co-ordinators. He adapted well to our requirements and discussed the session with us beforehand to ensure that it fitted with the school’s practices and philosophies. The session itself was a good mix of reinforcing messages that we already give, but with the added authority of a consultant of Mark’s background, and new insider information drawn from Mark’s personal expertise and experiences from having got into a top university and having worked in graduate recruitment for one of the world’s top recruiters of graduates. Mark had clearly done his research into the experiences of G&T parents and students and gave particularly useful input into what top universities and employers look for”    

– Adam Killeya, Gifted & Talented Coordinator, Saltash.net Community School

 

“It reassured us that we are giving our child sufficient encouragement to achieve the goals they are setting for themself…(we were) especially encouraged by the comments from the ‘gifted friends and friends of gifted friends’ section, because it highlighted the fact to us, and others we hope, that you do need to be careful and maybe a little more creative in how you ‘push’ your gifted and talented offspring forward into the world.”

– Parents of ‘G&T’ student at Saltash.net