Jan 18 2018
Jan 18

Ready to.... stare into your crystal ball? To turn your visionary "superpower" on and... get a glimpse of the future of ecommerce? Not the distant future, but the future of 2018. And hopefully, identify the 10 ecommerce trends in 2018 that you should integrate into your digital marketing strategy and start capitalizing on.

ASAP, needless to add! Way before they even grow into powerful trends and competition in the digital marketing arena becomes a... throat-cutting one.

No need actually! For I've already sneaked a peek into the near future for you (no need to take out your crystal ball anymore, you can jump straight to turning information into gold). And I've identified the trends in the ecommerce industry that will rule in 2018

Here are your “10 ecommerce commandments”:
 

1. Unlock Customer Reviews' Full Potential (Even the Negative Ones')

Not joking: pushing forward, right into the spotlight, exclusively the positive customer reviews will just lower users' trust in your brand (ironically enough).

Perfection generates suspicion, right?

So, always “bet on”... transparency.

Well, of course, it goes without saying that a significant “load” of honest high scores does have a huge impact on your conversion rate and on your brand's overall reputation. 

Now getting back to customer marketing as one of the huge ecommerce trends in 2018: it's a strong proof that you're valuing your users' feedback.

Which leads to recurrent shopping and attracts prospects like a magnet: you'll be regarded as a trustworthy, transparency-valuing brand, that does “give ear to” its own customers' feedback.

In other words: strive to encourage your customers to review their shopping experiences with you. For instance, a redeemable voucher/discount could make a powerful incentive, don't you think?
 

2. Add an Augmented Reality Dimension to the Shopping Experience  

From a shopping experience to... experiencing shopping. Seize the difference?

If the use of VR/AR technology for retail purposes ignited in 2017, it will simply... explode in 2018. It will continue to be one of the most influential ecommerce trends in 2018.

So you'd better join brands' “race” for coming up with innovative visual ways of showcasing their products. And, thus, make it possible for your customers to interact with your products while enjoying that true-to-life feeling that... might just turn them into buyers.

Whether it's:
 

  • a virtual tour of your brick and mortar store
  • a new AR feature integrated into your online store, rivaling Ikea's own “Place” app
  • any other functionality for turning your users' shopping experiences into virtual interactions
     

… you'd better hurry up and start brainstorming ideas
 

3. Influencer Marketing Will Only Get More... Influential in 2018

That's right, influencer marketing will continue to dominate the retail landscape this year. It's an increasingly valuable resource for you to tap into.

In 2018 even so more, since influencer marketing software comes to streamline your efforts in this direction:

it's built to point out to you — the online store owner/digital marketer — precisely the suitable methods to use depending on the specific leads that you're targeting. 

Now, this is gold!
 

4. Community-Led Marketing: One of the Rising Ecommerce Trends in 2018

Watch for the “community-lend brands”! Or, even, better: become one!

And it's customers themselves — communities of customers, that start seeing themselves as “brand representatives” — that will be pushing these newly emerging brands right in the very first line this year.

How can you, too, capitalize on community-led marketing? 

Here are a few sure strategies to turn your customers into your own brand's advocates. Into your marketing strategy's driving force:
 

  1. set up the perfect contexts on your social media channels for your customers to actually discuss your products
     
  2. encourage them to share their honest experiences after trying/using your products (user-generated content turned into an incentive for new prospects!)
     
  3. allow them to actually test your products and let them answer other prospects' questions on your Instagram or Facebook account
     

A customer-centric approach with a focus on user-generated content! Or valuing user feedback to such extent, that customers eagerly turn into your brand's advocates.

This is what community-led marketing comes down to, and this is precisely why it will turn into one of the most powerful online shopping trends in 2018!
 

5. Don't JUST Be Present on Multiple Channels: Be Consistent!

“About 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another” (Google)

Need I add more? Your “cluster” of presences on multiple platforms should turn into ONE consistent presence on them all. Into one seamless visual and UI experience for your customers.

And how do you achieve consistency while going omnichannel, omni-device and after you've integrated all your presences on different channels?

Here are a few common sense tips and tricks:
 

  • from navigation
  • to payment gateways
  • to the design itself
  • to all the branding elements 
  • and social media content
     

… make sure you stick to the same self-imposed guidelines. It's one and the same entity that your customers should feel like they're interacting with, not one having... multiple personalities.
 

End of Part 1! Till we meet again to analyze together the other powerful trends identified for you, do take your time to ponder on these first 5 ecommerce trends in 2018. 

Have you anticipated them already? Are they relevant enough to your own ecommerce business? Do you find them powerful enough for “fueling” your online marketing strategy this year or are you still a bit skeptical that they're more than just buzzwords? 

Jan 12 2018
Jan 12

Native Apps: They're Not Going Anywhere... Not Anytime Soon

In other words, in the "progressive web apps vs native apps" competition PWAs make an alternative, not a replacement for native apps.

For native apps are here to stay and still offer plenty of advantages themselves, too, (while progressive web apps do have their own limitations to consider, as well) for companies and developers not to give them up anytime soon.

And here are just some of the key reasons why they continue to steal the spotlight. Reasons that might help you find your own answer to the “PWA or native app?” question:
 

  1. big brands, already having their own native apps running on their preferred platforms, don't feel the same pressure as low-budgeted companies to switch to PWAs; it's some sort of “inertia-driven stubbornness”
     
  2. app developers with a wide experience with IOS or Android don't feel like replacing their familiar work routines with a PWA-specific one, even if the latter is less complex
     
  3. let's admit it: the web-based app development does come with its own limitations that still need to be addressed 
     

Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps: 6 Reasons to Go With a Native App

As PWAs exploit some of the native apps' drawbacks, so do the latter turn some of their “rivals'” limitations into their own strong points.

For instance:
 

  • PWAS might be widely adopted thanks to their universal compatibility, hassle-free user experience and short development time, yet they're not capable to interact with the devices that they run on
     
  • native apps can do that; moreover, they're perfectly adapted to leverage a mobile device's smart functionalities
     
  • also, PWAs run in web browsers, which, might turn into a disadvantage: it could slow them down 
     
  • … whereas native apps, being installed on the given devices, first things first, will inevitably load a lot faster; there's no longer a browser intermediating the process 
     

Now, let's dig out other strong reasons for... going native:
 

1. No Ifs and Buts: They're Faster

As previously mentioned: with the web browser acting as an intermediary, progressive web apps can't compete with their native “rivals” in terms of performance.

As opposed to PWAs, native apps are installed on the devices that they run on.

Therefore, not only that their code practically “lives” there, but it's platform-bound. Written with the requirements of that specific mobile operating system in mind.
 

2. They Come With Built-In NFC Support 

The “Near Field Communication” support is vital for certain businesses. So, do consider this native apps' advantage (or this PWAS' shortcoming, depending on how you want to put it) before you give a final answer to your “progressive web apps vs native apps” dilemma.

If it's of critical importance for you that your customers should be able to pay for your services with their phones, then you need to go native. There's no way around this!

PWAS can't yet interact with the NFC chip enabling this type of payment.
 

3. They Provide a Quality Control Guarantee 

All the app stores' “bureaucracy” might be discouraging enough, yet there are good intentions — resulting in a quality guarantee —  behind all those steps to take:

filling out forms, reading specific forums, following strict app development guidelines, waiting for your app's review process to be carried out etc., etc.

Instead of seeing them strictly as... highly restrictive, take them as multiple filters that clear your app of any malicious code.

As for PWAS, just think about it:

The easier it is for anyone to access your app by just visiting the web page hosting it, the easier it is for a hacker, as well, to exploit the vulnerabilities of that connection.
 

4. GEO-fencing: A Superpower Placed in Your Hands

And this is no exaggeration, especially if it's a retail app that you're planning to develop.

Just give it a moment of thought:

GEO-fencing will enable you (your marketing team) to define virtual “boundaries” in the real world; once a customer's mobile device enters or exits that defined area, a push notification gets triggered.

A powerful functionality to ponder on when you're facing a “progressive web apps vs native apps” decision-making challenge. A smart functionality that native apps can easily exploit, while PWAs can't.
 

5. They Can Leverage a Device's “Smart” Capabilities

And this is one of the major advantages of native apps over progressive web apps!

They interact with the mobile devices that they're installed on, meaning that they use their smart features to their full potential. Features such as:
 

  • proximity sensor
  • wave lock: you don't want your users' phone screens to go black right in the middle of a video you've inserted in your app, now do you?
  • ambient light
     

6. They Easily Interact With Other Apps

Take for instance this highly frequent scenario:

A user tries to set up his/her account within your app and he's given the option to enter his Facebook login details

It's the perfect example of native apps interacting with one another. And this is but just one example of inter-app communication that helps users save valuable time.
 

So, What Kind of App Should You Develop After All?

“ The one that best serves your needs.”

So, get them clearly defined first things first:
 

  1. Do you need to develop a basic customer service/retail app? And, moreover, you're both budget and time-limited, as well? Then a progressive web app might just be the perfect fit for your project's needs. 
     
  2. Is it a mobile app exploiting smartphones' advanced functionalities to the fullest that you need to build? Then you should consider opting for a native app: it's fast —  which will definitely impact the overall user experience — it integrates with multiple payment gateways and it harnesses the power of “smart” features (Geo-fencing, NFS, wave lock etc.)
     

Also, when trying to pick your winner in the “progressive web apps vs native apps” contest, consider the expected future advancements, as well:
 

  1. mobile devices will get injected with more and more advanced technologies, tilting the balance in native apps' favor 
     
  2. progressive web apps will continue to be constantly supercharged with new and new functionalities, that go beyond a web browser's standard ones (integration with Bluetooth, with NFC, with smart devices' hardware features)
     

That being said: the choice is yours to make! I've only pointed out the main criteria and the key benefits/limitations for you to weigh and to compare, so you can make a fully informed decision.

Jan 12 2018
Jan 12

The paradox of choice, right? Didn't it use to be so much easier back in the old days, when you had just one option at hand? "You wanted to go mobile, you just knew this meant “pumping” money into a native app." Clear as a day! But what do you now, when you're facing a "progressive web apps vs native apps" situation?

Which app development approach is the perfect fit for you? For the nature of your business and for your app project's specific needs?

PWAS seem to be “stealing the show” these days: first they intrigue, next they “seduce” with the hard-to-resist-to promise that they deliver:

Empowering small businesses to compete against the "giants" in the mobile app development arena!

And still: native apps won't be going anywhere anytime soon!

Moreover, they'll get even more robust and faster, as the devices that they run on get more and more advanced. And as they'll continue to leverage their great advantage over progressive web apps

Leveraging mobile devices' smart features and capabilities and thus delivering an enriched user experience.

Now, to put an end to your “turmoil”, I've come up with a sort of “inventory” listing the set of benefits that you can reap from choosing one type of app over the other.

Here it goes:
 

But First: What's a PWA? And How Is It Different from a Native App?

“An app running inside the user's web browser, that he/she doesn't need to download and install beforehand. And which, moreover, is injected with native app-like functionalities and wrapped in a seamless user interface.”

This should be a clarifying enough answer to your “What's a PWA?” question.

Bottom line, the key difference between PWAs and native apps is:

The first ones run inside web browsers, while the latter run on the mobile devices that they're installed on.

The concept behind this revolutionary approach to app development is both daring and ambitious:

Cutting down the overhead and the discouraging complexities usually associated with a native app's development process.

And thus:
 

  1. reducing time and costs
  2. eliminating the step where your users download it from an app store 
     

Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps: Top 7 Benefits From Choosing a PWA

For it all comes down to benefits, right? What's in it for you if you choose one app development approach over the other?

The level popularity that one type of app has gained falls shortly behind the very set of benefits that you get.

Now here are the most valuable ones to consider when you're having a “PWA vs native app” dilemma:
 

1. You'll Reach Out to A Significantly Wider Audience, With Fewer Resources

As compared to developing an Android-focused or an IOS-focused native app, a PWA will practically grant you access to all platforms. It's a “develop once, run everywhere”, type of situation:

A PWA is a “platform-agnostic” type of app.

Needless to add that your progressive web app's extreme versatility will help you reach the widest audience way quicker and with minimal costs.
 

2. You'll Reduce The App Development Cycle Times 

And this is, undoubtedly, that heavy-weighting advantage tilting the “progressive web apps vs native apps” balance in PWAs' favor. The very reason why progressive web apps gained so much attention in the first place.

With native apps' development process “famous” for:
 

  1. all the headaches it causes
  2. all the complexities specific to any platform-bound solution
  3. all the time-consuming steps to take: crafting some eye-catching screenshots, writing down the description, identifying the right keywords and strategically sprinkle them across the description...
     

... PWAs emerged in a highly favorable context and they “exploited” precisely the overhead associated with a native app development cycle.

So, they managed to “lure” developers unsurprisingly easily by:
 

  1. eliminating most of those complexities from the app development process
  2. eliminating the need to build multiple platform-bound versions of the same app
     

Also, it goes without saying that reduced development times translate into reduced costs.
 

3. It's a Unified User Experience That Your App Will Deliver 

The advantage of being platform-agnostic bubbles up to the user experience itself.

Having a unique version of your PWA running on all platforms, accessible to all customers, it'll be easier for you to deliver the same user experience to your entire user-base.
 

4. A Hassle-Free User Experience Requiring the Minimum of Effort

Compare the 2 following scenarios:

a. a hypothetical user visits a certain app store, chooses an app, waits for it to download and then goes through all the steps required for installing it on his/her mobile device

b. a hypothetical user lands on a website and gets to use the app right there, almost instantly, with no prior installation; moreover, if he/she wishes, he can save the link as an icon on his device's home screen

Isn't it obvious why, in a "progressive web apps vs native apps" competition, the advantage of easy access will always outweigh most of the native apps' benefits?

In a few words: 
 

  1. you, as the app owner, get to deliver the content you wish to deliver with utmost ease
  2. while your users access it using the fewest numbers of steps
  3. … and high accessibility translates into a higher level of user engagement
     

A win-win situation!
 

5. Users No Longer Need to Install The Latest Updates Themselves

A major convenience both for you and for your apps' users:
 

  • you'll get to easily keep them up to date with all the changes that you might apply to your services
  • with no updates to run and no need to re-download the app, users always get the latest version of your app, upgraded with the most recent functionality features that you will have added to
     

6. Extended Compatibility: All It Takes Is a Modern Web Browser

That's right since PWAs run on HTML 5 — the standard for web content — a modern web browser on his/her mobile device is all that a hypothetical user needs for accessing your app.

Talking about maximizing your app's reach, right?
 

7. You'll Cut Down Costs For Building and Marketing Your App

You can get a progressive web app up and running (and marketed) in no time! With considerably fewer resources of time and money to invest.

So, if:
 

  1. you're facing a limited budget
  2. you're in the retail or hospitality business
     

… the benefit of bringing your customer service app to your customers quickly and in a cost-effective way is just... priceless.
 

The END! Well, not the end on my post on the progressive web apps vs native apps “competition”, but the end of the list of reasons why you should consider going with a PWA instead of a native app.

Stay tuned, for in the second part of this post I'll be:
 

  • putting the spotlight on mobile native apps
  • revealing to you all the benefits that you can enjoy from choosing this type of app development approach
Jan 03 2018
Jan 03

“Build the next big thing in terms of AR apps!” Is this goal on top of your New Year's resolutions list? Well, then right now you must be wondering: “With so many tempting augmented reality tools out there to choose from, which one's best for my own AR solution?"

A frustratingly ambiguous answer could be:

"The one that best serves your AR app development needs."

Meaning that whatever AR platform you'll be choosing, it should:

  1. meet your project's requirements
  2. serve the goals that you will have set up for it

And yet, this “matching” of the AR libraries at your disposal with your project's specific development needs is your “mission” and yours only.

Nevertheless, we can still help you streamline your selection process.

How? By shortlisting 6 of the most popular augmented reality development tools in 2017 with a great potential to grow even more influential in 2018. 

Here they come:

1. Kudan AR

An augmented reality SDK that “pioneered” the network intelligent vision (bringing together AI and IoT).

And which sets itself apart from the other augmented reality tools in our short list here due to its robust single-camera SLAM.

In other words: Kudan AR supports mapping tracking and simultaneous localisation.

Built for both iOS and Android-based apps, Kudan AR supports markerless tracking (meaning that it uses features such as edges, corners, and textures) and, moreover, it's designed to recognize an unlimited number of images.

Where do you add that it doesn't get “greedy” using too much of your app's memory to store its files and (big advantage!) it's significantly faster than other AR SDKs.

Summing up its key features and functionalities now:

  • 2D/3D Recognition in the same application
  • supports markerless tracking
  • supports Simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) tracking technology

2. Vuforia, By Far One of the Most Popular Augmented Reality Tools

Call it a "complete tool" for developing AR apps!

It practically “empowers” you to create any kind of AR solution for any type of device, any platform! A visually arresting augmented reality app or game “packed” with cutting-edge functionality. 

Yet, it does have its own shortcomings, too, the most “discouraging” one being that its free version comes with Vuforia watermarks and limited functionality. 

Even so, the balance between great features and innovative capabilities and shortcomings is titled so that it favours the first ones. Let us detail:

  • it's supercharged with smart terrain functionality for reconstructing a terrain and therefore a whole 3D map of the environment in real-time 
     
  • the same, above-mentioned functionality, will empower you (or your app development team) to create some fully interactive user experiences where the app's elements interact with the physical world
     
  • it's extended tracking feature enables your future AR app to deliver a 100% realistic visual experience even when the target elements are out of view (in other words users will be able to simultaneously engage themselves in the gameplay and still visualize the vehicles for instance)
     

And now summing up Vuforia's most notable features:
 

  • it comes with virtual buttons, which allow you to switch between various surfaces, which play the roles of your true-to-life, natural-looking touch screens
     
  • mixed reality and eyewear support (that's right, Microsoft HoloLens here included)
     
  • cloud recognition (and on-device, as well), meaning that it's capable to use either a local or a cloud database during the image recognition process 
     
  • Vuforia Object Scanner
     
  • it comes with Vumarks (Vuforia barcodes), which act both as data encoders and as markers
     
  • it's built to recognize both 2D and 3D objects
     
  • text recognition: Vuforia's designed to recognize over 100.000 words (and, moreover, you're enabled to use your own custom vocabulary, as well)
     

3. Wikitude

The third augmented reality development kit on our list is actually an “all-in-one” platform in fact. One which brings together:

Instant tracking + 3D markerless technology + Geo-location + Object/Image recognition and tracking

And all these top-notch AR features bundled up in one single AR app development kit can only mean 2 things:
 

  1. you get to build both marker AR mobile apps
  2. ... and location-based ones
     

Available for iOS, Android and Glassware, Wikitude is one of those commercial augmented reality tools. It does come in a trial version, as well, but do expect it to “surprise” you with a series of limitations, such as its logo showing up in cam view.

And now, let's go through its attention-worthy features and functionalities:
 

  • it provides you with Wikitude Studio, which makes AR app development a breeze, literally, since it requires no programming skills whatsoever: just drag the elements onto the studio screen and... put together your app 
     
  • Wikitude SDK is currently available for Android, iOS and the Glassware platform
     
  • on-device and cloud recognition 
     
  • instant (3D) tracking (it will display virtual objects and map out environments without using markers)
     
  • extended tracking 
     
  • geolocation support: your AR mobile app can get enhanced with location-based services, as well 
     

4. ARToolKit

ARToolKit is, in fact, a group of augmented reality tools that you can use for building your app.

And its heavy-weighing pro, that helped it make it to our list here, is that it's... an open-source code! That's right, you gain free access to its library, so you'll be able to tailor its source code to your AR app's specific development needs.

Nevertheless, this comes with a drawback: limited documentation! So, do keep this in mind when you're on a lookout for the most appropriate AR platform for your app project.

And now, let's list its other “seductive” features besides its open source nature:
 

  • simultaneous tracking: basically you get to “empower” your AR apps to track multiple objects at the same time
  • both single and dual camera support 
  • integration with GPS (a vital feature if it's a location-based AR app that you're developing)
  • it supports various platforms, ranging from iOS and Android to Windows, macOS, Linux...
     

5. Apple ARkit, One of The Revolutionary AR Frameworks

And it was pretty much around the time when iOS 11 introduced ARKit in the digital arena that app developers' “mad race” to build their own next big thing started.

Did you start planning your own AR solution around the same time?

Running on Apple 9, Apple 10, and A11 processors, Apple ARkit empowers you to create and deliver augmented reality experiences to your users both on iPhone and iPad (obviously!).

Now let us highlight the top-notch functionalities that will empower your app development team to put together not “just” AR experiences, but some truly realistic, immersive ones:
 

  • VIO (Visual Inertial Odometry) combines core motion data with camera sensor data, enabling your future AR app to accurately track the environment 
     
  • it's capable to detect horizontal surfaces (e.g. floors and tables) and objects on smaller feature points 
     
  • it's equipped for plane, scale and ambient lighting estimation
     
  • fast motion tracking
     
  • it can be used with third-party tools such as Unreal Engine and Unity, with SceneKit and Metal
     

6. EasyAR 

Here's another SDK “overloaded” with cutting-edge functionalites on our augmented reality tools list here!

And even if you go with the free version of the EasyAR kit (which won't provide you with certain of its functionalities, such as SLAM, 3D tracking and screen recording), you still get an impressive load of features:
 

  • cloud recognition
  • 1000 on-device targets storage
  • unlimited recognition queries
     

And where do you add that getting it up and running is just a matter of registering your account and generating your Bundle ID's plugin key.

Its list of top features would have to include:
 

  • cloud recognition
  • app cloud packaging
  • 3D object recognition
  • environment tracking
     

The END! These are the 6 augmented reality tools that you should consider selecting from if you're decided to go ahead and build your first AR solution this year. Good luck checking them off your New Year's resolutions list!

Dec 08 2017
Dec 08

I know that one of the tips from my previous post was to start preparing for the event a month before or so. And yet: there's no such thing as “too early” preps for the Web Summit 2018

The future belongs to those who plan ahead, especially if you're a startup founder!

Nevertheless, irrespective of a company's size or for how long it's been on the market there's plenty of networking potential to be seized and to be leveraged at the conference. For everyone.

So, why not start your pre-conference preparation by going through my handful of valuable advice and top tips based on my experience there representing OPTASY? Tips on how to create your own networking opportunities and how to fully “exploit” them.

Hence, today I'll be sharing with you some of my experience at the Web Summit from a company's perspective, along with insights and advice from the standpoint of OPTASY's assignee there (me).
 

1. Do Your Pre-Conference Homework Like a Pro'

Plenty of research here included!

My advice, from the previous post on this topic, to take your time to properly prepare for the event applies, all the more, if you're attending the Web Summit 20918 as a company.

With so many big names and start-ups striving to maximize their opportunities to build connections and meet potential partners — before and while at the conference—  reaching out to people and scheduling meetings long time in advance becomes... common sense.

Read bios, make yourself a list of the people you'd love to “chat” with and... drop them a line. Make contact, schedule valuable meetings...
 

2. … and Do Show Up At Meetings With All Your Homework Properly Done

By “homework” I do mean 2 things:
 

  1. improvisation is definitely overrated; instead of relying solely on your personal charm and persuasion skills to win them over, try to collect (and to memorize) as much key information about the people (and their companies) you'll meet as possible: projects, shared values, success story, objectives, approach to disruptive technologies etc.
     
  2. don't deliver them just plain, rigid numbers and statistics, but tell a story, your company's unique story; in this respect, again, don't rely exclusively on your spontaneity, but craft and repeatedly polish your story long time in advance
     

3. Write Down Notes After Every Single Meeting: They Are True Lifesavers

“Specific” notes I should add. You can even write them down (the notes) right on the business cards that you'll receive.

OK, so you may not be interested, at first, in someone's plans to travel around the world or in his golden retriever's name, but, believe me:
 

These seemingly insignificant details will turn out to be powerful information once the summit ends and you go back to the office!
 

This is the kind of personal information that will “fuel” your follow-up emails to those people, helping you add that personal touch that's not to be underestimated.

Take these on-the-spot notes as the surest way to remember all those people that you'll chat with. To quickly put a face on each name written on a business card. 
 

4. Follow Up on The Very Same Day 

The best way to “carve” a meeting in your interlocutor's memory is to send him/her a follow-up email the very same day. One where you express, once again, your intention to help him/his company. 

Patience might be a virtue, but when it comes to fully exploiting your networking opportunities at the Web Summit 2018, quick reactions, real-time follow-ups, are a must.
 

5. Be Alert, Meet and Mingle

Once at the web summit: sharpen all your senses!

Keep your eyes “wide shut”, ready to:
 

  1. “detect” any “big” company/startup celebrity name on a badge
  2. listen to people chatting around you 
  3. mingle with the crowd
     

Networking opportunities are “floating” there, everywhere, the cafeteria here included!
 

6. Set Up a Goal and Never Lose Sight of It

Why do you plan to/will be attending the Web Summit 2018? What are you hoping to get out of your attendance to this major tech conference?

Is it for getting your company's name out there? Is it it for promoting your brilliant, innovative business idea? Is it for meeting potential clients/finding investors?

Or are you looking for an inspiring mentor maybe?

Just don't show up there without a goal! With nothing but pure... enthusiasm.

Define your main objective long time in advance and build your powerful strategy around it!
 

7. Try Out Different Networking Methods While at the Web Summit 2018

Remember: your time in the spotlight, when you get the chance to exhibit, lasts for just one day.

Therefore, it's crucial that you plan out the other 2 days left in detail. A highly effective approach to planning is to try a mix of different networking strategies:
 

  1. hand out fliers
     
  2. take a tour of all the booths there
     
  3. go to your scheduled meetings
     
  4. attend conferences and try reaching out to speakers after
     

And, most of all, as you “juggle” with all these networking methods, stay creative and you'll stand you! You'll get noticed!
 

8. Don't Formalize: Meet People Over a Drink

And speaking of “meeting and mingling”, don't hesitate to invite your interlocutors to chit-chat over a drink at one of those night events at the Web Summit 2018.

Turn the Pub Crawls, get togethers and, most of all, private dinner parties into some great (if not the very best) opportunities to make connections. 

Mingle with the crowd, a glass in your hand, and interact while trying to have some fun, too. To enjoy your experience there, as a (startup) company attendee!
 

And this is it! OPTASY's 8-step guide on how to network like a champ', how to seize and value all the opportunities of making new, valuable connections, as a company, at the Web Summit 2018. Good luck with that!

Dec 06 2017
Dec 06

My first time at the Web Summit! And it's been almost... “surreal”, I'm still having trouble believing that I did, indeed, attend it (has it been a month already?). 
    
You go over all the numbers (60000 names, 1200 speakers etc.), you scan through the overwhelmingly long list of participants (packed with awe-inspiring names) and you start to feel just like a... kid going to Disneyland for the first time:
 

  • Am I really going to attend these talks?
     
  • Be in the same room (even if in the very last row... these are just details) with all these... tech and business giants?
     
  • Get close to all these inspiring innovators (I know, I know: I start to sound like a fanatic)?
     
  • And last but definitely not least: get to immense myself in this astonishing city?
     

Of course, once you go through the list over and over again, you use the app day and night and you burst with over-excitement, you gradually... cool down and start doing your homework.

To properly prep for meeting all these influencers. For you do want to make the most of your staying there and not waste anyone's time.

But before I go on with my list of tips and advice on how to prepare for a Web Summit — whether you're a startup founder or a tech enthusiast — allow me to share with you some glimpses of my actual experience:
 

1. Got There Pumped Up for the Event and Left Head Over Heels in Love With... Lisbon!

For it's simply... breathtaking!

Lisbon lures you in to explore it, then it crawls into your heart and... gets stuck to it! 

The cosmopolitan city basking in the sun has been the host of “the best technology conference on the planet” for the second year in a row. And this after the conference had spent its “childhood” in Dublin and... well... got a bit... too much for the Irish capital city.

And organizers couldn't have picked a better “host”:
 

  • the city of Lisbon had the capacity to easily accommodate the heavy influx of participants
  • it took me about 40 minutes to get from the venue to the city centre, by subway
  • I got (thank God!) stable internet connection throughout my staying there
  • there were no discouragingly large crowds gathered around the exhibit stands
     

2. Attended Talks and Conferences: My Top Favorites

For even though some more experienced Web Summit participants might advise you to watch the speeches on YouTube —  and instead, while there, to network like there's no tomorrow (or a next web summit to attend) —  I stuck to my own schedule.

It would have been inconceivable for me not to attend the conferences and talks that I was so looking forward to.

And here's a short list of the ones that I loved best:
 

  1. Stephen's Hawking's Talk on Disruptive Technology, on how “Artificial intelligence comes, and this can become both a major success and the main failure of mankind “, that if it's not geared exclusively at SERVING humanity (and not the other way around)
     
  2. Bryan Johnson's (the CEO of Kernel) Talk on Prioritizing Humanity, above all, and the stringent need for people to learn to adapt to the newly emerging tasks that disruptive technologies assign to them
     
  3. Margrethe Vestager's, The European Union's Commissioner for Competition, Talk on Fair Play and Tech (filled with self-evident examples of invasive usages of technology and of tech giants engaging in tax invasion)
     
  4. Dana Settle's (Greycroft) and Jim Breyer's (Breyer Capital) Speech answering the legitimate “Where to Invest in 2018?” question: in core technologies, practical and simple apps, (e.g. virtual, personal health assistants) in AI, machine learning; a talk with a focus on China as the world's second largest AI development center
     

3. And Now: My Top Pre-Event Preparation Tips and Tricks 

Let me switch from what might look like me bragging about my experience at the Lisbon Web Summit 2017, to me sharing some practical tips with you.

Some advice on how to properly plan out your attendance and prepare like a pro' for the event:
 

  1. First of all: start your pre-conference preparations long time in advance (a month before or so)
     
  2. Next, download the Web Summit app; and this is a true power placed in your hands if you know just to harness its full potential
     
  3. Then, it's time you do your homework: delve deep into the wide list of participants (luckily you'll find them all right there, listed in the app), scan them through, read bios, do your research work and reach out to them (be perseverant), make connections, schedule meetings
     
  4. The event's app will be your most reliable ally thanks to its conveniently easy-to-use and time-saving filters: don't be afraid to use them
     
  5. Rely on keyword search, as well, and put together a list including ONLY those people whom you'd just die to meet and chat with, who inspire you, whose story you're fascinated with, who are most likely to provide you with information that's 100% relevant for your industry 
     
  6. Put together a schedule of meetings, for once you get there... you risk to be swept by the “whirlpool”. It will help you stay focused, stay organized and maximize all your networking opportunities once you're at the summit
     

In short: there's no easy way to properly prep for the Web Summit 2018; no quick trick or secret recipe to making connections and scheduling meetings so that you land in Lisbon with a solid strategy at hand, that you'll just need to... execute to perfection.

It's all about kneeing deep in the discouragingly rich database of participants, running a rigorous selection and reaching out to people. 
 

4. Web Summit 2018: My Advice on How to Make the Most of It

So, with your list of contacts plus your schedule of meetings in one pocket and your Web Summit app in the other one you... arrive in Lisbon.

Now what?

Here are a few tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your next/first web summit attendance:
 

  1. Schedule all the talks and conferences that you want to attend; in this respect, the recommendation feature and the event calendar —  2 of the app's key features —  make some really powerful tools
     
  2. Next, remember that people connect more easily outside conference halls and that networking at Web Summit doesn't end at sunset; be ready to attend some of the night events (parties here included!) scheduled for the Night Summit; pub-crawl, interact, make connections while you're having some well-deserved fun, as well, after a full, hectic day
     
  3. But probably the only really “strict” advice to follow while at the Web Summit is: Be creative! Don't be shy to reach out to people, you'll be surprised to discover that some of them are really willing to share their experiences/expertise (for that's why they go there after all, to network with people passionate about innovation, with disruptive technologies enthusiasts, like you, after all), to create your own networking opportunities

    My Experience at Web Summit 2017 : Night Summit

    And this is my (first) Web Summit experience in a few words and my tips for you if you're planning to hit the 2018's tech conference!

    Stay tuned! In our next post we'll be sharing with you a tried-and-tested step-by-step guide on how to network like rockstar — as a startup company — at Web Summit 2018!

Dec 05 2017
Dec 05

Long gone are the days when AR and VR used to be associated (strictly) to roller coaster simulations, the gaming industry or true-to-life aerial experiences. Today we can be talking about an ever-wider range of innovative use cases for augmented reality in enterprises. 

About a niche technology turning... mainstream and, moreover, going beyond purely entertainment purposes.

Moreover, AR's potential for improving performance, boosting efficiency and enriching customer experience has long ceased to be a “privilege” of the top most valuable brands.

And since it's ceased to be an “exclusive” technology, why not harness its potential? Why not capitalizing on AR's potential in your own organization, too?
 

“What specific use case best suits my particular business needs?”
 

... you might be wondering.

Here are some of the most interesting current uses of augmented reality in enterprises:
 

1. Remote Workforce Supercharged With AR Power 

Just take this scenario:
 

You have two teams working on the same project — an in-house one and a remote one — and you get to leverage AR's power to actually immerse your remote team in the project.
 

… to bring together all your employees, scattered around the globe, in a collaboration enhanced by that strong feeling of “being there” that AR instils.

Or you can go for the second scenario: use AR to easily monitor out of location employees.

And this feature gains a critical importance if we're considering 3 specific types of employees working “off-site”:
 

  • engineers on an oil-rig
  • medical first respondents
  • linesmen on power lines 


2. Step-By-Step Guidance Overlaid on Work Areas via AR Displays

Another one of those efficiency-boosting (translated into manufacturing error rate cut down by almost 90%) use cases for augmented reality in an enterprise is overlaying instructions.

Practically via an AR display the manufacturer — take one manufacturing an aeroplane wing or one assembling an automobile, for instance — gets hyper-explicit guidance overlaid precisely on his work area.

With instructions being conveniently visualized, overlaid right on the work area, the employee practically gets step-by-step guidance for carrying out his tasks of high precision with utmost accuracy.

Where human error possibility should be whipped out of the process, AR comes to bring out-of-this-world precision into the real world!
 

3. Using AR Geared at Improving Warehousing and Logistics Efficiency

A potential that DHL knew just how to exploit to their benefit: streamlining warehouse pick-and-place operations through the use of smart glasses which are pointing out the shorter routes for the employees to take; and implicitly cutting down the error rate, too.

An unbelievable efficiency booster that you, too, can leverage in your organization for cutting down costs on logistics and warehousing resources and reducing human error.
 

4. Enriching Your Design/Engineering Team's Experience 

By their powers combined, AR and VR will help you:
 

  1. enrich your customers' experiences by bringing design concepts to life; take a scenario where a family planning to renovate one of their bathrooms can walk right in its virtual replica and visualize precisely how it's going to look
     
  2. enrich your designers'/architects/engineers' experiences: 3D objects/environments represented on two-dimensional screens vs 3D representations in real size; practically engineers/architects/construction workers/designers get to visualize their work in progress and spot the areas that need adjustments with far more accuracy and in a timely manner
     

It's one of those use cases for augmented reality that will empower you to increase your team's performance and create richer, immersive customer experiences. 
 

5. Real-Time Data Vizualization

… at an enterprise level.

And this is one of those scenarios where you get to turn AR into a... superpower.

Just think about it:

Visualizing data in real-time and, moreover, projecting these data visualizations onto different surfaces will not only:
 

  1. enhance a more in-depth understanding of that specific data
     
  2. ... but even enable larger groups of managers to collaborate far more effectively and make data-driven decisions based on a shared understanding of that data
     

And this is one of those augmented reality business use cases that can go as far as projecting board-room-seized 3 D views of your business! There you can get an even more accurate view of your entire data infrastructure, with all its strong and “sore points” to focus your efforts on!
 

6. Augmented Reality Training: One of The Most Valuable Use Cases for Augmented Reality 

Will you join the AR revolution in staff training and professional development?

And since nothing beats practical examples, here are some current uses of AR as a powerful training tool:
 

  • using AR to quickly empower staff to get a grip on using highly complex equipment, machinery
     
  • using AR to enhance the learning of complex concepts
     
  • using AR to enhance collaboration during staff training via virtual, true-to-life presentations, field tests etc.
     
  • using AR to a supercharge a “learning by doing” type of training, where real-life situations would be too dangerous to (re)create: such as performing surgery or flying a plane
     
  • using AR to recreate specific environments/scenarios/reality augmented workplaces in order to improve your employee's “soft skills” (public speaking, dispute resolution, decision making under stress); you even get to tailor your AR training to each team member's profile 
     

To sum up: using AR in training processes helps you “unleash” all that potential of creativity and efficiency otherwise limited by the “conventional” type of trainings.

Take AR as far as your imagination takes it and create your own use cases for augmented reality suitable for:
 

  1. your team(s)' specific needs
  2. your organization's specific goals for maximizing your team's potential
     

Final Thoughts

Now guess what: all the above-mentioned use cases for augmented reality are not “lab experiments” or “projects about the far future to come”. They're being implemented, as we speak, in real-life workplaces.

AR technology is now commercially available and has become and is continuing to get even more accessible. And its potential for enhancing both the customer and the employee experience is huge.

… you just need to “power” it with content — your unique content — and to harness its potential in use cases of augmented reality perfectly suitable for your own organization!

Nov 29 2017
Nov 29

The date in the calendar can only confirm what you already know/feel: it's gonna get even chillier! So, what do you do? You get yourself a cup of coffee, get cosy and... defy the weather reading some great Drupal content. Speaking of which, we do have some recommendations of Drupal blog posts for you, pieces of content which have made some great reads for us this month.

Ready? Cosy enough? Let's delve in:
 

Easy to read, usable and therefore useful content...

The Vardot's blog post on Drupal distributions “keeps the promise” it makes in its headline. It answers those 2 key questions that any organization considering to power its Drupal project with a software distribution is asking:
 

  1. What is a Drupal distribution more precisely?
  2. Why should I even bother using one instead of building my Drupal website from the ground up, the “traditional” way?
     

The author, Mohammed J. Razem starts by defining Drupal distributions: installable packages including all the bare essentials:
 

Site/use case/industry-specific Drupal elements (Drupal core, modules, themes...) + Additional software components
 

Then, he goes on highlighting the most popular Drupal distributions.

Next, he ends his post by outlining the benefits that an organization can easily reap from opting for a pre-configured Drupal website over building one from scratch (and it does it remarkably, in a well-argued and well-pointed way).

… over having to scan through an overwhelmingly wide collection of Drupal modules for selecting precisely those suited for its specific Drupal project, relevant for its own use case/industry.
 

And these are not just “big words”. We are honestly:
 

  1. impressed with Karen Stevenson's discovery
  2. grateful for having shared it with us; the ones who have experienced this inconvenience and gradually accepted that there was no way to style Drupal 8's WYSIWYG editor to suit our needs/preferences
     

How could we have kept this valuable piece of content to ourselves and not share it with you by including it in our list of favourite Drupal blog posts from November?

She altruistically points out the 2 solutions — for not only that there IS, indeed, a solution to this “limitation”, but it even comes in 2 “flavours” — for styling the editor in Drupal 8.

And then goes on and even inserts that specific piece of code from her theme's info.yml file, thus “exposing” to the world exactly how the implemented solution (she opted for “injecting” ckeditor_stylesheets into her site theme's info.yml file) should look like in your own future code.

And there's more! 

LULLABOT's (the team behind one of the very best Drupal blogs our there) director of Technology ends her post with a friendly “warning”:
 

Applying this change to your theme's info.yml file is a must, even if it's the admin theme that you might be using on your node form!
 

Told you that we would be sharing with you only Drupal blog posts jam-packed exclusively with useful information!

Here's another great example, coming from EVOLVING WEB's PHP developer, Jigar Mehta: he practically "serves us”, on a silver plate, his team's groundbreaking discovery after struggling to improve a Drupal site's performance during a migration process.

The name of their brilliant solution? Blackfire! 

A code profiling tool for PHP whose “superpower” they harnessed in their attempt to drop individual migration processes' time to under 3 minutes. 

And they did reach their time performance objective goal! Here's how precisely:
 

  1. running Blackfire to analyze performance on their about-to-be-migrated-to-Drupal-8 website 
     
  2. … they did found the “culprit” negatively impacting the site's performance during migration: 50 “suspicious” SQL queries (one per row, which, surprise, surprise, weren't being recorded anywhere!) that were inevitably bogging down the website      
     
  3. … and they “confronted” it: they used statically caching on the total record pointed out by Blackfire 
     

Tada!

Blackfire saved the day and Evolving Web preserved their reputation as a team of professionals who are, moreover, proudly promoting open source and “sharing” the fruits of their works.

A big “Thank You”.
 

Blazej Owczarczyk, from AMAZEELABS.com, writes a post (part of a GraphQL on Drupal 8-dedicated series, in fact) where he:
 

  1. highlights the GraphQL's Drupal module's features (still in beta); we're talking about a “group of modules, in fact: GraphQL, graphQL_core and GraphQL_content (plus the auxiliary modules)
     
  2. gives an overview of 2 valuable tools (the Explorer and the Voyager) that integrate the powerful layer query language with Drupal right out-of-the-box
     

It isn't discouragingly lengthy and it's packed with useful and usable information only. Just the way we like the Drupal blog posts that we invest our valuable time in to be. 

A “tutorial flavoured”, case study-based piece of content that we strongly recommend you to add to your must-read Drupal blog posts list. For 3 strong reasons:
 

  1. it's short 
  2. it's perfectly structured and easy to read (small, information-loaded paragraphs alternating with “chunks” of “helpful” code... with a funny gif on top)
  3. it's true facts/challenge-based: the LUCIUS DIGITAL team's work (still in progress) on their real-time chat platform, Lus
     

It takes you through all the steps carried out for putting together an auto-complete field for their new app, one geared at enabling users to create new channels quick and easy.
 

And this is how our own list of top favourite Drupal blog posts from November looks like!

What about you? What pieces of content on Drupal development have caught your attention and probably even made it to your bookmarks this month?

Nov 14 2017
Nov 14

Create content for your customer FAQs... content for your website... next for your website's blog, as well... produce user-engaging content to upload on all social media channels... then go ahead and produce sopy for your flyers... A bit overwhelmed? Well, it's just getting started! Now you have to make sure your content gets delivered across “101” types of devices, as well. So, how about trying to create intelligent content instead?

How about... stepping into the future of content? 

A future where technology (e.g. AR) compliments and boosts human efforts of coping with the ever-growing content demands that an organization must meet:
 

  • create and then deploy custom content across a plethora of channels (voice assistants, chatbots and other newly emerged technologies here included)
  • deliver it (at the perfect time) across a myriad of devices (tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, desktop computers...)
  • … to multiple audiences
     

But let us delve into details about:
 

  • what intelligent content is
  • what type of content “qualifies” for being made more... intelligent
  • whether intelligent content marketing is suitable for your organization's specific content demands
  • why you should bother at all, what are the clear benefits you should expect to reap
  • where to start; what steps to take for setting up your own intelligent content strategy?
     

1. Intelligent Content: What Is It? Just Another Fancy Marketing Catchword?

Or better said: what makes it “intelligent”?

Let us give you some “clues”:
 

  • it results from an efficient use of the latest “wonders” of technology, human capabilities and content handling processes
     
  • it's ideally structured to enable retrieval and re-usage
     
  • it's content viewed as a business asset and managed as such
     
  • it's a modular approach to content: multiple fragments that you get to put together, adapting the result to any targeted device/channel's format (and specific audience) constraints
     
  • it's content customized at multiple levels: the user's, the channel's, the device's level 
     

A term coined by Ann Rockley, intelligence content is basically a scientific-like approach to content creation, management and delivery:
 

“Intelligent content combines the wonders of technology with human capability in a way that powerfully supports an organization’s goals.“ (What Is Intelligent Content)


And it's a two-way approach to content:
 

  1. creating the design-agnostic content itself and breaking it into component parts, that you then structure by adding metadata tags; tags which will enable you to put them (the content fragments) together in an assembly-line style depending on the channels that you'll deploy them on and on the audiences (and devices) who'll be “consuming” your content
     
  2. adopting a whole new mindset where you approach content as “genetically” structural; as soon as you start to “view” it as being modular, mixing and matching its components to suit a specific audience, a specific channel or device will come naturally to you...
     

In short: content with device & design-agnostic structure turns into an ideally versatile type of content in today's multi-channel, multi-device digital marketing landscape. Adopting this approach to the content that you produce will only grant you content that's:
 

  • neatly structured (via semantic tags) and consistently organized
  • reusable
  • highly adaptable and customizable
  • easily reconfigurable
  • semantically structured and, therefore, “semantically aware” (easily “identifiable”, where modern technologies, including AR and machine learning, can easily “identify” what the content is about)
  • free from constant “touch-ups” at every instance of use
  • delivered via a far more streamlined publishing process (since it's no longer formats-constrained)
     

2. What Type of Content “Qualifies” for Being Turned into Intelligent Content?

Any type of content, any content contexts or scenarios! 

From costumer-support content to marketing content, to technical documentation, to content delivered across multiple devices and multiple audiences, to content specific to different products etc. It can all be turned into intelligent content!

Both producing it, delivering it and monitoring its performance the “standard way” (how many hours does your team spend, each week, tracking down data in Google Analytics?) is time and budget-consuming.

Now imagine a world where all these content processes, ranging from scheduling the monthly blog post topics, to scheduling social shares, to setting up your content strategy and so on would be handled automatically? By a machine? Then, from (just) an overly complex content strategy it will turn into an efficient, intelligent content strategy.

Moreover, you'd be actually future-proofing your content, too! Structuring it as a series of component parts will make it easier to be deployed even across channels that haven't yet emerged into the digital marketing world.
 

3. Does It Suit Your Company's Specific Content Creation & Delivery Needs?

It depends greatly on your load of content. 

If it's a 40-pages Drupal site that we're talking about, carrying highly crafted content only, that doesn't require frequent updating, then the investment isn't worth it.

In other words: if your content demands within your organization are more than “reasonable”, we consider that structuring your content beyond its basic HTML structure isn't justified.

But if we're talking about:
 

  • a content-packed website
  • content that needs to be constantly updated
  • content that needs to be translated into multiple languages, sent to multiple audiences, adapted to each product line (along with the challenge of multiple audiences per product line)
     

… then you should definitely jump on the intelligent content “trend” and streamline your entire content workflow
 

4. Top Benefits of Moving to Intelligent Content

Although we've already outlined a couple of the high impact advantages of moving to a more intelligent content marketing strategy, allow us to enlist them all:
 

  • it cuts down costs (content production, reviewing, monitoring costs, even translation costs)
     
  • it improves and guarantees quality and consistency across the website and across your whole ecosystem of channels to be deployed on
     
  • it adapts to any channel's particularities and constrains and it can be customized to those channel-specific audiences with minimal tweaking or close to zero intervention of your marketing team
     
  • it helps you deliver the right piece of content, to its target audience, in precisely the right format across that particular channel, on that specific device and at the right time of their customer journeys
     

Cutting down costs + providing the best user experience + future-proofing your content! Thes are the 3 key benefits that should weigh heavily in your decision-making process: to move or not to move to intelligent content?
 

5. Where Do You Start Developing Your Intelligent Content Strategy?

OK, so you've decided to make content on your website “more intelligent” and, therefore, to adopt an intelligent content marketing strategy. What now? 

Here are the steps you could take for a great start:
 

  • adopt a new mindset: start viewing intelligent content as part of your whole content marketing strategy
     
  • run a small-scale test (targeting just the upper levels in your organization's hierarchy for a start)
     
  • identify your organization's “sore points” and business requirements
     
  • focus on a small project for now and create a content model
     
  • put all the needed tools and technologies in place (authoring tools, XML, content management systems etc.)
     
  • consider going for headless Drupal or a single CMS
     

Once all the preparations are made, switch to more in-depth steps in defining and implementing your new content strategy :

  1. get your content broken into multiple component parts, the very first “transformation” phase required for it to be turned into intelligent content
     
  2. remove all content formatting and add metadata tagging; this way, you'll make it discoverable, reusable, adaptable and keep adding on all the other features ending in “-able”) that set the difference between (just) content and intelligent content 
     
  3. move one step at a time; implementing an intelligent content strategy can be an overkill for your website if you're getting impatient and “greedy” and rush things
     
  4. make changes at the content processes and the organization's level (for instance appointing a team to have a look at each piece of content before it goes live)
     

Note: producing intelligent content means so much more than just appropriately structuring it and making it “semantically aware”. It also means anticipating and understanding the final form it will take. Once you visualize this, you'll know which component parts to select and to mix and match assembling them in the desired final form (while using the same source content, of course).

The END! Your immersion into the future of content (soon to become “present”) ends here! What do you think: does intelligent content stand any chance to become the new standard for delivering content in a multi-channel, multi-device digital marketing landscape or not?

Nov 11 2017
Nov 11

Your current scenario, as we see it:

You're facing an app building type of situation! An app that should streamline workflow within your company or that would help your team deliver an unparalleled customer experience. Backlogs are out of the picture and dependency on “power builders” as well. Should you go for a low code development platform or for a no code one?
 

Decisions, decisions...

How do you pick when they seem so very much alike? They both spoil you with most tempting conveniences such as:
 

  • minimal coding effort
  • minimal (to none) technical expertise
  • app building efficiency (you get to assemble your app in no time and benefit from faster time-to-value)
  • out-of-the-box UI components for you, the app builder, to mix and match and put together into an app
  • automated horizontal scalability
     

Now let us come to your aid with a “list” of criteria to help you differentiate these two seemingly identical app development platforms. A more like a list of questions meant to help you:
 

  • “draw” your own profile as an app builder/app building company
  • better define your own needs and goals
  • draw an “identikit” of your future business app
     

… and, most importantly, (help you) decide whether a low code development platform or a no-code app building experience best suits your project's needs!
 

A Low Code Development Platform: What Is It & Why Go for It?

What sprang up as auto-code generation tools has gradually grown into enterprise-level platforms for building large-scale apps.

Low code development platforms made their entrance a while ago (dominating the web in 2016 ) and seem to be here to stay since more and more companies are jumping on the “quick and easy” app building bandwagon.

By providing you, the app builder, with multiple low-code stages, these modern platforms speed up your whole app development and app delivery cycle.

But let's point out precisely those key aspects of an app delivery cycle that this type of platforms impacts dramatically:
 

  • all services (SOAP, CRM, databases, security, REST APIs etc.) benefit from the visual development approach; they get incorporated via conveniently intuitive visual interfaces
     
  • the time-consuming coding “ordeal” is replaced with a visual app building approach: your development team can now create the whole user experience right from the start by simply mixing and matching the UI components that a low code development platform puts at their disposal
     
  • app deployment and continuous integration get streamlined via one-click deployments
     
  • human error, risking to impact the coding process, is taken out of the equation: standardized best practices ensure that all tasks related to front-end, back-end, executable, configuration etc. get “error-proofed”
     
  • the needs for future scalability (as well as for continous maintenance) are anticipated: low code apps are highly scalable due to their easy to use, lightweight containers that development teams just need to “fill in”
     

A No Code Development Platform: How Is It Different from a Low Code One?

No code app development platforms are nothing more than low code platforms adapted to specific app building scenarios. And, therefore, equipped so they can serve specific development needs.

And these “special” scenarios are all those requiring a higher level of customization. Let's say that you need to leverage your company/industry-specific template design for one of your app's pages, for instance. 

This is where no code platforms excel at! They “spoil” you with more templates and more pre-built industry-specific or company-standardized components, that you can just drag and drop and use for assembling your app.

But let's talk... examples! Here are 3 of the most common scenarios where a low code development platform delivers you a no coding experience:
 

  1. when it offers you, right out-of-the-box, industry-specific components to just assemble; then, your industry-specific app's building cycle calls for almost no coding at all
     
  2. when drag-and-drop UI components get built, “in-house”, by your own technical team, following your company's specific standards and then “passed on” to your business-pass team; for the latter it will certainly feel like they're putting together apps with zero coding: they'll just need to drag and drop the already built-in components
     
  3. when standardized styling is used (fonts, colors etc.) and “template UI design” gets incorporated into the platform; design templates meant to match those of the third party software used within your enterprise; with all these pre-created components at hand, low coding seamlessly turns into a no coding app building experience
     

What Is Your Skill Set as an App Builder?

For it makes a whole lot of difference whether you have back-end scripting skills (you “swim through” JavaScript, Node.js, Ruby or VBScript code like a fish in the sea) or you're a line-of-business professional with a great idea of an app and Microsoft Excel expertise (only).

Here's why:
 

  • no-code app building platforms empower business professional to step into the shoes of “business app builders”; to have their desired apps up and running in no time, with no dependency on a team of IT professionals
     
  • delivering drag and drop pre-built UI components and point and click tools no code platforms give the whole app development process a dramatic boost (so, no need for coding expertise for getting apps built at high speed)
     
  • low code app building platforms provide you with highly intuitive, visual modeling tools for trimming down code, even if it's an architecturally complex app that you want to build way faster than via a traditional app development approach 
     
  • and as a general rule of thumb a low code development platform addresses “power builders” with an advanced processing modeling, back-end scripting and business analytics skill set; such “audience” is able to fully leverage this modern platform's capabilities, those that set it apart from a standard app building process
     

An On-Premise or a Cloud-Based Hosting Solution?

Here's a key question to be asking yourself when you're still investigating each one of the 2 app development platforms' pros and cons: Where will it be hosted? And also: by whom?

You should know that:
 

  • low-code platforms are web-based and on-premises hosting solutions
  • no-code platforms are cloud-based
     

And the benefits that you'll reap from using a cloud-based web hosting solution are more than obvious:
 

  • you'll place the burden of monitoring the whole infrastructure's overall health and level of security onto your service provider's shoulders
  • starting small and integrating new features/functionalities later on gets so much more streamlined than with an on-premise platform
  • you save valuable time that you could then invest in... creating brand new challenges-solving and daily workflow-optimizing apps  
     

What Type of App Are You Building? Who'll Be Using It?

Sketching your business app's identikit is crucial before/in order to choose the right app development platform for your project.

So, what kind of app are you planning to build?

Is it an app integrating well-defined processes and running on a complex infrastructure? One aimed at keeping a close track of core business processes?

Or is it an app that could run either as a standalone one or as one incorporated into your business system? An app with a lifespan ranging from a few months to... several years?

But let's make your decision-making challenge easier to respond to! Let us list both the low code and the no code apps' specific “profiles”:
 

Typical Low Code Apps:
 

  • large scale apps, dependent on high stability
  • CORE transaction processing & business management apps
  • long-term apps (with a 5+ years lifecycle)
  • architecturally complex apps (dependent on frequent updating)
  • apps having well-defined processes
     

In short: low code apps make a crucial component of your whole core business system and they result from taking the conventional app building approach and... streamlining it.
 

Typical No Code Apps:
 

  • apps which may or may not be invested with a mission of critical importance for your core business process 
  • apps with a shorter estimated lifecycle
  • apps integrating innovative (or company/industry specific) business processes
  • apps that you build either to integrate into your business system or to run as standalone business apps
  • apps used for business process tracking, reporting, processing etc.
     

In other words: no code apps allow you to come up with quick-to-implement app solutions to specific business challenges and all this irrespective of your level of technical expertise
 

In Conclusion

If you want it built fast, a no code app development platform might suit your project best. 

If you want:
 

  • it to feature custom UI elements and styling aspects following your company's predefined standards
  • to “grow independent” of a team of “professional coders”
     

… go with a no code platform
 

But if you:
 

  • don't want to trade freedom of decision-making for more convenience, for more pre-built components to just drag and drop
  • want to be in charge (or to invest your development team with such power/responsibility) with your future app's deployment and integration processes
  • want to speed up the traditional app building process by using visual development tools and less coding
     

… then a low code development platform might suit you and your app project best.
 

So, which one will it be?

Oct 19 2017
Oct 19

Each one of the two popular databases “lures” you with its own set of tempting features that the other one lacks. Yet, you need to go beyond the old “relational vs NoSQL” debate to find the answer to your “Which database should I choose for my web app?” question.

Therefore, it's more than a generic MySQL vs MongoDB comparison that we'll attempt to make in this post. It's not a well-founded answer to a question like “Which is the best database to use for web applications?” that we'll try to give.

Instead, we'll try helping you discover which is THE one that best fits YOUR own web app's use case.
 

It All Comes Down to One Key Question: “What Type of Web App?”

And just like a snowball rolling down a slope, once you've asked yourself this crucial question, expect it to “unleash” other key ones, as well:

  • What type of data will you be storing in your database? Is it relational data (e.g. social network-specific data, where each user has lots of associated photos, comments, groups etc.) or is it documents or analytical information that your web app's database will be storing?
     
  • Would you “trade” data protection guarantee (let's say... losing some of the stored data every dozen thousand transactions?) for really high data insert rate?
     
  • Would you store it in a relational schema guaranteeing you clear relationships between entities or would you go for a more flexible data storage format instead? One enabling you to perfectly store dynamic, unique items?
     
  • Do you expect your web app to grow any bigger? How big? Are we talking about a “very large” data volume? And this is probably the second most important question to ask yourself after the “Which database should I use for my web app?”
     
  • How many queries do you expect it to perform (per minute, hour, day)?
     
  • And which is your skills level (or your development team's skills level) in using various databases?
     
  • Will your database need to be perfectly equipped to support further and further joins?
     
  • What coding language/front-end framework will you be developing your web app in?

And you must surely agree that this is a never-ending list. There are so many aspects relevant for your specific use case, for your specific web app that you should take the time to determine.

And to focus on those which weight heavily in your database selection process.
 

“Which Database Should I Choose for My Web App?” Go With MongoDB If...

… it's a web app carrying a heavy write load that you're planning to develop.

MongoDB database's biggest advantage over a MySQL one is its capability to accommodate really large data volumes. Take the comments section of high trafficked websites (The New York Times or Craigslist) for instance. Loads and loads of content is being “pumped in”, at high speed, and MongoDB's perfectly equipped to assimilate it all.

Note: it might excel in terms of performance, yet it trades transaction safety to achieve that kind of performance. So, make sure you go with MongoDB only if it's not sensitive data that your web app's database will be storing. MongoDB does require a high level of risk tolerance, you know.

And there are plenty of other reasons why MongoDB might be a suitable replacement for MySQL for storing data. You should back your web app with a MongoDB database if:

  1. ... it's a small, a start-up business that you own. On open source document-oriented database, which doesn't pigeonhole your data in a rigidly structured schema (it simply stores all the values that you're inserting as documents), which is flexible, easy to set up, to manage, to deploy and to scale, is perfect for your own specific web app's needs.
     
  2. . … you dream big. This NoSQL database is built to scale (horizontally), to auto-shard (and to replicate) your data as it gets heavier.
     
  3. . … your web app doesn't require a complex data model and you're good to go with a simpler one. One with no further joins requests and much easier to deploy.
     
  4. .... it's a prototyping scenario that you're planning to use it in.

And Now: When Not to Use MongoDB?

For if it's best-suited for certain scenarios involving backing web apps, it certainly is ill-suited for others.

Here are some of them:

  • if you're looking for an easy way to join tables to your database... MongoDB is not IT
     
  • if you're planning to use it as the primary database system for... 1k machines, let's assume. It's not that stable.
     
  • if it's security-critical information that you're planning to store in your web app's database (e.g. critical customer information). MongoDB doesn't guarantee you the same level of data protection as MySQL
     
  • if it's relational data that you'll be storing (so if there are clear relationships between your entities, e.g. users and reviews)
     
  • if you're counting on transaction support

A MySQL Database Might Better Suit Your Web App If...

… it's a commercial/end-user app that you're developing, which depends on a strict hierarchy of relationships between various entities.

In this case, you can't expect a MongoDB, piling up your data in collections of separate documents, to meet your needs. It's a relational database like MySQL, which stores your data in “conventional” tables, made of rows, that you should back your app with.

And if this doesn't really answer your “Which database should I choose for my web app?” question, here are a few other use cases that might get you thinking:

  • it's not just a traditional RDBMS (relational database management system) that would meet your data storage needs, but a full-featured one. Luckily, MySQL is that “full-feathered” relational database that you need. Over the years it's been upgraded with views, cursors, clustering, triggers, query stored procedures etc.
     
  • real-time analytics is crucial for you 
     
  • you're not willing to trade high data protection standards (let's assume, for instance, that it's a live auction app that you're developing, which will store and retrieve data of critical importance) for... high data insert rate
     
  • you need transaction support, security assurance for all the transactions carried out on your app 

Also, to give you one more helping hand with your decision-making process, here's a short list of web apps where a MySQL database would work best as a back-end:
 

  • e-auctions
  • automated online assistants
  • online retailers
  • e-commerce
  • real-time big data analytics
  • dynamic pricing
     

When Not to Use MySQL? Which Are Its Key Limitations?

It's precisely those scenarios where MongoDB “shines” that MySQL doesn't.

Therefore, here are some more clues to help you find the answer to your “Which database should I choose for my web app: MySQL or MongoDB?”:
 

  • scaling is definitely not it's trump card; it can't possibly rival a MongoDB database when it comes to horizontal scaling
  • it can't handle high transaction loads so well; from a performance point of view, MySQL isn't built to cope with really big data volumes 
  • although it's been upgraded with replication and clustering features, their implementation isn't precisely a... no brainer
     

So, which one's going to be? Will you use MongoDB as a backing storage for your web app or MySQL instead?

Oct 17 2017
Oct 17

Building better websites and apps has just got easier! And by “better” we do mean user-friendly (a feature encompassing all the other aspects: UX design, various functionalities, written content, graphic content etc.).

How so? Incoming Feedback by Hotjar makes it ideally easy and convenient for your users to give you specific feedback for your site/app (on its copy structure, on its design elements etc.)

And right there, on-site, on-page, at precisely THAT moment in their user journeys.

For your site visitors it's nothing but a two-clicks process (so much more at hand than answering questions in a poll) and for you, the site/app's owner it's:
 

And now, let us briefly point out to you:
 

  1. The context that “called for” such a tool (and what makes it more efficient than conventional polls)
  2. How it works precisely
  3. How you get to collect, monitor and use all that data to “fuel” your future design/copy/functionality improving strategies
     

“But Why Incoming Feedback by Hotjar? I May As Well Grab User Feedback via Polls.”

Let's play devil's advocate: 

Why bother using this tool when you could easily use polls for collecting all the specific feedback you need?

Your users would simply (and kindly) answer all the questions in your poll and... voila: a fresh new “crop” of user feedback for you to leverage!

But what if:
 

  1. you ask your questions long time after the user will have actually been on that specific page or has completed that specific action?
  2. you risk misinterpreting the collected answers, due to... LACK OF CONTEXT?
     

And this is precisely where we wanted to get! This new tool by Hotjar, added to their whole suite of all-in-one analytics & feedback tools, brings CONTEXT to the equation.

For it's right THEN, right at that specific moment in your user's journey on your website/your app that you get to... pop up your question! Not a few pages after. Not a few hours or days after.

The feedback that he/she gives you precisely then is, by far, the most relevant one! Relevant due to:
 

  1. the context of that specific visited page/visualized designed element/tested functionality/read piece of content
  2. the impression that he/she gets about your target site element that very instant!
     

And How Does This Tool Work Actually?

Incoming Feedback by Hotjar is as easy for you to set up and to customize as it is easy for your visitors to use it.

1. You get to configure your widget's color, its position, its flow and, finally, enter your message. It will simply sit at the edge of your screen, looking like a tab.

2. The instant your users will want to give their feedback on the element of your site/app that you point out to in your widget, they instantly get a pop-up up to:
 

  1. evaluate your site/app on a “Love to Hate” scale
  2. enter a quick comment if they feel like putting their feedback into words
  3. even use the area selection tool to highlight specific elements on your page (and this gold!)
  4. eventually enter their email addresses allowing you to follow up
     

And there's more:
 

  • you get to create as many incoming feedback widgets as you need (since more likely than not it's multiple pages on your website/app that you'll like to get user feedback for)
  • the Incoming Feedback by Hotjar works on all devices
     

How Do I Centralize The Answers? How Do I Monitor Performance Over Time?

“By making a great use of your Incoming Feedback dashboard.”

It's a two-in-one dashboard, actually, that you get to use for:
 

  1. deep analyzing and drilling down the user answers that you will have collected (using various filters)
  2. monitoring your newly implemented enhancements' rates of success
     

Here are the two separate dashboards:
 

1. The responses dashboard 

This is the repository of all the user feedback given for the suggested aspects of your site/app. Here's where you can filter them, by various criteria such as:
 

  • liked/disliked or the expressed feedback type
  • time when the feedback was given
  • page URL
     

… so you can turn them from “just” responses into valuable, actionable insights!
 

2. The results dashboard 

This is where you get:
 

  • the full picture of the overall score resulting from your visitors' feedback
  • a breakdown of their feedback over time
     

It's on this dashboard that you can measure the real impact that your bug fixes, your implemented upgrades and other various improvements to your site/app have on your users.
 

Bottom Line 

Building user-friendly websites & apps has, indeed, just got easier!

With a tool like Incoming Feedback by Hotjar you get to:
 

  • collect specific user feedback (you get to target particular aspects of your site/app)
  • … instant, contextual type of feedback
  • … and use it to take the needed action for improving the content (both graphic and written) that they dislike 
     

Have you tried it? 

Oct 11 2017
Oct 11

Or simply put: “What can Hadoop possibly do that my data warehouse can't already?”

A predictable and legitimate question following the “Why should my company use Hadoop after all?”.

Our today's post is not aimed at convincing you that you should, indeed, replace your current data warehousing solution and move your data over to a Hadoop platform. That would just point out the“why it's best to go with Hadoop”.

Instead, we're ready to answer your specific question: “Why should my company use Hadoop as a data storing and data processing solution?”

We'll be:
 

  1. presenting you with specific use cases when Hadoop is, indeed, the best option
  2. outlining key advantages of using Hadoop over the traditional data warehousing 
     

When Should You Consider Replacing Your Data Warehouse With Hadoop?

One of the most popular sayings here, at our Toronto web design company, is: “if it ain't broken why fix it?”.

Therefore, let us point out to you just 2 specific situations where you should consider a massive data migration to Hadoop as your best option:
 

  1. you're dealing with a huge amount of data 
  2. you need built-in capabilities for processing raw and semi-structured data... in a scalable way, of course
     

Does any of these contexts ring a bell to you? If so, you're better off with Hadoop.
 

"Why Should My Company Use Hadoop?" 7 Advantages Over Traditional Data Warehousing 

For it all comes down to the benefits that your company will gain from such a transition.

In this respect, we've put together a list of 7 key reasons why Hadoop is a great asset for your company.

Analyze them, weight them, compare them to the benefits that you're currently “reaping” from using your current enterprise solution and... do the math yourself:
 

1. It's Cost Effective: it's free actually

No, no, we're not trying to brush under the carpet costs such as:
 

  • staff training investments that you should consider 
  • commodity hardware costs to take into account for storing impossibly large sets of data 
     

And yet, they are insignificant compared to the costs that legacy commercial vendors products' come along with:
 

  • annual support offered by the data warehouse's vendor (compared to Hadoop's open source support)
  • perpetual licenses
  • significant costs that each scaling process would call for (no wonder that companies used to get rid of loads of raw data since scaling their data warehouses to accommodate it all was cost prohibitive)
     

2. It's (so much) Easier to Use: skip formatting and “exploit” your data from day one

Here's an answer, which makes a strong argument itself, to your “Why should my company use Hadoop over my current data storage solution?”

Its ease of use feature will come as a major surprise to you once you've gone through a:
 

  • changing formats
  • complex preprocessing
  • establishing data models
     

… type of experience with your current enterprise solution. An entire “ordeal” to go through just to be able to finally leverage your own data!

With Hadoop it's just a “feed the data” process! That's all! No preliminary steps to take.

And where do you add that you get to use all your familiar tools, languages and even to test the newest methods for getting the most value out of our data!
 

3. It's Flexible: it can capture data from a plethora of data sources

And this is gold when you have an entire ecosystem of data sources ready to deliver you data if you just have the right tool to... tap into!

Hadoop's perfectly suited for the job: it will access and extract data and provide you with valuable insights from sources ranging from:
 

  • social media
  • email conversations
     

… and lots of other “repositories” of both structured and unstructured data. It will go and get this heterogeneous load of data to you.

Data that will then fuel your marketing campaigns, your fraud detection initiatives, your log processing actions etc.

Do giants such Marks & Spencer and Yahoo and their own use cases of Hadoop make convincing enough answers to your “Why should my company use Hadoop?” question?

They're using Hadoop to:
 

  • play the “personalization” card right
  • put together cross-functional teams (IT, marketing, e-commerce, finance...) thanks to Hadoop's capability to seamlessly process all types of data
  • gain a better understanding of their customers (this is where Predictive analytics comes into play) 
     

And this is what extracting value from your own data, that's just sitting there, waiting to be leveraged, really means.
 

4. It's Open Source Technology: bugs and feature development handled by multiple companies

Just try to compare bug fixing and new features development being handled by a single company (your commercial license vendor) to the same processes being carried out by hundreds of companies!

In other words: when choosing Hadoop as your data storage platform there's an entire community of contributing companies offering you support and continuously improving the platform.
 

5. It's Built With High Scalability in Mind: keep on adding more and more data clusters

How easily (or “costly”) is it to scale your current data warehouse to accommodate your increasing amounts of data?

Hadoop scales... organically, using low-cost hardware as a unique resource!

Here's how it works: 
 

  1. as you add new and new heavy nodes (clustering thousands of terabytes of data)
  2. Hadoop manages to seamlessly accommodate it all 
  3. … and to distribute it across hundreds of inexpensive servers that run in parallel
     

Scalability is, undoubtedly, one of Hadoop's “five-star” features, the one that traditional relational database systems (RDBMS) can't possibly compete with! 
 

6. It's Fast: data processing at high speed

When you're questioning yourself “Why should my company use Hadoop instead of sticking to its current data warehousing solution?”, you might be thinking, in fact:

“How much faster than my current data warehouse can Hadoop process data?”

A lot faster!

And this is exclusively thanks to its unique data storage method: the data mapping & the data processing happen on the same server where data is stored.

This way mapping and processing massive volumes of unstructured data is no challenge for Hadoop at all: it will map it no matter where it might be located in a cluster.

And so processing it (we're talking about petabytes of data here) turns into a matter of hours!
 

7. It's Equipped to Handle Fails Remarkably: say Hello to automatic data replication!

You can run, but there's no way of hiding/completely avoiding cluster fails!

But luckily Hadoop provides you with a great “safety net” type of capability: it automatically replicates data for you, sending it to other nodes.

So, when faults happen (and they will), you can stay reassured: Hadoop will always have copies of your data ready to be passed on to other, non-compromised locations of your data infrastructure.
 

Final Thoughts

Or “recommendations” if you prefer:
 

  • if it's small data that your company's “piled up” so far, if there are small files that you need to store and leverage, don't go for Hadoop
  • if you don't really need to access and to process your unstructured or semi-structured data, there's no real need to use Hadoop
     

Now getting back to the initial question, “Why should my company use Hadoop over its current data warehouse?”, our answer is:

“Because Hadoop is built and being constantly enhanced with impossibly large amounts of data in mind!"

Oct 05 2017
Oct 05

Is your enterprise “ecosystem” of apps, systems, and IT components getting overwhelmingly complex? Is managing it and leveraging it getting increasingly challenging? Then it's a fact: you need to get them organized in a more effective infrastructure. One that should bridge them all together and enable a continuous flow of data across the whole structure. You need to move away from the traditional point-to-point integration system and go for an ESB instead. "But why Mule ESB?"

A more than valid question. Here are 5 top reasons why it stands out from all the other ESB products. Why you should consider using it as your future integration platform:
 

But First: What Is an ESB More Precisely?

Take it as a set of principles rather than as a software on its own. A set of “rules” for building out your bus-like infrastructure where your disparate systems:
 

  • get bridged together
  • exchange data via the communication bus that this ESB system provides; and it's a two-way communication process that takes place: the systems share data among them and they all communicate with the bus individually, as well
  • are independent of one another
     

And it's this very last feature that what makes the ESB architecture such a big “leap” ahead from the traditional point-to-point integration system.

But how does this type of bus-like infrastructure for organizing your apps and systems benefit you precisely:
 

  • it speeds up marketing your new initiatives
  • it enhances productivity, translated into more apps developed within your organization
  • it allows you to leverage your existing systems during app development thanks to all the pre-built communication and transformation capabilities
     

Why Move Away From a Traditional Point-to-Point Integration?

Because in a point-to-point integration system your apps are tightly dependent on one another. And this “dependency relation” does interfere with the very principle of organizational agility, doesn't it?
 

What Is Mule ESB? What Sets It Apart from Other ESB Products?

To answer your first question: Mule Soft is a lightweight, highly scalable Java-based service bus (or integration platform, if you prefer) which:
 

  • enables developers to connect a whole ecosystem of Saas, on-premises apps and disparate systems quick and easy
  • … and to enhance communication between them, a continuous data flow alongside the infrastructure
     

“And what makes Mule as an ESB stand out from the crowd of other ESB products?”
 

Let's point out those key features that set Mule ESB apart from the its “competitors:

  1. it's, in fact, a component part of a larger structure of API design management capabilities
  2. it comes with a pre-built library of templates
  3. … and with out-of-the-box connectors enhancing the reusability of components (and this is big) 
  4. it comes with built-in agile software development methods and multiple toolchains boosting your developers' productivity
     

Why Mule ESB? Top 5 Reasons to Consider Using It as Your App Integration Technology

1. It Scales Effectively, Both Up and Down 

And this key feature translates into unlimited freedom for your teams to bridge together as many apps and systems as needed. Mule ESB will scale to efficiently incorporate them all!

In addition to being effectively scalable, Mule ESB's ideally embeddable, as well:
 

  • you can embed it into a single app, directly
  • or you can plug it into your app server (JBoss, WAS, Tomcat) instead
  • and even into a JUnit test case (for yes, it does come with built-in JUnit support, as well)
     

2. It Perfectly Integrates All Components, Irrespective of the Technology Used

And this is a strong argument to consider when you're asking yourself: “Why Mule ESB over another ESB product?”

It's definitely not a restrictive or “picky” ESB: it will incorporate all the existing systems regardless of the technologies that they might be running on: Web Services, JMS, HTTP, JDBC, you name it. 

… from a “POJO” to a component coming from a different framework!

Moreover, not only that it integrates them all under its “umbrella”, but it enhances communication across this infrastructure of various apps and multiple systems. It allows data flows between the bridged apps within your organization and across the web.
 

3. It's Highly Accessible, Supporting a Wide Variety of Code Languages

And this is great news for your Java developers! 

Since it:
 

  • comes with a set of widely used tools (Maven, Eclipse, Spring, JUnit) that your team's already familiar with
  • uses an XML transformation language for presenting logic layers
  • supports multiple code languages: JavaScript, Ruby, Java, Python...
     

In short: your development team will face no problems writing custom code.
 

4. It  Enables You to Reuse Your Components

Here's another reason that makes a great answer, alone, to your “Why Mule ESB?” question! Unlike other integration platforms out there, this one enables reusability!

Your team's empowered to reuse your infrastructure's components. Therefore, it enables them to run the existing ones since it doesn't call for Mule-specific code.
 

5. It's Ideally Lightweight

Mule ESB does, indeed, stand out from a “weight” point of view. Moreover, thanks to its modular design you get to make it even lighter by removing all the modules that you won't use.

While thanks to its configuration model you get to easily add, re-order and upgrade functionality sparing the time you'd otherwise invest in implementing changes to your existing integrations instead.
 

And this is THE list! The one including 5 key reasons why Mule ESB could make a great choice when you consider using an integration platform within your company.

Are there any other ESB products competing with it for your appreciation? Are these 5 reasons not convincing enough or have you already identified possible drawbacks balancing them? Do share your thoughts!

Oct 05 2017
Oct 05

To Shopify or not to Shopify? And why shouldn't you? It's an all-in-one, turn-key shopping cart solution after all: it takes care of all there's needed for your store to run smoothly, while you get to focus on those details that will make it stand out from the crowd. Yet, convenience does come with a cost (or several of them): a customization cost, the cost of having only basic discount and shipping cost models, per order transaction fees and so on. So is Shopify the best option for your own online store or not?

There's only one simple way to answer it: weighing its most tempting pros and its most discouraging cons. 

Here are 6 of each that our team at our web design company in Toronto, has selected for you:
 

6 Reasons for Running Your Online Store on Shopify

1. You Get an Impressive Collection of Great Looking Themes to Choose From

And you should, indeed, feel “spoiled” by such a wide collection of themes at your fingertip! Both free and premium.

If you're a start-up, stay reassured: your e-commerce website will still look sharp and professional with a free Shopify theme. This way, you can take off the table the costs of hiring a designer when you plan your initial financing.

As you grow, as a business, you can always jazz up your store with fancy, visually-arresting upgrades.

Note: The time you'd spend looking for a good and “not so expensive” designer you could invest in high-quality photography and other visual assets instead!

And the great thing when you start small and plan to grow your e-commerce business organically is that Shopify makes its theme system ideally accessible for designers. It will get easier for the design team that you'll choose, later on, to fine tune your virtual storefront.
 

2. It Provides Your Store With Security Features and Top Speed, By Default

“Is Shopify the best option for me?” When asking yourself this question the security and performance factors should weight heavy in your decision-making process:
 

  1. you expect your online store to be 100% safe for your customers; it should inspire trust so that they get confident enough to enter their card details
  2. you expect it to load fast; online shoppers are remorselessly “stingy” when it comes to the time they'd invest in waiting for a page to load
     

Well, you hit the nail right on the head with your two-in-one expectation here: Shopify takes off caching, compliance, worrying about hackers etc. off your shoulders.

And it lets you focus on running and growing your business instead!

Note: Money talks and... gets your back covered! It's no news that Shopify's been investing huge sums in software and security engineering.
 

3. It's an “All-Features-in-One” E-Commerce Platform

Are you quite “greedy” when it comes to the features that you'd want your e-commerce platform to provide you with, right out-of-the-box?

No need to be “reasonably demanding”. And no need to look any further than... Shopify.

It makes the “Swiss knife” type of shopping cart solution that you need for setting up and running your store, fully fledged, in no time:
 

  • it has built-in payment gateways support 
  • its themes are easily customizable
  • it makes implementing Google Analytics effortless
  • it empowers you to add and to remove your products nice and easy
     

And there's so much more to this bundle of conveniences that Shopify “spoils” you with as soon as you “unwrap” it!
 

4. You Can Rely on Its Excellent Customer Support Services

“Is Shopify the best option for my online store?” should turn into “Is there always a Shopify expert to get my back whenever I'm facing a problem?”

Luckily, Shopify's customer service is simply... outstanding! And it's the platform's own users' reviews that support our opinion: there's always an easy to reach Shopify expert ready to help you out... fast.

And this aspect gets particularly critical when you're tempted with tons of upgrades which, at some point, risk to guide you towards a dead end. Then you just need to call someone to... save the day!
 

5. You Get to Leverage Its Pre-Built Marketing Essentials Toolkit

So Shopify “spoils” you with outstanding customer service. On the other hand, its built-in digital marketing tools aren't out of the ordinary! Yet, they do make the utterly effective essential kit to meet all your online store's marketing needs:
 

  • it makes putting together landing pages easy
  • it's perfectly equipped for SEO: it allows meta descriptions, title tags, it's written in a clean, easy to crawl code
  • it handles issues of critical SEO importance for you by default (sitemap, Search Console, SSL, canonicals etc.)
     

In a few words: Shopify's marketing “toolbox” is limited to the essentials, the critically important ones, that it handles to perfection! 
 

6. It “Bundles Up” Tones of Add-Ons In Its App Store

Here's another strong pro to help you come up with a quick answer to your “Is Shopify the best option for my business?” dilemma: The Shopify App Store itself!

It's online store owners' “Wonderland”. An impressive collection of fancy apps that they get to plug right into their online stores.

It's also the meeting point between third-party developers and business owners looking to enhance their stores' out-of-the-box functionality. To make them stand out in their respective industries.

Some apps are free and some of them come with a price tag on.

Is there an app perfectly tailored to your online store's needs that you're searching for?
 

  1. you could search for a developer to build if for you
  2. but not before you've dug through the wide collection of add-ons already available in the Shopify App Store
     

Note: by far the most intriguing add-on that Shopify “tempts” you with” is its Buy button itself:

  • the idea of selling your products outside your online store might be... puzzling you at first
  • and still, it provides you with so much flexibility: you get to sell your products wherever on the web without the need to actually set up an online store
     

“Is Shopify The Best Option for My Business?” 6 Reasons To Doubt It

1. It Limits Your Customization Options

Out-of-the-box convenience does come with a price when using Shopify as your e-commerce platform! And this price is given by all the restrictions imposed on your site's architecture.

And implicitly by the customization limitations deriving from there!

It's true, though, you can still hire a good developer to tweak things on your store, yet... this comes with a risk, as well: that of messing up the core code.

A major con, indeed, when you expect to get unlimited freedom for fine tuning your e-commerce site's functionality to your liking!
 

2. Customization Does Come, But At a Cost

And your legitimate question, “Is Shopify the best option for me?” becomes “Is Shopify, in fact, a restrictive, risky and costly e-commerce solution?”

On one hand, you have a huge community of third-party developers ready to get any “tweaking job” done for you.

Yet, on the other hand:
 

  • Shopify comes with its proprietary code language, Liquid: so the chosen developer(s) will need to know Liquid to be able to customize anything about your store; they can't “get away” with using PHP when “maneuvering” templates
     
  • needless to add that overly specialized developers are more expensive
     
  • you can't make just small tweaks: you need to engage in full customization processes 
     
  • getting your hands (or your developers' hands) dirty in Shopify's base code does interfere with the software's warranty
     
  • by tweaking your Shopify's store base code you run the risk to ruin it and to find it challenging plugging in future add-ons (which call for the out-of-the-box Shopify code to work)
     

Decisions, decisions! 
 

3. Its Built-In Blogging Features Are Simply... Unremarkable

Can you imagine your content strategy without a blog?

Unfortunately, Shopify's out-of-the-box blogging capabilities could be better. If compared with Wordpress's, for instance, they seem... basic. 

So, if you have big plans for your blog:
 

  • to turn it into a true organic traffic “magnet”
  • into a “channel” for informing customers about your products and about your brand's values
  • into a tool for increasing social shares
  • … and for building customer communities
     

… then Shopify's blogging software is not built to properly “fuel” your plans.

Just make sure you're prepared for this inconvenience!
 

4. It Can Handle Basic Discount Scenarios Only 

Don't expect Shopify to cope with all your upsell scenarios, with all those complex discount models that you might have in mind. 

For it can handle “one discount per order” models only. So, it's pointless to put together all kinds of complex (“buy one get one free”, multiple discount codes per order etc.) types of structures.

Not only that Shopify's not built to handle them, but you might be tempted to “adapt” your discount models to this inconvenience. To create several variants of a product, each one with its own price.

Don't! You will only end up messing your inventory system!
 

5. It Charges a Per Sale Transaction Fee

These fees add up to your monthly store plan and come on top of the credit card fees. 

And from this point of view Shopify can be discouraging both for a start-up business owner and for one already selling in a high volume on his/her online store:
 

  1. as a start-up, you don't know, from the start, how much you'll end up selling on your e-commerce website
  2. as a business already selling in high volumes the calculation of these transaction fees changes, so fees will start to add up gradually
     

In short: you can't avoid transaction fees, no matter how much you're actually selling on your Shopify store; still, if you want to save a percentage point you'll need to increase your sales to make those “savings” count.
 

6. It Can't Handle Complex Shipping Cost Models

Unfortunately, it's true! Since Shopify's built primarily as a shopping cart solution for small to medium-sized business, it's designed to handle basic, single orders only.

In other words, it's not well equipped for all the complexities that wholesalers' orders involve:
 

  • calculating real-time shipping cost
  • orders that include multiple product sizes, multiple boxes
     

In conclusion: Shopify's out-of-the-box shipping models can handle basic shipping needs only. If you're dealing with more complex ones on your online store, you might consider having a third-party app developed for you!

The END! What do you say? Have we succeeded, through our Shopify pros and cons list here, in helping you find the answer to your valid question: “Is Shopify the best option for my business?”

Sep 28 2017
Sep 28

All the worldwide-known e-commerce brands that these two e-commerce platforms power are equally impressive. They're both well-built, widely-used, ideally customizable and scalable. In short: they're equally tempting. And this is what turns any Magento vs Drupal Commerce comparison into such a frustrating “dare”!

In vain you'll let yourself seduced by one's “promise” to help you get your online store up and running in no time if it turns out that it's not built to handle your high-volume store or your entire “ecosystem” of online stores. And in vain you fall for one of the 2 e-commerce platforms' irresistible load of features and customization options if it doesn't empower everyone in your team, even the non-technie staff, to tweak various aspects of your website.

See? It's nothing but a question of “which features, which functionalities” are relevant for your own e-commerce business. And which one of the 2 platforms can deliver the most of them.

Now let's indulge in an overview of both Magento and Drupal Commerce's feature sets, shall we?
 

But First: A few Words About Magento 

Magento's an e-commerce software platform built as an open source solution for eBay (who owned it until 2015), effortlessly “seducing” both developers and business owners with its:

  • enterprise-level tools and functionalities (e.g. “sophisticated” search capabilities, such as multiple filters that users can apply to their product searches, prompts etc.)
  • tones of possibilities for customization
  • unmatched scalability 
  • capabilities for managing complex product assortments
  • deep integration with eBay (obviously!)
     

And Now: A Couple of Things About Drupal Commerce That You Should Know

"What is Drupal Commerce?" A two-in-one CMS and integrated e-commerce platform! Or an e-commerce platform built on Drupal CMS if you prefer, designed to help users set up versatile online stores and apps having Drupal as their foundation!

And this is precisely what tempted and eventually convinced its users to run their online store on it: its incredible versatility! Practically it's a plug and play solution enabling you to set up your e-commerce website anywhere within your environment and it's easy to tweak to fit perfectly your specific way of doing business in the e-commerce arena!

And there's more! Non-technical staff of your team gets to implement changes and to “experiment”, so say “Hello!” to unlimited extensibility and flexibility.

Note: Drupal Commerce does require separate installation and configuration from Drupal core, do take this aspect into account!

Bottom line Drupal:

  • “plays well” with third-party systems
  • seamlessly connects content to products and comes packed with tones of modules that you can use for adding on (even) more functionality to your online store and for making it grow along with your business needs and goals
     

In short: Magento vs Drupal Commerce debate the latter is an A-lister in terms of flexibility and versatility!
 

A Magento vs Drupal Commerce Comparison: 8 Criteria to Consider 

1. Ease of Setup

Drupal Commerce: 

  • if you already have Drupal Core installed, setting up and configuring Drupal Commerce, as well, will be... nothing but a child's game: download, load, install the package
  • if not, you'll need to go through the slightly more complex Drupal CMS installation process and then enable Drupal Commerce 
  • and there's also a third option, where you go for an installation profile allowing you to install Drupal Commerce on its own
     

Overall, both Drupal Commerce and Magento empower their users to get them installed from the ground up. 
 

2. Maintenance Costs 

Both shopping cart platforms are open-source projects, therefore, they're both free to use.

And yet, depending exclusively on your specific business needs, there are certain costs adding up.

Drupal Commerce: 

  • is completely free except for the hosting fees
  • it's Commerce Guys that provides the Drupal Commerce users with various levels of support, each level having its own price points
     

Magento: 

  • also free to use, apart from the hosting costs
  • as your e-commerce business grows you get to extend your website's functionality with various Magento extensions; for a fee, of course
     

3. Adaptability and Customization 

Customization is undoubtedly one of the key criteria in any Magento vs Drupal Commerce comparison. No business owner with a long-term vision would want to tie his company's future to a rigid e-commerce platform. 

So, the more freedom granted to the end-user, the more “power under the hood”, the more “attractive” a shopping cart solution becomes, right?

Drupal Commerce: 

  • is incredibly customizable by nature (for we're talking about a modular nature)
  • you get to tailor it to your business needs, implement new enhancements, experiment, add new features (and go beyond the “traditional” e-commerce-specific ones) thanks to Drupal CMS backing it up
  • enables you to “tweak” its look, as well, going through the whole collection of Drupal themes and doing a little bit of design work
     

Magento:

  • is entirely customizable if you do have a Magento specific expertise or you can afford a Magento development team instead
  • comes packed with a heavy load of “tempting” features to “turbocharge” your online store with ranging from zoomable images, to “narrow down” search”, responsive design, promotional options, reviews, calls to action etc. 
  • the sky is the limit, along with expertise and creativity, when it comes to customizing both your Magento site's appearance and functionality
     

4. Third-Party System Ecosystems

Drupal Commerce: 

  • integrates with a whole variety of third-parties, yet it has a “weakness” for social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) 
  • “bids on” customer communities”, user review sharing, connecting content to products (and thus influencing purchases, reaching out to new potential customers etc.)
  • to the list of third-party systems that Drupal integrates with we could add: Xero, SagePay, Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, web-based devices
     

Magento:

  • it's a simple and straightforward integration, with most major players (Payone, Facebook, eBay, Mandrill, BeeTailer, Windows, Mac, Android), that you get to leverage when running your online store on this e-commerce platform 
  • and the ecosystem of third-parties that you can easily “inject” into your Magento online store will turn out to be some great “allies” for crafting user-tailored experiences (you get to tailor your future sales and special offers according to your shoppers' profiles or “shopping histories”); Magento's built to draw huge influxes traffic, no doubt about it!
     

5. Target Market 

Drupal Commerce: 

  • makes an ideal “plug and play” shopping cart solution for both individuals and e-commerce businesses
  • enables you to have your versatile online store up and running in no time  
  • also empowers you to boost your product marketing campaigns with great content (since Drupal's been primarily designed for content management)
     

Magento:

  • if Drupal's a perfect fit for small businesses, in particular, Magento, on the other hand, is built to power businesses with high-volume of sales, managing “clusters” of online stores
  • Magento Enterprise, in particular, makes the perfect choice for enterprise-level e-commerce businesses, as it comes “loaded” with tones of enterprise-level tools and features to customize high-volume, high-trafficked online stories with
     

6. SEO Support 

Drupal Commerce: 

  • Drupal has the edge on SEO, undoubtedly, thanks to its entire “ecosystem” of SEO-specialised modules that you get to enable onto your website (and you sure aren't short on choice when it comes to Drupal SEO modules: Google Analytics, URL management, Robots.text generator, Site Map Generator etc.)
     

Magento:

  • if in Drupal you have a whole set of modules at hand to enable and to install, in Magento you get your SEO tools right out of the box; they're pre-built into the platform 
  • enables you to tweak your URLs,  to double check search terms, to adjust your category and product information etc.
     

Overall: although Drupal does have the edge, in the Magento vs Drupal Commerce “competition” there's no “winner”. They're both remarkably SEO-friendly.
 

7. Web Hosting

Although they're both open source projects, none of the 2 e-commerce platforms is self-hosted. So, make sure to “squeeze in” the hosting fees when you plan out your budget!
 

8.  Ease of Use 

Drupal Commerce: 

  • if you already have a website/app running on Drupal, so you're familiar with the Drupal codebase, UI and development practices, learning how to use Drupal Commerce is... piece of cake
  • yet, if you're new to Drupal, you might find it a bit challenging at first
     

Magento:

  • it does “spoil” its users with advanced tools and customization features and it does grant them total control, yet they do need to be “Magento experts” in order to handle all of Magento's “powers”, all the coding, design and development processes
  • in short: consider leaving your Magento site's setup and configuration to some Magento professionals; it's a powerful e-commerce platform, packed with an overwhelming set of robust features, yet it does take Magento expertise to handle them right
     

And this is our list of the most important criteria to use when making your own Magento vs Drupal Commerce” comparison.

So, which is the clincher? That criterion that makes you decide for one or the other?

We sure hope this post will steer you in the right direction: choosing not THE best e-commerce platform from these 2 rivaling ones in the e-commerce arena, but THE best one for YOUR own e-commerce business' particularities and for YOUR own goals as a business owner!

Sep 19 2017
Sep 19

It's time you went beyond data focused on events frozen in time (“a user clicked on a certain link at a certain moment during his/her customer journey on your site”) and traditional metrics (e.g. page views)! Time you dug deeper than the surface level of “which visitors clicked on which links?”!

It's time you turned all that massive load of raw data that you've collected so far into customer behavior patterns! Into actionable insights!

Reading and fully understanding your customers' digital behaviors will help you “influence” their next buying journeys on your website/app. This is both the beauty and the power of behavioral analytics!

A power too great not to use it for turning your first-time visitors into highly engaged customers! One enabling you to make the right offers to the right segment of your audience, at precisely the right time in their shopping journey on your website!

Let's detail now, shall we?
 

First Things First: What Is Behavioral Analytics?

A straightforward answer would be: “behavioral analytics is about focusing on the “why” and “how” a user ended up taking a certain action on your website (buying a product, leaving a web page right away, clicking a link etc.).” 

A more “refined” answer would have to be: “behavioral analytics is analyzing your raw data in order to “extract” actionable information about your customers' digital behavior”. 

And last, a much more “sophisticated” answer: “behavioral analytics is piecing out all the apparently unrelated data points and putting together your customer's buying story! A story including all those actions (or “chapters” if you want) that he/she took for achieving his final goal (making a booking, purchasing a product, subscribing to your newsletter etc.)"

Take behavioral analytics as your set of user behavior analyzing tools that help you go from generic questions such as “What action did visitor “X” take on my website?”, to questions like:
 

  • "What precisely made him/her buy that specific item or click on that particular link (so you can then anticipate and even influence his/her future shopping decisions)?" Was it the offer itself, tailor-made to his personal preferences, or the fact that it included a “tempting” number of items?
     
  • "What other items did he/she scanned through, compared to those that he actually purchased in the end?"
     
  • "How does this user behavior data differ by traffic sources?"
     

Analyze user behavior data. Detect patterns. Take action!

Use the actionable insights you get to make the right adjustments and, obviously, to improve your conversions!
 

There's So Much Valuable Data Out There Still Waiting to Be Harnessed

“... that goes beyond the conventional page clicks, user purchases or traffic type of data”

So, why not go beyond the “obvious”? How about standing out from the crowd of e-commerce business owners who still consider that traffic and page clicks are the only actionable information they could possibly get their hands on?

Behavioral analytics is made of all non-conventional data just sitting there, waiting to be “capitalized”:
 

  • social media data
  • internal text data
     

You'd better start valuing this type of data, as well, if you want to remain relevant in this customer-centric “jungle”, which is the digital arena. This means getting your “hands dirty”:
 

  • putting together holistic customer profiles
  • segmenting customer bases
  • organizing your observations into multiple groups of customers
     

And it's by analyzing all this “un-exploited” data left there, “in the dark”, that you'll get to understand your visitors' behaviors. What makes them connect with your brand or, on the contrary, reject it!
 

Identify The Issues First and Select the Data to Be Analyzed Accordingly

Rushing in and greedily collecting all the user behavior data you could possibly get, in a desperate need to read your customers' digital body languages, won't take you too far!

Take your time to clearly identify the specific issues that you need to solve on your e-commerce website/web app, first and foremost.

To “detect” all those particular “sore points” in your e-commerce business so you can build your behavioral analytics-based strategy accordingly! 

If not, all the metrics out there, all the collected data and tests that you'll run will slowly, but surely lead you to “analysis paralysis”.

In other words: what type of conversion/traffic issues do you need to address with your data?
 

From Stats Pointing Out The Problems to Those Identifying The Causes

And this is precisely the key difference between event-based analytics and behavioral analytics:
  

  • while the first type of stats point out to you the problems only 
  • the second gives you a deeper understanding of the causes (why was it that customer “X” clicked on that link or purchased that item over another one?)
     

If you want to “decipher” your users' digital behavior towards your website/web app, you'll just need to pay attention to the right kind of analytics!

Moreover, it requires that you:
 

  • segment your customer base and “tailor” targeted offers for them
  • analyze your customers' purchase history 
  • examine your customers' profiles as online shoppers on your e-commerce store
     

… so you should be able to predict their future behaviors as shoppers on your website and to use these results for your next marketing campaign.
 

"How Does Understanding Users' Digital Behavior Impact My Business Specifically?"
 

  1. it “empowers” you to turn your customer behaviors from unpredictable to predictable
     
  2. it enables you to actually shape your their customer journeys, their next decisions as customers on your website
     

… and this is what power, from any e-commerce business owner's standpoint, is all about! 

Bottom line: behavioral analytics, when harnessed right, offers you precisely those actionable insights that will empower you to actively influence each one of your customer segments' decision journeys! 

Sep 01 2017
Sep 01

Diagnosis before treatment, right? Rushing in to optimize your website, to give it a major boost in SERPs, without having first properly determined which are its “sore points” is like...  shooting a bow and arrow blindfolded! You need to identify the low quality pages on your site first things first!

Before Google does...

Let's find out precisely which signals determine Google to “label” a site as low or high quality website. Then, let us give you some suggestions on what key metrics to focus on and how to combine them for addressing those “detected” low-quality pages more efficiently.
 

Features of a “High-Quality Website” in Google's Eyes

What's Google's definition of “quality”? You obviously need to clarify this aspect before you can, yourself, sort the pages on your site into “low quality” and “high quality” pages.

Here are the most relevant “indicators” that make for a “valuable” web page in Google's eyes:

  • unique content 
     
  • plenty of other websites/external sources linking to it
     
  • high-quality pages (even from your own website) linking to it
     
  • uniquely valuable content: reaching for “uniqueness” is no longer enough; aiming for a certain uniqueness providing value to the searchers, that's the latest standard that Google sets these days
     
  • content that meets the searchers' needs, that fully answers the question they Google
     
  • non-written content is backed by text alternatives (ALT attributes for images, video transcriptions for video content etc.)
     
  • “easy-to-digest” content that's nicely structured, which enhances readability and comprehension
     
  • correctly spelled content with zero grammar mistakes: unless you want to witness Google removing your featured snippets from the search results
     
  • optimal page load time
     
  • fully responsive, accessibility-supporting UI and intuitive UX 
     

Hardly Relevant Metrics For Determining a Page's Value

“With so many seemingly actionable metrics at my fingertip, which ones should I be tracking in fact?” you say? Well, not the following ones (taken as “raw data” can be misleading) for a start:

  • non-contextualized bounce rate: a high bounce rate is not implicitly an “alarming” signal; your content could still be meeting their needs and answering their questions; if it's simple questions that they need to find answers to, once your visitors get them, they''... leave your site!
     
  • organic traffic: if visitors keep accessing a certain page on your website, it doesn't automatically mean that its content is “high quality”! They could keep coming in for some totally different reasons, like the long-tail keywords that this page's content is “stuffed” with, for instance
     
  • time spent on site: since lengthy visits on your site could also mean that your users are “desperately” looking for the information they need and which is not easily accessible to them; or that they're striving to close the entire “avalanche” of pop-ups that you welcome them with on your website
     
  • assisted conversions: even though it doesn't live up to your expectations in terms of conversion rate, it still doesn't mean that this page's content is necessarily low quality; maybe you just need to change its target audience segment for example
     

Context is everything in these metrics' cases! So, don't take this data for granted when putting together your site optimization strategy. They might just reveal to you only half truths and mislead you to take the wrong actions!
 

Metrics That DO Help You Identify The Low Quality Pages on Your Site

For (even) more efficiency, put together combos of these metrics here! They are the signals to watch out for when you try to identify the low quality pages on your site:

Engagement metrics: 

  • external and internal
     
  • total number of visits
     
  • closely analyze your visitors' behavior once they land on your web pages (per visit)
     

When they leave your currently examined web page, do they leave it for another web page on your site, do they keep browsing through or do they go back to the Google's search results page instead?

That is the question! Answer it and you'll identify the low quality pages on your site!

Off-site performance indicators: 

  • external links
     
  • social shares: an “intensively” shared page of your website might not meet your visitors' needs, yet it could still provide high-quality content (since it's “shareable”)
     
  • linking root domains
     

Index-based metrics

  • type site: http://enteryourdomainhere.com into Google's search box or bar and you'll get the list of all the indexed pages on your website
     
  • look for duplicate content: multiple URLs can show up when you type in the URL of your site or the one of a specific page on your website; and that signals a “uniqueness issue” you should handle asap
     
  • deep-analyze the pages that rank for their own title
     
  • evaluate the click-through rates showing up in Google Search Console 
     

You Can Take It From Here...

Now that you've broken that “aura” of mystery surrounding Google's own tactics for “grading” web pages it's time to... get your hands dirty!

We suggest you to organize your page URLs in some sort of spreadsheet (a basic one would be just fine) and to sort them into three different categories:

  1. the high-quality pages
     
  2. the pages that require fixing here and there: the ones that need addressing
     
  3. the “weak links”: meaning the low-quality ones, of course; do make an experiment (so make sure you make copies first and foremost) and see if you can track any notable improvements once you remove this bulk of zero-value pages from your website
     

How about you? Have you got any other techniques up your sleeve in order to identify the low quality pages on your site before Google does? 

Aug 03 2017
Aug 03

Wasn't it just yesterday” that marketers would “stuff” loads and loads of keywords into their digital content? Long gone are those days when the roles of “keyword collector” and “links hunter” were so hype! Completely different jobs and roles lie ahead, in the future of digital marketing!

Staying relevant, as a digital marketer, in the context of:
 

  1. globalized futuristic technologies 
  2. people being “insatiable” for innovation 
     

… means creating “experiences that people want to consume” (Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction)

And even though we don't own some sort of crystal ball that would tell us for sure what the marketing space has in store down the road, this industry, too, has its leaders. And their guesses do weight a lot!

Which experimental digital marketing jobs of the present will make it big in the future to come? Here are 5 of these next-generation roles in digital marketing, the ones that are most likely to turn from "eccentric" to... indispensable in the years to come:
 

1. Machine-Learning Engineer 

How could our algorithmic present world not give rise to a specific job for the future of digital marketing?

Delivering “just” digital content will be hardly enough in the years to come: content blackened-up by machine-learning algorithms and statistics will the be the only “relevant” one in the future!

And here are the skills defining the profile of a machine-learning engineer:
 

  • proficiency in programming
  • a working knowledge of ML techniques
  • fluent in coding (a hands-on experience coding in Scala or Python)
  • statistics (mathematics, physics) expertise
     

In short: a machine-learning engineer is a kind of 2-in-1, expert statisticians-passionate programmer!
 

2. Bot Developer 

Virtual assistants are part of our day-to-day lives. They join us when we travel and we need to find the best place to eat or we simply get lost; they accompany us on our shopping sprees and the list of interactions can go on...

So, it's pretty obvious that, since people slowly, but surely, grow “dependent” on bots (since they make our lives easier), bot developer roles will be in high-demand in the near future!

Here's what you should check off your list of knowledge, talents and gained expertise:
 

  • preferably an undergraduate degree in computer science 
  • familiarity with design, linguistics, engineering, ethic and natural language processing 
  • strong understanding of interactive language arts 
  • content writing talent 
  • a solid background in game and interface design
     

Major tip: now if you want to be two (or three) steps ahead of this portrayed future of digital marketing, opting for a niched domain (and implicitly gaining a niched expertise, too) will “future-proof” your job!
 

3. Mixed-Reality Designer 

Since mixed-reality's at the intersection of art and science, if you're passionate about graphic design and drawn to the emerging tech sector, you're on the right path already!

Besides these two passions of yours (design and emerging technologies), here's what you should consider identifying or adding to your list of competences, talents and acquired knowledge:
 

  • a degree in computer animation or graphic design 
  • a working knowledge (if not a hands-on experience) of user experience design, social psychology
  • proven storytelling skills (telling stories through computer images is a talent/skill you can't afford to ever stop polishing)
  • some level of experience working with Unity3D
     

4. VR Editor 

“Constant seekers of the new”, “early adopters of innovative technologies”, “visionaries” and “advocates of the video's power to”:
 

  • persuade
  • inform
  • inspire
     

This is how VR editors could be briefly described! 

Virtual reality is no longer a “too eccentric, too sci-fi like” type of technology.

It stands all the chances to turn into a technological realty (think Google Cardboard for instance!). So, people “crazy” enough to shape facets of this virtual reality will be constantly needed in the future of digital marketing!

If you're considering such a role, make sure you fit the following profile:
 

  • hands-on experiences with Unity3D and Adobe Creative Cloud
  • extensive experience in applying the object-oriented development patterns
  • passionate about video arts
  • some sort of project management experience 
     

And we feel like stressing out that: besides all the tech competencies that you should pile up on your resume, it's vital to genuinely perceive video as a powerful channel aimed to move, inspire, inform (and all the other above-mentioned “roles”)
 

5. IoT Marketing Strategist: An Indispensable Role in The Future of Digital Marketing

With a number of 8.4 billion connected devices by the end of 2017, worldwide, some kind of robust strategies for handling these “chit-chatting” devices are needed.

Therefore, the role of IoT marketing strategist will become a both common and indispensable one by 2020.

And here's what an IoT marketing strategist's resume should highlight:
 

  • his/her telecommunication engineering background 
  • laser-focused skills in radio frequency technology, automobiles, wearables, retail sensors, digital signage
     

Note: your “vision”, if we may call it so, as a potential IoT marketing strategist, should be one where human-machine interactions happen in the most natural way.

And these are the 5 most promising jobs (now perceived as “experimental”) which leaders in the marketing industry bid on and forecast that will shape the future of digital marketing. What's your opinion on this topic? Will these 5 roles be in high-demand in a few years or rather get replaced, in short time, by the ones emerging from the next wave of innovation?

Jul 18 2017
Jul 18

Beware of visual content taking over the web or... even better: embrace the trend and stay on top of it! Maximize its potential to your brand's full advantage! Simply rely on some of the most powerful image recognition tools for “scanning the visual web”, for analyzing how your company's images and logos are being used. And by whom!

Remaining deaf to all the possible “threats” lurking out there, in the visual web, and blind to all the opportunities that all those publicly shared images might carry is such a reckless thing to do!

“Visually listen” to the user-generated content involving your brand! Deep analyze and collect priceless data from those scanned images and you'll manage to:
 

  • grasp a more accurate understanding of how your brand's being currently perceived, of how users interact with it
  • gain an in-depth knowledge of your customers 
  • turn the collected data into a valuable resource for hyper targeted demographic segments 
  • supercharge your marketing strategy with a “visual listening” strategy, too
     

And now that we've pointed out to you the “whys”, let us reveal to you the “hows”, too! The best 5 image recognition tools that you could use for “visually listening” to both your customers and your competitors:
 

An AI vision software whose developers have taken image recognition to a whole new level! A whole new level of machine learning tasks automation!

The whole image recognition technology powering the IMB Image Detection, supported by its Power AI toolset, enables it to “interpret” the images' contents: faces, approximate age, “rotten” food, gender, a clothing item's fashion style etc.

And there's more! To its “out-of-the-box” image detection and visual content “understanding” power, add the flexibility that it offers you, the brand using it, to actually tailor its “detection tasks” to your own needs. 

Take this scenario for instance:

"You own a grocery store and you get to use this image recognition software that scans products during the checkout process and instantly signals to you the... spoiled veggies, let's say."

Now only that it's “powerful” by default and that it empowers you to adapt its image analysis tasks to your brand's specific needs, but it's developed with easiness of use in mind, as well! 

Your developers get to tailor the software's image detection tasks and to deploy the image recognition models right away!
 

The team of “visionaries” behind this in-image advertising platform has launched a new image detection software that will enable your marketing team to track down, by scanning through the visual web, the most suitable photos for their brand.

It might still be the “new kid on the block” when it comes to image recognition tools, yet it sure is a highly promising one. 

Now what this visual intelligence software actually does is help your brand “activate imagery”, as these folks like to describe their new “baby's” mission! It's developed to supercharge your advertising campaigns with the most relevant pictures on the web.

Just sit back and let it do the job of an entire team for you! It will dig deep into the visual content on the web and pick precisely those images that compliment your brand!

And when we say that you can relax, sit back and... sip a cup off coffee, we literally mean that: where do you add that this computer vision platform can collect, assimilate and analyze all the key social media data for you!

Speaking of convenience in terms of turning images into powerful insights to fuel your marketing campaigns with, right?
 

Do you know how your logo's performing on the “immense” scene of the visual web? What visual content is “starring” it or how “popular” it is on social media, for instance? Who's using/sharing it and how everyday people and other brands are interacting with it?

It's time you closely monitored your logo's “activity”!

And LogoGrab is the only one from our list of image recognition tools here that's specialized in “tracking down” brand logos only! In detecting and analyzing all the images on the web containing a certain brand's logo.

A “logo” detection technology!

Harness its power to track down even just parts of your brand's logo and turn the collected data into powerful insights.

You get to:
 

  • find out the circumstances when your logo's being misused
  • gain a crystal-clear view of all the images featuring your products that get publicly shared on social media
  • (overall) gain powerful insights deriving from spotting and digging through the entire content across the visual web that contains your logo (or just parts of it)
     

4. Google Lens, One of The Revolutionary Image Recognition Tools 

“A picture is worth a thousand words” will become more than just a “saying”, for it will gain its literal meaning thanks to Google Lens!

The giant search engine's launched an AI-driven visual search app, supercharged with powerful visual recognition capabilities, meant to revolutionize the way brands connect with their customers. A visual recognition technology that we here, at our Toronto web design agency, are looking forward to witness growing into a major digital trend.

Predictions around it say that:
 

  • it will cut down the middle man, since each object/product surrounding your potential customers can easily get identified and presented to them by the app itself (providing them with plenty of relevant information and suggestions, as well)
     
  • it will make it even more important for brands to have a psychical presence that customers can easily connect to (take Amazon's retail space as a more than relevant example!)
     
  • it will gradually “force” brands to have a distinctive visual identity (thus making it easier for the Google's AI-driven technology to locate and identify your store/restaurant etc.)
     

Now let's talk facts, shall we? Let's talk easy-to-be-turned-into-reality scenarios where Google Lens' vision-based computing capabilities would simply open up the era of “the real-world search”:
 

  1. a given user, standing in front of a restaurant, still hesitant whether he should enter or not, can easily take a photo of it and Google Lens will instantly provide him with the restaurant's name, ratings and other relevant info 
     
  2. a given user can take a photo of his router and Google Lens can automatically scan and memorize the “impossible” password written on it and connect that WiFi network in a bit
     
  3. a Google Lens-powered “camera” could easily scan the products in a grocery store and instantly display their prices, eliminating the need of running them, one by one, over the scan bar
     

In short: Google Lens's developing team promises us a technology leveraging computer learning for interpreting any given image and, moreover, for delivering users real-time information and recommendations, too. 
 

Organize and use your visual content to its full potential by leveraging Clarifai's visual recognition APIs!

How you get to do that? And how can you, later on, take full advantage of having perfectly structured your image collection? 

Here's how:
 

  • it makes filtering out unsafe user-generated visual content so convenient 
     
  • it speeds up and even allows you to customize your image searching and sorting techniques (for instance, you get to sort the results by your logo)
     
  • it automatically tags all your pictures by content and thus perfectly organizes your inventory 
     
  • it offers you the so much more convenient (and here we go back again to the “a picture if worth a...” theory) query with an image option, making searching through your own gallery so much more effective 
     
  • it instantly fills in your product images catalog with search-able tags (a win-win situation: you can forget all about manually “tagging” an entire image database and your customers get only visual content that's relevant for their queries)
     

In a few words: Clarifi makes a powerful visual intelligence AI which can easily rival powerful image recognition tools such as the IBM Image Detection or the so very-praised Google Lens!

How about you? Have you triggered any of these image recognition technologies' capabilities to your brand's advantage? Or maybe you've tried other image recognition tool(s) instead? Do share!

Jul 14 2017
Jul 14

Tell your stories with... numbers! Craft data-focused content to keep your company blog's readers “hooked”! And no, it's no “utopia”: you can turn raw data into alluring content.

It all depends on whether you manage to masterfully “exploit” it, on how you harness it!

Speaking of it, here are 4 avenues to “spice” up your data and turn it into blog content that resonates with your readers and captivates:
 

1. Relate Your Data to Your Target Audience

Serving your readers nothing but a big chunk of “raw” data will only get them an instant... “indigestion”! Not even 1% of them will go all the way to the end of your blog post.

And why should they? Data is “machine talk”, not human talk!

In other words: you'll need to dig deep though your “raw” data and select the “relatable” one only!

The one that will your readers will instantly resonate with. 

So, before you go on and dig deep into your heavy load of data, how about trying to set up a couple of criteria that you could select and group them by? These can be:
 

  • geographical
  • economical
  • social
  • cultural criteria
     

More often than not, it's the geographical criterion that prevails. And, in this respect, it's precisely those “enviable” data-driven pieces of content that already earned lots of traffic that make the best examples!

And how do you get to craft your own geographical data-based piece of content that will act like a magnet for your readers/potential customers? Here are 2 handy approaches for you to adopt:

  • harness your Google Adwords data and craft a blog post that all your potential customers, living in different regions of your country, could easily relate to
     
  • use the Google Keyword Planner and target the city of your company's headquarters and, based on the generated data, run a comparison to other cities in your country

It's a proven fact: once they'll see their city's, their state's or their country's names listed in your blog post, included in a comparison with other cities, states and countries, your readers will instinctively grow curious about your data-focused content!

We're all emotionally connected to a certain location on this globe and whenever we read/hear its name, an inner bell rings!

And it's the same thing with all the other aforementioned criteria that sets us apart and define us (the cultural, biological, economical ones and so on).
 

2. Show Off Your First Party Data

You're sitting on a “gold mine”, no doubt about that! 

That's right, you have huge first party data resources that you could show off to your readers in the form of enticing pieces of content! They're right there, at your fingertips! You just need to "strategically exploit" it, to turn raw data into alluring content.

And no, there's no such thing as “I do not have an impressive user data or unique data-generating sources to go to. I haven't piled up any data that my readers could possibly be fascinated with”.

Dig deeper! Any online business owner has at least an active Google Analytics account.

See? There's a start! Now keep digging!

When it comes to making that “raw” data fascinating, that's:
 

  1. part knowing precisely what data to hand pick (the one that your readers would resonate with, remember?)
  2. part placing it in the right context
     

That's all!

And speaking of sources of first party data, here are 3 unique data generators that our team here, at our web development agency in Toronto, recommends to you:
 

  1. Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Search Console data: they all contain unique, valuable user data that only you and your team have access to. Tap into these great resources of data, run your selection, add a sparkle of creativity, too, and turn it into the perfect “fuel” for that future viral post on your company blog! 
     
  2. survey data: can't underestimate the power of user surveys! Leverage the collected results by turning them into interesting insights. For example, how about correlating personality-related answers with the type of products that your questioned customers usually shop on your e-commerce store? Wouldn't this personality traits-shopping preferences association make an attention-grabbing type of content for your readers?
     
  3. sales data: here's another insufficiently exploited “data gold mine”! Turn into interesting content that data revealing to you during which season(s) of the year or at what hours of the day your sales are at their highest. Are there certain events (holiday?) that this “peak” coincides with! Extra tip: use Google Correlate, such a handy tool that will point out to you exactly which keywords are relevant precisely to that sales data that you will have collected!
     

Take it from there: turn raw data into alluring content!
 

3. Do Share Your Data Set

An avenue that so many ignore! Don't be one of them!

Be smarter than that majority of webmasters/online business owners and, once you've crafted that data-driven piece of content that's going to “write history” on the web, remember to add your data set, too.

You never know when a big player in your market (and not just in your market, it could by an authority in any other related industry; take a news publication for instance) picks it up and uses it, turning it into a valuable links generator for you!
 

4. Add the Surprise Factor: A Sure Way to Turn Raw Data Into Alluring Content 

Isn't this a hard nut to crack? How could you intrigue and, even so more, “fascinate” your readers with... numbers? With data?

You get creative and spice those numbers a bit, that's how!

Here's a tried “recipe” that you could follow for crafting intriguing content out of numbers:
 

  1. you “frame it” in a rightly chosen context, one that will shade a new light on your data, making it stand out
     
  2. you provide an unexpected perspective (an historical perspective, for instance)
     
  3. you use comparison: nothing adds more meaning to “raw” data, nothing makes it more “intriguing” than getting it compared to other periods of time, to other locations where your products might have been used or other age groups of customers that might have bought one of your items etc.
     

Contextualize it and compare it! This is the (not so) secret “recipe” to follow whenever you want to turn raw data into alluring content!

Wrapping up:
 

  • harness precisely that data that relates to your target readers/customers (so, don't start digging through your whole data resource without this selection criterion in mind!)
     
  • put your numbers in a context 
     
  • come up with comparisons that will add intriguing perspectives to your provided data 
     

Now go ahead and turn raw data into alluring content for your company blog, removing “writer's block” from your vocabulary for good!

Jun 26 2017
Jun 26

It sure seems like it was... last century or in some sort of "prehistoric age of the web" when website owners or (even worse) SEO “gurus” would pile up their target keywords in the bottom of their web pages, going for white font against white backgrounds or for the all-black shady alternative. This was the “illegitimate” type of hidden content, now just a bad example from the “troubled” past of SEO.

It's the “legitimate” hidden text, instead, that prevails in the digital landscape of the present! That type of content popping up before your site visitors' eyes only once they've made a certain action. More often than not we're talking about clicking on a “Read more” link inserted in your article content.

And it's no trick, no intention to “fool” the visitor, to trick him/her into clicking on that link. Instead, he honestly wants to:
 

  • dig in for some more manufacture details about a certain product
     
  • gain access to extra informative content about a certain topic
     
  • or maybe to some product/service reviews etc.
     

But now the question that arises is: does Google weight this particular type of content, the legitimately hidden content, any less than the non-hidden one?

We all know it doesn't mark it as spammy and who would be more entitled to ensure us of that if not Google itself, through one of its representatives:

“It’s not deceptive, no one is trying to be manipulative, it’s easy to see that this text is intended for users. And so as long as you’re doing that, I wouldn’t be too stressed out.” (Matt Cutts)

And yet: does “legitimate” or “non-spammy” implicitly mean “valued equally”?

Let's shed some light on this “mystery” here and then allow us to offer you some possible solutions you could consider when you do need to use hidden text, loaded via CSS or JavaSript, on your website, but you still want to make sure Google won't “discredit it”. At least not as much as it will discredit it “by default” (for that's a “cruel” reality that you need to accept and to adapt your site's content and SEO strategy to):
 

But First: Why Do We Use JavaScript and CSS Hidden Content After All?

If we all (let's admit it!) have at least some remnants of doubts “lurking” in the back of our minds that hidden text (although legitimate) might not be weighted as high as the visible by default text, why is it such a big “trend” to hide certain parts of our content on our Drupal sites?

To keep using all kinds of cool JavaScript or/and CSS technology for technically hiding parts of our content and trigger it under certain, well-defined circumstances only (as already stated: when the user performs a certain action).

Let's point out 3 of the most common reasons:
 

  1. it makes a handy tracking method
     
  2. it works as an analytics tool, helping you collect user engagement-relevant data
     
  3. it can enhance user experience (an otherwise overly long piece of content can thus get shortened and it's the user who decides whether he clicks on the “read more” link and delves deeper into the text or not)

 
Visible Content By Default vs (Legitimately) Hidden Content from Google's Perspective

Let's assume that:
 

  1. on one particular page of your Drupal website you have a fully-visible piece of content (page A)
     
  2. on another page you have its shortened version along with the “Read more” link (page B) 
     

The link will, nevertheless, “unveil” the rest of the content on this last page from our example.

So, you're trying to rank for the same keyword on both of them and you have no “guilty” conscience that you might be doing something SEO-forbidden on page B. It's just technically hidden text and the user knows it!

Yet, Google will always treat these two types of content differently! And by “differently” we do mean “preferentially” when it comes to page A!

Just think about it: it has its text fully visible, entirely displayed, along with that target keyword that you're ranking for.

Instead, on page B, your keyword might appear a couple of times precisely on the hidden part of its content which, obviously, gets disadvantaged by Google.

Whenever you decide to hide a piece of content on your website Google will atomically start treating it as “less important”. Just ponder on this for a while before you jump on the trend of using all kinds of cool Javascript or CSS stuff in the name of web design and user experience!

Try and figure it out for yourself whether it's worth the compromise! A nice, minimalistic web page (with less heavy content) can also mean a poorly ranked one in Google.

To sum up: if it's important content (one carrying crucial keywords or any other type of data that you'd want Google to parse and give your website the due credit for) don't hide it! Not even if it's JavaScript or CSS technology that you're using for loading it! 

And, surprisingly enough, this “injustice” only happens in Google! Bing and Yahoo do treat legitimately hidden and non-hidden text equally!
 

But What if We Still Need to Use Hidden Content? Are There Any Safe Practices?

Let's imagine a real-life scenario where your SEO team has no choice but to give in to the strong arguments that their colleagues from the web design and content writing teams give them: certain texts on your company website should get hidden from users' view using CSS or JavaScript modern “tricks”.

What options do they have to strike this “compromise” without harming your online presence? Your company's whole SEO strategy?

Here are 2 best practices to consider:
 

  1. A brief, easy to close overlay always makes such an “innocent” little compromise (it won't harm your SEO plan and it still manages to carry out the “mission” that it will have gotten charged with: to hide a certain part of your text). Take it as engagement statistics 'collector”, too, as more than 90% of your visitors will rush in to click the “x” on your overlay before they rush in to scroll down.
     
  2. Consider placing the most “valuable” elements of your content (keywords, key phrases, key information), the ones that weight heavily in determining your site's ranking, in the non-hidden section of your text. Don't “sabotage” yourself by sprinkling these crucial elements across the post-loading content. 
     

In other words: if you do need to hide some of your text, don't hide the key ranking “boosters” and, also, consider going for an overlay element. 

It's not a question of “Google refusing to display your hidden JavaScript of CSS text”. It will still show up in search engine results page!

Just that it will be slightly disregarded and not equally ranked !

Now it's you who'll decide whether this compromise, although supported by the 2 aforementioned SEO best practices, is worth “sacrificing” your site's Google rank!

Jun 19 2017
Jun 19

It's data that shapes today's digital landscape! This is no news for any player in the online arena! From big data to small data, from data-backed-up decisions, to data-fueled digital strategies and data-driven web design, the online revolves around.... DATA. And yet, not just around powerful “raw” data, but around perfectly structured, easy to parse through data. And in this respect the Google Data Highlighter makes such an easy to use webmaster tool for setting up precisely these ideal data structures that Google can easily “crawl” through in order to better “assimilate” websites' particularities.   

It's been designed with easiness of use, low budgets and close to zero coding expertise in mind! So, it's meant to empower any webmaster/admin to get his/her Drupal site a big push up the search engine page results. It's meant to help site admins grow independent of the technical team, of time and budget constraints in their endeavor to put their Drupal sites into Google's spotlights!

Now, let's find out:
 

  1. Why you should be using Google data highlighter tool
     
  2. Which are the key advantages of this SEO webmaster tool
     
  3. How to use it for implementing structured data on your Drupal site
     
  4. Which are the imminent drawbacks that you should be aware of in order to make an informed decision when you add this tool to your whole SEO “arsenal”:
     

1. Why Do You Need Well Structured Data on Your Web Pages After All?

“Because Google doesn't have, not just yet, information of critical importance about your site and you should deliver it to the search engine."

Or better said: you should enhance its access to this information!

And this is some of the crucial data that you should make as easily to access  and “interpret” as possible:
 

  • your target audience
     
  • the frequency of web page updates on your Drupal site 
     
  • how accurate your website is 

And it's by tagging the main fields on your site, so via so called “microdata”, that you can easily deliver this key information about your site and in an easy to “digest” format, too. 

We're talking here about articles, event names, software applications, products and so many other types of information that you can turn into microdata and “serve on a silver plate” to Google itself!

So that Google gets to know your site and gains an in-depth understating of its content, goals and target audience. Of all its other key particularities. And the better it gets to know your website, the higher are its chances to increase its rankings in SERPs. 

In other words: don't wait for you website to “be discovered”, but strive to enhance and to speed up its discovery! This is precisely what this tool here, supporting a whole variety of structured data, does!
 

2. The Key Benefits That You'll Reap From Using Google Data Highlighter 

Now let's point out and pin up all the key advantages for leveraging this tool; advantages that we've just more or less vaguely mentioned already:

  1. It's easy to use! Basically it enables you to tag fields on your Drual site via simple mouse point and clicks. Just select your products, articles, events or/and any other types of data on your website that you'd like to mark up and then select from the drop down menu their corresponding types ( article, title, event etc.). Unbelievably user friendly!
     
  2. It's free! A benefit you just can't afford to ignore when you have a limited budget. It's a money-saving tool whose whole potential you get to “exploit” as we speak (so, a time-saving tool, as well). Money and time: you're practically saving your most valuable resources!
     
  3. No coding experience required! And this makes Google data highlighter such a handy tool for everyone, the non-technical site owners/administrators here included! Not to mention (although we already have) that it's ideally user friendly, too: mouse select, right click and tag your data in the blink of an eye!
     

3. How Do You Use Google Data Highlighter? How Do You Highlight a Web Page?

Now that we've tackled the “whys” and the “which”, let's tackle the “how”, as well! Let us try a step-by-step guide on how to use this tool for marking up structured data on your Drupal site:

1. First things first: you log into your webmaster account (the one where your site is added as a property, of course)

2. Next click on the property whose pages you want to “Google highlight”

3. Access Search Appearancce –> Data Highlighter (from the drop down menu)

Access Search Appearance- Data Highlighter

4. Next click on “Start Highlighting”; it will open up a dialogue including queries regarding the type of information displayed on that specific web page, an option for auto selecting other similar pages, too (so that you don't have to go through this process over and over again for pages with similar formats), queries about the web page value, too

5. Then enter all the relevant info

Google Data Highlighter- Start Highlighting- Enter The Relevant Info In the Pop Up Dialogue

6. Once you've entered the URL of your target web page and selected its type, as well, feel free to click on “Tag this page and other like this”; this way you'll be tagging pages with similar layouts and streamlining this process at the website's level

7. Once you've clicked on the “OK” button, a horizontal bar, divided in 4 tabs/sections, will pop up. These are (as you shall see):
 

  • Tag First Page 
     
  • Create Page Set
     
  • Tag More Examples
     
  • Review and Publish


8. The “Tag First Page” is the preliminary (and the key one) stage where you actually select pieces of content on your target web page and with a simple right click on your mouse (which will unfold a drop down menu) you get to select the category corresponding to each piece of content (Article, Image, Category, Author, Data Published).

Keep doing this till you've tagged each micro-data on your web page!

9. Once you click the “Done” button you'll get to the next stage listed in your horizontal top bar: “Create Page Set”. It's now that you get to select those pages having similar layouts for streamlining the whole tagging process. As you will see, you're also provided with an option which automatically selects all the similar pages for you. 

Feel free to use it or to ignore it and choose to create your own custom page set instead.

10. Once you've clicked on the “Create Page Set”, you'll automatically get to the next step: “Tag More Examples”. It's on this page that you get to review your tagged web pages and make any needed fixes. 

11. Click “Next” and check the web page tagging one by one, next click on “Review and Publish” the pages.

And this is how you highlight and tag your Drupal site's web pages using the Google Data Highlighter tool! 
 

4. “Are There Any Drawbacks That I Should Be Aware of?”

Yes, there are a couple of disadvantages, as well! And it's only fair that you take them into account so that you can ponder both the pros and the cons of using this tool for structuring the data on your website's pages:
 

  1. Probably the most discouraging of them all is that your entire data highlighter breaks down as soon as you apply a small change to your site's template or code. And then... well... you need to set it up, once again. 
     
  2. The data highlighter that you will have put together is relevant for Google only! No other search engine (Bing, Yahoo, Yandex etc.) will be using your structured data markup.
     
  3. It might be quick and easy for you to nicely structure your data, yet it will take Google a little more time to assimilate your data pattern and then to present your structured data in a more attractive way. So, on one hand you save time putting together your data highlighter, but on the other hand you “lose” some of that time as you wait for Google to... notice it and “fructify” it. You will have already marked up structured data on multiple web pages on your site by the time Google has fully understood them!
     

Patience is a virtue, so they say!

As a closing piece of advice: a team of developers is always the best solution when it comes to optimizing your Drupal site. Yet, for those instances when you need to rely on a limited budget and on even lower resources of time, there's Google Data Highlighter!

Jun 15 2017
Jun 15

Let's start by imagining the “bad” scenario! The one where you don't implement modular content components in the creation/editing process on your website! It will only lead to a poor editorial experience, where editors/content authors:
 

  1. depend on your technical team for every little tweak that they need to apply to content on your Drupal site; which will obviously slow down the processes of updating content and sending it to your various distribution partners    
     
  2. are forced to learn HTML and thus to focus less on creating and polishing content and rather on acquiring some sort of technical “expertise”
     

Granting your editorial team (even more) flexibility will benefit:
 

  1. you, as an organization, since they'll be empowered to run all the necessary updates, in due time, with great ease
     
  2. your site builders and Drupal developers who will then win more time to focus on their own tasks (no one wants to get interrupted from his/her work each time there's content to be added or to be edited on the website).
     

So, it's a sort of win-win-win type of situation ( where you, as an organization, your content authors and your team of developers get to win)! 

And now let's detail the concept of “flexible modular content components”, and point out why they shape the future of content creation:
 

1. How Should The Content Creation Process “of The Future” Be Like?

First of all, it should definitely go beyond:
 

  1. the "box body" concept
     
  2. the content management framework that your Drupal development team can program to do anything by using just the proper custom site building techniques
     

The future of content creation lies in a redefinition of content in CMS and in putting the spotlight on the creation experience itself! It's that improved creation experience that will easily lead to a unique, easy to personalize user experience.

And there's more:
 

  • content of the future should be a “cluster” of modular content components of rich media
     
  • creating and editing content should be simple, few-steps process with no technical “burden” involved
     
  • content of the future should be exchangeable across platforms and to support multiple forms of media
     
  • content of the future should easily adjust to the requirements of a multi channel publishing context
     

Needless to add that a weakened creation experience, where the content writer/editor/publisher is fully dependent on the technical team, will only lead to slow site updates. And you definitely don't want to fall behind with your updates!
 

2. The Content Creation Process of the Present 

Now, before we highlight for you the benefits that you can reap from adopting a structured modular content on your Drupal site, let's take a look at the “current” issues that modular content components come to solve:
 

  • the “one and only wysiwyg” standard
     
  • content writers aren't granted as much “independence” as they should in order to create/edit content without any technical support from the development team
     
  • leaving content creators no option but to put together layouts within the wysiwyg editor and to learn HTML
     

3. But What Is Modular Content After All?

Making your content modular means switching from the practice where you edit a page, on your site, as a whole, to that where it gets automatically generated from other content items. For instance, an example of “content item” could be the “recipes” one on a farmers market website.

The key benefits for adopting modular content is that you're granted consistency across the content on your site and that the entire editing process gets automated.

For instance, once a vendor information gets changed, all the pieces of content on your website that display that particular information get instantly updated.

Step into the future of automated content updating and leave behind the irksome manual updating process!

Moreover, you get to leverage the power of modular content for putting together page sections and composite web pages, too!
 

4. What About Modular Content Components? What Are They?

You could see them as “tools” empowering your content creation and editing team to:
 

  1. easily add new sections without the help of the technical department in your organization
     
  2. send their pieces of content to several distribution channels (sending them, each, specifically those content formats that meet their requirements).
     

And all this in just one single step!
 

5. “Should I Be Integrating Modular Content Components in My Content Creation Process, too?”

It depends!

It depends on whether it's crucial for the whole workflow within your team that your content editors should be able to update content on the fly and to send it to your network of distribution partners “in the blink of an eye”.

If it's the case, then you should definitely leverage the modular content components' functionality on your Drupal site, too!

This way, you'll be empowering your editorial team with a simple, yet highly effective drag-and-top tool that they can use for adding new content components quick and easy. 

The next step is to send it to your content distribution partners, whether it's Facebook, AOL or Apple News or none of these three.
 

6. Key Modular Content Functionalities Worth Your Attention

5.1. Consistency Across Your Website 

And you can't underestimate the advantage of keeping a consistent branding throughout your Drupal site!

This is precisely what you can achieve using modular content components:
 

  • you'll eliminate those situations where your team uses inconsistent layouts when publishing content, taken from legacy website designs
     
  • re-branding your website will turn into a streamlined process with a solid and scalable architecture as its foundation; it will be a lot easier to “implement” the new look and feel across your website and to achieve a consistent branding
     
  • the current situations where content authors just drop “slices” of HTML into the WYSIWYG editor will become “history” on your new future platform, a highly maintainable and nicely structured one; a modular content components-powered one!
     

5.2. Easily Adjustable Content According to Your Distribution Partners' Restrictions

It will be far easier for your content editing team to tailor it to their specific restrictions! Since with modular content components they get to edit and update content with such ease! 

Whether it's:
 

  • links that they need to remove in order to comply with your distribution channels' requirements
     
  • certain formats that they should stick to
     
  • any other special requests that they need to meet while creating or editing their articles
     

… with Modular Content components integrated in their article creation process it all gets much more streamlined!
 

5.3. Marketing Power 

And you surely can't afford to underestimate digital marketing-oriented tools that help you build targeted and ideally creative advertising campaigns:
 

  • you have the Double Click for Publishers module
     
  • you have flexible ad tags that you get to use for implementing your campaigns
     
  • you have built-in identifiers helping you achieve your “smart targeting” goals through your campaigns
     

Need we add any more reasons that modular content components make the future of content creation? Are you ready to embrace the future?

May 31 2017
May 31

And we're back, as promised, with more types of highly effective types of video content that you should be using on your Drupal site and which work best at specific stages of your potential customer's journey. 


3. “About Us” Videos 

Or “culture captures” or “”culture videos”, whichever term prefer, this type of video content's role is not exclusively that of recruiting new people.

You'd be surprised of how many visitors, with no intention of getting themselves hired into your organization, are accessing your About page on you Drupal site right now! They want to know the team behind your website's front store, the team behind your products/services.

If, in the previous stage of your customers' journey you've managed to stir their curiosity and to win their trust, at this point it's vital that you... make them LIKE you. 

And you can easily do this via an About Us video. It's, by far, one of the most effective types of video content.

One that showcases your brand's values, the culture and personalities of your team. If they manage to make themselves “likeable”, you'll succeed to speeding up the whole process of turning a visitor into a future customer. Remember what we've talked about it the first part of this blog post: “People don't buy “just” products/services. People buy the shared values that come along with a particular brand's services/products!”

In other words: make yourself LIKEABLE. And by “yourself”, we do mean both your brand and your team, as well!

[embedded content]


4. Testimonial Videos (or “Case Studies”)

So, by now you've checked “trust” and “likeability” off your list. At this point in your customer's journey it's time to focus on conveying a sense of AUTHENTICITY, too!

You're at a one-step distance from turning your website visitor into a customer and this very last step should be tackled with great care!

It's the step where your potential customer looks for recommendations, for testimonials coming from real people, other than members of your team.

For “real stories” where your product/service plays a key part.

And even though your visitors might not personally know the “testifier”, he/she still remains a “real person” for them. This “detail”, combined with the video's capability, as a medium, to easily transmit human emotions, the impact that your product had on the speaker's life, make the surest “recipe” for building an aura of authenticity around your brand.

Here's a testimonial video example that we've hand picked for you:

[embedded content]
 

Types of Video Content for The Decision-Making Stage of The Customer's Journey

This is the step of your website visitor's shopping experience where he/she has already identified what his problem/need is, has already selected the best solution for solving it and now's looking for the right “solutions provider”. 


1. Personalized Videos (or One-to-One Messages)

We are living in the age of hyper-personalization, no doubt about that! Of personalized content! Now if to this “huge wave” of creating perfectly tailored user experiences you add the one of video content, the result can't be but a highly effective tool for you to use on your Drupal website!

Your potential customer will feel cared about and he/she'll experience pretty much the same feeling that we all experience (if we still have the chance) when we go to our favorite barber's shop or hair salon and the barber/hair stylist knows our names, our preferences and dislikes to the slightest details. We don't have to repeat them each and every time to go there.

Not to mention that a personalized piece of content, once transposed into a video, will instantly get much more “impactful”, it will feel much more... real.

[embedded content]


2. Demo/Instructional Videos 

It's time to “grow” those seeds of trust that you've (hopefully) started to plant, through multiple types of video content, from the very beginning of your customer's journey.

How? By using an instructional video!

It's the type of video content that not only that will emphasize your product's functionality, but will reassure them (your future customers) that you won't forget all about them once they've made their purchase.

That, whatever difficulties they may face when using your product/service, this instructional video, which is part of your whole reliable customer service strategy, will be at their full disposal.

In this respect, here's a demo video from IKEA “training” both the potential and the “already a” buyer how to assembly one of their products:          

[embedded content]


3. FAQ Videos

Instead of filling in your FAQ page with a whole list of possible questions-answers pairs, how about trying “filmed answers”?

There's no “mystery” around this type of video content's effectiveness, if you come to think about it. Your future customers will get that powerful feeling that the answers have been tailored especially for them. That the person showing up in those quick videos is addressing them and them only.

And you can't underestimate the power of “personal touch” that FAQ videos get enriched with:

Here's an example of one FAQ video taken from an entire “collection” of filmed answers to customers' anticipated questions:

[embedded content]


Types of Video Content For The Retention Stage of Your Customer's Journey 

In fact, it's just "one type" of video content that we've selected to talk to you about in this section: the "Thank You" video!

Congratulations! You've just succeeded to turn your potential customer into a... customer!

“Now what?” you might ask yourself! Well, now you focus on crafting another type of video content. One that will turn your (now a ) customer into... a customer loyal to you brand!


Thank You Videos

This is the true role of a “thank you” video content! It's your chance to convey positive energy.

To express your gratitude to your customer for having trusted you, your products/services and to ensure that he/she will remain loyal to your brand.

You could also see this type of video content as a “reminder”: it reminds your customers why they chose your brand in the first place. Why they LIKED you.

Here's an example:

[embedded content]
 

THE END! This is our list including types of video content to use on your Drupal site (as well as in your emails, on social media etc.) suitable for each stage of your potential customer's journey. 

Does your current content marketing strategy include any video content? Are there types that we haven't included in our two blog posts on this topic and which you've found to be of a tremendous help speeding up the whole process of turning website visitors into customers? 

May 31 2017
May 31

Content is no longer king: video content is! And getting ourselves engaged in a long chat around the importance of video content, about how it completely reshaped the digital landscape and companies' content marketing strategies is as relevant as chatting about the sun's vital role in our lives.These days the need for creating video content has evolved into a need for crafting the most suitable types of video content to integrate in each stage of your potential buyer's journey.

Effectively integrating this type of content into your digital marketing strategy and adapting it to each one of its key components, now this is the “puzzle” that you should strive to solve these days!

“Just” video content, with no deep thought about the context of your customers' journey won't get you too far.

And you should consider context-adaptability, if you give enough credit to all the digital marketing “gurus” talking about the future of content marketing. Judging by their content marketing predictions, it will get increasingly challenging “There’ll be fewer winners with much bigger jackpots” ( Larry Kim, Wordstream).

Now let's get to the “core” of today's post and reveal to you the types of video content that you should consider using on your site:


Types of Video Content for The Beginning of Your Customer's Journey

It's that step of your website visitors' journey where they have already experienced a problem, where they do “sense” a certain need, but they can't quite identify it yet. And it's your “job” to help them put a name on it.


1. Video Documentaries

This type of video content is a “newcomer” and you should consider being an early adopter since its potential in turning prospects into customers loyal to your brand is huge. Here's why:
 

  • its enhances its educational/informational role with its emotion-targeting, storytelling side 
     
  • its highlights particular (otherwise banal) features of a product/service and with the help of storytelling (it's precisely the stories that these product/service features get “wrapped in” that make all the difference) and stunning imagery it succeeds to intrigue and captivate the watcher
     
  • its makes a wonderful “tool” for you to portray your brand as a leader in your market (carefully craft the story behind it!) and to reinforce the values of your brand   
           

To exemplify this type of video content, here's a remarkably effective video documentary from Patagonia! They succeed to inform their audience about their products' top features through a highly compelling documentary-like story that sticks:

[embedded content]


2. Brand Films

Branding plays a key role in 2017's digital marketing context, too. Successful brand stories continue to be the decisive factors that turn visitors into fans/followers (and ultimately into customers).

And what better medium to use for getting your engaging story across to your audience, for getting them familiarized with your brand's values and mission, than video, right? 

And so, brand stories and videos “gave birth” to this type of highly effective promotional videos: brand films.

People don't buy “just” products/services. People buy the shared values that come along with a particular brand's services, products!

And if you manage to master the video's toolbox of visuals, storytelling and sound for portraying your brand as one that they can easily resonate with (while, of course, you're discreetly showcasing your services/products' top features and benefits), you'll manage to banish most of their doubts. 

[embedded content]


3. How To's and Whiteboards (or ChalkBoards)

Remember that we're still at the very first stage of your customers' journey! Therefore, it's only logical that from all the types of video content available you should go for one that helps you win their trust.

Illustrating your brand as a trustworthy one and, moreover, as an authority in its industry, is crucial for speeding things up. For giving your potential customer the right impulse to get to the next stage of his/her journey.

And what better way to win trust and to portray your company as an expert in its field than through an educational/how to video/whiteboard type of video content?

It delivers value they can leverage, expert advice free of charge, and it's a tremendous means for you to build trust. 

Now here are 2 tips, coming from our team here, at our web development company in Toronto, to consider when making your chalkboard video:
 

  1. make it short and simple, easy to “digest”
     
  2. add an entertaining, personal touch (no need to go for a monotonous, academic tone in order to share your knowledge as an expert)

 
Now if you want to learn from the very best, those from MOZ, with their famous “Friday Whiteboard” series, definitely make THE best source of inspiration. They already are an authority in the “art” of educational video crafting:

4. Explainers or Explainer Animations

Explainer videos make such effective overviews of the key problems that your product/service comes to solve for your customers!

Whether you opt for an animated explainer or for a video explainer, it enables you to focus on presenting your product's features (rather than on your brand, like the other types of video content aforementioned), on putting them in the context of your customers' already identified needs and in relation to the solution that it delivers them.

Here are just a few reasons why explainers make such an effective and handy tool for ensuring that your potential customers move on to the next step of their journey:
 

  • they're centered around your website visitors' needs/problems that they need to solve
     
  • they're quick overviews, succinct presentations of your products'/service's features
     
  • they briefly present your product “in action”
     
  • they make a handy tool for you to present your solution to your customers' “problems”
     
  • they discreetly familiarize them with your brand's tone and values
     

[embedded content]

Types of Video Content for The Middle of Your Customer's Journey

Your potential online shoppers have, by now, manged to put a name on their needs/problems. It's now that they move on to the next stage of their journey where they engage in research.

They now start to scan through the available solutions to their problem!


1. Videos in Email 

It's such a handy, yet effective means for you to reinforce your brand. A large, eye-catching image and a “play” button might be the simplest way to engage with your potential customers.

If you:

  • add the surprise factor, too (since the “dull”, conventional emails are still the norm) to the equation
     
  • then the win-win nature of this type of video content (you'll be simultaneously ensuring your brand a “top place” in their minds and “luring” them to come visit your site and check out other products, too)
     

… you'll instantly get one of the most effective types of if video content that shouldn't miss from your content marketing strategy.

Types of Video Content: video in email


2. Product Videos

This is such a powerful type of video content! What it does (if it's masterfully created, if it manages to trigger the need for sensory feedback) is no just present your product/service while it's being used, but making the watchers imagine them using that particular product.

It's a “tool” that will help you “plant the seed of desire” in your video's watchers: visualizing themselves trying on your products will automatically make them want to turn this “vision” into reality.

Types of Video Content: product video

To be continued, in our next post, with other types of video content you should use...

May 11 2017
May 11

So you (your web development team) have done your optimization work right and now your ecommerce website looks great and works smoothly on all mobile devices, as well! Great for you! And yet: now it's time to move on to the next level if you want to remain competitive in this fierce “arena” which is ecommerce. And “upgrading to the next level” means: opting for an ecommerce mobile app.
 
“But do I really need a mobile app?” you might still ask yourself. 

You sure do IF (and only “IF”):

  • you do see the true potential of social sharing in ecommerce
  • you aim at seeding and nourishing a sense of loyalty for your brand
  • you do see the true power of tailor-made, highly personalized shopping experiences 
  • you do realize that convenience is a key driver in ecommerce

And now, let us support our statement that your ecommerce business does need a mobile app with 7 unbeatable (so we think) arguments:
 

1. Can't Fight Statistics: Mobile Shoppers Prefer Apps over Mobile Browsers

So, you either adapt to this “trend” or you witness your customers “flock” straight to your competition. Who does see a real potential in ecommerce mobile apps.

And it's no wonder why apps have rapidly gain so much popularity among mobile users: it's all about ease and convenience during shopping! This is the main reason why users prefer to access their favorite brand's online store via their corresponding apps rather than via their mobile browsers. No “shocking discovery” here!

Your users won't need to remember your website's URL or to log themselves in each and every time they want to check out what's now on your online store. 

CONVENIENCE! This is a term you should adapt your whole ecommerce strategy to. It has the same “power” as the notion of “customization”!
 

2. Ecommerce Mobile Apps Encourage Social Sharing 

You can't afford underestimating the “power” of social sharing! The need to set up the right context for your customers to turn into your own brand's advocates.

Apps make it even easier and faster for your users to “spread” the news to their friends on social media channels about your own promotions and special offers!

These days users could not even perceive mobile apps for ecommerce other way than as some “bundles” of social sharing features. Which, moreover, are easier to integrated into an app!

Free advertising for you and a bundle of convenience right in their own pockets on the mobile users' end!
 

3. Easy Payment, Easy Checkout

We couldn't be talking about a streamlined shopping experience without a simplified payment and checkout process, right? This is this aspect where your ecommerce mobile app “beats” your company's mobile website!

It will turn the whole payment process into a faster and more secure process.

A win-win situation after all: the fewer risks you take of turning this process into a true “ordeal”, with dozens of boxes to check or to uncheck, of personal data to enter and lots and lots of options to go through, the lower your cart abandonment rate will be.

Simplified payment process and fast checkout: the perfect formula for a great shopping experience!

Moreover: you get to easily turn your app into a whole bundle of functionalities, as well.

Your team of Toronto developers can easily incorporate secure payment options and (this is gold!) also to program it to remember the specific payment options that different users prefer. This way you'll get to customize and to streamline these users' future shopping experiences on your app!
 

4. Ecommerce Mobile Apps Load Faster

… and page loading time still is the name of the game in the digital landscape!

And app will always be lighter and therefore, will always “score” better page loading times than a website. No matter how much hard work you'd put in optimizing it for speed!
 

5. You Get to Integrate Push Notifications into Your Mobile App 

And these are, no doubt, some really powerful marketing tools and sales boosters!

Basically, you get to send quick “alerts” to all your mobile users, informing them of new special sales, updates about their recent orders, tempting time-limited  promotions and all kinds of key store events.

And there's more!

Since “personalization” is everything in modern ecommerce, you get to play your “customization card” via the push notification options that you'll include in your mobile app. You can make them location-based and, this way, send users quick “alerts” whenever they're close to one of your physical stores.

And, we're getting back to the CONVENIENCE factor: your mobile customers don't even need to be logged into your app or to access their mobile browsers for getting your offer/news notifications!

So, we have convenience, we have tailor-made shopping experience and we definitely can't ignore the advantage of brand consistency. By keeping your customers constantly connected to your brand's whole ecosystem of store events, sales, special offers, freshly added content, your app will help you build brand consistency.
 

6. You Get to Tailor The User Experience by Device

And this is another great advantage of ecommerce mobile apps over mobile website. Admit it: responsive design follows the “one size fits all types of devices, as long as they're mobile” rule.

Now when it comes to mobile apps, you gain much more control over their interfaces' design, over the whole user experience after all!

Since each platform comes with its own particularities and with its own users' expectations, your mobile app will enable you to adapt your app's interface to them. To tailor your customers' shopping experiences to their preferred platforms.
 

7. Mobile Ecommerce Apps Build and Increase Brand Loyalty

Take it this way: your mobile users will be virtually connected to your brand almost 24/7 via your app. It will be in their pockets, purses, on their desks at work, practically part of their lives.

Therefore, it will inevitably nurture a sense of familiarity (in the first place) towards your brand. Which will evolve into brand loyalty, if you're willing to put some effort, as well:

  • to keep them informed, through your push notifications, about your special offers or coupons designed exclusively for your brand's mobile shoppers... for them
     
  • to leverage the data analytics that your app will provide you with for tailoring some shopping experiences personalized to your users' different backgrounds, different preferences, in the slightest details
     
  • to make sure you deliver seamless shopping experiences to your mobile users, irrespective of the type of devices that they access your app from

And though the list of unbeatable arguments on why you need an ecommerce mobile app is almost endless (we could go on pointing out the advantage of using a mobile app in offline mode, as well, for instance), we shall end it here. 

So: have we managed to help you find a straight answer to your “dilemma”: mobile app vs mobile ecommerce website?       

May 03 2017
May 03

      
Be honest: did you really anticipate that the search voice trend would turn into such a phenomenon? Statistics just come to confirm what we've been already suspecting for a while: already 40% of adults use voice interaction on a daily basis.

Are we witnessing the dusk of classic text-based search? 

Can't forecast that, but what we can easily tell is that: the voice UI trend can't go anywhere else but UP! Face it, adapt to it or be left behind!

And once you've accepted this new reality shaping the digital landscape, it's time to take measures! To properly optimize your website for search voice. 

How? Adopting these 5 key SEO tactics aimed at directing not just visitors using voice search, but qualified prospects to your own website. 

Ready? Here they are, in no particular order:


1. Go for Natural, Conversational Language Instead

“Instead of” the typical language that you would have used for driving people using text-based search into your website. 

Lose the “too” succinct, “too” precise type of language and admit that users don't write the same way as they talk. They're more inclined to type in “to-the-point”, brief search terms and to utter far more conversational search phrases.

See the difference? Try vizualizing these 2 scenarios:
 

A. You're at home, in the evening, getting cozy after a hard day at work. You surf online for a software/app that would help you better organize and prioritize your tasks at work, starting with the next day. Normally you would type in something like “best productivity apps”.

B. You're awfully late for work! You've already missed your first subway and you need to take your daughter to school first, then to stop by the dry cleaner, as well, before you head to the office. And, what's worse: you haven't even had the chance to have at least one sip of coffee this morning and you're stressed out about this deadline coming soon. There's a discouraging “pile” of tasks to be carried out, ASAP, awaiting for you at work. 

In this case, normally you would utter, rapidly, something that sounds far more natural like “Get more things done in less time” or “Get more things done in a day”.
 

The trick is that: there's no surprise trick!

It's more than predictable if you come to think of it: if you want these users to land on your website instead of your competitors' once they've made their spoken search queries, you need to get content written in a conversational, “human” tone on your website!


2. Get Your Website Local Search-Friendly

Make sure your company website's listed on the right local listings!

Why bother? Well, because people using voice search aren't just looking for generic information to enrich their knowledge with or simply to fill in their free time with. They're looking for quick solutions to their pressing needs. And meeting their needs quickly, definitely means “meeting their needs locally”.

No user opting to make a voice search query would be interested to get his flat tire fixed in a different state or to find a good place to grab something to eat in another city. They won't utter “What's the best place to grab a pizza?”, but “What's the best place to grab a pizza in X city?”.

Now speaking of getting your site local search-friendly, here are our 3 optimization tips for you:
 

  1. Properly handle your customer reviews. Meaning that you should kindly ask your happy customers to reward you with positive reviews and to promptly answer the negative feedback using the utmost diplomacy
     
  2. Submit your website (only) to relevant local business listings (e.g. Google My Business). And make sure to constantly update your business' key details (e.g. phone number, opening hours, prices) as soon as you change any of them. Just go back to your older listings and make the right corrections...   
     
  3. Add schema markup to your website.The strategically structured data will help search engines quickly recognize the above-mentioned key information about your business (opening hours, address etc.) and to easily turn it into informative results for the users.


3. Go For Longer Keyword Phrases 

And this is THE gold SEO tactic that you should put on top of your list when you start to optimize your site for voice search!

It's common sense if you think of it. Just try a little empathy and step into the shoes of these two generic users here:
 

A. User “X” uses the classic text-based search method. He's about to use his keyboard for typing in the search terms that would get him a list of auto repair shops.

Now you surely can imagine him/her, facing a “broken engine” situation, right as he was in a big rush to get to point B. He's impatient and engaged in other little activities simultaneously (searching for his map, trying to call his wife on the other phone, maybe even trying to ask another driver some key information etc), as well. As you must surely guess: he'll be typing in the fewest number of words that would get him the right solution to his problem quickly and effortlessly: “car repairs”.

B. User Y” is about to make make a voice request, so normally (imagine him all nervous and stressed out!), his search instinctively gets more wordy. He'll naturally add some more details to his request. He'd utter something like “Find me the auto repair shop nearest to... “ or “Where can I get my engine fixed for under xxx dollars and that it's open on Sunday evening at 22.00 p.m?”. Or at least something similar.
 

So, you do see what we're trying to point out here, don't you? As humans we all are a bit more concise when we write and a lot more wordy when we say our request/queries out loud.

To sum up: make sure to target longer-tail keywords on your site! Not only that you'll be driving in those customers using voice search, but you'll be driving precisely qualified prospects into your site! Users making voice requests are far more likely to convert into customers, they're facing with more pressing needs, than those using text-based searches. 


4. Make Sure Your Content Answers Their Questions 

Most likely the users will land on your website via searches with a question format rather than through brief search terms or phrases. So, what do you do? You adapt your content to this specific format! You craft it around those specific search questions.

“But how do I know what questions my potential website visitors will be uttering for making their searches?”, you might say.

Easy! You go to “life-saving” websites such as StoryBase or Answerthepublic and type in relevant keywords.

You'll then get your lists of possible questions your users might be using when they make their searches.The right prepositions here included!

“And what do I do next? Do I just “stuff” my website's content with questions, risking to make it sound fairly unnatural?”

Our answer is: make the most of your FAQ page! Turn it into a go-to page on your website, where your visitors will find all the questions they might be asking themselves, as well as their accurate and useful answers.

Now, speaking of questions, here are two other tips for you:
 

  1. Direct the users asking “What's the difference between X and Y” type of questions to the informative pages on your website. These “researchers” aren't yet ready to commit, yet they need to be encouraged and convinced/assured by delivering them precisely the information they're searching for.
     
  2. Direct the “What's the closest X in...?” or the “Where can I find the cheapest Y?” type of  searchers right to your landing page.These are not just “qualified prospects”, they're the “ready to commit” type of visitors. So make sure you don't risk losing them by leaving them “astray” on your site, forced to make a whole detour before they can close the deal. Target these specific type of questions with your PPC ads!
     

5. Optimize It For Mobile, THEN Optimize Your Site for Voice Search 

The balance between desktop users and mobile users making voice searches is tremendously disproportionate!

But we're quite sure that this is no surprise discovery for you!

So the right sequence of optimization processes is this: first you get your website mobile-friendly, you make sure that it looks and works well on mobile devices. And it's then that you start to optimize your site for voice search by applying all the above-mentioned SEO tactics!

And here are some mobile optimization tips and tricks from our team here, in our digital agency in Toronto, for you:
 

  1. Aim high, really high when it comes to its performance! Even if you manage to welcome users on your website, they'll remain extremely exigent when it comes to page loading speed! You'll have no excuse for not carrying enough for their time by not getting your images properly compressed! Also, keep an eye on their number, as well, and avoid heavy weighting “clutter”!
     
  2. Keep your content as succinct and as easy to “digest” as possible! Get it nicely portioned into smaller paragraphs and remember not to get excessively wordy, either! Invest your skills as a copywriter and digital marketer into the attention-grabbing heading, next keep your content brief, yet effectively informative.
     
  3. Give your website a mobile usability scan! You can rely on a more-than-useful tools like Google's Mobile Friendly Tester for that. It will provide you with an “enlightening” screenshot of the mobile version of your website. Seeing how it looks on mobile devices and which are its weak points (e.g. small fonts, stretched out images or the use of Flash), you can... get to work and put together your list of improvements!
     
  4. “LARGE”... everything! Go for large buttons, large links! You either make the content on your site highly visible for your digital visitors or you'll lose them!
     

Now, “armed” with this list of SEO best practices, get to work! Optimize your site for voice search and get the most out of this (not so) new source of traffic!

Apr 17 2017
Apr 17

The web development world is going mobile-first, and many businesses take another step forward. In addition to a mobile-friendly website, you can develop a unique mobile app for users to enjoy.

The average user has as many as 36 applications installed on their mobile phone. Just nine of them are used on a regular basis however. This is no small number but not that big either..

This means that if you’re developing a mobile application, it better be good if you want it to see any use. All the best app developers in Toronto will tell you there is a list of “do”s and “don’t”s in any development project.

It’s extra important in Toronto mobile app development because mobile screens are very unforgiving to error. If your app is below expectation, it will be glaringly obvious and users will simply set it aside.

So how do you optimize your mobile app for the new user?

Here are a few tips.

1.     Perfect the Usability

Your app should be a bit more complex than a tetris game interface, but that’s about it. A cab app should help you get a ride in a short series of simple-and-obvious steps. The same goes for ordering food, placing a shopping order, comparing products and so on. Long, tedious searches and endless steps will send any app into the wastebasket.

2.     Call to Action Buttons

The user should know where to press and what to do. This is achieved by designing and positioning clear, easy to see and easy to read call to action buttons. Don’t overdo it by making them blink or jump around, but they should be impossible to miss even on the smallest mobile displays and in any lighting conditions. 

3.     Physical Ergonomics

You want everybody to feel comfortable using the app, correct? Some users have thicker fingers. For them, pressing a tiny link or button is excruciatingly hard. There will be only so many times they can’t hit the button before they give up and delete the application.

4.     Easy on Battery and Bandwidth

Complex calculations, heavy media content, large downloads and other similar things drain batteries and consume bandwidth resources. This makes the app too heavy for users to enjoy. Keep a simple UX, design a short navigation, employ reusable graphic content and limit background services.

For more mobile app development Toronto trends, feel free to contact us directly.

Apr 15 2017
Apr 15

Drupal is a new but extremely promising web development platform. This article explains why you need a Drupal agency to help with your Drupal project, especially with the release of Drupal 8 and all the added power and functionality it offers.

Websites like the Economist, Arizona University and even the New York Government are all based on this great CMS platform.

Drupal 8 is capable of creating and managing large websites that you can’t possibly generate with the same ease using more common but relatively modest CMS platforms like Wordpress. If you’re aiming for a stronger online presence, getting a Drupal agency is the best choice you can make.

There are many reasons to go for Drupal development services. Here are just a few of them:

Open Source Software

The core Drupal engine, most of its modules, and a lot of its themes are a 100% free. This means choosing Drupal development services will always cost less.

Customizability

Features, layout, design, and operations in Drupal are highly customizable. This allows your Drupal agency to take any template and turn it into a custom design. Wordpress and Joomla sites, for comparison, are much more rigid and hard to customize to the same extent.

Rapid Deployment

With Drupal, you can deploy core functionality and features quickly, and then work out the details, which can also be easily deployed on the fly. No more downtime for maintenance during which the website is N/A. Everything is live, all the time. Changes are done in the background and then published with a click of a button.

Full Enterprise Software

It’s flexible, scalable, adjustable and easily managed. Integrations with other applications are simple and its security is of the highest quality. Basic users get all of this with no need to pay for a “pro” version like in so many other CMS platforms.

SEO Friendly

Most businesses aim to boost their SEO. Drupal makes it easy. It is, in fact, one of the main features of the Drupal CMS. It displays the content in a way that search engines favour, and tells you when and what requires improvement.

Mobile First Development

In this new world of mobile marketing, Drupal is leading by a great margin. Its themes are not just mobile friendly, but mobile-first, a crucial factor for lead generation, especially for small businesses.

Get a Drupal Agency

If you wish to get your business to thrive online, getting a Drupal agency for it is the best choice you can make. Get in touch with us, one of Toronto’s most prominent Drupal CMS development companies, and see the results for yourself.

Apr 14 2017
Apr 14

One of the main challenges all businesses face is getting clients.

Unlike most anything else, this one question is a constant struggle and requires innovation, perseverance and quite a bit of your time.

There are many approaches to generating leads to increase your client base, and quite frankly, there is no way a business owner can possibly cover all of them and have enough time left to actually run their own business.

That’s why hiring a Toronto marketing agency is the best, most cost-effective approach for generating leads and expanding their operation. Here are just a few of the things a Toronto digital marketing agency can do for you.

Simplify Processes

When your clients have a simple process to place an order, select an item or simply get their questions answered, everybody benefits. A Toronto digital agency can create an easy online solution for visitors to use. It can be a price calculator, color matching template, customizing tool and anything else you can think of for the line of business you’re in. Simplifying things for clients is always good, because it brings them closer to the selling point. Tools like these help convert traffic into real leads.

Set up on YouTube

A picture is worth a thousand words. If so, a video is worth a million. It’s a fact that businesses with YouTube channels get more traffic and higher quality leads. Answering your clients’ questions, giving extra information about your product or service - those are things people like and appreciate. A Toronto internet marketing agency has the expertise to research the market and help you set up a channel to address your audience, converting them to actual clients.

Social Media Boost

We all know how important social media is for business, but running a social media account takes time and effort. Moreover, it’s not enough to just generate a post a few times a day. You have to actually know what to do. There’s analytics to follow, lots of monitoring to do and audience responses to predict. The top advertising agencies in Toronto know that, and put a lot of effort into studying this segment of the market in order to increase productivity and bring you the best results. 

Optimize and Repurpose Content

Old blog posts may be reused and revamped to fit new SEO guidelines, increasing their outreach. Crossposting high ranking posts on social media accounts is also a viable strategy. Adding new titles and keywords to existing posts is something that can and often should be done. You get the picture.

This is not mentioning the things that can be achieved by restructuring your website, getting more active keywords into your old content and much much more.

Call us now and get your game to a new level with one of the top advertising agencies in Toronto.

Apr 10 2017
Apr 10


Here you are, facing a big challenge: which one of all the Drupal teams “seducing” you with their whole array of migrating services to go with? Which one is THE one to upgrade your site to Drupal 8?

Which are the key questions to ask them before you take your decision?

Your “questionnaire” should turn into a powerful tool during the selection process! Just think that it's more than a migration “marathon” that this company will undertake (migrating you site's content, all its modules etc.), but a whole website redesigning “marathon”, as well!

In other words: don't go for your most “seducing wooer”!

Now in order to streamline your selection process and to reduce the risk of taking a wrong decision to a minimum, we've put together a list of “clues” for you. “Clues” that will help you identify your future Drupal partner.
Ready? Here it goes:
 

1. Get Clear Evidence of Their Experience Before You Upgrade Your Site to Drupal 8

References from their previous customers here included!

It's a more than “clue”, we know that, but even so, we still felt like putting it on top of our advice list: make sure that the Drupal agency who'll be handling your migration project has enough experience working with Drupal! And not just with Drupal 6 or 7, but with Druipal 8, as well.

It's already been a while since November 2015, when Drupal 8 was released into the wild. So every Drupal agency worth its salt (and your attention), should have already    added at least a few Drupal 8 projects to its portfolio.

Never accept that your company should be anyone's “guinea pig”!

Ask for clear evidence of their work with several versions of Drupal, as well as references from their clients. And this should be the very first step to take during your selection process!


2. You'll Want a Team Actively Involved in the Drupal Community

And it's this community involvement proof that might just be THE “tie breaker”! The one that will differentiate the Drupal agencies that you should keep on your list for further checking from the ones that you should... well... take off your list!

Just think about it: the more active a team is, as a contributor, the more up to date and familiarized with the latest projects of the Drupal's “ecosystem ” they are. The more reliable will their decisions be once they handle your migration project.

You won't risk “ending up” with a Drupal company wasting too much of your valuable time (and money!) on coding PHP instead of relying on the latest future proof approaches! And this is just an example!

In a nutshell: check whether the Drupal team that you're considering to hire to upgrade your site to Drupal 8 is active in the Drupal community!

Also, if you come to think of it: it's precisely the team behind Drupal 8, that group of developers working on its core and modules, seeing that the open source platform keeps up with the ever-growing digital needs of all companies operating in the online world that are the real “culprits” of its cutting-edge features.

Therefore, the more a Drupal agency stays connected to this community of Drupal developers and designers, the more reassured you can be that its team knows what it's doing. Simply put!
 

3. Make Sure Your Project Is Not Their Very First Drupal 8 Migration Project

Remember our previous advice: “Never accept that your company should be anyone's “guinea pig”!? No matter how temptingly cost-effective their estimate might be!

Therefore, make sure you don't skip this part where you ask for clear evidence of their experience not just of working in Drupal 8, but in migrating websites to Drupal 8, as well!

Get information about and analyze the reviewed company's previously Drupal 8 migration projects! 
 

4. Ask Them How They'll Be Handling Each One of Your Crucial Current Modules

And this “chic chat” around the critical modules/features on your current website should no way miss from your selection process!

You're entitled to point out to each one of the interviewed agencies which are the modules/ functionalities/sections on your company's website that you “stubbornly” want to keep.

Ask for specific migration plans that they would develop for each one each one of these key features on your site!

When there's no correspondent module in Drupal 8, ask for alternatives!

Either way, have this open discussion with each one of the Drupal teams that you're interviewing, challenging them to come up with sustainable solutions to your requests. Leave no room for compromise risking to impact your website's functionality.

No room for surprises that you would be “forced” to accept once the migration project has been started!
 

5. Be Skeptical About Speedy Estimations 

Time is money, no doubt about that! But when it comes to Drupal 8 migration project estimations, too little time spent in an in-depth analysis of your site will, on the contrary, be more harmful to your budget on the long run!

In other words: don't go with the hastiest, overly confident and overly “enthusiast” Drupal team! One that will immediately give you an estimate “on the go”, without feeling the “need” to dig in deep into your website.

If a company won't take a close look at the whole content architecture on your Drupal website, won't “delve” into its custom code or analyze its theme CSS& JS, you should instantly “turn on your alert”.

It means their estimation is riskily superficial and that you should jump straight to the next Drupal agency on your list.

No point in taking such a risk!

Tip: if an in-depth analysis of your website means a way too risky process for you, you can always go for a “temporary account” solution. Give the reviewed Drupal team this account, then, once they've completed their “digging”, just cancel it. 

These are our 5 clues that will hopefully streamline the process during which you select the Drupal agency top upgrade your site to Drupal 8. Do you have other key criteria or key questions on your list, as well?

Apr 07 2017
Apr 07

How can you be sure that your website's or your app's design has been created for the USER? 

It might seem  as a silly question to you: “of course that everyone's designing with the “user” in mind!”All web designers embark on their designing adventure with good intentions, meaning that they do start their projects with the User in mind, but what if they lose their “designing for the user” mindset somewhere along the way?

How do you know whether your web product reaches out to users, if, let's say, it's just your team that will have played the role of the “user” during testing?

Is your company falling into one of these 2 categories?
 

  1. companies that don't see the point (or that find it too time-consuming and budget-challenging) in turning usability testing into an essential step to take before any new web project's launch
     
  2. companies that over-complicate the usability testing process and which can't rip the major benefits
     

Then this blog post is for you!

It's a two-purpose post, so to say:
 

  • it's meant to answer all your dilemmas on whether usability test does worth your effort or it's just an unnecessary part of your web development process
     
  • it's also a step-by-step guide on how to plan, conduct and document your usability tests. Thus clearing away all the confusion surrounding this process.

So, let's proceed, shall we?
 

Why Should You Even Bother Running a Usability Test?

As a company owner, just try stepping into your your team's web designer(s) shoes: you're charged to do some sort of “hocus pocus” in order to ensure the ideal overall experience of the website/app that you're working on! And try to carry out your task as you're fully aware that “user experience” is an overwhelming vague and, at the same time, highly comprehensive component of your design and that flaws do happen during the design process. 

There's no point in denying that!

How do you pull off this “ideal overall experience”? How do you know which are the “ideal parameters” of this “overall” experience?

Get it? Without some reliable UX research results at your disposal, you'll be relying exclusively on guessing and “finger crossing” strategy as you put together your design.

This is why usability testing makes such a powerful tool, when handle rightly! A tool that will point out to you the UX flaws in your design and, implicitly, the solutions for overcoming them, as well.

Now let's continue with our step-by-step guide to usability testing:
 

Set Your Goals

One first caveat: avoid vague goals such as “understanding how the new navigation menu works”!

You goals can go from broad to specific (e.g. “which checkout method increases conversion rate on our website”). Either way, do keep in mind to avoid “shooting two birds (or more) with one stone”, if you know what we mean!

Don't lose focus!

Meaning that you should sift through your super long list of questions, to cut it down to the truly essential ones about your web product. The more accurate the questionnaire, the more accurate will your usability test results be.

Same for your objectives: it's better to go for a short list, one tackling only the most relevant issues of your product.
 

Determine The Type of Usability Test That You'll Conduct 

Before we jump straight to classifying the usability tests that you can choose from, we feel like highlighting the fact that: there's no such thing as “better or worse”! Only a matter of “suitable or not”. A matter of whether it's the appropriate one for your specific goal!

This being said, these are the tests you can select from and incorporate into your usability session:
 

  • scripted: which allows you to target specific goals; your test participants' interactions with your web product are determined by a clear set of instructions, this enabling you to aim at and to analyze individual elements (e.g. a tree test, a hallways usability test)
     
  • natural (or near-natural): a test where you analyze and interpret the user's behavior in his/her natural environment, thus collecting more accurate impressions and data (A/B testing, diary studies etc.)
     
  • decontextualized: it targets more generalized concepts and triggers broad opinions rather than pinpointing your specific web product (user interviews, surveys etc.)
     
  • hybrid: quick exposure memory testing, adjective cards, participatory design; in other words tests aimed at grasping the test participants' mentality(s)
     

The next step to take once you've determined which usability test(s) is appropriate for your own user testing process, is to go ahead and to put together a document for your whole team. One summarizing your tactics and a plan of how the whole usability session will be carried out.
 

Start Working On Your User Tasks

What exactly will you get your test participants to do? This is THE question!

Now before you start to actually put together your user tasks, keep in mind that everything will impact the way they'll carry out their tasks: from phrasing to content, even the slightest details can hinder a proper understanding of your questions! Stay away from bias!

With that aspect in mind, decide whether it's “closed” or “open” tasks that you'll challenge your users with. Or maybe both!

Let's detail:
 

  • open user task: offers participants multiple ways for completing it, leading to qualitative results
     
  • closed user tasks: come with “success or fail” type of question, nothing in-between, no room for interpretation
     

Two extra tips to consider when writing your user tasks:
 

  1. handle the power of verbs rightly: ask your users “to describe” or “to demonstrate”, therefore do stay away from tricky verbs deviating you from your “pathway to accuracy”, such as the verb “understand”. Some of the “good” verbs that you could insert in your user tasks are the “call to action” ones: “demonstrate”, “evaluate”, “describe”, “organize”
     
  2. establish what you want your test participants to achieve by the end of this test. What should they be able to do by the end of this usability session? Try answering this question before you start creating your user tasks!
     

Tip: try sticking to 5 test users! It's the “magic” number, so to say, when it comes to usability testing. Less participants won't signal all the possible UX flaws that your design might have, while more than 5 users will automatically lead to experience overlap. To users signaling the same problems!

Who said this should be a time-consuming, overly complex process? Nonsense! You get the best results by just sticking to a sequence of 5 user tests. That's all! No need for a “marathon” here!
 

Boil an UX Research Plan Document 

A one-page document will do. No need to “stuff” it with information and unnecessary details, lest you should discourage everyone from your team, from marketers to developers to executives.

Here's what this plan should include:
 

  • the reasons why such an UX research was needed (keep it short: one paragraph will do)
     
  • the usability session's essential objectives to be reached
     
  • the questions prepared for your test participants
     
  • the tactics involved: when, where and how you'll run your usability test
     
  • a few words about each one of your 5 participants
     
  • the timeline
     
  • the test script itself (https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/01/ux-research-plan-stakeholders-l...)
     

Make it as concisely and “easily digestible” as possible, but without risking to leave out anyone of these key sections or crucial information to be added to each one of them.
 

Now Go Ahead and Conduct Your Usability Test

And this is it: after all the planning, selecting the right test participants, running your own UX research, putting together your timetable and writing the test documentation, you'll be finally conducting your usability session!

As for the testing process itself, our team of Toronto developers has some key advice for you:
 

  • make your test participants feel comfortable: reassure them that it's not them that you'll be testing, they're not the “target” (so there's no right or wrong answers) but your product's design itself
     
  • record your usability session
     
  • give them them space
     
  • collaborate: allow your test participants to record their own interpretations, as well, so they can compare them, later on
     

Write a Usability Report and Share It With Your Team

Now it's time that you make sure that everyone in your team is on the same page. That they're all well informed about the results of your usability test, so that they can steer their work-related initiatives and decisions accordingly.

Now speaking of this report, we've put together a list of tips and tricks to consider  when you start drafting it:
 

  • prioritize the problems signaled during the test: no need to include even the slightest, the obvious issues
     
  • be explicit: stay away from vague phrasing and try to be clear and concise explaining the very “root” of every issue
     
  • recommend a few possible improvements to be made
     

Now if you allow us some more recommendations: don't limit to a one-page report, but feel free to include any charts or graphs, the questionnaire itself, audio tracks and so on into your report. Go for a whole folder-report, not just for a simple file-report.

And this is it! Hopefully we've managed to give a clear answer to the “Why Bother With a Usability Test?” question and to put together a helpful step-by-step guide on how to conduct your next usability session.

One last piece of advice: no need to wait until your web project is nearly ready to be launched! Do run several usability tests during its development process, so that you can collect enough insightful data and to use them for improving your website/app before it's too late.

Mar 30 2017
Mar 30


And we're back! Ready to put the spotlights on some 6 more powerful ecommerce trends that will shape the online shopping landscape in 2017. Which could either shake up or skyrocket your business. It's up to you!

As you'll see, none of them will come as a surprise to you! They're all actually complementing the “movements” pointed out  in our previous post:

  • the user-friendly content comes to enhance the ultra-personalized shopping experience
     
  • a quicker payment process actually complements the whole “simpler UX” ecommerce trend
     
  • whereas the multi-channel shopping experience is nothing but a result of the mobile-first mentality that players in the ecommerce “arena” will have to embrace. Or be left behind!

Therefore, let's stop with our “teasing” here and let's dig into our list of ecommerce trends with a huge impact on your own business in 2017:
 

7. Safeguarding Your E-business with Fraud Management Tools Is a MUST

In 2017 handling security issues half-hardheartedly has become a colossal risk for you to take! 

Just think about all the critical cyber attacks that have shaken up the online world in 2016: LinkedIn, Yahoo, Mark Zuckerberg's account have all turned into “vulnerable victims”.

Want to have your company name listed there, as well?

If not, then putting your Drupal ecommerce website under the shield of fraud management tools is a must! Use them for tracking down any fraudulent activity on your website.

Use them for winning your visitors' trust. Who'll otherwise take a step back if your ecommerce company conveys the unwanted message that you're taking security and privacy concerns way too lightly. That they risk to be left exposed while they browse through and shop on your website.

In other words: put HTTPS encryption on top of your priority list in 2017! There's no other way around it.
 

8. Voice Search Optimization Is No Longer Just an Option

Numbers tell it better than we could ever do it: 20% of search requests have been   made through Google's voice search facility in 2016. And this trend is not going anywhere in 2017. Anywhere but... up!

So, what do you do? You get your Drupal ecommerce website voice search optimized!

What does that mean? Well, it means that you make sure to sprinkle conversational long tail requests throughout the user-friendly content on your site. “User friendly”and “attractive” content: do keep that in mind!

This way, you're creating the perfect online shopping context for those potential shoppers who'll be using the search voice facility for placing requests on your website. 

It might look like just an emerging trend to you know, but be better than that: future-proof your e-business by anticipating this voice search trend turning into a megatrend in 2017! 
 

9. The Streamlined Product Return Experience: One of the Influencing Ecommerce Trends in 2017 

It's no just through your fraud management tools that you build a sense of security in your website visitors/potential customers. You'll manage to do that with the help of a clearly formulated and streamlined product return feature, as well!

Accept it: there will be online shoppers who'll return the products bought on your website! No need to get discouraged, no need to turn your back on this “harsh” reality!

Instead, turn it into an opportunity to keep them engaged (ironically!): anticipate it and be prepared for it! Before they've had the “chance” to return their products, you will have already won your customers' trust. And so, their loyalty for your brand won't end after their first return if you turn this process into an agreeable experience!
 

10. Reader-Friendly, Engaging Content: An Evergreen Ecommerce Trend 

Trends emerge and seem to have the potential to shape the online shopping landscape for many years to come and yet many of them quickly fade away! Still, engaging, attractive content (as opposed to the impersonal, generic one) is.. here to stay!

… and to dictate how online retailers connect with their customers for a long time from now on!

Therefore, if you haven't yet spiced up your Drupal ecommerce website with lively, attractive and user-friendly content, you shouldn't lose any more precious time. 

Accompany stunning product imagery with engaging copy. Tell your products' story in a way that would captivate your visitors. And don't stick to your website only! 

Blogs, newsletters and live chats make some great engaging content “environments” that will help you reach out to your customers and tell your story! Storytelling, another “power” word that will shape the online shopping landscape in 2017 more than ever!
 

11. Omni-Channel Shopping Experience: An Ecommerce Reality in 2017

And you can't deliver an omni-channel shopping experience without setting the right context for a multi-channel shopping experience, right? 

Therefore, in 2017, more than in 2016, focus on getting your ecommece business “equipped” with features such as real-time stock information or multichannel wish lists. 

Then, once you've put together your rich collection of shopping channels to “wow” your potential customers with, make sure you keep your brand's message consistent across all of them!

Tip: turn omni-channel selling into an opportunity for you to gather priceless behavioral data about your customers (data coming from multiple sources): dta on their shipping option preferences, what products they like best, their shopping patterns and so on.
 

12. Speeding Up The Checkout Process Turns Into a Top Priority

After they've rewarded you with their time and since are now ready to reward your brand with their money as well, you can't be as reckless as to discourage your customers with a multi-page, super long payment process!

Do your best to simplify it, then... simplifiy it some more! “N” fill in forms to complete, an overload of data to deliver, too many boxes to check and pages to go through will, no doubt, be discouraging for your website visitors.

Therefore, aim at delivering them a hassle-free shopping experience! Which would be impossible in the context of a way too demanding, overly complex payment process.

It's now that we can say that we've reached the end of our list of 12 ecommerce trends to adopt and to adapt to in 2017. Only if you still want to “say afloat” in the ever-changing, ever-transforming online shopping landscape.

Have we left out any powerful trend from our list? Do feel free to “scold” us, if so!

Mar 29 2017
Mar 29

Time sure flies! Here you are now, already getting ready to tear off the third page of your 2017 calendar (April is just around the corner) and to... get your business shaken up or completely whipped off by the global megatrends to come.

Or maybe not!

Preparation is key and anticipating trends is vital in the online retail market! This is why we've rolled up our sleeves and started to dig up, to do some serious research work for you! We've asked the experts in the field, put in some of our own experience, then added a few “drops” of visionary outlook. And therefore: we are now ready to get you “equipped” with THE  list of “ecommerce trends”!

Those that you can't risk ignoring in 2017!

Trends that will steal the spotlight on the “ecommerce stage” and which can mean both the END for the players from the online retail arena that score low reaction times and major business-boosters for the quick adopters and adapters. Like you!

So, without further ado, the list that you should use as a “backbone” for your own 2017 ecommerce strategy:
 

1. Personalized Interactive Shopping: The Future of Online Shopping

With tools such as artificial intelligence programs and real-time analytics at your disposal, you practically have no “excuse”! No excuse to stubbornly stick to the “one-size-fits-all” type of shopping experiences delivered on your website!

Just acknowledging the fact that each one of your potential shoppers has his/her own preferences, unique needs and even specific search phrases that they he usually types in for tracking down products is no longer enough.

You need to actually start collecting all this key behavioral data (using the 2 above-mentioned empowering tools)! To interpret it and to use it for “fueling” the highly personalized shopping experiences that you'll spoil your customers with. 
To use it for delivering them highly targeted product recommendations!
 

2. Go Beyond Mobile Optimization: Embrace The MOBILE-FIRST Thinking!

“Mobile devices are now the source of more than half of the web traffic”, the earth's round and the sky's blue. Nothing new under the sun here, right? Only non-debatable facts!

What we're trying to point out here is that making your website responsive is no longer enough! You need to go beyond common thinking that smaller-sized devices are nothing but limitations to the desktop-based online shopping experience. You need to start tailoring unique shopping experiences with mobile devices' specific sizes and functionality in mind, from the very beginning!

That's where the future of ecommerce is heading to and you should, too!

Thinking mobile-first, seeing smartphones/tablets as distinct shop windows is what will propel you into the future!

Moreover:

  • you should seriously consider pairing your ecommerce website with a correspondent mobile app (think Amazon, think eBay and so on).
     
  • don't stop there: consider implementing a mobile wallet into your app (think Paypal, think Apple Pay). Digital, hassle-free payment will rapidly be outshining the conventional one and is expected to be adopted by more and more companies operating in the ecommerce industry and willing to simplify their users' entire “paying experience”. And why should you leave behind this “movement”, right? 
     

3. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants or “The Customer Service of the Future”

Chatbots, along with AI, are here to stay and to grow into a “megatrend”! So, there's no escape from them!

You either adopt them and incorporate them into your whole “creating perfectly personalized shopping experiences” strategy for 2017 or, well, you'll be actually guiding your customers towards your competitors' websites!

Online shoppers expect to be “pampered”, to be offered only product recommendations that perfectly fit their own preferences and their specific behavior as online customers. They expect you to have this behavioral data!

Therefore, having a virtual assistance “at their disposal” is nothing but another legitimate expectation from their part, as potential shoppers in your estore!

Not only that chatbots offer them assistance throughout their shopping journey on your Drupal ecommerce website, but post shopping assistance, as well! They'll be there to answer all their queries after they've actually received and started using your product! 

When it comes to chatbots, a new dimension of the personalization trend in ecommerce, what better examples could you think of than Apple's Siri of Sephora's messaging app's Kik?

It's a tremendous chance for you to boost customer engagement (which goes hand in hand with your conversion rates) on your website! So, you might want to analyze this trend, one of the truly influencing ecommerce trends in 2017!
 

4. Social Selling: One Of the Skyrocketing Ecommerce Trends 

Showcasing and selling your products/marketing your services on social media! Can't ignore this megatrend, can't escape it and you definitely can't afford leaving your ecommerce business without a social media marketing strategy. 

That would be simply reckless!

In other words: turn the social media platforms into your own products/services stages! Feel free to parade them there, to put them into a good light and, most of all, to engage with those “in the audience”!

Selling isn't limited to websites or to apps anymore (as it has stopped being limited to your physical stores, too) and social media is now much more than just a marketing tool.

With tools such as Facebook Live Videos (enabling you to showcase your products and to promote your events) and with an overwhelming majority of your potential shoppers using their social media accounts to engage with their favorite brands, you can no longer leave social selling out of your ecommerce marketing strategy!
 

5. The Simpler the UX, the Higher the Conversion Rates

A simpler checkout process goes hand in hand with the ever so popular ulta-minimal web design! It's one of those ecommerce trends that will highly influence your shopping cart abandonment rate!

No need to over clutter your UX, to load it with lots of steps to take and tasks for your customers to carry out before they can finally pay for their products. You risk to annoy them and to make them abandon their shopping carts!

Keep it simple! An ideal one-page checkout will do wonders! Especially if it's designed around these 3 key principles in mind:

  • a simple payment process 
     
  • intuitive product searches
     
  • clearly formulated returns policies
     

6. Same-Day Delivery: Adapt to It or Be Left Behind

A generic “fast”delivery or “within maximum n days” will be no longer enough! Not only that your delivery strategy needs to provide more specific answers than those, but you'll be witnessing the rise of the “same-day delivery” trend.

Consider it and strive to adapt to it: make an inventory of your resources, improve your current shipping features if necessary, do whatever it takes to perfect your delivery strategy.

For your customers expect you to! 

In addition to this “uber-ization in terms of deliveries, more and more ecommere companies will be integrating drop-off providers into their delivery strategies in 2017. So, you'd better consider this aspect, as well, as a booster for your own ecommerce business!

Quick recap: adapt to the rising “same-day, uber quick delivery trend” or you'll be left behind! As simple as that!


We're not ending our list here, for we've prepared 6 more highly influencing ecommerce trends to adopt and adapt to in 2017. Therefore: to be continued in our next post!

Mar 20 2017
Mar 20

Are you still “stuffing” your web pages with keywords? Does your SEO strategies still revolve around piling keywords instead of attracting clicks? Are you (God forbid!) still submitting your website to directories? Are you still putting low quality, irrelevant “link baits” on your website, aiming only to shock/stirring curiosity and thus to easily gain the clicks you crave for? Then we can only add this: “The 90's have called, they claim these outdated SEO practices back!”

Web technology has changed dramatically since the 90's, the digital arena has changed tremendously and guess what: the bots, too, have got so much more sophisticated! Keyword stuffing and old-school link building won't get you far, especially in the long run.

Here are some of the “dusty” SEO practices you should ditch:


1. Creating a Dedicated Web Page for Every Target Keyword

Having one page targeting one single keyword, then another one targeting a slightly different keyword and so on, till you get yourself a nice “bundle” of single pages targeting almost identical keywords, is one of those “tried-and-true” old-school SEO practices!

Well guess what: Google's got way smarter than that and you should be... over-smart!

With upgrades such as RankBrain and Hummingbird, you can no longer “trick” Google into ranking your Drupal website with such an old-fashion SEO tactic.

An “updated” SEO practice, in this respect, is to try and naturally “sprinkle” your main keyword, along with its variations, across a single page. Go for the meta description, body content, headline etc. 

In other words: go for TOPIC-matching pages, not for a single target keyword-focused ones.


2. Adopting a Multiple Subdomains/Multiple Microsites Strategy

Now this (still) is another highly popular SEO technique! 

How does it work? Instead of putting together all your digital marketing efforts to optimize a single, heavy-content, complex website, you get them “diffused” on several microsites. You fork your website into multiple microsites/subdomains.

And you're trying to keep each one of them ideally optimized, to give each one its due attention, of course!

“More” might seem like “more effective” to you at first, like getting “more” successful results, from an SEO point of view. In fact, it's just the same result that you'd get if you had just one website's content to focus on, to invest your time, energy and SEO expertise in. Just that it's “spilt” in several directions (miocrosites/subdomains)!

In this case, the results you'll get are, for each smaller site, just the fourth/third or maybe the fifth parts of the results you'd get if you administered/optimized just one large website instead of a “constellation” of microsites!

It would be far more efficient to get one website ideally optimized for a high ranking position, than to try and push forward a whole “ecosystem” of smaller websites, wouldn't you agree?


3. Building Your Keyword Strategy on AdWords' “Competition” Results

“and on cost per click”, we should add, as well!

If you're still “fueling” your company's keyword planning strategy with those results that you get using AdWords' “Competition”, you should stop! Or at least perceive that data simply as a rough guide.

These tools won't reveal to you which is the competition set, how dense and qualitative your competition's content is, whether they manage to both “lure” visitors in and to serve them precisely the content they're looking for and so on.

In a nutshell: do keep an eye on the competition scores that you can see in Adwords, but keep in mind also that there are many other factors building a “competition” and determining how hard it would be for you to rank one word or another.


4. Keyword Stuffing: One of the No Longer Effective Outdated SEO Practices    

“The more the merrier”, right? “More target keywords”, we mean, all piled in your web pages' titles and your meta descriptions is sure to bring you more links, more traffic, right?

Well, not anymore! Since it's clicks that you're craving for and since it's the online users that you should try to lure in the first place (not search engines), keyword stuffing is no longer an effective SEO tactic.

Online users have got a lot pickier, a lot more  cautious when it comes to spamming, and “asking without giving anything back “(e.g. digital marketing not focusing on delivering valuable content) so you should expect them to avoid you website when they read your keyword-overloaded titles and meta descriptons.

Do insert your keyword, but don't overuse it! Do strive to make your meta description sound like an invitation for searchers to delve into your website's unique, valuable content and not as a “desperate attempt to trick them in. Not merely as a list of keywords! 


5. Matching Your Target Keyword With Your Domain Name

If you or your company's team of SEO “gurus” are still “faithful” to this SEO practice, you'd better discard it from your “toolbox” of SEO tactics immediately!

Since you're only guiding your own visitors to your competitors' websites! You're simply offering your competitors more traffic on a silver plate!

Not to mention that, besides your own visitors, who'll gradually start to avoid your website, since it has a name that sounds “not trustworthy”, no authority site in your niche will agree guesting your content, either. 

Therefore: stop using your target keyword as your domain name. You want your it to sound more branded, much more credible than that!


6. Using Unfocused Linkbaiting Techniques

Another one of those outdated SEO strategies that you should leave behind, if you're still using it is this: using irrelevant link “baits” to draw users on your website.

In high quality content's “kingdom” you just can't expert this SEO tactic to be effective any longer!

Instead, go for on topic “link baits”, using content that is, indeed, a perfect match to the current one on your website. Moreover, focus on value-added content for your link “baits”, that draws in both links and attention!


7. Using Inappropriate, Spammy Internal Links Anchor Texts

Mind you stay out of the “sketchy”, “spammy-looking” or (even worse) manipulative anchor texts' zone! It might have been a widely used SEO technique a few years ago, but it's turned into a highly risky one! It's one of those outdated SEO practices with a negative impact on your website, pointed out by those from MOZ themselves!

Google's started to value well-written and relevant anchor texts used in internal link building. Make sure yours are perfectly usable (you'd better ditch the “lower font” SEO practice for your anchor texts, thinking that it's for search engines and not for searchers that you're inserting them after all) and relevant and you can stay assured: you'll be in Google's “safe zone”!  


8. Overlooking Other Search Engines

Do put searchers/website visitors first, Google second, and mind you don't stop there! You'd better start considering winning other search engines' attention, as well!

Signing up on Google Search Console and following Google's webmaster guidelines on a regular basis should be completed by sustained SEO efforts for gaining traffic from other search engines, too. Think Bing, think Yahoo and you'll be actually thinking of all those iPhone users that are not using Chrome, but these two search engines.

Why should you overlook two potential sources of traffic (even if they're really Google's rivals)? Especially since you have tools like Bing's Webmaster Tool to support your SEO efforts on?  


9. Undermining Mobile Optimization's Importance

This is not just one of the outdated SEO practices, or better said “mindsets”, that you should ditch, but a very risky one, too!

Just think of Google's AMP initiative and the stress it started to lay upon users' optimized mobile experiences!

Undermining mobile optimization's importance is almost a “prehistoric” SEO mindset if we compare it to the whole “mobile-first” philosophy!

Now, in this respect, here is a quick “starter kit” from our team of Drupal developers in Toronto, that you could easily implement for getting your Drupal website mobile-friendly:
 

  • stay away from Flash and other software that's incompatible with mobile devices
     
  • ensure that users can zoom out/zoom in the written text
     
  • space out your links so that users can tapped on easily
     
  • read all the guidelines included in Google's AMP
     

And since we've tackled the mobile optimization's issue, allow us to add a last piece of advice: resist the temptation of using intrusive, annoying interstitials!

What do we mean by “intrusive”? Well, those types of interstitial which are almost impossible for users to close, making it impossible for them to gain further access to the content on your website. Google hates whatever users hate these days! And we guarantee you that making your content less accessible will get on their nerves!


10. Still Applying Old-Fashioned Linking Building Methods 

These practices have been “the holly Grail” of link building for a long, long, way too much time. So, no wonder that many Drupal website owners and even so called SEO “experts” are still so “fond” of them.

Our advice for you: let go of the past, a past dominated by (now) outdated SEO practices and, step into the future!

Let's sum up some of these emblematic link building strategies which (surprise, surprise) do not work any longer:
 

  • submitting on generic directories, where you could easily enlist your website: they're such a waste of time in 2017, so why bother?
     
  • article submitting and here we're referring especially to those websites where there's no editorial review whatsoever
     
  • buying backlinks
     
  • posting comments on forums along with optimized links
     
  • unnatural usage of keywords in your links' anchor texts (do not underestimate 2017's crawlers)
     

To sum up: invest time, expertise and creativity in producing value-added content and keep in touch with others in your field and ... links will come to you! No need to step into the “black” (hat)” zone for “grabbing” them!

And it looks like we've just reached the end of today's post on outdated SEO practices that you should leave behind! We sure hope that it will help you do your own “spring clean up” of your dusty SEO techniques and that it will boost your own SEO strategy's efficiency!

Mar 10 2017
Mar 10

Trends digital marketing and SEO never stand in one place. With frequent Google updates and new tools and methods of outreach, companies have to race to catch up on the best practices in this field.

2017 is well on the way, and we can already form a list of most popular and effective digital marketing strategies adopted by Toronto SEO experts. There are many developments in this sphere of business, so we will focus on the main 5 trends.

Data Based Marketing.

It is no longer enough to choose keywords and work out an SEO strategy based on them alone. Google is no longer that easy to manipulate, and what’s more important now is how good you are at offering what people are really looking for. It requires more thorough research to figure out what it is that users are after and how Google deciphers it. We as an internet marketing company in Toronto find that the levels of precision you can reach are incredibly rewarding however, despite them requiring more work.

Video Ads and Live Streaming.

As mobile bandwidths become bigger, video is entering our lives in an insane rate. It’s easier and more accessible for most users, especially the younger audiences out there. Live streaming is easy to achieve, doesn’t require an expensive setup or editing tools, and very entertaining when done right.

Mobile is Growing.

Many users don’t even have a laptop computer at home anymore, let alone a desktop computer. Most of the browsing is done outside, on the way to work on the bus or when shopping around. Being easy to find by users when they browse from their mobile devices has never before been so important.

Social Media Integrations.

Social media works better and better in terms of integration with websites, and the conversion rates from there is only going to increase. Facebook and Twitter are no longer just PR platforms but can be used to drive real sales on your page.

New Algorithms.

Google and other search engines are constantly updating their means of going through and presenting search results to users. Naturally this means new hoops for us to jump through. PPC companies in Toronto and companies who focus on organic SEO practices will have to adjust yet again to stay in the game.

Naturally, this is a game we’ve been playing for a good, long time and have gotten very good at. If you want to improve your online presence and increase your sales, you are just a call away. Talk to you soon!

Mar 10 2017
Mar 10

Drupal Website Development

Drupal is the new kid on the block. Yet it managed to conquer a decent chunk of the seemingly already saturated market.

One of the reasons it was able to compete with giants like Wordpress and Joomla, is that it’s incredibly well made and very versatile. It comes will all necessary things to create anything from a personal page to an eCommerce store and all the way to vast social networking portals.

It has nearly 30,000 modules and several thousand themes, as well as an army of enthusiastic Drupal website development experts to help you set up and get the show on the road. In fact, this army is growing rapidly due to the fact that unlike Wordpress for example, it comes with everything a developer needs, all packed in a neat, easy to use development environment.

There is no confusion, no need to boggle your mind with endless glitches, updates that crash your theme, and other unnecessary trouble. Also, Wordpress may be good for a small website (and a beginner web developer), but try to do something more complex than a 5 page site, and problems will start multiplying. So yes, Drupal takes a bit more developer brawn and some serious skills, but our web design company, for one, has definitely adopted it as our CMS of preference. 

Here’s a concrete list of 5 benefits that put Drupal web development far ahead of the alternatives:

  • Full Open Source. Most of what you need is free. This reduces web development costs a great deal, making it easier for us to serve our customers at even better prices. 

  • Perfectly Customizable. Compared to it, other CMS systems tend to lock you in the grid of a given theme and have hard time letting you out. Drupal website templates are very flexible.

  • Great Integration Capabilities. It has amazing API support, connecting your Google Analytics, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else quickly and with ease.

  • Mobile Ready. There are CMS systems where themes look great until you view them on mobile. Here the system makes sure every layout is mobile ready without the need for long hours spent on adjustments.

  • Powerful SEO Capabilities. SEO is important and Drupal website development allows for great outreach with detailed customization capabilities. 

The bottom line is Drupal is newer, more stable and more powerful than the alternatives on the current market. 

This is why we chose it and sincerely recommend it to our clients.

Mar 10 2017
Mar 10

Reliability is one of the more important things in any profession. What good is an amazing physician that neglects his patients? The same with web development. You want to find a digital marketing agency in Toronto that is, first and foremost, reliable.

Unlike many other things, however, reliability is a quality that becomes apparent only after you begin working with your digital advertising agency. Then campaigns don’t quite work, deliverable are not delivered and the whole situation is a bit of a mess.

But does it have to be this way? Not at all.

So how do you choose a reliable company?

By paying attention to those few important things.

✯ First impressions. The ones that are made during initial communications. Visit their office. Does it look too organized to be truly busy? Or is it too messy to be efficient? A good digital marketing solutions company is tidy enough, but teeming with activity. There has to be a buzz in the air. This means they are engaged, energetic and devoted to their work.

✯ Meet the team. Try to feel the person you are talking to, but chances are other people will be doing the actual work. Ask to meet the marketing team. The strategist, the designers. Ask if the same people will be on your portfolio. Ask them if the company sees employees come and go often. If the team seems happy and the work environment buzzing but stable, you’re in the right place.

✯ Recommendations. Never be shy to ask for referrals. Look at their marketing portfolio, and follow up with their previous clients. Ask about the working experience, the relationship and how they ran the campaign. This is not as good as a personal referral, but is far more telling than just browsing a portfolio or catalog.

✯ Inquire about the work process. You’re now almost sure this is it, but wait a little and ask one more thing. The work process includes the frequency of meetings, phone conferences and briefings. What reports you will be getting and how often. Who do you talk to when you have questions and what kind of results you’re to expect. Digital advertising agencies that do well by their clients will be happy and excited to tell you all about those things.

Once you got those four items down, your chances of making a mistake after all are nearly zero. Good luck in your marketing campaign!

Mar 08 2017
Mar 08

Here you are, super excited and quite proud of your content-driven Drupal website that:
 

  • you can customize to your liking
  • “spoils” you and your team with a highly flexible editorial workflow, with a great administrator experience
  • comes with unmatched scalability which allows you to project your business far into the future, in other words: to dare and to dream big.
     

No matter what “floods” of traffic and “truckloads” of data/content the future has in store for you, Drupal's got you covered!

How about speed? 

It would be a pity to compromise its powerful heavy content-handling capabilities “in the name of” top speed now wouldn't it?

You don't have you!

Your content “load” and your Drupal website's complex architecture can remain “unharmed” while you continue to dream big in terms of page loading super speed if you implement these 10 techniques to speed your Drupal website's performance:
 

1. Is Your Site Running on The Latest Version of Drupal?
 

As obvious and quick and easy (compared top other “tweaks for speed”) this performance-booster might be, there still are Drupal website owners or Toronto developers that overlook or underestimate it!

Don't be one of those who rush in to implement the more advanced performance-improving tactics and skip the “elementary” ones!

So, you've got our point: always make sure to update to the latest version of Drupal.

Needless to add that it's that version, the last released one by the Drupal community, that has all the bugs and errors that you might be facing right now already solved. Not to mention that all the other “surprise” upgrades and improvements that it's been supercharged with while your site was still running on an older version.


2. Boost Your Drupal Webite's Performance Using a CDN
 

Get used to picturing your Drupal website's visitors as “highly demanding”!

They might be impressed with your site's (high quality) content richness, but their first impression will worsen, drastically, if that "high valuable" content takes ages to load!

Therefore, consider relying on a content delivery network (CDN) for delivering the content (obviously!) that your users will request at a higher speed.  


3. Configuration Changes: a Simple, Yet Effective Performance Tuning
 

Before you rush to tackle the bigger issues affecting your Drupal's performance, make sure you do all the basic configuration settings!

Such as this configuration "trick" here, aimed at helping you to boost your Drupal site's performance: got to Administer- Site configuration- Performance.

It's there that you can make your own "inventory" of all the options at hand for JavaScript optimization, CSS optimization and page cache. They're handy speed-boosting options, so why not use them? It's just a matter of box-checking after all!

Make sure to check all the key boxes there such as "Compress cached pages", "Aggregate JavaScript files" (and the CSS ones, of course), "Cache pages for anonymous users" etc.


4. Spare The Resources Invested in Displaying 404 Error Pages 
 

No matter how brilliantly-customized and appealingly-designed your 404 error page might be, it will still use valuable server resources!

So, you might want to first get your website scanned using a software such as Screaming Fog or Online Broklen Link Checker. To identify its “weak points”, its non-existing pages, broken URLs and noneffective content sections than to rely on a Drupal-dedicated module for displaying a 404 error page each and every time there's a requested content-related issue.

For all the other cases when you have no choice and you just have to get the “resource-consuming” 404 error page displayed, you might want to enable Drupal Fast 404.

It's one of Drupal's modules designed with to speed in mind, you know! It will use just 1 MB of your server's memory. 


5. How Heavy Is Your Website's “Load” of Unused Modules?
 

It's in a CMS's nature (and Drupal's definitely no exception) to “ship with” a heavy load of modules and plugins.

Now, can you remember our advice from a previous post on this blog? “If there's a module for it, it doesn't mean you have to rush in and install it on your site” (or something like that; if you want to test my memory you can always look over that blog post again).

Therefore, consider it as a “spring cleaning“ for your Drupal website!

Go through all of them, make a list including 3 major categories: the “crucial” ones, the ones you've actually never used and those which, once uninstalled, wouldn't impact your website functionality at all (be “cruel”, be “honest” with yourself!).

You'll be surprised of how much load you'll ease your Drupal website off just by carrying out this task: disabling and even removing all the unused/unnecessary Drupal modules from your site!

Combined with a well-tuned cache (that we'll be tackling in this post, as well), getting rid of your modules overload is probably one of the most efficient ways to boost your Drupal website's performance!


6. Speed It Up: Aggregate Your CSS and JavaScript Files
 

And here's another factor that dramatically influence your website's overall performance: Drupal's “burden” of CSS and JavaScript files!

It's Drupal itself that provides the solution: it enables these files' aggregation so that they load together and significantly improve your website's front end performance.

Fewer HTTP requests will automatically lead to faster page loading time, as simple as that!


7. Is Your Website a Drupal Cache System-Powered One?
 

Learning how to trigger Drupal's cache system's “superpower” is one of the best tactics to boost your Drupal website's performance with!

If we are to sum up, in a very rudimentary manner, how Drupal's caching system works, it would be something like this:
 

  1. a user lands on your website
  2. tries to access a certain page on your site
  3. that specific request gets stored (a copy of it, course) in an easily accessible location so that it will load quicker for the next user who'll land on your site and try to access the very same page
     

Got it?

Now since it's a whole caching “system” that we've referred to, you should know that there are dedicated Drupal modules that you can put in charge of all the caching going on on your website:

  1. The Internal Page Cache module: it caches and stores anonymous visitors' page requests, delivering them much quicker to future users trying to access them
     
  2. The Internal Dynamic Cache module: a great “tool” for improving your page load time both for anonymous and for logged-in visitors

You simply can't afford (it would be quite “reckless” to overlook this performance-booster) not to use Drupal's cache system to its true potential. Especially since it “overwhelms” you with so many types of caches that you only need to enable:
 

  • page caching
  • panel caching
  • PHP caching
  • Views caching
     

8. Is Your Current Web Hosting Satisfying Your Need for Speed?
 

A fast web hosting is key when it comes to optimizing your Drupal website for high speed!

It's one aspect that you can't afford getting “tight-fisted” about! So, you may want to keep the distance from those web hosting providers offering you “irresistible” prices at the cost of shared resources that will just bog down your website.

Piece of advice: make sure to choose a Drupal specific host!

It's another great “trick” when you want to boost your Drupal website's performance!


9. Set Up a Reverse Proxy and Your Drupal Server 
 

Call this technique a “HTP accelerator”!

It will streamline the whole cached copies delivery process thanks to the “go-between” server that it relies on.
 

10. Optimize The Main “Culprits” for Low Speed: Images
 

That's right, it's the load of images on your website that's consuming most of its resources and, implicitly, which have the greatest impact on your site's loading speed.

The solution? 

Optimize, optimize, then optimize some more! 

And since when it comes to images optimization is just another word for compression, you do that: compress the images slowing down your Drupal website!

Tip: among many other built-in “treats” that the innovative Drupal 8 spoils us, developers in Toronto, with, there are its awesome image optimization features.

We're referring here to Image Styles, for instance (than you get “by default”) which enables you to optimize your images' sizes so that they're perfect-fit for any type of device, irrespective of its screen size!


And this is our “decalogue”! Our list of 10 speed up techniques, ranging from basic to a bit more advanced, that you should consider when you decide to boost your Drupal website's performance! 

How does your own list of top speed-boosters look like?

Pages

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web