Be careful what assumptions your customers have to make.
July 28, 2008, 5:03 pm
Filed under: ecommerce | Tags:

I’ve just written an email to our local bus operator because I got on the wong bus. Why is this their fault and not mine? Well the bus I usually get on doesn’t normally have it’s sign on saying where it’s going. So when another bus turned up at the stop I assumed it was the bus we were waiting for, and got on, as did eveyone else I usually catch the bus with. It was only when the bus left and the real one, with it’s sign on for a change, pulled in behind us that we realized what was going on, our real bus was late, and this one was early. There was now a bus full of people going to the wrong place.

So be careful what habbits you force your users to get into, and be aware of the consequences should something happen to make those assumptions wrong.


Finding the perfect domain name.
July 28, 2008, 7:51 am
Filed under: ecommerce, SEO | Tags: ,

Finding the right domain name for your business is hard work, and while it won’t make or break you, it can certainly be a massive boost. Here are my tips for getting a great domain name.


Take a piece of paper, or a whiteboard and write your company name, now go through your elevator pitch, or business plan overview and write down all the keywords from those. Pass the paper round your partners and get them to do the same.

Try and think about what people will search for when looking for your product or service, an ex-colleague of mine found some great domains doing this for and This is a lot harder than it sounds, you have to try and second guess your customers, which is tricky on it’s own, but if you give it some careful thought, it is possible.

Pair words

You can take your list of words and pair them, or string 3 together if they’re fairly short, to produce descriptive and easy to remember domain names. It makes very little difference if you include dashes in your URL or not, but the words must be relevant to your side, that is what matters.

Random words

Sometimes it’s hard to find a good domain name using real words, and you might think about using made up words. It can be a neat trick, but you’ll get no SEO love for it. However it might be easier for your clients to remember, if your web site is your main point of contact with your customers, that can be quite important. Make sure it’s easy to remember as well, and are classic examples of made up words that are easy to remember. & are not :-)

If you go for a random name, content is all you have to get yourself noticed by the search engines. Content is always king, even with the best domain in the world, if you content is irrelevant to what you sell, it won’t show up against customer searches. I say this because while a domain name is important, it’s not the most important thing, not by a long way.

Online tools

There are some great online tools to help you with the whole process. Once you have your list of words, you can try feeding them into sites like or, they may find you a great domain name or they could even spark inspiration for something completely different.

Once you’ve found your domain name, the next step is to register it, make sure you buy the & .com versions of the domain, that way your customers wont get confused if another company (maybe in a completly different market) starts to use the other one.

My Killer iPhone App
July 18, 2008, 10:28 am
Filed under: development, iPhone | Tags: ,

Having bought myself an iPhone, I’ve started thinking about what applications I’d like to build for it, so here is my first family of applications:


A location aware application that shows a map of the local area, pins in the map indicate people with similar sexual preferences to you, and want to engage in casual sex.

£15.99 a month subscription


Uses your address book to find out if your partner is a member of iDoggin. Uses the location API to show you where the dirty dog is.

£9.99 a month subscription


Before your partner is sent information via iFoundOut, iBlackmail will alert you that your information is being requested and allow you to bid for the information, if you enter a high enough amount of money, your details are not sent to your snooping partner!

Revenue is variable

A tip of the hat goes to the guys on #ukha, some of the names are their fault.

Who’s Playing?
July 14, 2008, 12:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized is my latest web app, and here is the announcement I made over the weekend about it’s soft launch.

Who’s Playing is a new service for people who organise after work, social 5-a-side football games. It aims to take the slog out of emailing a whole bunch of people, collating the responses and finally,
picking two sides that are equal, perhaps the hardest part of making the game enjoyable for everyone.

Organisers invite their players to join the site and as part of the short sign up process, players must give themselves a rating, which is used to pick balanced sides. After each game the other players get to
vote on how well they think the other players performed, and this is used to keep the rating accurate and up to date.

To organize a game, the team owner simply chooses a date, time and location and his players are sent an email with all the details and a link to click if they want to play.

Once the game has enough people signed up to play, an organiser can
let Who’s Playing select 2 evenly balanced sides. Once he’s happy with the sides he can mail them to everyone who’s playing.

Who’s Playing is currently undergoing open beta testing, and match organisers are encouraged to sign up for an account so their feedback can incorporated into the site before development is completed.

While use of Who’s Playing is free at the moment, once completed the cost will be just £10 a month (or just 25p a week extra per player if you have 5 players per side, less if you play larger games), new sign
ups that help test the site will be given 3 months free when the site is officially launched.

Read more on the Who’s Playing blog

Councils should concentrate on providing data, not services on their websites.
July 8, 2008, 11:45 am
Filed under: opinion | Tags: , , ,

Every morning I wait for the bus to work next to an overgrown field, a few weeks ago I spotted that someone had dumped about 10 beer kegs over the wall, so when I got to work, I used FixMyStreet to report the problem to my council. What follows is an except from an email I got from Sheffield Council:

"Please note that we are aware that Fix my street 
have been having technical problems and that we 
may have received your e-mail late, you may wish 
to consider contacting the Council direct in the 
future by visiting 
and using the A-Z of services to find the service 
you need."

The problem with that is, I don’t know what service I need, and going to the A-Z of services presents me with a list of letters, whereas FixMyStreet just lets me click on a map where the problem is, enter a few details, and then they handle the rest.

Services like FixMyStreet are invaluable because they provide a really easy interface to council services, whereas council portals must provide all information to all of it’s residents, and as a former employee of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s IT team, I know exactly how hard that is.

Some would argue that it is the councils job to provide services like FixMyStreet, but I would say that the council should concentrate on making the information they posses as accessible as possible, in formats that make it easy for other people to provide services like FixMyStreet.

A councils website is a massive undertaking, managing even the smallest councils web presence is a full time job for a team, and there simply isn’t the time in their schedule to develop tools like FixMyStreet, however other interested parties should be allowed access to the kind of data that councils hold, and they should be allowed to build services on top of that information.

The Perfect Checkout
July 2, 2008, 10:03 am
Filed under: ecommerce | Tags: , ,

If you’re an online store, you should be interested in helping your customers get through the checkout as quickly as they can, think of a supermarket, customers dont have to register and confirm a bunch of details before they pay for their goods. Many checkout processes have 4 or 5 stages punters go through before they give you their credit card details, each of these is an opportunity to close the window and not buy from you.

According to research, 15% of abandoned carts are because the checkout process was too complicated, so lets look at how we can streamline this process, and reduce abandoned carts.

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