Project Interwoven: studying textiles from the outside in

Today’s blog entry would like to explain how I am examining the textiles. We need to bear in mind that historical textiles are fragile and need to be handled with care, and in case of extreme fragility, we need to avoid any handling at all. Some of the textiles, for conservation reasons, have been studied through a sheet or envelope of melinex (polyester film). Others are already framed so can only be studied through glass, which does not permit complete examination and documentation (fig. 1).

Medieval textile between glass. It  is compound twill or samite. Iberia, end 12th to 14th centuries  (V&A 1566-1902).

Fig. 1 Medieval textile that has the label from the collector F. Bock, glued to the glass (V&A 1246-1864)

Fig. 1 Detail of the labels, Dr. B. (Dr. Bock) C. 14 and the V&A record number (V&A 1246-1864)

Interwoven is using digital photography to study and document textiles from Medieval Spain and the Mediterranean basin – velvets, ecclesiastical vestments and embroideries. Many of them have not been documented in any way – they have not been photographed, nor have technical data such as dimensions been recorded. All new data will be accessible at the end of the project online.

In general, during the 19th and mid-20th centuries textiles were studied mostly from the point of view of their decoration and how they were depicted in the paintings, rather than through an analysis of materials and techniques. These methods are still valid, but the study of actual surviving textiles, even when made up into dress or ecclesiastical vestments, can give us further information about the raw materials used (fibres, dyes and metal threads), the textile techniques or weave structures and the loom used to produce the fabric, its date and sometimes its place of production. This last is most difficult to ascertain.

So, how to proceed when you are in front a textile fragment? Firstly, we need to distinguish between the warp (the threads that are fixed on the loom) and the wefts (those that run from one side to the other of the loom, producing the weave). We usually say that the warps are the vertical threads. Meanwhile, the wefts run perpendicular to them, and this is the way in which the weave is represented in the diagrams (fig. 2). This helps us to lay the textile out in the correct orientation for study and photography.

Fig. 2 Different diagrams of weave structure, in this case for a weft-faced samite or compound twill (CIETA, 1979, p. 22)

Having positioned the textile, I proceed to document the piece through digital photography (fig. 3). It is also handy to draw a sketch recording dimensions and any other relevant information relating to the documentation (Fig. 3), such as selvedges (the weft borders), warp borders and additional decorative wefts (Fig. 4), again from both sides (if possible). To study the threads, I use a magnifying glass that has a scale (note the lines on the photograph), which gives information about the number of threads per centimetre, the thread thickness, its twist (Z or S) (fig. 5) and allows me to distinguish the fibre. This methodology is applied to archaeological and historical textiles and is taught in different places, such on the technical courses run by the CIETA in Lyon ( or at the Leiden Textile Centre

Fig. 3: Fragment of an Italian silk velvet, front (V&A 470-1864).

Fig. 3 Fragment of an Italian silk velvet, front, back (V&A470-1894)


Fig. 3: Fragment of an Italian silk velvet, detail of front, showing the pile-on-pile structure (V&A 470-1864)

Fig. 3: Notes taken and sketch made during its study (V&A 470-1864)

Textiles come in different forms. They may be made with one fibre and one type of thread or with different kind of threads, two sets of warps, several wefts (patterned, brocaded, …), so it is important to document, if possible, all data.

Fig. 4: Detail of the decorative wefts from Fig. 1, the textile decorated with peacocks, (V&A 1566-1902)

Fig. 4 Detail of the decorative wefts Fig. 1 (V&A 1566-1902)




From the 1970´s, the development of the analysis of techniques to characterise materials, mostly relating to the restoration of artworks, has brought new insights to historical textiles and the opportunity to have multidisciplinary teams working on them. Collaboration with physicists, chemists, and other scientists helps us to understand the raw materials. With their help and that of their microscopes, we can distinguish among the different fibres — silk, wool, cotton, linen, etc. – with a Scanning Electronic Microscope (SEM) which can detect the type of fibre and metal threads (Fig. 5) and their metal composition. Through the form of chemical analysis known as chromatography, we have information about the different dyes (plant, insect, mollusc or chemical) used to colour the fibres. Also, we can date the textile by using Carbon-14 analysis, which tells us when the fibre was cut from the plant or the animal.

Fig. 5 Back view of the Italian silk velvet ((V&A 470-1864) with metal thread wrapped around a yellow silk core. The yellow thread on the left is twisted in an “S” direction.

For these kinds of analysis, a sample needs to be taken from the textiles, and destroyed during the analysis. As a result, decisions about what textiles are suitable for analysis is a team effort, discussed by curators, conservators and scientists. Sometimes the textile is not suitable for analysis due to its condition, for example, old restoration work may have contaminated the samples. The application of science to the analysis of artworks has developed greatly during the last decades and now the search is for new non-destructive methods to analyse the materials (such as the one at the British Museum ) or analysis carried out by this project in collaboration with the No, the first one is the used of multispectral photography British Museum Laboratories.

What kind of information can the data gathered through the study of textiles, digital photography, and technical and scientific analysis give us?

– The thickness of the thread and the treatment of the fibre tell us about the quality of the textile and provide economic data because some fibres are more expensive than others. For example, silk was most valuable and was only cultivated in Iberia and South Italy until the early modern period while cotton was mainly imported to North Europe.

– The place of production may be identified through the selvedges (fig. 6). Weavers’ guilds in different cities across Europe regulated what the selvedges should be like on particular types of textiles. The best-known example is Italian velvets, for example, the Genoese guild stipulated the marks on velvets in 1572 in this way (Monnas, 2012, p. 25):

Velvets with one pile warp one gold thread per selvedge/Velvets with one and a half pile warps two gold threads in one selvedge and one in the other/Velvets with two piles warps: two gold threads in each selvedge. …

The velvet has a specific warp, thicker than the ground warps, known as pile warp, that produces a loop. This loop can be cut or uncut depending of the design (fig. 3).

Fig. 6: The selvedge of the Italian silk velvet (V&A 470-1864), sometimes the selvedges are folded back, to fit in the frame.

– Results from the analysis of raw materials give us an idea of the provenance of the silk. In the Middle Ages and the early modern period it was cultivated only in Iberia and the south of Italy, while cotton was only cultivated in Iberia and Egypt. During the medieval period, natural dyes differ from one geographical area to another, for example, in Iberia red colour was obtained mostly from kermes (an insect that grows on oak-type trees), meanwhile Italy used madder (a plant) as a red dye and Armenian cochineal for the velvets, and Egypt used mostly madder, etc.

But all this data needs to be combined with the study of the pattern, context, written sources, similar textiles, etc. to arrive at some ideas about which kind of loom was used, where the textile was produced, and the value of the textile, and whether this textile and its decoration were highly fashionable, etc. We also need to consider the biography of the textile – what it was for, how it was used and re-used, and how it arrived in the V&A collections.


CIETA, 1979: Notes techniques, Lyon.

Anderson, E; Frei, K.M.; Gleba, M.; Mannering, U.; Nosch, M.-L. and Skals, I.: “Old textiles – New possibilities” in European Journal of Archaeology, 2010, vol. 13 (2), pp. 149-1.

De Jonghe, D. and Verhecken- Lammens, C., “Sur la technique de tissage du tissu aux paons. Une soierie losangée à bandes de samit façonnée”, in Techniques & culture, 1999, no. 34, pp. 121-137

Miller, E., 1989: Textiles. Properties and behaviour in clothing use, London.

Monnas, 2012: Renaissance velvets, London: V&A Publishing.


How to Find the Best Twitter Hashtags

Including trending and popular Twitter hashtags in your social media posts is a great way to boost your messages to reach people beyond just your own followers. When you use a popular hashtag in a post, you expose that message to everyone discussing that topic and looking at the messages relevant to that subject.

However, in order to take full advantage of this, you’ll need to know which hashtags will work best for you using our Twitter Analytics and more tools on this list.

Sign up for a free 30-day trial with Sprout Social to start tracking all your hashtag data!

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9 Tools to Find the Best Twitter Hashtags

For quite some time, this topic has been one of the most widely discussed on the Sprout Social Insights’s blog, so we thought it was due to really build it out to help our readers. We’ve put together a list of nine hashtag tools, broken down by category, that will help you increase your social reach and brand awareness.

If you’re completely new to the concept of hashtags, you can check out our complete guide:

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How to Use Hashtags on Every Social Media Network

It’s probably not a stretch to assume that most people are familiar with the basic idea of hashtags. But knowing Read More …

How to Find Trending Twitter Hashtags

Great marketers have found success in the use of real-time marketing, which is the idea that you include something topical—something that’s trending—in your social media posts to help increase the overall reach.

In order to capture the most reach, you’ll need to figure out what is trending at the time and create relevant content for that hashtag. These tools can help you find trending hashtags and give you a description so that you can create fitting content.

1. Twitter Native

The most obvious place to check out trending hashtags is the actual Twitter website because it has the most accurate information on the subject. Not only is this the best source based on legitimacy of data, but Twitter also offers “tailored trends” to each user based on where they are and who they follow.

Twitter Trending Topics

The only negative to Twitter’s hashtags is that it is only gives you a snapshot of the top trending topics. If you’re looking for more hashtags, you’ll need to use a third-party application.

One handy trick to squeeze a few more trending hashtags is to use the mobile app instead of the desktop. Go into the search tab and Twitter will display the top trending topics personalized to your account. If you scroll to the bottom of the “trending now” section, tap on more.

twitter trending hashtags

This will show you a list of the top 20 trending topics.

2. Trendsmap

Trendsmap is a navigational tool that allows you to look up the trending hashtags by location. This is fun and powerful for marketers because you can see how different locations are discussing different events online, and use that information to geo-target your messaging.


Getting a pulse on what’s going around in your local area is a great way to speak directly to segments of your audience. The trending topics in Chicago can look completely different from what’s trending in San Francisco or New Mexico. Whether your brand is national or local, this is a handy hashtag finder to go beyond the more broad national trending hashtags.

If you want to get really creative, find which hashtags are trending in a specific geographic location. Then you run ads against people in those areas and include the top hashtags in your Tweet.

3. Sprout Social

Full disclosure, Sprout Social is the company that brought you this article, but we really do have a fantastic tool for hashtag research. When you’re researching hashtags to use, it can be beneficial to see which hashtags are already associated with your brand. Sprout Social’s Trends Report analyzes all of your incoming messages and shows which hashtags are trending with your personal brand.

twitter analytics trends example

Once you know which topics and hashtags are being associated with your brand, you can start to use those terms to jump into the conversations with your followers.

4. RiteTag

RiteTag is an amazing tool for a handful of reasons. The first is that it provides a list of trending hashtags on its site that you can use to take advantage of real-time marketing.

ritetag trending hashtags

RiteTag will also give you feedback on your hashtags as you type, which indicates the strength of your Twitter hashtag.

How to Find Popular Twitter Hashtags

Leveraging trending hashtags for increased reach is a great idea, but what’s trending isn’t always what’s most relevant for your brand. However, it’s still a good idea to pepper your posts with hashtags to incrementally increase impressions. Try using hashtags that used to be popular. One example would be the NFL taking part in the “throwback Thursday” discussion.

5. #tagdef

Tagdef—as in hashtag definition—is a site that lists popular hashtags by time frame, including current, weekly and all-time top hashtags. Tagdef is also great since the site provides the definition for each hashtag, making it easier for marketers to familiarize themselves with the topic before diving in to create the content.


Use Tagdef to avoid looking like the out of touch brand jumping on trending topics without actually knowing what they mean. It’ll save you a lot of embarrassment and awkwardness.

6. is a hashtag finder that makes it easy to search for hashtags related to those you want to target. You can then use those hashtags along with your original to increase your reach by that much, leading to more clicks and conversion on your posts.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 5.09.56 PM

How to Visualize Your Hashtags

When you’re creating and managing hashtag campaigns, it can be incredibly valuable to visualize all of the engagement taking place. These tools will help you anticipate campaigns, making it easy to monitor all the activity surrounding your hashtag.

7. Tint

Once you’ve started your hashtag campaign, you can use Tint to aggregate all of the social posts containing that hashtag into a beautifully designed social hub.


The above is an example of the Nasdaq team displaying its social feeds using Tint.

8. Tagboard

Tagboard is one of the most aesthetically pleasing of all of the hashtag research sites. For each “Tagboard” you create, you specify a hashtag for it to track. Tagboard then displays popular posts containing that hashtag on a board that looks similar to the one below.


You can then easily peruse all of the posts that contain your specific hashtag. The tool has also incorporated “Feature Post,” which pulls that post to a separate board, making responding easy.


Keyhole originally created its platform for internal use, but decided to open it up to the public when it started receiving some positive feedback. Keyhole has features that are available for free, but more advanced features are accessible only for paid membership.


The above is an example of a fantastic word cloud that Keyhole generated when we searched for the hashtag #socialmedia. Each of those hashtags associated with #socialmedia are also clickable, which makes it easy to search Twitter hashtags around a specific theme.

Creating Your Own Twitter Hashtag

The tools above are all great for finding existing popular and trending hashtags, but what if you want to create a hashtag of your own?

Branded hashtags can bring your community together, differentiate you from the competition and add a little fun into your Twitter marketing strategy.

Not all branded hashtags are created equally though. Great hashtags are easy to remember, readable and unique. This is a hashtag that’s going to be associated with your brand, so you should put some thought into it. Here are some tips to make sure you get the most from your branded Twitter hashtag.

Attach Hashtags to a Campaign

Most branded hashtags will fall under one of two categories:

  1. Always-on hashtags
  2. Campaign specific hashtags

Always-on hashtags are ones like Nike’s #Justdoit or Under Armour’s #IWILL. They’re a part of your brands overall messaging and not specific to any singular campaign. You’ll often see these types of hashtags used when followers share user generated content for their favorite brands.

The second is campaign specific hashtags. These typically have a shorter lifespan and are used for a particular promotion. For instance, for National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the Alzheimer’s Association promoted the hashtag #EndAlzheimers.

The advantage of these hashtags is that they can be tied back to a specific campaign. Whenever you’re running a contest, competition or campaign, create a branded hashtag to go along with it. Then you can use a tool like Sprout with hashtag tracking to get an in-depth look at your campaign’s performance.

twitter share of volume report

Perform a Hashtag Search First

Before you settle on a hashtag, make sure you search Twitter for it. Specifically, you want to make sure nobody else is using the same hashtag and that it’s not tied to anything negative or outside your brand. If your desired hashtag was used several years ago, it’s probably safe to use it. But if a well-known brand is using it as a part of a current campaign, it’ll create a lot of confusion and make your legal team cringe.

Don’t Make the Hashtag Too Long

We’ve all done it before. Whether it’s typing out a text or Tweet, missing a character or misspelling a word happens all the time. The longer your Twitter hashtag is, the more likely it’ll be that someone will make a typo when trying to Tweet it.

You want your hashtag to be something that people can easily remember and spell. Some things to look out for are:

  • Using multiple words that end and start with the same letter (#gamingguys). These doubling up of letters looks confusing and makes it a little difficult to quickly write out.
  • Making it over three words long (#itsgamedaytoday). Your hashtags shouldn’t turn into complete sentences. Ideally, keep your hashtags to fewer than three words.
  • Using words that run into each other. The classic example of this mistake is is Susan Boyle’s album release party hashtag fail. When you’re stringing together multiple words in a single hashtag, double check for any hidden messages.

Avoid Using Too Many Hashtags in a Tweet

This tip goes for both branded and non-branded Twitter hashtags. Unlike Instagram where it’s pretty common to see 10+ hashtags in a single caption, Twitter is a little less welcoming to hashtag cramming.

Keep your number of hashtags in a Tweet to less than three. But one will usually be enough, particularly if it’s a branded hashtag that’s a part of a campaign.

In Closing

Hashtags are an extremely popular aspect of Twitter and other social media sites, and should be utilized by brands to assist in their marketing. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you’re using the best tools to research, create and monitor all of the hashtags associated with your brand.

twitter keyword report

If you’re looking for a good place to start, try out Sprout Social’s Twitter Keyword Report to see which hashtags and keywords people are currently discussing around your brand.

This post How to Find the Best Twitter Hashtags originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Sprout Social

Customer Loyalty: Why the Game’s Changing & How You Can Win It

Acquiring new customers for your business is a lot more challenging and costs up to five times more than it does to retain one. Comparatively, if you focus on your existing customer base, who already KNOW your brand, you will encourage repeat purchases. It is a known fact that repeat customers spend 60 percent more per transaction than first-time customers! And, one of the things that plays a significant role in encouraging repeat purchases is excellent customer service. But good customer service isn’t simple.

This is where customer loyalty programs come into the picture. They aren’t an entirely new concept, but considering that we all have the SAME loyalty card and benefits, it has certainly turned stale.

Fortunately, some brands have figured out a way. They are actively embracing new technology, following current trends, and feeling the pulse of their customers to give customer loyalty programs the much-needed facelift. Let’s take a look at what they are doing.

#1 Geolocation

Location-based services can be built into your apps to track as well as reward your most loyal customers with something they will cherish. For instance, if the user is near your store, automatically notify them of an in-store, limited-time discount or offer. Moreover, based on their past purchases, you could recommend the best money-saving deals. And using past-purchase and browsing behavior, direct them to specific aisles where there’s merchandise they might be interested in. If they make a purchase, reward them with points. Who wouldn’t want to save some moolah!

Since we are talking about geolocation technology we have to talk about Foursquare. With your business listed on Foursquare, you can reward or thank your customers for checking in at your outlet by giving them discounts or special, limited-time offers. Starbucks had great success  — one of their offers resulted in a 50 percent increase in check ins. That also means good sales! Thinking about embracing geolocation already?

Foursquare example

#2 Gamification

Gamification doesn’t have anything to do with creating games. It involves integration of gaming mechanics in a non-gaming setup, which, in your case, is a customer loyalty program. But why must you turn to game logic? Because they are addictive and can make people interact with you on your website or app for much longer.

Now, let’s understand this better through Starbucks’ My Reward Program. Their program is still a point-collection scheme, but, it’s been given a facelift with gamification. Customers can accumulate points in various ways, including buying Starbucks products at grocery stores. Once they bag 300 stars, they become gold members and are rewarded when they buy on the surprise monthly double-star days. Talk about repeat purchases galore.

What’s more — Starbucks also gives its customers a personalized gold card, which is a matter of tangible prestige. And, a real Starbucks fan will spend (once again repeat purchase) to get to the gold level and continue leveraging further benefits through accumulated points. Must say, Starbucks has definitely figured out how they can get their customers hooked and revenues soaring.

Starbuck's customer loyalty example

Before we move on to talk about the next strategy, just make sure you keep two things in mind while applying gaming thinking:

  • Give a visual progress bar. These cues will keep them motivated and focused to reach their goal.
  • Encourage them to share their achievement on social media so that more people become aware of your brand.

#3 Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that’s extremely popular among blockchain technology enthusiasts, especially millennials. It’s been almost a decade since the first bitcoin was mined. Who would have thought that cryptocurrency would take the world by the storm?

EZ Rent-A-Car is the first in the car rental and travel sector to award reward points in cryptocurrency through their loyalty program, EZ Money. Their customers complete the exchange at the CryptoRewards Exchange, powered by Persuade. Considering that the majority of EZ Rent-A-Car’s customers are millennials, this customer retention strategy provides a more relevant redemption option than the usual gift cards and discount coupons.

Another enticement is that the loyalty program members aren’t really investing their personal funds to buy digital currency. They are just using their reward points and converting it for financial growth. This gives them an opportunity to study the crypto market with lower personal risk.

EZ Rent-A-Car customer loyalty exampleSource

#4 Augmented Reality

Remember Pokémon Go? The mad rush it created? People were so into the game that its daily active users surpassed that of Tinder, Twitter, and Snapchat. Don’t tell me you didn’t try playing it even once!? If you did, then your participation proves (and so does the rest of the worlds’) that augmented experiences are a delight. What’s commendable is that compared to VR, which packs us off to a new, virtual and immersive world, augmented reality brings that same immersive experience into the real world.

The Pokémon Go frenzy faded, but not without teaching a lesson, especially for retailers. AR can empower consumers to make efficient purchase decisions. In fact, Walgreen went on to experiment with AR on their loyalty application. This app guides customers through the store and helps them discover products and in-store promotions and discounts. Moreover, it helps them discover how they can earn loyalty points, too. This makes the shopping experience wholesome and the customers feel that every penny spent is worth it.

Another example is Sephora’s Virtual Artist Tool. It employs the AR technology that accurately tracks facial features. Consumers can play with lip colors, eyeshadows, and other makeup to see how they look virtually before they buy. They can also find a foundation that matches their skin tone through AI and sample a fragrance without trying it on via a touchscreen and scented air.

Sephora Video of App

After reading about the new-age customer loyalty programs brands are running, isn’t it time for your brand to innovate too? After all, innovation = customer satisfaction.

Want to learn more about creating compelling customer experiences? Want to deliver better customer experiences—and drive more effective marketing? You need to adopt and fully leverage a data management platform. Outcomes include more personalized customer experiences, better marketing results, and an improved ROI. Download A Better Customer Experience.



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Miyubi: Oculus’ Feature-Length VR Experience

Right. This is it. The world’s first feature length VR film for Oculus. Picture this. You’re in the 80s and you’re a robot. Yes. A Robot called “Miyubi”. The immersive VR film puts you as the lead, a robot who is now loved by a very typical American family after “dad” gets back from Japan. […]

Digital Buzz Blog

Dunkirk: An Immersive WebVR Experience

The new Dunkirk movie is meant to be epic. And EPIC is this: the new WebVR Experience for the feature film. This co-play experience requires two people to play. You can ask a friend to join, or team up with a random player from around the world – your choice! Players become Allied troops on […]

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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?

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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

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