What has 2013 meant for you? At Webreality it's been a year of growth, investment, change and learning. So, business as usual for a busy digital agency! Here's a summary of some of the trends and highlights we've experienced.
Mobile payments system launched
An early highlight for us was the launch of a smartphone payment system for our local client Cooper & Co, using Apple's Passbook mobile app.
Coopers were a very early adopter of mobile payments in the UK SME market. The launch caught the imagination of the national digital media, resulting in Webreality and Cooper & Co being invited to speak about mobile payments at Internet Retailing Expo 2013 at the Birmingham NEC in March.
Google pulls the rug... and content marketing is the winner
The year started with a challenge to search engine optimisation specialists everywhere, with Google's 24th "Panda" update on 22 January, which was reported to have affected 1.2% of all Google queries. That's a lot.
The upshot was a dramatic shift in emphasis - content marketing at last became the primary focus of all reputable SEO advisers.
We were pleased - we'd been evangelising content marketing for a long while, but had found the market reluctant to take the long view.
With fresh market interest in the long-term benefits of content marketing, we made a permanent new appointment - Simon Mobey, our Content & Community Manager.
I'm very pleased to report that Simon has established great relationships with our content marketing clients and acquitted himself very well at his first Webreality Christmas party in Rennes, France.
Eating our own blogfood!
It's tricky to evangelize about content marketing unless we have an active content marketing plan of our own.
For us, it's about this blog, and its ability to help us build a community around our work, skills and knowledge.
For some time before this new website was launched, we had been experimenting with a Tumblr blog cross-linked with our previous website. Eventually we rejected it for its lack of flexibility and Tumblr's disappointing reliability record during our time as a user.
So, when we launched this website we integrated a new blog and migrated our best Tumblr posts across.
We've subsequently seen some very specific Google wins and specific new business enquiries based entirely on our blogging activity.
Investing in our infrastructure
Two important parts of our infrastructure have benefited from investment this year.
Most importantly, we've been developing our web hosting capacity and resilience by investing in additional servers provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). That's the same Amazon that you shop with, now operating with great effectiveness in the realm of cloud computing service provision. The improvement in speed for many of our websites has been noticeable, and the massive scale of the AWS infrastructure means that higher levels of resilience to hardware failures, power supply issues and bandwidth limits are all possible. The benefits for our web hosting clients are tangible: even faster, even more reliable hosting!
We also decided to sharpen up our Jersey office this year, inside and out. So we were shrouded with scaffolding for several months and we had a small army of contractors in and out while we injected a bit more funk into our HQ. I hope those that have visited us in the last few months will agree that it's a been a great improvement.
Our business will always be a balance between helping existing clients develop their online interests, and bringing new clients into the fold.
This year has been typical of that kind of division of our time and resources.
We've had website re-build or development projects ongoing for many long-standing clients, with notable launches including a completely revised customer experience website for UK-based Verbier chalet experts SkiArmadillo, and a new website for existing US client Scott Farms to promote their new sweet potato crisps.
At the same time we've welcomed many new clients across our full range of web design, software development and digital marketing services, including fiduciary services provider Crestbridge, litigation law firm Hanson Renouf, and Jersey online furniture retailer MyPad.je.
Consolidating our position in the UK auction market
As Dave Barton pointed out in his July blog post, the UK auction market has been very resilient through the economic downturn, and we've seen a trend in approaches by renowned regional salerooms looking for help with their digital strategies.
This year we launched our fifth auction house website, this time for Bellmans in West Sussex, led by the endlessly energetic Jonathan Pratt.
We've also undertaken some significant work to uAuction, our Umbraco-based saleroom website management tool, to improve its speed and resilience and to add back end features that will benefit all our auction house clients.
Most recently we've developed a "deep image zoom" plug-in for uAuction that will allow our clients to opt for super-high resolution lot imagery to help bidders assess lot condition with far greater confidence. More news on this in a blog post planned for next month.
It's particularly pleasing for us when our clients are recognised for their successes.
At this year's Jersey Enterprise Awards, the Large Enterprise award went to the CI Co-operative Society, a client whose determined approach to strengthening their digital strategy has impressed us enormously since they appointed us as their digital agency in 2011.
The same awards night saw Genuine Jersey recognised for its huge contribution to the local economy with the Ambassador of the Year award.
The most prolific winner of awards this year amongst our clients must be our friends at Liquid. In June they carried off five PRCA DARE awards for their client work, across three different regions of the UK, more than any other PR agency this year. Then, in November, they received two awards in the Chartered Institute of Public Relations PRide awards ceremony for Wessex and the Channel Islands. Seven awards in a year - well done guys!
Charity highlight - Wetwheels
We started the year with the launch of a donated website for an exciting new Jersey charity - Wetwheels.
An extract from the website: "Wetwheels is a new catamaran that will allow disabled people in Jersey to experience the sheer thrill of being at sea whilst being on a safe and reliable vessel that can be used for fishing trips, exploring the coast or learning how to pilot the craft."
We've been very happy to support this excellent project, which reached its fund-raising objective to achieve delivery of "Wetwheels Jersey" in September.
Since then, the Wetwheels team has been busy preparing the vessel for local waters and training up the volunteer crew members, ready for full operations to start in 2014. They'll be using the custom online booking engine we built for them, allowing their operations team to match bookings with available volunteer crew.
We look forward to continuing to support them with their digital needs.
Umbraco goes from strength to strength
Our chosen website content management system, Umbraco, has very recently moved into its seventh major version, which we will be starting to deploy for our new and existing clients in 2014.
We have had no doubts about our decision in 2010 to move from our previous proprietary CMS to our current open source strategy, nor of our choice of Umbraco.
In fact, earlier in the year it became clear that our commitment to Umbraco has rewarded us with a leading global position in terms of the number of Umbraco websites we've deployed. In early February we calculated that we had built 138 websites with Umbraco. A quick Twitter exchange with Umbraco founder Niels Hartvig confirmed that this was up with the most prolific Umbraco agencies globally. Since then, we've climbed to 180 Umbraco websites deployed, and we estimate that this certainly puts us in the top 10 most prolific Umbraco agencies in the world, and possibly in the top 5.
Something we're very proud of, because Umbraco deserves the unreserved support we give it.
It's not all about the work...
It's been a truly massive year for Webreality on the home front.
We're a young team who've been together for a long time, so it's inevitable that some signs of maturity and settling down start to emerge eventually...
On 30 January Chris Mousdale's wife Jo gave birth to beautiful Nina, who has subsequently wowed Facebook with her photogenic looks.
Then in July, Lindsey Millington got engaged to Mike and completed an exciting year with the purchase of their new home together in November. (This pic isn't the view from their front room, sadly.)
In October, the second Webreality baby of the year arrived when Kerry-Anne Evans made a dad of Mark with the birth of the gorgeous Jake, here showing off his festive outifit.
And on that endearing note...
May I wish you, on behalf of my fantastic team, a very happy Christmas, and a healthy and prosperous 2014!