It's almost time to take off, so we're ready to pack our little working office into a backpack and get going. After weeks of research we are really happy with the setup we have for travelling and working in Europe. Above you can see how compact it all is, and below are what we think are the tools that will make your work and travel life a whole lot easier.
A LIGHTWEIGHT LAPTOP
OUR PICK: Acer Travelmate X
Having a nimble computer that doesn't weigh a whole lot is crucial for your travel adventures. You want it to be slim, robust and preferably speedy - particularly if you need to be doing a bit of design work on it. We've gone for the Acer Travelmate X for a few reasons. First up, it's got an aluminium shell - that means it's going to be able to take a bit of wear and tear on the road. It's really slim and lightweight, but it also has a screen that is big enough for us to work on. It's not got the grunt to run games...but in terms of power, it suits us just fine. We should note we aren't huge fans of Apple products - but I'm sure there will be someone reading this right now screaming at the screen that there is a better Apple option out there. That's a personal preference (and budget) thing, so for all of these items, have a research around and find what best suits you. A shout out to our friends at Laptops R Us for tracking the Acer Travelmate down for us.
A BRILLIANT TABLET
OUR PICK: Sony Xperia
For some people this won't be an absolute must, but for our type of work it's AMAZING to be able to have multiple monitors running. We've installed an app called "SpaceDesk" onto our Xperia tablet and Acer laptop, and that let's us use the tablet as an additional monitor to the laptop (great for when we want to compare designs on the fly). It was super easy to install/use, and is a nifty way to make you feel like you have a full office setup while you are travelling.
A FLATPACK MOUSE
OUR PICK: Microsoft Surface Arc
We picked this little bad boy up from Noel Leeming and it is just incredible for stashing away in your laptop case or backpack. The whole mouse flattens down to the size of a cellphone and clicks back into the arced mouse shape when needed. It's not as functional as the full size mouse we use at our office, but in terms of transportability, it beats the pants off the mini travel mouses you see floating around.
A SIMPLE LAPDESK WITH A MOUSE PAD EXTENSION
OUR PICK: Aidata Lapdesk
This was surprisingly difficult to find! We were looking for something with a bit more sturdiness than the Aidata option, but the retractable mousepad was absolutely crucial in our mind. In the end the Aidata doesn't look the prettiest, but it's functionality is fantastic. It's light, slim and let's you sit that laptop and mouse on your thighs wherever you are working. Perfect for those quick airport lounge stopovers.
A DURABLE CELLPHONE AND CASE
OUR PICK: Sony Xperia XZ1 in a tough cover
This phone isn't particularly special for travel (it doesn't have dual sim cards), but it's our current work phone and is really durable in it's case. Adding gorilla glass helps, but in reality, any modern, unlocked, cellphone would fit the bill.
ALL OF EUROPE SIM CARDS
OUR PICK: We aren't sure yet - PrePaidZero or WorldSim
We absolutely need data while we are travelling - not just for the actual work and email side of things, but also for a cost effective way to receive and make phone calls back to New Zealand. Roaming with an NZ company was out of the question and we change countries so rapidly that getting a local sim card wasn't an option either. In the end we've grabbed sim cards from both PrePaidZero and WorldSim and will see which works best/is the most reliable in the various countries we are in (watch this space). We'll be setting our call forwarding to go through to Skype - so our NZ numbers will still be active and we can pick the call up using data (without spending a bucket load).
A MIFI DONGLE
OUR PICK: Huaweii E5573
Unfortunately, the above sim cards won't allow for tethering from our phones, so as a backup option for our laptops when we are away from wifi we've picked up a little mifi dongle (portable wifi). It fits in our pocket, so we can take it anywhere and stay connected.
A LAPTOP BACKPACK
OUR PICK: Everki Flight Laptop Backpack
This was a fantastic buy from Mighty Ape. With a fleece lined pouch for both your laptop and tablet, as well as pockets for all your pens, mouse, water bottle and cables, it's perfect for a regular work traveller. It's simple design is professional, and it has plenty of space for extra items. Highly recommended.
A TRUSTY PAD AND PEN
Nothing beats having a pad and pen on you for those moments of inspiration, or in our case...for jotting down checklists...
THE NEXT STEP
The next step for us is going to be finding someplace to do a little bit of work in Auckland Airport as we head for our first stopover in Hong Kong on the way to Europe. We'll be putting these items through their paces even more as the trip continues, so keep an eye on the blog for any updates for big winners, or big losers along the way!
In a week or so myself (Jamie Twigg - founder of 543 Design) and my partner are hopping on an Air New Zealand flight to Hong Kong before Cathay Pacific whisks us off to Europe for a two month working adventure. Over the next couple of months I'll try to give an idea of how we manage to balance the working travel life, and in this blog we look at how you can make it happen for yourself.
How do you get the time off?
Most people reading this will be employees wondering how travel for a couple of months without leaving their full time job. The first thought that springs to mind is 'my boss would never give me that much time off'. All we would say is there is no harm in asking - and in asking the right way. It can be a real benefit to a company keeping you on the job in a small way while you are away. Would your work rather lose you completely for 4 weeks, or have a few hours work coming in from you every day for 8 weeks? It's a win win - you get a trip, come back happy and refreshed, and the workflow continues to flow uninterrupted. So figure out how much leave you have, how long you want to travel, then split the difference into part time work over the whole trip.
The other option of course is figuring out how you can work for yourself. Whether you start your own company and manage others from afar, or contract/freelance in your chosen field, the end result means a great deal more flexibility in travel. There is plenty of risk in going out by yourself, but also plenty of upside. Most desk jobs can be done remotely these days - you just have to find the niche/aspect of your industry that isn't geographically tied, and base your work around that. If you decide working remotely while you travel is an absolute must and can't figure out how you could make it work in your industry...then there's always a change of career!
Where can you go?
You've got your time off...now it's time to pick where to go. If you're going to continue working, the golden rule is find an internet connection when you need it. You are going to be fairly useless halfway up Mt Everest, so make sure to plan your work around any internet dead spots on your travels. We're heading to Europe this year, so it shouldn't be an issue, but we still look very closely for that little wifi symbol whenever we are booking accommodation. In that regard, booking.com has been an absolute godsend.
Also just have a little think about time-zones for when you are working while travelling. Being on the other side of the world can actually be fantastic - all the communication comes to you overnight, which means you can get up in the morning, respond, push out a couple of quality hours of work, and then in the evening be available for New Zealand as they come online. So long as you communicate well about when you'll be in touch - everyone is very understanding.
How does it work day to day?
In reality when you are travelling you want to get out and experience the world. You want to spend your days sight seeing and chatting to locals. You want to try new food and experience new things. You definitely don't want to end up locking yourself in a hotel room all day to work. It's crucial to find a balance:
But OMG...the cost!
Travel isn't cheap. Unless a fantastic airline swoops in and upgrades you to Business Class (*wink* *wink* Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific social media teams who are so on the ball they've read this far...) - you're going to end up forking out a fair amount of coin as you travel. It sounds incredibly dull, but planning really is the key here. We've known our trip has been coming for months now, so booked most of our accommodation and travel early, and have spent those months paying for it. That means that when we take off, food and entertainment are all that's left to cough up for. Ultimately, having regular pay cheques continuing to come in while we travel is going to be one of the best things about the work/travel experience...but if there is one thing that I've learnt in past trips that I've worked on...a little hard work and planning before the trip goes a LONG way.
The tools we are using...
Technology is always changing and one of the tech giants of the world absolutely loves to stay at the forefront of that with it’s search engine algorithms. Recently there seem to have been little tweaks to the Google search result engine monthly, weekly or even daily, so we thought we’d just take a quick look back at April and May, have a look at what changed, and put a bit of context around why having a reliable company keeping an eye on your website and SEO is so important.
The big one came in April, with Google confirming it released a ‘broad core algorithm’ update – something they do reasonably regularly throughout the year. So what did that update do exactly? Google claimed that ‘pages that were previously under rewarded’ would see a benefit in the search results. Google has posted on Twitter that it released a “broad core algorithm update” this past Monday. In reality, that saw things like tabloid newspapers lose places, while digital first publishers pop up the rankings. What we can draw from that is that Google is rewarding great, original, online content – so get your blog and article writing into top gear and your site should benefit.
May saw Google confirm a smaller, but no less influential update. Five months ago, the company confirmed that they were going to show longer search result snippets (the little paragraph blurb shown under each search result). In May, they reversed that, pushing the average length of a search snippet back towards the 160 characters it used to be. What Google have indicated is that the search engine dynamically generates snippets based on what it considers to be the most relevant information. That may mean it cherry picks from your longer meta description – so there is no big rush to go back and shorten those descriptions.
That’s just a quick peak into the Google search result looking glass, and shows how often search engine results change. We run monthly SEO campaigns at a low cost for some of our 543 Design clients to stay on top of these changes and keep pushing their sites up the rankings. Get in touch if you think you might benefit.
If you haven’t been bombarded with emails about the GDPR recently – you’ve obviously been out of cellphone reception. If you haven’t had the time to read through some of those articles, here’s our quick overview of the GDPR, what it is, and how it relates to both New Zealand and 543 Design’s Weebly built sites.
What Is it?
The General Data Protection regulation is Europe’s answer to protecting their citizen’s data. Basically if you provide a service or product to anyone from Europe – you’re going to need to comply. It kicked in on 25 May 2018.
The key takeaways:
So what do you have to do as an NZ business?
The first question to ask is whether you trade in Europe at all, or get European visitors to your site. If so, then it’ll be worth delving a bit deeper into the GDPR here:
In most cases, the Content Management System and plugins for your site will be managed by global companies who will likely have updated their systems to comply with the GDPR. Think about your website provider, any booking apps you run and your email software, then just double check to see if they have contacted you recently. They should have guidelines on what they have done and what you may need to do.
What about 543 Design Clients?
For 543 Design clients, our Content Management Provider is Weebly. They have been steadily implementing comprehensive GDPR updates over the last couple of weeks. All 543 and Weebly sites now automatically show EU visitors a cookie notification and disable cookie functionality until that notification is accepted. If you’d like this text customised, please contact us. You are also able to add an ‘opt in’ element to your contact forms.
If you regularly send out e-newsletters that make it to the EU, it may be worth sending an email update giving users the ability to opt out of future e-newsletters (and have their data removed).
In a nutshell.
This is a big move for Europe that the rest of the world is now scurrying to comply with, but as a small NZ business, running a 543 Design website, it’s likely there aren’t many steps you’ll need to take right now. If you do think your site has a large European viewership though, please contact us to see if there are any further steps you'll need to take.
Disclaimer: this is just a brief and informal summary and definitely not legal advice!
If you've been dabbling in building your own Weebly website recently you may have got to the point of wanting a truly custom look for your site - a step up from the standard themes that Weebly offer. If that's the case, you've got a couple of options - hire a brilliant Weebly designer like 543 Designs (!), or purchase a custom Weebly theme that you can upload to your site yourself. There are a few companies out there who build those custom templates, but if you're looking for somewhere to start, try our Weebly themes site. Once you have your theme chosen and downloaded though, you're going to need to know how to upload it.
Step 1: Download The Theme
When you purchase a custom 3rd party theme for Weebly, you'll be asked to download a .zip folder or something similar. Depending on who you buy the theme from, this will either be the actual file/folder you will need to upload to your site, or it may need to be extracted to get to the .zip folder to upload. To figure out what type of file you have, click into the zip folder and see what the contents are. If the contents looks something like the picture below and have a whole lot of html files, then that folder is the one you'll be wanting to upload to your site. If the folder contains another zip folder, then you'll need to extract it and upload that final .zip folder. If in doubt though, just try uploading the folder to Weebly - if it works and you are offered a new theme to choose from, you've got it right, if it doesn't, then you may need to extract your .zip folder to get to the contents/.zip folder within it! Lot's of zipping around...!
Step 2: Upload The Theme
Step 3: Get To Know Your Theme
Once you've uploaded your custom theme you'll realise that it will likely operate a bit differently to the standard Weebly themes you've come across. The first thing you'll want to do is make sure you have chosen the correct page setup you are wanting. Custom themes tend to come with alot more page variations than standard Weebly themes, so if you've seen a demo site that you want to imitate, you'll want to make sure you have figured out what 'page type' that demo site uses and choose it in the Pages menu.
From here, you'll find each Weebly custom theme has it's own peculiarities. Some one page themes need you to change your Page type to setup the navigation menu, some will have a set structure where you'll need to upload images or content in certain boxes, and alot these days have 'Theme Options' (see the screenshot below), which let you change individual elements of your theme (button colour etc). The first thing we would recommend doing is just familiarising yourself with all these options and page types. A little bit of effort in learning the theme at the start will stand you in great stead in further down the line.
You've got your theme
Hopefully once you've done all those things you'll have a good handle on your new theme and will be able to implement it on your site. Most theme providers also have pretty good support facilities, so if something really doesn't seem to be working, drop them a line and they should fix it up for you. Like everything new, your first Weebly theme may seem a bit daunting at first, but the more you use them and understand how they work, the more you'll love having a custom and flashy theme on your site.
Making Minimum Viable Product work for you
If you're just launching a business or have an idea you want to turn into reality, you might hear the letters "MVP" thrown around quite alot. Off the sports field and in the tech world, MVP isn't the most valuable player in the office, it's a bit of a catch cry for doing the least you can to have your idea out in the world - the Minimum Viable Product. That's all well and good - but what is Minimum Viable Product? And why is it so important to a budding entrepreneur or business person?
What is Minimum Viable Product?
In a nutshell, your minimum viable product constitutes the lowest effort and spend you can put in to have a functioning business live. From our end, this is easiest to explain in terms of a website, but in reality the concept expands to the whole business. As a practical example - let's say you run a delivery business and ideally you want custom parcels with your logos on to send your products in. The MVP for that delivery business may be sending the parcels in a more generic package initially - until you have enough sales and proof of business to invest in a custom parcel design. From a website perspective, we can probably explain this in a bit more detail looking at a company that wants to take online bookings.
The website example - online booking
So, let's say you have a hair salon and you want a new website - but don't have a huge amount of money to invest in it. Ultimately, you want to take online bookings in a custom system where clients can specify a whole lot of detail. A good web designer will quickly let you know that a custom booking system is extremely expensive, that the next step down would be using a booking plugin which may have a monthly fee, but the MVP (minimum viable product) version of that site would just use a simple contact form to take the bookings. Eventually you could grow to have that custom booking system, but while your costs are restricted, you'd still be able to test the theory of having online bookings by having a simple contact form that you then use to manually make bookings at your end. It's not perfect - but it does provide proof of concept, without a huge outlay.
Why is MVP so important?
The MVP stage of a budding business provides a huge opportunity to test your idea without over extending your finances early on. You may think that your idea is the greatest in the world, but an idea isn't a business until it has sales - and spending vast sums on your first version of a concept could lead to alot of losses. Chances are your idea is phenomenal, but why not get it out to market and tested in some way first? Sit down, think about what your ideal business/platform looks like, then work backwards to a point where you are satisfied you have enough to go to market, but not so much it will drain your budget on day one. In the above example that thought process would have gone "I definitely want a website and I definitely want to be able to take bookings online. I don't NEED for that system to be automated, customised, or have online payments just yet, so I'll test it in a more basic form on day one and grow."
Now, next time you are standing around a tech hub and someone throws the letters MVP at you, you'll know they aren't about to award a little trophy for the best team player, and you'll be able to verbalise your skin and bones plan to get your idea out to the world!
Is your website tax deductible?
Like alot of small businesses, our financial year has just come to an end which has meant spending alot of time perusing our books and figuring out what our tax returns should look like and in particular what is deductible and what isn't. Often, one of the big ticket items in the year is a new website build, so it's a really important question to think about where your site sits from an accounting perspective. Remembering we aren't accountants or tax experts at all, below is a bit of a summary of how the Income Tax Act and the IRD look at things.
First up, before you have a website live, you'll need a domain name (website address/url). We organise those for our clients for $45 + GST per annum, however, if you are buying a prominent address (eg money.com), then you might end up paying a considerable sum. The IRD's advice on this one is a domain name is capital expenditure, non-deductible and not depreciable.
The website design itself on the other hand is seen in a slightly different light. It is generally a one off fee and creates a capital asset that may be depreciated. Like other computer software, that rate of depreciation would be 50% diminishing value or a 40% straight line. The tax man basically looks at your website as if it is just a digital asset that will lose value over time. But that raises the question - if you update the site regularly...what happens with those costs?
This is where it can get a little bit tricky. On one hand, regular maintenance/updating of a website is looked at as revenue, while 'upgrading' a site can be seen as capital. That has a few tax implications, so the courts have clarified it all for us - but there is still a little bit of interpretation involved.
An upgrade includes
The last cost to consider with a website is the hosting. This is a bit easier to quantify - being revenue that is deductible. The only grey area may be where you have a website design fee that is integrated into the hosting/maintenance cost. In those scenarios...we'd say a call with the accountant might be in order!
Tax can be a bit of a brain drain at the end of the financial year, but hopefully the above helps. If you want to read up a bit more thoroughly, head to theIRD's site on website and tax at this link.
This month Keiran Reid from Freeparking (a New Zealand web host) has been good enough to create a guest post on his view of Weebly versus Wordpress for us. 543 creates all our websites in Weebly, so it's great to have this impartial view - and we add our extra thoughts at the end of this blog.
The Guest Post on Weebly v WordPress
At their core, Weebly and WordPress are both Content Management Systems or CMS’s which let non-technical users edit websites. Both exist in the same basic niche, in that they allow you to create or edit a website, blog or e-commerce store. They both present a range of features to users and have various strengths and weaknesses that we will explore in this article.
Ease of use:
As a cloud hosted service through Weebly Inc, getting started entails getting access to an account by either signing in with your username & password, or signing up with a Weebly Cloud provider like 543 Design. The drag and drop interface makes it extremely easy for non-technical website owners to add or edit content, the idea is that you shouldn’t need to touch any code for most changes.
Provided as open-source (free) software, WordPress can be installed into any standard web host service. It has been around longer than Weebly and it is known for being the tool of choice when it comes to blogging and eCommerce.
Plugins and integrations:
When you make a website in Weebly, there is an admin backend area. It includes a long list of built-in tools and functionality like an online store, contact form, blogs, maps, images etc. You don’t have to install any Plugins to get a good level of functionality. Weebly manages the entire platform for you, so day-to-day plugin security management and the website unexpectedly breaking are less of a concern.
WordPress is an open source website builder, as an open system, there is a lot more freedom for third parties to contribute and extend the system, when they have been doing for years by providing both free and paid “Plugins”. Using the right plugin can add a useful your website’s functionality, but a poorly built plugin can have negative implications for your website’s performance and security.
The Weebly Ecommerce platform is designed to make it quick and easy to setup an online shop. It is a great Ecommerce solution for small businesses that need to build a simple online store with a few handy features.
WordPress, by way of the WooCommerce plugin, is a popular choice for building an Ecommerce website. It is used by many organizations from small one person shops all the way up to large enterprises.
Weebly is a perfect solution for making small websites quickly, whereas WordPress excels at blogging and eCommerce. With a simplified page editor, and tech support on-call when needed Weebly is a great choice for small businesses who need a great website. In comparison, WordPress can be a good choice if you have a larger project that needs advanced customization.
Both Weebly and WordPress are able to have custom themes developed by a professional web developer. There can also be several other complexities involved in actually getting a website live which may mean you need to seek assistance or get a professional web developer.
543's Thoughts on Weebly v WordPress
From day one, 543 Design made the conscious decision to design in Weebly rather than WordPress. That has given us a unique perspective, and we definitely think that for most small businesses, Weebly is the way to go. In a nutshell:
Weebly really is a fantastic platform and we love working in it. For a really complex build, sometimes we do suggest other platforms, but for 95% of clients out there, it's the ideal fit.
Get in touch with us if you'd like to get us to build your site, or try giving it a crack yourself direct with Weebly. And if you really want to get fancy, try one of our Weebly Themes (Weebly Templates) - they are really easy to add to your site and give it a whole new level of professionalism.
If you do decide to use WordPress, please get in touch with us and we can recommend a WordPress designer we trust. A big thanks to Keiran from Freeparking (a sister company to our domain provider Discount Domains) - if you have a WordPress site and are looking for a New Zealand web host - either of those companies would be a great place to start looking.
Last week Mark Zuckerberg made a huge announcement, one that is likely to have very big ramifications for any business that uses Facebook as a way to reach more customers. It was such a big announcement that Facebook’s stock took a big dive as investors tried to get their heads around what it meant for the social media behemoth. The plan is simple - make our social media feeds more about our friends and family.
The driving force behind the change is Facebook’s desire to bring back more meaningful social interactions to the platform. Over the past couple of years (and particularly through the American election), Zuckerberg has faced increasing complaints that Facebook was causing more social harm than it did good. Besides social media addiction, the platform’s algorithm was mainly serving us up content that confirmed our previously held viewpoints. That wasn’t what Facebook was created to do, and with this latest announcement, they are trying to make our newsfeed far more positive and personal to our actual daily lives.
But what does it mean to businesses? Well, that’s the bad news. Because the newsfeed will be shifting from a focus on ‘topics’ and ‘relevant content’ to ‘meaningful social interactions’, it’s highly likely that a business page’s organic reach will decrease. We believe the emphasis will become less about topics and engagement on page posts, and more about how those posts are shared amongst your friend group. So where currently, if someone who likes cars likes a post, the post might get shown to someone else random who likes cars, in the future, it’ll be more about those posts being shared amongst friend groups. The organic Facebook game definitely just got harder for businesses.
The bigger unknown will be how this newsfeed change affects sponsored content/advertising on the platform. Given Facebook will want to stay profitable, it seems likely that where companies could get great organic reach previously, now they may need to focus their efforts into paid advertising and sponsored posts. The hardest thing to pinpoint right now is how those sponsored posts will be displayed. Will they stick to the ‘relevant content’ policy, or will there also be an element of the new ‘social engagement’ approach applied to the advertising as well?
As the change rolls out we’ll be keeping a close eye on it, but it’s fair to say that this is a major shift in the online advertising world. By making this change now Facebook hopes to become more relevant and important to it’s users – which may mean that it becomes a more powerful tool for advertisers…or it could mean a huge hit for business engagement. At the end of the day it’s businesses that pay the salaries at Facebook, so our view is that businesses natural reach will drop, but their advertising reach will stay steady…but let's just watch this space.
A few days ago Facebook quietly made an announcement that should have pretty big ramifications for both personal and business users of the platform. The social behemoth has set their eyes on 'engagement bait' - those spammy posts that blatantly beg for you to like, comment or share in an attempt to increase engagement and organically get the post seen by more and more people. Primarily, Facebook have heard their users complaints about the increasing amount of 'spammy' posts filling their newsfeed and are going to do something about it - using machine learning to identify these types of posts, stop them from being shown as much and eventually punish those pages that 'systematically' use this tactic.
Facebook started 'demoting' these types of posts earlier this week, but are rolling out the page-level demotion over several weeks to give those of us with Pages the chance to change our behaviour and not be caught out by the new model. What this means practically is that if you do own a Facebook page, you should definitely refrain from any type of 'baiting' type posts:
Recently there has been a real trend for the above type of baiting to be used by businesses for things like competitions and giveaways. These types of posts have always been a little bit borderline, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that they'll now likely be punished by the almighty Facebook algorithm!
Our advice - just cut the baiting out of your newsfeed completely. Create content that people are going to want to engage with, click and comment on without the baiting, and you'll not only do better by the algorithm, but you'll also actually be providing your followers with things they WANT to see - which at the end of the day is what social media is all about.
Below are some graphics from Facebook just setting out the various examples of baiting that will be clamped down and you can find Facebook's 'Fighting Engagement Bait' announcement here.
Our Tech Blog
The founder of 543 Design & Online gives his thoughts on everything web and branding.
We're always happy to have a chat about anything you read on here - just get in touch!