Author Archive

postheadericon BestFakeDiploma.com

Welcome to the next installment of Meet the Client.

We first met the guys of bestfakediploma.com a few years back when they were trying to get off the ground with a different website.  After helping them achieve a number 1 ranking, we expanded to some of their other websites, and this one was on that list.

I have to say, for a website that we didn’t build, bestfakediploma.com has a nice looking design.  The style is contemporary yet user-friendly.  It is clearly aimed at the average, middle class individual looking to try something fun and novel.  Yet, there is enough modern technologies included as to make you never doubt that it is a professional website.

The site is meant to rank various fake diploma websites out there.  Personally, I think the idea of ranking fake diploma websites is a fun idea.  If our client wasn’t already doing it, I might have stolen the idea.  I may yet use them as a reference for when I get my *cough* Harvard Diploma *cough*.

postheadericon Primoid.com

Richmond Primoid has been a client of ours for quite a few years.  Their website, www.primoid.com, was one of the first we started to do seo for, way back when.  Since then, we have helped to maintain their site and build it up to the point it is at now.

postheadericon Meet the Client

We are starting a new web series on our blog, called Meet the Client.  Every web developer out there has a portfolio, but we wanted to delve deeper.  To talk about the client themselves, what they do, who they are, what their favorite color is…, ok maybe not their favorite color.  But, we do want to sit down with them and talk about everything that is going on with their site and how it came to be.  Join us on this wild and fantastical journey through…our list of clients.  It’ll be fun.  Really!

postheadericon Are You Ready For Cyber Monday?

We all know about Black Friday.  Crazy prices, insane crowds, lines out the door, and complete and utter chaos.  In recent years, however, Cyber Monday has been gaining ground to match or even surprise Black Friday.  Cyber Monday is the e-commerce version of the famous Friday holiday.  However, if you run an online business and are planning on taking advantage of the new holiday, you need to make sure you are ready for it.  To help out, here is a checklist of things to do to make sure you are prepared:

1. Check your server capability

A lot of hosting companies limit the amount of bandwidth that their customers can use in a month.  If you are expecting heavy traffic to your website, the last thing you want is for your site to go down in the middle of the biggest sale you have every made.  Make sure you know how much bandwidth your host has given you and see if you can track how much bandwidth is being used over the course of the day.

If you are concerned over how much bandwidth you might use during the holiday, one of the best defenses is to minimize the amount of data downloaded by your potential customers.  A good web developer can help you to make sure that the images on the screen are only as large of a file as is needed and utilize a customer’s browser cache to reuse the same files as much as possible.

2. Check your shopping cart

While it is a wonderful to have customers making purchases on your website, you will only see the money from those sales if your customers are able to “check out.”  This seems simple at first, but updates to systems and operations can mean that your shopping cart may or may not be up to date.  Generally, if you are using a big name like Paypal, you should be fine.

3. Optimize your website for sales

Getting customers to your website is important, but you have to be the salesman.  You need to direct your customers with big headlines and images.  Call them to action with words like “Click Here!” or “Find our More!” to send your customers to the biggest sales.  Once they are looking at your website, they can spend as much time as they would like without worry.

4. Test new changes early

If you are planning to have special changes made to your website for the holiday, make sure that they are tested beforehand.  You don’t want your big changes to cause a big issue without the time to fix it.  Make sure you check and double check any and all changes that will be going up to your site.  Use unlisted subdirectories or dummy domains to test out exactly how the website will look before you flip the switch at midnight.

5. Promote, promote, promote

This is not one of those scenarios where the idea of “if you sell it, they will come” applies.  Your customers, both current and potential, need to know what your offering and the kind of deals they can expect.  Push it in blogs, and spread it through social media.  Tweet, post, and advertise as much as possible to get the most amount of customers to your website.  Remember, this holiday lasts one day.  If you don’t get your customers there for your big day, it won’t end up being much of a big day at all.

 

If you follow this checklist, your website should be primed and ready to make the most of Cyber Monday.

postheadericon Web Design Evolution: Expanding Horizons

As a company with years of experience in designing and developing websites, we have seen the trends change as the years go by.  Just as the fashion industry has a tendency to reinvent itself every couple of years, website design seemingly overhauls itself every so often.  Light colors become dark colors.  Animated buttons become drop down menus.  Now we are seeing a focused shift towards using the whole screen as a design canvas.  Interestingly enough, this is nothing new, in fact the design idea is old enough to be considered “retro” at this point.

In the Beginning

Mankind created the internet.  However, without html attributes, css, or other modern day niceties, there was no way of limiting how the data was spaced horizontally.  Vertically, you started at the top and went to the bottom.  Horizontally, you started at the left and went to the right.  There was no real middle.  This made for cluttered and often unorganized websites that were difficult to look at and even more difficult to navigate.

Then, there was the css revolution.  Wrapping div’s were created to center content inside a nice, pretty box.  Sites became advertising art pieces like other advertising media had long before.  Now there was a background, to be mostly ignored, and the parts that marketers wanted you to look at.  For non-business websites, this also provided a canvas by which artists could express their creativity.  With javascript, we saw animation added and websites started moving, but they still stayed towards the center of the screen, where it was safe to play.

And Now…

We are seeing a radical shift back to the days of full-width pages…somewhat.  There is still a focus put on the middle of the page.  This is where the important images and text is going.  However, there is also a focus on blurring the lines between the content and the background.  Elements like headers will expand the length of the screen.

Take for example what I believe is a very interesting theme developed for WordPress.  This particular theme was purchased from ElegantThemes and a demo can be found on our site at http://activenation.com/demos/fusion/.  Notice that the background images expand to the whole width of the screen, while the text and focus of the website is right in the middle where it has always been.  This, I believe, is where the next generation of websites is heading.  More and more, this style of website is becoming more popular.  While not the most appropriate for perhaps a corporate setting, for marketing themed websites, it fits the bill of having a wow factor to it.

postheadericon Language of the Future?

For today’s post, I pose an interesting question.  In the world of web design and development, there are a couple major computing languages.  Some are complimentary, and some are competition.  So, which holds the key to the future?  What language is leading the way of technology?  Let’s examine a few and try to figure it out.

HTML

The base of all website development, html, or HyperText Markup Language, is what makes the web look like the web.  Without it, there would be only text, text and more text.  Html gives us images and the original markup of style, colors, and fonts.  For something so old, one would consider it almost antiquated, but while other languages have come to assist, without the use of html, they would still have nothing to display.  For this reason alone, we must give a nod to the originator of modern web languages.  And who knows?  With the advent of HTML5, we may not have seen the last tricks of this old dog.

CSS

From the old styles of html, a new language dawned.  Css, or cascading style sheets, allows for a wider range of styles and designs.  From the original css, through the newest css3, we now have 3-dimensional artistry, dropdown menus that appear on hover, opacity, rounded corners, and shadows of all colors and shades.  This language has not only been the colors and styles of the new web design industry, much like the artist’s pallette, it has also been one of the driving engines of the new browsers.  In some ways, the advent and popularity of css, especially CSS3, has driven a huge change in the market of browsers.  While Internet Explorer was slow on the uptake of this language, other browsers like Firefox and Chrome were able to take a bite out of the market leading to a radical shift in market share.  With all these designs, we can only imagine what the next generation of CSS will bring?  A sneak peak at CSS4 has already shown some wild new technologies coming soon, so stay tuned!

Javascript

While CSS added color, javascript added movement.  Suddenly, objects could fly across the screen.  The website could interact the the user in a more user-friendly way allowing the websites to be more geared towards the customer.  When the jquery library came on line and made it even faster and easier to utilize javascript in meaningful ways, the doors to the future of interactive website development seemed wide open.  Indeed, there are tons of things that javascript can help enable us to do, including reloading parts of a page without reloading the whole page using AJAX, validating information on a form before it is submitted, storing cookies for later visits onto the website and more.

PHP and ASP.Net

While Javascript was seeking to improve the experience on the visitor’s side, these two languages were seeking to do the same on the server side of things.  Now, perhaps it is inappropriate to link these two together, as they are vastly different and in many ways compete with one another, however they both aim to do the same thing which is to let the server drive the bones of the website.  This includes linking back to a database, be it MySQL or the more powerful SQL Server, which enables e-commerce solutions to function the way they do.  Without a database to store the information about the individual products being offered, there would be no way to try and sell the items.  These languages have also driven the new cms craze.  PHP in particular has been a driving force behind a number of Content Management Systems, most notable WordPress, which has become the number 1 cms and blogging software.  The entire system, and all the themes for it, are written in a combination of PHP, CSS, HTML and Javascript.  To an extent, it might be said that CMS systems encompass the best of everything the web has to offer.

The Verdict?

While no one language can truly stand on its own, it is my opinion that the one language that truly shows not only what has been done, but what can be done is CSS.  While still relatively limited in what it can do, the new generations of this language are evolving to levels never before seen.  With new language definitions, CSS has started taking some of the animation from Javascript.  The new CSS4 promises potential command-line scripting, which may take some of the server functions from PHP and ASP.NET.  Plus, the new email functionality may finally put an end to the dominance of HTML in the one medium that had not yet transitioned to the newer possibilities.  Indeed, the next couple of years may eventually see CSS take on the rest of the languages and become the dominant force of future web development, but only time will tell.

postheadericon Internet Explorer’s Big Change or Huge Mistake

For those who have been following such things, internet explorer, microsoft’s browser that has been a key player in the market for over a decade, recently released it’s newest version, version 10, to Windows 7 customers.  The browser version, which was originally only produced for Windows 8 users, was released about 3 months ago.  This change was likely done after Windows 8’s dismal performance over the first 6 months of its existence.

According to StatCounter (gs.statcounter.com), Windows 8 has been slowly gaining ground after its initial launch in October, but as of yet has only reach about 5% of the market.  As of now, it is poised to finally surpass Windows Vista in June, if current trends remain the same.  Considering the generally accepted opinion that Windows Vista was one of the worst mistakes in Microsoft’s history, taking 8 months to surpass it shows extremely poorly on the company, especially when predecessor Windows 7 reached 3 times the audience in the same time frame.

For Windows 7 users, however, IE10 looked to be unavailable for the longest time.  However, on February 26th, Microsoft released it for users of the currently most popular operating system, Windows 7.  What is sadly the current second most popular operating system, Windows XP (which still maintains 21% of the market after over a decade in service), will likely never receive the upgrade as IE9 was not released on it and Microsoft plans to discontinue support for it as of April of next year.

The update for Windows 7 users however, came in the form of a Windows Update.  For what I believe is the first time, the new version of IE was downloaded automatically without any input from the client.  On some level, perhaps I should be annoyed, but seeing as Chrome and Firefox have been doing it for years, I really don’t mind anymore.  It is actually shocking that it took Microsoft this long to start playing ball by the new rules.  That being said, if many out there are like me, we were shocked to find out we were running IE10.  I do not know when it was installed, only that one day I opened up internet explorer to find out that a few things had changed.

A large part of me was happy that finally, Microsoft was being smart and getting everybody onto the more updated browsers, which makes it easier of Web Developers like me to not need to worry about how a website will show up on older browsers.  However, it seems to have been a moot point anyway.  After IE10’s release on Windows 7, market share for Internet Explorer has continued to drop, placing it at unprecedented lows for the once mighty browser.  For the browser that held 68.5% of the global market 5 years ago to drop down to just of 25% now shows just how far the mighty have fallen.  Meanwhile, Google Chrome, which has been the global market leader for the last year, looks ready to finally dethrone Internet Explorer in the US market, which has remained steadfastly pro-IE for the last decade.  The once mighty browser was still maintaining a decent 43% market share in the US in April, but has started a steep decline and is currently estimated at only 31% for June, a full 12% market share lost in 2 months.

If the current trend continues, we could be looking at the potential demise of one of the greatest browsers ever created, however perhaps it is time for the aging giant to step down and allow the new king, Google Chrome, to rule the market as it once did.  Microsoft has enough to worry about, with a dismal performance by its latest operating system, and a decade old operating system still holding on to almost a quarter of the market.  The world will see whether Internet Explorer will continue to survive or, like the Netscape and AOL platforms of the past, fade in obscurity.

postheadericon Are You Using the Wrong Browser?

Imagine wearing a pair of special sunglasses that only allow you to see in black and white.  You can see everything, but you don’t see all of the colors and shades.  You don’t see the shadows, because they blend in too much, and the picture of the world in front of you isn’t as clear as it should be because the shades are dirty and smudged from years of use.  Now imagine that you never take those shades off and eventually begin believing that what you are seeing is what the world really looks like.  This is what happens when you use a browser that is out of date.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned the growing competition of Google Chrome and Firefox over Internet Explorer.  While different sources disagree over who holds the current title of the most popular browser, it is clear that Chrome and Firefox have made big strides in catching up with, and possibly surpassing, the success of Internet Explorer.  What you may not realize, if you are not immersed in some of the internet technology based discussions, is that not all browsers show the same site.

Each browser, by its very definition, shows a webpage in its own way.  Many things will remain constant between them.  Red will still be red, and large text will still be bigger than small text.  However, how images, videos, and general pieces of a website are displayed differ from browser to browser.  Each browser has its own rendering features, which internet website developers have learned to account for.  Putting something as simple as a shadow onto a colored box requires a separate code for Firefox, Chrome and IE.  Plus, not all features are supported by all browsers.

For instance, in Chrome and Firefox, you can have a multi-stop gradient, that is, a gradient that fades from one  color to a second color to a third color, at pre-programmed spacing.  Internet Explorer does not support this feature.  There are work-a-rounds, such as creating an image from the gradient and using that image, not the colors themselves, as the background.  Of course, this is terribly inefficient and adding text to the website, which would make the site taller, would disrupt the background.  In many ways, these work-a-rounds force the developer back to the stone age of web development where everything had to fit in a neat little box.

Unfortunately, there are also websites that were developed, for one reason or another, to utilize only Internet Explorer and will not work with any of the other browsers.  As a developer, I find these to make very little sense, since anyone who has checked these statistics will find that less and less people are using internet explorer so websites that force them to use a browser they don’t want to use may suffer the fate of being ignored by those who would take offense at having to use something they don’t like because it makes the programmer’s life easier.  With the amount of technology and computer languages that are supported on every browser, I find it hard to believe that the websites that are only available on IE could not be duplicated onto the other browsers.

This having been said, it seems that the trend of designing websites that are supported on only IE is diminishing and I firmly believe will fade away within a short amount of time.  Until that time, we all need to keep a copy of internet explorer loaded on our computers, just in case.  I personally only use it once or twice a week, if that.  Otherwise, it may behoove you to try out one of the other browsers for a bit.

If you are scared of changing, because you are so used to how internet explorer works, and you worry that it will take a long time to get used to a new browser, consider this: when you buy a new car, do you immediately know how to drive it perfectly?  Unless you are a professional driver, probably you do not.  Each car has a gas pedal that works a little different and a brake pedal that works a little stronger than your last.  You have to get used to a center console transmission instead of it being on your steering wheel.  It takes a little bit of time, but that does not mean you shouldn’t buy a new car when your old one has trouble keeping up with the other cars on the road.

Plus, changing browsers is free.  There are no internet browsers out there that cost money to download, except perhaps IE9, which requires Windows Vista or higher and so would need an upgrade, worth a couple hundred of dollars, from anyone still using XP, which is still approximately 30% of the population.  However, those same XP users are free to use either Firefox or Chrome in the latest versions without paying anything for an upgrade.

Who knows, you may even like the new browser better than the one you are using.  You would most certainly not be the first to do so.

postheadericon Comments Closed

Due to the amount of blatant spam comments being posted on the blog without any way of filtering through them to find the real ones, we have had to disallow any future comments on any of our posts or pages.  We hope that you understand the necessity of this change and that the spam comment-makers feel properly ashamed for the abuse of the privilege that will now need to be banned from all users and visitors.  We will still provide useful information on this site, as we are devoted to informing our readers about the goings on of the internet world, but comments will no longer be allowed.  Thank you.

postheadericon Getting off the Ground

For just about all of us, it has become obvious in the recent years that a website is an absolute must in the current day and age.  Any business selling any product or service needs to have an effective way of communicating to prospective and current clients who they are, what they can provide and how to contact them.  While the designs and technologies behind websites can range from a simple one page “brochure” to a multi-page, optimized “web 2.0” megasite, everyone needs some sort of website to promote their business and the sooner the better.

At this point, having a website is almost like a source of status.  If you find a business that doesn’t have a website, what does it make you think?  Either they are a brand new business, in which case they have not yet established any credibility, they have been around but don’t understand the new technologies, which would mean they are behind the times in marketing and may be as well in their products and services, or they don’t believe a website is necessary.  If they don’t believe a website is necessary in an age where the majority of research and information on a business comes from the internet, then they clearly do not understand modern-day clientele.

Once the website has been created and been taken live, the question becomes “how do we let people know about it?”  In some ways, it may seem pointless to promote a website, which is itself a marketing tool.  To use a form of marketing to promote another form of marketing is redundant, right?

Actually, it is the opposite.  Many historically successful advertising and marketing campaigns have utilized this very concept.  By directing clients from one form of marketing to another, you are creating a cycle, by which you are creating an intrinsic link between yourself and the client.  They see an advertisement about a product that leads them to your website, which gives them more information, which directs them to give your company a call, from which your sales representative provides further clarification and makes a sale.  The next time around, they may not need the advertisement, choosing to go right to the website and find out about your newest product.  They may choose to contact you directly.  You have become a source of information for them.

For that reason, as soon as you have a website, it should start appearing everywhere.  It should be on your trucks, billboards, tv ads, newspaper ads (for those that still use those), and ads on other websites.  Make a blog entry about your new website.  Make a facebook post to all of your friends.  Send an email blast to all of your clients, or even a direct mail campaign.  Do what ever you can, but make sure everybody you know is made aware of your new website.

This isn’t just for marketing purposes or the quick sale.  From a search engine optimization point of view, the more people visit your site, the more people respond to your facebook posts with ones of their own or right reviews of your website with a link to it, the better your website will rank in search engines.  This provides more visitors and more clients.  By continuing these efforts, they become multiplied in terms of their effectiveness, and your website, your brand, becomes the buzz of the industry.  This won’t happen over night, but it will happen if you are committed to it.

If you have read this article and think “I really do need a new website” or “I need help getting my new site promoted” I encourage you to check out our website at www.activenation.com.