Skip to content

Tis the Season to Shop Online

November 25, 2014

“65% of U.S. shoppers will browse online and buy in store over the holidays. 47% will actually purchase online.” – InternetRetailer

More and more American’s are flocking to the Internet for holiday shopping, especially with so many special day sales: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, etc. If you’re an eCommerce site, it’s now not a point of “Are we going to do anything special for the holidays?” but more of “What are we going to do?” Even if your site doesn’t host any holiday promotions, why wouldn’t you make the most of this time of year to increase your revenue? In 2013, online spending hit $2.29 billion on Cyber Monday alone!Online Holiday Shopping

Though the holiday season is quickly approaching, it is never too late to perform some quick-turnaround search engine optimization (SEO) just in time. Here are four last minute tips to bolster your SEO presence for the holiday shopping:

Amazon and eBay
Leverage these two major holiday players. Adding your products to their site can help bolster your SEO. We know how popular they are so doing this can provide a major boost to visibility – thus increasing sales and traffic. In 2013 on Cyber Monday for Amazon, more than “36.8 million items were ordered worldwide. That’s about 426 items purchased per second.” – TheVerge

Top Landing Pages
You should have a pretty good idea of where the majority of users are going on your site. Make sure these landing pages include special holiday promotions. If it doesn’t make sense to do this, at least add links on these pages to your holiday pages – giving them another avenue to reach your holiday deals. People are already visiting these pages, use that to your advantage.

Get Social
Claim or create listings for your site on high authority holiday shopping sites such as Cybermonday.com or Cybermondaydeals.com. Also post daily comments to your primary Social Media sites – this could be just the thing for that extra boost. For example, killer gift lists and sales would almost certainly be well-received. Not only is this establishing backlinks, this is another way to get your name and content out there.

Shopping Never Sleeps
According to Google and Your Business, one third of all shopping-related searches are now happening between the hours of 10pm and 4am. While it is unreasonable to monitor outside of business hours, an easy way to manage the non-working hours is to setup Google AdWords. With such features as automatic bidding, AdWords allows you to create an optimal online-advertising strategy to reel in those late night “primers”.

Though the holiday season can be a stressful time for your business, remember that there are always solutions out there. Following these simply SEO techniques, you too can join the online shopping movement and turn this holiday season into a more fruitful one.

What Makes a Logo Great?

November 14, 2014

There are lots of places you can go that will tell you how you can create a compelling logo. Since how-to has been adequately covered, let’s talk about what exactly makes an amazing logo and why it stands out in your mind. What is it about that logo that resonated with you so effectively?

Here are a few key indicators that a logo has great design:

The Logo Represents The Company.

Or more precisely, it represents the ideal or philosophy the company stands for or believes in. It’s rarely a literal representation of the products or services.

Consider FedEx’s logo. On a quick glance it looks like typical typeface logo. Look closer and you’ll notice that the negative space between the E and the X creates an arrow, which represents forward movement. Also take notice what the logo doesn’t include: packages, delivery trucks, etc.—nothing you would associate with their products or service. Instead they’ve encapsulated an ideal that is bigger than all of that with their simple logo design.

Often when clients will talk about effective logos, they talk about Nike as the kind of branding mark they aspire to have. But equally often, when these same clients are presented with abstract concepts that might represent their brand (similar to the Nike swoosh), they reply that they want something more laterally representative of their product. What these clients really want isn’t an abstract logo like Nike’s. They want one that’s as recognizable as Nike’s (who doesn’t?). In those particular cases they’d be happier with a logo that represented a concept associated with their company – the Nike’s swoosh represents a wing and speed, not shoes.

One of the great logo designers, Paul Rand, was once quoted as saying: “Surprising to many, the subject matter of a logo is of relatively little importance… Ultimately, the only mandate in the design of logos, it seems, is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.

The Logo is Appropriate for Its Customers.

Look at the Toys-R-Us logo. Toys-R-Us makes toys so it is a company with products that appeal primarily to children. The logo is made up of a fun font with bright colors. The backwards “R” is indicative of the way a child might mistakenly write the letter when first learning to spell. Now take those same design cues and apply them to a logo for an investment firm or insurance agency. It doesn’t work. Because “fun” is not something we want from our investments or insurance agents. We want “safe” or “growth” or something equally serious. On the same note, children wouldn’t connect to a toy store with a law-firm style logo.

The Logo is Distinctive and Original.

There’s no dearth of company logos that are almost exactly the same as their competitor’s. If you want a great logo you need to find a more unique combination of icon and typography. Unlike just about every other coffee company, the Starbucks logo

doesn’t have a coffee bean anywhere in its logo. Instead, they have a mermaid.

The Logo is Adaptable.

Meaning, a really great logo works in a variety of situations. It works in black and white. It looks good in full color. It works when it’s shrunk down to fit on a mobile app icon and it works when it’s on a large billboard. A really effective logo is clear and discernible across many applications. Which generally means that a really great logo doesn’t need a bunch of Photoshop effects like shadows, glares, and 3D extrusions. It’s why the current trend of flat color is so popular. Keeping the logo simple keeps it versatile.

The Logo is Timeless.

Think about the logos for Coke, McDonalds or Tide. These logos have been around for decades. They haven’t really changed all that much during that time except for some small tweaks that have kept them current with design trends but still true to their original design. These logos have become icons because the companies they represent have fervently protected them against misuse, and made also sure they are used consistently, year after year. This is what makes them memorable and timeless.

However…

A Bad Company Will Not Have a Great Logo for Long.

At the end of the day, no matter how effective or awesome your logo is, if your product or service isn’t equally awesome, the logo will not be remembered as great.

Consider Enron. Their logo was designed by Paul Rand, who I quoted earlier. It does everything correctly from a design standpoint—it’s original, works at all sizes, works in black and white, and is appropriate for the company’s services. And yet no one I’ve mentioned it to thinks of Enron’s logo as great. Why? Because no one thinks of Enron as great. When people think of Enron they think of dishonesty and corruption and greed.

Finally, from Paul Rand again: “A logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned.”

Responsive web design

November 7, 2014

Why Responsive?

Websites are no longer restricted to desktop viewing. Smartphones and tablets take the lion’s share when it comes to browsing. That means a website should look and perform well on the mobile devices just as they do on a laptop or desktop. Until a few years back, a lot of websites had a mobile version of it (some still do, unfortunately). That works unless you are not concerned about SEO and ranking. Google, for example, does not recommend a different website for mobile viewing. So how do we make a website great across devices? With a responsive design approach.

How?

There are 3 main concepts to make a website responsive:

  1.  Fluid layout
  2.  Flexible images
  3.  Media queries

However, mobile browsing is not just about the size of a div or an image. It is also about how much information is presented in a smaller screen and how it is presented without crowding the real estate. That then brings us to the next big concept:

Mobile-first approach

Mobile-first web design was formed with the evolution of progressive enhancement from graceful degradation. So instead of removing elements as the device size goes down, you start with the most basic amount of page elements that function best on the mobile screen and add fluff to it as the screen size increases. This is a much better approach than scaling down because you start with the bare minimum and create the most aesthetic design at the lowest level and make it shinier as you go. Your end products at the smallest screen and the largest one are both at their best and do not look like a patched up work that looks like a shaky house of cards.

Mobile-first + Responsive design

I saw this quote by Bruce Lee in a web design blog (which I am sorry to say, I don’t remember. I really do want to credit the author) and it made so much sense:

Bruce-Lee-Quote-Be-like-Water

This is what we need to do. Create the mobile version of the page with the basic CSS classes. Then use media queries and view port sizes to change the styles with screen size. What you end up with is a website that looks great no matter what your browser size is or what the device is.

I am not going into the details of how exactly a responsive website is created. There are tons of blogs and websites that explain these. I would like to list a few here for reference:

https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/getting-started/your-first-multi-screen-site/responsive?hl=en

http://learn.shayhowe.com/advanced-html-css/responsive-web-design/

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/hh653584.aspx

In conclusion, call it mobile-first, responsive, adaptive or whatever it may be, it all ultimately comes to providing the same great user experience across devices and browsers. Remember, sometimes less is more. Happy coding!

Giving it Away in Business

November 5, 2014

Halloween Candy

Yesterday, still in a post-Halloween sugar haze, my son asked if he could have a piece of candy. My husband and I were both in the room, and I said yes and tossed him a piece. Almost immediately, our son turned to my husband and asked, “Can I have three?” Three? When I was in school there was a useful little fellow between one and three called “two,” and now apparently we are just skipping right over him. And besides that, why was he asking his father, when I had been the one handling the transaction moments before?

I decided this second question was worth asking. “Why did you ask your dad, and not me?” I inquired pointedly. My son cocked his head and replied thoughtfully, “Because dad is a ‘more-than-one’ kind of guy.”

Hmm. He had me there. His father is a ‘more-than-one’ kind of guy. He is always more generous than he has cause to be, and is always more inclined to say yes than no. It’s an openness to the joy of life that he carries over into his work, his children and his marriage, and it’s natural for him. I admire that; it’s something that businesses and employees would be wise to cultivate, since that desire that starts in childhood to get a little extra never really leaves people – specifically, all of your customers. If you can provide it, they will keep turning to you.

In encouraging generosity, I am not simply referring to charitable giving – though of course, that is a priceless component of business. I am referring more to an approach, a mindset – a generosity of spirit, you might say – that permeates your interactions and your business behavior. It’s even more than giving customers added value for their money (though that is a part of it), more than freebies and more than discounts. All of these things can help, but they must be accompanied by a genuine emphasis on the customer’s happiness – not satisfaction, but happiness. If your business truly desires to increase customer happiness through its products and services, customers will keep coming back you.

So give a little extra of yourself next time you engage with a client. Joyfully and generously give whatever is asked of you (that won’t jeopardize your business, obviously), and then ask yourself if there is anything else you could do. Or ask your client if there is anything more that they would like. Be a ‘more-than-one’ kind of guy.

http://www.statusnotquo.com/

The Harmful Status Quo of Vacation in the US

October 30, 2014

Imagine this: It’s Monday morning. You slept through your alarm because you were up all night trying to drive a major project to completion. No amount of iced skinny vanilla lattes from Starbucks could give you enough energy to be enthusiastic about your day. You sit at your desk and notice you have an overwhelming amount of projects to complete, and have no idea how you are going to get through all of them by 5. Looks like another late night at the office before your day has even started!. Two hours later, a coworker lets you know of a major client-facing crisis. You panic and try to resolve the issue, but can’t seem to figure out where to even begin. You push as hard as you can to find a resolution, neglecting your other projects. You finally leave the office at 7 pm, tired and stressed.

Family Vacation

Now imagine this: It’s Monday morning. It’s your first day back at the office after a peaceful and relaxing beach-side vacation with your significant other. You spent countless hours sunbathing, sipping fruity drinks from a coconut, and enjoying all that life has to offer in paradise. The glow on your face can be seen from a mile away. As you sit at your desk, you break down your schedule and plan your day out with a smile. Two hours later, a fellow team member informs you of a client-facing crisis that needs to be fixed on the fly. You calmly assure your team that the issue will be resolved in a timely manner, and discuss your plan of action. The matter is resolved and your team gets back to its normal routine. You finish your projects and leave the office early enough to go home and start dinner for your family.

Time off is crucial to productivity in the workforce. Vacation time is at an all-time low in the US, and the lack of it is causing major issues for many businesses. At the moment, Americans only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off, according to a recent survey of 2,300 workers who receive paid vacation. (the survey was carried out by research firm Harris Interactive for the careers website Glassdoor). What’s more, 61% of Americans work while they’re on vacation, despite complaints from family members; one-in-four report being contacted by a colleague about a work-related matter while taking time off; and one-in-five have been contacted by their boss.

Check out this bar graph provided by Expedia on global vacation deprivation.

Even just a day off to play golf or a short weekend getaway with your family can help reduce stress hormones and even lower your blood pressure, studies show. So, imagine what a week or more could do for you – from making you look and feel younger, to being able to fight off more colds during the year, eliminating stress can work wonders.

A vacation really can be the pause that refreshes—especially if you spend it disconnected from electronic devices and catching up on sleep. You may even be better at your job; according to research done by the National Institutes of Health, stress can have an impact on decision making. After some days free of the daily stresses, you may be able to make more thoughtful decisions at work (instead of those reactive, snap decisions).
Check out this bar graph provided by Expedia on time taken off globally.
So next time you are considering foregoing that vacation you have planned, consider how much benefit can be gained by taking a well-deserved break. Your health, your family, and your job performance will all be better off for it .

How to break free from your desk

October 28, 2014

Everywhere we turn, we’re bombarded with warnings:  Sitting is killing you!  Your desk job is shaving years off your life!  Human beings aren’t built to be sedentary, we’re designed to move!  But for so many of us, our jobs entail a computer or phone on a desk – so how can you break the chains tying you to your desk?

  • Get a headset or earphones, and take a walk while you handle your next call. Wander around your floor or building, pace a quiet hallway or better yet, take a lap (or more) outside around your building!  At a minimum, standup while doing your call.
  • Go get a drink of water J
  • Does your next meeting require visual aids? If not, take it outside and have a walking meeting. Or do a standing meeting in the break room, or a quiet corner – you’ll be amazed how efficiently the meeting progresses.
  • Rather than emailing or calling your colleagues, get up and go visit them at their desk. Everyone likes company, and you’ll clear your mind and get your blood moving while getting or sharing information.
  • Take a walk to the restroom (see #2 above).
  • Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, leave your desk for lunch – you’ll be much more focused when you return thanks to the break!
  • People who increase their level of physical activity at work say they were more engaged and better able to concentrate (so you can get more done in less time, and get out of the office on time!)

Multiple studies have found that sitting for more than two hours a day can shorten your life expectancy by two years, not to mention increasing your risk for other health consequences such as cancer, so get up and move!

Choosing the Right Mobile Technology – Why We Use Xamarin

September 5, 2014

As the move to mobile continues, it’s becoming more and more important to pick the right mobile technology to fit your needs. Xamarin, and its younger brother Xamarin Forms, have fundamentally altered how we create mobile applications. Before I tell you about Xamarin, let’s take a minute to examine the current reign champs of the mobile development world.

Native Development

Native development means that you are developing in the environment and languages that Apple, Google, and Microsoft intended you to. It means maintaining multiple code bases, in different languages, with different design philosophies for each application. If that sounds costly, complex, and time consuming, that’s because it is. But in the end, you have a wonderfully crafted, high performance application, designed for your specific needs. If user experience and performance are highly valued over time and cost this is where you want to be.

HTML5

HTML5 allows you to develop your application in a single code base, with one language across all platforms. The cost, complexity, and development time is only a fraction of what Native development is. Perhaps this sounds too good to be true. Well that’s because it is. There are two core issues with HTML5. The first is its performance. You are designing web views that are being displayed inside a Native shell. What this means is you are not optimizing for the device you are running on, and your app will never perform like it would if it were a Native application. Choppy animations and laggy transitions are common in HTML5 applications. The second issue is that you are limited in what you can do by your toolset. If you need to leverage core graphics, platform-specific social tools, or any low level phone items, you’re out of luck!

Where is the happy medium?

Well that is where Xamarin comes in. Xamarin has spent the last several years building an ecosystem where you can share your app’s core logic, and design Native UIs per platform, all in a single language and toolset. This reduces the cost significantly from Native development, since you are only writing your logic, data structures, and core functionality once. But it provides your users with a Native UI experience and not a HTML5 layer. It also allows you to tap into the Native phone features of each platform, required for highly complex applications.

Xamarin’s new cross platform UI system, Xamarin Forms, brings even more value to the mix. It allows you to create a single UI system that compiles to Native code. If that sounds a lot like HTML5, let me tell you, it’s not. Let me explain. Let’s take examine the Switch control (On/Off toggle). In HTML5, if you use a Switch, it looks the same on each platform. On the other hand, each of these Operating Systems have their own look and feel, and in Native code Switches for each system all look very different. Since Xamarin Forms actually compiles to Native code, you get the native look of each platform without having to create three separate UIs. And if you need to write custom system code, they provide you with the ability to create your own custom Renderers.

Like Native and HTML5, Xamarin is not without its drawbacks. While Xamarin is a mature toolset, Xamarin Forms is still very young (only about 12 weeks old at the writing of this). At this point, there is still a lot of missing functionality. It does however give you the ability to write custom Renders to achieve specific per platform functionality. With this, there’s nothing you shouldn’t be able to achieve.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 340 other followers