Author Archives: Gareth

Your Magazine Has Been Dispatched

Your magazine has been dispatched

Did you know we create a bi-monthly magazine? Of course you did, because between you all you bought 1,000 copies through our website within two days of its official release date. Sure, we had pre-orders up for a while before hand but we didn’t expect to sell even half of that over the next two months! And while this is undoubtedly great news it came with some real challenges and forced us to scale up our logistics on short notice. Here’s how we did it.

From 2011 to 2014 we were self-publishing, self-distributing an annually produced magazine. It was a labour of love, spawned from a weird idea, which furnished us with far more praise than we ever expected. The business model was pretty basic: We would print 1,000 copies per issue and they would gradually sell over a 12-month period until they were all gone. Two or three times a week I would take a trip to our local Post Office to send out the orders. The counter staff there got to know me well, they knew what I was sending and between us the process became relatively efficient for its scale.

But regardless, there were times when that arrangement would prove problematic. For instance, with every new release we would have a flood of orders. The 2013 release saw us receive 198 orders on launch day alone. When I walked into the Post Office that day the manager looked understandably distraught. He put a staff member on my delivery and asked me to come back a few hours later to pay the… *ahem* sizable bill.

This all changed in January, when we started working with a 3rd party publisher. Along with getting our magazine in high-street stores like WHSmiths, their distributors would hold all the stock and take responsibility for shipping out the online orders – no longer would our dining table be a small-scale warehouse for packing and shipping magazines! Unfortunately, the appeal of leaving it to somebody else soon wore off as customer satisfaction hit an all-time low. Every week we were dealing with customers’ who were waiting for their orders to arrive. And it’s not as if there were thousands and thousands of magazines to ship, we were only taking in the order of a few hundred online sales per issue at the time. Yet in our four year magazine-selling-history we had never had so many customer service problems as we did during the first half of 2015.

So what was going wrong? There were two main problems, first was the sheer number of people involved in shipping the product. It had gone from one (i.e. me) to a dozen, spread through three different companies. Any customer queries had to propegate through the entire chain before the buyer had so much as a response, let alone a resolution, to their questions. The second problem was economics, it was only cost effective for the distributor to send out our customers’ orders once a fortnight which meant some people had to wait nearly two weeks after making payment before their magazine even left the warehouse! It doesn’t matter what size your business is, this just isn’t good enough in 2015.


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12 Ways To Play with Fire On Your Wedding Day


It’s just a few days until Bonfire night in Britain. On 5th November we ‘celebrate’ Guy Fawkes almost blowing up the Houses of Parliament with fireworks, bonfires and, unusually, by eating piping hot jacket potatoes. I know, it’s weird, but it also pretty fun! It’s perfect time to bundle up warm and go “oooh!” and “aaah!” at pretty lights in the sky.

No doubt about it, companies that organise Fireworks for weddings charge a LOT, but there are plenty of other ways to start your marriage with a whoosh and a bang!

1. Carry a smoking-hot bouquet (don’t forget the fire extinguisher!)

Baa Baa Bad Bride

Source: A Baa Baa Bad Bridal Shoot

2. Prepare a pretty floral fire

Shamanic wedding ceremony in Guatemala17

Source: A Shamanic Wedding Ceremony In Guatemala

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12 Reasons Your Dog Needs To Be At Your Wedding

12 reasons your dog needs to be at your wedding

It’s all too easy to forget about our furry little friends on your big day. I’m going on record and saying your dog needs to be there. And if you’re working to a strict headcount, just uninvite that weird aunt you never actually visit.

Here’s why you shouldn’t leave those poor little guys at home:

1. He’ll be really sad without you


Source: An Orchard Elopement

2. He’s already sorted his outfit


Source: Thrifty Maine Cornfield Wedding

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Let’s Make the Web Faster – Images

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography

Beautiful photographs are our bread and butter. They’re eye-catching, enticing and transcend language barriers. But they are often the heaviest elements on a web page and so they’re the focus of today’s article on speeding up your site.


When uploading photos to your blog you typically don’t need to preserve the original resolution. For example, the main content column of Rock n Roll Bride (i.e. this bit you’re reading now) is only 576 pixels wide while a JPEG from a 15MP camera is over eight times that. If you’re simply embedding photos in-line with the blog post, make sure you are resizing the images before uploading. WordPress will do this auto-magically leaving you one less thing to worry about but other blogging platforms may vary. I dug around and found an old photo which was saved straight from the camera, the filesize (and therefore download size, to your visitors) is 3524KB (~3MB). If you look back at last week’s article on measuring your website you will see this is around the same as our entire front page, just for a single image. However, after resizing in Photoshop to 576px wide it shrinks to just 210KB, a 16-fold reduction.

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Let’s Make The Web Faster

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography

At the School of Rock Kat talks about the importance of serving up a snappy website experience to your visitors. A statistic from Mashable claims that one in four visitors will abandon a website that takes over four seconds to load. While visitors do tend to be more tolerant of slower websites in image-heavy markets such as photography the underlying message is still important for us to hear.

Personally, I hate waiting for really slow sites to load. If I need to see their content bad enough I’ll usually wait it out but I will rarely return and I certainly will not spend any time poking around the archives for more hidden gems, or checking out their advertisers. Instead, it’s right back to Google to click on the next search result.

The time you keep somebody waiting while loading your site on their computer is part of that first impression package, along with branding and layout. Most people understand the importance of the last two but rarely consider page speed along with them. I was looking at a photographer’s blog recently which actually took over three minutes to finish downloading, I’m not even exaggerating. I was so shocked I refreshed it to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. I’m a sucker for punishment, right?

The reason I bring this up is because I recently discovered our own page load times had gone from speedy to slouchy. This discovery flew in the face of our internal motto: Serve beautiful photography, fast.

I’ve since come to realise our website had been getting marginally slower month by month. But because Team Rock n Roll Bride has reasonably powerful computers and super-fast Internet access we never noticed it directly. It wasn’t until I was trying to load the site on a slightly outdated laptop and over a slower connection that I first became aware. And just think, as smart phones, tablets and 3G become more prevalent a light-weight, blazing-fast website is increasingly important.

So, over the last month I have been up to my elbows learning about the surprisingly complex world of page load times and I’ve picked up a few tricks which I think almost every small business could benefit from.


To find out how fast (or slow) your website really is you need to gather some data. My two favourite tools for this job are Google Analytics and Google Chrome. This is where it starts to get interesting, or tricky… depending on your perspective.

Google Analytics

Around November 2011 Google Analytics started collecting page load times from approximately 1% of all visitors. This means, as long as you are using Analytics, you have some data available to you right now! Just go into your reports and choose Content > Site Speed > Overview to see the graph. The problem with this is, even with our not-insignificant traffic, a 1% sample rate creates a very erratic graph. A visitor from Uganda is going to have a much slow experience than one from the UK, for example.

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If You Love Her, Let Her Grow

Almost exclusively the Green Room centres on the successful businesses, the people who run them and the strategies they employ to get, and stay, where they are. These are all super-important and you should be learning something from every article but we have absolutely neglected something equally critical from these pages. Something it took me too long and too much effort to realise on my own.

You might have already read about how this blog came to be, Kat has written about it on a couple of occasions but it’s necessary to go over it one more time to get this rarely discussed point across. This time the story will be from my perspective. And as everybody knows there are always two sides to a story.

A few years ago Kat was working nightshifts, five days a week, including covering the weekends. I was running a small IT company with a friend who I knew from college. In spite of my innovative ideas the business was merely treading water and the work was extremely stressful. I vividly recall several times when one wrong move would have lost millions of pounds worth of data, forever. As much as I love computers (and working with enterprise servers and infrastructure is awesomely exciting) I love my wife even more, she was my only motivation. Providing for my wife was the only reason I stayed at it. I wasn’t making much money but I had the potential, if things really took off, to give us a comfortable life.

The problem was our work schedules conflicted horribly; we had two short evenings in the week when we could spend any time together. Out of this we spawned ‘date night’, which I later found out is nowhere near a unique idea. We would go out to a restaurant, see a movie, and just spend ‘quality time’ together, which I later found out is also a euphemism. This worked really well for a while, until the blog started to take more of Kat’s time. While not working her day (night) job, Kat was busy working on the blog. Seeking out new photographers, posting content, and getting involved in forums and groups. It didn’t take long until I spent more of our date night staring at the back of a mobile phone than into my wife’s eyes. This was a serious issue, more so since at this stage the blog was making no money (we did not accept advertising requests until much later) so it seemed like a sacrifice without purpose. I felt like the only thing that was, is, important to me was becoming harder and harder to reach.

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Rock n Roll Bride, a little haven of kick ass weddingness in a cookie-cutter, pastel and often puke-worthy wedding world. You’ve likely all seen this mantra, it sits proudly on the front page of this website and quickly sums up what this place is about, with articles ranging from rainbow petticoats to New York steampunk.

Being anti-cookie-cutter has proven to be a very successful strategy for Kat and this little blog but you might not realise how picking up some of these ideologies can help keep your business fresh and competitive ahead of the competition.

Here’s the lesson, the moral if you will. In fact, you don’t need to read the rest of this article if you properly comprehend this sentence: Don’t just think differently about weddings, think differently about everything.

Still here? Great! Strap in tight, we’re off to ancient Rome. The Romans were an interesting bunch of people. Famous for their military, politics, legal system, language, technology and of course those natty robes. Their legacy reaches all the way to modern Hollywood thanks to Roman numerals which are still in use to indicate copyright dates. It is these peculiar letter-numbers which I want to draw your attention to. Have you ever noticed anything unusual about them? I mean, aside from the fact that they’re using letters to represent numbers. I think the most striking thing about Roman numerals is that there is no way to write zero. They just never thought of it. Naturally, they had words for ‘nothing’ and ’empty’ and such like but in mathematical terms zero had simply not been invented. Invention of the number zero is generally credited to India sometime in the 9th century and it revolutionised the field of mathematics.

The point to this outlandish detour is to demonstrate that anybody, even those mighty ancient Romans, can be so indoctrinated into a school of thought that they overlook opportunities for innovation. And when you turn the microscope on the tiny world of weddings it can be positively difficult to find people thinking differently.

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Search Engines vs Social Engines

Woohooo finally!

I’ve been nagging gently encouraging Mr Rock n Roll Bride to start writing blog posts for The Green Room ever since we came up with the idea. As many of you will already know, Gareth is the brains behind this operation. I may be the wedding obsessed one, but he’s the one who enables my wedding obsession and rambles to be set free! He is a rather handy commodity to have around the place and so I feel it’s only right that we share some of his vast knowledge on all things computer/internet/geek related with you too.

If you have any other techy type questions or topics you’d like us to cover in future, be sure to leave a comment below. But for now, I’ll hand you over to my secret weapon…

 Photography Credit: Marianne Taylor Photography (iPhone photo taken at our Beloved shoot)

For as long as there have been search engines there has been search engine optimisation (SEO). Briefly, SEO is the practise of enhancing a web site, through both its copy and its source code, to rank higher in the top search engines for particular search terms. But then you knew that already, didn’t you? Because SEO is big business. Companies specialise in it, websites are dedicated to it, profits are won and lost because of it.

Or so the industry would have us believe.

I’m here to tell you it’s OK to design your website for people, not search engines. In fact, I implore you to do so and I can sum up why with just one sentence: You and search engines share one very important goal, you both want to give visitors a great experience.

If a search engine doesn’t deliver the best, most relevant, websites at the top of the results it gets usurped by one which does. A lot of people spend time and money trying to optimise their blogs for Google without really considering that lore. Today’s search engines are extremely complex and clever beasts. With over 73 million WordPress sites in existence, it’s in their own interests to be equipped to figure out exactly what those blogs are about.

Step back in time with me for a moment, when Yahoo was at its peak there were a handful of tricks which absolutely worked to ‘game’ their system. Some examples were stuffing keywords into page titles, picking out phrases in bold and italics, and invisible text. But the experience to the human reader was always compromised. Invisible text, for example, often resulted in a large blank space at the bottom of a web page and in those dial-up days most visitors waited there, thinking images were still loading.

As knowledge of these exploits spread the quality of Yahoo’s search results deteriorated and it didn’t take long for an innovative newcomer to snatch the crown from Yahoo’s head, its name was Google. Google banished most of the spammy websites from their search results by using off-page factors which the website owners had little control over. But through time ways were found to abuse even those methods. Today, Google is making changes to parts of its core algorithm on a daily basis to improve results for its users. If you’re trying to massage keyword ratios in a blog post or an ‘about me’ page today the only thing you can be certain of is that in three months it will be out of date and you’ll be getting the cheque book out yet again to get that consultant in or wasting a whole mess of time finding out what the latest theories are for yourself.

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