Bear Web Blog

Bear Web Blog features news, tips and article features related to all aspects of Website Design, Web Development and Website Management.

Our Blog is written for business owners , marketing managers, webmasters & web content managers that are all aiming to gain a greater understanding of the internet and how it can be managed and applied to their business.

Additionally we will also have expert commentary by the Bear Web Design Design and Development Team who have produced over 400 custom websites since our inception in 2000.

Do You Know What Google+ Is?

This week I presented Google+  to a lunch and learn session for the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce. Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus or G+) is Google’s social media network. I spent quite a bit of time preparing for the presentation as I have only been using Google + for the last 3 months or so and I was curious about what level of interest there was going to be.  Based on the lively group with many questions, comments, and feedback from my presentation, it is apparent that people are definitely starting to focus on Google’s social media network. 

Introduction to Google Business Apps

To actually use Google + you must have a Google e-mail Account (a Google Business Apps Account or a Gmail Account). We have a Google Business Apps account set up for Bear Web Design so that is where my Google + Page is tied.  This was an attractive feature of Google + to me – Google Business Apps has so many products that I use  – e-Mail , Calendar, Drive, Chat, Video Chat (aka Hangout) and then our webmaster tools such as Analytics, Website submission,  Google Plus Local Pages and Google Places, to name a few. And then when you add Youtube, Picasa (Photo Album), and Blogge, you start to see what Google + Social Media is going to be sharing (EVERYTHING!!!! – AND IT’S LOCATED IN ONE PLACE!).

Introduction to Google+

To get to Google+  from any Google e-mail account go to your Profile and you will see your Google + Page.  Many people actually have Google + Pages that are active (but don’t have updated profile information). To see how people will see your  Google + Page (search for Your Name and Google +) in Google’s Search Engine and you will most likely find your Google + Page.  I have set  up a personal photo cover on my Google + page to actually reflect the fact my page is Social. (In reality it is also for business networking!).

Get to Know Google Plus Circles

One of the issues I have with my personal Facebook page is that I have many different relationships tied to my account.  Since we are web developers, we have a lot of Facebook Apps we have set up for clients (which means we are administrators of their Facebook corporate pages) then we have business friends and family here in Tennessee and then we have friends and family back in Australia.  I find it difficult to manage this and worse I get so many posts that are simply irrelevant to me.

Communicate Effectively (and Efficiently)

Google + comes with a categorization structure, called Circles, which allows you to manage your relationships and easily add more Circles. You can quite easily set up business acquaintances, friends, family, sports clubs or whatever you wish.  And then when you post, you send the information to the appropriate Circle. This makes absolute sense to me. From a family point of view I don’t want to share my family conversations with anyone but my family (for privacy and also not to waste other people’s time).  Same with every circle I have. One of the biggest areas people ignore in Social Media is how valuable people’s time is. Circles help me respect everyone’s most valuable asset – their time!

Other Great Features Include Google Hangout!

If you use Skype, which has been the standard voice and video communication online, then you should try Google Hangout. Again, what I like most about this is that it is tied to my Google e-Mail Account and I can video chat with anyone within my Circles (or invite additional people) just like a I can with Skype.  It works great on your mobile as well, and is so easy to access from my email account. Since my mobile device has my Google account set up, I can easily get to Google + and then have a hangout (on the phone).

But even more exciting – Introducing Google+ Local Pages

So Google+ looks like the bomb (as my Grand Daughter Addison would say) – BUT – as a business owner my time and resources are limited… so, Is this going to help me with Search Engine rankings and deliver me more prospects?

The short answer is that Google + ultimately leads you to Google+ Local (Google’s Business Listing that ties Social Media to your Search Engine Listing).  And that is exciting to me!

When you go to the Google search engine and type in a standard search phrase – “Lebanon TN Lawyers” – you will see:

Google Plus Local Page Result
 
You can see here that Google gives a good amount of results for companies that have Google + Pages set up (and it shows you where these businesses are located, which can be a key in a prospect’s decision making parameter). Also, look how cleanly the listing stands out compared to the rest of the page – you can click on the listing to go directly to a website, to the actual Goolge + Local Page or the OLD FASHIONED PHONE.

I hopefully now have gotten your attention — and more to the point, Google+ is something as a business you are now looking at a little closer.  My next blog (next week) will be about Google+ Local Pages specifically, how to set one up, the Circle structure, and how they are tied to all your business app tools!

Hope everyone have a Happy Easter and a sunshine-filled week!

What is a Plugin, a Module and a Component in Joomla?

Joomla Components, Modules and Plugins can have a great influence on your final website design. They can enhance your website design ranging from interesting content such as blogs to desired action items such as purchasing a product.  Some of you may already know what these additional pieces of Joomla are… But for those clients or future clients that are new to Bear Web Design and Joomla! lingo, here’s an introduction.

A component in Joomla! is the most complex add-on. This usually adds a completely new, or different, function to your site. A component handles data input and storage into the database.

Some Examples:

  • An Online Store System
  • A Blogging System
  • A Business Directory
  • An Advertising System
  • A Slideshow or Photo Gallery

A module in Joomla! is usually an add-on to the site that extends the functionality of another part of the system. It usually has fewer options and most of the time does not handle any storing of information into the database. A module usually supports a component by allowing more options on how to display data from the component.  Modules are the most commonly referred to in a design meeting environment at Bear Web Design.  Many modules can be customized to fit your color-scheme and style.

Some Examples:

  • A module that shows a visitor their account info, shopping cart, and or login/logout info. (Works with a store component.)
  • A recent blog area or featured blog listing. (Works with a blog component.)
  • An advertisement area that holds an advertising banner. (Works with an advertising system component.)
  • A mini calendar. (Works with an Events component.)
  • Customized Quick link buttons. (Works with Joomla! menus.)
  • A slideshow on the homepage. (Works with a slideshow component.)
  • Search Box (core Joomla!).

A Plugin in Joomla! will manipulate output already generated by the system. It typically does not run as a stand-alone element but retrieves data from other sources like content on your site.

Some Examples:

  • Search Plug-in (works with components, to make some of their data able to be searched within the entire site)
  • Simple Image Gallery – pulls images from a folder in a database and displays those images when called into an article.
  • Article Editor Plug-ins – allow for embedding of special media such as iframes, videos, etc.

It is also good to know that modules and components are great ways to provide interaction with your website visitors.

These items are important to know when starting or redesigning a Joomla! website. In a design meeting these will help express how you would like your site to look and function.

What is Responsive Website Design?

What is Responsive Website Design?

2013 has been declared the year of Responsive Design in many web circles. If you haven’t heard of  Responsive Design yet, you will soon. The reason it was created (and is snowballing in popularity) is because of the need to optimize websites on different devices — mobile, tablet,  laptop & desktop — with the growth of the mobile and tablet markets being the driving force for Responsive Design. 

In the last 12-24 months at Bear Web Design we have seen a significant increase in customers requiring their sites to be mobile friendly.  In the last few years mobile strategies have ranged from building completely separate standing mobile sites (which have been expensive to develop and quite often require double web content entry) to adding multiple separate templates to a website which would detect the device and execute the appropriate template.

Similar challenges have also emerged with the tablet market.  When you add the various browsers and operating systems into the mix of devices you can easily see the challenges that are facing websites today (and Web Designers and Developers).

Introducing Responsive Website Design!

Responsive web design is a web design approach aimed at creating sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).  Basically your website responds to the device and browser to give an optimal user experience.

Generally speaking these Responsive templates are built from the mobile level up (complete opposite of creating a mobile site from an existing full size website).  The template is then customized as needed to suit each device with image and content sizing and various element display.  The key is that all images, content, forms, buttons and other elements fit attractively (and usably!) into the device viewing the website.

Bear Web Design Commences Responsive Website Design

We have commenced designing and developing our custom templates using Responsive Design in late 2012 and we have our first client sites coming online in this quarter.  We will be sharing these sites with you and highlighting the sites on each device so that you can develop and increase your knowledge in this area. 

We are also very excited be able to offer Responsive Designs upgrades to our existing client base (which includes upgrading from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 2.5 as part of that process). There will be cost and time involved in these upgrades and we will be sharing the process with our clients. But the rewards will be immense, as there is no doubt that websites which are not mobile and tablet friendly are going to lose a large segment of prospects and customers in the upcoming years!

Be sure to watch out for our Responsive Design blogs from our Design and Development team over the next few months.

Talk to us today about Responsive Website Design!

If you wish to find out what’s involved in making your website responsive shoot me an e-mail (or call me at 615 504 6845) to discuss!

Cheers,

Peter

Responsive Design in 2013!

As 2012 draws to an end, we have lots of new developments (“web developments” that is) on the horizon for the coming year. Most important of these is that our new custom templates will feature Responsive Web Design, also known as RWD — click here for definition.

In a nutshell, RWD is a design approach that optimizes the web browsing experience no matter what web device you happen to be using – desktop, laptop, iPad or other small-screen device, or mobile phone.

We are in the process of finalizing the templates of our newest sites and will provide links, examples and more info in early 2013… stay tuned!

Vicki Beare (this is my new last name — as I mentioned, we had LOTS going on around here lately!)

Education Is a Key to Website Success

With the improved usability of websites over the last 24-36 months (Content Management Systems in particular) and the integration of Social Media with websites, it has become apparent that education is becoming a key to having a successful website.

The general concept of just putting up a website that clarifies what your company does, plus a contact form and a phone number, has pretty much run its race. Websites are becoming far more dynamic in behavior and usage, with visitor engagement becoming an important part of converting a visitor into a contact, a prospect, a buyer or a customer. Even understanding what devices your website is run on (Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, and Mobile) are all part of this bigger picture.

With visitor engagement comes the requirement for your website to provide not only static content (About Us, History, Our Products, Our Services, Our Team) but also producing ongoing sales & marketing communication from team members sharing their specific areas of expertise and specialties (with the blog being the primary tool for sharing this info and attracting great search engine results).

So what is Website Education and what should it involve?

Around three years ago we started teaching Web Content Management classes. Clearly our first requirement was to educate clients in updating the content on their website. This was a good start and we have many clients that are now fully managing their website content effectively. Then Google Analytics came along and starting help with educating clients on staying aware of website results (traffic in particular). We combined this with periodical meetings to review website results.

Broadcasting your message and pulling people to your website has now become a priority!

This year with the focus on the Easy Blog System we added Intro to Easy Blog Classes to our quarterly teaching schedule. This class really opened up some great opportunities for clients’ team members to participate on their websites (ranging from the sales & marketing teams all the way to the quality control team).

Website Education can range from Content Management to Google Business Apps

We also offered 2 Google Business App Classes in 2012 which has also been in heavy demand all year long (clients moving to Google Business Apps – Google Mail , Drive, Calendar and other applications).

This week we offered a private class to Sanders Manufacturing and Sanders Marketing which included Google Business Apps, Intro to Easy Blog and intro to Social Media. Participants included the Sales Team, Marketing and Production Teams. Not only was the team educated (and motivated) but they also became owners of their website which means they will be out selling and promoting it as part of their normal marketing and sales activities in the upcoming year.

Look for more classes and seminars in 2013!

When planning your marketing and website budget for 2013 be sure to consider your teams website education and training. We are now formulating our education and training schedule for 2013 that will include:

  • Intro to Content Management (Joomla)
  • Advanced Content Management (Joomla)
  • Intro to Easy Blog – Advance Blogging
  • Intro to Social Media – Facebook, Google Plus, Linked In, & Pinterest
  • Intro to Google Business Apps – Advance Google Business Apps
  • Intro to eNEWS with Joomla Mailer & Chimp Mail

We are also looking to expand our class locations including classes being taught in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Lebanon as well our current training location – Mt. Juliet.

SO remember when planning for 2013 that Education-is-a-key to website success!!!

Cheers,

Peter

Needing to get 2013 and your website off to a Flying Start?

We are offering our final classes of the year (Intro to Joomla and Intro to Easy Blog) – be sure to register if you plan to attend:

• Intro to Easy Blog – November 8, 2012 – Details Here

• Intro to Content Management (Joomla) – November 17, 2012 – Details Here

What is the Best Writing Environment?

A question that is often asked in our EasyBlog class is “What is the best writing environment?”It was a topic of discussion again this week. So I thought it would be fun to investigate and here is what I found out.

Obviously, a question for the ages, there are a considerable number of thoughts on this subject. A Google search for “the best environment for writing” provided about 650 million results. The results included tips, tricks, scholarly advice and a number of great anecdotes. There is even software designed to improve the condition. It boasts a range of soothing backgrounds to fit your mood. Oh my…

Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Happy-Cup-Of-Coffee-Jumping_thumb[67]

Peter likes to sit with a cup of coffee at his computer. He once told me that he likes to get up early, while it’s quite to write. He recently told me that he likes writing at a café. So I’m not so sure about the place, I think it’s just the coffee.

It appears that everyone has their own habits that put them in the “zone” for writing. However, I found that these habits fall into categories:

  • Setting: Generally the setting falls into two distinct groups – solitude or a bustling environment
  • Atmosphere: It appears to be a toss up between total quiet vs. music
  • Time: “Early morning” and “up all night” seem to be the two most popular times
  • Workspace: This is the category that has endless variations that include
    • an organized desk
    • a corner seat in a favorite café
    • at the kitchen table

When asked about the importance of the best writing environment, Stephen King described his workspace when he wrote Carrie and Salem’s Lot. He used a portable typewriter and set with a child’s desk on his lap wedged into the laundry room of his doublewide trailer. No wonder his stories are so tortured!

There were two common denominators of the successful writers that I researched.

  • Schedule: They all set a daily measurement for their work. The measurement was in length of time, words or pages.
    • Ernest Hemmingway limited his time to 500 words a day
    • Thomas Wolfe was a little more industrious at 1800 words a day.
  • Resources: They were all insatiable readers and chose like minded friends.

Famous writers are no different than the rest of us. They have all determined their best environment to write.Click on the Bear to take our survey!

Keep up with the survey! Go to the top of this article an click on “Subscribe to to this entry”

What is Permission Marketing?

Recently, I promised you information on the concept of permission marketing.  Have you ever promised  information to someone and then gotten stuck on the best way to deliver the message?   Welcome to my world.

In our last EasyBlog Coach article, we reviewed the concept of the “call to action”.  I posed the question, “Ultimately, what are the asking  for?”  The answer was “permission marketing” and  I promised to cover it in our next post.  Oops!  So here is my best effort.

In 2003, the visionary, Seth Godin, introduced the concept of permission marketing.  Prior to that time, interruption marketing was the standard.  Interruption marketing is the constant bombardment of messages and images with the intent of grabbing your attention.  Sometimes referred to as “outbound marketing”, the format is familiar to you.  Interruption marketing is delivered through various outlets:

  • Television 
  • Billboards
  • Newspaper and magazine ads
  • Guys standing on the side of the road throwing oddly shaped signs in the air
  • AND my personal favorite, message boards on the doors of restroom stalls (intended for the truly captured audience).
With the advent and rapid growth of the internet, something magical happened.  One on one advertising was possible.  Seth Godin, who is blessed with boundless curiosity and persistance, had a revelation – “permission marketing”.  And with the publishing of his book of the same name, the future of marketing changed.   The clamor, fury and expense of interruption marketing was no longer the only mode of communication to your prospective customers.  You could actually get the customers to raise their hands and ask for more information.  

 

Search engines and social media allowed the customer to create a very specfic and personalized search.  So instead of fighting through a storm of advertisers to find you, the customer types in a few words and is delivered right to your door.  Once there they ask for specific information, and if you fill the bill, they become connected to you.  And, as long as you continue to be relevant to that customer, you are their friend.

This is where I  have to tell you that I am a Seth’s Blog fanatic and if you are interested in marketing you should be too.  Obviously, the best way to learn about this concept, is from the person who developed it.  So here you go…Permission Marketing by Seth Godin.  And that is another wonderful thing.  If you have happy customer/friends, they will help you spread the word.  Now with a click, your happy customers can introduce you to all of their friends.  That’s marketing at its best!

 

I don’t know anything about Seth’s young life, but he was obviously taught to be polite.  And, as your mother always says, “It doesn’t hurt you to be polite.”  For Seth, that lesson really paid off.  The politeness of getting permission to market to our customers and friends can pay off for all of us!

Lots of folks are switching to Google Business Apps

I was updating our support ticket system tonight and I noticed we had 4 clients who were migrating from their old e-mail accounts to Google Business Apps. This seems to have become a common occurrence for many of our clients in 2012.  We also took the plunge to use Google Business Apps in early 2012 and like many of our clients we are very happy with the move.

The Microsoft Era

For many years I had personally used Microsoft Outlook and then Windows Mail before we decided to move to Google.  Being a person that is online 12-15 hours every day I burn thru a laptop every 2 or so years – and most of the time my old e-mails had been lost (when my laptop died) or in some cases I just didn’t want spend time moving old e-mail to my new laptop. I also had some challenges with Outlook when we travelled in particular having to setup different outgoing mail servers or using POP Account web mail – which did not always sync up with my Outlook account (or my mobile device). The need to have a more robust solution became more apparent as we travelled more and operated our business in a more mobile and on the go environment (that many small businesses operate in today).

So what is Google Business Apps?

Basically it revolves around the Google’s Business e-mail service, which also comes with some other great corporate communication tools that really help small business (and big business) operate efficiently within the Cloud.  Note this is not gmail which many people think is the same thing. When you use gmail, your e-mail address is yourname@gmail.com. With Google Business Apps you get to use your own domain name while enjoying the features that gmail offers. Google Business Apps also offers a calendar as well as Google Docs (which are the 3 items we use primarily) to help manage our business.  Google offers both a standard and premier version (the premier version has a $5.00 per user monthly fee). We are using the premier version so my primary experience is using that service.  Google business mail has great archiving features as well as excellent spam blocking (and caching).

Great for remote employees or remote office locations!

Google Business Apps is domain specific which really helps you to use this tool with your company team mates.  Accounts are setup with an e-mail account for each team member that needs a full e-mail account. Cost is going to be a consideration when you have a large team at $5.00 per user e-mail account – but forwarding accounts and e-mail groups and lists have no additional charge. The Bear Web Design team is located in several remote offices (including Melbourne, Australia) so it is nice that the whole team’s e-mail is in one account and easily managed. We can also share our contacts within our team –  (although I must state that the current tools to do this are still improving and there are new solutions still being offered in this area). We can share our calendars so that at any time a member of my team can verify another team member’s schedule as well as book them for important dates.  I must say one of the nicest features is the contacts sync with my Blackberry. When I am on the go that is a very handy feature, and connecting your mobile device is so much easier than setting a pop account. When I e-mail someone from my Blackberry a copy of that e-mail goes to my Google Mail so I am completely in sync with e-mail at all times.

Document Sharing is Impressive!

One of the nice features of Google Business Apps is the Document Management and Sharing. Again for a remote location this is a great tool. You can share documents with all your team members and also anyone else that has a google based e-mail (that includes personal gmail). For a lot of small organizations and not for profits this is a great way to be able to improve remote communications.  Microsoft and Google have shown some great team work in this case with a product called “Google Cloud Connect”  that allows you to share a Microsoft based product (Word, Excel, Publisher, Powerpoint) with a team member – that keeps that document in sync (that means only one copy of the document).

Sharing and managing documents has never been easier!

And even more impressive is the fact that you can share the document at the Microsoft level. In this case – I am typing my weekly blog in Word (and due to a complete lack of writing skills which you would never be aware of!) I am sharing this document with Our Design & Development Director who will clean it up a little before I post this as a blog article online. She will receive a notification that the document has been shared with her – she will be able to open it and make the appropriate changes and then will save the document  (and let me know the document has been updated).

The next time I open the document it will sync up automatically with these changes – so I will now have the latest and greatest document (and will then post my blog and look like a literary hero!!!)…

Google Business Apps Document Sharing

Unfortunately, Cloud Connect does not work with Macs (which to my knowledge is due to Macs’ focus on their own iCloud product.)  In this case – hats to off to Microsoft and Google for working together – and hopefully Macs will be compatible in the future.

So Who’s Now Using Google Business Apps???

Recently in discussing Google Business Apps with our Mt. Juliet Holiday Inn Express Owner and Client (Justin Patel) he informed me that over 6,000 HI Express employees world wide were switching to Google Business Apps (Not surprisingly we are working on Justin’s Google Business Apps Account right now!!). In my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, the largest Newspaper (The Age – Fairfax Media) has just announced moving their 10,000 employees world wide to Google Business Apps (from the traditional Microsoft Platform).

A Good Option for Small Business!

Comparing Google Business Apps to traditional Pop Accounts (which generally come with most hosting account) it is clearly a superior service. Many folks believe the hosting of website and e-mail have to be tied together which is simply not the case (the host generally manages the DNS – domain name server – which can point to e-mail services anywhere.)  Over the last 18 months Google Business Apps have become a clear leader in business email. It is now a viable and proven option – and definitely a good option for small business!

Why Does Your Blog Need A Call-to-Action?

Every blog post and, in fact, every business related communication should have a call-to-action.  It can determine your success and here is why.  At a basic level, you are selling.  Through your business blog, you offer information, advise, and direction based on your knowledge and expertise.

In sharing your expertise, it is natural to anticipate that your readers will do something for you in return.  To increase your odds of success, you need to be clear on the following four points. 

What is a call-to-action?

A  call-to-action is a short sentence that is written as a command and the good ones almost always begin with a verb.  Its purpose is to get the reader to perform a particular action.  You see  calls-to-action everywhere.  Some good examples are

  • Join now to…
  • Register now to …
  • Learn more…
  • Sign up for free
  • Buy now and…
  • Request a quote
 
Ultimately, what are they asking for?  Think about that and we’ll get back to it later.
 
 

When should you use a  call-to-action?

Whenever you can!  Place a call-to-action in your blog description and in each blog post or article.  Make sure that action that will connect your readers back to you.  And this practice should go beyond your blog.  As mentioned, it should be used in all communication.  Think of all of the opportunities that you have to communcate with your customers.

  • eMail
  • Social Media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Voicemail greetings
  • Letters
  • Business cards
  • Invoices and Billing Statements

 

Remeber, your blog audience has chosen to spend their time with you.  So don’t let them just wander away.  Encourage them to return.

Why use a  call-to-action ?

On the surface, the answer is obvious.   You want support from your audience.   You want them to follow your direction to “Sign Up” or “Order Now” or “Download” your information.  However, there is more to it than that.  A  call-to-action is the courteous thing to do, because you are inviting your readers into conversation and giving them a way to stay connected and informed. 

Where do you use a  call-to-action?­­­­­­

call to action buttons

Place your call to action at the end of your commuication.  It is the most obvious place and is expected unconsciously by your audience.  The anticipation actually increases the probability that your readers will act.  Many bloggers rely on buttons.  Call to action buttons work and they are even more effective when you reinforce them with direction.  If you want your reaers to “SUBSCRIBE” to your blog, “LIKE” you or “FOLLOW” you, then guide your readers to those buttons and tell them to “CLICK.”  

When you sit down to write your next blog, remember this: You don’t get anything that you don’t ask for.  Don’t forget to ask!  Remember that question “Ultimately, what are they asking for?”  The answer is permission marketing and we will cover that in our next blog.

So here is my call to action:  Scroll to top of this blog.  Click on the SUCSCRIBE button.  Fill in your name and email address.  You will be entered to will a FREE registration to our Easy Blog Coach class in September and two 30 minute coaching sessions.

Contact

Bear Web Design
2622 Bluefield Avenue
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 504-6845

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