October 31st, 2012.
Upgrading to Windows 8 has been made very easy and surprisingly cheap. If you have Windows 7 currently installed on your machine and at least semi-decent specs, then you can upgrade to Windows 8 for $40 in no time at all.
But the question is, do you want to? With so many changes in Windows 8 this is a big decision and it’s not quite so straight forward as it was when you chose to embrace Windows 7. This has been designed as a touch and mouse based OS meaning that some of the things you’re familiar with just no longer exist and meaning that you’ll have to learn some new tricks and adapt to a new way of doing things. There’s no Start button for instance, and the Desktop is no longer the centre of everything you do.
Despite these changes however I’m going to argue that Windows 8 is a worthwhile upgrade and that you should on this occasion opt to embrace change – particularly if you run a blog or website or otherwise work online. Here’s why…
The boot time for Windows 8 has been said to be about twice as fast as the boot time for Windows 7. This means that you do get a ‘close to tablet’ experience when it comes to quickly loading up and getting started which means that you don’t have to sit waiting as long for your computer to load up so that you can get typing. Five minutes saved a day even is worth investing in, but you’ll save more than that because the software all loads quicker too.
It’s Great for Touch Machines
While most of us still do most of our work with a keyboard and mouse, if you do have some kind of hybrid device then there’s no question here – you should install Windows 8 because you’ll get a lot more from that touch screen (and the swiping from the edges is very quick to operate with the thumbs).
It’s the Lesser Evil
Windows 8 represents change, but if you stick with Windows 7 you’re going to be left behind. Let’s think about what your other options are here – OSx? Linux? While you might like those two options, either of them are going to represent a bigger change still than switching to Windows 8 because they won’t run your ‘legacy software’ (in other words software for Windows 7). If you want to run the software you’ve loved and paid for, but you don’t want to be stuck in the past, then Windows 8 is your only realistic option (other than maybe Linux running Wine…).
The App Store
Having an app store on a PC is an interesting idea and could be a great way to get cheap games delivered to your machine and handy little apps made by developers. Meanwhile if you’re interested in app development then potentially this is going to represent a very real money making opportunity with a HUGE market and limited competition so it’s worth getting involved.
It Looks Nice
Whatever else you say about Windows 8 it does look cool. Sometimes just changing things up is interesting and exciting anyway, but when it looks this good it’s definitely worth taking the plunge just for a bit of something new. And you can always change back…
It’s a Big Topic
If you run a tech blog then you need to have Windows 8 on at least one device so that you can write about it. Even if your blog is in a different niche though, this is still going to put you at the forefront and mean you can join in with all those Windows 8 competitions rather than standing outside in the cold…
October 17th, 2012.
Topic in question:
Google Adwords’ image search ads
Are these new?
Well yes and no. No technically, since they were originally launched at a Google Search event back in 2010, but to you – yes if you have never used them before, obviously.
What are they?
In short, they are ads that include images similar to the ones you see on the search network as part of a PPC campaign.
Where do you use them?
These can be used as part of your online advertising campaign in Google’s display network. Specifically, they will appear at the top of Google’s image search above the lines of images returned. Here is an example:
Why would you use them?
For many reasons. There is a huge untapped opportunity to be found via the images you have on your website than just through regular SEO. For instance, through the ALT-tags used in your images. These can lead people to the content on your website.
Also, often people are genuinely just looking for an image rather than actual text content – for instance when looking for new shoes, or any product they are interested in. This is a great chance to draw in prospective customers.
Hold on, don’t we already have image ads on the display network?
We sure do!
So, how are these different?
They’re completely different. Image ads are ads featured in Google’s display network. This network is different from Google’s search network. Instead, it is a large collection of websites that are in a partnership with Google that work to display graphical ads that have been built with the display ad builder.
Those ads look like this:
Will these cost me more than usual search ads?
No, you can bid on relevant keywords as you usually would. So this will only cost you as much as you choose to bid.
Any tips for effectiveness?
Google advises you create a separate campaign for these kinds of ads. This way you can gauge quality scores much more accurately and hone the campaign in a way that works best.
Things to keep in mind?
Although a useful way to advertise, it is worth noting that there are no guarantees this will be a huge success in terms of conversions, and as with text ads, it is a process of constant tweaking until you find what works.
Some users have suggested that this is something that best works with tangible products (on e-commerce sites) where someone will search to get an idea of a product they will eventually wear, use or feel (i.e furniture, clothing or decoration).
If your product doesn’t fall into this band, then the outlook for image ads search might be branding; a way to advertising the visual aspects of your services. Low Cost Holidays [link redacted] does a good job of this. Here, I searched the term winter holidays:
Okay where do I start?
You can explore this feature in Adwords by selecting a campaign on the left and then selecting ads from the top panel. From there, select new ad and then Specialised – Search from the drop down menu:
Follow the instructions from there. – Good luck! ;-)
July 13th, 2012.
Online trading is a fast paced world. Whether it be in stock and shares, grants for start-ups or otherwise, there aren’t many examples to date that show the benefits of waiting around.
Let’s look at some examples of once leading technologies, that have recently or notably had to resort to publicising selling shares, or changing hands to stay (or become) relevant; which of these companies/ventures/subsidiaries do you still associate with “cool“?:
Known originally for: Pioneering the discovery of new music online…
Now thought of as: A dated money leaking endeavour that has passed hands more than a hot potato.
Known originally for: The only key to dial up internet…
Now thought of as: American acronym that we see online from time to time, mostly trying to be spammed-in as the default homepage for your browser when downloading freeware.
Known originally for: Groundbreaking search engine and most famous Google competitor…
Now thought of as: Fairly annoyingly designed interface that we’re surprised is still around.
Known originally for: Quirky news discovery site…
Now thought of as: Recently sold to a company for $500, 000 (much less that it was once worth ($175, 000, 000)
Known originally for: The new zeitgeist and awesome brainchild of cool-techie Mark Zuckerburg…
Now thought of as: Slightly spammy/stalky connect-service offering the chance to re-establish relasionships with distant relatives & old “friends”
Known originally for: Newbie picture service that made Twitter pics look really cool…
Now thought of as: Lovely money-maker for start-up entrapeneur Kevin Systrom (he knew when to sell)
Known originally for: Having a great customizable email service that tied closely to MSN messeger and then windows live…
Now thought of as: Uber-spammy email service that looks outdated & unsure of its design.
Known originally for: Creating the Blackberry; a respectable device for business-people…
Now thought of as: Annoying pingy device taken over by tweens and teeny-boppers who got excited about its messaging service, which is essentially not far from a text message.
Known originally for: Competing with the big boys and girls (basically Google) and doing that respectably…
Now thought of as: A failed Microsoft endeavour, that was close – but no cigar…
Known originally for: Clever algorithms that tailored music choices to the listener based on entering a few personalised details…
Now thought of as: Recently hacked music service that was long out-thought by competitors (Pandora, Spotify and iTunes’ “Ping“)
Known originally for: Pioneering photo technology as we knew it and introducing a sense of class to both the disposable and polaroid camera…
Now thought of as: A once amazing company that failed to follow technology into the world of digital and subsequently faced insolvency.
Don’t get left behind…
April 11th, 2012.
1. Less is more
I could write you a list (but I wont) of the number of photo sharing applications, tools, add-ons and features the internet has to offer, that didn’t just sell for $1 billion dollars to Mark Zuckerberg. So what made Instagram so desirable?
To answer that question, we must look at what it actually does:
- Instagram is a free photo sharing program that allows users to take a photo, apply a digital filter to it, and then share it online.
That’s it? Yep, that’s it! Whilst many developers often try to create something so innovative, exciting and unheard of, that it is often unnecessary. It’s popularity proves that all people really want to do is upload cool looking pictures to the internet and have people “ooh” and “aah” at them.
2. The company you keep speaks volumes about you
It’s true. It’s been true since you were old enough to know what street-cred meant and cheeky enough to be selective about what shoes your parents bought you for school because the popular kids were wearing them.
Once Instagram attached itself to the iPhone, it was the inception of something brilliant. In business, you are not trying to reach everyone on the planet because that is impossible. Greatness is often born out of a niche. That is exactly why Tesco and Waitrose can exist in harmony – each business appeals to the pockets of a particular consumer and does that really well. That’s all you really need; to please your niche consistently.
3. Make changes before completely giving up
Kevin Systrom created Instagram only 2 years ago in 2010. However before you call him an upstart that got lucky, consider his earlier attempts with Photobox in 2004 that allowed you to send large images to a friend online, followed by Burbn, a useful HTML project allowing you to update people on your location and then Instagram. Each idea was a good one, but Instagram, was and is a great one! Kudos Kevin! :-)
February 29th, 2012.
Those rascals in Europe have really done it this time. They have dreamt up the most insane law that will render any complicated website practically unworkable.
Their intentions were probably honourable but as the law is a mess but they are happening and YOU DO NEED TO TAKE NOTICE.
The law comes in on May 26th 2012.
There is a £500,000 max fine for non compliance.
It”s all about cookies
Why do cookies always come with consequences? If it isn’t calories you’re trying to avoid it’s breaching someones privacy – you just can’t win!
What are cookies? In short they are a method for tracking what you “do” on a website and where you go afterwards, how you got there etc. Most cookies are essential for a website to work. Some admittedly are a bit suspect and it’s not entirely wrong to be doing something about them but the sledgehammer approachby the EU is not the solution we feel.
The new shiny piece of legislation is being enforced as a solution; a way to protect you from the prying eyes of the web owners.
We’re not going to rewrite all the great articles out there already so here are pointers to finding out more about the Cookie Law
- Here’s the official ICO site http://www.ico.gov.uk/
- Here’s a nice well written PDF Click here to read the PDF on new EU Cookie Law’s
- Just in case the above PDF is too much to bear, you can check out this informative video that breaks the new rules down in just under 3 minutes:
- Here are some examples on how to comply with the law and implement solutions on your site http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/9202-eu-cookie-law-three-approaches-to-compliance
- Make the pain go away: For a small price these guys will tell you what to do and how to do it, and you don’t have to learn anything legal. I think they will be busy this summer http://www.cookielaw.org/
Biting off more than they can chew?
Before you get collared by the EU police you can refer them to their own website which is used to announce the legislation and has been criticised for breaking the very same laws they intend to enforce as pointed out (and illustrated with pretty pictures) by the good folks at Code Blog here: “UK Government ‘break’ the law they imposed“.
So, to summarise: This legislation will apply to nearly everything on the web, will probably reinforce the much dreaded “pop-up” and seems to be an overall nuisance.
In conclusion, you can choose to do the following:
- Implement the new functionality to comply with the law ASAP
- Delay the implementation as long as possible
- Ignore the law
What do you think?
November 17th, 2011.
One of my colleagues here at Datadial talked about the peculiar QR code and its uses previously on this blog. Fast forward to now and it seems to have evolved (or caught up with Japan who created them, since technically we live in the stone ages in comparison).
eBay are getting in on the act…
A post from the good folks at Econsultancy informs us of a new-age phenomenon set up by eBay, that will see customers sent online to buy goods only after scanning their bar codes with QR compatible devices.
After reading it, I started thinking about the future of shopping as a whole, with Google taking over the virtual world and taking on everyone from Apple (with Google Music) to Facebook (with Google+) are we living in a world where soon instead of buying food in-store we will be asked to produce our phones first, to then scan a code, pay online and wait for said food to be delivered? Could it become as outrageous as to be used in convenience stores for quick snacks like a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps?
If this is the present already, what does the future hold…?
Both funny and annoyingly true right? …and that’s just online shopping. If we are entering into a world of offline/online mergers what else could happen? I mean sure, in theory there are many problems it could solve:
- Store space would no longer be an issue (just like it no longer was for Cassette’s, CD’s and vinyl after iTunes was born)
- No heavy bags to carry home
- Lesser feelings of guilt because money becomes virtual too; if we can’t see it disappear from our purses then we might forget what we spent
- Scheduling goods to arrive at a time that works best for us
However, what if the downfalls included…
- The wrong item turning up at the door
- The annoyance of having to exchange an item and there being no store front to take it to (or in-store employee to blame for the journey)
- No bag to carry (everybody enjoys a little logo-bragging from time to time)
- That silly little “sorry, you were out when we called” card that the postman surely writes before he even knocks the door in anticipation of you taking longer than he’d like to walk down the stairs & answer it…
To conclude, I agree that this pop-up store (due to launch near Oxford Street, London on Dec 1st) is a great PR stunt for eBay, but is there any real use for the QR code if most people are happy just Googling a URL? – Or perhaps it’s just me that really dislikes the matrix-esque appearance of those ugly squares being forced on the nation…
August 24th, 2011.
…a wheelbarrow in an open field that you drag along every day filling it with this and that – each thing you add to it has some significance and some use.
Now imagine you never empty the wheelbarrow. Each day, not only do the things you found the week before now lie at the bottom covered by the newest additions, but the device also becomes increasingly heavy to pull until eventually, it becomes almost impossible.
Now think of the wheelbarrow as your website, and think of its contents as the factors affecting its speed – Let’s explore these factors…
- Empty spaces between code (This only adds to processing time)
- Missing tags (Causing internal errors & bugs in the site)
- Bulky HTML (such as using unnecessary tags where something more CSS compatible would work better e.g. using the tag “font-size” rather than just “small”)
- Background colour being the same as text colour (making all text unreadable)
- Hyperlinks that fail (Devaluing your site in terms of credibility, and possibly increasing bounce rates)
- Missing images
An overload of HTTP requests:
Whenever your web browser fetches a file from a web server, for example when it loads a picture, it does this by using HTTP which stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”.
HTTP is an action whereby you’re computer requests for a particular file. One example is a request for ‘home.html‘ (the homepage of a particular website). The web server then sends a response to the computer that says something like: “Here’s the file you asked for” which is followed by the actual file itself.
Understandably, if your server is receiving a very high volume of requests for a range of different things, such as pictures, graphics, photographs, music players and video rendering, it can take its toll and end up really slowing your website down.
Too many cookies:
HTTP Cookies are used mainly for personalization and authentication purposes. A series of saved information is exchanged between the web server and the browser in order to remember things about how you are using the internet. For example if you are shopping online and exit the website returning at a later date, a cookie will enable the site to remember what you had in your shopping cart so you don’t have to spend time finding the same items again.
Web hosting is the business of providing storage space and access for websites. Bad web hosting happens when said storage space is overloaded with many websites, yours is added to the list and so runs slow. Other issues caused by a bad web host include:
- Search engines being unable to crawl your site resulting in a fall in Search Rank
- Your website being “down” (not working, sending out 404-errors)
- Not being able to contact your web host to fix the issue (since the service is so bad the system has probably crashed)
Excess of external media:
Embedded YouTube videos, actually embedded anything that is coming from another website can potentially slow yours down. When you embed something from another site, you are relying on that sites web server, that sites speed, and that sites ability to ensure the embedded item is working properly there, so that it works properly on yours site. Often, even when it works just fine, it might add an extra few seconds to a certain page loading…a few seconds a potential customer may be unwilling to wait!
Spam is so much more than just a bunch of annoying emails. It slows down the Internet and it increases consumer fees.
The internet is a network where spamming effects everyone that uses it. To push spam around the internet relies on a process; it begins with global networks that pass the spam along to their destination, and ends with the message being received by the recipient.
Simultaneously, time, money and resources are used trying to catch and prevent spammers from infiltrating mail servers resulting in higher costs to the consumer because providers are forced to add more security to their servers and hire more staff to manage and prevent the problem.
Be sure to spam proof all web forms by adding “captchas” or similar.
A ‘favicon’ is an image (as shown above) that stays in the root of your server. It’s definitely needed because even if you don’t care about them, the browser still requests one. If there isn’t one, it will respond with a 404 error (meaning not found). Any error message, such as a 404 or 301, is an extra message sent that adds time to the processing of a site.
This image or lack thereof, interferes with the processing sequence by requesting extra components in the load, and since the favicon is the first thing that is downloaded before these extra components, if there isn’t one, the first thing downloaded will be an error.
Too many advertisements:
Any time a site uses advertisements, you are adding to other processes a site goes through in order to function correctly. Programmes like Google Adsense and Microsoft adcenter are external, and reputable, however it is logical to practice the same rules as with external media; everything in moderation – besides, sites with too many ads look un”site”ly! :-P
If any of these apply to you, take active steps to protect your website against sloth! Speed be with you!
May 13th, 2011.
Did you mean…/search instead for…?
YES, of course I meant that! – And If I left a vowel or a connective out because unlike you I am not a robot & I like to use computer-speak, then so be it. The bottom line is you knew what I meant – so did you have to be as condescending as that and point out the mistake I made?
Really Google? Finishing the search before I have written it? I mean c’mon – it’s one thing that you’re arrogant enough that you feel you need to tell me the speed in which you gathered my results, now you’re finishing my sentences for me like we’re in a marriage?
I’m at work, I’m signed into Google. I search a keyword phrase I’m using in Google Adwords & bingo – I’m ranking number 3 on the 1st page! That’s weird, yesterday I was on the 5th page, I haven’t upped the bids in-fact – I haven’t made any changes, but I’m not complaining at all, instead I sit & wait for the money to roll in. I get home from work and quickly carry out a query and sit back waiting to see my site turn up on the first page for that particular keyword and… hold on, it’s not there? I click to the next page and nothing. I carry on until get to page 5 and there my ad is. I find and ask an SEO expert why this has happened & I’m told that when I’m signed into Google, the results differ from when I am signed out. I feel as though I’ve been living in the Matrix. *sigh*
Google seasonal/holiday/anniversary/event themes
I know its Christmas when the streets are paved with sleet and debris and every shop I go into leaves me that little less well off than I was before I walked in. I know its May-Day when I get that extra day off of work, I know its election day when people lie to me about which policy I ought to be interested in because the amount of tax I pay will go down. Nevertheless, Google wants in on the reminders too. I guess its okay, but sometimes I just don’t want to care. I’m sorry.
Google Chrome’s Sloth
Look. I want a *extremely mild expletive* homepage button on the interface without having to go into the settings and put one there! Is that too much to ask? – Surely not if Firefox and IE understood it.
Sorry, we own YouTube so you can’t sign in without us knowing
Now, they may say a change is as good as a rest but I beg to differ. I’ve been signing in with the same username & password since I opened a YouTube account but Google wants more of a direct approach. Now you cannot access your settings unless you sign in via your Gmail account, which is reasonable enough – but what if you have multiple Gmail accounts? I don’t really have a problem with this one, but imagine if Google started buying up everything on the internet enforcing this same sign in rule or else no access. While it may not be that bad, it’s the principle…
…Oh well, as Google grows stronger by the query, I’m sure there will be more to add to this list soon!
May 10th, 2011.
Are your bounce rates extremely high? Does Google Analytic’s show that people are only spending a very short time on your site before leaving? Loyalty rates low? As a web-master if you face any of these issues, read on for some tips on how to overcome them:
Have some “me” time
Link to your site – on your site. The more links your website includes to the pages on your site the better. The simple logic behind it is this, when these links are clicked, they lead to another area of your site. This means people will be hanging around longer, seeing what else there is to see rather than being lead off to other places online or simply leaving altogether.
Opt for quality over quantity
What would you rather:
(a) thousands of visitors daily who stumble onto your site & realise they have been duped by your misleading ad causing them to instantly leave and grumble about wasted online browsing (which would result in high CTRs, virtually no conversions and an extremely high bounce rate).
(b) a consistent amount of daily visitors who spend a little longer on your site browsing and hopefully converting?
The point of this rhetorical question is relevance. A person wanting to buy household goods for interior design, finding your site through an ad suggesting household goods for interior design before discovering what you actually sell are gardening products, will leave. You may be happy about a high CTR but remember, you are paying for every click in a CPC campaign and every thousand impressions in a CPM one; be specific.
Avoid mazes, nobody likes those
The origins of the internet arguably date back to the 19th century, yet 2 centuries later people still create websites with awful navigability leaving the average web surfer frustrated enough to give up searching for whatever it is they wanted on that particular site and going elsewhere. If you want people to stay, you must make each section of your site clear and easy to get to, it wouldn’t matter if you had the most wonderful web content available if people didn’t know it was there.
Get the right look
Using Google Adsense is one great way to bring some extra revenue. When people come to your site and you have too many ads, links to here & there, misspellings, dodgy looking logo’s/pictures, flashing animations and the like…they leave. These things are annoying and really count towards (or in this case against) customer confidence. Try Google’s ’website optimiser’ – a tool that allows you to test different versions of your site to help decide what the best version is.
Incentives and interaction
Incorporate things into your site that people want to spend time doing, this could include anything from quizzes, polls, questions, comments areas, forums, things to rate, games etc (I could keep listing things but I think you get the point).
Good luck! :-)