Sites for sore eyes

By The Drum, Administrator

September 8, 2005 | 9 min read

Digital media continues to grow. Online is negotiating itself a larger slice of spend every time the marketing pie is dissected by clients... And there are a growing number of new media agencies in Scotland benefiting from this upturn in online activity.

While a number of large clients look south to invest traditional marketing spend, this is not true for digital and online marketing.

Big name brands continue to look to Scotland’s prospering online sector for support and drive. However, online it is not just the big name brands that are producing quality work. With the right investment, online is a place where brands can punch above their weight.

With this in mind, The Drum asked those that work in the new media industry in Scotland to nominate some of their favourite websites that have been recently created by agencies north of the border to be scrutinized by our panel of experts: Brian Wilson, e-commerce marketing manager, ScottishPower; Robert Hamilton, digital consultant (former head of new media strategy at Lowe Howard Spink); and Lynne Anderson, marketing, First Group.

We asked the panel to choose their favourite sites and explain why they chose these sites above others. The panel were looking for websites that are at the leading edge in terms of content, design or innovation – ideally websites that are breaking the mould. From the over sixty sites selected to send to the panel, below are the URLs voted top. The following sites were all voted in the top 15 by more than one judge on the panel. ..(by Wheel)

Big surprise. Was really fun, interactive and full of educational games, placed on a good platform that works well. (by Line)

The idea of searching for films like ones you already know works well, plenty to view and has online discounts.

Integrated with the ticket booking facility, built to high accessibility standards, great design and functionality. (by

One day someone will make some money out of picture messaging; in the meantime letting kids go beyond having their name as a logo is a start. Really fun, playful site. A vibrant feel to what seems like a simple idea. (by Sitekit Solutions)

Beautiful photography and a mine of information. Lacks true innovation but done very well. (by Line)

Helpful, upbeat look and feel. Credit cards made easy, dare I say it, fun almost. Rather like choosing a mobile tariff, finding a credit card that suits you is difficult and hardly an interesting task – this site makes it easy and avoids being patronising when explaining the details. (by DC Interact)

Catalogue made easy and gives the feeling of browsing a bookshelf on your computer. (by Zen Agency)

Beautifully designed, and has the style you would expect but perhaps lacks info. (by Visitscotland)

Refreshing to see an image of outdoor life in Scotland that isn’t based on tartan and shortbread. Informative with easy searches, good linking, simple to navigate and well designed. Pushes the message well. (by (by DADA)

Simple and to the point – after all parties need people and the web’s a good, cost-effective way to get them. Exciting way to build an online database with audience keen to interact. (by Civic)

A site that has a lot of information to get across, and does it clearly and efficiently. That shouldn’t be notable but alas it is. (by Curious Oranj)

Some nice toys to play with, and a good showcase for the brands stocked in store. (by Dog Digital)

Despite the sponsor (Tennents), an almost total absence of beer as the new (fashionable?) form of five-a-side is heavily promoted. (by Fifty-Nine)

A well constructed radio site although it’s slightly worrying to find that I actually liked what they were playing. (by BiscuitMedia)

The correct balance of content and dynamic for the user, taking account of standard levels of access. Gives the user the ‘business’ on the homepage and a clear way to navigate whilst still maintaining interest, high visibility and colour using innovative ways in delivering the information. (by Whitespace)

An interesting use of comedy and video help bring this site to life. A novel way of selling the humble polo-shirt. Plenty of information on the products too. Strong creative plays a large part of this well designed site.

The how to of online know how

Identifying the top websites produced in Scotland is not an easy task. Web has come-of-age. The scope is wide and the number of sites being produced is vast and varied, in terms of both content and design, as well as innovation.

In The Drum’s quest toidentify some of the top websites to be produced in Scotland, over sixty websites were identified by agencies and clients alike. But as one judge remarked: “Some just missed the mark, some were way off.”

At the end of the day, though, a lot comes down to personal and sometimes subjective choice. What makes a good website? In the main, clients are after easy to use, fast and accessible websites and platforms that deliver their message clearly to online customers. But that isn’t to say that for the right client something innovative and challenging isn’t possible.

However, despite the many different opportunities to create an original and innovative website, there are certain guidelines that should be adhered to.

Here The Drum asked a number of Scotland’s online agencies for a shortlist of hints and tips for online development. Opposite find a list of dos and don’ts as suggested by the industry.

Online, as part of an integrated campaign, or standing alone, is a vital platform for communication. Remember to use it wisely.


Tony Purcell, director, Civic

Do identify and understand your target audience, and then design, build and write to address the needs of that audience. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Gerry McCusker, Director, dog digital

Do integrate with offline communications.

Alistair Campbell, director, Parallel 56

Do write engaging web page copy that motivates your site users to interact with the site content, and make qualified online enquiries or sales. Include appropriate keywords and likely search terms in your page copy, to help prospective site users find the page in a search engine.

Stewart Steel, managing director, Biscuit media

Do Have Fun. Online is probably the best place to have fun with your brand. That’s not about breaking brand conventions, just stretching them a little to engage a little.

Mark Jennings, director, Cynosure

Do review the investment you make in your website along proper business lines, all too often the costs for a site are written off without proper ROI and value analysis, this is a cyclical process and no lessons are learnt.

Debra Murphy, managing director, Algiz

Do consider graphics as content. Text-heavy pages can sometimes be tedious and boring, no matter how compelling and interesting the text is. Try and put the best face you can on your site with professional artwork that enhances your pages, breaks up text, and complements the written content being published.


Stewart Steel, managing director, Biscuit Media

Don’t make people think. Thinking doesn’t really go down well on the Internet. If you give your users an option to do something then make sure it’s clear, concise and explain the benefits.

Gerry McCusker, Director, Dog Digital

Don’t design over function. And don’t use technology that your target market haven’t got.

Alistair Campbell, director, Parallel 56

Don’t write page copy only to be found on Google or other search engines; write it for your site users instead as they are far more important. Also, don’t have key page content published in Macromedia Flash only, if positioning on search engines such as Google is important to you.

Debra Murphy, managing director, Algiz

Don’t fall for fancy – Whether it’s product descriptions, white papers or customer testimonials, stick to basics. Avoid using a lot of jargon or technical language that users may not understand.

Mark Jennings, director, Cynosure

Don’t be inflexible, all too often the best solution comes through trial and error “in the wild”, rather than a tightly defined technical specification developed at the outset. Clients who think that web sites would represent the spec absolutely miss the point.

Tony Purcell, director, Civic

Don’t use features that won’t work on Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera.


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