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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Are you being innovative?

With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, a lot of people and experts are crowning him one of the greatest innovators of our time, if not of all time. It’s rather hard to disagree, as he’s helped bring forth many innovations that have seriously changed the way we look at our future. And with all the talk about innovators, folks are starting to celebrate the lives of other creative geniuses at any level or platform before it’s too late. But all the talk about innovation is leaving people thinking, what is real innovation and how can one be innovative in whatever they’re doing?

Is innovation just a synonym for “invention”, or is it really just a positive spin on “imitation”? I guarantee if you ask five different people, you’ll probably get five different answers. Not because everyone is wrong, but because the exact definitions for ‘innovation’ and ‘innovator’ seem to vary by situation. Once you feel like you’ve answered the question, the next step is to figure out how you can be innovative so that it might help you go further in your situation.

Below, we will go through some definitions and examples to eventually get you to a better basic understanding of innovation, and how it can help you as a designer.

And the answer is…

The word “innovation” kind of varies and is almost completely subjective; it has to deal a lot with the situation and it’s surroundings. Some will tell you that it’s the act of coming up with a new idea while others will tell you it’s just taking any idea and making it your own. I think it’s safe to agree with both points to a certain extent.

The dictionary lists it as something new or different introduced. That’s a concise textbook definition but innovation is not just about an idea or just about creating something new. If that was the case we’d be talking invention, right? And if we were talking just about ideas, we’d be just dealing with cultivating creativity, right? Innovation is much deeper than that, and lies in creating new processes.

Coming with a new and creative idea is just one point of being innovative because the next step is making something tangible from that idea. When you make that tangible thing, are you just hoping people like what you came up with or are you really thinking about it? Innovation begins with research so that you can, in turn, come up with a great process.

Think about this: some of the most innovative things are not new ideas, they’re just better processes. You create a better process by looking at what’s out there, figuring out what’s right and what’s wrong with it, and coming up with something new. The “idea” portion isn’t the most important thing; it’s about how you portray it. For example, if you are a web designer with your own business, your innovation doesn’t necessarily come from an “invention”, but it may come from the way in which you carry out your process: for example, finding a great way to figure out what your client wants or creating an easy way to communicate with clients can be your claim to innovation. You may also show it through your super intuitive designs.

The most important part, however, is doing something different. It’s a competitive world out here, and when a company sees another company come out with something new, oftentimes they try to mimic it and mark it down a couple bucks. I guess I understand the current marketing strategy, but how does doing something like that gain you real loyal customers? Companies in this situation (where they feel behind), have a better chance at re-doing the process and coming out with something new—pay attention to what those customers are saying they hate about said product and fix it. Don’t make the same thing and expect people to come running.

What are the differences?

Once again, trying to really define and teach innovation is really sticky, so perhaps one could understand it when being put against related terms. Innovation can be a completely new idea or a borrowed and improved idea. The thing, however, is not to get caught up in the “idea” of it all, but to focus on the finished product. We all have ideas.

Invention has a very similar definition to our topic. When we think of inventing, we obviously think of making something new. But the process of invention really only deals with creation. In the invention stage, we are working things out, on what’s usually a new idea. In the invention stage, we are trying our hardest to put money into the creation of an idea. We want whatever it is to work and be amazing. Innovation suggests that whatever we have isn’t necessarily a new idea, but it’s our new attempt to basically put it in front of people’s faces. In innovation, we have our finished and tangible reflection of the idea and now we typically want to make money off that, or at least get it seen on a larger scale.

For example, if you’ve studied a bit of science history, you may know we attribute the invention of the telescope to Galileo. The problem with this, is that telescopes were around for a while before Galileo got his hands on it and many people used them. He actually joined that bandwagon fairly late; he was about a year or so behind. Telescopes prior to Galileo’s usage weren’t used as a device to look at moons and stars—it was basically a pretty useless magnifying glass, sometimes purchased for fun. However, Galileo decided there was something important in the sky and he wanted to take a look at it, so he researched the product, made it better by increasing the distance in which you can see things and ended up giving us the precursors of the modern day telescope.

Galileo did not invent the telescope, but he helped to innovate and cultivate the idea. Steve Jobs didn’t create the MP3 player, but he helped to innovate the idea. Being or creating something that is innovative is about making the right connection to your consumer. There are many products that take extremely complex topics and scale them down to put them in front of an individual so that they may use it. There are also products that seem to be useless, that can be innovated into extremely useful products. However, if you have a simple audience and try to sell them an extremely complex product, you’ve completely lost hope. It’s just about making the connection between an idea or invention and an individual who has a problem to solve. Inventions can be innovative, but innovations do not have to be inventions.

Innovation relates not only to creation and making connections, but the organization as well as the design. If you want to create a better process that relates better to your audience, you’ve got to design it and organize it in a way that is easily understandable to your audience. Else, you’re a lost cause once again. Any product usually does not live without invention in some stage, but at some point there has to be a focus on the process and how to make it better for what ever problem needs to be solved. It’s easy to confuse invention and innovation, but the truth is, innovation is much more important.

Moving forward

Any good business, whether large or small, knows that in order to stay ahead of the game, they’ve got to be innovative. It isn’t about being better than anyone else, instead it’s about creating products and services that will have longevity. The great thing about innovative products is that they are typically timeless. Gimmicky products? Not so much.

Why is it so important to cultivate innovativeness? For one, people have short attention spans and get tired of new things fairly quickly. Secondly, innovation is what changes the world—it changes our interests, it changes our government and it changes the way we move in the future. Some products are for a time period, even some categorically innovative ones. But it takes that quality to be continuously visited in order for the product to remain relevant. You don’t just update features, but you update how it works, how it interacts and what it looks like. For example, the Nintendo GameBoy at every stage in its life (from the bulky handheld to the slim two-screen), hasn’t just simply added a feature, it changed the way you played handheld games. Not only did other copycat companies have to keep up, but game developers had to do the same, as did mobile phone makers and full gaming consoles. Nintendo has always been an innovator in the game console arena.

Companies that spring up just to copy off another company won’t make it. Even as designers, if we are trying to design like our favorite and follow the same path, we aren’t going to make it. You have to be different. You have to want to change something. The longevity of a company is in question when their main purpose is to copy every move of another company. Think about two companies that have broken the mold of typical companies; for example Starbucks, Apple, and PayPal just to name a few. Now think of the companies that came to be because they felt like “they could do that too”. The innovators mindset is not “I can do that, too”, but rather “anything you can do, I can do better.”

We must also keep in mind that innovation is not just directly related to products and commercialism. There are ways available to innovate in society through economics, laws and much much more. It is the propeller for all things linked to progressive movement. Innovators have to keep in mind that they have an opportunity to change the lives of 6+ billion people. It isn’t all about products and consumerism, but it is definitely about raising the bar for everyone.

How can you be innovative?

As a freelance designer who has clients, you’re probably not thinking you have to be innovative. That’s just the job of your clients and you follow suit. But as previously stated, any business knows that they must be innovative in order to prosper and be successful. Don’t you want that for yourself?

You already have the upper-hand because if you’re a good and mature designer, you know that graphic design is about visually solving a problem. You have a client that wants to use their website to sell their product; how would you do it? Your client needs a flyer for an event that people have to RSVP for; how do you do it? If you can answer these questions, you are already a problem solver of sorts and have no issues thinking in that mind frame.

The thing about innovation, however, is not just what you’re going to use to carry out your tasks but how you’re going to do it. See, innovation for a designer can present itself in several different ways. Do you find yourself and others in the same situation often, so you want to try to invent an app to take care of something? Do you want to change the way people look and see design, so you create the difference? Or perhaps you just want to change and better the process of graphic design all together, so you want to organize things differently.

Many innovators have mastered the task of paying attention. If there is a problem that needs to be solved, you must pay attention to the solutions already out there and you must also pay attention to the way consumers have reacted to the solution. Figure out what works and what doesn’t work and come up with something new. The trick to creating that new thing, though, is creating it so that it is used intuitively by your audience. If a solution or process is outdated or doesn’t work, flip it around and look at it from all angles. Try to figure out what works.

In order for innovation to take place, of course you need some creativity and you need some entrepreneurship capabilities, and you need an excellent relation between both. But you must know how to make things intuitive. Products and services are used when they make sense for people without the use of training and such. You must know how to find the bigger picture and act on and solve that.

You also want to make your self as susceptible to innovative thoughts as possible. It really begins when you attempt to think outside the box. It sounds cliche and boring, but the truth is a lot of people have issues thinking outside the box. Many of us our cultured into believing certain things and in some systems, that when one thinks against it, you automatically get scared. As a musician, I run into a lot of other musicians who are looking for fame and fortune. If anyone knows anything about the music industry, it isn’t doing so well. These musicians want to catch their big break while they are still running through the dying techniques of the industry, and when they have an out of the box idea, they shy away from it because it’s “too different.”

If you want to be innovative and move forward, you have to abandon the thought that all different ideas are bad ideas. Keeping an open mind and paying attention to your surroundings are some of the best things to do in order to be innovative. Innovators look for unique ways to solve problems. There’s no better way to think uniquely than to be open, daring, and bold; don’t be afraid of your creativity. Taking risks and not being afraid to break down barriers and walls will take someone further than playing it safe. There’s nothing wrong with being different, especially if you can bottle it up in a product that people will love.


The definition and thoughts on innovation will always vary, but there’s never any real question of those who are innovative. Innovation doesn’t have to be this thing you put on a pedestal or fear but it should definitely be something you strive for and try to welcome. It comes in many different scales and in many different situations, you just have to open your eyes to it.

Is there a difference between the person who creates his own new innovative idea or the guy who borrows an idea and makes it better? Not really, as long as both things work and are accepted as such. Is there a difference between the guy who invents something but it’s deemed unusable for the public and the guy who takes that invention and flips it so that it is usable for the public? Absolutely—the latter person is an innovator.

You don’t have to invent the newest, shiniest technology, but you do want to bring something different to the table. If you find a consistent problem in some sort of process, turn it upside down and see if it still works. If it does, use it. If it doesn’t, try some other amazing idea. Innovation doesn’t require you to reinvent the wheel, but it does challenge you to look at that wheel differently.

Kendra Gaines is a freelance designer from Virginia, USA. Connect with her.


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some of the Key Perks of Ecommerce

Due technological advancements, anyone can easily make money online via various ecommerce methods that are available to them. As a website owner, there several ways you can make money but here we are going to focus on ecommerce. This is where people conduct business via the internet, a method called electronic commerce in full. For ecommerce to be possible there must be computers that are networked together and software that will enable the process. There must be shopping cart that will enable people buy and sell online. Some of the benefits of the electronic commerce include:

The method helps break geographical barriers when it comes to shopping. With ecommerce, anyone in any part of the world can shop and add whatever they would like to buy into their shopping cart with ease. It does not matter the time or place one is located, provided they access internet and are able to pay for whatever they would like to buy, they are good to go.

For those who like to sell online and have niche products, ecommerce gives them the perfect platform because the internet offers a wide market, which makes it easy to sell certain unique products with ease. This is something that may not be easy if you were to look for a market locally.

It makes shopping faster and cheaper compared to making use of local stores. All a person needs is to look for the products they need and add to their shopping cart in a much faster manner. For those who are looking to sell online, the method makes it easy for them to sell because the market is big and chances of someone somewhere in the world looking for your particular kind of product are high. When it comes to cost, it is cheaper because of high competition as many people are looking to sell various things that they may no longer be in need of.

For those looking to set up business, ecommerce makes it easy for them to start one as not much is needed to make it happen. Provided you fulfill the requirements for online shopping, install an easy to use shopping cart software, provide quality products and spell out methods of payment, they are good to go. There is no need to set up a physical company and the costs of starting up one are much lower.

Customers too get to enjoy selecting products with ease. Provided you know how to make use of a shopping cart, that is adding and removing products into the cart, they can get whatever they want at the comfort of their homes. All you have to do is to select products, add into the shopping cart and pay up to order. The delivery work is done by the company one is purchasing from. There is no need for one to drive out to shop or miss a certain product simply because they did not manage to get to their favorite local store on time as ecommerce runs for 24 hours a day.

Trisha Barkley is the author of this article on ecommerce


Monday, December 26, 2011

Build an eCommerce Web Website Design

What does it take to construct an ecommerce website online? This text assumes you may have accomplished your analysis regarding whether your product has a market. After getting determined you may have a viable product then the technical aspects of constructing a website online takes over (garmin forerunner 610).

Whenever you construct an ecommerce website online preparation is important. Set up your products ahead of time. You can use an excel spreadsheet or just a phrase document. Gather photos of the products. It is rather essential that you’ve got superb images. Do not forget that a picture is value a thousand words . Some of the issues that you simply might contemplate accumulating are:

a) product classes and subcategories ie books and historic fiction
b) product options ie sizes, colors, paperback or hardcover
c) product ID number ie 00001 you will want to provide you with a numbering scheme that can develop
d) product description a phrase description of each product
e) product image the identify of the image file for the product
f) product price
g) transport calculations
h) tax calculations

By accumulating info to Whenever you construct an ecommerce website online ahead of time you possibly can decide what your needs are. Now there are a variety of ways you possibly can construct an ecommerce internet site. Principally a service provider account lets you acquire cash on the internet. You will need a service provider account and a payment gateway or buying cart in an effort to sell on the internet (teeter hang ups ep-550).

One solution to accomplish this in an multi functional product is Paypal. Folks usually Whenever you construct an ecommerce website online where Paypal is the official payment processor. You can sell one or multiple objects in the buying cart that PayPal gives free of charge. You will pay a small amount when you sell each merchandise however is not going to should pay a monthly price or equipment rental price in an effort to course of credit score cards.

Whether or not you chose PayPal or another payment processing answer you’ll need to register a domain name. Selecting a reputation that is straightforward to spell and bear in mind makes it simpler for the customer to return to your online store. You can register a domain identify in a variety of locations online for much less then $8.00 a year.

Next you wish to chose a web host firm when you construct an ecommerce internet site. When selecting a internet hosting firm to your ecommerce website online you have to contemplate the quantity of internet space available, the monthly bandwidth monthly, number of e mail accounts, whether they permit autoresponders. In addition, website statistics, database (if wanted), quick customer support and whether they are fairly priced.

Construct your ecommerce website online – decide on how many pages you want in your website (this would possibly not apply in case you have a database pushed website). Identify the navigation hyperlinks for the online pages in accordance with the principle product classes you might be using. For instance you may need, Homepage, Category 1, Category 2, Category 3, Category four, Category 5, Category 6, Insurance policies, About Us and Contact

There ought to be a consistent theme and design operating all through your website use the identical header image and/or logo, slogan, navigation, copyright and colors. Include a summary or mission assertion about what the positioning contains on the home page.

Including a paragraph of text at the prime of each page (250-500 words) which incorporates the key phrases you may have researched for that product. It will attract potential guests to seek out your website based mostly on the key phrases they insert in the search engines.

After you construct an ecommerce website online ensure you check your internet site. After uploading your website information to your internet host, thoroughly examine your website by testing for, broken hyperlinks, browser compatibility, screen decision, html/xhtml validation, that the optin type works, website loading time.

It’s not a case of, for those who construct an ecommerce website online they are going to come, it’s essential to market your site. You will not make any sales for those who do not actively market your internet site. Some of the essential duties it’s best to do on a consistent basis to increase your presence in the search engines is to construct your hyperlink recognition (number of hyperlinks pointing to your website). Contact sites associated to yours and alternate hyperlinks with them. You also needs to submit your website to the principle search engines and directories.

Other strategies of marketing embrace writing articles associated to your website’s materials, promoting in ezines and pay per click advertising. Be sure you embrace offline promoting by together with your website online tackle on all of your stationary.

To build an ecommerce website online does not should be complicated task. By following the steps outlined above, you possibly can quickly and simply set up your website and begin promoting your products (


Sunday, December 25, 2011

How to right-size your website for mobile screens

Takeaway: Sankalp Waingankar shows you how to make optimum use of the screen width provided by different mobile devices even when you have to design for older devices that don’t support the use of HTML tables.

A few weeks ago I posted my first blog on TechRepublic. It was about designing mobile-friendly portals. In this article, I had made a passing reference to the eight sizes in which we cut up the horizontal banners on the web pages so that they make optimum use of the screen width provided by different mobile devices. Ever since that article got published, I have been inundated with questions on what these eight sizes are. So this post is solely about these sizes and how and why we use them. I recommend that you go through the original posts to understand the context.


Are you prepared to negotiate the mobile Internet challenge?
Tackling the screen resolution challenge on mobile devices

Why do we need the banners cut up in eight sizes?

Given the non-standard screen sizes of mobile devices, the best way of displaying data without letting it get distorted and without causing horizontal scroll bars is by arranging the sections and the content pieces within them one below the other instead of one beside the other. (Refer to Figure A in the second article mentioned above.)
The best possible way to ensure that the differing screen widths on mobile devices get utilized properly without distorting the page display is by arranging the content within tables and setting the table width to either 100% or to an appropriate size based on the device calling it.
However, the above-mentioned strategy will work for you only if you have to support devices that are relatively newer. If your client mandates that you have to support old devices too, you will not be able to rely on the table width properly. Many old devices do not support HTML tables.
In this case you will have to place the images and content one below the other in DIVs. When we do this, the different sections will obviously assume different widths. This will give the web page a very inconsistent and untidy look.
To tackle this issue we create the banner headers in the form of images and place them as section headers on top of each section. These section headers ensure that the page looks consistent in its width and makes optimum use of the available screen width on the mobile device.

What are these sizes?

These banner headers are created in the following eight sizes.

91 pixels
118 pixels
166 pixels
198 pixels
230 pixels
310 pixels
342 pixels
640 pixels

These sizes cover most of the old phones that we have on our client’s network.

For the newer phones we do not have to depend so much upon section headers as almost all of these new phones support most of the HTML tags and properties. Hence, for newer phones we use either a table or a div with width specified as 100%.
How do we use these section headers?

We use WURFL (refer to to maintain a database of different screen resolutions for devices. We detect the width of the calling device and accordingly forward the section header that is the same size or just a tad smaller. This may result in some small white margin towards the right of the screen. But there are not many easy ways of avoiding that.

I hope the information out here helps you make your web pages more mobile friendly. Do let me know what are the strategies that you use to achieve the same.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Zen and the Art of Good Web Design

1. Give your site an edge

That minimalist site of yours will look more cozy and inviting if you add a little color to the background on either side of the content area.

I know, I know: you like white space. I hear you.

Unfortunately, your reader probably doesn’t like it as much as you do.

When they get to the end of each line of text, your reader’s eyes have to make the trip back to the beginning of the next line.

With no background color to give them a signal that the end of the line has been reached, they just continue on, sort of floating into your white background.

You see, we’re used to reading on paper, or on devices. Both of these have edges. When you remove the “edge” from your content area, you’re setting your reader adrift.

So, add a little color.

It can be very, very subtle, and just one shade away from white. If you prefer, a thin outline around your content area will work, too. (Notice the way both of those are used here on Copyblogger.)

Anything that creates an edge and shows your reader where the content area ends will improve their reading experience.

2. Add color to your subheads

Adding subheads to your posts help your reader process your information. They’re like signposts that point the way through your text.

To make them stand out, consider making them bolder and adding some color. If you’re afraid of too much color, this is a great way to dip your toe in and try it out without it becoming overwhelming.

Colored subheads stand out from your body text and immediately add personality to your page.

3. Use compelling images

Yes, adding images to your posts is an extra step.

If you wait to do it when you’re done with your post and ready to hit Publish, it can be hard to find the motivation to do an image search.

But if you’re not taking time to add a compelling image, you’re leaving readers on the table. Our brains process images first, and then text. We react to images with emotion, and on instinct. It’s an opportunity to engage your reader before they begin to read your words.

And there’s no excuse for not having great images. You don’t even have to spend money on them!

If you’re watching expenses, use the resources available to you in the vast collection of Flickr images available under a Creative Commons license.

Be sure to read the terms for each photo carefully. As long as you’re permitted to use it, credit the photographer and add a link back to the original photo.

To easily find Creative Commons Flickr images, try which is a search engine designed expressly to uncover Creative Commons-tagged treasures in the Flickr archives.

4. Create a custom header

The English language is read from left to right, and top to bottom.

That means your visitor’s eyes hit the top left corner of a web page, and work their way across to the right side.

The first thing they see is your site header. It’s like the cover of a book, or the opening credits of a movie. It’s your chance to make a great first impression.

But if the top of your site has a plain text header, and the next site does, too, and the site after that … don’t you think they’ll all blend together in reader’s memories after a while?

To make a stronger first impression, create a custom site header. This doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering design masterpiece. At its simplest, it can be a matter of finding a good-looking font and applying it to a colored or patterned background.

This is a good place, though, to invest a few bucks and hire someone. Negotiate with your designer for the right to re-use the image as an email header, email signature image, and more.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson helps small businesses build enlightened brands at Big Brand System. Get her free Marketing Toolkit for more great tips on marketing your business with a memorable visual brand.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Effective Web Design Ideas

We have hundreds of websites that are launched every day. This makes it much harder to be noticed online. There are some webmasters who resort to using unethical means for getting ranked high with the search engines. However, Google’s ranking algorithm can sniff this out and they will take action. Only the sites that stick to the rules remain. They are the ones who will fight it out for that top spot on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
If you want to be popular with search engines and enhance the experience of your users, then you need to incorporate these important steps into your web design:

Navigation – Poor navigation can be very frustrating for users who are surfing your website. If they have trouble finding where to go then your web design is truly a failure. To prevent this a web designer needs to think carefully about how they can make the navigation easy to use. Your design needs to be implemented in a way so your users can answer the questions – “Where am I at this moment?” and “Where should I try to go next?”

Relevance – All of your elements on your site need to add meaning to the site. Never have irrelevant information on your site just to fill up space. Inept details give your site an unprofessional image, so refrain from this kind of content and focus on your defined path.

Typography - Text is always crucial in web design. A web designer needs to ensure the text is visually appealing and easily readable. This will be based on your font size, types, color, and line length.

Balance – Any website needs to maintain symmetry all throughout its web design. This will ensure that all necessary elements placed on the site will be in balance. To maintain the balance of your web design you should visually assess position, color, contrast, size, and design elements.

Alignment – Unorganized pages can make the best information look irrelevant. Aligning the web design will make it look much more ordered and consistent.

Spacing – Whenever you stuff too much of any one element like content, advertising, and images, you only cause the site to be cluttered and very unreadable. You need to have proper spacing on your pages to ensure your images and words will convey the message you’re shooting for. You have 3 aspects to consider about spacing:

1. Space Between Your Text Lines

2. Padding

3. White Spacing

If all your text is too close together it doesn’t make sense. And if your images all overlap your text or overlap each other it is going to be visually unappealing and can hide parts of your text. White space is also a crucial element for making your web pages readable.

Sharpness – Last but certainly not least, your web design needs to be crisp and really sharp. You need the proper layout with well defined content and clear crisp images. This should be your priority.

Will you be interested to learn more on the writer? Kelly works for the marketing department of where you can get some interesting ideas when it comes to choosing gifts for your loved ones.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Secret Weapon for E-commerce Sites Looking to Engage with Social Influencers

If you’ve ever been in charge of marketing for an e-commerce site you know just how tough it can be have success engaging with social media influencers or potential SEO link-building partners.

This is particularly true if said e-commerce site does not have any social-friendly content formats (e.g. blog posts, videos, infographics, etc.). What’s more, the very nature of an e-commerce site can sometimes work against you in that static product pages do not make for very enticing link bait or social influencer currency. Sadly, these very common conditions can result in a demoralized social media marketer (or link builder) that is limited to only the most basic of techniques (things like paid engagement campaigns or directory submissions).

But the good news is that more often than not, e-commerce sites have access to a steady stream of potential social (and SEO) influencers available to them. And this steady stream is usually untapped and sitting right under their noses, just waiting to be found via advanced analysis of referring site data.

Still not sure of what I’m referring to? Let me give you a concrete example:

Let’s say I’m a blogger writing a blog post on weird christmas gifts. I’m going to need some examples, right? So I’ll probably do some searching, and when I come across a nice example (like this iPhone-compatible toilet paper holder) I’ll likely link to it from my post. And if my site has any semblance of influence (and site traffic) chances are that at least one of my readers will click on the link and be referred to that e-commerce site, which means that my site will be listed as a referring site in his/her analytics data.

This happens more often than you think, and it’s one of the ultimate forms of social media engagement (an unsolicited link or mention). Moreover, it comes in many forms (blog post, blog comment, forum thread, review site, etc.). And best of all, the individual or business entity responsible for the link/mention is indirectly expressing a desire or willingness to become an influential ambassador for your brand. In other words, if they were willing to link to you or mention you without being asked, they will likely be willing to do it again (and perhaps on an ongoing basis).

But here’s the catch; you have to be looking for this unsolicited engagement in order to cash in on the full social media (and SEO) value it can provide in the long-term.

For example, I’m 99% sure that the owner of the e-commerce site with the aforementioned iPhone toilet paper holder will not notice that I linked to him/her today. Why? Because like most e-commerce site owners, he/she is likely not filtering through his referring site data to check for new referring sites.

Mind you, it’s not enough to simply review your referring data on a daily basis (although that’s probably fine for smaller sites that have minimal referring traffic). Instead, the key is to filter referring data so that you can isolate sites that have referred traffic for the very first time or for the first time in a long time. For very large, enterprise-caliber sites it’s a good idea to review referring traffic data on a daily basis so that you can identify new referring sites and strike while the engagement iron is hot (e.g. within a day or two of the link/mention occurring).

This technique actually works for all sorts of sites, not just those of the e-commerce variety, but I chose to focus on its value for e-commerce portals because this particular technique circumvents the common e-commerce obstacles that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

If you’re not already mining your referring site data in this manner, you know what you need to do. From here on out, every day could be filled with social media engagement gold that’s yours for the taking, and that has been slipping by you, unnoticed, until now.


Friday, December 9, 2011

6 Ways to Enhance Website Performance During the Holiday Season

With an estimated 226 million people having shopped online over the Thanksgiving week, it signaled the start of the busiest ecommerce holiday season ever. Each day moving forward through Dec. 31 will present an opportunity to further increase holiday sales and grow revenue.

For those retailers who depend on their ecommerce sites to deliver added holiday revenue throughout the season, ensuring those sites are optimized to operate effectively under heavier than normal volumes is of the utmost importance.

Increased website traffic and overstuffed cyber shopping carts are expected to hit year-high peaks not just between now and Christmas Eve, but also the days and weeks after, as many retailers push sales items out the door to make way for next year’s inventory. Taking the time to implement best practices for your ecommerce store can be the difference between a record-setting holiday season and an average one.

To meet the demands of online holiday consumers, retailers are preparing their sites through the following means to ensure they are prepared throughout the holiday season for the increased traffic they’ll see. The following precautionary measures should enhance website performance:

Minimize updates: Minimize, or completely eliminate, site updates over the next six weeks. If critical updates are required they should be done during off-peak hours, between 3 a.m. – 8 a.m.

Test and re-test: Design changes should be kept to a minimum and avoided if the site can go without them. However, many online retailers will want to highlight special holiday promotions online. If updates are made, test those changes thoroughly before they go into production – then test them again. Add software that enables testing in multiple browsers, as there are a number of popular options available and you can’t predict what browser any one customer may be using; create and use a test page, never a live page and keep a backup of the original page in the event there are issues with the new page when it goes live.

Prepare for the best: Imagine the highest number of shoppers or buyers that might visit your site at any one time. Now run a test using that number to see what happens to performance and site behavior. This can be done by using software that simulates many simultaneous shoppers all browsing and clicking at the same time.

Upgrade rich media solutions: Now that Adobe has announced it will begin phasing out support for Flash, merchants should look to take advantage of other rich media solutions, like HTML5.

Organize data: Do your best to make sure your data, such as product descriptions, codes, prices and inventory is on hand, up-to-date, clean and indexed. Any bad data could introduce negative changes that result in lost sales.

Keep open communication: Always make sure your suppliers support contact information is available and know when they are accessible. Surprisingly, most merchants don’t know the exact times that they can contact their service providers for assistance, and many offer 24/7 customer support services.

One online merchant, Condomania, treats each month as if it’s the most important month of the year, but will minimize any changes to its site prior to the holidays, posting specials and deals on items they know will be sought after well before the Christmas rush.

Condomania will also increase its inventory to meet increased demand and will make sure any advertised specials are implemented in the system well ahead of schedule so there is little tinkering with the site when traffic is peaking.

Following the implementation of these best practices, retailers should monitor the performance of their sites on a routine basis in order to identify any issues that are abnormal and remedy them swiftly. If retailers spend the extra time to adjust their sites now for maximum performance, they will certainly yield dividends come year end.

Fred Lizza ( is the chief executive officer at Dydacomp, a provider of business technology platforms for small and mid-sized ecommerce and multichannel merchants.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Top 5 Web Trends of Next Year

1. Mobile, Mobile, and more Mobile

Many web designers will have to take their designs and use their skills to bring them to the small screen. According to Search Engine Land, more than 1/5 of all searches will be conducted on mobile devices in 2012. For this reason, it is extremely important that all company websites can be easily navigated as well as read on the small cell phone screen.
2. More 3D Effects

The web has slowing been moving into 3D web effects to help draw in readers. This next year 3D graphics are expected to grow in popularity, so be sure your 3D skills are ready to go. Use shadows and textures to help create dimension, but remember not to go overboard!
3. No more flash—think CSS3 and HTML5

Flash was once extremely popular amongst web designers, but it has slowly lost momentum. In 2012, flash will likely lose all momentum forever. It simply does not work well with mobile devices, and CSS3 and HTML5 offer many benefits (interactivity for users, faster loading, etc.). If you’re afraid to leave flash, consider learning about these newer methods from the Web Design Ledger.
4. Think Typography

More browsers now support different types of font, which means more and more websites will start to utilize more creative ways to use lettering. While past years typography was tangled up in copyright issues, CSS3 will allow designers to use free and/or subscription-based typography services. This will help get you away from those boring Arial and Times fonts you’re so tired of seeing.
5. QR Codes will explode

Last year was about consumers understanding Quick Response (QR) Codesand trying them out for fun. This year, many companies are hopeful that QR Codes will make a big difference. They are completely free to create, and many more people understand how they work. Because they are so easy, your boss will likely have you throw up a QR Code whenever possible.

Design is one of the aspects of business that every gets to see evolve with the times. For this reason, it is important that your designs continue to improve and grow with all the latest trends. The great part about it all—you will likely be able to create better designs with the same amount of work. Things often get easier for designers, and 2012 will be no exception.

Photo Credit:

Amanda DiSilvestro is an expert writer on business starting a small business in San Diego, California. She writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs such as HR Software. You can find more of her articles as well as vendors comparisons for your small business needs at

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make the most of your mobile Web site

Summary: The FiddleFly service, delivered through Web design and marketing affiliates, helps small businesses optimize their Web sites for mobile visitors.

How many of you have spent more time than you should trying to navigate around on a Web site using your mobile phone? Now, ask yourself: “Has my small business done all it could do to optimize its mobile Web site presence for customers or potential customers?”

More likely than not, the answer is “No.” But as more of the general population uses smartphones, tablets and other devices with a relatively small screen to interact with the Internet or even to buy products and services, small and midsize businesses will miss out if they don’t take steps to ensure that their Web site is easy to negotiate from mobile gadgets.

Enter a service from FiddleFly that helps SMBs optimize their Web site for mobile browsing.

Web2Mobile Full Demo from MOS Creative on Vimeo.

Alex Kutsishin, cofounder and CEO of Web2Mobile, said the FiddleFly service is targeted at businesses such as real estate companies, restaurants and retailers that benefit from helping customer prospects on the go. “When you are looking at something on your mobile device, you want it designed for that experience, not for a desktop,” he said.

What does that mean? According to Kutsishin, here are three big things to keep in mind:

Don’t include EVERYTHING on your mobile site. That means if you have 15 different pages on your main site, it might only be three or four series for the mobile version.

Make it really easy to find the phone number and physical address. It is surprising how hard it is to find address and phone number information on many Web sites.

Avoid unnecessary graphics that make the site slower to load.

Pretty simple, huh?

FiddleFly’s service is delivered through graphics designers, media companies and other affiliates involved in helping small companies market their products and services.

Kutsishin said agencies pay an annual fee to FiddleFly in order to use the service; they are in charge of designing and hosting mobile sites on behalf of their SMB clients. Those fees vary depending on the extent of the site and on the agency doing the design and hosting, but a typical annual fee range would be $250 to $1,600 per site, he estimated.

Again, the main guiding theme for the mobile Web experience: keep it simple and make it easy to find the most important information for getting customers to walk in the door. Things like phone numbers, addresses and directions to your physical location. “People search on the mobile Web are looking to take action NOW,” Kutsishin said.

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