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On the subject of Web Technology

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Matt

December 19th, 2014.

Trends That Will Dominate eCommerce in 2015

Due to the increased use of technology, particularly mobile devices, such as smartphones, eCommerce is expanding and evolving at an exponential rate. eCommerce sites are having to adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of technology. From the emergence of responsiveness optimised web design to the increased use of video content, eCommerce has changed a great deal in the past decade. These changes are set to continue in 2015. Next, year here’s what trends we expect to dominate eCommerce in the coming year.

Mobile Payments will be in Demand

People are using their phones for everything from sending text messages, to making purchases online, and often, they don’t want to use a card, because they worry about security, and because it’s inconvenient to enter card details. Mobile payment systems make paying from your phone a simple process, and no card details are necessary.

13618923175698510597464_9bcd47278a_bPayments made using mobile phone payment systems are increasing. By 2017, it is predicated that mobile payments will account for 3% of the international eCommerce market. This means that websites that allow consumers to pay using a mobile payment system, like Zong, will have an edge over their competition. In 2015, mobile payment systems will likely become much more prevalent among eCommerce websites. Mobile payments systems will likely become more refined and easier to use in the coming year too.

Quality Content will be even more Important

According to statistics, content marketing methods are 62% less expensive than traditional marketing methods are. While content marketing is much less expensive, in gets three times as many leads as traditional marketing does. In 2015, creating high quality content will be even more important for eCommerce websites. Nowadays, consumers are exposed to more advertising than ever. From television adverts to pay per click adverts on Google, consumers see advertising everywhere. This means that consumers tend to tune out advertisements and other things that they don’t perceive to be useful, valuable or relevant to them. This is why content marketing is one of the most effective methods for engaging customers, establishing trust and building a loyal brand following.

Content marketing methods, like social media, articles, blog posts, newsletters, and videos are more effective than television advertisements, and other traditional marketing methods, according to marketing trends. In 2015, if eCommerce websites want to compete in the market, they need to produce valuable, relevant, and informative content that customers will find useful.

Mobile Optimisation will be Essential

According to statistics, 15% of physical goods purchases were made from a mobile device and 32% of all online purchases are made from a mobile device. Optimizing your website, advertisements, and emails for mobile devices will become even more important by 2015. Next year, eCommerce sites will need to make their stores mobile responsive. Stores need to be convenient and accessible for mobile users. If an eCommerce store isn’t mobile responsive, it will lose out on a large percent of the market, and it will struggle to compete with competitors.

Social Media Marketing will become more Diverse

Social Media Marketing will become even more important in 2015. As mentioned earlier, outbound marketing methods, like television adverts, are losing their effectiveness, whereas content marketing is maintaining its effectiveness. Social media is an important part of the content marketing process. Next year, however, it won’t just be Facebook or Twitter that the eCommerce sites will be utilizing. More well-rounded social media platforms, and image-based sites, like Pinterest, will also be utilised more predominantly. Ultimately, in 2015, eCommerce sites will have to diversify their social media marketing efforts to suit their audiences.

Flat-Design will Dominate

Flat-design for websites will dominate in 2015. It’s already becoming increasingly prevalent, with large corporations like Google and Microsoft implementing it. A flat web design is clean, features neat lines and crisp edges, and utilizes flat, two dimensional graphics. Unlike other web design trends, which feature, shadows, gradients, garish graphics and other bold design elements, flat-design is minimalist, and uses a less is more approach. A famous example of a flat design user interface is the Microsoft Windows 8 interface.  Flat-design is becoming popular because it looks clean and neat to the user, it’s easy to read and navigate and this type of design is easy to make responsive.

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Retargeting Ads will become more Prevalent

Retargeting ads are incredibly effective, and will likely become more prevalent in 2015. According to statistics, retargeting can increase your ad response by up to 400% and three out of five consumers say that they notice adverts for products they have already viewed. Using browser cookies, an eCommerce site can track the sites, products and pages that their customers visit. After these customers have left the site, and are viewing other websites, the items they viewed will be advertised.

Fashion retailer New Look is a prime example of a large company that utilises retargeting ads. For example, if you view a pair of shoes on New Look, when you leave the site to look at a news website, for example, you will see adverts for the shoes and anything else you may have viewed the New Look site. Statistics have shown that just 2% of first visits to a site result in a sale. Ad retargeting can significantly increase your conversion rate.

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Matt

November 30th, 2014.

How the Reddit Algorithm Works

Reddit is a social networking platform and news website. On Reddit, users of the site can share links to content online, and also post their own unique content directly to the site. Other users can then up-vote or down-vote this content and leave comments. While Reddit is primarily a social platform, it can be a valuable asset for online businesses. Ecommerce sites can use Reddit to promote their content, and increase the visibility of their products or services. With 114.5 million unique visits each month, Reddit is a platform that can vastly increase your businesses’ visibility.

Using Reddit

When you visit Reddit, you’ll see a front page that lists links posted by other users. The website also contains subreddits, which further categorise content into areas of interest, such as fashion or fitness. Each subreddit has its own front page too. Having your link feature on the front page of Reddit provides you with maximum visibility. Many Reddit users aim to get their link posted on the front page. To find out how Reddit ranks its content, you need to understand how the Reddit algorithm works.

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The benefit of having your content featured on Reddit is , outside of the huge traffic that it brings, it gives your content exposure to influencers. Bloggers and journalists often use Reddit for story ideas, so getting visibility on the platform often translates into exposure on other prominent sites a few days later.

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How the Reddit Submission Algorithm Works

As Reddit is an open source website, its code is freely available. The site’s algorithms are written in Python and the sorting algorithms are executed in Pyrex. Reddit has a story algorithm that it always uses, which is called the Reddit hot ranking. With the Reddit story algorithm, the number of votes and the submission time of a link have the largest effect on where a story will rank.

This is because Reddit implements a logarithm function in its algorithm. With this type of algorithm, the first votes on a link are more valuable than later votes on a link. For example, the first 10 up-votes will have the same value as the next 100 and so on. This means that as a link gets older, its ranking will slowly degrade, as the impact of the up-votes it gets becomes less significant. Conversely, it is also important to get some initial traction on a submission in order to give it early visibility.

Reddit ranks an item by calculating the number of votes a link has and then subtracting points based on how old that link is. This means that newer links generally rank higher than older links. This keeps the front page fresh, and ensures that links with thousands of up-votes aren’t stuck on the front page for weeks or months at a time. Stories that get a more equal range of up-votes and down-votes will generally be ranked lower than stories that have a larger percentage of up-votes.

How the Reddit Comment Algorithm Works

For comments, Reddit uses a different algorithm, as using the hot ranking algorithm wouldn’t be practical. For comments, it is most logical to list the best rated comments prominently, rather than giving precedence to the older comments. Instead of using the hot ranking algorithm, Reddit uses a confidence sort algorithm based on the Wilson score interval for its comments.

With a confidence sort algorithm, the best rated comments that the system has the most data for will be ranked the highest. For example, a comment with ten up-votes and 1 down vote will rank higher than a comment with only 1 up-vote and no down-votes, even though the latter comment has a 100% up-vote rate. The comments are ranked by data sampling and the date the comments are submitted isn’t an active factor.

Understanding the basics of the Reddit algorithm can help you to better understand the way that the platform works, and be able to use it more effectively.

Mobile-Payments

Matt

October 17th, 2014.

The Growth of Mobile eCommerce Payments

From cash to credit cards, the way consumers pay for their purchases has significantly evolved over the past few decades. Now, however, the evolution of payment methods is accelerating, thanks mostly to the prevalence of technology in society.

According to statistics, there are currently six billion mobile phones in use throughout the world, and 88% of Europeans own one. Many consumers now browse eCommerce websites from their phones.

Research-gives-insight-in-the-mobile-payment-user-base-and-penetration-worldwideIn 2012 alone, people spent $25 billion on purchases that they made from their mobile phones. Now, 32% of all purchases online are made from mobile phones. As a result of the growth of mobile platforms, by 2018, according to Goldman Sachs, international e-Commerce will see a growth of $638 billion. By 2020, it is estimated that the majority of people will make purchases using their mobile phone.

The popularity of mobile phones is changing the way consumers shop. Often, people don’t feel that using their credit card or debit card to pay for purchases is safe or secure. The need for a more convenient and secure way to pay for purchases has led to an increase in mobile payment systems.

What is a Mobile Payment System?

Mobile payments require a mobile payment processing platform.  Many companies, from PayPal to Amazon now offer such options to their customers. There are four types of mobile payments:

  • Contactless Near Field Communication
  • Premium SMS Based Transactional Payments
  • WAP Billing/Mobile Web Payments
  • Direct Mobile Billing

Popular Mobile Payment Systems

All of these mobile payment platforms vary in the models they use. However, they all eliminate the need for registration details, passwords and credit cards or debit cards.

Zong

Zong is a mobile payment organisation, which allows its customers to make payments online, via their mobile phones. The company, which was acquired by eBay in 2011, operates in forty countries, including the UK. Zong now has 60 million users in the UK. Customers in the UK can use Zong if they are on the Vodaphone, Orange, O2, T-Mobile, 3 or the Virgin network.

To use Zong, you simply click on the red Zong symbol, and a box will appear. You need to enter your mobile phone number into this box. Then, you will be sent a secure pin code, which you will enter online to make your purchase. With Zong, a consumer’s purchase is charged through their mobile phone bill, by their mobile network.

PayPal Mobile Payments

PayPal is a well-known digital wallet and online payment system, which has been making it easier for consumers to shop online. Now, the company is offering a mobile payments system, called PayPal Mobile Payments. The company first tried the NFC payments model, but found it too complex and limiting. The system now is very simple.

First, you have to activate your mobile phone number and pin number. These will be your mobile login details. Then, either online, or through apps, you can shop using this payment system. You simply select PayPal as your payment option, and then enter your mobile number and pin number to make your purchase. This payment system is compatible with iOS and Android apps, and it allows you to pay via phone, tablet, and many other mobile devices.

Amazon Payments/Amazon Mobile Payments Service

Through the Amazon Payments system, consumers can make purchases online, in a way that is more secure and more convenient. Through the Amazon Payments system, Amazon is offering the Amazon Mobile Payment Service (MPS). With this system, customers can make purchases with their mobile phones.

To make a purchase using the Amazon Mobile Payment Service, first click on the “Pay with Amazon” button. You will then be taken to page hosted by Amazon Payments, where you will use your Amazon login details to sign in. From there, you can select a payment method that you already have on file with Amazon. Once you’ve selected a payment option, you’ll return to the merchant’s site, where you can make your purchase. You can use the Amazon Mobile Payment Service to make purchase from any mobile device.

Netsize

Netsize is a payment platform, which allows its users to make purchases from their phones and other mobile devices. The company works with over 160 mobile networks in more than 50 countries. Netsize offers many mobile payment models, including WAP billing, in-app billing, and operator billing.

Text2Pay

Text2Pay is a mobile payment system, which makes purchasing products online, much easier. The payment system operates in over fifty countries. To make a purchase on Text2Pay, you need to click on the “Pay by Fone” button. Then you will need to enter your mobile phone number. You will then be asked to enter your post code, so that Text2Pay can verify that it matches the details for your mobile phone number. After this, you will be sent a pin number, which you will need to enter to complete the transaction.

Boku

One of the largest mobile payment programs, Boku operates in 66 countries, and is partnered with over two hundred mobile phone networks. Boku is a very safe, and convenient mobile payment system, and it offers excellent customer services.

To use Boku to make a purchase, you need to select the “Pay by Mobile” option. You will need to enter your mobile phone number. Then, you need to click “Yes” to confirm your purchase. Purchases that you make using Boku will be charged directly to your mobile phone bill. This means that you don’t need to use credit cards, debit cards or bank accounts to make your purchase.

With the rise in smartphones, apps and tablets, mobile payment systems are becoming an integral part of eCommerce. As the amount of purchases made from mobile devices continues to grow, more and more eCommerce sites are sure to begin offering mobile payments.

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Matt

December 17th, 2013.

Good Guy Google – Nine Awesome Things Google Have Done That You Didn’t Even Know About

Love them or hate them, almost all of us these days use Google as our default search engine, and for increasingly other services beyond that, from email to analytics, document storage to translation. Some strange few even use their social media offerings.

But are Google ‘good’ as a company? There is plenty of deserved criticism surrounding privacy and tax avoidance amongst other things. supposedly Google still work on the simple premise of ‘Don’t be evil’, although many would claim that this ethos went out of the window a long time ago. Even Eric Schmidt has since come out and said that the claim was stupid.

However, Google do do a lot of ‘good’. Here are ten of the best examples of ‘good guy Google’, and of the search engine giant doing things that, while not driving their profits higher, help to benefit – potentially – all of mankind. And no, this isn’t a paid Google post..

Google.org

Google.org is perhaps the best example of Google doing good, as it exists purely to develop technology with a positive social impact.

Google-Flu-2013-France2Projects range from Google’s role in advertising and coordinating crisis response efforts, to heavily subsidised (or free) versions of Google’s commercial products for use by non-profit organisations.

Most impressive of all, however, are the Dengue and Flu Trends services, which detect the earliest indications of an outbreak of flu or dengue fever based on the number of people searching for symptoms and treatments.

These can predict epidemics even before doctors have noticed a significant increase in patients presenting with the relevant symptoms, allowing production of the right medicines and vaccines to be scaled up in preparation.

Googling ‘Suicide’

Search for ‘suicide‘ and you might expect the usual helplines and support services for your country or location to be among the top results anyway.

However, Google go further than that – in the UK, you’ll receive a specific message (which, admittedly, still appears below rather than above the sponsored links) telling you to call the Samaritans for help.

In the US, you’ll be presented with an equivalent message for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, while in either country, the organic and sponsored results alike are packed with organisations who can offer advice and support to those going through troubled times.

Breaking Boundaries

Perhaps more than any other big brand, Google work to open doors – figuratively speaking – in developing countries, in order to give people there access to information on as much a free a basis as possible.

The company itself is physically present in over 60 countries worldwide, and the majority of its search results are served to non-US customers.

Google Search itself is available in over 130 different languages, while Google Translate translations can be manually improved by international readers to give a better version of the text than is possible through automated translation.

This is helping to make every web page – regardless of its original language – accessible to web users worldwide, putting all countries and nationalities on a level footing in terms of their access to knowledge and information.

Google Doodles

google-steve-jobs-link-1317903191When Google’s homepage logo changed to a ‘Doodle’ – originally a stylised version of the logo that paid homage to a famous person born on that date, or some other such achievement – it used to be big news.

These days, Google Doodles appear much more often, and are much more complex, often involving some kind of game or other interaction.

However, they also serve to raise awareness of scientific achievements, independence days and cultural celebrations, helping to unite people all over the world every time they make a search.

In rare instances, Google will also add a text message below the main search box on their homepage – they did this, for example, as a mark of respect to Apple innovator Steve Jobs upon his death – and this is a further means by which they can raise awareness, as well as showing a little of their human side on what is otherwise a sleek corporate homepage.

The Return of Authorship

It’s worth taking a moment to look at some of the more recent ‘good things’ Google have done specifically for the way the web works.

For instance, since introducing their own Google+ social network, Google have made it possible for authors to effectively connect their work directly with their Google+ profile.

This in turn allows seasoned professionals to be given added significance in the search results by placing their author image alongside their work.

Supporting Journalism

The web has often been portrayed as the enemy of traditional journalism, with print news publications finding it difficult to compete with real-time ‘news’ via social networks, and to maintain editorial standards in the face of bloggers who are often not subjected to the same levels of scrutiny on grammar and spelling.

In February 2013 though, Google took the first plainly visible steps towards overcoming that (outside of simply carefully selecting the sources of content that are included in the Google News search index).

A total of eight students from 2,300 applicants were selected for fellowships at seven different organisations with links to journalism, from research centres and training facilities, to action groups that aim to protect investigative journalists while they carry out real-world research.

The response to the scheme was so great, Google had to extend the application review period by a full week, and received an application every two minutes on the last day of the deadline; the chosen students will also spend a week working at Google, and learn about how the worlds of journalism and technology can overlap in the years to come.

Safer Internet Day

Each year, on Safer Internet Day, Google make efforts to raise public awareness of online security – particularly among those users who might not be so experienced at using computers or searching from smartphone handsets.

The brand’s commitment to security is built into its products – Google Chrome automatically updates to apply any new security patches, while both Google Search and Gmail transmit data only via encrypted connections.

But its public awareness efforts go beyond automation, encouraging best practices among human users of its services, and of the kinds of technology on which those services are delivered.

In 2013, for instance, the Safer Internet Day campaign from Google focused on issues like locking and password-protecting PCs, laptops and mobile phones, to prevent unauthorised access.

Scrolls and Santa

In December 2012, Google made two announcements with close links to Christmas – one of which was a frivolous bit of fun, while the other was a major archaeological advance.

Google-Santa-Tracker-4-600x358Once again, the search engine ran its annual ‘Santa Tracker’ service, giving people worldwide the ability to “see where Santa’s headed next” on services like Google Earth, and on devices ranging from PCs and laptops with the Chrome browser installed, to Android-powered mobile devices.

Around the same time, Google unveiled the further digitisation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, putting 5,000 images of the scrolls online, and with detailed information for 900 individual manuscripts.

Google provided the storage for the data – which includes colour images at 1,215 dpi resolution, along with infrared scans – and added supporting information through Google Maps, their own imaging technologies, and even YouTube integration.

Whatever your religious beliefs (and that extends to non-religious beliefs like atheism too), Google strive to cater for cultures and communities of all kinds through these kinds of projects, whether they are academic in nature, or simply a fun way to celebrate an important date on the calendar.

Google Goats

goats2In 2009, Google stopped using noisy, air-polluting lawnmowers to clear the grass and brush from the hills around their Mountain View headquarters (a necessary task to reduce the risk of a grass fire close to the building).

They instead hired a herd of goats to come and eat their way across the hillside, clearing vegetation as they went.

‘Mowing’ using goats takes the company about a week each summer, and has the dual benefits of reducing carbon emissions while also naturally fertilising the land – and for approximately the same cost as using petrol-powered industrial mowers.

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Joe Joe

June 25th, 2013.

The 3 Options for Making Your Website Mobile and a 4th.

All of the briefs we’ve received this year have included a request for a ‘mobile version’ of the proposed new site.

But what does this mean? And do I hear the creak of an overloaded bandwagon?

Just as 2011-12 was the year of the Social Strategy [with no specification as to what that actually means], 2013 is fast becoming the year of the Mobile Site. 

Yes, it’s true that mobile use is increasing:

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Source Monetate E-Commerce Quarterly.

But how should you respond?

People could be accessing your website from any number of devices (such as phones (of all shapes and sizes), tablets (of all shapes and sizes) and even smart TVs (of all shapes and sizes). So, as a website owner, you shouldn’t be asking whether you should be considering mobile options, you should be asking which mobile options to consider – or shock-horror, opting to do nothing.

So  there are 4 main options available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s get the run-down:

 

#1 Responsive Web Design

What is it?

In a nutshell, this is designing your site so that its layout responds to the device on which it is being displayed..

Advantages

–          Streamlined: The site is hosted on the same domain and uses the same URL so there are no SEO issues or redirecting issues.

–          Consistent with Desktop Content: The same content is just presented in a different layout.

–          Low Maintenance Cost: Although initial build costs may be slightly higher, the cost of maintenance and updating should be lower (as you are only maintaining one site).

Disadvantages

–          Slower Loading Times – If you are adapting an old site to a responsive site you may find that it is not fully optimised for mobile and is slow to load. However, if you are building a new site and taking a ‘Mobile First’ approach, this shouldn’t be a problem. But 3G and 4G coverage remains sporadic and unstable – so some content may take time to download.

–          General Usability – Mobile users will generally have a goal in mind when accessing a website. Whether it’s buying, reading or checking-in, they may not want to go through the same process as a desktop user. They may expect a stripped down version of the site similar to an App.

–          Lack of Mobile Features You won’t be able to get the same level of integration from a responsive site – features such as camera, photos or calendars.

–          Lack of Zoom - if you are used to pinching and zooming into websites on mobile in order to be able to read the tiny text then you will not be able to on a responsive website.

Whether or not to go responsive divides opinion. We’ve been experimenting on our own site with responsive design and generally prefer the regular layout, when viewing on an Iphone.  But all sites and companies are different and user needs should be a chief consideration.

 

#2 Dedicated Mobile Site

What is it?

Dedicated mobile sites are purpose built versions of the original website which are hosted at a new domain address (usually by adding ‘m’ before or after the original address: m.tesco.com or www.argos.co.uk/m/.

The web server normally recognises which device is being used and serves (delivers) the appropriate site to display.

Advantages

–          Different Content – A site purpose-built for mobile will usually have features which can load more quickly on mobile platforms, and you can dispense with some of the superfluous elements found on the desktop version.

–          Speedy Development – Compared with alternatives, a mobile site can be built relatively easily. This is less labour-intensive and subsequently less costly than other mobile options.

–          Mobile-Focussed – Development for the mobile platform means that navigation and usability are friendlier for mobile users.

Disadvantages

–          Slower Service – Redirection from main sites to mobile sites takes time. It may only be seconds, but it still damages the overall user experience.

–          Double Maintenance – Essentially two sites need to be managed; adding new functionality would need to be done twice.

–          SEO Issues – Since the content (and therefore the traffic) is split across two URLs, there’s the chance that your overall SEO will suffer. However, there are ways around this which I’ll outline later in this article.

We built a mobile shop-page for an automotive client. The desktop site’s main focus is selling car parts, so we stripped it down to the essentials to make it easy for mobile users.


 #3 Mobile Apps

What are they?

Apps are programs that are saved to the device. They’re relatively small (compared with full websites) and they tend to serve one function (reading articles, shopping, checking-in). They can be a useful way to allow mobile users to access one of your site’s main utilities, or to promote your brand (with a game or similar App).

Advantages:

–          Completely Mobile Friendly - Apps have the distinction of being native to the device, so they can access and utilize any of the phone’s capabilities (Camera, Calendar, Maps etc).

–          Offline Options – While some Apps require the internet to function fully (social platforms), many others can operate offline, or cache data when an internet connection is available ready for when one isn’t.

–          Quicker Loading Times – Since the App is self-contained, loading times should be quicker. Of course this depends on (and is limited by) the device’s memory and processor power.

–          Push Notifications - Apps have the ability to update you with the things you need to know. Such as when you receive a new friend request on Facebook, or when you’re near a public toilet.

Disadvantages:

–          No Cross-Functionality – Apps are made for specific platforms. iOS Apps will work on iphone or ipad, but will not be usable by Windows devices – or any non-Apple devices for that matter. This means Apps must be developed for each platform, which is expensive.

–          Updates – Apps need to be constantly updated and tweaked. This is in terms of both user-feedback and changes to the device. This can be time-consuming and costly.

–          Downloading – Apps have to be downloaded for use. Success in the App world may require considerable marketing and promotion.

We’ve applied appropriate aptitude to developing an App for a company that focusses on standardised testing. The App allows mobile users to practice the tests wherever they are.

The 4th Option

So those are your three options regarding adapting to mobile.  There is of course a fourth option and that is that of doing nothing.  Most website operate perfectly satisfactorily on mobile and indeed users who know your site will welcome the fact they do not need to relearn where everything is on the page and the new navigation options.  This is a strong argument for keeping the status-quo which is not receiving enough credence now that the dash for “mobile first” has been triggered in marketing departments.

So in conclusion beware of the bandwagon, think about the implications before you jump.  If someone says “Mobile first” to you ask them what they actually mean and what they want to achieve.

If you would like any more information, please get in touch.

And as a special thank you for reading this far, I’ll now present a guide on how to optimise mobile sites for SEO in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet:

You’ve built two sites; one desktop, one mobile,

But now you’re concerned that your traffic’s split,

And now you’ve come to visit Datadial,

To fix your SEO a little bit.

There are two points that must be mentioned here,

Two tags to put in your HTML,

(On each version of the page – let’s be clear)

They are two tags, and they both start with ‘Rel’.

Rel=”alternate” on the desktop

Make sure it points to the mobile and all…

And pointing back, just so it doesn’t flop

On mobile: Rel=”canonical”

But other things cannot be avoided.

Like linking to mobile, just like I did:

 

So basically add some links in the HTML of each page that look like this:

Desktop: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://m.example.com/page-example”>

Mobile: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://example.com/page-example>

 

windows8

Sergio

October 31st, 2012.

Webmasters! Top Reasons You Should Upgrade to Windows 8

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…

It’s Faster

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…

The guest post is written by George Ben who has been working on SEO and internet marketing since decades. Through his blogs, he recommends useful SEO tips and tricks to get your website on the first page google ranking.

Martina Martina

August 24th, 2011.

Why your website isn’t as fast as it should be…

Heavy wheelbarrow

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Image source

Imagine…

…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…

Bad HTML:

Bad HTML example

Erm...does "b" stand for "big" or "bold"?

 

  • 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:

An example of too many HTTP requests

Kabooooom!

Image source

 

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.

JavaScript/Flash overuse:

Glowing computer

Dude, too much flash!

Image source

 

JavaScript helps make things look nice. Lines of code enable things such as widgets, adverts, and analytics services to work successfully. The issue is that both kinds of software can be “heavyweight”. JavaScript performs ‘sequentially’ rather than ‘concurrently’ – this means that nothing else loads before JavaScript loads. Of course, this becomes an issue when you have tonnes of JavaScript code, each one longer than the last, preventing anything else from happening.

Too many cookies:

The Cookie Monster

Nom Nom Nom!

Image source

 

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.

However, because saved information is being kept on the server, a build up of this can add to the process time on a website. In some cases, hackers even use cookies as an opportunity to track browsing activity; this is called spyware…so beware!

Bad hosting:

 Image of Robert-Kilroy-Silk

Erm...

Image source

 

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:

Multiple Satellite Dishes

No signal...

Image source

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:

A Can of Spam

Ew, gross!

Image source

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.

Favicon neglect:

Image Illustrating a Favicon

You need one of these!

 

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:

Too many Ads

Hmm...where to start?

Image source

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!

Martina Martina

August 11th, 2011.

[Infographic] – Which search engine holds the most weight?

Google, Google, Google…it’s all we talk about, it’s (possibly) all we care about in terms of SEO ranking and PPC ads, and some might say they even live in fear of it (you know, since the big bad Panda updates).

One thing we can’t argue with however, is its resourcefulness; it has “everything” one could need, making it so much more than just a search engine. It’s a machine.

Now that isn’t to say that Google can’t be annoying sometimes (infact an earlier post of mine focuses on just that *shakes fist* :x ) and familiarity breeds contempt after all, right?

Perhaps it’s because of its ‘one size fits all’ approach or perhaps it’s because of it’s dominance of the entire internet that causes people to look elsewhere for a search engine that fits their particular needs and that feels slightly more personal…in any case, I came up with this helpful infographic to help you decide:

Click image for the full HQ infographic

Use the following code to post the full infographic to your blog:
<a href=”http://picturepush.com/public/6293344″><img src=”http://www1.picturepush.com/photo/a/6293344/img/6293344.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Image Hosted by PicturePush – Photo Sharing” /></a>

Martina Martina

May 13th, 2011.

Does anyone else find Google this annoying?

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?

 

Google Instant


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?

 

Personalised results


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!

Matt

February 24th, 2011.

How does a paywall change your link acquisition rate?

The current trend of Newspaper sites to publish their content behind paywalls seems to be gathering speed. The recent Google announcement of its OnePass payment system can only increase the process by making payment technology available to a wider audience.

I thought it would be interesting to look to see how the move to paywalls has affected the news sites backlink acquisition rates.

So far the main newspapers that have added Paywalls have been,

  • The Financial Times – 2002
  • Moneyweek – 2005
  • The Times and The Sunday Times – April 2010
  • The News Of The World – November 2010
  • The Telegraph is set to add a paywall in September 2011

Taking the two most recent examples of The Time and The News Of The World, and using the excellent Majestic SEO graph functionality we are able to see changes on their backlink acquisition rates.

We can see clearly from the graph above that following the addition of the paywall in November 2010 over the next two months inbound links to The News Of The World fell by more than 50%


Similar, but less dramatic results for The Times. This is slightly more confusing as the paywall coincided with a domain change from timesonline.co.uk to thetimes.co.uk. We can see clearly that link gains to the old URL start to decline without the new domain ever really gaining links as a comparative rate.

Where I see some really interesting data is in the rate of acquisition for competitors sites who chose not to implement a paywall. A close online and offline competitor to both The Times and NOTW is The Daily Mail.

Their acquisition rate starts to climb sharply from the date The Times paywall goes live, and their highest ever month coincides with the NOTW adding their paywall. It’ll be interesting to see if the following two low months, December and January are a result of incomplete link data or some other trend.

It’s an interesting theory to see of the final few content producers within a market start to perform far better in terms of finance and popularity than those that eventually choose to follow the paywall route.

Rob

August 17th, 2010.

4 more ways to increase conversion rates

This article is aimed at people new to e-commerce. It covers some of the basics of ensuring that your website maximises conversion rates.

It should also be read alongside  12 quick ways to increase conversion rates.

For more experienced e-commerce managers please see this article on advanced techniques for increasing conversion rates.

1) Minimized Navigation on Shopping Cart/Basket Pages

There is nothing more frustrating for an online retailer than an abandoned basket. Why did the user go all that way and then lose interest??

It’s fair to assume at the check out stage that a user does want to buy something.   So our advice is to minimise the navigation available on your shopping cart pages. Keep wording short, simple, and to the point. Do not allow any distractions that could potentially pull your customer away or cause a delay.

By adding in lots of last minute deals and offers you risk diverting attention and losing the sale.  Not everyone subscribes to this method, however at Datadial we believe it to be the best option.

An example: http://www.yapp.co.uk/pages/checkout_Login.aspx

2) Clear and Upfront Notification of Delivery Charges

Tacking on fees on to a final price without notification early in the buying process is the quickest way to lose a potential sale.  Numerous surveys have revealed that hidden delivery costs are the number one reason for people to abandon a shopping cart.  Notify your customers upfront if they will be required to pay any shipping or handling fees. This is a great way to increase conversion rates and build customer loyalty.

3) Clearly Display Trust Elements for Consumer Confidence

Remember, quite often users do not know who you are, where you are or really anything about you.  Therefore it’s crucial you do everything you can to gain, nurture and keep your customer confidence in order to increase conversion rates. Here are a few ways to do this:

Clearly display “trust elements” on your website. Trust elements can include:

a. Credit card logos. Use only approved, high-quality logos representing the types of credit cards you accept. This helps customers feel more secure in knowing you are a legitimate business. It also shows the user that they can buy from your site. It may not be obvious otherwise.

b. Contact information. Whenever possible clearly display your companies contact information. Customers need to know they will be able to contact you if they have a problem, questions, or need more product details.

c. Real employee names and a company director. When people shop online they like to know with whom they are dealing. Displaying real names and titles of key company employees will help consumers feel more secure in knowing there are real people running the show and not just computerised robots or answering machines.

d. Photos of faces and places. Include photographs of the people with whom your customer is dealing. If appropriate and applicable, include very short biographies about the smiling faces on your website. Consider using photographs of your business location if applicable. This helps people understand yours is a legitimate business with a real location and that you aren’t likely to disappear in the night.

e. Visual verifications of claimed approvals, affiliations, and other credentials. If you have the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for example, proudly display it in a prominent place. If you have earned awards for business-related, and sometimes personal accomplishments, tell your consumers with a quality image and link that leads to more information.

f. Push any special customer services you have to offer. If your customer service representatives are bi-lingual or speak multiple languages, find a way to let potential consumers know from the get go.

Multiple Payment options

Most of the time one payment option on your site is totally adequate.  But in the interests of maximising conversions you might consider adding other payment vehicles to your site.

The most popular alternative is PayPal.  Some users only ever use paypal as they are comfortable with it and trust it.  PayPal offers your customers options. They can pay with major credit cards, or can pay directly from their own PayPal account.  It also has the advantage (depending on how you look at it)  that Paypal store your credit card so that you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit a site offering Paypal.  Paypal is also great one for small and start-up businesses that have no established a financial history with their banks. It’s fast and easy to register, display on your website, and capture funds that can be transferred right to your bank account.

So why not add it as an option?

Well it’s expensive with commission rates around the 3% mark (and 20p per transaction).  Paypal also have a knack of siding with the buyer in the event of  dispute meaning that refunds are issued on request, leaving merchants frequently out of pocket.

It’s an extra administrative thing to manage but if adding Paypal helps get an extra % sales conversion on your site then maybe it is worth it.

Google Checkout also offers easy solutions for start up merchants and small businesses. Google checkout claim to increase leads and create more conversions with a fast, easy, convenient checkout process.

You can also sign for basket abandonment alerts so you can recapture customers who wander away without buying!

The main advantage that Google Checkout has over Paypal is that its icon appears in Adwords results – so naturally drawing your eye to merchants using it, resulting in a 10% uplift in conversion rates according to Google.

However, Google Checkout has many drawbacks.  Its interface and design are distinctly amateurish and this influencers trust building for users on their site.  (Having said that Paypal’s interface is not much better).  Also it’s only possible to link Google Check out to credit card accounts and not bank accounts.

Since its launch Google checkout has not taken off in anyway like Paypal before it and struggles for market penetration.

But, as above, if it means a small increase in sales conversions, and you can put up with the extra administrative hassle, then maybe it’s worth having Google Checkout as well as Paypal as well as normal Credit Card payment facilities.

Like Paypal, Google Checkout is suitable for small and larger merchants alike, though brand aware and high end merchants are unlikely to be found using either as there is undoubtedly something “cheap” looking about both!

Alex

July 20th, 2008.

The benefits of RSS Feeds

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) can become an invaluable tool if used correctly. Although the use of RSS is usually reserved for techies, it is only a matter of time before this technology is embraced by regular web users.

RSS feeds are designed to aggregate multiple feed of information by grouping and storing topics of interest into one location. Users can browse these feeds at their own leisure safe in the knowledge that they can access the latest information relating to their chosen interest. If you are interested in a particular subject, (i.e. football) you could visit a site that exposes its content via RSS and subscribe to it. Now, at your own leisure you can check your RSS feed and browse the latest feeds (or newly posted information) in a uniformed and sortable format.

Each item within a feed contains a title, date, summary and sometimes videos and images. If the topic is of particular interest, you can click the feed link and jump off to the source of the feed (web site) to read more. This is a much cleaner and efficient way of keeping up to date with topics you are interested in rather than trawling the internet and storing lots of bookmarks. This way the information comes to you without having to lift a finger. Users are completely in control of the information they receive as unsubscribing is just as easy, if not easier that subscribing. You remain totally control of the flow of information. RSS feeds are a huge time saver and can boost you productivity .

Types of RSS feeds:

  • Blog posts – Receive updates every time a new blog is posted
  • Article Feeds – Get summaries or articles written about a particular subject
  • Forum Posts – Receive updates each time user reply to a particular forum post you are interested in
  • Retail Feeds – Many ecommerce sites are publishing whole product lines as RSS feeds. Each time a new product is added you’ll be notified
  • News Feeds – Receive breaking news from sites like Google
  • Industry Specific – Keep up to date with industry related articles, news and reviews that maybe related to your industry

Subscribing for RSS Feeds
The best way to do this is by registering with a Feed Reader site like Google Reader, which allows you to store all of you feeds in one central location online. This is a simple process especially if you already have a Google account. Once you have done this you are ready to start subscribing to RSS feeds. The next time you see an RSS link or image simply click it, choose the feed reader you have registered with from the dropdown menu and click subscribe. You’ll instantly have access to the entire feed displayed in chorological order.

Create your own feed
If you publish regular information on your site you can benefit from publishing this as an RSS feed. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. By not having an RSS feed you are missing out on an opportunity to keep your customer / audience informed on what you business is up to. RSS feeds should be thought of as a free promotional tool. You’ll be able to relax safe in the knowledge that as soon as new information is add to your site users will be informed. This will bring in more site traffic a users may want to find out more or purchase products

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