Bad Ass Advisors

Bad Ass Advisors

The Brief

I was introduced to Casey Thomas from Bad Ass Advisors, a startup based in San Francisco, USA in late 2015. The Bad Ass Advisors team connect advisors with startups. Casey required design and code support to theme a help centre for their clients, as well as new modal landing pages and a printed poster and flyer design to advertise their events. All of these needed to be designed in-line with their pre-established brand identity, colour scheme and imagery.

Casey Thomas, Bad Ass Advisors
Casey Thomas, Bad Ass Advisors

Casey had this to say about my work:

Kerri was a pleasure to work with, I gave him quite a few challenging tasks with not much guidance and he approached them all fantastically. I’m very happy with the results.

My Work

Support Centre

I coded & styled a theme for a new support centre ready for launch. The Bad Ass Advisors chose to use Desk.com for online client support. I was tasked with restyling the default Desk.com frontend to match their own website’s styling.

Modal Design & Poster

I also wrote the copy for and designed a new modal and poster for the Bad Ass Advisors. The modal was intended to display to pre-approved new clients who land on their website. The poster for print was required to be edited to detail upcoming events to potential clients. Both modal and poster/flyer designs were made using Sketch to ensure my client could edit them later with ease.

Portmanteau Agency

Portmanteau

The Brief

Portmanteau are a sync-licensing agency based in the UK. They provide music for film, television, advertisements and video games.

I was originally asked by the a founding member of Portmanteau Agency to create a CD sleeve for promotional material, as well as a website for the agency to showcase their work.

I continued to work with the agency from 2010 to 2015 and beyond, keeping their website up to date and creating new CD sampler sleeves as and when required..

My Work

Website

As a sync-licensing agency, Portmanteau needed their website to primarily contain their portfolio of work alongside their contact details. What was important was for new potential clients to see their previous music placements and most recent work.

The design continues their pre-existing black and grey branding and features a serif-font for headings and a clean, readable sans-serif for body text. As I knew that portfolio work was to take centre-stage, I wanted to make the website purely exist on one, lightweight PHP page.

Promotional CD Series

Elements Bound

Elements Bound

The Brief

I worked with Elements Bound throughout the Summer of 2015 to complete and launch their first official website. Sarah Monument, my contact at Elements Bound, was introduced to me through a friend. Sarah was looking for somebody to help complete their website with the proper integrations in order for it to go live.

The website already partly-existed as a WordPress theme, but it was not yet ready to go public. The team at Elements Bound required integration with AMPsuite, their record-label management software, and WordPress with WooCommerce, their content-management system of choice. I had worked with WordPress and AMPsuite before so was confident I could connect them both together.

My Work

Sarah, from Elements Bound, said this about my work:

“I was impressed with Kerri’s efficient timescales and attention to detail. It was clear that Kerri put great important into ensuring the overall quality of the work and the aesthetic design to meet with our objectives. A job well done and highly recommended.”

Website

Although there was already a design and theme in place for the website, it required plenty of tweaking to ensure it operating as my client wanted it to. I styled content into ‘blocks’ which would stack alongside each other. Content blocks are responsive to screen-size, with jQuery containers sliding into place in relation to the maximum screen width.

Each content segment is powered by AMPsuite’s XML feeds, with product pages, listings and label biographies all being drawn from my clients AMPsuite account.

Shop

In addition, I also implemented a WooCommerce shop, allowing the Elements Bound team to sell digital and physical products, directly to their fans.

Elements Bound | Shop

Website Hosting Demystified, Part 2: Recommended Services

Website Hosting Demystified, Part 2: Recommended Services

Please note that this guide is Part 2 of a two part piece about Website Hosting. You can follow this link to read Part 1.

Choosing a website hosting solution can be difficult. There are a myriad of puzzling terms and price ranges thrown around which you may be uncertain about.

I have created this two-part guide to help you make a more informed decision about your domain, website or email hosting.

In this two part article, I intend to demystify and make clear exactly what service providers have to offer. After reading, you should be able to make a more informed decision about which solutions will be right for you and your business. In the first part of this article, I discussed the services on offer and broke down what you should expect from your email, domain or web hosting package. In this second part, I will round-up some available services on the market and compare and contrast their offerings to help you choose which solution might be of best value to your business or project.

As pointed out by a commenter in Part 1 of this piece, many hosting companies use buzzwords such as ‘Wordpress’ or ‘SEO’ or ‘Cloud’ hosting in their advertising to lure customers to use them over their competitors. You should note than all three of these things (and many more) can be accomplished with any hosting plan and some know-how.

If you already have a solution in place that you are happy with, you may wish to compare this guide with your current plan to ensure that you are getting the best value for your needs.

Please note that I am not affiliated in any way with any company listed in this article, I have included them here simply down to their reliability and because I feel that they offer good value for money. All quoted prices are valid at the time of writing (August 2015)

What to look out for

Domains

  • 123-reg: First in this list primarily because I have used 123-reg myself for many years and have been consistently happy with their services and the prices they charge. 123-reg offer many types of domain extensions and filter their purchasable domain extensions by category (Sport, Food & Drink, Geographic etc). Their .co.uk domains are among the cheapest in the UK, selling for £3.49 per year for the first two years (going up to £6.99 per year after this period). Their .com domains are also around £23 per year. Each domain can be managed through their in-built Control Panel with a myriad of options for forwarding, DNS and Whois fixes.
  • Namesco: A UK based company offering .co.uk domains for £6.99 per year and .com’s for £14.99 with discounts for multiple year purchases. Each domain purchase includes a free (but paltry) 100Mb of storage (that’s Megabits, not Megabytes) and website builder (good for one or two static pages but not much more) as well as a 100MB email mailbox for one address and a selection of free stock photographs. Perhaps not the most competitive domain supplier, Namesco has certainly stood the test of time and is a reliable competitor in the market.
  • Hover: An American domain registrar which sticks to the basics. They offer a vast selection of domain extensions and divide them up by sub-category, recommending the most popular for your chosen field. A .com domain from Hover is reasonably priced at $12.99 per year. You receive WHOIS privacy opt-outs for free with each domain purchase (something which many domain suppliers will charge for). Not to mention their enticing transfer options, allowing you to keep your time from your current purchase as well as a free year added on for your trouble — nice one! Unfortunately they hide mail forwarding addresses behind a paywall at $5 per address (which many other domain providers offer for free), with mailboxes being priced depending on what size mailbox you desire at an additional $20 (10GB) or $29 (1TB) per year.
  • Gandi: French-based domain registrar which offers a ‘no bullshit’ approach to domain hosting with over 500 domain extensions to choose from. Their .com domains are sold at €12.54 per year with .co.uk’s currently being sold at €7 per year. Gandi are well respected for their customer-first attitude. Each domain purchase includes full domain management with total control over DNS and forwarding settings, 5 mailboxes and up to 1000 forwarding addresses as well as a one-page website totally free.

Shared Hosting

  • Hostgator: Hostgator’s services will certainly appeal to newbies in the web hosting sphere. Their hosting plans come in a variety of price ranges depending on the length of time you sign up for, with the ‘Baby’ plan being the most suitable of the three for most people’s needs. What is interesting is that each plan includes ‘Unmetered’ disk space and bandwidth — meaning that you receive effectively unlimited storage space for your website ‘within reason’, assuming that so long as you don’t vastly abuse the policy by hosting gigabytes of questionable files, you should not have a problem with your storage space or bandwidth needs. All aspects of these plans are configured through cPanel, a very competent management panel which allows you to configure your website storage, domains, email, databases, stats and FTP through a web-ready interface. Their 3 price brackets range from $3.96 – $6.36 – $10.36 per month with a 3 year buy-in. The primary difference between the packages is the amount of additional domains allowed, each package provides web space with ‘unmetered’ (i.e. unlimited, within reason) disk space and bandwidth. Hostgator would probably work best for businesses based in the Americas with long-term plans, their price ranges get a lot cheaper if you commit to a longer contract.
  • 123-reg: Mentioned once already for their exceptional domain registration, 123-reg also offer great value web hosting packages. Perhaps their strongest point is UK telephone support, which many hosts simply do not offer. All of their hosting packages include a free .co.uk domain with a healthy amount of storage space (starting at 10GB on their cheapest packages). Although MySQL databases are limited on their cheaper packages (only 1 on the ‘Essentials’ package) all customers receive unlimited bandwidth for their website. Email allowance is good, with even the ‘Essentials’ package offering 100 mailboxes with a 1GB storage allowance to split between mailboxes. Although they do have their own management panel instead of cPanel, 123-reg are certainly a competent, trustworthy hosting solution for your business. Of the 4 price brackets available, there are a variety of differences with the web space available changing at each price range. The cheapest option ‘Essentials’ starts at £2.49 per month (ex VAT) ranging up to ‘Premium’ at £19.99 per month (ex VAT) with the first year at £14.99 per month. The ‘Essentials’ package offers 10GB of web space which for most small businesses with 1–5 websites hosted should be more than enough.
  • 1&1: Offering slightly higher pricing than 123-Reg but with generally higher allowances for storage space and email storage, with both being unlimited on their ‘Unlimited Plus’, £6.99 per month package. Both Linux and Windows hosting can be chosen allowing for versatility in your software options. Strangely, 1&1 offer over 100 server software ‘apps’ which can be installed quickly and easily, including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, unfortunately they do not mention that these can be installed by any user themselves, which does come across as a little misleading — but arguably useful for customers who want to get themselves set up online fast. 1&1 offer 4 different types of shared hosting options with the cheapest ‘Starter’ set at £2.99 per month (ex VAT) includes 10 GB of webspace, 10 email accounts and 2GB of email storage – great for heavy email users. Unfortunately the Starter bundle only includes the capacity for 1 website, but this is bumped up to Unlimited on the further 3 packages. The Unlimited package is perhaps of best value, with unlimited webspace and unlimited website options and 2 GB of email storage for £4.99 (ex VAT) per month with an offer price of £2.99 per month for the first year. Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Pro seem to be a waste of money by comparison with their only real offers being added pre-installed Apps (which any user can install themselves).
  • eUKhost: UK-based hosts eUKhost boast over 12 years experience in the web hosting industry and their hosting packages showcase why. Each of their Linux shared hosting plans is powered by cPanel and include unlimited monthly bandwidth. Storage space is also liberally given, with 2GB as minimum on their ‘Basic’ plan, with 10 GB and 20 GB on the ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’ plans respectively. Each plan includes 24/7 technical support too which should be of aid if you ever have a problem with your service. eUKhost also offers Windows hosting plans for those with .net software requirements. With three packages available for shared hosting with cPanel, the ‘Basic’ comes in at £3.33 per month (including VAT) with 2GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited email and 24 hour tech support. The only differentiation with the Intermediate (£4.99 per month) and Advanced (£6.99 per month) plans are an increase in the available MySQL database allowances and disk space (10 GB on Intermediate, 20 GB on Advanced).

Dedicated Hosting

  • Memset: Memset is a highly recommended hosting company who’s customers include Boots, Lush Cosmetics and the BBC amongst others. Their VPS servers distribute resources from dedicated servers between users and can be configured as you see fit: with choices over hard drive type (HDD vs SSD for storage vs speed). cPanel comes at an extra cost on all virtual servers. With only a minimum term of 1 month and no set up fee, Memset also accommodates those who may want to try before they commit. What’s great about Memset is their customisation options, you can patch together your very own server exactly as you need it. All server options like CPU, Storage Space or RAM can scale up or down depending on your usage needs. Prices for Virtual Servers start at £3.25 per month, but I would suggest you consider the VM2000 at £6.45 per month at the very minimum to allow you enough RAM to install Plesk for easy server management.
  • 4D: Eco-friendly hosting is what 4D strive for, with one of the greenest and most innovative data-centres in Europe. Their VPS options simplify things somewhat with 3 options: ‘Start-up’, ‘SME’ and ‘Enterprise’, giving you an easy option for deciding on your server based on your size of operation. The ‘Start Up’ package begins at £17 per month and includes 1 CPU core, 2GB RAM, 75 GB of disk space and 2000 GB of bandwidth as standard, with the SME and Enterprise packages increasing the amount of each of these options in line with the price increase. All VPS options include 24/7 support and free set up. cPanel is available on all packages for an additional £15 per month. All of the packages can be customised for additional resources.
  • Bytemark: Certainly at the higher-end of the market, Bytemark offer dedicated servers with high monthly costs but with a focus on automated backups and priority of speed (SSD’s come as standard, with additional storage as an add on). The ‘Dual’ package is an entry level system with 8GB of RAM, 120GB SSD and 3.6GHz Dual Core Intel i3 Processor at £75 per month. Their ‘Pro’ and ‘Max’ dedicated servers ramp up the price to £145 and £179 per month respectively but also bump up the storage capacity and RAM (the Pro includes 4 1TB hard drives).

I hope that this piece has helped to give you a better idea of what hosting solutions are available on the market and some things to look out for. If you’re still unsure about which hosting provider to choose, this comparison of 10 leading suppliers from FirstSiteGuide is well worth a look.

Thank you for reading, DFTBA

If you would like help setting up your website hosting or more bespoke recommendations for the right hosting plan for you and your business, send me an email and say hello.

Website Hosting Demystified, Part 1: Domains, Hosting and Email

Website Hosting Demystified, Part 1: Domains, Hosting and Email

Please note that this guide is Part 1 of a two part piece about Website Hosting. You can follow this link to read Part 2.

Choosing a website hosting solution can be difficult, particularly when there are a myriad of puzzling terms and price ranges thrown around which you may be uncertain about.

Picking a hosting solution without knowledge of the entire package can mean that you might end up paying over the odds for services which you don’t need or won’t actually make use of.

I have created this two-part guide to help you to make a more informed decision about your domain, website or email hosting.

In this two part article, I intend to demystify and make clear exactly what service providers have to offer in order for you to make a more informed decision about which solutions will be right for you and your business. In Part 2 of this article (to be published next week), I will round-up the available services on the market and compare and contrast their offerings to help you choose which solution might be of best value to your business or project.

What to look out for

Domains

There are two components to your domain purchase: the domain name and extension. In order to purchase a domain, both the domain name and extension cannot be currently owned by another party.

Every website is hosted on a server which is accessible over the internet. Each server has a unique IP address in order to be accessed from another device. An IP address is a string of numbers not unlike a telephone number. We use domain names to point to these numbers instead to make them more memorable — a website address like ‘vestigemedia.com’ is arguably easier to make note of than ‘180.126.78.79’.

Domains are typically charged on a per-extension basis, some extensions cost more than others owing to their popularity: ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.org’ are perhaps among the most common extensions whilst niche options such as ‘.tv’ can cost more due to their in-demand nature. When you purchase a domain name, you will often be given the option to purchase many different extensions to go alongside that name, each extension you pick will add to the billable price. Now that there are an almost endless range of new domain extensions such as ‘.blog’, ‘.app’ or ‘.shop’, there is unlikely to be an end to the possible addresses for your chosen home on the internet. Some region-specific domain extensions such as .de (Germany) require that you are located in that country in order to register, however most do not have such a restriction.

Check the following before you buy:
– DNS / Name-servers: will you have control over your DNS settings? this allows you to manage which address your domain points towards. If you host your website with the same company you purchased your domain from, this shouldn’t be a problem, however this is useful to maintain control over if you do decide to change your hosting provider later on.
– Forwarding: can your domain be set to forward to another should you need to, either permanently (301 forwarding), or temporarily (302 forwarding)?
– Control Panel: is there a tool to allow the management of your domain and billing once purchased?
– Sub-domains: can you easily create sub-domains to point visitors to different parts of your site (e.g. services.vestigemedia.com, portfolio.vestigemedia.com, articles.vestigemedia.com)?
– Billing: how often is your domain billed for? can you cancel at any time?
– Transfer: can your domain be easily transferred to/from another service or owner should you choose to move or sell your domain later on?

Web Hosting:

Your hosting plan dictates what you can do with your website: how much space you have, what programs you can run and what level of control you have over your files. Hosting plans are usually either bundled or heavily pushed for sale alongside a domain name. With both a domain and a hosting plan, you are able to create and host your website on the internet.

Your web hosting solution represents a permanently-on piece of hardware stored remotely. You can access it, add and delete files as well as have it run complex scripts in order to display results. There are four main types of web hosting solution (ordered by general cost):
1. Shared Hosting — your website scripts and files are hosted on a server alongside those of many other clients. The server is managed by the service provider to ensure your website remains online.
2. Virtual Private Server — similarly to shared hosting, your files are stored on a server alongside those of other clients, but your segment of the server is more tightly walled-off, giving you stronger controls over your allocated segment of the server resources. You can usually choose whether to manage the server yourself or pay an additional fee for on-site tech support.
3. Dedicated Server — your very own dedicated remotely-hosted machine, giving you full control over system resources and storage space.
4. Server Cluster — for resource-heavy websites and server applications (think social networks or multi-national web shops), many dedicated servers can be strung together to manage extreme load.

When I discuss hosting with clients, it is typically either in reference to Shared Hosting or Virtual Private Server use as these will cover the majority of requirements in majority of cases. If you are a small to medium business, either of these options will likely be fine to get you and your business online.

Check the following before you buy:
– Storage Space: how much storage will you have access to in order to store any website files and extras (photographs, videos, audio files etc)? can storage be scaled up or down to meet your requirements? do you require extra space to store private files?
– Bandwidth: how much data can you transfer to users of your website during a billing period and at what speed? will this amount of data transfer be enough to meet your needs? what happens should your website overuse the available bandwidth — will your website be taken offline or will you incur extra fees?
– Server Location: where is your server located? is it geographically-close to your primary audience for optimum data transfer speeds?
– Domains allowed: do you intend to manage several domains under the same storage solution to make the most of available storage space? Can you create and manage more than one domain through your hosting plan?
– IP: can you purchase additional IP addresses if you need to in order to manage large/multiple websites?
– Sub-domains: can you create sub-domains to point visitors to different parts of your site? This is also a domain option too as sub-domains can often be managed either through the domain host or the web hosting provider.
– Programming Compatibility: is it possible to use a variety of server-side code like MySQL, CGI, PHP, Ruby, SSH, Perl, Python etc? You may need access to a handful of these if you want to run software programs on your server such as WordPress, a Forum or an eCommerce solution.
– MySQL Databases: required for many server-side software programs. If MySQL is enabled, how many databases can you make use of? You may need access to several if you wish to install more than one service on your web hosting server.
– Server Stats: are programs like AWStats or Webalizer included? these can help you to analyse your website traffic (useful for improving your search engine placement!)
– Logs: are you or your tech support team able to analyse your server access logs if there is a problem?
– Operating System: what operating system does your server run on? servers typically either run on Windows or Linux. Unless you absolutely have to use server software which requires a Windows server, Linux is certainly the recommended option, giving you more choice and versatility.
– Backups: does your server automatically make regular back ups of your hosted files? are you able to make and download your own backups for safe keeping?
– Management Panels: is there an internally-produced management panel for your settings or a third-party solution such as cPanel or Plesk? Some panels will allow you to manage your hosting settings and install new functions like WordPress or eCommerce functions easily without fiddly manual installation.

Email

Just like your website files, your email will also need to be managed using your hosting plan. Your available email options will depend on which method you choose for your web hosting. If you are on shared web hosting, your email options will typically come as an additional priced add-on from your hosting supplier. If you manage your private server yourself, you will be able to create, manage and allocate email resources through your management panel.

If access to email is important for you then choosing the right amount of storage space and mailbox availability is definitely worth paying attention to from the onset, it can be difficult to change later on and result in potentially problematic downtime.

Check the following before you buy:
– Accounts: are you able to set up more than 1 email account? You may want additional accounts for different members of your team or to create some addresses which forward directly to others.
– Mailboxes: how many unique mailboxes can you have? is there allowance to create one for each member of your team, your help-desk, accounting etc?
– Storage Space: is there enough storage space available to store a moderate amount of emails on your server? do you often receive large file attachments to emails? it may be the case that you need more storage space for mail than you might think.
– Forwarding: are you able to create forwarding email addresses? perhaps you or a member of your team would like the opportunity to receive help desk mail to their primary mailbox without creating separate storage boxes?
– Catchall: can you create a catchall address to ensure that all mail sent to address at your domain (even if they don’t exist) are caught in a net and checked through? (‘here lies danger’ however if you begin to receive many spam emails every day which can potentially destroy your productivity)
– POP vs IMAP: Are you able to choose which connection method to use when accessing your email? (you can read all about the benefits and challenges of POP or IMAP for your email access in this article I published last month)
– Autoresponders: if you go on holiday or leave the office for a few days, can you create an autoresponder to inform senders that you may be delayed in responding? alternatively, you may want to create an email address which automatically responds with a notification such as an automated thank you note for resumés or a notification of receipt for first contact requests.
– Mailing Lists: are you able to import a list of email addresses and send a group mail to many contacts at once? there are many services which will allow you to do this outside of your email hosting provider (and arguably they do a better job), but the option is always nice.
– Spam: what does your service-provider offer in terms of anti-spam? can you ramp up the filters if you begin to receive copious amounts of irrelevant mail?


I am often asked about the best options for website & email hosting and domain purchases, many people are understandably confused about what they are paying for and how that relates to their needs. I have known clients of mine in the past to pay far over the odds because they didn’t know exactly what it was they were being sold or what they needed when they purchased their website domain. I hope that this article has helped you to make a more informed decision about your hosting choices.

Please check back next week for the second part of this article where I will compare and contrast service providers and provide recommendations based on their offerings in regards to your needs.

Thank you for reading and DFTBA.

If you would like help setting up your website hosting or recommendations for a hosting plan that suits you and your business, fire me an email and say hello.

Shoot The Dead

Shoot The Dead

The Brief

I worked with Brighton-based electro-rocker’s Shoot the Dead for between 2011 and 2012, creating a variety of product artworks and a website for the band.

My Work

Cover Art

Website

During 2012, I designed a WordPress theme for the band which was used for their website. Incidentally, this was the first responsive design I had made, intended for band band’s youthful, smartphone-wielding audience. The website featured audio previews and music videos, as well as a regularly updated photo blog.

Tom Ainscough from the band said about the website:

Everything looks absolutely brilliant!