Shipping web features for winter 2017

Until you ship a product or feature its just a trello card with a wish. Shipping “things” is the aim of the game.

Performance dashboard

According to the trello card of the request dashboards have been brewing since 17 June 2016. This month the team have finally been able to launch an initial performance dashboard at  We aim to publicly share our performance data so that anybody can see how we’re doing. We want to share our successes and show where there is an opportunity to do better. So far for 2017-18 we’re tracking 14% up from last year with a target of 1 million or more visits across our 5 museums and our Archive.

Exhibitions online

Since I started at Bristol Culture about 4.5 years ago using the web to display our exhibitions has been a recurring dream. Thanks to Mike, Fay, Mark and Lacey this dream has come true at the point of this project was to highlight some of the key aspects of past, current and forthcoming exhibitions. We regularly get asked about past projects so this seemed a good starting point to figure out how we can tell stories in long form format. With an average reading time of 2 minutes its important to be clear and concise.  During its inception originally we were comparing this style of website as being like a weekend supplement of a magazine rather than a full autobiography.

Public timeline

Internally we’ve started to attempt to improve how we visualise some of our most used data. An obvious element is “What’s on” which isn’t always easy to understand from huge spreadsheets or our standard web section so we’ve introduced a timeline feature to hopefully make it easier for people to look at on any device.  Internally the timeline also includes things like room booking, install and de-rig periods and can map our KPI data over it. Nobody likes or uses data spreadsheets so i’m hopeful this is the beginning of a journey to make our data more usable for all. Hello

This work has been made possible in the large part by our own digital team who do a fantastic job under the hood of the museum and out in the galleries. Onwards.

My first website domain

I purchased my first website domain in a basement in Wolverhampton in 2002. A family friend, Tony, let me use his card.

The computer screen was glowing in the dark space which had a shoebox sized window with natural light. It felt like magic. Little ole me joining the online space.

I went on to design, build and consult on over 100 web projects with that website domain. Today it sits gathering dust. I fire it up every now and again to remind myself of previous goals met, mistakes I made and to remind me that there is plenty more to be done.

That small action and guidance from Tony was a huge step towards who I am today. Open bracket, HTML, close bracket.

How can I help?

I learned a long time ago that what makes me happiest at work is helping others. Hence a stint for about seven years working nationally in staff development with a focus on using technology to get stuff done. Most of my profile straplines end with “How can I help?”. I really mean it. If you’ve got a burning question about how I’ve done something then please don’t be a stranger. In the past 6 months I’ve had email exchanges and Skype calls with people in the USA and across Europe. you can tweet me, email me or leave a comment on the blog.

PS I get lots out of these exchanges too. I get to hear  about common problems, frustrations or even better solutions that I have used myself. 

Say hello to Doris and BMAG Guide to the Art Collection

I’m super excited that after lots of graft from the team we’ve just released two very special products:

Doris the Pliosaurus After 150 million years Doris, based on a model of our Pliosaurus, has come to life again as a retail product!  Doris is currently the star of our exhibition  Pliosaurus! until Jan 2018 and marks our first foray into making our own models. Darren Roberts worked directly with the manufacturer in China via Alibaba which in itself marks a shift in how retail is evolving – working direct instead of through a wholesaler or brand.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery: Guide to the Art Collection. Julia Carver worked incredibly hard to meet my objective [book that will retail for less than £10 and appeal to 10,000 or more people a year] and tight deadline of producing in conjunction with Bristol Books, the museums first ever guide to some highlights of our 1300 paintings. The public are constantly asking for books about the collection so I’m proud I’ve been part of making the project happen. Its not easy finding “firsts” in a near 200 year old service! Books that are self published have a fantastic margin and we’re hoping this book really lights up the till. ISBN: 9781909446120 A special thanks to the generous financial and moral support from Simon Baker, David Speller, and the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery.

Museums Journal: Charity commission issues cyber security warning

From a telephone interview I did about a week ago, following the NHS IT problems, for Museums Journal:

“Cyber security is something we think about frequently, but in the last few weeks it’s risen to the top of everyone’s agenda,” he said. We would be crippled if our collections database was unavailable to us for more than a couple of days.” Keeping secure backups in several different UK locations is a crucial part of the service’s security approach, Mensah added. And because hackers often take advantage of human error, other key measures include making sure strong, frequently changed passwords are used, and limiting access to key systems.

Link to the full article. I was trying to make it clear that weak passwords and our human nature to do the easiest thing is often the biggest challenge.

Reading list 2017

I read 16 books last year and hope to read 20 this year. My kid is two and I hope my reading rubs off on her. I now sit and read my book as she drinks her night milk. I used to love reading as a kid – a place to get lost.

Below are the books i’ve read throughout the year. You can see my previous reading lists starting with the most recent reading list 2016.

  1. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla finished 16th January. Hardback. ISBN 9781783522941. A series of essays about living in a white world.
  2. Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet finished 27th January. Paperback  ISBN 9780241250945. A book about how a Navy submarine captain turned a poor performing team of 134 sailors into one of the best in the fleet through a leader-leader approach.
  3. The Toyota Way by Jefferey K. Liker finished 23rd March. Hardback. ISBN 9780071392310. A tale of how Toyota has developed their staff and resources to be efficient and customer focused. I really enjoyed the section on “pull” ordering and making a business plan fit on one A3 sheet of paper. Having heard about it for years i’m glad i read it but it took ages as it weighs a lot!
  4. Maverick! : The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler, finished 16 April. Paperback. 9780712678865. A business book about Richardo took over his fathers business and set about putting staff first. Very good.
  5. Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World by Doug Stephens, finished 11 May. Hardback. ISBN 9781927958810. A book that focuses on what the future of retail could be if only people got out of their own way. Doug shares some great examples of how experiences are the key to shopping and that most wholesalers will fall by the wayside in the long run. Worth a read if you have any interest in how you may be shopping in 10-20 years.
  6. Ultimate Weapon by Chris Ryan, finished 25 May. Paperback. ISBN 9780099492146. A fictional story about two SAS soldiers trying to save a daughter and on-off girlfriend.
  7. Built for Speed by John McGuinness, finished 13 June. Hardback. ISBN 9781785034800. One of the most successful British motorcyclists and 23 Isle of Man TT winner. I’ve always enjoyed watching him race so its good to hear about this life to date.
  8. Walkaway by Cory Doctorow finished 26 June. Hardback. ISBN 9780765392763. A story about a group who walkaway from the normal way of life off the grid from default. Drones, 3D printing, love, anguish and walking away.
  9. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead finished 19 August. Paperback. ISBN 9780708898406. A nerve wrecking story about a slave called Cora. Gripping to the last page.
  10. What they don’t teach you in Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack finished 25th October. ISBN 9781781253397. A personal diary from Mark on some of the ways you can run a business based on your ability to read people, situations and self reflection. Still doesn’t make me want to play golf though hehe.

Shopify feature request for two-step

Two-step authentication is one of the tools we should all use to help prevent our accounts being compromised. Shopify now has this feature but its implementation could do with a further feature. At present as the master admin I cannot enforce two-step authentication for staff who have admin rights. I have to rely that individual staff will choose to set this up and/or stand over their shoulder which isn’t going to win hearts and minds!

I would like to request that the master admin account has a way to invoke all admin accounts to be forced to have two-step switched on/set-up to ensure the security of our admin area.

Over to you shopify.

Remember remember the 5th of December 2016

5th December stung me. I had one important job to do and I made a mistake. I didn’t check the whole piece of work. It was nearly 5pm and my mind wandered to the talk I had to deliver the following day. Instead of my normal line by line checking I pressed “send and upload” and thought nothing of it. Except that work had an error.

In less than 24hrs that error was spotted and I had some explaining to do…or lack thereof. I needed to mark this event on the blog as a reminder to my dear self. By all means blog about successes but remember not to fly too close to the sun.

Using a ChangeLog

A good practice I have done since my early days at University is to keep a record of notable changes I make to a project or “thing”. In computing this is super common as changes you make, often to code, don’t work the first few times, so you want to record what you changed to un-break it. The recording is a simple text file which is universally called a “ChangeLog“.

For example during October I changed our online shop shipping costs from being £3.50 to FREE. I have no hope of remembering I did this in a few months time so I make a note of it in my ChangeLog – I write these into evernote but you can use whatever you like. I write each change as follows:

  • Text documenting the change
  • Name of person making the change if using a shared ChangeLog

In addition to the ChangeLog being useful for my own projects I find it very helpful for my regular 1:1s with my boss/teams, workshops and even when preparing for job interviews.

Shopify Retail Tour 2016 Bristol

Busy crowd at Shopify Tour in Bristol

Hosted at Arnolfino on Tuesday 27th September 2016

Myself and Darren popped along to the Shopify Retail Tour to see one of the experts, meet other retail nerds and hear what is new. The whole setup was very slick and I loved the fittings they’d designed for the tour.

At Bristol Culture we currently run four Shopify point of sale (POS) instances across retail (£300K+) , fundraising and Archives.

We had booked a one-on-one session with one of the Shopify support team. We wanted to pick their brains about better ways to run our small empire online and mention a few issues we have with POS.

One of the reasons I chose Shopify originally was due to the added features that third party apps can offer. Our host was fantastic at reviewing our current online shop which has a tiny conversion rate of 0.4% and making having done a test purchase suggested ways to improve:

  • Try out multiple shop inventory apps such as Tradegeeko (for our small £££ expansion) or Stitch labs
  • Quick books for more useful management of our business position
  • Using their newly acquired KIT for third party marketing
  • Free app SEO doctor to see where our online shop could be improved
  • ALT Text app (free)
  • Make it clear that we offer in-museum pick-up of orders
  • Read and action : 50 ways to make your first sales
  • regularly review our abandoned checkout analytics
  • Try Facebook sales Channel (found via report area)
  • Find a better header image
  • Blog regularly to help SEO – ask suppliers too!
  • Photography- keep consistent background
  • Organise products a in range or collection instead of long product pages

The helpful Mailchimp team also showed us 2-3 automation features we’ll be testing very soon to kick start our mailing list efforts.

I was super happy that David Seal from the POS team was at the event and I had the chance to explain how we use POS, some issues and made a few feature requests. I have been following David on Twitter for some time so it is always cool to meet twitter folk.

The new mobile phone version of Shopify was released on Tuesday which finally lets me login to multiple stores without the hassle of logging out on Android. It has only crashed once in 24hrs!


  1. Our biggest feature request is for the mobile app or bar code scanner to let us quickly scan products on the spot and get sales history. This would really help us review the position of products and any affect of moving, effectively letting us do easy A/B testing.
  2. As with many people i’m baffled that adding Cost of Goods isn’t possible natively within Shopify. How else do you know your profit margin?! it would immediately help you review products and maybe increase or delete a SKU.
  3. I also suggested that Shopify should look into partnering with retail shop fitters for pop-up equipments and fixtures.
  4. POS app can seem slow or unresponsive when our team are busy and we can get the odd crash – tough if it is in its locked enclosure!
  5. The till drawer only opens when we have wifi which sometimes falls over and unless you have the key you are in for a tough sell!

My favourite quote of the evening came right at the end when one of the speakers said “They can’t catch you if you keep running”

Thanks for having us!