The beginning of a new year is always a good time to devote a little bit of thought to how you want to improve your business and productivity technology in the months ahead. You don’t really need to come up with a set of Technology New Year’s Resolutions, mainly because resolutions are, by rule, made to be broken. But wouldn’t it help to have a simple plan for making a few improvements or easy changes that can lead to safer, more productive computing for your business in 2013?

I don’t mean major tech projects like installing a new office network or buying a fleet of new desktops for the staff. Budget-intensive initiatives like those need to be part of your fiscal planning process. There are plenty of inexpensive — even free — things that you can do within your existing infrastructure to improve the impact of technology on your business’ bottom line. Here are a couple of examples. […]

Back in April, Google released a new major update to its search algorithms under the project name “Penguin”. The update didn’t cause the same amount of chaos and panic that followed the 2011 Panda update, but it still took a big bite out of the search ratings for a number of (previously) highly-ranked websites.

The Panda update (in February 2011) hammered very profitable websites known as “content farms” because it devalued or negatively rated duplicate content and content that the algorithm judged “low quality”. Now that the dust has settled from the Penguin roll out, it appears this update focused heavily on the quality of a site’s incoming links and on the “spamminess” of its content. […]

Back when the Internet was a lot younger — say around 1998 or so — great domain names were still pretty easy for a website owner to come up with. Unless your business had a really common name, you could probably buy a domain that matched, or at least matched closely enough that people would remember it. Domains were a little bit harder to register and cost more (inflation-adjusted, anyway), but you could always find something decently memorable that didn’t have too many consonants in the middle of it.

That’s not so much the case anymore. Looks like all of the easy stuff is taken, which is why so many websites have domain names that read like something from the bookmark list of famous comicbook villain Mister Mxyzptlk. (Don’t get any smart ideas. “Mxyzptlk.com” is taken.) […]

Nearly everyone who owns a website wants to see it perform better in the search engines. Good search results are especially critical for business websites that are expected to generate leads or produce e-commerce sales.

Unfortunately, a lot of business owners give up on search engine optimization — or settle for sub-standard results — because they think good optimization is too expensive. While an investment in top-notch SEO work is seldom wasted, two very effective SEO tactics fall into the Do It Yourself category and are often overlooked by many webmasters and site owners. […]

In the technology business, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which group of Evil Overlords has the best secret conspiracy strategy for world domination. At times it almost seems that the Evil Microsoft Overlords, the Evil Apple Overlords and the Evil Google Overlords have agreed to take turns wearing the Most Evil Conspiracy Ever championship belt. (Probably to keep the Evil Facebook Overlords-in-Training out of the game.)

Every now and then, though, something useful happens when one of the conspiracies goes awry. Apple has produced some interesting TV commercials, for example, and Microsoft offers its Visio software, which can be a lot of fun if you get your hands on one of those “crime scene diagram” templates. Another one of those happy accidents is Google’s Chrome Web Store. […]

So you have a top-notch idea for E-commerce. You even have a well-considered business plan. Here’s a technical question for you: How are your customers going to pay you?

It sounds like a silly ‘small picture’ question, I know. But it’s really one of the most important and most problematic details your brand-new E-commerce project may encounter.

If you’ve got a good idea for an E-commerce web site, chances are you’ve used somebody else’s E-commerce site at some point in the past. If you paid by credit card, you’re familiar with the online payment process from the user’s side of things. But building that functionality into your own web site requires a bit of planning and some critical decision-making well in advance of your ‘go live’ date. […]

Getting your new E-commerce store up and running is only half the fun. Once that’s done – then you’ve got to figure out how to efficiently run your store in order to maximize your bottom line.

Very little of it qualifies as rocket science. In fact, most of it is nothing more than running to ground a bunch of little issues – any one of which can cause endless headaches for your new enterprise. As with most things business, what you’ll soon discover is that the devil is in the details. […]

May 25, 2012

QR Codes with Style

We have all seen these new little bar codes invading all forms of printed and online marketing materials. QR (Quick Response) codes are a two dimensional bar code originally developed by Denso Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota) in 1994 to track vehicles during manufacturing. They can hold a relatively large amount of data and can be scanned at high speeds. In terms of practical marketing use, they have proven somewhat underwhelming in the United States, but I believe with a little style tweak via Adobe Photoshop, QR Codes can be a nice addition for re-enforcing your branding efforts. Keep in mind that 50.4% of the US population now has a QR Scanner in the form of a smartphone on them at all times (Source: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/?p=31688). […]

In most of the website usability studies that I’ve read, poor legibility is by far the most frequent complaint encountered. It’s generally a sin of comission on the part of web designers, because web-safe typography by default is designed to be both legible and flexible.

A website gets into trouble when its design diverges from online typographic standards. Often, the issue begins with a site owner — or the site owner’s print marketing designer — who wants the fonts and styles on a website to mirror those the business uses elsewhere. While it may sound like a good theory from a branding perspective, it’s often a train wreck for usability. […]

If your website is built on a content management system (CMS), you’ve got a powerful tool in your hands. You can use your CMS to keep all of the information on your site up-to-date, provide fresh and engaging information to your site visitors and manage all of your site’s resources to maximize your search engine results. As with most tools, however, content management can be used for both good and evil. It’s the “evil” part you want to avoid.

Poor content management practices can kill your website’s search engine rankings in a short amount of time. Conversely, follow a few simple guidelines every time you post or edit content and you can improve your site’s search engine optimization. Use these recommendations as a sort of checklist to stay on the SEO straight-and-narrow: […]

Websites offer a seemingly endless amount of space for your content, especially compared to traditional media like print or broadcast. For a relatively small hosting fee, you can literally publish entire libraries of text. An average 500 MB hosting account has enough room for more than 150 copies of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” 400 copies of Melville’s “Moby Dick” or 600 copies of James Fennimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans.”

When you’re passionate about your business, the temptation is to use as much of that space as possible to share your enthusiasm and expertise with potential customers. But it’s all a trap, a painful deception. The truth of the matter is that your customers have a lot less time than you have space. […]

So you’ve decided you need a new website, or your existing website needs a facelift?  Not so fast!  Before you choose a website developer and spend your money on a new website, there are several things you need to consider carefully in order to get the most out of your investment.  And there are some details that if they aren’t taken care of BEFORE you start building that website, could doom you to failure.

Make sure you know the following, and can communicate the answers to your developer, to get the best possible results. […]