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Archive for the ‘SEO and Busienss Marketing’ Category

HTML5 and SEO

Since the advent of the first web search engines, designers and developers have struggled with issues of how to increase their placement on a search engine results page.

With the major search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) unwilling to reveal their ranking algorithms — protecting them from “black hat” search engine optimizers attempting to game the system — “white hat” search engine experts must play a constant guessing game to determine which tactics will be most effective.

The continuing development of technologies, from HTML and XML to JavaScript and Flash, has made the pursuit of prime search engine real estate a massive industry in its own right.

The introduction of HTML5 has simplified many tasks, but adds another layer of complexity in this area.

HTML5 and multimedia

For many years, web designers and developers have used plug-ins such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight to add audio, video and graphics content to their projects. These plug-ins have enabled professionals to create glossy, eye-catching designs that have attracted visitors and won numerous awards.

However, these sites have traditionally suffered from poor search engine ranking due to webcrawler’s inability to index this type of content. Great strides were being made in this area just prior to the death of Flash, but to a large degree, investment in the area of plugin indexing has now ceased altogether.

HTML5 allows for indexing multimedia content, such as menus, audio and video, with new markup tags. The content within these tags can improve a site’s search engine ranking. Indeed an HTML5 site consistently ranks higher than the equivalent site built with a plugin; however there is some question as to HTML5′s suitability for all tasks.

Google frequently tells us to build a site for the user, with ‘natural’ content. We may need to wait for HTML6 for that to be possible.

HTML5 and link types

In previous years, developers would use the “rel” attribute on their link tags to specify which links that a web crawler should not follow:

<a href="no-follow.htm" rel="nofollow">Don't Follow This Link</a>

In HTML5, new values for the “rel” attribute of the link tag allow us to create a context for a document that, moving forward, should provide greatly improved search results for users:

Alternate allows us to specify alternate content, the same text in PDF format for example, or the same content in a different language.

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="espanol.html">

Author enables us to link to an author’s profile. This is of great benefit on Google if the author is signed up to Google+.

<link rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/0123456789">

Bookmark lets blogs link to an article’s permanent URL, helpful if your articles are usually published on a home page.

<a rel="bookmark" href="http://mysite.com/article.html">Permalink</a>

Help is designed to be used by third party apps to provide access to help files. Not much use on a blog page, but invaluable for web-based apps.

<link rel="help" href="helpfiles.html">

License provides a link to licensing information.

<a rel="license" href="licensing.html">License information</a>

Next and Prev are used when a document is part of a series, giving context to the current page.

<a rel="next" href="page-2.html">Next</a>
<a rel="prev" href="page-0.html">Previous</a>

Search provides a link to a resource that can be used to search through the current document and its related pages.

<link rel="search" href="http://www.mysite.com/mysearch.xml">

The full specification for these attribute values can be found on the W3C site.

HTML5 and ranking

In late 2010, John Mueller of Google remarked that HTML5 is “still very much a work in progress” and that the company is still working on ways to index HTML5 content. However, the company is making a sincere effort to incorporate the indexing of HTML5 content into its newest generation of web crawlers.

While Google’s relationship with HTML5 standards remains in flux, and while Google remains the focus of most SEO efforts, HTML5′s introduction of new content and ways of describing that content is unlikely to offer any real SERP benefits.

However, the merits of allowing more content to be indexed with less effort is not in dispute, and with HTML5 rapidly becoming the new standard for web design it is just a matter of time before HTML5 sites outrank xHTML sites. Webdesigners should be planning for that future today.

 

Do you take full advantage of HTML5′s extra markup? Have you seen any SEO benefit of coding in HTML5 over xHTML? Let us know in the comments.

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How to Deal with Creative Differences with Clients

For a techie, one of the not so nice aspects of being a freelancer is the fact that you have to work with clients. When you work for an agency, most of this is handled by the account executive and sometimes you don’t have to deal with the client at all. However, when you work for yourself as a freelancer or as a business owner, you do have to deal with clients.

While very often this won’t be a big thing, there are cases, such as when you have creative differences with a client, when you certainly would benefit from any advice how to handle these situations smoothly. I don’t claim the solutions I offer are the best but as my experience shows, they do help to deal with creative differences in a civilized manner.

The Client Is(n’t) Always Right – Why Creative Differences Could Be Good

First, let’s clarify that creative differences aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, they frequently help to make a better product. Client input can be really valuable. You might have decades of experience but still there are always cases when the client has a better idea than you do – be it for a small detail, or even for the design as a whole.

You need to accept this as normal. The worst mistake you can make is to take it personally. No, almost always the client isn’t attacking you, your knowledge, or your skills.

On the other hand, if you believe the client is always right, this isn’t so either. You are supposed to know more about design than the client. This means that when the client has a ridiculous idea, you don’t have to say “Yes, Sir/Madam” all the time just to please him or her. When the client has disastrous ideas and you follow them, the end result will be failure, which in turn will hardly please the client.

As you see, things are not black and white. Sometimes the client is right, sometimes you are right. You both just need to find a way to communicate your thoughts, so that you can arrive at a solution that will make the project great rather than get involved in an ego fight.

Discuss and Explain Your Points of View

The major way to understand each other is to discuss and explain your points of view. Very often this is all it takes to solve differences of any kind. Here are some points to consider:

A suggestion or demand might sound ridiculous till you hear the reasoning behind it

Not everybody is able to verbalize his or her thoughts precisely and this is a common reason for confusion. When you add to this the fact that generally clients are not familiar with design terminology, it is quite possible that what the client really means is quite different from what you think he or she means. For instance, you might find it ridiculous to have fancy fonts for text because you think the text is the text body itself, while the client in reality wants fancy text for the slogan, or for some quotations you will put as an image inside the text. You just need to clarify what each of you means. When you do it, it might turn out you have no creative differences at all!

Accept that the other party also has likes and dislikes

You might be a genius designer but this doesn’t mean everybody else, your clients included, is a loser with no sense of colors and composition. You like red and orange, your client likes blue and green. You like rounded corners and headlines with a background, your client prefers things simpler. These are all natural and they are not a reason to fight. If you are working on your personal project, you are free to choose everything you want but when you work for a client, you do need to respect his or her likes and dislikes.

The worst you can do is to start convincing the client about the cuteness of red and orange and of rounded corners and headlines with a background. You might manage to force your view on the client but basically this is useless – the client will hardly be happy simply because he or she likes different things. Of course, if the client wants a disastrous combination, you should try to convince him or her this combination is not OK but try to use hard facts for it. For instance, you can say that these shades of green and blue don’t go well together and offer to replace them with other shades of green and blue that are a better match.

I remember once I was designing a site for a friend of mine. The guy was obsessed with black backgrounds but I somehow managed to convince him black is not user friendly – text on a dark background is more difficult to read and besides, black is too necrophilic and makes the whole site look depressing. As far as I remember, the site had dark blue background as a compromise for a while because dark blue is less depressing than black, though it is still far from what I would personally choose as a background but later he decided that it is black and nothing else. Of course, I wouldn’t take a gun and make him remove the black background – if he likes it that much, let’s leave it like that, the world won’t end.

Don’t throw in your decades of expertise as a proof you are right

Sometimes it feels easier to convince a client you are right because you have lots of experience. While there are many cases when years of experience can help you, basically clients aren’t interested in this.

When they don’t like something, they don’t care about the hundreds and thousands of sites you have made. If you can use your experience to convince a client something is wrong (i.e. my attempt to convince my friend that many experts think that all equal light text on dark background is more difficult to read, though there are others who don’t think so), this is fine. But if you throw in your experience as an argument per se, it feels like you are telling a child “I’m right because I’m older!”, don’t expect a client in his or her right mind will accept this.

Both of you might need to make concessions

Compromise is the ground to mutual understanding. Of course, it depends on what you have to compromise. If the client wants really stupid things (i.e. text body in 20px font size because this will make it easy to read) and won’t negotiate, there isn’t much room for compromise and you might have to resort to the advice into the last section of the article.

If I continue the example with the site of that friend of mine, the concession he made in exchange for the black background was that he gave up on his idea of animation and sounds. It wasn’t “Look mate, I accepted your black background, now it is your turn to accept my conditions!” kind of negotiations. Rather, I just managed to convince him that these animations and sounds are annoying at best and they are so last century. I know that many novice designers and clients with no knowledge are fascinated by everything that jumps and screams and this was the case with this guy – he simply didn’t have much experience as a user and he was fascinated by sounds and animations.

“If there is a will, there is way.” This might not be true about everything in life but for most cases of creative differences it is. If you manage to communicate your views, than it becomes easier to see each other’s point of view. Of course, don’t bet on a happy end in all cases but more often than not you can solve creative differences via communication and negotiation.

End the Project, If the Creative Differences Are So Fundamental

It is best if you manage to solve the creative differences with your client and work happily ever after, but unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes creative differences are so fundamental that no negotiations can bridge the cap.

In this case the only move is to end the project. This is really a last resort but sometimes you just have no other options. If you continue to work together, this will be a torture for both of you. Under these circumstances, the wisest is to end the project, especially if it is still in the beginning and go your separate ways.

The Ultimate Guide to Speed Up Your Website

A website can be well designed but if it is not fast enough, it is of no use. Today, in this article, we have decided to jot down some tips and techniques to reduce the website loading time as much as possible. Google is one good example of a fast website and all search engines are striving to reach to its level. If you have a website and it is fast, you will have tons of satisfied users’ in comparison to well designed but heavy websites. The tips that we are going to discuss in this article are implemented by SmashingHub and they can really help a web master in giving its visitors a fast web experience.

As per a few recent experiments and researches, it has been observed that if web search latency has increased it will definitely affect the daily number of searches. If a user has experiences latency frequently, he will avoid the website even when the issue has been fixed. So, it is very important to resolve the speed issue before your user notices it.

Choose A Decent Web Host

Server is an integral part of any website so while choosing a web host it is important to make a wise decision. A professional web host works as a base for your website and starting off with professional configuration can really help you take off. Now let’s get onto tips and tricks for speeding up your website.

Recommended Reading:  How to choose a Web Host by wikiHow.

1.   Control Browser Caching:

Setting expires header will make your website load a lot quicker. Expires headers helps the browser in recognizing if the website can be fetched from browser’s cache. The benefit of expires header is that it stores all heavy files such as images in browser’s cache and when the user returns to the website, website is bound to load faster.

Recommended readings:

2.   Enabling Keep Alive Signals:

A keep-alive signal plays a very important role in the internet world. Keep-alive basically sends a signal after some time in order to find out if visited link is working or not. If the signal does not receive any reply keep-alive assumes that the link is down for now. Once the link is assumed to be down, another path is used to route the data. It helps in reducing the latency of the website so you need to discuss this feature’s availability with your hosting company.

3.   Enabling gzip compression:

Compressed HTTP Response

Gzip needs no introduction because this is the most famous and till now most effective way to reduce the website’s load and increase its speed. All the famous browsers support gzip. It is a great way to reduce HTTP’s response size. If you want to make the page light weight you can simple add the following code in your htacess.file.

<em># compress text, html, javascript, css, xml:</em><em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript</em>
<em>AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript</em>
<em># Or, compress certain file types by extension:</em>
<em><files *.html></em>
<em>SetOutputFilter DEFLATE</em>
<em></files></em></em>

Also, PHP code given below can also be used at the top of your HTML/PHP file:

 

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<?php if (substr_count($_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING'], 'gzip')) ob_start("ob_gzhandler"); else ob_start(); ?>

 

Or, simply use plugins for your CMS (like the WP HTTP Compression plugin for WordPress).

4.   Cacheable Redirects:

Cacheable redirects are again a great way to reduce the load on your website. Once the user has visited your website, on next visit, the website will load faster thanks to cacheable redirects. You should go with 302 redirect having validity of 24 hours. Also, make sure that includes a user agent and cache control.

Since, smashinghub does support web responsive theme for smart phone users. It can’t have any problem for mobile users.

5.   Using a Content Delivery Network:

CDN is basically a huge compilation of web servers distributed wisely across various locations in order to deliver website’s content with efficiency. You can try Amazon CloudFront or MAXCDN. You can manage your Cache using W3 Total Cache Plugin.

Content Elements

Even as a web master you won’t be having a total control over your server. Content elements are easy to manipulate.

1.   Minimize Redirects

Minimizing redirects in your website will help in reducing the latency of your website. You should only implement those redirects which are highly important and there is no alternative for it. These are Google’s recommendations:

  • Do not give references of URLs that will redirect to other URLs.
  • There should be only one redirect to reach to a destination point.
  • Avoid any useless domains which won’t serve the user with content.

2. Query Strings

If you want to increase the speed of your website, remove any extra query strings from stagnant resources. You should be using query strings only when necessary and that too with dynamic strings only.

3. Specifying a character set

When it comes to HTTP headers it is important to specify a character set. Following code should be added into your header in order to serve the purpose:

 

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<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="</em><strong><em>text/html;</em></strong><em> </em><em>charset=</em><strong><em>utf-8"</em></strong><em>>

 

4. Use minimum codes

Minify your codes

You need to minify your codes in order to speed up your website. Remove any HTML comments, CDATA sections, useless empty elements and white spaces will increase your website’s speed.

Recommended reading

Avoid Redirects by Google Code gives you a good overview on the matter.

5.  Avoiding bad requests

Make sure there are no broken links on your website because they make 404 and 410 errors. Such useless and wasteful requests will slow down your website’s speed further. Broken links and images will require your special attention so make sure everything is fixed up. Use online broken link checker or use WordPress link checker for free.

6.  Serve resources from a consistent URL

If a single resource is being shared on multiple pages, make sure that all are linked to the same and identical resource. If a source is share on various pages via different domains it will increase the cache’s load. You can check out Google’s recommendation:

7.  Reduce DNS Lookups

DNS lookups take a lot of time and browser will not perform any action unless it is done with lookups. Reducing DNS lookups will definitely increase your website’s speed. You can measure yours, by using Pingdom Tools.

CSS, JS and Images Optimization

Here are few points, if you can consider it, you can get good results for your website.

CSS and JavaScript Optimization

1.   Specifying Image Dimensions

If you are a technical person you must be aware of the fact that a browser begins to submit a page way before the images are loaded. Specifying dimensions will make your browser reflow. In order to avoid this make sure you add height and width tags.

2.   Optimization of images

Images can contain a lot of content which could make the image heavy. If you keep the images of minimum size, you are making things a lot easier for the user. Always try to save and upload images in JPEG. You can use a CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+S shortcut to save an optimized image in Adobe Photoshop, use Yahoo! Smush.it, or if you are using WordPress, you can install the WP Smush.it plugin.

3.   Put CSS at the top and JS at the bottom

In order to avoid progressive rendering you should put stylesheets in a document head. This will help different browsers in blocking useless rendering which means browsers will not have to redraw the elements on the page being loaded. Till the original page gets load, users will only see a white, blank page.

Optimization For WordPress

From time to time, we monitor, benchmark and analyze the performance of our WordPress blog. If the site is running slow, we need to know why. Here are some basic changes we’ve done and we figured will significantly increase the speed of your WordPress blog.

1. Cache Your Worpress Blog

WP-Cache is an extremely efficient WordPress page caching system to make you site much faster and responsive. We also recommend WP Super Cache which enhances from the previous mentioned plugin and too does a great job.

2. Deactivate And Delete Unused Plugins

When you notice your blog is loading real slow, see if you have a lot of plugins installed. They might be the culprit.

3. Remove Unnecessary PHP Tags

If you take a look into your theme’s source codes, you will find a lot tags like these:

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 <?php bloginfo('stylesheet_directory'); ?>
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<?php bloginfo('description'); ?>

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to speed up your website but the above mentioned ones are the most affective ones. Speed might not be the most important thing but as mentioned earlier, it plays an important role in any website’s success. If you plan to make any changes to reduce the load, make sure to have a back up.

Important Considerations for Estimating Your Next Website Design Project

When it comes to pricing a service, website design and development is one of the trickiest (in my opinion) services to estimate. There are a few reasons why this is the case, which we will get into a little later, but for Website Designers and Website Developers who make their living building websites for clients it is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that you properly estimate your website design jobs. If you don’t, you will be eating costs left and right, which will end up totally destroying your profit margin.

Over the next 1700 words or so I am going to do my best to provide you with a little insight into how to properly estimate your next website design project. Throughout the article we will discuss things like, what causes website projects to exceed the scope of work, tips for avoiding scope creep, creating a list of initial questions, using Skype to have face-to-face meetings with clients, and setting client expectations.

 

Why Do My Website Projects Keep Losing Money?

One of the most frustrating things that almost all Website Designers and Developers go through when it comes to building websites for clients is scope creep. Scope creep is inevitable, even when you take the time to properly set customer expectations. Scope creep isn’t as bad to deal with when you’re getting paid for it. It becomes almost unbearable to deal with when you’re not. Scope creep rears it’s ugly head in two different phases of the website development process, during development and once the website is launched through death by one-thousand “change requests”. Hopefully after you finish reading this article you will be much better prepared to deal with scope creep, and be able to properly estimate future website development projects. For now, let’s go over some of the main causes of scope creep for website development projects:

  • Clients who pay to have a website built are usually not very knowledgeable in the area of website design and development. When someone doesn’t understand what it takes to build a website, they will never be able to truly grasp why tasks costs a certain amount and why it takes a certain amount of time to complete them.
  • Client Reviews. Clients usually end up submitting many more rounds of changes than scoped for. Not only that, but unless you explain it to them, many clients will send changes through “piecemeal”, meaning one change at a time. Obviously Website Designers and Developers cannot be efficient when they get daily emails asking for changes.
  • “Oh that’s cool, can we add that to my website”? It’s inevitable, throughout the website build clients will see features that they love from other websites, features that they don’t full understand what it takes to build them, and features that certainly are not covered in the original scope of work.
  • Once the website launches customers don’t realize how much maintenance is needed to keep a website running smoothly and keeping things fresh. During the website proposal process many customers are hesitant to include website maintenance fees in the budget. Then once the website launches they ask for numerous one-off changes and expect you to do complete them free of charge.

Now there are certainly more reasons for scope creep, but in my experience the list above hits on some of the big ones. Now that we understand how scope creep happens, we are better prepared to minimize our exposure to it through educating the client up front.

Tips on Creating Better Estimates for Website Design Projects

I’m sure that all of the Website Designers and Website Developers reading this are smiling as I think what we have detailed above has probably affected each of you at one point or another. That said, WE CAN GET A HANDLE ON IT! Below are a few tips that I recommend you consider adding to your arsenal when it comes to managing your client’s expectations and estimating your future website development work. If you follow the tips below I think you will have much more success than before.

  • Website Planning – If you have been reading my articles than you know I’m all about planning. I always say, “spend two-thirds of your time planning and one-third executing”. Those who take time to plan for anything they want to accomplish are more likely to achieve it. Think through what your customer is asking you, put together a few ideas, and get buy-in before you start the build.
  • Create an initial list of questions that you can ask your client during the initial kick-off meeting. You might even consider sending it to your client in advance of the meeting, having her fill it in, and then use it to guide your conversation.
  • Face-to-Face Meetings – If you don’t live near your client, Skype is a great tool to use. Having a face-to-face conversation with a client will do wonders in regards to them understanding what you’re saying and everyone getting on the same page.
  • Set Expectations – It is imperative that you are very open and honest with your client and you take time to continually set expectations, especially up front. By doing this you can always refer back to “that conversation we had” where you explained to them how things work. Getting them on board by giving them all of the options, letting them know if they choose A these are some of the challenges, if they choose B those are some of the challenges. This way they have all of the information and THEY can make the call.
  • Website Planning Spec – Create a Website Planning Spec that lays out the entire website prior to the build. Get your customers to sign off on this “blueprint” before you develop anything. Then use it as your guide. This will minimize the constant changes and gives you ammunition to go back to explain what they agreed to, what they are now asking, and why it’s going to take more time and more money to complete.

Create a List of Initial Questions for Website Planning

As part of the website planning process that I referred to in the section above, creating a list of initial questions that you can ask your client would be hugely beneficial for properly scoping your website projects. What’s nice about creating a list like this is that you create it once and then use it over and over. You may need to tweak the questions here and there based on the client and what you know they are looking for, but the majority of the questions will be the same across all clients. In order to come up with your initial list of questions, think through the most crucial elements of any website development project. What information do you need to know up front in order to properly spec out the job? Once you’ve done that you can start putting keys to the keyboard and type up your list. Here are a few questions I usually use which should help you get started:

  • What is your goal for the website (ie. Drive awareness, sell products and services, etc.)?
  • What do you see as your “core” web pages?
  • Are there any websites out there that you like and you want to pull in features from or that I can use as a guide when developing your website architecture and design?
  • What’s your timeline for this project?
  • Do you need us to provide hosting for your website?
  • Do you have a URL that you’ve purchased already or do you need us to purchase it? What do you want it to be?
  • Should we include search engine optimization in our project budget?
  • Do you have an IT person who is going to handle day-to-day maintenance once the website is live or should we include that service in our proposal?

Use Skype for Your Client Meetings

As part of the tips section above I recommend that you have at least the initial client meetings in person. That said, if you do not live in the same geographic area as your clients, that poses a problem. The solution? Skype. Get your clients on Skype. I’ve had clients who barely know how to use email who I’ve had successfully install and use Skype. Skype is an amazing tool for business and especially when dealing with website development projects. It will make the client more at ease with the process when they can see you when you are speaking with them. You have to remember that someone who hires you for a website development job probably doesn’t know much about website development, thus they are naturally uncomfortable. This can lead them to challenge things like budget because they don’t full understand what goes into website development. By you taking time to Skype with them and have a face-to-face conversation you can build a level of trust in them with you. This makes things a whole lot easier moving forward.

Set Customer Expectations with Your Initial Website Proposal

Too many times website developers put together an initial website proposal and they don’t take time to properly set customer expectations. It normally goes a lot like this, create the proposal, email it to the client, and ask if they have questions. This naturally leads to a lot of confusion on the part of the client because if they don’t know a lot about website development to begin with, they may not know how to truly understand your proposal. I recommend that you set up a time to meet them in person or Skype with them before you even send them the proposal. Once it’s on the books, go ahead and send it to them a day or two in advance. This way they can read through it and come prepared to ask you questions at the meeting. At that point you can walk them through it, answer their questions, and set expectations. The biggest key is to explain to them how website development projects normally go. Don’t be afraid to explain “scope creep” to them. By you giving them an understanding how what’s involved in website development, where the hang ups are, what customers typically don’t understand they will feel much more comfortable when dealing with things like budget. Explain to them that this proposal is an initial starting point and as long as nothing changes in their requirements, this is what you will stick to. Also explain to them that normally as the process goes along clients ask for things that aren’t in the original budget, which creates the need to either extend the timeline or the budget, or both. Let them know that whenever they ask for something that’s out of scope you will be sure to let them know, offer up solutions to either stay in scope while still achieving their request, or moving forward without implementing their request because of the costs/time involved. Either way, explain that you will have a discussion with them. Most clients are very receptive to this.

How Will You Estimate Your Next Website Development Project

Hopefully after reading this you have a much better idea on how to prevent scope creep and better estimate your future website design projects. Does anyone have any other tips for how to better estimate website design projects? If so, feel free to leave your comments below.

Has Social Media Created the Ideal Opportunity for You?

The purpose of the media, simply put, is to disseminate information and in the process entertain, communicate, and—most importantly—form opinions and change society’s attitude. Information can be conveyed in any form (e.g., voice, document, picture, video).

Has Social Media Created the Ideal Opportunity for You?

Today’s generation can look back and definitely realize the path that media has travelled and the transformations it has passed through. Even before human beings could invent the basic post or telegraph services, information was disseminated and received with the help of animals (e.g., carrier pigeons) and fellow human beings who carried information and conveyed it to the receiver. Technological innovations have gradually given rise to a flood of innovations like post, print, telegraph, radio, television, mobile phones, and the Internet.

 

Some wonder what the next big media innovation will be to transform the way in which humans converse with each other. Even before you try to come up with an answer, you should contemplate that most of the media technologies were invented with a social purpose. Business entities always found a way to utilize a medium to reach customers and spread their message. Now, did human beings object to such intrusion? Yes, no, maybe—the answer would vary from person to person based on their experiences. A person who has often been harassed by unwanted phone calls from insurance and credit card companies would definitely support the thought of minimizing—and even eliminating—these intrusions. Someone who has benefitted by receiving the relevant information which may have helped him or her in a personal was may highly endorse this dissemination of knowledge.

Social media is influencing almost all aspects of life, moving beyond networking. The way people work in different areas has undergone a significant change due to the advent of the new media. In many ways the “ways of working” across fields have been influenced. The following examples should help put things into perspective.

Journalism

Almost all the news channels, print media, etc., are present on social media channels. Social networks have already become a vital source of information that cannot be neglected. Journalists need to filter out the noise to find stories to pursue. This monitoring has to be done in real time as sometimes it can give the vital edge and the channel/newspaper may be the first one to cover the story. Even for a community (religions, cities, etc.), there are websites, Facebook pages, etc. A journalist can log on to these and search if there is an issue/concern facing a particular community that is being raised by someone on the forum (Facebook page/Twitter handle, etc.). If this is validated and pursued, it can surely enhance the brand image of the journalist along with newspaper/channel in that particular community and also amongst others. The whole world of journalism has to keep a close watch on the “News Feed” in Facebook or “timeline” in Twitter as they can hold important cues for “hot” stories! As it is not possible for journalists to be active and all ears for such important information 24/7, online community managers play a vital role in relaying relevant information to each journalist for follow-up.

Recruitment

It’s always a cumbersome task for an employer to cross-check the information about the prospective employee. Employers risk trusting the incorrect information presented by prospects. It’s also difficult to judge one’s character during brief interviews. Today, social media can facilitate removing “information asymmetry” amongst the recruiters and prospects to a large extent. Recruiters these days are increasingly using social media to gather more information about the prospective employees. It’s difficult for anyone to cheat your accomplices consistently as the “social image” can be very well reflected by the individual’s participation in social media. Recruiters can easily understand and know more about a person by scanning social media channels and his/her behavior on them. The kinds of posts you make, comments you post, photographs you share, and content you like across online media exhibit your social graph and convey a lot more beyond the two- or three-page CV. For example, if you have applied for some position which demands creativity and you have a related blog/Flickr channel/YouTube channel where you have relevantly expressed yourself, you would be perceived as a genuinely creative person, rather than just having stated it on the CV. This enhances the credibility of the candidate and increases the probability of being recruited.

Marketing

The marketing function engages in activity that’s critical to a brand’s success. Today, such a function can “listen” in a much more effective manner, which helps identify needs and eventually some wonderful products. Nowadays, people blog about both good and bad experiences, some of which are related to products and services. People also leave comments and feedback on a company’s blog and interact with the company on Twitter, Facebook, etc. The feedback is real time and offers an immediate needs assessment. Although marketers still rely to a large extent on surveys, social media analytics have becoming increasingly important in decision making, whether about a product conceptualization or campaign. In addition, an increasing amount of budgets is now allocated to online advertising, especially in developed countries. In India as well, the social media presence is becoming more of a norm than a differentiator.

Politics

Door-to-door campaigns may have been the norm for political campaigns for older generations, but Gen Y is engaged through social media. In some developed countries, the time spent on Facebook is now comparable to the time spent watching TV. The elections in some developed countries have already noticed the influence of social media. In developing countries where the internet penetration is much less, the impact is still going to be big as the educated people tend to be the opinion leaders in any society.

The social media revolution has opened up a lot of opportunities for both professionals as well as entrepreneurs, as the following examples indicate.

Application Development

Apart from the technical (web development/enhancement) side of social media sites, applications (app) development has also created a sizeable industry where specific (web) applications are developed either to enhance a corporate brand image or just for fun/attract users’ attention to some other site. In some cases, it is used to monetize advertising revenue. The conceptualization of the app involves a lot of creativity in order to attract the audience’s attention. The competition is tough, with numerous apps available on Facebook and other social networking websites. Apps, much like any other social media interface/channel, need to continue re-inventing themselves in order to sustain audience attention. Due to an increasing number of people not only in developed, but also in developing countries, who are beginning to access social media on their mobile phones, a whole new industry is being spawned for mobile compatibility of these apps as well as exclusively mobile apps.

Blogging

In quite a few examples in India as well as the global context, what started as a blog developed into full-fledged websites that get numerous hits per day. Quite a few niche audiences exist for different kinds of contents; for example, some may like technology content in general, some technology content related to cloud computing only, or some technology content related to new media. Blog with broad-based themes have also become popular (e.g., movies, humor). The monetization can be achieved by means of Google Adsense and other similar programs. Once you apply for the Adsense program and are approved by Google, ads on your blog start being placed by Google. You get paid when someone clicks on the ads or views them, ranging from a cent to dollars per click depending on what kind of ‘targeted’ advertisement is being displayed on your blog. More models include offering readers basic content for free and charging a fee for the premium content on your blog. In addition, quite a few people use blogging for popularizing their views and/or products/services, which eventually leads to monetary gains through sales.

Social Gaming Developers

Social gaming refers to games played on a browser with a social network integration element; it is usually multiplayer. Social gaming—despite being hugely popular—still remains largely untapped monetarily. Social network game developer companies range from well-established companies (like Zynga) to startups. The mobile compatibility of these games will be a future focus area and the biggest challenge that remains is monetization.

Apart from the technical development aspects discussed, the following broad-based key profiles have emerged as a result of social media. The roles and responsibilities of these profiles vary significantly according to each company/industry.

Online Community Manager (CM)

This person manages the virtual face of the brand across multiple social media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). The job entails moderating the community, monitoring discussions, checking spam, and actively engaging the audience through interactions. The CM is also expected to pass on the relevant information (e.g., a customer grievance tweet, post about a good idea on the Facebook wall) to the respective departments and monitor the closure for the same. The CM is a customer advocate and should check that the customer’s best interests are not compromised. At the same time, the CM has to play the role of a brand evangelist by influencing rather than persuading community members. He/she should be passionate about the brand and the community around it. Ideally, the person needs to be connected with the brand’s community round the clock; however, he/she could make use of some social media dashboard tools to simplify tasks.

Social Media Researcher/Analyst

This person is involved in studying competitors’ strategy and analyzing data to understand trends and issues, such as which channels (sites/channels) are the most effective and customer satisfaction pertaining to query resolution, interaction, and ROI. This individual should be well-versed with the various analytic tools available in the market and should have both analytical and behavioral capacities. Insights need to be generated not just on analytics, but also on behavioral aspects to understand why community members behave in a particular manner.

The Social Media Strategist

This person is expected to take the analysis as input and determine the future roadmap and strategy for the brand(s). Any individual who has had sufficient experience in digital media marketing, with adequate knowledge of social media, would fit into this position. The person would be responsible for every aspect of the social media strategy, from setting objectives to selecting the right people and social media channels, communicating the strategy to internal members (and agencies, if the activity is outsourced), and measuring ROI. An ideal person would be one who has the ability to keep him-/herself updated on new technological developments in the field and assess their effectiveness for the given social media objective of the brand. Basically, he/she needs to be both tech savvy and customer-centric.

Social Media Policymaker

A social media policymaker should be knowledgeable of cyber laws in general and have in-depth knowledge of the uses/misuses of social media. His/her responsibilities would include framing social media policy for the organization, communicating the same to the concerned employees, and arranging social media training sessions for employees who are not well versed with it. The social media policymaker is responsible for ensuring that social media activities are conducted in an ethical manner and that no harm is caused to either the brand or organization by the employees involved in the activity.

Designer

User interface plays a key role in social media. “The first impression is the last impression” is most evident on the Internet and social media websites. If the design is not keeping pace with the times, it may spell doom for the portal/channel no matter how superior its features are compared to its peers. Another interesting thing is that the current generation gets bored quickly and is constantly seeking change. The user interface (UI) or design is no different. The designer needs to first understand the voice of the customer and then create a design around it. This design constantly needs to keep evolving to maintain its novelty while matching the ever-changing preferences of the target audience. As the design is the “door” to the social media experience, designers developing this user interface play a key role and need to be ably supported by an analytics team that give inputs about the users’ psychology, needs, and preferences.

Content Developers and Content Editors

No matter how relevant or informative the content is, presentation (format, structure) holds the key for grabbing the audience’s attention. Content developers/editors are expected to edit the language and readability of the content to make sure it conveys the message and is not only “liked” (both in the usual sense and also in the Facebook like), but also shared by readers via their social networks. In general, these content developers should understand the industry in which the brand is positioned, the usual consumers’ expectations about the product category, what the brand stands for, etc. These individuals must be good at language and be able to express the message in an innovative manner while also having an understanding of the basic product and brand. Firms can provide training on certain aspects, but a fundamental knowledge about the domain is a prerequisite for gaining an edge over other candidates.

Social Media Journalists

These can either be full time or hired on a part-time basis pending on the need. They promote any event, conference, industry meetings, etc., for the company by making use of various social media channels/portals like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They even work with these websites to come up with new ways of using the channels/portals to suit the need of the audiences. They make sure that the content (text, photos, videos) generated for the event are viral in nature, keeping in mind the ethics/values/preferences of the audience.

 

On the whole the impact of social media is being felt across almost all walks of life and in all fields in developed countries. This will take shape of a global phenomenon once internet penetration increases in developing countries like India. When that happens, those who take the time to understand and social media and maximize its use will emerge as winners.

Key Elements for a Successful Mobile User Experience

Many graphics designers are moving towards the popular trend in mobile apps. You can design some incredible native applications and mobile web interfaces by working with well-deserved techniques. The best mobile experience should function as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

In this article I want to introduce some important elements for any mobile design. You’ll have to consider many situations involving user navigation and tap/touch controls. The smartphone market has exploded causing new trends to develop all over the mobile marketplace. But aside from some heavy competition, now is the perfect time to launch your own mobile idea online.

Streamlining Content

It’s arguable that your content is the only thing your visitors really care about. Whether this content is posted on a website, inside a game world, or featured in a photo gallery is irrelevant. All mobile devices are working with limited screen real estate and you need to use this to your advantage.

A good starting point is to always keep your font sizes large enough to easily read at a distance. It’s no fun to hold your phone mere inches away from your face just to read through a webpage. I still notice this all the time in smaller iOS apps. It’s not worthwhile to save the space with a smaller font – I’d honestly rather scroll down a longer page with much larger type.

You’ll also want to think about this content as a “stream” flowing along the page. Don’t try cramming too much into one section or your interface will appear cluttered. Generally a single-column system is best unless you’re building a specific page layout(ex: user settings, profiles, music lists, photo thumbnails…).

Top-Down Navigation

Although we could use many different phrases, the purpose of a navigation system is to move visitors onto their intended destinations. The problem is that not everybody knows your menu system or where they need to go. Make sure it’s easy getting back to your home screen so users aren’t lost within the details.

iPhone and some Android-based applications have adopted the bottom tab bar interface. I love this concept because you have access to 4 or 5 different webpage views from anywhere in the application. Unfortunately there aren’t as many options for HTML5/CSS3 webapps because of the limited browsers. But there are some unique tutorials involving Sencha Touch which help you build a very similar UI.

Consolidating Views

Websites like Twitter often have a settings page with 6 or 7 different sub-pages. You can choose to update your password, edit profile info, notifications, profile design, and many other options. In a web browser this is often acceptable but cannot translate well onto mobile.

Consolidate and combine any pages which you think could be together. Ultimately this will save your visitor’s time and patience looking through all the available options. Even if your website doesn’t have user interactivity there could still be related static pages combined together. You should use your best judgement and put yourself in the shoes of your visitors.

Make the browsing process super-simple between opening the app and finding exactly what you need. It looks nice to setup a hidden side navigation menu which you can show/hide by the tap of a button. The animation in that tutorial is created using jQuery – but there are similar libraries in Java and Objective-C.

Creating a Brand

Whether you’re building native smartphone applications or coding mobile websites, both design styles leave room for branding. You should consider which colors and textures will best represent your product. You’ll often include a logo towards the top of the page which catches people’s attention right way.

If you code a fixed top navigation bar you should include a logo somewhere in the middle. This is a typical convention with iOS apps, and it can be accomplished with HTML5/CSS3 as well. When I launch something like Instagram or Gowalla it’s easy to recognize the branding just by their title bar. I like to think this this top bar replaces the browser window <title> element.

But there are so many other situations where you can setup branding opportunities. At the very bottom of each view in the footer area you should have some extra room for logos or small icons. You can link to a parent company website, or give credit to the designers/developers of your application. It’s all about making yourself known without getting in the way of important content.

Account Authentication

I’m sure most web developers have at least heard about OAuth direct connect. This is the protocol used to connect 3rd party apps with your main social networking profiles. Any popular website with an API usually allows OAuth – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Foursquare are some well-known examples.

Not all mobile applications will work with this type of dynamic content. But it’s hard to ignore that users love interacting with a website or native mobile app. If you have the ideas for social networking features why hold back? You can quickly start building a userbase if you work with open APIs instead of building your own custom register/login process.

Users are more likely to connect an already existing account rather than register with another service. The process is much slower on a mobile screen and it’s a struggle to work with mini-forms. But OAuth is a brilliant system for a clean and secure account connection.

Translating a Full Website

One of the biggest challenges is translating a full website design into a mobile version. You have to consider how you’ll rework the navigation and where all this content will fit! It’s a difficult job, but definitely nothing impossible.

Coding a mobile template in HTML5/CSS3 web development

You should first realize that mobile websites often do not contain all the same information as the desktop counterpart. There simply isn’t enough time for visitors to read through all your graphics and website tours. Keep the process very basic – I like to start user interfaces sketches with just a pencil and some paper.

Get a few ideas of how your top toolbar will look. Should you use jQuery for a sub-menu navigation? Or should you add those links only when viewing a parent page? These questions do not have a universal answer because they differ with each project. But you’ll only come to a sound conclusion by planning first and then taking action.

Final Thoughts

You won’t be able to jump right into mobile design and start creating web apps on your first day. The skillset will take weeks of practice, and you will develop this knowledge over time. I hope this article can offer some initial ideas which are crucial for any mobile experience. If you have any similar thoughts or suggestions feel free to share in the post discussion area below.

Holidays Provide a Great Opportunity to Increase Website Traffic

Website Designers and Website Developers who use content marketing to generate awareness for their services and increase traffic to their website should write blog articles during the holidays. Holidays provide a great opportunity to attract new visitors to your website if you create holiday-related content and optimize it with holiday-related keywords.

There are a number of reasons why holiday provide an excellent opportunity to increase website traffic. In this article we will explain why holidays offer website designers and developers such a great opportunity to increase website traffic, review the benefits holiday-related online content provide, discuss planning for upcoming holidays, show you how to come up with content topic ideas that correspond to annual holidays, and talk about the different types of online content website designers and website developers can create.

 

How Can Publishing Content around Holidays Can Increase Website Traffic?

Holidays can provide website designers and website developers who use content marketing to increase awareness about their services and drive traffic to their website with an excellent opportunity to attract new visitors to their website. Why? Well, the reasons are numerous. Here’s the short list:

  • There are more people searching the web around the holidays. (Larger quantity of potential website visitors)
  • People have more free time around the holidays. The time people spend online usually increases around the holidays. (Longer time spent online)
  • People are always looking for holiday-related “things” online. Many people (thus business owners) know that they can usually find discounted pricing on products and services around the holidays.
  • More likely to get media coverage around the holidays if you’re offering something interesting or news-worthy.

The list above is comprised of just a few of the reasons why website designers and website developers should take advantage of holidays for attracting more visitors to their website. Knowing that more people are spending more time online during the holidays, and armed with the fact that those people are looking for holiday-related content, website designers and developers should at minimum come up with creative holiday-related content to publish on their site. That said, if website designers and website developers want to take it one step further they should come up with a holiday-related marketing strategy that includes a promotional offer designed to convert these new visitors into customers. Either way, taking advantage of the holidays to increase website traffic is a smart idea for website designers and website developers.

Benefits of Publishing Holiday-Related Content for Website Designers and Website Developers

We started getting into a few of the benefits in earlier portions of this article, but in this section we are going to cover a few more of the top benefits that website designers and developers will receive if they create a marketing strategy around producing holiday-related content and/or holiday-related promotional offers. Below is a list of the top benefits of publishing holiday-related content:

  • Increased traffic to your website.
  • Increased awareness of your products and services.
  • Longer time spent on your website by website traffic.
  • Great opportunity to convert website visitors into customers via a holiday-related promotional offer.
  • Better chance for an idea going viral as more people and businesses like talking about holidays (it’s something that many people share, thus a larger portion of people online are likely to talk about it).
  • Higher potential for media coverage based on how relevant and creative your strategy is.

The list above are some of the top benefits that website designers and website developers would receive if they take the time to come up with a holiday-related marketing strategy that leverages publishing holiday-related online content.

Content Planning for Upcoming Holidays

If you are considering leveraging holidays in order to increase traffic to your website then the single biggest piece of advice I can give you is to plan accordingly. One of the best things about coming up with a holiday-related marketing strategy is that you know exactly what holidays people celebrate and exactly when they will fall each year. This means you can start your planning at the beginning of the year or even the year(s) prior. If you really want to have success with this strategy it is imperative that you take time to plan for it. The more time you dedicate to planning, the more likely that you’ll come up with a creative idea that not only generates more website traffic, but also has a good chance of converting new visitors into customers.

Content Planning: Set Goals

The very FIRST thing you need to do whenever you start planning for ANYTHING is to set goals. Setting a goal for each holiday OR for your entire holiday-related marketing strategy will give you something to work towards. Everything else that you do should be geared towards achieving that goal.

Content Planning: Define Your Strategy & Tactics

Once you’ve come up with your goal(s) it’s time to develop your marketing strategy. You know you want to leverage content marketing, so now you must decide if you want to tie in a promotional offer and use this opportunity to generate sales. Once that decision is made you can now start flushing out the actual marketing tactic(s). Answering the following questions will help you define your tactic(s):

  • How much time do I have to create and manage this tactic?
  • What content vehicles should I use? There are 4 types of online content (discussed more below), which ones will you leverage for this tactic?
  • What will you offer visitors in order to get them to take action (the action is defined by the goal you set)?
  • How will you get your online content in front of your target audience?
  • How will you fulfill your offer?

Once these questions are answered your holiday-related marketing tactic should start coming into view for you.

How to Come Up with Content Topics Related to Holidays

Coming up with holiday-related content topics is actually easier than you might think. It’s really derived from your marketing strategy and your goals. After that it’s all about creativity. Below are a few tips that you can leverage when trying to think about holiday-related content topics:

  • Review your goals and strategy for this initiative and start thinking about content related to that.
  • Think about the holiday. What time of year does it fall? What’s the meaning behind it? What are some of the cultural elements of it?
  • Take a look at your target audience. Do they celebrate the holiday? Does it resonate with them moreso than others? Can you leverage that?
  • What fun things do you do on the holiday? How about your company? Would telling those stories appeal to your audience? Does what you do at home spark any ideas for interesting content ideas to write about?

Here are a few example holiday-related content topic ideas for website designers and website developers:

  • Images of your company celebrating the holiday
  • Special Offer – Update Your Website Design to correspond to the holiday. You can run a special promotion whereby you charge customers to update their website design to include a few holiday-related elements.
  • Where is your company located? Write about local holiday-related news or stories that your customers might find interesting.
  • Participate in a charity event or donate your time/employees time to help the local community around the holiday.
    As you can see from the lists above, once you start thinking through it, you can probably come up with dozens of holiday-related content ideas.

4 Types of Holiday-Related Online Content

As we mentioned above, there are 4 main types of online content, and holiday-related online content is no different. Website Designers and Website Developers should take a look at the goals they set and the strategy they have come up with, and then determine which type(s) of content makes the most sense to leverage for this initiative. So what are the 4 types of holiday-related online content? They are as follows:

  • Blog (or written) Content
  • Video Content
  • Audio Content
  • Image-Based Content

Holiday-Related Online Content: Blog Content

Blogging is a great way to increase website traffic. If you use a blog to share information with your website visitors then I would highly recommend at least including writing holiday-related blog articles as at least one component of your online content strategy. Blogging allows you to tell your story and then optimize it full of holiday-related keywords in order to attract relevant visitors to your website. Holiday-related blog articles are great for SEO, as well as, for viral marketing. People love sharing great holiday stories.

Holiday-Related Online Content: Video Content

Video content is much more engaging than blog content, so definitely consider using video as a component for this marketing tactic. Now, creating holiday-related videos requires much more time, planning, and possibly money to produce, but the impact is much more powerful. It might be as simple as shooting a quick video around the office. You can interview some of your employees and get them to share their favorite holiday stories, or let your audience know something they plan on doing for the holiday, etc. When people think of video marketing most of the time they think of production level video, but in reality, a real-life video giving your audience a glimpse into your company could be just as powerful.

Holiday-Related Online Content: Audio Content

Maybe you can create your own holiday song related to your company, your audience, or even your products and services. Perhaps you want to do an interview with some local residents to find out what they are looking forward to during the holidays? Do you used podcasts as part of your marketing mix? If so, a holiday-related podcast could be a great tool for this initiative.

Holiday-Related Online Content: Image-based Content

Last, but certainly not least, image-based content is very easy to produce and can make quite an impact with your audience. Holiday-related images are always fun. People enjoy seeing holiday pictures. Think company Christmas party or a designed Valendtine’s Day E-Card that shows off your company’s design skills. You can either take pictures or you can create pictures in Photoshop that align with the holiday and your strategy for this initiative. People love sharing great pictures. Think of how many pictures you see people sharing on Facebook around the holidays. You can leverage this to achieve your goals.

Increase Website Traffic by Taking Advantage of Upcoming Holidays

Now that you have a better idea of all of the benefits that holidays can provide your company, will you implement a holiday-related content strategy for your website design and development company? People love holidays because they have time to spend with their friends, families, and even themselves. When people have more free time, website traffic and time spent online increases. Website design and website development companies should take advantage of this by implementing a holiday-related content strategy.