Webmasters Blog

A blog 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 applied to their business.

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.

Want An Easier Way to Write A Blog? Use These 5 Steps

I had lunch with a friend today, David Wright, who told me that his current burning desire was to find an easier way to write his blog.  Of course that was right down my alley and very lively discussion followed.  By the end of lunch we had a list of 5 ideas that would make his life a little easier.  So I am sharing our conversation with you in hopes that you may find a useful tip or two.

Part of my job as a coach is to discover the roadblocks for my customers.  In our discussion, I found that David was having difficulty meeting his goal of 400 words in his articles.  And even more crucial, he was not comfortable with the appearance of the narrative in his posts.  David is a photographer.  So it’s natural that  composition is important to him.  Being unhappy with the structure of his blog was a critical stumbling block.  It took us about ten minutes to determine his barriers.  We spent the rest of our lunch working on a formula for him to follow.  Here it is.

  • The Point – Ensures that David’s blog post supports his call to action.
  • The Plan – Beyond a general or overall plan, a specific plan for his blog is a must
  • The List – Makes his blog post easy to scan and improves readability
  • The Links – Direct readers to key points and related material
  • The Look – Invites the readers to stay and enjoy David’s work

The Point:  Every post should have a point which results in a call to action for the reader.  The adage, “begin with the end in mind” works perfectly in this case.  What action do you want your reader to take?  Now begin jotting down your thoughts and lining up resources that help to demonstrate your point and lead your reader to action.

The Plan:  In our May 15th post, “Writing a Great Blog – The Process”, I noted a blog plan that is generic.  It’s brief, uncomplicated and should work for just about anyone.   However, if you want an easier way  to write a blog post, you need to plan for that as well.  David and I had a great time talking about the planning that he will begin using for his posts.

A very sought after wedding photographer, David has photographed destination weddings all over the world.  Blogging about these wonderful experiences can attract a loyal group of followers.  We added just a few questions to his interview checklist and with that information, he will be writing the most fascinating blogs entries.  In the future, David will ask each couple for the story of their engagement, how thethe cakeClick on this cake there are more to see!y chose their rings, their wedding location, their cake and other experiences that stand out for them.

The List:  Now instead of a long narrative, David will list the highlights of the wedding with bullet point titles like “The Rings”; “The Cake” and “The Kiss”.  Bullet points make scanning the blog easy.  Adding a brief description to each bullet point helps the reader to choose which point they want to follow first.

The Links:  Making each bullet point a link within the blog is a great way to draw readers further into his blog.  Honestly, who isn’t going to click on The Kiss?  And links improve SEO as well.  Using images as links can create a wonderful story line throughout his blog.  They can also  promote affiliate relationships that may bring future business.  For example, David could highlight a particular cake designer by adding a caption to the cake image and then linking to several images of that designer’s cakes.  It may even help to monetize his blog.

The Look: David will let his photography lead the reader through his blog so that they naturally arrive at his call to action.  His pictures are “The Point” of his blog post.  Using great captions and fun stories with each photograph will create and experience and put the reader in the mind to act.

And that brings me to the topic of our next blog which will be how to write a great call to action.

If you would like your own formula for an easier way to write a blog, just click HELP and we’ll schedule a time to talk.

ALSO watch for our next EasyBlog Class.  We’ll keep you posted.

Analysis, Communication & Collaboration – A Key To Great Web Design!

Of all the areas of web design and development that I enjoy the most – our Web Design meetings really rank highly for the part they play in ensuring a great website result for the client.

The key to the success of those meetings starts with analysis & research before the meeting, which can include reviewing the client’s business and marketing models , their current website, and industry leading websites for comparison and samples.  Key communication actually starts in the sales cycle and should be in full “voice” – during the design meeting.  Clients should be engaged in identifying their needs, aims and outcomes and the whole team (client and designer) should establish a collaborating process to ensure a successful outcome.

Surely Your Web Designer’s Skills Would be More Important?

Without a doubt you have to have a great web designer to produce great websites. But an accomplished Web Designer is not only measured by graphic abilities. He or she must have a strong knowledge of the development tools the website will be using (and how they function) and must also have the ability to understand their client’s needs and requirements and to create a design that is results oriented.

There are many great web designers out there who can create the most eye catching web designs. But not all of those designs actually work for their clients. If the site looks good that will no doubt pass the first test of a new visitor  – the test of whether they like the website or not. But as soon as they start to look for the specific items and areas of interest this may quickly change from “Liking The Site” to “Leaving The Site”.  As my dear mother in Australia used to say “Peter – Looks Aren’t Everything” – in my case and the case of a successful website she would be right. (p.s. I do have a great personality!!!!)

Good Web Design Planning Starts with Analysis & Research!

We had two web design meetings planned for a Monday recently.  In order to ensure that myself and our Design Director Vicki Payne were ready for those meetings we spent around 1-2 hours preparing for each meeting. During the sales cycle we really focus on the business and marketing models of the clients, the desired results they want from the website, and their timeline and budget. In the design meeting we really start to hone in on the look and feel!

Preparing for our Design Meeting:

To prepare for design meeting my primary responsibility is to prepare an agenda for the meeting that ensures when we leave that meeting our Design Director has direction and clarity as to the design the client is seeking (the “look and feel” of the website). Although the design is now in the hands of our designer this process should remain a collaborative process.  The client will ultimately pick the design sample (or combination of) that they feel best represents them. This decision making keeps the client in the forefront of the design process.

Wouldn’t The Designer Know Best when it comes to Web Designs?

At Bear Web Design we have two of the best custom web designers in Middle Tennessee.  Vicki Payne our Design & Development Director has designed and developed over 150 great web designs over the last 10 years (plus hundreds of other sample designs).  She is clearly expert in her field – as is our junior designer, Dana Bryson, who joined Bear Web Design in 2010. Yet when we attend a design meeting with a new client we approach every design the same – analysis, research, business direction, and business and marketing models of the client. Those steps really help establish a great design plan, ensuring that it is never just “our opinion” that directs these meetings.

I am sure many small business owners have ended up with what they thought was a great looking website that 6 months down the track was deemed as non-functional. (or basically not working for them). If you have ever been involved in a web design project and you have been told “Don’t worry – our designer knows exactly what you need” – you probably need to REALLY WORRY!

Without a strong analysis of your business, how on earth can that designer really know what your business is about and what specific outcomes you are looking for with your website?  Pre-selecting a website template is a great example of how a website that only looks good on the surface is simply not the best option (because in all probability that template was never built for that client’s business in the first place).

Analysis – Starts in The Sales Cycle!

It is much more difficult for me to produce a proposal for a client without having the entire web project understood. The only way to understand a website development project is to have a full analysis of the business and marketing models of the client. There is no other way to do this but to ask questions and do research — including research on the client’s existing site and also similar sites in their industry. So when we have produced a proposal we have a complete timeline and pathway to designing our client’s new website. We understand the client’s business models and we understand the outcomes the client is looking for.

Design Meetings Focus On details

When we commence our design meeting we are really focusing our design on the details with a primary focus on the look and feel of the website. We must leave this design meeting with clear direction. To help show the techniques we use to accomplish this,  here is our standard agenda we use to help us really focus in on the details (with some comments to explain each area)…

  • Introduction – Specific Aim of Meeting – Identifying Look & Feel of Website(s)
  • Client’s Mission Statement – Primary Business & Marketing Models
  • Slogans – Logos – Identifying Demographics and Customer Base
  • Design Discussion – Website Look – Site Functionality – Web Site Areas
  • Color, Images (Photos), Logos, Font Style, Menus, Graphic Techniques
  • Additional Extensions, Components & Modules and any integrating 3rd Party Software
  • Social Media integration and interaction as well as the website interaction
  • Review of current website (likes, dislikes) and good industry examples (that we can learn from)…

Additional Questions – Next Step(s)

At the completion of the design meeting we have really established all the necessary information and direction for our designers to be able to produce design samples for our client. We do not actually start building the website until the client has signed off on the design through this process. Our designers then create and post  3-5 unique design samples in .jpg image format, which are the exact replica and size of a normal website.  This saves time and money in deciding the final design. To design the site and then change the design after development has begun would be inefficient and extremely costly.

Once the client has selected the final design we are ready to move forward with the actual web development. To a very large extent the success of the website has already been established and — don’t be mistaken — it has been established with analysis, research, communication & collaboration, and of course a great web designer!

Writing A Great Blog – The Process

Writing a great blog can be fun.  That doesn’t mean that it is easy.  Writing takes effort.  But if you are writing about your passion and you know your subject, then process becomes the key.   Though this topic is not particullary exciting, it is very important!

Your Environment:  Peter and I were talking about blogging recently.  He has a great approach.  Peter gets up early every Sunday morning.  And while it is still quiet, he sits in his favorite spot, with his coffee and writes his blog.  Though that is not my habit, I like it and intend to adopt it. 

 

Your Objective:  Every blog has a purpose.  So state your purpose.  In your posts, offer insights, information and actions.  Make sure that they are clear, to the point and support your blog’s objective.

 

Your Plan:  

Having a plan will help you stay on target and on point.  In a perfect world, I would have a measurable goal defined for the year.  Operating from a quarterly plan works best for me. 

So I use the following steps as my process:

  • State the purpose of my blog
  • Develop a communication goal for the year
  • Develop and state a theme for each quarter (this is where it starts to get easy)
  • Then my topics (usually three) flow from the theme of the quarter
  • And individual posts are written to illustrate the topics

Using this post as an example, the topic could be “Writing A Great Blog.”  And my posts would be.

  • “Writing in The Best Environment”
  • “What’s Your Purpose?”
  • “What’s Your Plan?”
  • “What’s your Process?”

 

At the end of each post, I always preview the next.  It’s worked in television for years.  So why not use it here?

 

Your Process – There is a “fast and furious” vs. “deliberate” debate.  I have used both methods.  “Fast and furious” is the sit down and knock it out approach.  “Deliberate” involves writing, waiting, editing, and then posting.  I prefer the product that comes from the “deliberate” approach.  However, time and circumstances rule the day.  So here are some things to remember when you are writing:

  • You have 7 seconds to grab the reader’s attention
  • On screen, readers scan – so make your post easy to scan
  • Use lists or bullet points
  • Highlight headings
  • Ask questions
  • Use short sentences (getting to the point has a great impact)

 

There are three final things to remember…length, content and originality. 

 

Length – If you are hoping to be found through a Google search, then the length of your post is important.  There are directories that will not consider your post unless it exceeds 400 words.

 

Content – Search engines, like Google and Bing, are in business to provide the best results for a query.  They are continuously refining their algorithmls to ensure that the content of a blog matches its title.   If your content doesn’t support your title (stated purpose), your post will be discounted.

 

Originality – Copying material from other posts does not work!  Those pesky Google algorithms only recognize and credit the original post.  So if you copy and paste, you are just wasting your time.  Linking to an article is a much better approach.

 

Next time we will delve into techniques.  It’s a great topic,  I’m looking forward to doing a little research and writing my next blog post.

 

By the way, I would love to hear from you.  So if you have any questions, please send them in.  If I don’t have the answer, I’ll find it for you.  Writing great blogs is my passion!  What’s yours?

Is Your Website A Part Of Your Team?

Over the last few years I have really become very aware of the important connection between a website owner and their website. The arrival of Content Management Systems has provided website owners with the opportunity to update their websites directly and in my opinion (and most importantly) allows the website owner to be an active participant in the process.

And, I might add, not every website owner understands or view the website from this point of view, at least not initially. But make no mistake about your website – it is a part of the team and it is going to play an active role in your company’s success.

In the old days (first generation – or Web 1.0), websites were seen as electronic brochures to a large extent. You were really taking the marketing and sales brochure of your organization and placing it online. Based on past experience – and also by the process through which websites were primarily managed back then – creating and launching a website was a “one time” event, with the website going live and then “great – I don’t have deal with that for another few years”. Your connection to any updates to the website were through your webmaster. Generally to pay a webmaster to update your website was costly and quite often not very timely – so this only reinforced the view of a one-time setup process of a website….

Roll forward to Web 2.0 and websites have now become a much more active part of the operations of a company (including the marketing, sales, and operations). The basis of a glorified brochure sitting online is becoming a thing of the past, and content management systems have become the norm. Your website is now a key player within your corporate team. Here are just a few of the roles websites now play:

1. First impression of your company for a prospective customer. (Marketing)
2. Introduction information about your company and key staff.(Marketing)
3. Descriptions of services and products that your company sells. (Marketing & Sales)
4. Key contact information, including directions to your office, e-mails & phone numbers. (Marketing & Sales)
5. Inquiry forms that entice a prospect to send a sales inquiry, as well as Social Media to engage your customers and web visitors. (Marketing & Sales)
6. Online Content, blogs, e-NEWS, photos and multimedia (Operational & Marketing)
7. Online Shops and e-Commerce (Marketing & Sales)
8. Subscriptions, registration login and customer portals (Operational)
9. Customer forms and documents (Operational & Sales)
10. 3rd Party add-on products such as Real Estate IDX (Operational & Marketing)

These items should really highlight the roles a website can provide to your company. And like any other team member, the website and its results should be actively included in periodical staff meetings. For every organization to be able to maximize the use of their website, this team member must be given high consideration!

So take the time to consider your website’s role within your organization. Starting with the education of staff members who learn how to update and manage content (and become responsible for it). Expand your knowledge of website statistics (so you can track and measure your success) and make these results a part of your corporate reviews and analysis. Call your website “Wilbur” if you have to – but be sure to create a culture where your website is an absolute part of your team!

Username Overload (No More!)

At the start of 2012 we were requested by a client to change their Online Store login requirement from “Username” to “e-mail” so that it would be easier for the client to be able to sign in (or reset their password) without having to remember their username (no one ever forgets their e-mail!).

It was a timely request. I had been talking with Vicki about a new login process called “Social Login” or specifically the area we were starting to implement  – “Facebook Connect” – that would allow a user to come to your website (or online store) and use their Facebook login information to log into the website and then be able to return with ease any time in the future with their Facebook login. 

Fascinating stuff hey? (You can see why I am so excited about the upcoming Mt. Juliet Chamber’s Toast of Tennessee this Saturday when my whole world evolves around things like username and logins!)

But I have to say this is really a great shift that everyone will start to see shortly and benefit from.  One of the many great things about the Joomla world that we work in is that it is always on the pulse of current technologies and this was no exception.  After co-ercing Vicki into customizing our first client’s site from the username to e-mail (which meant changing quite a few files and was messy) – we discovered a great Joomla extension called “Email as Username” .

Combining this with the use of Facebook Connect we have quite quickly created a new standard for our client base that helps supports all aspects of user website interactions – posting comments, updating events, blogs, news or photos, buying product (and even coming back to buy more products –which every website owner loves).

And the icing on the cake with Social Login is that it is based on the profile that Facebook (or Google or Yahoo) forces you to setup – we get your name and photo (and other relevant demographic information) when you engage in our websites.  Web visitors never forget their e-mail and in particular their Facebook password (Could you imagine?) – so instead of “Username Overload” we see a future of people flying in and out of their favorite websites with website owners getting the full value of client engagement!

Facebook Spends One Billion Dollars – Why?

Most likely no matter what your interest in Social media you would have heard of the recent purchase of Instagram by Facebook. I suspect the biggest reason we all heard about it was the actual buying price – one billion dollars (Somehow I could imagine Dr. Evil stating that price!).

What is Instagram? – Here is their explanation taken from their home page:

“Snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram.  Share to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr too – it’s as easy as pie. It’s photo sharing, reinvented.”

Instagram has no reported income to date but it has become very popular very quickly – approximately 15 million users since its inception in 2010. Without being a user of this product, I believe the filtering options feature is one of the big reasons it is so popular – helping make a digital photo taken on a mobile device look better.  It offers filters (black and white, sepia toning, etc.) that you select once you have taken the photo to improve (and finalize) the shot.  Then it’s ready to share.

So back to our big question – Why did Facebook buy this?

The answer I believe is simple – we now communicate thru photos.

On average we design around 30 new custom websites each year and this year we have really seen the demand go up for slideshows, photo galleries, and photo integration into articles. The story and message is often told now thru a photo (and not just words).  And those photos help us interpret the story in a very different way than when we read and, most importantly, in a much quicker fashion.

It is very possible that that future story or message will be sent directly from the field as a finished product – to a website or social media site. And this is where I hear a very loud message from Facebook’s purchase –“We believe this is how people will communicate in the future”….

In 2010 I was visiting Australia and was sending my fiancé Vicki Payne photos of my trip from my Blackberry.  This was highlighted as I spent a day in Sydney including walking across the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  The actual reason I was not using a camera was for convenience and time – I could take the photo – add some “inspiring caption” – and SEND. At the time I did think it was rather magic in particular sending photos directly from the Sydney Harbor Bridge as I was experiencing the views.

But you are probably wondering how good the photos were? Were they keepers or did they have a 5 minute inbox life span?  No doubt a tool that would clean up the photo at the point it was shot and then allow me to select an appropriate filter or theme and send it to my loved ones, my commercial website or social media may truly make a keeper.

So why did Facebook spend one billion dollars on buying Instragram?

Maybe they just recognized the evolution of that next “Kodak Moment”!

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(615) 504-6845

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