Blog

April 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr07_ABusiness owners often have more than one role, overseeing many different aspects of the day-to-day operations at once. A possible problem that can arise though is that they may not be experts in every area which can cause confusion or issues. Take for example Web design - business owners might know what they want their pages to look like, but lack the ability to effectively communicate their ideas to Web designers. The best way to get what you want is to speak the same lingo and learn some popular Web designer terms.

Here are 20 of the most used Web design terms that could help you communicate effectively with designers and developers about what you want from your website:

  • Alignment - The position of the various elements on your page. Alignment can be focused on the borders of the page, or positioning of elements based on other elements - e.g., aligning all images to the left side of the page, and making sure the text is aligned to the right of each image.
  • Banner - A form of advertising that is usually at the top of a page and goes from one side to the other. On many sites, the banner also contains links that can be clicked through to reach other pages.
  • Below the fold - The point on the page where viewers will begin to scroll after the page has loaded. Generally you put the most important information above the fold (what the visitor sees first) and supplement information below it.
  • Color wheel - A circle of colors that allows designers to easily pick out primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complimentary and contrasting colors - e.g., on most wheels red is opposite green because they complement one another.
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets allows designers to dictate the look and feel of a page. These are usually codes that dictate the font, color, and layout of a Web page.
  • DPI - Dots Per Inch is the resolution of an image or monitor. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution or quality of the image.
  • Entry and Exit pages - This indicates where a viewer enters your page from an external source, and where a viewer will usually exit your site from. The vast majority of entry pages are the homepage, so these should be designed to capture and maintain interest. Exit pages can be the homepage, or perhaps a signup form.
  • GIF - Pronounced Jif, is an image format that is best suited for small images with few colors. These can also be animated.
  • Header - This is the absolute top of any page.
  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language, is the main language used to write webpages. For example, the bullet points in this article would be written as < ol><li>HTML - Hyper Text ...</li></ol>. Browsers read this code and translate the directions given.
  • JPEG - An image format best suited to pictures and images with a large number of colors. The vast majority of images on the Internet and websites are uploaded in the JPEG format.
  • Lorem Ipsum - Placeholder text is used by developers when creating mockups of pages or layout so they can see how the text will look when the page is finished. This can be any form of text and is usually nonsensical, like 'Lorem Ipsum Dolor'.
  • Orphan - A word or short sentence that appears by itself, below the text on a page. Generally these should be avoided, and can be easily 'adopted' by adjusting spacing between letters and words, or editing content.
  • Parent/Child elements - With HTML and other Web languages there is a relationship between elements (parts of code). Parents dictate elements that will be inherited by other codes (children) that are within the main parent group. For example, if you assign a headline a certain style this style becomes the parent. Any other elements like a bolded word within the headline will be a child. The child will take the same style as the headline and have the added bold format as well.
  • Pixel - The smallest element of any image and your monitor. It is essentially one dot of color. The resolution of images and monitors (how clear the image is) is often displayed in pixels. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution and quality.
  • PNG - An image format that is most commonly used for images that have large amounts of uniform color or transparent backgrounds.
  • Script - A small bit of code that enables browsers to do more than just displaying text. If you've ever watched a video while on a website or downloaded something directly from a page, you have interacted with a script.
  • Watermark - A mark of ownership which is usually applied to the background of images or content. This is used to highlight ownership and deter theft of visual content. If you plan to post images on your site that you create, you might want to consider adding a watermark as protection.
  • White space - Space that surrounds text, images or other parts of the page. It is generally believed that the more white space there is, the easier it is to read content and draw attention to important aspects of a page.
  • Wireframe - A visual representation of a website's layout with directions for visuals, location of content, and style for each page. This is usually constructed before the site is built and is more or less a road map for developers.
Of course, these are just a few of the terms designers and developers use on a regular basis. If you want to understand how to get the best out of your website and technology then we're here to help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2014

SocialMedia_April07_ASocial media is an important tool for any business, and those that want to really engage with customers and valuable connections really need to have visual forward content. The problem many business owners come across is in finding the right software to create this content. Sure, you can use a program like Adobe Photoshop, but while using an expert can prove too expensive, going it alone can be too difficult to achieve for many. There are other tools available.

In this day and age where compelling visuals are possible online, it is extremely important to learn how to create attractive visuals to aid your social media marketing campaigns. You at least need a working knowledge of how to enhance your photos and make them more attention-grabbing. There are a number of free or highly affordable tools out there that can help you do just that.

PIXLR - This advanced photo editor works like Photoshop, only it is easier to use and therefore ideal for beginners. You can create images from scratch or perform advanced image editing. Using fairly simple tools can maximize the potential of images. For quick editing, there’s PIXLR EXPRESS or PIXLR O-MATIC, which are free to use. Visit the PIXLR website to learn more and start use these programs.

PicMonkey’s Online Photo Editor - This photo editor can transform ordinary images into fantastic photographs in just a few clicks. Select the image that you want to modify and add special effects such as fancy text, or simply crop and re-size. The photos edited using PicMonkey can be uploaded on Facebook and other social media platforms. PicMonkey is free to use so you can just go to the website and start editing away. For added frames and special effects there’s a premium version you can upgrade to for USD $33.33 per year.

LiveLuvCreate - This website can be used without any charge and offers a variety of design layouts and graphics. Using this platform you can edit your own images and there are also a ton of images created by users on its library that can help give you inspiration. Among the tools available are borders, filters, and photo effects, as well as fonts, colours, and styles. Visit the website to set up an account and start editing your images today.

Canva - If you want to create your Facebook cover photos from scratch, or if you want to design some blog images, this is a free application that might prove useful. This tool is very convenient and can be used to create business cards, invitations, posters, and presentations. Visit the website today to start creating your own visuals.

Quozio - If you are into quotes, Quozio lets you upload famous and favorite quotes, visualize them, and then share them on your social network. Simply enter an interesting quote and then select a background image. Instead of simply posting what’s on your mind, you can make a quote more attractive and appealing by transforming it into a visual using this free app. Visit the site today to visualize your next quote.

Whether you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, your content cannot come alive without the use of quality graphics and images. If Photoshop does not work for you, these other tools are ideal substitutes for creating appealing graphics for a variety of social media platforms.

Make sure to share your own list of top photo tools for everyone to see! And, if you would like to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 2nd, 2014

Productivity_Mar31_APresentations are an integral part of any business, regardless of size. There is a good chance that you will have to give at least one presentation in your career, with many people giving so many they lose count. Many small businesses are starting to hire remote workers or carry out business over large distances, which forces them to create presentations online. However, with this type of presentation it can be especially hard to attract and keep an audience's attention.

If you are creating an online presentation to a remote audience there are a number of factors you should keep in mind if you want to grab your audience's attention and keep them following and paying attention. Here are five of the most important tips:

1. Make it visual

For the most part, visual presentations have a higher chance of success - that is, the message being grasped by the audience. This is especially true for online and remote presentations, largely because when more people are on a computer, partaking in a presentation, they will often be multi-tasking.

If you have a ton of text there is a good chance you will lose your audience within the first couple of slides. Instead aim for a presentation that is heavy on graphics and visually appealing. Using bright or contrasting colors will draw the eye and will increase the time you have your audience's attention.

If your presentation is about a product create picture slides with a minimal amount of text; let the product speak for itself. For presentations involving graphs and charts, include these graphics and a couple of key points. The rest you can fill in with spoken narrative.

2. Focus on the audience

Online presentations and those using meeting software should be audience-friendly. This means making it easy for them to join and partake in the presentation by sharing slides, and also asking if anyone has any points to add or even expand upon with an interactive presentation element.

While presenting, there will be slides and points that are more important than others. To highlight this you can 'sign-post' the salient points. Make these visually larger if they are text, and pause to point this out with the script by telling your audience: "This is the most important point"; essentially demanding they pay attention.

Finally, try to limit technical glitches. This can be the quickest way to lose engagement if your Internet cuts out or the computer crashes. Try to present at a time when you know connection will be strong and stable and have a backup in place in case something goes wrong.

3. Adapt to different audiences

Every person in the audience will have different expectations of your presentation. Some will want just the facts, while others might be looking to be convinced by an opinion or argument expressed in the presentation. You should take the time to get to know your audience and what they expect and then develop the presentation around this idea.

If you do your homework and know a bit about your audience, you can take steps to connect with them early in the presentation, if not before, and drive engagement.

4. Create, edit, practice, edit, practice, edit, practice, present

It may sound a bit redundant to edit and practice multiple times, but it really will help when leading an online presentation. First you should create your presentation, then edit it. You are looking to keep your slides as short as possible - no more than four points and two minutes spent talking for each slide.

Really the first edit should be about content, grammar and spelling. Once this is done, practice presenting as you would on the actual presentation day. Start with a blank desktop screen, log into the software/site you will be using, load the presentation, share it, and then actually present. Time yourself and note any issues.

Next, go back and edit the presentation some more, making sure you aren't spending too much time on one slide or that each of the slides does not have too many confusing points, etc. Keep practicing and editing until you are not only comfortable, but know the content inside and out.

You could also try recording your voice. This will allow you to hear where you need to work on inflection and overall style. If you find that you are tuning yourself out when you listen to the presentation, you may want to practice some more and try to inject some extra interest, whether through humor or engaging facts and ideas. This is really vital is you won't have that face-to-face contact with a physical presentation where you are present. If you sound engaging, the audience are more likely to connect with you.

5. Develop your own style

No one likes a dull presentation where you just talk about what's on the slides. Try to give your presentation a narrative arc and structure. Where possible include personal experiences or even tell a relevant joke from time to time. If you are passionate and show that you are trying to connect your audience will likely not click away from the presentation or drift off to other work or simply to surf the Internet and Facebook.

If you are looking to learn more about presentations and how to use software for expert presentations, or even how to conduct your next remote presentation, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 2nd, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar31_AThe website is one of the most important marketing and branding tools a small business can utilize. Potential and even current customers visit business websites looking for information and will often judge whether they will purchase from this point. That means that your site needs to be designed properly. In order to achieve this it pays to be aware of the common mistakes businesses make when designing their corporate website.

The business value of a business website is that it creates a solid online presence and boosts your brand image and market reach. Even if your business is not Internet based, a website can be used to create a certain impression and ultimately contribute to your bottom line. The key is to make sure you create the best impression. Here are six of the most common mistakes businesses make with website design:

Mistake 1: Building for the sake of building

Websites are important and some businesses believe that they should have a website, so they go ahead and simply build one. You should first take steps to define your target market - who is it that you want and expect to visit your website.

Once you have a defined target market you can then take time to build your site for your market. For example, if the majority of your target market uses mobile devices to browse the Web you should take steps to design your site so that it is viewable on mobile devices.

You should also determine what you want visitors to do on your site. Some companies want them to click through to another site, while others want them to sign up. By defining how you want your visitors to interact you can then develop your content and design around this.

Mistake 2: Designing a website that is too busy

It can be tempting to put all of your information on one page or even have a ton of images and videos. The truth is, this can be distracting largely because once someone lands on your page, they won't know how to get around, find the information they want, or even to know what they should do next.

Busy or flashy websites with lots of animations or large amounts of text also usually don't scale all that well. So, when someone looks at your site on a mobile device they will likely find it too hard to navigate and leave, which is counter to what you are trying to achieve.

Instead, aim for a website that is simple and clean. Important information should be quick to find and read and it should be clear who you are, what you have to say, and what you want the visitor to do.

Mistake 3: Lacking call to actions

Most business related websites have a goal as to what they want visitors to do. Maybe it's download an app, call the company, or even sign make a purchase online. It is essential that you lead visitors toward what you want them to do in the most clear and concise way. The best way to do this is through a call to action. These are usually buttons at the bottom of sections or pages that motivate the user to click and follow the instructions on what to do next, be that sign up to something or get in touch.

The best calls to action stand out from the content, drawing the reader's eye and hopefully inspiring them to click. They should also be clearly written, simple, and direct. e.g., 'Call us today!' or 'Download now!'

Mistake 4: Misguided content

It may seem worthwhile to write in-depth content about your products or services but this isn't always the case. People skim read the basics on the Web and it's different than other mediums.

What you should do is condense down your content so that it only states the most important information. Tell the reader what your product or service does and provide a few of the most important benefits. What you are looking to do is develop enough interest so that visitors to your site will click on the call to action and connect with you.

If you have the time and profits, creating a more visual site where you showcase the products or show how you can help in a short video may lead to higher engagement and possibly higher customer conversions. Take a look at the popular software and service sites like Dropbox, Microsoft, and Google. The content is highly visible and simple, yet provides just enough information so the user knows what the service is and what they are expected to do.

Mistake 5: Static content

It can be tempting to invest the time to write a great website, get the content online then just leave it sitting there. The Internet changes and what might have been regarded as great website design and content a couple of years ago may not be seen in the same light today.

It is advisable to periodically update your site's design and content to reflect current trends; making it more modern. Another related aspect of your content is that you need to ensure that your content is up-to-date. If you are hosting a contest and put the information on your site, you should make sure to take it off of your site, or update it when the date passes. It looks a little unprofessional to have content that is still talking about 2012 or even 2013.

Mistake 6: Doing it yourself

The vast majority of small business owners and managers don't have in-depth Web design skills, yet are determined to build their company's website themselves. This can lead to unexpected problems or a website that doesn't meet your needs. We strongly recommend that you work with a qualified designer who can help ensure that your website is designed and built to high standards.

If you are looking to boost your website's design contact us today. We can help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 26th, 2014

Office_Mar24_AMicrosoft Outlook is an application included in the Microsoft Office Suite. While it’s most commonly used to access different email accounts e.g., personal and business, it also has other features, including calendar, contacts, and tasks. It also comes with a search folder that lets you instantly find messages that fall under certain criteria.

Outlook is one of the most popular email platforms allowing you to read emails from almost any account. The inbox is where the majority of your interaction with Outlook is, but the problem is that many users receive so many emails that it can be overwhelmed quickly. This makes it more difficult to find important emails, or separate the spam/less important emails.

One way to deal with this is by creating a customized search folder for important emails. This makes searching for vital messages easier as they are saved in a separate folder.

Default and predefined search folders in Outlook

There are three default search folders in Outlook and you can see them under “search folders” in the mail navigation pane on the left side of the window. These default search folders are categorized mail, large mail and unread mail. Categorized mail contains messages that are categorized by color.

The large mail folder is a search folder that includes messages that are over 100 KB in size. Unread mail, as the term suggests, contains emails that have not yet been read.

Predefined search folders are also available. These are existing search folders that you can add to the search menu, below the other folders. Some of these require that you enter specific criteria, while others do not. For instance, “mail flagged for follow up” does not require any criteria, while “mail with specific words” asks you to enter certain words that the message must contain to be included in the folder.

Adding predefined search folders can be done by following the steps below:

  1. Click File.
  2. Select New and choose Search Folder. The New Search Folder window will appear.
  3. Click on any of the predefined search folders.
  4. Select the option you want if asked for a specific criterion.
  5. Click OK.

Create a new search folder in Outlook

It’s also possible to create your very own search folder. You get to set not only the criteria, but its name as well. This makes it convenient to easily access important messages as you don’t have to browse through the inbox or various folders in your mailbox.

Here’s how to create a new search folder in Outlook:

  1. Right click on Search Folders in the mail navigation pane and click New Search Folder. You may also press ctrl+shift+p on your keyboard to make the window appear.
  2. Click Create a Custom Search Field followed by Choose.
  3. Enter the name of the new folder in the name field.
  4. Click Criteria and set your preferences to further personalize the folder and click OK.
  5. Click Browse and select folders to add in your customized search folder, then click OK.
  6. Select OK on the new search folder window and the new folder you created will be added under your search folders.
Messages in search folders will still remain in the original folders where they are saved. Even if you view the messages and delete the search folder, the messages will still be accessible in their default folder. However, if you select and delete a message in a search folder, it will be completely removed, even from its original folder.

If you have any concerns or feedback with regards Outlook search folders, feel free to get in touch and we’ll help you in every way that we can.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 20th, 2014

Hardware_Mar17_AIt’s hard to imagine printers completely disappearing in offices. While no one can refute how most documents are now housed in the digital realm, there will always be a need to have these documents printed out for one reason or another. While offices do have printers, it may be confusing to pick a new printer when you need a new one.

These three printers below are the most common printers found in offices these days.

Multi Function Printers (MFP)

Multi Function Printers are also commonly known as all-in-one printers. With this type of device, your printing, scanning, faxing and photocopying needs are covered! These printers usually come in a variety of sizes with many being small enough to fit onto a small desk.

Aside from the multi function features that MFPs have, these are the common benefits that business owners can gain from this type of printer.

  • They take up less room.
  • They are usually lower in cost. Though it may seem expensive compared to the other types of printers, if you consider buying a fax machine, scanner, photocopier and a printer, you’ll find that buying an MFP is actually a lot more affordable.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjets print documents by spraying ink onto paper, and can usually produce prints with a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch) with some actually able to print documents as high as 600dpi. This makes them ideal for printing saller images and reports.

What most business owners like about inkjet printers is the fact that they are usually affordable, making them an ideal device for businesses that just want printers. Since most offices (if not all) have computers, you’ll most likely see inkjet printers in the majority of offices. Here are some more benefits that people like about inkjet printers.

  • Fast printing speeds.
  • Can produce really high quality print.
  • Easy to use.
  • They can produce vivid colors.

Laser Printers

If there’s one very notable feature that you’ll love about laser printers, it would be the printer's capability of producing very high quality documents. In fact, laser printers can produce copies with a resolution of 600 dpi - 1200 dpi.

One of the main differences that laser printers have is the fact that they use toner (colored or black powder) instead of the inks that are used in most other printers.

Laser printers offer users many enticing benefits including:

  • Very high resolution.
  • Fast results.
  • High volume printing.
  • No smears at all.

What type of printer should my business get?

If you are looking for a new printer, it can be a little confusing as to which you should get. If you don't have a scanner or fax machine, it would be a good idea to look into a Multi Function Printer. Looking to print smaller or shorter documents or only occasionally? An Inkjet would probably be a better choice. If you need to print on a regular basis, or print in mass quantities a laser printer could be the best choice.

With all the types of printers available in the market, choosing a specific printer to use in your office can be quite confusing. If you need help in choosing which printer to go for, then give us a call and we’ll give you our expert advice on the matter.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 19th, 2014

BCP_Marc17_AA business without a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) is like a circus acrobat without a safety net. The question is, are you willing to take that kind of a risk with your business? Considering how attacks to your business can come in many forms be it cyber, natural disaster or man made (among many others), it makes perfect sense to have an effective DRP in place.

While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.

1.) Commitment from management

Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.

They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.

2.) A representative on each department should be available when creating a DRP

It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.

Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.

With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.

3.) Remember to prioritize

In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.

Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.

4.) Determining your recovery strategies

This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.

When determining your actual strategies, it's important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.

You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.

That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.

5.) Do a dry run at least once a year

Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.

It's during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.

These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 13th, 2014

WindowsPhone_Mar10_AMicrosoft's Windows Phone platform, despite being slightly behind in the Smartphone race between Android and Apple, is gaining traction among users. Especially since the release of Windows Phone 8.1, business owners are increasingly enticed to jump on the Windows bandwagon. Why you might ask? One reason is that there are several features that business owners love about the Windows Phone platform.

While there’s a plethora of reasons as to why business owners are moving to the Windows platform, these three powerful ones will give you a good idea of why people are making the shift.

Office apps, Lync and Outlook

Windows Phones have access to a number of Windows apps including the powerful Office suite which can turn your phone into a mobile office. By using the various Microsoft Office apps, you can share, access and edit your office documents all in one place. You can then sync all of the documents to SkyDrive, Office 365, or SharePoint sites after you’re done editing.

Are you a huge fan or avid user of Outlook tasks and calendar? If you are, then you’ll love how you can sync your Outlook tasks with your Windows Phone and have access to all of your messages, tasks and calendars at the touch of a button.

Beyond the core Office apps, there are also apps like Lync which allows for voice and video communication. Using Lync Mobile can be a game changer for your business. You can view your colleague’s availability, chat with individuals or groups through Instant Messaging, all from your phone.

Encryption and security

Viruses, hackers or malware can put you in a lot of trouble if left unchecked. Not only is it a good idea for business owners to make sure that their system is well optimized, they need to also make sure that their security is robust as well.

The Windows Phone has a trusted boot process that ensures only validated software runs, meaning that if software hasn't been validated by Microsoft, it won't be allowed to run. It’s also the only phone with native support for Information Rights Management that you can use for your business to protect critical and sensitive data.

Have you misplaced your phone before? If you answered yes, then you won’t have to worry as much if you misplace your Windows Phone as it has several layers of protection against that.

Here are some of the features that you can use:

  • Password or Pin
  • Remote wipe
  • Tools that you can use to find lost phones included in the Windows Phone management site

Have all of your contacts in one place!

The Windows Phone allows you to see all of your contacts on Hotmail, Messenger, Outlook, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google and all other compatible email accounts. If you’re a Skype user, you can also see your Skype contacts. The neat part is, you can customize your phone to show from which source the contacts are coming from. So if you want only the contacts from Facebook and Skype to display on your phone, you can customize your phone to show just that and disable the other sources like LinkedIn etc.

Once you tap a name, you can then see a consolidated contact card showing all of the information you have about that specific contact. This includes all the methods to communicate, conversations, recent calls and even their social media activity.

This feature is especially helpful when building relationships with thought leaders and the influencers in your niche. You can easily be updated on what they’re doing giving you some more insight on how you can implement their techniques in your business. Using this to study your competition’s activities is another effective way of using this feature for your business.

A lot of business owners are shifting to the Windows Phone platform and they’re right in doing so. The features mentioned above can give an advantage over the competition and help boost business to greater heights. And the best part is - we’re just on the tip of the iceberg with all the features that Windows Phones have to offer.

Do you want to know more?

If you want to know more about how you can use your Windows Phone to better your business, then give us a call now and we’ll help you.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.