WEBSITES OF THE MONTH

Blissful Bodies

Blissful Bodies Tourism Ireland

Tourism Ireland

PREVIOUS YEARS WINNERS

Find out about previous winners, and last year's sponsors.

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WEBSITE OF THE MONTH

Business Eye will continue to name its Goldeneye Website of the Month in each edition between December 2006 and April 2007.

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Blissful Bodies

It’s a fact of online retailing that items like books, gadgets, flights and the like are all sure fire winners. Some items, however, don't travel so well from the high street or shopping centre to cyberspace. But it seems that even the most fashion and image conscious women – who tend to prefer the real life shopping experience complete with touching, feeling, pampering, lunch and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc – are turning on line for more of their needs. Something to do, perhaps, with busy lives and all that……? This little gem of background brings us neatly on to the first winner in the current series of Goldeneye Websites of the Month, as the build-up commences towards the 2007 BT Goldeneye Awards being held in May of next year. Blissful Bodies – despite its slightly dodgy name – is a brand new Northern Ireland-based online grooming site. And, in line with today's trends, it's not just for women. It's also for men…..at least those of us who count grooming amongst our regular pastimes. The new online retail ranks as a veritable Aladdin's cave of skin and hair products imported from around the world. "With the continuing growth in the UK market for high quality skincare products and the well established market in the US we believe that our customers are crying out for more choice and the convenience which shopping on our internet site brings them", says the entrepreneur behind Blissful Bodies, Gordon Jeffers. For those who know about these matters, the site's 740 odd products including more than 35 brands….amongst them the likes of Dermalogica, ActiSlim, Jean Paul Gaultier, Zirh . Also available are quite a number of brands less familiar to UK and even European customers. Early top sellers include Pretox Anti-Aging Argireline Solutions which act as an alternative to Botox injections. Blissful Bodies does 'what it says on the tin' when it comes to the retail experience. Next day delivery is on offer, a telephone advice line is available and customers get free samples of comparable products with every order…..just like they do in certain ‘real life’ outlets. It's an easy to navigate site with clear sections for gifts, skincare, problem skin and shaving. Online gift vouches are also available on the run-up to Christmas.


Tourism Ireland

Tourism Ireland recently launched a brand new consumer website promoting the island of Ireland as a holiday destination. But this isn’t just any tourist website, this one is the largest ever indigenous web-project to be undertaken in the country…..and that’s official after its launch in Belfast revealed that a mega £1.8 million was spent on the global web project designed to promote the island of Ireland to twenty seven markets worldwide and in fourteen different languages! Now that’s impressive. Even the MP’s John O’Donoghue and Angela Smith came out in their droves to launch it. The website features information sourced from a database of over 30,000 tourism products including accommodation, festivals, attractions and events. And the interesting thing is that the information is updated on a daily basis making it the most dynamic and comprehensive all-Ireland tourism database ever for overseas tourists. The site is also unique (in Ireland) as it provides the first portal for tourism data from both the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Fáilte Ireland in the South to be accessible through one website. As well as showcasing a range of holidays and activities on offer across the country as the site provides a comprehensive regional breakdown of accommodation. Visitors can also use the 'My Visit' function to store their favourite web pages and build up a holiday itinerary, which they can save or send to friends. On close inspection the amount of information the site holds is actually quite remarkable. It lists almost everything a possible visitor would like to do or see by city. There is no doubt that this site successfully showcases the best that Ireland has to offer and apart from looking fresh, comprehensive and easy to use, the use of innovative photography certainly adds to its value. The agency behind the design, LB Icon, has developed an 'effectiveness framework' that combines Web analytics, online brand tracking, online surveys and offline research, to assess the economic return value of the site. Content for the multilingual sites is managed using the Tridion R5 Content Management System. This site is well-designed, user friendly and provides excellent information on the activities, sights, accommodations and restaurants in every city in Ireland.......and fully serves its function effectively – promoting Ireland as a desirable tourist destination across the globe.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

Tayto

Tayto took down it’s old website and rebuilt a vibrant new one that was relaunched in September 2005. And boy did they go to town on this one. It’s a site is aimed at the main consumers of Tayto crisps…..kids and teenagers and as soon as you upload the site it is evident that it is intended for this age-group (as a strong marketing tool for the brand.) Created with Flash technology, the site uses a unique navigational method that is commonly used in computer games, and provides a colourful, fun-based interactive site for the target group. Designed to be a copy of the famous Tayto castle, the website theme focuses on the company’s brand ambassador, Mr Tayto, who shows users around the castle explaining the crisp making process from beginning to end, with doorways and links to the secret flavour room and the online shop. And not only does the shop sell the brand’s wide selection of crisps but it also sells a range of the company’s own merchandise…..from mugs and tea towels to tee-shirts and key-rings. The library section contains an interactive online book where users can turn pages to reveal the history of the castle and the Tayto brand and a TV screen where the TV ads can be viewed. A games room area includes screensavers, wallpapers, and other downloads as well as six branded Tayto games to keep younger surfers engrossed for hours. The learning zone contains downloadable pdf nutritional information sheets as well as educational packs for both primary and seconday schools. And an online booking system allows visitors to book an accompanied tour of the castle. Site visitors have increased by around 400% since it’s relaunch last year and stats show that users stay online for an average of 8 minutes with one in ten users staying on the site for a half hour or more. This site is lively, user friendly and fulfils it’s function to provide a purely fun-based website geared at a young audience to enhance the marketing and sales of the popular crisp brand. “It does exactly what it says on the tin.”


Homelink Property Services

The new website for County Down estate agency Homelink Property Services isn’t just a run of the mill estate agency site - it’s one which lets say, is a bit unique….at least to Northern Ireland. The first of its kind in the province, this site allows potential house owners the opportunity to take control of the sale/letting of their houses online. In other words, it is an innovative 'self sell' website where the customer controls every aspect of the marketing and negotiating of their home online, with the added benefit of having professional advice at available at hand to aid in the selling/letting process (but only if required by the customer). Meaning, customers are invited to avail of a selection of services and work on a 'pay as they need' basis. Working on a simple 'click and select' basis, each part of the service is clearly quantified and costed, so customers can choose the number of services they require and therefore only pay for the services they need. The site was developed by a father and son team, Colum and Andrew McCloskey. Colum is Managing Director and Proprietor of Homelink Property Services and one of North Down's best known and established estate agents. Andrew, Colum’s son, who is Director of homelinkonline.co.uk, is confident that consumers will be pleasantly surprised by the benefits on offer on the site. Whilst Homelinkonline.co.uk offers customers selling their home all the benefits of a traditional estate agency service, customers are in control of the whole process for a fee of as little as £250….a radical price difference from typical estate agency fees. How many vendors have you heard say, 'my house was sold in a day' or 'the first person that viewed bought my house?’ This is where the value of this type of site really comes into play. In these circumstances, vendors could argue that they overpaid for the estate agency services, often equating to several thousand pounds. But with this new online offering, clients can now save quite a lot of money in the 'buying and selling' process. Customers who use the service can benefit from an instant internet listing & online brochure on www.homelinkonline.co.uk as well as listings on www.homelinkproperty.com and Propertynews.com. Other services include the erection and collection of For Sale boards, a classified listing in property news magazine, high street office display of property as well as personal user space to editing property details online. A clever new idea, which no doubt will attract attention of fiscal buyers and sellers across the province.


Education Support

This one is a relatively new educational support web portal designed to provide parents and students in the five Education and Library boards across Northern Ireland with information on a range of board topic areas. Not only is this a well designed and structured site at a glance, but on closer inspection it provides a lot of information to parents on various relevant topics like child protection, bullying, bookstart programmes, school attendance, special education and educational benefits. It’s not an overcomplicated site, but is definitely easy to use and very informative. All the board support information that a parent or student would need is on one site! There are easy links to each of the five educational boards, a comprehensive keyword search option and lists of latest site modifications and additions on the homepage. And it has a browsealoud option for users with visual impairment or reading difficulties to have the text read out to them. The student section of the site provides higher education students who are funded through the five Education and Library Boards with vital information on student finance fees, costs and repayment…… answering most questions on support that prospective and continuing students may have. The site also acts as a portal, so various links will redirect to content held on other sites such as Student Finance Northern Ireland. Support navigation is also dated to relate to the appropriate Student financial year. A youth section lists contact details for youth services and clubs throughout the province as well as providing links to other relevant sites for young people. A range of user-friendly options are also available on the site including, skip links, text size changer, text only pages, access keys, printer friendly pages and a subscription service. The site is maintained by the Antrim Board Centre who use a content management system to update the site regularly. This one scores highly on value of information, ease of use, lay out and functionality….it does what it’s supposed to do!


Eric Cairns

Since hosting the first residential property website in Northern Ireland Eric Cairns Partnership certainly set the pace for new age electronic property viewing……and other estate agents followed suit. This is the fourth generation design for the Eric Cairns Partnership residential property website and it must be said that this outperforms the others on most counts. Potential buyers can browse local properties by location listed with the Eric Cairns Partnership on a handy fully integrated multi-map of the province…..apparently a first for Northern Ireland estate agents. Like most other estate agency sites a range of listed properties, forthcoming properties and forthcoming new developments can be viewed online, but this one is fast, easy to navigate and everything is clearly outlined on the homepage. Plus it has an extensive new developments section for interested buyers. The search option on the site means that browsers can narrow their property search to fit their exact criteria and unlike many of the other property sites the homepage lists the most recent properties available on the market….which is updated daily. And the site lends itself to a spot of eMarketing where users can register for weekly property updates via email on specific criteria, including location price and house types. The website adheres to the best practice principles of web design including accessibility, consistent navigation, adequately sized imagery, and a constantly refreshed homepage. As well as this, the full Content Management Solution (CMS) set up by local web design company Eyekiller (designers of the site) allows every aspect of the site to be updated in-house by the staff. New properties may be added to the site as often as 6 or 7 times a day! The website is well-designed, easy to use and accessible to everyone, from first time buyers to property developers.


Banbridge District Council

Banbridge District Council’s website – www.banbridge.gov.uk – was torn down and re-built relatively recently by EG Information Consulting after council officers decided that the old one just wasn’t performing up to scratch. The new site, as we say above, could well be held up as an example of what an effective local council site should be. It’s meant to appeal to three groups – local residents, local businesses and visitors/potential visitors to the Borough. And it seems to do that very well indeed. It’s not an over complicated site in visual terms, and that’s always a plus point, and it’s definitely easy to use. One idea worth a mention is a colour coding – red for business, blue for residents and green for visitors. Staff at the council use a content management system to keep the site up to date, and it has the look and feel of one which is regularly updated across the board. Despite advances in technology, that’s not the case with every government site in this day and age. As for visitor numbers, the site managers say that it is running at somewhere around 240 unique visits per day, with an average time per visitor of seven minutes. There are easy links to online council services, plenty of information areas, visitor pages and all the sort of items you would expect to find on a local government site….which most people visit, let’s face it, for purely practical reasons. Practical reasons call for a practical website and that’s where the Banbridge online presence scores highly.


Irish Football Association

The IFA is a body which comes in for more than its fair share of criticism from local soccer fans. But the Association’s internet site is a good case study in keeping things simple but providing a quality online experience for users. The site – www.irishfa.com – is heavily weighted towards the Northern Ireland national side, still on something of a high following last year’s historic victory over England at Windsor Park. There is news and views aplenty on the national team and its upcoming fixtures at the start of the new European Championship campaign, lots of pictures of Lawrie Sanchez and his men, and easy to follow links to football news in general…..to BBC Sport, for instance, and other sources. A members only section of the site is high tech – with mpegs/interviews with players, competitions and more. The site, according to the IFA, gets something like 53,000 unique users per month, which isn’t too shabby given the size of the footballing area….and our standing in world rankings. But it’s also a highly interactive site. Visitors can order a range of Northern Ireland football merchandise on line, and the virtual shop currently handles around 7-10 order daily….a modest but promising start. And they can also sign up to the adult or junior official NI Supporters Clubs.


Slugger O'Toole

It’s hardly surprising that Northern Ireland has its fair share of political websites, weblogs and examples of satire…..although the latter has been a bit thin on the ground since the demise of the excellent www.portadownnews.com website written and produced by Newton Emerson. But one shines out from a sea of less than inspiring efforts. Slugger O’Toole is widely regarded as the best of the bunch, and has become an integral part of the wider political media around these parts. It won a New Statesman New Media Award in London in 2004 for facilitating cross community discussion here in Northern Ireland, and it has also been described by no less than The Guardian as an ‘excellent, well balanced weblog on Northern Ireland’. But there is even higher praise. A senior source at DUP headquarters has suggested that the site provides the common space for discussion that Fortnight magazine once did…..and it has also been dubbed the ‘Talkback’ of the internet. High praise indeed! Slugger O’Toole is run by Mick Fealty, a visiting research associate at Queen’s University, Belfast, and he describes it as an ‘evolutionary project’. “Within three weeks of its beginning as a research resource, it was drawing 90 readers a day,” says Mick. “and that was without the aid of any marketing. Ever since, it has demonstrates the possibilities of online communication.” Slugger is now linked to by nearly 400 other sites, some of them major news organisations like the BBC, Irish Times, Financial Times and Daily Telegraph. It attracts 35,000 unique visitors from across the world every month, making it the largest and more influential weblog in Ireland. In the past year, it has generated some 80,000 reader comments online. The site has also helped bridge Northern Ireland’s often discreet social and political networks. “I’ve heard it said that it has become the virtual equivalent of the Dail or House of Commons bar – acting as an informal space where political opponents meet, often anonymously,” adds Mick Fealty. In the 2003 and 2005 elections, Slugger O’Toole pioneered its own live coverage, often providing its audience with a view of the inside track on the parties, the issues and the various runners and riders. On occasions, it even managed to beat its big media rivals in getting breaking news to the internet. It’s guaranteed to keep anyone with an interest in politics and current affairs engrossed for longer than expected…


Drenagh Tree Services

Drenagh Farms (www.drenagh.com) is one of our better known organic farms, but it is also a gorgeous estate, with various rooms and outlying properties rented out for holiday and even business use. There is even a small 17th century chapel for weddings. A well structured website put together by Level 7 in Belfast allows a ‘discreet’ range of specialist services to be marketed alongside the property. The photographs on the site are the big winner, mind you. Clearly the work of a professional well used to this sort of landscape material, they single the site out right from the dramatic opening page. Behind the home page, there is plenty more imagery of the various aspects of Drenagh along similar lines. As well as providing plenty of detail on the business aspects that make up the place, including the commercially successful organic farm, news and feedback forms are aimed at visitors and customers alike. All very elegant and tasteful, as one might expect for a site promoting what’s effectively a stately home. And a nice example of a site which doesn’t try to do anything too fancy... it just lets some first-class photography sell this beautiful place’s services.


Hostelling International N.I.

Hostelling, it appears, is still in fine fettle. And those who decide to venture to Northern Ireland can stay in a range of alarmingly modern sounding establishments everywhere from the centre of Belfast to the sweeping beaches of the North Coast. They can also do all of their trip planning before they leave their home country. The new-look www.hini.org.uk is Hostelling International’s Northern Ireland site. And it’s so easy and user-friendly that it makes life far too easy for today’s generation of youth hostellers. They can look through all of the NI properties with a few clicks of the mouse, they can explore various links on how to get here and get around, they can book on line and they can download details of exactly where each hostel actually is. The internet, of course, is pretty much perfect for this sort of thing... it's simply a matter of relaxing at home and reviewing a few different views and details of each hostel before making a quick booking and then moving on to whatever is next on the agenda.


Paws 2 Wash

This is a company based in Randalstown, Co Antrim, which offers mobile dog washing. Book online and these guys turn up at your door, your pet pooch is whisked inside and re-appears looking, feeling and definitely smelling a whole lot better! According to Trevor Graham - one half of the husband and wife team that run the company - the website is essential for online bookings, the sale of gift vouchers for detailing the services on offer and for promoting franchise details. And on the technical side, another first-class example of how ecommerce should be done!

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