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Director of Shrewsbury based Information Solutions & The Web Orchard. Blogger on Love Shrewsbury, organiser of ShropGeek.

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Information Solutions/The Web Orchard Support The Movement Centre

Shropshire charity The Movement Centre is delighted to have the support of Information Solutions/The Web Orchard for a second year running.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on charities, with the cancellation of events and the loss of income. At a time when funding is difficult, Information Solutions/The Web Orchard have stepped up to support The Movement Centre, in the form of free hosting and support of their website.

With over a decade providing high quality web design and IT services to businesses and charities throughout the West Midlands, Information Solutions/The Web Orchard is an established company with a proven track record in its sectors. With many satisfied clients and excellent retention rates, Information Solutions/The Web Orchard can provide competitive and cost effective websites and IT support.

Pete White, Director of Information Solutions/The Web Orchard, says “It’s great to be able to extend our support for The Movement Centre. Their targeted training therapy is essential for transforming the lives of children and we’re happy to help out where we can.”

The Movement Centre based in Oswestry, support children with additional needs through their therapy Targeted Training. The treatment has been helping to transform the range of movement of children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities affecting their mobility for the last 25 years. It helps children gain head control so that they can interact with those around them, sit unaided and can lead to gaining the ability to walk.

Johnny Wilkes, CEO at The Movement Centre, says “We are delighted to have the ongoing support of Information Solutions/The Web Orchard. The hosting and support of our website is an integral part of our work, and we are so pleased that they have agreed to support those ongoing costs for the next 12 months.”

Shrewsbury Messy Play Group Creates Activity Boxes

A nice article on my wifes business:

A Shrewsbury based messy play group, Ready Steady Let’s Get Messy which has been unable to operate since March has pivoted to creating activity boxes for toddlers and babies.

For the group owner, Laura White, it was a big change from the sessions she was used to delivering. She made an initial 20 Halloween themed boxes to test the water, they sold within 24 hours. 

She set a more ambitious target of 70 boxes between then and Christmas. They sold out by early December, she spent much of the month hand making play dough, assembling boxes and going back and forth to the post office.

Laura learnt a lot about which activities and products worked well and with some great feedback from customers she were able to refine what she did and how she did it. 

Laura had plenty of ideas for other themed boxes, the initial run of Dinosaur boxes sold within a few days. Her latest creation is the Woodland box, she wanted to get natural elements into a box so that children could experience wood and leaves as well as her home made play dough, cloud dough and coloured rice. 

The boxes are priced £19 with free delivery in the Shrewsbury area. They are available to purchase through her website www.letsgetmessy.co.uk and through her Facebook page.

2020 – a year to remember!

When we started 2020, we had no idea what the year had in store for us, we started with flooding and spent the rest of the year under Covid restrictions. It forced us all into embracing new technologies and adapting the way we work and provide services.

As a technology provider we’ve been key in helping our customers adapt, services like Microsoft Teams, Office 365, WordPress and SharePoint have become essential in our day to day lives. We’ve helped with digital transformation, whether that is utilising new cloud services, Apps, E-commerce Websites, Intranets, or providing cutting-edge services.

Here’s a look back at what we did in 2020.

Nettex Poultry

What we did in 2020 

Spent many hours on Teams

We moved all our project meetings, pitches and training sessions to either Teams or Zoom – it took a while to get use to it but now it feels almost normal.

Launched Some Great Websites

We worked on some great projects for some great customers including… Nettex PoultryHospital DirectMystique LingerieWrekin SpiritWaste SpectrumAir SpectrumThe Broking GroupGKN Structures and NowCars.

Became Cyber Essentials Certified

In September we became Cyber Essentials Certified meaning that any customer can be rest assured that their defences are secure against the most common forms of cyber-attack and we are proactively using best practice methods to counter any such attack. Read more

Developed some great Apps

We worked on a number of iOS and Android app projects and have a number in the pipeline for 2021. Read more

Welcomed Dan

We welcomed Dan to as our new developer back in September. He’s been a great addition to an already strong team.

IPSA

We hope that over the festive period you all get chance to spend time with your loved ones, to relax, to switch off and to re-energise in anticipation of a new year full of opportunity and freedom.

See you in 2021.

Information Solutions, a Shropshire based IT Services Company, become fully “Cyber Essentials” Certified, backed by UK Government.

Information Solutions fully accredited on UK Government assurance theme operated by the National Security Centre that encourages organisations to adopt good practice in cyber security.

Information Solutions, a managed IT Services and Support company  based in Shrewsbury, are delighted to announce that they have recently passed full accreditation of “Cyber Essentials”, a UK government scheme to ensure organisations adopt good practice in information security.

This is particularly important for their current and future clients, as they can be confident that Information Solutions are taking all best practice measures to guard against cybercrime and just as importantly, continually monitoring all systems and security.

Any customer of Information Solutions, or sister website development company The Web Orchard, can rest assured that their defences are secure against the most common forms of cyber-attack, and indeed the company are proactively using best practice methods to counter any such attack.

Wrekin Spirit, a Shropshire based Gin distillery, launch exciting new website to sell their new hand-crafted gin and distillery tours

A 2-year journey from initial idea to gin schools, tours and sales is complete – with a fantastic website to showcase the locally run family business

Wrekin Spirit is an exciting new craft Gin distillery set in a converted cart shed in the beautiful Shropshire countryside. At Wrekin Spirit, every batch of Gin they distill is hand crafted with a unique blend of botanicals, giving their Gin an individual character and natural flavours.

A true family run business, Wrekin Spirit (named after the famous Shropshire landmark The Wrekin) is homed on a 4th Generation family run farm with Isabel Moseley as Managing Director, husband Richard as groundsman and chief barman, with eldest son Harvey and twins Fred and Sam all helping run the business.

Whilst perfecting the making of the Gin, and creating the Gin schools and Distillery tours, Isabel knew she wanted a striking state-of-the-art website that could showcase the Gin, and allow customers to both buy the product and book a tour online quickly and easily.

Based on the recommendation of a local business owner, Isabel appointed local website company The Web Orchard. Isabel comments “I strongly believe in keeping business local and also use recommendations of people that I trust, so I didn’t shop around at all. I met with Peter and Simon from The Web Orchard and was impressed from the outset; they were very likable but professional and grasped from the outset what we were seeking to achieve from the website”.

“Between us we made the decision to appoint a professional photographer for the website images and I’m pleased that we did, as the photos on the new website really showcase both the Gin itself but also the Gin school and distillery tours. The Web Orchard have done a great job with the website build and we have basic editing rights so we can make changes to the content, add products or change prices”

“The feedback about our website from customers has been really good and we are pleased to report that sales of both the Gin and the tours are going well, with no issues to report at all. We are very pleased with the end result.”

 Peter White, Director of The Web Orchard, adds,

“The Web Orchard were delighted to be chosen to build a brand-new website for a much talked about new local business, and Wrekin Spirit were a pleasure to work with throughout the process. The Gin school is a stunning place to visit and we were really excited to be able to build the website for such a great new endeavor.”

To see the new website, visit https://www.wrekinspirit.co.uk

Mystique Lingerie and Swimwear Unveil Brand New, Contemporary e-Commerce Website

33 years in Shrewsbury town centre and have now launched a state-of-the-art e-commerce website to help attract a new target audience

Mystique is Shrewsbury’s premier Lingerie, Swimwear and Nightware specialists situated in a lovely cobbled street, on the corner of Butcher Row in the beautiful historic market town of Shrewsbury.

The business has been trading 33 years and Debbie and Paul Carvell purchased Mystique in April 2019.

Debbie decided she wanted the business to move with the times and attract new customers and a younger demographic, so commissioned the building of a new e-commerce website.

Debbie comments:

“I brought the shop from the previous owners in April 2019. I was previously a primary school teacher so a bit of a career change! When the opportunity arose to buy Mystique, I was excited, having been a regular customer for many years, always dreaming of becoming my own boss and owning my lingerie business was a dream come true. Fashion and design have always been a big focus in my life.

I had a modest marketing budget for the first year and made the decision that Mystique needed to modernise and build an e-commerce website. Our lingerie and underwear are high end luxury products which are usually purchased in person – browsing, touching, feeling – but I knew Mystique needed a modern e-commerce site to broaden our customer base. Of course, a website in theory should mean anyone in the UK or Worldwide could purchase from us, especially if our luxury items start ranking organically in search engines.

Even if the website became an online brochure to browse the products, before a customer came to visit the shop and buy, I decided it was worth the investment.

The walk-in retail market has been a challenge since I took over Mystique. Huge local floods, Brexit and then Coronavirus! Despite this, I pressed on with my initial decision.

Debbie continues, “I chose The Web Orchard after being recommended them by someone who I trust a lot. I met with Pete and Simon and was impressed with what they had to say and being a local company was a real bonus too. I like to keep business local and I could do that with The Web Orchard.

We worked together during lockdown as I knew the retail walk in landscape would change for many months, so I was keen to have the e-commerce platform in place as quickly as possible.

I’m very impressed with the end result – they have delivered a very high quality and visual site, which shows off our luxury lingerie and underwear very well, to a standard where people may have the confidence to buy online.

Pete White, Director of The Web Orchard, adds “We always enjoy working in the fashion industry, especially with high end brands such as those sold by Mystique. The website and products look great and should help support the walk in retail sales and attract additional new customers for Mystique in these challenging times”

To see the new website, visit www.mystique.co.uk

Pickstock Foods Unveil Brand New, Contemporary Website

Pickstock Foods are a family run business with 30 years’ experience in processing quality British lamb and mutton in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. Their 4 core values are reliability for customers, consistent quality products, prioritising animal welfare and minimising their environmental impact.

With a clear vision of what they wanted from a brand-new website and as a start-up business looking to make an impact, marketing manager Tamara Pickstock wanted an eye catching and fresh 2020 design with sharp images and clear, concise messaging.

“We opened in January 2020 and it was clear from the outset that if we wanted to expand our customer base, a brand new website was essential. As a family business, we love working with and supporting other local businesses. We searched for local, talented website designers in the Shropshire area and came across the Web Orchard.

The Web Orchard really stood out in the tendering process. Firstly, they were really likable people! That will always be important to us. They were very local and just the right size business to work with us, we were confident we would get the regular communication and rapport we were seeking in what would be an important and time-consuming three-month project. We loved their proposal – it was modern, clean and fully recognised our objectives. They had worked with other local agricultural companies so had a good understanding of our industry and what we wanted to portray to our customers.

Their pricing was fair – not the cheapest of the three, but not the most expensive. Whilst we had a budget in mind, we didn’t want to cut corners and compromise the quality, much like the actual products we supply.

Pickstock Foods and the Web Orchard agreed a 12-week timescale from kick off meeting to the website going live, it was important that this was achieved for the start-up business to promote the brand, as many web or IT projects can double or treble in length.

Tamara continues, “The website was ready after 11 weeks and I can’t stress enough just how approachable and helpful Pete and his team are at the Web Orchard. Whoever picked up the phone on the numerous calls knew exactly who I was and knew all about the project and who was working on what aspect. I’m really fussy but so pleased I kept it local and whilst they pretty much got everything right first time, nothing was too much trouble to amend.

I’m delighted and actually pretty proud with the end result. They provided some great training too, so I can post articles and update content.

We are still in close contact with the Web Orchard as we are using their SEO services – it is difficult to rank well organically, especially with a new website, but we are making steady progress with our chosen search terms.  A good business decision all round so far.”

Pete White, Director of the Web Orchard, adds “It was very apparent from the customer the importance of quality and sustainability within the business, we helped craft a modern looking WordPress website to accommodate this. We hugely enjoyed working with Pickstock Foods as their brief and vision was so clear, and we continue enjoy a close working relationship.”

Why now is the perfect time to refocus your E-Commerce Efforts

In March 2017 the UK Government published their Digital Strategy1, the document covers a broad array of digital considerations including connectivity, digital skills, digital start-ups and security. Section 4 talks about ways of helping every British business become a digital business, an area which takes additional importance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This spurred a number of initiatives aimed at helping close the digital skills gap and encouraging digital adoption. One initiative is the Productivity Council, established to drive engagement with business and improve productivity through appropriate use of digital technologies, whether this be maintaining an online presence, adopting cloud technologies or selling online.

In 2018, E-commerce in the non-financial sector contributed £688 billion to the UK Economy, rising from £582 billion in 2017 (ONS2). Given the general upward trend and with the Covid-19 pandemic it’s not hard to imagine this topping £1 trillion this year.

Many businesses do e-commerce very well, in fact in 2018, 20.5% of turnover of businesses with 10 or more staff was done online (ONS2). This still leaves almost 80% of business done through traditional means so it begs the question what is holding business back? Why are businesses not as digitally focused as they could be?

There are potentially a number of reasons:

  1. They lack the skills or know how in either setting up an online shop or how to manage the marketing aspects.
  2. They’ve dipped their toes in to e-commerce in the past but didn’t have the success they were expecting or got burnt by an agency who didn’t fully understand their market or offering.
  3. The perception that their customers are not online or looking to buy their products online.
  4. A general low priority afforded to digital transformation.

Covid-19 has presented a unique opportunity, people are having to buy more online. In the online grocery market alone, there is expected growth of 35% to £16.8 billion in 2020 (Mintel3) with other sectors following similar trends.

So what are the reasons for businesses to reevaluate e-commerce?:

  1. Improved technology – the systems and devices we use have improved massively over the past 20 years but a few key areas have specifically helped e-commerce:
    1. Smart phones and responsive websites – with smartphones in almost everyone’s pockets, people have the means to easily buy online wherever they are. This coupled with the move to responsive web design means that sites are designed for a range of devices and screen sizes. This has helped improve usability and as a result conversion rates.
    1. Better e-commerce platforms – many of the large e-commerce providers such as  WooCommerce, Shopify & Magento have become mature platforms. They support all the common features people need to sell online and are expandable into many complex and niche scenarios. This coupled with improved back end systems for functionality such stock management and CRM has made the whole process much smoother.
    1. Improved security – a focus on security across all aspects from payment gateways, browsers, operating systems and e-commerce platforms. This has helped give confidence to consumers.
  2. Decline in physical shop usage – the high street has taken a beating throughout the Covid-19 crisis:
    1. Shops have been closed or have reduced capacity & opening hours.
    1. A change in the way people work, more people are working from home and not in tows and city centres.
    1. Older generations being forced to adapt through shielding.
  3. More accessible ways to reach customers – mature online advertising platforms such as Facebook, Google Ads and LinkedIn make it much easier for businesses to reach their target audience.

So what is next?

The shift in consumer behavior may have long term lasting impact. Habits that people pick up and the ease of shopping online is likely to represent a permanent change. E-Commerce was a growing area already and it looks like this trend will continue and accelerate.

The UK is well positioned with expertise in selling online across the country and the UK government has identified the Digital Economy as a key growth area to support. Consumers are more willing than ever to use e-commerce and improved platforms have made setting up a site easier than ever.

If successful, increased digital adoption could play a crucial role in closing the UK’s productivity gap with its peers.

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-digital-strategy
  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/ecommerceandictactivity/2018
  3. https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/retail-press-centre/mintel-forecasts-online-grocery-sales-will-grow-an-estimated-33-during-2020

An edited version of this article featured on the Centre for the New Midlands.

Flash

A nice retrospective into the rise and fall of Flash by Ars. Back in the mid to late 00’s Flash was an undeniable force and whilst my path took me down CMS technology almost all the most creative websites used Flash in some way.

With the move to mobile platforms it was hard to imagine how desktop browser Flash applications would migrate and it turns out the industry was moving in a different direction anyway. But even with all its weaknesses I can’t help but feel the web lost something with the demise of Flash. Modern usability and accessibility standards exist today in part by the mistakes people made with Flash and it was a truly creative time when almost anything was possible.

Flash is now just a piece of nostalgia – would love to get peoples thoughts on their past experiences…

The Centre for the New Midlands

Back in 2005 I was in my second year of University in Coventry, it was here I met Chris Smith. We both used some of our spare time working for the University showing prospective students around on open days. We would give talks and help them understand what the University and city had to offer.

Fifteen years later and we both have businesses, I’m Director of Information Solutions/The Web Orchard and Chris’ is Director for the Centre of the New Midlands.

Chris’ path had taken him to setting up a thinktank dedicated to the Midlands, a rare yet golden opportunity to help focus on the region’s development and how we can do things differently to build a brighter future.

As part of this vision is the areas digital future, a focus we’ve been able to assist with. In it’s first part, a website for the Centre and moving forward, assistance with digital transformation for businesses and organisations.

Coming out of the Covid-19 crisis the Midlands is going to face a new set of challenges. We strongly believe a number of these can be met with creative IT solutions, whether that will be through increased remote working or innovative web services.

We want to be part of the future success of the region, hence our work with Chris and the Centre has been so important. View website below: