Category Archives: Web Development

Have you ever wondered what that “http” is in your web browser?

httpHTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and it’s a request-response protocol that drives the web. Think of your browser as the client requesting information. It puts this request into a HTTP message and sends it to the server. The server will then send the response back to the browser. That response may be a picture or a webpage, for example.

The current standard HTTP/1.1 has been around since 1999 and it’s starting to show its age. Back then, webpages were much simpler and required fewer resources. Today however, a webpage can contain many additional resources to show you, the user, what the web developer built. Javascript, CSS, images, videos and even Flash are pulled in and rendered by your browser. This results in many back and forth request/responses and puts a large load on the server and the browser.

There are many techniques that attempt to alleviate the data transfer, but these methods are still at the mercy of HTTP/1.1 and its rules. Images can be compressed, resulting in less data transferred, or a server can tell the browser to store files locally (caching) so that future requests for that resource are pulled locally instead of being transferred again by the server. Web developers can bundle and minify resources. Instead of having 3 or 4 CSS files referenced (which means 3 or 4 request/responses over HTTP), we take those files and make one larger file. We can then take out white space and shorten it up to make it as small as possible.

So far, those solutions have worked but what really needs to happen is an evaluation of HTTP and a new version that is in line with today’s web. Enter HTTP/2.

HTTP/2 has been designed to speed traffic in a number of different ways. First, it transfers all data as binary instead of HTTP 1.1s for text message styles. The format is easier and more compact to transfer, meaning it will take less time to transmit. Next, the new version can deal with multiple data requests at the same time. HTTP/1.1 only allowed one data request at a time, meaning first get HTML, next get CSS, next get Image 1, then Image 2, then Javascript – a lot of back and forth. The result of HTTP/2 style requests is a faster and cleaner data connection. Finally, the new protocol includes server push. Today when you access a webpage, the server sends back HTML, your browser parses it and starts requesting additional resources like images, Javascript and CSS. With server push, a response from the server will send a page’s full content.

In order to realize the benefits, both the client and the server have to communicate via HTTP/2 and luckily the roll out of support has already begun. Realizing the full value is still a year or two away, however. Internet Explorer and “Spartan” will support it in Windows 10, Chrome and Firefox already support it. On the server end, the next version of Microsoft’s IIS will support it, with Apache support expected soon.

There is more to HTTP/2, but hopefully this has introduced to you a very important piece of the web, and how it’s being improved.

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5 Times More Reasons To Use Video for Your Business

In case you missed it, the Super Bowl was, ahem, pretty big this year. Arguably bigger? The fbcommercials. Love or hate football, this prime-time TV real estate often boasts some of the best and funniest ads of the year.

And if you’d like, you can easily catch all the ads on YouTube, taking the time to re-watch your favorites, or see the ones you missed while grabbing extra chip dip in the kitchen.

But here’s the exciting part (and the part your business may want to pay attention to): while YouTube absolutely smashed Facebook on overall commercial views, Facebook cleaned YouTube’s clock on overall shares.

FIVE TIMES as many shares, in fact.

As of the Monday after the Super Bowl, YouTube amassed a total of 234 million views on Super Bowl ads. Facebook couldn’t keep up with that number, mostly because not all the videos were uploaded directly to Facebook, and also because Facebook’s search still isn’t nearly as robust as YouTube’s (and people rarely go to Facebook to specifically search for video…at least, not yet).

When it came to overall shares of videos, however, Facebook accounted for nearly 70% of all shares for Super Bowl ads this year, even without many of the commercials being “native” (or uploaded directly) to the platform.

So what does this mean for your business?

  1. Video content is still king, and we know from our own client analytics that video always performs well with audiences, usually far outpacing photos.
  2. Facebook is placing higher and higher importance on native video on the platform. It’s great to host a video on YouTube (and you should continue to do so, since this plays well with SEO), but we already know the Facebook algorithm doesn’t play as nicely with outside links as well as it does to content posted directly to the platform.
  3. Views are nice, shares are great, and the further your video content spreads, the better.
  4. Video doesn’t have to be crazy high production to resonate with your audience. Most newer cell phones have fantastic cameras, so if you have 90 seconds and an iPhone, you can start connecting with your audience regularly with video.

The biggest lesson? Having a diverse distribution plan for your content is key to taking full advantage to how your audience finds you and interacts with you. Facebook is great, but it’s not the sole answer to an overall content strategy. Having multiple channels, and knowing how to leverage each one will contribute to your brand message and business goals.

“Oh I Forgot I Had a Website”

Oh I Forgot I Had a Website ImageWhile it’s not likely that you actually would ever forget that your business has an online presence, but that might be what the content and look of your site tell your visitors.

We all get busy running our businesses and making sure we are selling products. Fortunately, we at TKG are thinking about your website and we care a lot!

We took a look and, trust us, we were equally excited about the big news you announced proudly on your homepage in 2009! Unfortunately, it’s now 2015 so it is not quite as exciting.

That brings us to the photos you have of your team proudly displayed in your About Us or Meet the Group section. Everyone looks great, but unfortunately half of them are now gone as that photo is circa 2005. Or even worse (better?), you now have 30 employees, rather than the 10 shown in the photo.

So all joking aside, what kind of message does this outdated kind of info and look convey to visitors?

  • Do these guys update anything?
  • Are they almost out of business?
  • Is this really a company I want to do business with?

Other recent TKGenius blog posts have talked about the importance of things such as technology, keeping up with browser compatibility and responsive design. What your site says (or doesn’t) can be as important as the technologies used. It’s why we don’t take a one size fits all approach with our clients at TKG. We evaluate what you have, take the time to understand your goals and strategize to make the right recommendations to move your business forward.

So remember that website you have? Go take a look. Are you proud of what it says about your company? Would you want to do business with your company? Is it time for a few updates, a facelift or maybe even a complete overhaul?

We’re here for you. Get connected!

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Real Time Responsive Design Test

Responsive Design – it’s not just a buzzword. We’ve written quite a few blog posts on the subject here at TKG. We’ve stressed the importance of providing a powerful, functional web experience whether the user is sitting in front of their PC or in the back of a taxi cab miles away from home.

Chances are if you are already working with an online marketing firm, you know whether or not your website is, in fact, responsive. But for the small business owner who doesn’t have a bevy of web experts at their disposal, this can be a tricky question.

Enter the Mobile Web Transmogrification Portal! The what? Transmog is a simple tool that generates a real-time working preview of your website as it would appear on various mobile devices. Preview options include the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy S3.  Simply plug your URL into the tool and choose the display choice. You can toggle through the different display types and click through to any page on your website. The display updates real time so you can see whether your entire site is responsive or if your homepage is the only piece that is user-friendly.

TransMogScreenCap

We’ve captured a few examples of what a nice, responsive website looks like on the iPad and Galaxy using this tool. Give it a try! If you aren’t pleased with what you see on the display, you know where to find us!

TransMog Responsive Test - iPad TransMog Responsive Test - Galaxy

Do What Works but Don’t Stop Wanting More

As an account manager of several web marketing clients, my goal is for them (and us) to be successful in growing their businesses. And we do that by aligning our strategy with their company goals, becoming partners who work together in this mutual aim.

Most of my customers want to sell more widgets or get more sales leads, and so we get them more website traffic so they can do just that. Who doesn’t like more customers, right?

If your company website leads or sales are growing, especially by having a content and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, then continue to work your plan. That’s good business sense.

But let’s not stop at just continuing to do what works. There’s always more. It’s time to try new things.

stock-footage-new-ideas-hand-drawn-lettering-with-a-simple-stylized-bulb-symbol-whiteboard-animation-on-whiteWhen it comes to making money, one of my favorite things to do is to try new ideas. It’s fun to test them out and see if you can get a return on investment. Online marketing is no different: Find something that works and expand it. Then, find something else that works and expand it, too. Repeat the process.

Let’s assume you have an SEO and content strategy working for your business. Have you tested some paid digital advertising, yet? What about social media marketing; is that right for your business? And by social media marketing, I mean true strategy that drives results – not just playing on Facebook. How about email marketing to current customers – might you get them to spend more with your company with repeat orders?

There are so many avenues to explore when it comes to growing your business. If you haven’t gone down very far down those roads, there are likely goldmines to uncover.

Above (and Below) the Fold

For years I would preach about keeping all relevant content “above the fold” on the home page. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, it simply refers to the area presented to visitors when a web page loads in the browser window. Wikipedia might explain it a little better. Anything included below the fold was most certainly lost forever. Never to be seen again. Yikes!

Why did I hammer this concept home for several years? Because it was truly believed that people didn’t like to scroll down a page to find what they were looking for. And maybe that was true way back when.

I think that concept is one dimensional and isn’t very true anymore.

While you still want to keep your biggest message on top, you can include many details on a page and people WILL scroll if they are motivated to find out more. Another reason to disregard my old advice is because search engines look at the entire page and index content no matter where it’s at. If it’s relevant, then it deserves a place at the table.

I think a large player in this arena is the adoption of smart phones and the necessity to scroll on those devices. People have become accustomed to viewing websites on smaller screens with the need to scroll. Have you ever spent 5 (or 60) minutes scrolling through Facebook? Yep, you’ll just keep going without any worry.

Scroll On

If you’ve lived in fear of the fold maybe it’s time to reconsider things. You may be missing an opportunity to get great, relevant content on your home page that will ultimately help convert potential customers. Not sure where to start? Call us and we can look at your website together.

 

Responsive Design

Over the years, the ways in which we view the internet have changed dramatically. I still remember the days when my family dialed up the internet on our old Compaq, and now users have the option to access the internet virtually on their TVs, PCs, tablets, smartphones, netbooks or even their refrigerators. The point is, users are accessing your site on a range of different devices, and you want to be seen everywhere you can.

If your company is willing to invest the time, money and resources it takes to create a digital playground where customers can go to discover your products and services, it’s worth adapting that investment to display correctly on all relevant devices.

According to a recent study by the research firm IDC, there were over 1 billion smartphones sold worldwide in 2013, and according to Gartner, over 195 million tablets were sold the same year. With that many mobile internet users in world, it is important that your website is equipped to adapt to those users’ mobile screens.

So what’s the takeaway? To stay current and relevant in the digital space, it is important to consider responsively designed websites. Responsive sites are quickly becoming the industry’s standard because of their ability to adapt to changing technologies, and bonus: they have all sorts of residual business benefits.

Have additional thoughts about responsive design? We’d love to hear them!

Viewing-platforms

 

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Getting More Leads and Sales from Your Company Website

As I have shared previously, having a business website that caters to desktop, tablet and smartphone users (responsive design) is crucial as Google is giving more weight to sites that offer a great experience to all of its visitors. So, let’s say you’ve invested in your company website to do just that – what’s the next step?

More Traffic

Obviously, you want people to find your website and pay it a visit. You do this by having a good SEO/content strategy in place; and you can also bring more traffic to the website through paid advertising, social media posting and email marketing.

So let’s say you have good traffic coming to your site. What are you doing with it? Is your website generating leads? Is it creating sales for your company? If not, then you need to look at what’s called “conversion optimization.” ‘Conversions,’ for the purpose of this article, is a fancy word meaning leads and sales – how someone makes contact with your business. If you have traffic, but you are not receiving leads or sales, then there is a disconnect somewhere – and you need to find it.

Leads and Sales

There are three primary ways to generate leads from your website: phone calls, form submissions, and live chat. Phone numbers should be prominently placed and easy to find by site visitors. Forms should be simple and quick to fill out so users can send you contact you. And chat is icing on the cake – a simple way to get instant gratification if you are a website visitor with questions. We have found that people like to reach out to our clients in different ways, meaning each person has their preference. Why not cater to all three?

Let’s say you have an e-commerce website; you don’t want leads, you want sales. Make the experience smart, easy and intuitive. Does your current e-commerce website offer features such as the ability to order from the product listing page? Can I set-up an account and save my past orders? Is the checkout process simple and painless? Can I get free shipping or a discount on larger orders? Are you offering as many products as possible to potentially expand order size? Does your e-commerce website convey the feeling of trust by offering a way to contact your company, a return policy, testimonials, product reviews, etc.? And do you offer live chat to help buyers overcome any ordering challenges or questions?

Conclusion

Challenge yourself to objectively review your website. Determine whether or not you need help with traffic or conversions; then, take the necessary steps to improve its performance. You may be able to make some changes on your own or you may need some help from a web development/web marketing company. Whatever the case, DO something. The internet is not going away, and I can almost guarantee your competitors will be looking at this, too. Why not beat them to the punch?

The Return of Frames

20 years in the web design business has allowed me to see a lot of change.

So, who remembers frames? You know that clunky, multi-document approach to leaving branding and navigation in place while the user scrolled?

I have fond memories of heated debates I had with our team years ago about frames. Believe it or not, I was a fan of the evil technique. I always felt that leaving navigation and branding in place for the user had some real value.

Navigation is essential for guiding users through a site’s content, and an effective and useful navigation must be accessible and intuitive. Frames allowed essential website elements, like branding and navigation, to stay in place while the rest of the website content moved around it. This made it easy for users to find what they were looking for, no matter where they were on a site.

Of course, I was never a designer or developer, so I didn’t have to deal with the nasty details of making a frames site work.  Let alone the mess that they made for the search engines if not done properly.

As it turns out, a little over a decade later, the concept has returned.  Today it’s done by setting a fixed position of elements from within the CSS.  It’s fair to point out that it’s much cleaner this way and doesn’t require the multiple html docs that frames did.

I’d be willing to bet that many who argued vehemently against frames years ago, if they are still web developers today, have either built or will soon build a site with fixed navigation and branding.  They don’t even realize that they are helping to bring back an old technique they once fought so hard against.

Have additional thoughts about the return of frames? We’d love to hear them!

Microsoft’s Move to Cross-Platform Development

Satya NadellaMicrosoft recently shocked and excited developers with a few major announcements. They are open-sourcing the ENTIRE .Net server stack, and creating officially supported versions that will run in Linux and Mac server environments. Everyone was taken aback by this because just a few years ago then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously said that “Linux is a cancer.” Ballmer stepped down earlier this year and Satya Nadella is now leading the company. His quick and decisive actions to make Microsoft technology obtainable to many platforms shows this is a new Microsoft and it’s worth revisiting what Microsoft has to offer.

There is no doubt that this move is designed to keep Microsoft relevant in a world that is no longer ruled by PC operating systems. Developers have many choices of languages and environments and by open sourcing .Net, Microsoft hopes to keep their cloud platform (Azure) competitive by increasing the flexibility of its developer technology.

This move worked for them in the past, and I see no reason why it won’t work today. Back in the early DOS days, Microsoft catered to developers because they knew without compelling applications to run, their operating system would become useless and irrelevant to the end user. Their efforts to create tools and technology developers wanted to use resulted in a world at one point saw over a billion people using Windows and countless applications daily.

Putting my Microsoft fan boy status aside for a moment, it seems to me that as a developer I can more effectively create products and solutions that take advantage of a single platform than I could by trying to create the same solutions multiple times depending on what server the finished product will run on. I know this type of thinking is exactly what Microsoft is hoping for, but I’m only one developer. Time will tell if this bet pays off for them in the long run.

We will be trying out .Net and Linux in the coming months. There will be benchmarks, and testing if it really is a “write once, run anywhere” promise finally fulfilled. Stay tuned to learn what we find.

Satya Nadella image courtesy of Microsoft