Guest Blog: The Lamp-Lighter’s Boy

To mark the 200th anniversary of the Old Vic, guest blogger Pieter van der Merwe shares the story of one of the theatre’s first managers.

A Theatrical Fracas!!!, or ‘The Lamp-Lighter’s Boy’ Trimming the Manager. In 1821 Joseph Glossop was fined £150 for assaulting James Winston, acting manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, after Winston ejected one of his servants from the theatre. The liveried servant’s face is probably Glossop’s, the title a slur on the ‘trade’ source of his family wealth as wax merchants. ©Trustees of the British Museum.

 The ‘Old Vic’ has just celebrated the 200th anniversary of its opening in 1818. In February this year, announcing preparations for this, the current artistic director Matthew Warchus said his aim was not to eulogise the theatre as a ‘historic artefact’ but a place ‘characterised by mischief, populism, sometimes breath-taking boldness and risk.’  That tradition started with his earliest predecessor but probably not how he meant….

The ‘Vic’ was originally the Royal Coburg Theatre, named to honour the marriage of the short-lived Princess Charlotte (daughter of the Prince Regent, later George IV) to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, future King of the Belgians. Construction began in then-rural Lambeth in 1816 but faltered until Francis Glossop, a wealthy Soho wax and tallow chandler, became involved. As a supplier of lighting for theatres, he had ‘imbibed the theatrical mania’ but his fifth and youngest son, Joseph (b.1793), caught the stage bug even worse. With family money Joseph completed and opened the theatre as its first manager on 11 May 1818, to early popular success, with an output of musical melodrama and spectacular action pieces. Young Joseph’s ambition was boundless: Glossop cash quickly bought out the other two main Coburg shareholders for £3000 each (about £180,000 today) one being its scenic director, the marine painter J.T. Serres, who had also lavishly decorated its grand Marine Saloon. By 1821, based on the house’s tenuous royal connection, Joseph had also become Clerk of the Cheque to the Gentleman Pensioners, allegedly as part of scheme to get a knighthood from George IV, and had taken on two more theatres. In 1819,  he staged the first-ever winter season at Astley’s Amphitheatre, the popular horse-circus just south of Westminster Bridge (now under part of St Thomas’s Hospital), then in 1821 leased the old Royalty Theatre in Wellclose Square, Stepney,  but almost as fast had to give up both places, claiming a combined loss of £2,800. In 1822, at further huge expense, he boosted novelty at the Coburg by importing from Paris a mirror-glass drop-curtain  in which the audience could admire itself (‘That’s all werry well’, yelled someone in the gallery, ‘now show us summut else!’), but in November fled to the Continent ahead of arrest for forgery, probably of a financial document.

Print depicting an exterior view of the Royal Coburg Theatre, published by Robert Wilkinson, 1819, Harry Beard Collection, S.2431-2009 © Victoria and Albert Museum

While that ended his first Coburg stint, by late 1823 ‘il Cavaliere Glossop’ had materialised at both Milan and Naples, where his grandiose plausibility won him control of the two largest opera houses in Italy, La Scala and the San Carlo. This was part of a new project to establish his wife, Elizabeth Feron, – a talented soprano sometimes called ‘the English Catalani’– as an Italian prima donna. They already had two daughters, but by the time their son Augustus was born at Naples in June 1825, ‘il Cavaliere’ was also being evicted from both Italian managements with losses later reported as £200,000. He and Elizabeth separated shortly afterwards and she continued a successful independent career, starting with a period in America from 1828. Even before she sailed however – calling himself ‘Gapper’ Glossop (his mother’s maiden name) and a bachelor –  Joseph  bigamously married in 1827 at Livorno to Joséphine de Méric, a French soprano whose talents he began promoting around Europe. Their daughter Emilie (later also a singer) was born in Paris in 1830 but this marriage also quickly disintegrated. In March 1833, back in London, Glossop was declared bankrupt with debts of some £56,000, mainly accrued at the Coburg, which was renamed the ‘Royal Victoria’ later that year after a visit by the future Queen. He nonetheless still managed to reinstall himself as its manager, lavishly renovating and reopening it in September 1834 with usual panache and another  mirror-glass drop curtain, but unpaid bills again soon piled up. In March 1835 his credit finally ran out when his father  Francis died, leaving his eldest brother – the highly respected Revd Henry Glossop, vicar of Isleworth – as head of the family. Joseph was again made bankrupt but still managed to retain a small interest at the ‘Vic’, though his father’s will expressly lamented the expense, ‘torment and misery’ his youngest son had brought on him. From the grave, Francis urged that he receive no more than £2 a week further income from family funds, plus any surplus accruing from their interest as landlords of the ‘Vic’. Joseph was last spotted running a boarding house in Brussels in 1842, and just ‘as happy as when managing the Coburg and the San Carlo’. Like other economising remittance-men, he later moved to Florence, where he died in November 1850 and was buried –  as ‘Joseph Buggles Glossop’ – in the English cemetery.

This trail of ruin and scandal is glossed out of Burke’s Landed Gentry (into which the Glossops graduated from ‘trade’ by the 1890s) and ended more happily in Joseph’s  children. Both his elder daughters were musical. Frances briefly sang as a pupil of the celebrated tenor John Braham: Mary Ann was a successful composer of popular songs and operas, with libretti by her also well-known husband, the lawyer and humorous writer Gilbert Abbott à Beckett. From 1851 their actor brother re-branded himself ‘Augustus Harris’ and became a successful international theatre manager with a long link to Covent Garden.  His son, in turn, was the impresario Sir Augustus Henry Glossop Harris, who, at his death aged 44 in 1896 the critic William Archer considered ‘the greatest showman… that England has ever produced.’ Called ‘Druriolanus’ from his spectacular management of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (and jointly of Covent Garden), his bust still looks out from its entrance facade on Catherine Street, though his knighthood was a civic rather than theatrical honour.

Engraving depicting the interior during a performance of the Royal Coburg Theatre, Surrey, 1819,S.553-1997  © Victoria and Albert Museum

If the ‘Old Vic’ has a ghost it ought to be Joseph Glossop. It is his monument, as well as London’s second-oldest theatre after Drury Lane and the first home of the National Theatre (1963–76). In its 200th year it would at least be good to find a decent portrait of him: the only one known seems to be as ‘the Lamp-Lighter’s Boy’ in a caricature by Robert Cruikshank. He deserves better memory: without him, there would be no bicentenary to celebrate.

Visit the Theatre and Performance Galleries to discover a display celebrating the Old Vic, on until December 2018.


The Top 21 Best Practices for Running a Successful Ecommerce Website

If your business sells tangible products, you need to have a strong online presence.

But with so much competition in the ecommerce space, it can be tough for you to establish your ground. Not only are you competing with local and regional brands, but you also have to deal with international giants such as Amazon and Walmart.

That’s why it’s important for you to focus on every detail of your ecommerce website.

Learn how to design a homepage that converts.

This guide is useful to everyone. Whether you are a brick and mortar retailer expanding into online business, a company that operates strictly through the Internet, or something in between, you’ll benefit from these tips.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re building a new website or making changes to your existing one.

Following these 21 best practices will help you increase conversions for your ecommerce store. You’ll also be able to generate more leads and add additional sales revenue to your bottom line.

1. Avoid clutter

Ecommerce websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates. Take a look at your homepage right now.

What’s the first thing a visitor sees?

There should be a clear point of focus. The visitor’s eyes should be drawn straight to a CTA button or products you sell.

But too much clutter makes it difficult to identify your CTA.

image1 3

As you can see, 53% of websites have CTAs that take visitors more than three seconds to locate. You should be aiming for a time much quicker than that.

What actions do you want consumers to take when they visit your website? Obviously, you want them to make a purchase.

Make this as easy as possible for them. Don’t distract people with clutter. It’s overwhelming and confusing.

2. Simplify your menus

Menus are a great way to stay organized and group what you’re selling. But as just mentioned, you don’t want to overcomplicate things.

Too many menu categories will confuse the consumer, preventing them from finding what they’re looking for.

Your menu shouldn’t be super specific. Instead, use broad terms to categorize your products.

For example, let’s say your ecommerce brand sells clothing with items such as:

  • t-shirts
  • long sleeve shirts
  • sweaters
  • tank tops
  • vests

Rather than having five different menu options for each of these choices, you can group them into one category: “tops.”

3. Add a search bar

Let’s continue talking about simplicity.

Now that you’ve removed some clutter and simplified your menu options, you’ll still need to make additional changes. Since visitors will have fewer menu selections, they’ll see more products when they click on each category.

I know some of you may not have a ton of products for sale, but other ecommerce sites could have hundreds or potentially thousands of options to choose from.

Forcing users to scroll through these choices randomly won’t drive sales and conversions. That’s why implementing a search bar is the best solution.

Check out this example from the Nike website:

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The company sells thousands of sneakers on its website. A search bar makes it easy for its customers to find what they’re looking for.

Take a look at what the search for “running sneakers” yielded in the example above. As you can see, there are 155 products that fit this description. That’s still an overwhelming number of items to scroll through.

But Nike has additional filters and search results on the left column of its search feature.

This helps customers narrow the options based on parameters such as gender or sport.

If you use this strategy, make sure all your products are clearly tagged with the appropriate labels. Then the search results will be accurately displayed for each shopper’s query.

4. Buy a premium web hosting service

Speed is one of the most important elements of a successful ecommerce website. Each page needs to load fast to yield high conversions.

But if you buy a budget web hosting plan, it’ll cost you in the long run.

Research shows a one second delay in page loading time can lead to a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction and a 7% loss in conversions. If your site has a two or three second delay, you’re in big trouble.

Even worse than a slow loading time is site crashes, glitches, or error reports.

That’s why you’re better off spending the money on a premium web hosting plan now as opposed to dealing with these headaches later. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.

5. Eliminate steps in your checkout process

Once a website visitor decides to buy something, they should find it easy to complete the purchase. It’s your job to make it so.

Each additional step in the checkout process will increase the chances of them abandoning the transaction. In fact, 28% of consumers said they abandoned a shopping cart during checkout because the process was too long and complicated.

The key here is to get only essential information from the buyer.

There’s no reason to ask for their mother’s maiden name, the first concert they attended, or their favorite vacation spot.

Get their billing information and shipping address. That’s all you need to process a transaction.

6. Don’t force shoppers to create a profile (but encourage it)

As I just said, you want your buyers to go through the checkout process as quickly as possible.

That’s why you need to offer a guest checkout option instead of forcing visitors to create a profile. That said, you can still encourage them to create a profile.

Check out this example from Lululemon to see what I’m talking about:

image5 3

Once items are added to a shopping cart, users can finalize their transaction through the guest checkout option.

But that doesn’t mean Lululemon is done trying to encourage people to create a profile.

When the order is being reviewed, guests can see an express checkout button, but they can’t use it.

image4 3

This option is reserved for customers who set up profiles.

They can go through the checkout process even faster since all their information is saved in their accounts. Subtle features like this encourage profile sign ups without being annoying or putting too much pressure on the customer.

7. Send shopping cart abandonment emails

Once a user sets up their profile, you can tell when they add something to their shopping cart without buying it. Don’t ignore this.

You’re missing out on money.

Often times, they were just a click or two away from completing the transaction. Clearly, they were interested in the product enough to add it to their cart.

Sending an email reminding the shopper about the item can be just enough to finalize the sale.

8. Prioritize SEO

Not everyone who wants what you’re selling will navigate straight to your website.

In fact, research shows that 46% of consumers start the buying process through a search engine, such as Google.

If your ecommerce site isn’t one of the top results, they’ll buy from one of your competitors instead. That’s why it’s so important for you to focus your efforts on search engine optimization.

Do everything in your power to reach the top of Google rankings based on searches related to whatever your brand is selling.

9. Write blog posts on a regular basis

How often will the same person visit your ecommerce website?

Chances are, they’re not buying something every day. They probably won’t buy something even once a week. Only your top customers might shop once per month.

If people aren’t on your website, they obviously can’t spend any money.

But running a blog in addition to your ecommerce site is a great way to build a strong following. Now people have a reason to check out your site on a daily or weekly basis.

Once they’re on the site, they’ll be more likely to buy something.

10. Build an email subscriber list

To have a successful ecommerce site, you need to have lots of visitors ready to buy. But how are you planning on driving traffic to your site?

Building an ecommerce email list is one of your best options. Once you have a subscriber’s email address, you can contact them with special offers and promotions to entice sales.

A great way to add subscribers is to collect email addresses during the checkout process. Here’s an example of this from SAXX:

image3 3

By default, this box is already checked off. Shoppers will have to deselect this option if they don’t want to be added to the subscriber list.

Once people are added to your list, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to send them personalized offers to drive traffic to your website and increase sales.

You can even offer an incentive for shoppers to sign up for emails, such as a discount off their next purchase.

11. Accept as many payment options as possible

You can’t assume everyone has a Visa or MasterCard.

Even if they do, that doesn’t mean it’s their preferred payment option. One of those cards may be maxed out, or they could have better membership benefits on another card.

Even if other credit card companies charge higher merchant transaction fees, you still need to take other cards like Discover and American Express.

Your ecommerce site also needs to accept alternative payment options such as PayPal and Apple Pay.

12. Write informative product descriptions

You can’t sell something with just a name. Each product on your website needs to have an informative description.

But make sure you avoid large blocks of text. Keep these descriptions short and to the point.

Explain how the product works by highlighting the key benefits. You don’t need to explain the entire history of the product or how it was made. That won’t drive sales.

You can even use bullet points to make it easy for consumers to scan through the text and read the description.

13. Get rid of ads

Some of you may be using your ecommerce site as a platform to sell advertisement space to other brands. Don’t do it. You’re making a big mistake if you do.

Sure, you may get some additional income. But it’s not worth turning away your own customers.

Sidebar ads and popups can look like spam. A visitor may be afraid to click through your site for the fear that they’ll be redirected somewhere else that’s untrustworthy.

Take a look at how consumers throughout the world feel about advertisements on websites:

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As you can see, 82% of consumers in the United States say that online ads are disruptive to their shopping experience.

Remove any ads you have, and leave it as blank space. This will help you eliminate the clutter in your design—the point I discussed earlier.

14. Provide easily accessible customer service

Not all of the transactions on your ecommerce site will go smoothly.

Customers will have questions and problems. This is inevitable.

When people are experiencing an issue, such as finding a product or troubleshooting an item they have previously purchased, you want to make sure they can get help as soon as possible.

That’s why you need to have readily available customer service support through various options such as:

  • phone
  • email
  • live chat

Now customers can contact your brand based on their preferred method of communication. In addition to your customer service being easily accessible, it also needs to be friendly.

Don’t keep customers on hold. Make sure your staff are trained to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

15. Run tests and analyze the results

How do you know if your ecommerce site is set up for the highest possible conversions?

You don’t.

But if you run A/B tests on a regular basis, you’ll have a much better understanding.

Now you can adjust the CTA placement, its phrasing, or button color. Determine which landing pages are driving the most sales.

Based on the results of your tests, you can make the necessary adjustments, increasing the chances of your success.

16. Go mobile

Your ecommerce site needs to be optimized for mobile devices.

That’s because in the last six months, 62% of people who owned a smartphone used their devices to complete online purchases.

You can’t afford to exclude mobile shoppers. If you want to take your mobile strategy to the next level, you may even want to consider building an app for your ecommerce business.

This is the ultimate way to personalize the consumer shopping experience. Plus, you can save user information on file, such as their payment options and shipping address.

Now they can check out and complete each purchase in just a few clicks as opposed to having to enter their credit card for every transaction.

17. Offer free shipping

It’s simple: don’t charge your customers for shipping.

That’s because unexpected costs are the top reason for shopping cart abandonment.

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Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer.

They see a price listed on one page of your website, but at checkout, they see additional charges. Sure, they can expect to pay taxes, but shipping too?

These added costs are driving people away. Increase the prices of your products to cover any shipping costs incurred by you as opposed to charging for shipping separately.

18. Partner with brand influencers

Establishing credibility is one of the best ways to drive sales and have a successful ecommerce website.

Having a celebrity or someone with a strong social following endorse your site will make you seem more legitimate. This marketing tactic won’t be free, but it can definitely yield a high ROI.

Just make sure you’re working with someone related to your industry.

If you’re selling skateboards and related products, having an influencer who has never skateboarded won’t have much of an impact on your sales.

19. Display high quality product images

Having an ecommerce shop means customers don’t get to touch and feel the products the same way they can in a physical store.

They rely on pictures to give them a sense of what they’re buying.

That’s why you need to take multiple pictures from every angle of each product you’re selling. I know this may seem tedious, but it’s necessary.

Zoom in and highlight all the top features and benefits.

20. Give video demonstrations

Sometimes, images aren’t enough.

If you’re selling something requiring a demonstration, add a video.

According to Forbes, 90% of consumers say videos help them make a decision about purchasing a product.

That must be why Thule implemented this strategy on its website:

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In addition to its high quality photos and product descriptions, the site also has video demonstrations for the majority of items they sell.

This added information makes it easy for prospective customers to learn how each product works.

21. Feature customer reviews and testimonials

Testimonials and reviews are another way to add credibility to your products and brand.

It’s important that you include these on your ecommerce site.

After a customer buys something, send them a follow-up email asking them to review the item they bought. Just make sure you give them enough time to use it before you ask for their feedback.

I realize this can be scary for some of you. Not everyone will be happy with your products, and the idea of negative comments being publically displayed can be frightening to some brands.

But that’s OK. Don’t let a few bad reviews discourage you. Look on the bright side of it.

This will show shoppers the reviews and testimonials on your site are legitimate and trustworthy. A couple of negative remarks can make your positive reviews appear that much more powerful.


Running a successful ecommerce website is not an easy task.

Fortunately, you can do many things to improve your chances of driving sales and keeping your customers coming back for more.

Don’t let this list of best practices intimidate you. I don’t expect you to implement all 21 of these overnight.

That said, you should start to identify changes that need to be made and prioritize the ones you think are the most important.

What elements of your ecommerce website need to be adjusted to improve your conversions rates and drive more sales?

Quick Sprout

HEINZ: Instagram Posts You Can Eat

Now this is a cool social play from Heinz. Who’ve launched a campaign called “Irresistible Posts” in Sao Paulo that uses geolocation to target local users looking at Stories in Instagram around lunch time, and serving up delicious burgers made by chef Santi Roig from Underdog Meat & Beers restaurant. The catch was, that if […]

Digital Buzz Blog

The Hamburger Menu Is Stupid and Worth Killing

If you don’t know what the “hamburger menu” is, it’s a mobile app design icon used to indicate the presence of a hidden menu. The familiar icon includes three horizontal lines of equal length stacked on top of each other, representing an abstracted, flattened hamburger in its most basic elements. Its cutesy name has stuck hard. The hamburger menu is a fixture of mobile app design. Like any iconography, the hamburger menu has taken on a meaning for the user. When folks see that menu, they know to tap here for extra stuff.

It’s Mystery Meat

Veggie Loaf Prison Food

The first time you see the hamburger menu, it’s mystery meat. It’s only by the frequency of use that users came to recognize the hamburger menu and representing “more here.” Nothing about the icon conveys information about what’s inside: only that it contains something additional. If you saw that icon for the first time, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out what it’s for. The three-stacked-lines icon of the hamburger menu is also frequently used to indicate “grab points” for dragging around user interface elements, so it’s pulling double duty and potentially confusing users.

Because the hamburger icon is essentially meaningless, it gives you no indications of what to expect when you tap it. Will it reveal navigation items, app options, account information, or all three? The only way to find out is to tap the menu. While exploration is required to understand the full range of function in your application, “blind stumbling” shouldn’t be part of your user experience design. And that’s exactly what the hamburger menu icon encourages.

Good app and website navigation shares a lot with real-world wayfinding: icons and text need to be clear, obvious, and relevant. Without those indicators, users cannot understand what they’re looking at, and can’t reach their goal or complete their task. This breakdown should represent a major failure of navigation design, and yet the mysterious hamburger menu has endured—despite obvious failing to convey any information about what secrets it holds.

This is a problem beyond the app’s first launch. When information is buried in a hamburger menu, even experienced users can easily forget what’s there. As they say, out of sight, out of mind. This obscures crucial app functionality and limits usability. These problems lead to lower engagement, shorter user sessions, and limited understanding of the app’s scope and capability. Users might never discover functions stuck in a hamburger menu, or they might regularly forget the functionality exists.

It’s Hard to Use

hamburger menu hard to use

The hamburger menu is, most frequently, the junk drawer of an application. It’s like the door to the attic, containing all the occasionally useful items that developers added but weren’t sure where to place. It shares a lot with an attic, in fact: poorly organized, badly lit, partially constructed, and stuffed with old junk.

Typically, the only connection between menu items is that the developer couldn’t figure out where else to put them. That’s a terrible way to organize your interface, and no one would intentionally plan to base a navigation system on that kind of technique. It’s clunky, clumsy, and sub-optimal as a user interface element.

First, users can’t remember what it contains when they want to use that functionality. Is it in the hamburger menu, or do I swipe somewhere, or tap another menu icon? The chaotic collection of otherwise unrelated functions are difficult to recall and wrangle, especially if you don’t use the app that frequently.

Even if you know exactly what’s in the menu, using the menu is still a sub-optimal process. Finding the right item from the menu requires significant hunting, and the “slide over” menu most often use takes a moment to reorient to. This creates friction and hangups in user flow, degrading the user’s experience and encouraging them to ditch your website or app.

What’s Better?

The hamburger menu has stuck around for so long that it just seems like the “right” way to organize an application. But designers have begun to migrate away from that. Take a look at Facebook’s modern app. There’s a ribbon on the bottom that contains icons, which allow you to navigate between different views. These icons include text labels and descriptive imagery. The user immediately knows what they can do with the app. Better still, what they’re supposed to do with the app.

Once upon a time, these functions lived in a hamburger menu. According to Luke Wroblewski’s breakdown in engagement numbers, Facebook saw better engagement, user satisfaction, and user flow with the icon ribbon. It’s clear and obvious, quickly presenting the user with their most important options right up front. While some functionality is still in a “more” menu, this is somewhat unavoidable with the huge array of functionality provided by the Facebook app.

What Should Be Visible?

When designing your app or mobile website, you need to think carefully about what the user’s primary goal will be. Are they looking for stores, pricing information, products, new posts, messages, or updates? Find out what users need and want and include obvious navigation links for those elements. You can aid user navigation by using the terminology the user is most familiar with. Don’t skip usability testing or interviews: this will tell you what you need to have front and center.

You might also like the following user experience posts:

Best Practices for Designing Push Notifications

Building Effective Navigation Menus

Microcopy Tips to Improve Your Site’s UX

The post The Hamburger Menu Is Stupid and Worth Killing appeared first on SpyreStudios.


You’re wrong about how the internet fuels conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories are popular and there is no doubt that the internet has fuelled them on. From the theory that 9/11 was an inside job to the idea that reptilian humanoids rule the world, conspiracy theories have found a natural home online. But the extent to which we can actually attribute their popularity to the internet is a question that has concerned scholars for many years. And the answer is not very straightforward. While some argue that conspiracy theories flourish on the internet and social media, there is not yet any evidence that this is true. Conspiracy theories have always been with us. But today the internet…

This story continues at The Next Web
Social Media – The Next Web

Spectacular NHS Spectacles

Fig 1. Child’s spectacles frame, British ca. 1950s. V&A Museum of Childhood. Museum no. B.303-1996

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service (NHS). The Service emerged out of the devastation of Second World War and helped unify the country, offering for the first time much–needed free healthcare for all, as Harry Leslie Smith, who was a child in the 1920s attests:


Growing up in Britain before the NHS, when one’s health was determined by one’s wealth, and after 1948, when free health care was seen as a cornerstone for a healthy economy and democracy.


One of the provisions offered by the new NHS was free eye examinations and spectacles for children and adults. For many families at this time, spectacles would have been considered a big expense and only affordable through schemes like National Health Insurance. The public demand went way beyond the government’s initial expectations, costing in the first year alone almost five times more than predicted. This figure did not decline the next year, instead it nearly doubled, with patients waiting up to 18-months before they would receive their spectacles.[i]


Under the guidance of the Ministry of Health (MoH), NHS glasses were mass-produced, regulated and robust. The scheme’s focus was firmly on function not on fashion. In 1948, the NHS offered a range of thirty-three33 frames, available in three materials: nickel, gold-filled and cellulose acetate (a type of plastic). It would be another thirty-five years until a completely new design (the 924 ladies frame) was introduced in June 1983.


For children the options were almost as limited, but from the 1970s they had the choice of coloured acetate frames in the following hues: ice blue, crystal, flesh, light brown mottle, dark brown mottle and black (ice blue shown in fig.1). One point of difference in the design of the children’s spectacles was that the arms curved inwards and the feet were made to circle around the child’s ears, in a bid to keep the spectacles from sliding off during play (fig.2). These design features may have prevented the glasses from falling off, but could also make them pinch painfully.

Fig 3. Child’s spectacle Frames; British, 1960-69. Museum no. B.306-1996

The NHS programme for glasses and eye examinations followed a precedent set by the wartime Utility Scheme, and the MoH went to great efforts to control the market for glasses in Britain. The MoH denied NHS licenses to frame manufacturers to produce new designs and opticians were prohibited from advertising non-NHS glasses or displaying them.[i] The limited number of design options for NHS glasses was part of the government’s strategic economic measures to keep costs down. A negative consequence of the limited range meant that NHS frames were easily recognisable and would later became a social stigma. They marked the wearer as someone whose financial circumstances qualified them for free or subsidised healthcare, as Barbara Castle, Secretary of State for Social Services, identified:


The nub of my point is that a good-looking pair of spectacles in which the wearer can feel self-confident is genuinely a need in a society like ours: it is a need which for many the NHS is not fulfilling. We must not force people to wear out-of- date frames like a badge of poverty across their faces. (Optician, 1976)[ii]


From the 1960s, wearers who wanted individuality and could afford to pay, were able to purchase a hybrid version of the NHS spectacles. The hybrids fitted NHS lenses into a private frame. But for many, it wouldn’t be for another 30 years that they would have to find an alternative to NHS spectacles. In 1986, the NHS stopped making glasses in a cost-saving bid and introduced a new voucher scheme.


Spanning the period 1948 to 1986, the NHS offered high quality, if not high fashion spectacles and free eye examines. For many people, the cost of glasses had been financially prohibitive, and the scheme offered them their first pair of glasses. Sadly the scheme’s success was part of its downfall, with demand outreaching supply and budgets. As a child who wore NHS glasses, I look back on them with a sense of nostalgia. I recall how much I hated how they slipped down my nose and bore into the side of my head. It’s now over thirty years since my first pair of ‘flesh coloured’ pink NHS spectacles (fig.3) and it is with some bemusement to see how similar my current specs reflect my first.

Fig 3. Me and my NHS specs in the 1980s








Further reading:

The People’s History of the NHS website

Aneurin Bevan, Minster for Health’s National Health Service Act of 1946

The NHS’s website: The History of the NHS in England

Joanna Goodall’s paper Rather unspectacular: design choices in National Health Service glasses in Science Museum Group Journal, 2017

[i] Anon, NHS Spectacles, free glasses for all…for a while. The College of Optometrists website:, accessed on 5 December 2017

[i] Goodall, J. Rather unspectacular: design choices in National Health Service glasses in Science Museum Group Journal, 2017, website: accessed on 5 December 2017

[ii] ibid


Burger King Presents: Scary Clown Night

Burger King is becoming famous for throwing its an annual Halloween promo. Last year they turned a store into the ghost of McDonalds. And for 2017 they’ve created #ScaryClownNight. So On Tuesday, October 31st, from 7PM to close, the first 500 guests that head to select BURGER KING® restaurants in Miami, Boston, LA, Austin and […]

Digital Buzz Blog

A Tour of Indulgences for National Volunteers’ Week

Several events were held at the V&A to mark National Volunteers’ Week earlier this month. This guest post is written by a group of V&A/RCA History of Design MA students, Rosemary Byford, Florence Sandford-Richardson, Elena Jarmoskaite, Eve Allen, Margaret McGrath and Alice Labourg, who took volunteers on a gallery tour to share their research into objects in the collections. The students introduced their audience to different aspects of nineteenth-century indulgences around the world through objects both on and off display, from sugary treats to jewels, via intoxication, smoking, snuff and brothels.

Our tour began amidst the opulence of the Gilbert Collection and its collection of Italian micromosaic snuff boxes.  These highly ornate objects reflected the refined aesthetics and taste of the times with their reworking of classical landscapes and were particularly prized for the skilful way they imitated contemporary oil paintings. The extravagant micromosaic snuff boxes are far removed from more ‘basic’ papier-mâché ones that were also popular at the time. And yet, these too were used by the wealthy as we can tell from the mysterious story behind the hand-painted portrait of an actress on one papier-mâché box with royal connections, currently in store. Indeed, connoisseurs of snuff maintained that papier-mâché preserved freshness and flavour better than any other material.

Black papier-mâché box

Black papier-mâché box with removable lid, the lid painted with an image of the actress Mrs. Honey as Psyche. Museum no. S.611:2-1997

In the Silver Galleries, we travelled further afield to India, by means of a bidri ware huqqa pipe manufactured in Calcutta by Scottish firm Hamilton & Co. During the second half of the eighteenth century, huqqa pipes became very popular with Europeans and could often be seen hanging from the mouths of officials during mealtimes. However, lingering associations with opium use, as well as with languorous behaviour gradually made huqqa smoking less socially acceptable in some circles, although the activity remained highly addictive.

Examining a huqqa pipe in the Silver Galleries

Examining a huqqa pipe in the Silver Galleries

A pewter beer jug brought us back to the pubs and inns of London and the dangers of Victorian drinking habits. Increasingly concerned by the growing popularity of hard liquors in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the government introduced a series of sometimes rather bizarre efforts to sober up the nation by aiding the beer industry and design played an important role in facilitating these endeavours.

Nineteenth-century pewter beer jug

Nineteenth-century pewter beer jug. Museum no. 725-1904

We then focused on another kind of passion: the romance between an English lady and a Hungarian Count, described in several memoirs. The Countess’s tragic early death led to the couple’s collection of Hungarian jewels being gifted to the V&A and various pieces from Countess Harley Teleki’s casket of jewels are on display in the museum, in addition to a less well-known jewel in store made from repurposed garnet and pearl buttons.

Our tour concluded in the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art with a group of Ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints, which often depicted salacious topics, such as courtesans and the sanctioned pleasure quarters that were the centre of fashionable and hedonistic life during Edo-era Japan.

The tour concluding in the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art

The volunteers tour concludes with a discussion of Japanese woodblock prints


To see what else V&A/RCA History of Design students and alumni have been up to, check our pages on the V&A and  RCA websites and take a look at Un-Making Things, a student-run online platform for all things design history and material culture.


Facebook News Updates, Why Messenger Marketing Is Growing & More: The Social Scoop 2/15/18

Facebook has sure been in the news a lot lately. Here’s a roundup of several topics that have caught my attention in the past week or so…

The scary Wired magazine cover of Zuck with a very bruised face (artist’s photo-illustration). Yikes. It’s a super long article, revealing insights from 51 current and former Facebook employees that paints a picture of a company grappling with the problems it’s caused. It’s a fascinating read.

And there’s more:

The Fake News Challenge

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently demanded Facebook address its fake news problem. Good.

Consumer goods giant, Unilever (one of the largest advertisers in the world), is threatening to pull its ads from Facebook and Google if the tech giants don’t stop propagating divisive content. Uhoh.

Brazil’s biggest newspaper, the Folha de S Paulo, announced that it will no longer publish content on its Facebook page, accusing the social media giant of encouraging fake news with an overhaul of its news feed algorithm. Hmm.

Hear From Facebook Execs

This news didn’t faze Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships.

Both Brown and Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of News Feed, were interviewed live on stage at Recode’s recent Code Media conference. Brown stated,

“My job is not to go recruit people from news organizations to put their stuff on Facebook.” … “If someone feels that being on Facebook is not good for your business, you shouldn’t be on Facebook.” ~Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships

Watch the full interview below:

Here’s all the ways Facebook IS trying to help publishers, though.

Branded Content Impacts Some Influencers’ Business Models

Facebook recently changed its Branded Content policies to take effect on March 1, 2018. Page owners are not permitted to accept “anything of value” in exchange for sharing content that they did not have a hand in creating through their pages. This change will impact many influencers’ business models on Facebook, including likes of George Takei. [I use the Branded Content feature fairly frequently myself in partnership with my Brand Ambassador relations and, thankfully, I always co-create the content.]

Facebook Invests In Community Leaders

On a positive note, Facebook announced a New Investment in Community Leaders at the second Communities Forum last week, this time held in Europe. Facebook is definitely placing HUGE emphasis on Groups, community building and creating meaningful social interaction… the company is still figuring out what exactly the latter means.

Time will tell.

News Feed Changes

For an excellent article on how to successfully navigate the latest News Feed algorithm changes, check out this one by my friends at Buffer.

I’ll be writing up my latest recommendations for creating success on Facebook very shortly… stay tuned. After leading a Facebook training for one of my top clients in the mortgage industry at an event in Las Vegas last week, I am very, very optimistic. The entire family of Facebook apps is only “1% done,” they say — and there is still tremendous potential for business growth and fostering global positivity.

This Week’s Top 3 Articles

1. Why Messenger Marketing is On The Rise via

Is Messenger Marketing on the rise? You bet! Facebook is placing major emphasis on building out business features on its messaging apps — Messenger and WhatsApp. The delivery and open rates on messaging apps is astounding; oftentimes pretty close to 100%. Long may it last. 

On another note, regarding the new ads inside Messenger mobile app, I must say, as a user, I’m not keen at all on this big fat ad placement on my home screen. They are so intrusive and completely out of context vs. the News Feed where we’re used to seeing ads that look just like posts. BUT, as a marketer, I’m super excited about this new ad placement. ha! 

2. We’re Spending Less Time On Facebook, And Mark Zuckerberg Says That’s Great via

At first glance it can seem counterintuitive. More time spent means more eyes on our advertising, right? But the reason for the shift is that Facebook is focusing on the QUALITY of time spent rather than the quantity. The company’s goal is to encourage “meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content,” and they already know that when people care about a topic they’re more likely to watch an ad in order to experience it.

3. Instagram Now Allows Businesses to Schedule Their Posts via

Ooee, this is such great news! The ability to schedule properly on Instagram is something we’ve all been waiting for and it’s finally here. When it comes to managing your brand’s social media, being able to plan and schedule your content is a game changer. Scheduling posts allows you to be consistent with your publishing schedule, and frees up time to engage with your followers!

That’s a wrap for this week’s issue of The Social Scoop. Keep on enjoying the day, and we’ll talk again very soon!

The post Facebook News Updates, Why Messenger Marketing Is Growing & More: The Social Scoop 2/15/18 appeared first on

Mari Smith – Social Media Marketing Success

How to Master Facebook Ad Targeting & Zero-In on Your Audience

With over 2 billion active users daily and an average use time of 35 minutes per user, it’s a top spot for B2C and B2B advertising. There’s never been a  better time to be familiar with Facebook Ad targeting.

Facebook has hundreds of targeting and ad demographic options. To get the most out of your advertising dollars, you’ll need to zero-in on your audience.

In this article, we’ll explore how to get the most out of that money spent on mastering Facebook Ad targeting and zeroing-in on your target.

What is a Facebook Audience?

The “target” or “market” that you’re going to advertise to is called, “audience” on Facebook. You can target super specifically, like by the amount of education or income. Also targeting options include age, location, gender, job title and much more. The options are almost limitless. For real.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

For this GoPro ad, we might target photographers or people that love to hike or ski. Or we could use Pixel (more on Pixel below) to target users who have visited the GoPro purchase page but didn’t complete the purchase.

gopro facebook example

Or for this ad, Soylent might target vegans, people that like working out or moms that have recently liked their Facebook page or Instagram post.

soylent facebook example

The above examples are just a couple of the many hundreds of ways to target Facebook users. Let’s take a look at Facebook’s primary targeting methods:

Targeting on Facebook

Like we mentioned, there are literally hundreds of ways to target people. Keep in mind that you can use any combination of the targeting methods listed below.

    • Location: You can target users by state, locality, zip code, country, etc. You can get more specific too, like targeting them where they work vs. where they live.
    • Demographics: Demographics means data relating to a population, like age, sex, income, marital status, etc. Facebook offers a ton of demographic options.
    • Interests: Interests are really helpful in defining a target market. Let’s say you’ve got an eCommerce store that sells R&B records, you could target users who have liked vintage record player pages, music pages, R&B artists, jazz pages, etc.
    • Behaviors: Behaviors use the Facebook Pixel (discussed below) to target users. Pixel is a piece of code that tracks user behavior so that you can display ads to people that behave in certain ways. This is one of the most profitable ways to target, as for example, you might show ads to people who recently visited your website’s pricing page or subscribed to your blog.
    • Engagement: Engagement is when someone comments, likes or follows you or your pages on social media. If someone has recently liked one of your Facebook or Instagram posts, you can have Facebook show them your ads.
    • Partner Connections: This method of advertising shows ads based on behaviors users take off of Facebook. For example, if you’re a car dealership, you might target users who have recently applied for a new car loan.
    • Automatic Optimization: Use the many demographic and target options above to zero-in on an audience that works for your company. Facebook will automatically optimize your audience for you.
saved audience example

Let’s say you set up an ad to target new parents that recently joined a gym in Richmond, VA.

Facebook might optimize that ad to reach more new moms vs. new dads because new moms tend to click-through more often. Once you’ve settled on a target that works well, you can use that target to build a successful Facebook Audience (a.k.a. target market). Just remember to save your audience to make future audience building easier.

Increase Conversions Dramatically With Facebook Pixel

Facebook Pixel is a unique code that you plug into the backend of your website. The code tracks user behavior on your site so you target web visitors based on their behaviors.

The goal of using the Pixel is to optimize your Facebook Ads and audiences based on user behavior and the data collected. Pixel allows you to do things like; Retargeting users who have abandoned a cart, who have recently viewed your pricing page or subscribed to a webinar.

Installing Pixel

First, you’ll need to create a Pixel for your site. Navigate to the Ads Manager, click All Tools > Pixels.

set up your Pixel

You’ll be prompted to set up your Pixel, agree to terms and name the Pixel. Then, you’ll install it on your site.

Select manually install Pixel.

manually install Pixel

To install the code, you simply copy and paste it into the header of your website.

copy Pixel code

Find the <head> code in your website. Install the Pixel inside the header. It’ll look something like this when it’s in the right place:

locate your site header

Make sure you save your website data with that code snippet in place!

Next, you’ll set up specific events you’d like to track. The behaviors that you will track are called Events. You tell Facebook what each of these Events is for your website.

For example, to track Lead Generation, you’d toggle the Lead Generation button, and copy/paste the code snippet into the <script> portion of the page on which you track leads (see screenshot below).

For example, you might track the confirmation or thank-you page for signing up for a webinar that you’re hosting, since those people are likely qualified leads.

Once you toggle Generate Lead to on, you can copy the code snippet and paste it into the <script> of the webinar confirmation page you want to track.

lead gen tracking example

The <script> section where you want to paste this snippet looks like this:

find the page script code

How To Set Up Event Tracking For an Existing Pixel

If you’re already using Pixel and want to start tracking new Events, navigate to the Events Manager page > Pixels.

events manager page

Next, click Details.

add events to Pixel that exists

Then, click Set Up.

event tracking set up

This will bring you back to the options for manually installing the code snippet. Click manually install and follow the steps above for installing the code.

manually install Pixel

How Do You Build a Successful Facebook Audience?

Building a Facebook audience takes some time since, for the best results, you want the audience to be specific, but not too specific.

The first step in creating a highly-specific audience is to get familiar with your customer persona. You can build out a customer avatar to help you set up successful Facebook Audiences.

Here is an example of a good customer avatar. Notice how specific it is.

Customer avatar example

Additionally, there are three types of Facebook audiences. Each type has its advantages, so let’s take a look:

1. Facebook Saved Audiences

A Facebook saved audience is what it sounds like;  an audience you can create, save and use again in later campaigns. If you know your target market demographics well, you can use that info to create an audience to reuse in many of your campaigns.

To set up a saved audience, navigate to the Audiences page. Then, click Create a Saved Audience. If this is your first time using Facebook Ads, it’ll look like this:

first time using facebook ads example

If you’ve used Facebook Ads before, navigate to the same Audiences page, then click Create Audience > Saved Audience.

facebook ads audience

Next, you’ll see the Facebook Ads Manager audience creation page. This is where you can plug in those useful demographics you discovered during the process of mapping out your customer persona.

When you’re all set with your demographics, location, interests, etc., click Create Audience.

saved audience example

This saved audience will now appear on your Audiences page.

saved audience on audience page

When you want to use this saved audience in future campaigns, navigate to the Audience tab on the left side. Then, click on Use a Saved Audience and select the audience you’d like to use.

using a saved audience

2. Facebook Custom Audiences

Custom audiences are some of the highest converting. Upload a list of emails or phone numbers of the prospects you want to show ads to. You can also have Facebook exclude emails or numbers on that list, let’s say if you know those folks aren’t interested in your product or service.

Custom audiences also work with the Pixel, to help you show ads to folks that have visited your website, or taken another action online, such as viewing your pricing page.

Let’s say you sell a SaaS product for lawyers. And you want to create a Custom Audience and use a list of emails you’ve collected of local attorneys.

To create a custom audience, navigate to the Audience page, then click Create Audience > Create Custom Audience:

using custom audience

Next, you’ll see this page with Custom Audience options. To use a list of emails or numbers, you’ll want to choose Customer File.

upload file for custom audience

Afterward, you’ll have the option of uploading data from a file of your own or from MailChimp.

upload your own file example

If you are going to use your own file, make sure it’s a .CSV file or .TXT file. Check out Facebook’s best practices for uploading files.

After you upload the data, you’ll need to agree to Facebook’s terms and then name the audience. Click Next.

create a custom audience example

You’ll see a preview of how Facebook has classified your data. Make sure that Email matches up with your email addresses. Phone with phone numbers, etc. If the data don’t match the names automatically given by Facebook, just click the name to change it.

make sure data match example

This Custom Audience will now appear in your Audience list. It’ll say “Updating Audience,” in the Availability column while all the data is uploaded. Once it’s ready to use, you’ll get a notification from Facebook.

uploading file example

Just like all Facebook audiences, the more specific (without being too specific) your Custom Audience is, the better your results will be.

3. Facebook Lookalike Audiences

After you’ve created a few valuable Custom Audiences, you can start using the Lookalike Audience option to target users that are similar to the target you’ve defined in your Custom Audience.

Let’s say you wanted to continue targeting attorneys to sell your Lawyer SaaS tool. You could use Lookalike Audiences to target more attorneys in another state. Or even attorneys that weren’t in your email list that Facebook’s algorithms will find based on other criteria.

Navigate to the Audiences page. The, select Create Audience > Lookalike Audience

Lookalike Audience example

Next, you’ll have the option to choose which Custom or Saved Audience you want to base your new lookalike audience on.

Once you’ve selected the audience on which to base your new Lookalike Audience, adjust the settings for Location and Size, then click Create Audience at the bottom right.

save your lookalike audience

Facebook Ad Targeting Best Practices

Custom Audiences gives advertisers tons of options for enhancing ad results as there’s so much that can be done targeting Website Traffic and Events. Custom Audiences is a great way to retarget people that have already visited your site, making your ad dollars go further.

The average click-through rate of a normal display ad is about .07%, while a retargeted ad averages a click-through rate of .7%. So, users are about 164% more likely to click your retargeted ad than a non-retargeted one.

This section explores a few of our favorite ways to retarget website visitors and people familiar with your online presence.

Target Visitors Who Didn’t Complete a Purchase

To show your ads to people who visited a product page on your website, but did not complete a purchase, you can use Pixel’s website traffic events.

The way it works is that you create an event attached to the product page URL. Then, you’d exclude any other URLs, like the Thank You or Completed Purchase page.

First, click Create a Custom Audience from the Events Manager page.

create a custom audience page

Then, select People who visited specific webpage from the drop-down.

tracking events example

Decide how recent the viewers should be for your ad, then enter that number into the days box. Next, enter your product page URL.

enter your product url

If you click on Further refine by, right beneath the URL box, refine users by device and frequency as well.

The following setup would advertise to people who have visited, at least two times in the last 30 days from their iPhone or iPad.

refine your url tracking

When you’ve got your product page URL set and have refined it, you’re ready to set up the URLs you’d like to exclude.

This step is important because it tells Facebook that anyone who has gone on and completed a purchase (or any other event you want to exclude) will be excluded from this campaign. To do this, we simply want to exclude people who have seen the purchase confirmation page.

Note* If you have an eCommerce store, then you will have the option to simply exclude “Purchases.”

Change the button next to URL to Equals. This is because we want to exclude this exact URL.

Then name your audience and click Create Audience.

exclude url example

Note* If you want to exclude only people that have purchased certain products, then you’d only include that specific product page and therefore, you would enter that product’s specific confirmation page into the excluded text box (No. 2 above).

To get the most out of a product retargeting ad, you want the ad copy to be brief, maybe you’ll even apply a discount to the product ad. Like this one:

kit and ken example on facebook

Retargeting Visitors That Read Your Blog

As blog readers are much more familiar with your brand than someone that’s never heard of your company, you can bet that targeting your blog readers gets you more bang for your Facebook Ad buck.

This is great for low-touch SaaS companies or any company that sees decent conversion rates from their blog. You can show a product in your ad or even advertise another blog post or an eBook.

First, get to navigate back to the Pixel page > Create Custom Audience (see above).

Next, make sure that you set the URL to contains. We want to make sure that any URL with the word blog in the address is added to the group that we advertise to. So enter blog as a keyword in the space.

This setting will show your ad to anyone that views a page with the word blog in the URL. Example: or

target blog readers example

When you’re finished, click Create Audience and Facebook will save the audience to your audience list.

You can use these two different tactics for a number of scenarios:

  • Target anyone that’s visited your website.
  • To target people who have visited 2 or 3 specific pages on your site, like several products.
  • Target people who viewed a landing page, but didn’t opt-in to the list or offering.

In Conclusion

There are really endless options for targeting on Facebook. The great thing about having all those options is they allow you to zero-in on a very specific market or niche while Facebook optimizes the ads and audiences for you.

Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences can help you achieve higher click-through rates via retargeting and showing ads to folks that are similar to those that convert most.

What Facebook Ad targeting practices are you using that have improved your ad performance?

This post How to Master Facebook Ad Targeting & Zero-In on Your Audience originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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