Fabric-loving & sewing friends, I've got some cool new links for you! Thanks to the lovely Debra from VeryDebra.com (with lots of snazzy info, patterns, video tutorials & pearls of wisdom on her blog), there are now more resources for all you creative folk who are more into sewing, textiles and fabrics. I don't know much about sewing, but have already spent way too much time browsing all the pretty pages of fabric on a few of the websites. Just goes to show that you don't have to be into sewing, or textiles, to appreciate these links!
Also, I've added links to a couple of new sites for you to continue your journey of self-learning. I find that with everything in life, it's a never-ending quest to perfect one's skills. Sometimes, distance, time and finances dictate that you can't realistically get that second, or fifth degree and short online courses might be a good alternative. I was pleasantly surprised when I bit the bullet and took up a class on Skillshare. I say pleasantly surprised because I thought that I could learn everything between Google, Youtube and Wikipedia but the video tutorials I watched not only provided information (some of which I already knew), but also inspired me and helped me get my mojo back! Best $20 I've spent in a while..
I hope you'll benefit from these resources and maybe find a new favorite local haunt or two :)
Are you a fan of Valentine's Day and the madness of hearts, arrows and the sea of red & pink that ensues? Or are you more of a "meh, another commercialized holiday" sort of person? Although I'm a bit overwhelmed each year with the flurry of rosy hues and hearts, I'm always up for a reason to celebrate!
You don't need to be completely thrilled with the idea of celebrating Valentine's Day to embrace some of these ideas and activities any time of the year (yay!). These would also work for anniversaries and little random celebrations throughout the year. What do you think? Do you have other things you've tried, or would like to?
Take a Class
Learn something together! One such opportunity right here in Sydney is to learn to paint with watercolors... with a twist. For those are single and loving it (but is secretly on the lookout for a Prince Charming.. or just Charming.. or just, someone nice), bring along another single friend to the class. It's a win-win for everyone when you or your friend find yourself wanting to learn more about both painting, and someone else in your class ;) This class, and others, are offered by the beautiful Sew Make Create studio in Sydney.
Write to your special somebody
Experience something together
There's bound to be something both of you might enjoy that would be nice to do together. After all, it's another shared experience you both can recall with hopefully laughs and smiles in the future. If you're in Sydney, Olympic Park has a limited number of tandem bikes for hire (no reservations allowed due to their popularity though!) and double kayaks can be hired through Oz Paddle for a scenic tour of the harbour. I highly recommend the Roar and Snore at Sydney's Taronga Zoo if budget isn't a huge factor. Where else can you can dine and "glamp" (glamorously camp) out in a little cabin at the zoo, and access behind-the-scenes areas of select zoo exhibits? We did this during our early days of dating, where I completely ruined the surprise by having to leave early to be a volunteer Big Sister so we're doing this again for our wedding anniversary. If outdoor activities aren't your thing, try a new restaurant, cuisine or watch a movie you've both never heard of together! There's bound to be some interesting moments there... Basically, go do something together and create new memories :)
Geek out at home
Sometimes, the best presents come in the form of things we take for granted. Especially the little things in life. It may sound cheap, but for the right person, it may mean the world to him or her that picked up their dry cleaning, or that the laundry's done and folded even if you don't normally do it. You could surprise your special someone when they come home with their favorite brew in this heat-activated pixel heart mug perhaps? Or up the ante with some DNA jewelry and an 8-bit rose that will never wilt, and heat things up with a bar of Sriracha chocolate? A quiet, intimate night (or day) at home may not necessarily be a bad thing, especially in these hectic times. And especially with little people around. On second thought, maybe you'd best find a babysitter first before planning your quiet night in!
For those of you who feel more comfortable staying home, Pinterest may once again provide you with endless hours of creative (and sometimes not-so-brilliant) ideas. I stumbled upon this Pin It To Win It (referral link!) Pinterest sweepstake by GuideCentral for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Not a bad prize for re-pinning things onto your Pinterest board! They will ask for your name, email and URL of your re-pin (which you'll see when you click on the re-pin on your own board).
I hope some of the pins inspire you with some crafty ideas that aren't just suitable for Valentine's Day! In keeping with my policy of full disclosure, this link earns me 50 cents for each entry entered using it so while it's not big deal for you, it makes a difference for me! Thank you in advance for using it and I hope you win an Amazon voucher!
Something else to consider?
I couldn't help but sneak this into the list because it's quirky retro tech, my favorite kind! The Nintendo Love Tester (please note this is my affiliate link) is sold by Japan Trend Shop in Tokyo. It apparently works in a similar way to a lie detector. You each hold a metal ball attached to the machine (get your mind outta the gutter!) and smooch or something, and the machine will measure how much zing it was. Not sure if I'm I love or hate the corniness of it all...!
Most of us would have encountered a bit of coding and HTML at some stage, especially when setting up blogs or online stores. This is for those of you that don't quite get it, or are a bit put off by HTML. Hopefully, this will rid you of some of that uneasiness! We'll start from the very beginning and I'll talk you through the monologue I listened to in my head when I was first grappling with HTML :)
Order, form and function have always appealed to me and so it's no wonder that I took to webpage layouts quite quickly. The basic skeleton of a webpage has pretty much remained the same since that first time I tried to build my own webpage. That was nearly a decade and a half ago! Eesh.
I started teaching myself how to build & code one using Window's Notepad and referring to my favorite websites and blogs's source code at the time. I don't think Google was around then.. we're talking about the era when the common search engines reigning supreme were Yahoo!, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves and WebCrawler to name a few. I stumbled upon this magical manual called the Page Source (right click anywhere blank on most webpages and you should see that option come up) and started noticing patterns repeating for each website. A bit of trial and error, a few web searches and I was coding my own early version of my online home, complete with a guestbook I tried to get all my cool friends to sign.
Think of it as HTML 101. The way I process and present this information stems more from experience than "proper" schooling and a fancy degree. But hey, if it's worked for me for the past 15 years, I can't be too far off! The guys at Getawebsite have a good, basic overview of the different acronyms if you're curious.
One thing to remember is that everything comes in pairs in HTML codes. You start something with the code encased in < > and you end it with a backslash, like this </ >. Kind of like fencing things in.
An html file starts off like this:
There are 3 main "containers" that fit inside an .html file, and they, in turn, act as containers for other bits to go inside. As you can see from the doodle, you have the head, body and footer tags. The footer element (the pair of tags) is the most vague to describe, so here is a better example in pictures. Here is the gist of what each element does, or the point of having it at all:
The "containers" have a beginning and and end.. the < > and the </ >.
So, for example, anything that belongs in the Head section will be found between <head> and </head>.
You'll notice that all the "keywords" of code start and end with < > ..this is quite important! If you don't surround your set of coded instructions with these, the words will just be words and show up exactly how you typed them on your webpage. They automatically don't show up and get interpreted as code as soon as you put them between the < > symbols. Psst, these codes between the < > symbols are called tags.
Just for fun, you can write secret messages or notes in html by surrounding the words like this:
<!-- typeyourmessagehere --->
This gets quite useful when you have long chunks of code and you're not sure where one bit ends and the next bit starts, so you insert one of these reminder notes in between. The exclamation point is crucial in hiding your little message!
So adding all of that in, your very basic HTML file structure should be looking like this:
<!-- is this making sense? --->
I color-coded and indented the paired tags so help you see their relationship to each other. Can you see what I mean by "everything in pairs" and "fencing things in" as well as the "containers" analogy?
School's started again over here in Australia, and some people aren't too thrilled. And I'm not talking about the little ones! :) Packing backpacks, making lunches, wrapping up new books, making sure there are clean clothes.. and so, it begins.
Friends of mine are beginning to send their kids to school for the first time this year, and the parents were sometimes more anxious than the kids! One frequent groan I keep hearing has to do with books. Wrapping them up, to be precise. This is the season of contact paper! Very pretty when properly wrapped, with lots of cool patterns and colors to choose from, but very frustrating when it all curls up and turns into a sticky wad of mess. The contact paper, I mean. Not the kid. Or the parent trying to use the contact paper. Just clarifying :)
Thinking back to my elementary school days (and heck, early middle school too), my parents started out with contact paper too. At some stage, they discovered plastic sleeves that never quite fit my textbooks properly and moved back to contact paper again. Fluorescent ones this time. Eesh. I hated them so much that I used to cut out letters from the contact paper to expose messages with my textbook covers as the background.
The only type of book wrapper I ended up liking was the simplest kind. The ones made from our brown paper grocery bags. They were great! Cheap (free with groceries, yay!), easily replaceable, and provided a temporary doodling surface for notes and drawings when classes got a bit slow.
Here are some other was to cover textbooks:
Oh, and if you haven't gone through the rite of passage called textbook-wrapping, you can find out how to do it at Martha Stewart's page. Comes complete with snazzy variations (I must admit, I did the plastic-sleeve-in-front-of-a-binder thing for class schedules way back when. I was the nerdiest kid in class!)
What other things have you tried wrapping your books with?
Hello, friends! I've got some wonderful news to share, especially for those of you in Sydney!
Gloriousmess! is partnering with Sew Make Create to run a pre-Valentines Day social workshop this Friday and I can't be more chuffed :) In fact, I was so excited I created a mega sticker pack for the workshop! If you're in town, sign up and stop by - I'd love to say hi to you!
We'll be making personalized cards for Valentines Day (or any other occasion you wish, really) along with a felt alphabet plushie. Yes, you do all the work, and yes, you will walk out of there with awesome creations in hand regardless of whether you know how to sew and card-make or not. More importantly, you'll walk out with a smile and maybe a new friend or two because this is, after all, a social workshop :)
For those of you who aren't nearby, don't fret! You can also make your own cards and felt alphabet plushies in your own time. Here are a few of tips and resources for you:
You can find some of the stickers from our Mega Pack in their own original packs in store. These include our Candy Hearts, Doily Hearts and Banner Banter sticker packs. Hope you have fun with all of them, and if you make any cards or plushies of your own, I'd love to see what you come up with! Just tag us on Twitter or Instagram with @sharethemess, or upload them onto our Facebook page :)
Stress, stress, Stay away!
Come again another day!
Are you starting to feel a bit stressed, like little CurlieQ up there.. with Thanksgivukkah, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve and then 2014 coming up in the next 30-odd days?
Phew! If I wasn't stressed before, listing out all these "popular" celebrations have really made the message sink home! So in times like this, the best thing you can do is breathe!
Here are a few tips to get you through the magic mayhem we call the silly season!
Baby Steps, Honey!
Yep, take baby steps. Break down your tasks into little, bite-sized chunks. Like that dinner party of yours.. or that birthday gig you were planning. You're worrying about the menu, the decorations, the guests, the dress code, cleaning the house, making sure there's toilet paper in the guest bathroom.. and so on. Don't try to do it all at once, even if you ARE a superhero in disguise.
When things start to overwhelm you, try one of the oldest tricks in the book. Well, the doctor book anyway. Stop and talk your pulse. Some people literally have to do that to calm themselves down. For others, simply focusing on breathing in and out is enough to draw your focus away from the crazy whirlwinds in your head. Take the time to sit down, have a cuppa and let yourself have some peace. Even if it's only for 30 seconds, it's often enough to allow you to regroup and re-focus on tasks at hand.
Making a list, and checking it thrice
Write, or draw if you're so inclined, everything that you need to do. It doesn't have to be a boring, daunting list if that's not your thing. I find it helpful to have an overview of the upcoming weeks in a monthly calendar grid filled out with just event names. I then have a list if more detail is required for each specific event on my monthly calendar to help me work out my priorities. Everything is written down and I worry less about forgetting to do something this way. You can also see your tasks at a glance this way, and increase efficiency by grouping similar tasks together from different events. For example, just the other day, I managed to drop off parcels at the post office, then a stash of cards to our new stockist (go say hi to Sew Make Create!!), get groceries, gas, replenish my ailing balcony garden and get to the hardware store in one car trip doing a little loop around town. Not bad for 4 hours, if I say so myself!
As tempting as it is to stay and finish whatever is keeping you busy (especially for all you night owls, like me!), your mind and body will thank you for going to sleep before midnight when you're tackling your tasks the next day. No use stressing and doing a job in a rush, or poorly due to lack of concentration or sleep. That just creates more stress and you end up in a downward spiral! Might as well get some good, quality sleep and tackle the new day feeling refreshed.
Laugh, smile and enjoy it! After all, this madness comes only once a year and sometimes, this is the only chance to catch up with certain friends and family. Try not to get bogged down with all the details and stress so much that little kids mistake you for the Grinch because your brows are perpetually furrowed!
What kind of things have you tried and tested to help you cope with the silly season? I'd love to hear and learn a thing or two!
Every so often, I will run into situations that will frustrate me to no end when dealing with a business. Until I started Gloriousmess!, I had no idea about all the endless. little. details that a business of any kind had to deal with. It's not hard to understand how some things might be missed during the initial set-up or even during the day to day running of a business.
Here are 5 common "mistakes" that I have come across that have driven me cruhh-aye-zeeee as a (potential) customer.
Playing hide-and-seek with your customers
Making your customer rummage around your website to look for contact details is probably not a good thing, especially if you have a customer that is lacking patience. Actually, from a business point of view, the amount of patience a customer has should be irrelevant. Your website is an extension of your company/business and the image it projects should reflect that of your company. Apparently, out of more than half a million websites sampled by vSplash in 2011, 24% of them have an email address on the website and 13% have a phone number. Yes, 120,000 or so websites with email addresses displayed may sound impressive, but what about the other 380,000 or so websites that aren't even playing hide-and-seek with their email and just don't have one displayed at all?
As a customer, I would be having second thoughts and dubious impressions of a company website with no way of contacting the company. I'm looking for any form of contact - an email address, a phone number, a contact form, social media links.. anything that will let me get in touch with you, the company. Making me click through all your webpages, or spending eternity trying to scroll to the bottom of your pages because you have a fancy schmancy script that keeps elongating the page with more products, is going to make me lose patience very very fast. Enough to simply close the window and move onto a new store that causes less angst and answers all my questions (whether I am aware of them or not) without me clicking for help. You think I'm being melodramatic? You try scrolling to the bottom of this website and see how far down you get before you give up!
Recommended Quick Fix:
This is a no-brainer - make it blatantly easy for your customers to contact you. You can place social media and email links or icons at either the top or bottom (or both!) of your website as many businesses already do. You could also create a separate page with all your contact details to consolidate all the information. It is generally advised to include phone numbers too, but I personally think that it's much safer for everyone to initially correspond by email. A written transcript of the communication is a lot more reliable than a phone conversation - less chance of miscommunication due to bad lines, or pure forgetfulness and then having to play "I thought I said ..." afterwards.
Making your customer talk to your automated phone system
We have technology advanced enough to have not-too-bad voice-recognition programs, but they're still far from perfect! How many times have you stood there sounding like an idiot, yelling into your phone "Aww-stray-lee-ahh!!" and having the robotic voice on the other end ask you "Please say yes if you are calling from Lithuania."? This is much worse when you're in public. Trust me. It was not pretty. If you haven't experienced this, count yourself lucky! You may want to watch this video by Basic Bananas to understand why it's so frustrating.
Whilst I like the idea that things are automated and hopefully more efficient, this is one example where technology might trip you up and drive away your customers who can't reach you in good time.
Recommended Quick Fix:
Pick up the phone and talk to your customers! If you absolutely cannot do that (especially for small business owners who often have to play all the different roles a business requires and don't have enough hours in the day to also play secretary), record a friendly, succinct voicemail message or use a virtual secretary service. Dave Donelson, from The Dynamic Manager, has some practical advice for business owners who choose to use automated telephone answering systems. Jeff Mowatt delves into some of the psychology behind (irritated) customer responses on the phone and explains how to avoid these situations.
Poor customer service and/or communication
So, you finally get through and is communicating with a human being (you hope!) via email or telephone. You think you're getting somewhere with your enquiry. And then, there's silence. You don't ever, ever hear back from the person you were corresponding with again. Or you get an email link to a free coupon code sent as an apology.. that leads to an error page. Or, you get a screenshot of a parcel tracking enquiry with absolutely no text, explanation or even a signature (which has recently happened to me and I tell you, I was not impressed. Especially when I had access to that same webpage using my tracking code and could obviously see the same thing the customer service rep could.)
Why on earth would a company shoot themselves in the foot like that?
According to James Surowiecki's column in The New Yorker in 2010, sometimes poor customer service boils down to budget. He goes on to explain that a lot of companies think they're providing better customer service than they actually are because improvements, benchmarks and such intangible things have been implemented but the crux of the matter is that customers remain dissatisfied because their problems are still not being resolved. Furthermore, some companies would rather concentrate on potential customers and hence, pour resources into sales and marketing whilst neglecting their existing customer base. Oops.
Recommended Quick Fix:
Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated, and you'll be fine. That means not only listening to their questions, problems, complaints or compliments, but really hearing the message. And appropriately acting on it! If you make a mistake, honesty is the best policy.. as well as a thousand apologies and perhaps, a bit of grovelling depending on the scale of your mistake. The worst thing you can do is ignore the issue and hope it will go away. Even if you're lucky, and it does go away, chances are your customer will be long gone too (along with their friends sometimes).
Making your customer fill out a background check before allowing them to complete their purchase
This is one major, major turn-off for me as a customer. Not only does my irritation grow with the number of text fields, drop down boxes and numbers I have to input but so do the number of questions I have. Why do they want to know my hobbies and income? What are they going to do with the information? Oh no, are they going to spam me? And so on..
Recommended Quick Fix:
Make your forms as succinct as possible. Have only the bare minimum fields you will need to ensure delivery of your goods or services - things like customer names (full names, especially for international post), a current and working email address, mailing and billing addresses and any payment details you may need to process the transaction. Less crucial things like birthdays, newsletter sign-up preferences and such should be left optional. You might even want to consider a "Guest Check-out" mode if possible where the customer has a choice of a quick checkout. Christian Holst covers the checkout process in more depth in his article on Smashing Magazine.
Lack of an introduction or background to the business
Have you ever stumbled upon a website that had an interesting product, but was made by a company you've never seen or heard of before? Personally, I would feel a bit uncomfortable making that purchase until a few doubts were clarified. Especially if the website looked "dodgy" for whatever reason - broken links and pictures, pages that lead to my browser warning me of security problems, etc.
Simple questions that most of us would be asking (sometimes subconsciously) to establish a certain level of trust that is needed to buy something off the internet. These questions may include, amongst others:
Recommended Quick Fix:
Having a little blurb (or blurbs) somewhere on your company website will do wonders in creating a more trustworthy environment for your customer, I believe. Not only does it provide a focus for our website (so the customer doesn't aimlessly wander around, confused about what your website is all about) but will hopefully allow the customer to understand your company, its ethos, culture and story. Obviously, don't write a book about it and label it as your "About" page - chances are, not many people will stick around to read it. Something simple and succinct to convey the message is all that's needed! As a customer, at least I will feel more secure in knowing that the website belongs to a real company or person (based on the information provided, of course) and may even overlook or forget some of my other initial trepidations. Especially if I really, really like a product on the website.
Phew! I had intended this to be a quick post with 5 major peeves but it took on a life of its own, it seems.
Have you come across some bad business practices? Have you been guilty of commiting some of these oopsies? Add to the list and share your stories! After all, this is the best way to learn - from our collective mistakes.
Hello and welcome to Oh, what a Gloriousmess! This is where all gorgeously awesome people and things gather - from art & design to lifestyle, mind & body tips and everything in between. Pull up your chair, make yourself comfy and come say hello - I'd love to get to know you!