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The A Digital team at Sizergh Castle cafe

Get to know the A Digital team better

We are a small team here at A Digital. But we like to think that our breadth of knowledge and experience rivals that of any larger agency you'd find in a city centre. And being a small team, we work closely with one another on client projects.

Each member of the A Digial team has a unique set of skills, meaning we can resolve any client need with the right combination of team members and our collective knowledge.

Want to learn more about us, what makes us tick, and how we work? Plus a thing or two about what we get up to outside of work too? Read on!

Mark

What is your job title and what are the main things you do as part of your job?

I'm a web developer and my day-to-day tasks generally range from contributing to bigger website builds or projects for existing clients, to doing my best to resolve and answer issues clients submit to our help desk. I'm not a designer, but beyond that I get involved with most other aspects of the websites we create - from coding up those designs in HTML/CSS, bringing them to life with Twig and JavaScript, configuring the content management system our clients will use, and creating custom plugins to extend its functionality where necessary.

What tools do you use regularly?

My text editor of choice for creating code is Coda 2, and I also use Transmit for SFTP, Sequel Ace for interacting with databases, Fork for managing code repositories, and Terminal for compiling code. Of course we're all a slave to our emails, so I have the 'Mail for Gmail' desktop app for that - then there's all the usual suspects with Slack and Zoom for talking to the team and clients, and Chrome as my default web browser.

Do you work closely with anyone else on the team? How do you work together?

The person I work with mostly is Laura as we set about bringing her designs to life. Without a doubt, the challenge of realising those designs has made me a better developer and that dynamic has developed over a number of years now. It's something I really enjoy about working at A Digital, though we have been known to finish each other's sentences and have probably been working together too long!

There's more direct overlap between myself and Matt, so we don't often work together directly, but we have been known to collaborate on particularly tricky problems.

In the past year I've also worked with Nina in a project management capacity and have found her contribution to how we keep projects on track invaluable.

What skills and knowledge do you have that no one else on the team has?

My main asset is probably that my breadth of experience is a bit wider than Laura or Matt's, meaning I can sometimes assess problems from a more holistic viewpoint - though not necessarily with the same depth of knowledge as my colleagues.

What are you currently learning or developing in yourself?

Recent developments have been adopting Webpack as our front end build tool, and we've been increasingly working more with native JavaScript - including AJAX requests and the history API. Hooking this up to Algolia search was another new technology I worked with on a project that has just gone live.

Tell us something about yourself outside of work.

I once went to the York Dungeons and was the victim of a deranged 'doctor', torturer, and executioner all in one particularly busy afternoon.

Dean

What is your job title and what are the main things you do as part of your job?

I am a digital consultant and marketer. My role at A Digital is to help our clients identify and overcome challenges within their business using digital technology, and help them to grow using the latest online marketing techniques.

Working alongside business owners and in-house marketing teams, my time is spread across a wide variety of activities from facilitating strategy workshops to planning marketing campaigns and creating website content.

I'm heavily involved with managing PPC advertising campaigns, SEO, social media and email newsletters. I also report back to our clients on website and campaign performance using data from visitor traffic trends and user behaviour analysis, with the aim of identifying further opportunities to generate leads, enquiries and sales, and maximise ROI.

What tools do you use regularly?

I use many different tools and software. For strategic planning, audience profiling and content mapping, Miro is a fantastic tool that allows our clients to get involved and collaborate ideas together on website projects and marketing campaigns. Slickplan is also a great tool for creating website sitemaps and navigation flows.

I work very closely with several digital advertising platforms including Google Ads, Google Merchant Center for Google Shopping, Bing/Microsoft Ads, Facebook Ad Manager and Linkedin Campaign Manager. To be able to track the performance of PPC campaigns and any actions users take on our clients' websites, I'll use Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics. For creating display adverts I use Photoshop and Canva.

I use a range of reporting and analysis tools including Hotjar, SE Ranking, SEMrush, Moz, Google Search Console, Pagespeed Insights, Google Optimise and Google Data Studio.

One of my favourite tools at the moment is Copy.ai, an automated copywriting platform that allows you to quickly create snippets of text for social media posts, PPC ad headlines and blog exerpts.

Do you work closely with anyone else on the team? How do you work together?

I work closely alongside our MD Andrew, assisting with our own A Digital marketing strategy, networking, dealing with new client enquiries, proposals, presentations and project pitches. I have a background in sales so I'm always keen to monitor our own pipeline and agency growth trajectory.

For client projects I work with our whole team depending on the task in hand. I'll work alongside our project coordinator Nina to ensure projects and campaigns are progressing, and delivered to clients on time and within budget. I'll liaise with Laura for any design requirements and front-end website updates, whilst also working alongside Matt and Mark on new website functionality and development projects.

What skills and knowledge do you have that no one else on the team has?

I like to think I've got a solid understanding of the fundamentals of sales and marketing, and a particular strength of being able to put myself in either our clients' shoes or their customers in order to understand their pain points and growth ambitions, and provide digital solutions for those. Though I wouldn't say this is unique to myself as I think our whole team here at A Digital possess excellent commercial awareness skills which is something other agencies lack. Understanding business is something I feel really sets A Digital apart from others.

Unique knowledge and skills however, I would probably say all things PPC and paid media. I've been using Google Ads (or AdWords as it was then) since the early days of search advertising, and have built up a strong advanced knowledge of how to leverage search ads for growing brands, web traffic, lead generation and eCommerce revenue. Google and Facebook ads can be a minefield if you don't know what you're doing, and you can very easily end up wasting lot's of money if your campaigns, audiences, keywords and ads aren't all set up properly.

I also take pride in keeping my knowledge of digital marketing technology fully up to date, whilst also sharing insight with the wider marketing community that enables myself and A Digital to stay ahead of the digital curve.

What are you currently learning or developing in yourself?

Right now I'm doing a lot of reading about around improving the user experience on websites from a technical perspective. So things like website security, safe browsing, page speed and content stability. This actually relates to Google's page experience and Core Web Vitals criteria as part of their algorithm for ranking websites in search results.

Lately, I've also been involved in lots of discussions about user privacy, including Apple's new iOS 14 update that now allows mobile app users to opt out of being tracked by 3rd party advertising platforms which is likely to affect the performance of Facebook ad campaigns. I'm also curious about Google's new FLoC proposal for a privacy-first future that'll replace tracking cookies on individual devices with a new algorithm based system that uses a person's browsing history to allocate them to a 'cohort' (an audience group) with similar behaviours and interests with which to serve adverts to. A highly contraversial debate right now!

I'm also expanding my knowledge of the capabilities of our preferred website platform Craft CMS, to enable me to recommend solutions to our clients. The more I use and get to know Craft, the more I realise how much more robust and flexible it is than Wordpress when it comes to building highly customised websites and functionality.

Tell us something about yourself outside of work.

I could eat curry for breakfast, dinner and tea. Yes, dinner and tea not lunch and dinner. I'm from Manchester ;)

Laura

What is your job title and what are the main things you do as part of your job?

I am a Frontend Designer, which is to say that I am both a designer and a frontend developer. So my role is split between design related tasks like planning out websites, wireframing and creating artwork; and writing code, in particular HTML, CSS and some Javascript. I do get involved with some of the easier CMS (content management system) builds, but leave the more complex development to Mark and Matt.

What tools do you use regularly?

When designing, I use pen and paper a lot early on before moving on to tools like Balsamiq and Figma for wireframing. Creating artwork, I use Figma again, Affinity Designer, and in the past I used Photoshop but use that less so nowadays.

When coding I use Sublime Text as my text editor, then make use of a whole host of other tools like Fork for working with repositories, Transmit for FTP, Terminal for running Gulp tasks, Sequel Ace for importing and exporting databases, occasionally MAMP for local development work, and of course browsers for viewing and testing code - Firefox being my everyday browser.

I also use tools like Zoom and Slack for keeping in touch with the rest of the A Digital team and our clients. And let's not forget email; I just use the Mail app that comes with Mac, it works well enough for me.

Do you work closely with anyone else on the team? How do you work together?

The person I work closest with on the A Digital team would be Mark. We tend to work together during the CMS build of a project, Mark working on some of the more complex elements of a build, while I build out fields and add tags to the code. Mark is also a lifesaver when it comes to figuring out Javascript and how to achieve what my imagination wants when my knowledge-base is lacking.

I also work with Matt, who gets involved in the development led projects. I usually come in at the end and tidy up the user interface, improving the user experience. And again, he helps me out when things like custom plugins or ecommerce elements are needed.

More recently I've been working regularly with Nina, who gets involved with project management and keeping both me and the client on task and on time. Her communication skills are second to none.

What skills and knowledge do you have that no one else on the team has?

Currently, I'm the sole designer on the A Digital team, so that is the most obvious skill that I have compared to the rest of the team. Andrew has also helped out with design in the past. And everyone else gets involved with feedback and suggesting improvements. But it is down to me to implement the feedback and create the artwork for our clients.

While Mark helps me out with Javascript, I occasionally help him out with CSS - it's nice that the flow of knowledge goes both ways!

What are you currently learning or developing in yourself?

As you might have figured out already, I am always trying to improve my knowledge of Javascript. I tend to explore the possibilities of vanilla JS; that is, Javascript as the browser understands it with no libraries involved. But recently I have also explored Green Sock which makes JS animation feel like a breeze.

I am also trying to improve my drawing skills, as I feel this hasn't been given the time and attention it deserves over the last 10+ years since finishing university and starting work. It's nice to see that it hasn't regressed as much as I feared. And also has the added bonus of taking me away from the screen - my eyes are very grateful!

Tell us something about yourself outside of work.

I enjoy spending time in the outdoors. And when it comes to outdoor activities, I'm a bit of a Jack of all trades, Master of none. I love running, cycling (both road and mountain), climbing, walking (bagging Wainwrights), and occasionally attempt to swim in the lakes local to Kendal… when it's not too cold! I'm not top in the field of any of these, but I enjoy them all and the freedom they offer me.

Matt

What is your job title and what are the main things you do as part of your job?

I'm a Developer and this covers a range of both frontend and backend areas. The majority of my time is spent writing plugins for Craft CMS in PHP and using complex twig code within the templates. I also do some server management on the command line and a bit of vuejs. I'll often be involved if you ever need to integrate a website into a crm system or configure a commerce build with lots of custom functionality.

What tools do you use regularly?

My most used tool without a doubt is PHPStorm. I use this mainly to write code but I also use it to update any npm or composer packages locally, connect to database tables, and run gulp tasks using this program. The other main tools I use are the VPN due to firewall rules, Fork for git (version control), along with Firefox Developer Edition to check my code actually works. I also use slack, zoom, an email client, some software for phone calls and I have an unhealthy overreliance on Spotify!

Do you work closely with anyone else on the team? How do you work together?

I wouldn't say that I work very closely with anyone on a regular basis due to the nature of my projects usually being quite self contained. Sometimes I will work with either Laura or Mark for some design tweaks to be added if I'm unable to make these changes. I can also help out with server admin tasks when needed. I find it's usually best to jump onto a zoom call whenever we need to work together on a task, so that we can talk it through and share screens to find a solution. I'm always happy to assist anyone when needed, whether it's technical or not.

What skills and knowledge do you have that no one else on the team has?

I've done a lot of work with craft commerce and extending it beyond its capabilities to fit our needs. I've also done a few integrations now with stock management platforms. Whilst the skillset required to do this custom development is not unique to myself, I would say that I'm the person with the most experience in these areas. Mark has also done some custom plugin development and we have been able to assist each other at times if one of us has encountered issues or become stuck. I'm usually at the heart of a project when it involves a large scale integration.

My role also involves some server management from time to time. I wouldn't say this is knowledge that other members don't have, but once again it's something I've probably been exposed to on a more frequent basis in all honesty. I've also been filling some of the gaps in our internal documentation (once I've figured out the initial process) to try to make it easier for anyone else who needs to perform the same tasks at a later date.

We try our best to share our knowledge between us as a team so that we can all benefit from it. I'm always happy to jump in and assist where needed when it comes to servers and custom plugin development, as these are strong areas within my skillset which I am confident in.

What are you currently learning or developing in yourself?

I've been increasing my understanding of headless cms integration with a vue js front end. This involves 2 separate aspects because a headless cms doesn't need to use vue js, it can use anything it wants for the front end templating.

I'm also watching recorded lectures about cyber security. The thinking here is that if I can learn how to hack one of our own servers, I will know exactly which loopholes need to be closed to stop any other potential attackers from using those methods. This will improve the security of all of the sites that we host as well as improving the security of the custom code which we write. You can never make something completely secure though because there will always be new exploits which are discovered. The goal here is to take away as many of the attackers options/techniques as possible and make it more difficult for them. This should result in them either moving onto an easier target or giving up their attempts completely.

Tell us something about yourself outside of work.

I've built my own pc and I'm a gamer. Most friday nights I'll be drinking online with friends from all over the country whilst playing games together. I like to play pool often and love walking in the woods. It always feels so refreshing to fully disconnect and go for a long walk, especially when most of my time is usually spent in front of a screen.

Laura profile

Laura as the creative in A Digital specialises in design and accessibility. She also gets involved with front-end coding, particularly HTML and CSS, with a growing interest in Javascript.

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