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Merchant Accounts and your website

June 8th, 2011 No comments

Imagine you’re shopping online, whether it’s for a product or some sort of service, and you finally find something that you think is worth your money. This process is always a bit trickier online than in person, because you can’t physically see the product you’re looking at, or you can’t meet the person you’re buying a service from; you usually take extra time to make sure you’re buying something worthwhile. You may even do some research on the side to see if other people have bought this same product or service, and whether or not it seems to have been satisfactory. Now, after all of this effort, imagine that you’re finally all ready to buy something, but the payment system on the web site you’re looking at is complicated or unclear. Maybe they want you to pay through a third party, or maybe they want you to send a check. Such payment options are not only more complicated, but can also be somewhat suspicious. This is why it’s so important for anyone setti
ng up a business related website to offer an easy way for customers to pay.

Companies such as Network Solutions seek to solve this problem and make the payment process easier on websites by offering an online merchant account option for those setting up new sites. Essentially, if you are setting up a website, or simply reorganizing one, a merchant account will allow you to enable people to pay with their credit cards right there on your site. This is not only a courteous option to offer your customers, but one that will likely reassure them that you represent a legitimate business or service. Perhaps best of all, statistics indicate that customers actually end up spending a significant percentage more if they can pay directly on a web site with their credit cards. Therefore, a merchant account option can not only win you customers, but can also help to persuade them to give you more business.

Online merchant accounts are just some of the many features companies like Network Solutions offer that can help you to make your web site more legitimate, more professional, and more effective. Particularly if you are offering some sort of service or product, it is very important to make your web site efficient and easy to use, so as to generate more sales. In the end, it’s a win-win situation for you and your potential customers; they get the service and easy payment methods they desire, and you get the business you work for.

Categories: E-commerce, Webmasters Resources Tags:

10 Tips For Surviving The Economic Downturn

July 16th, 2009 No comments

The immediate challenge for smaller web design companies is how to attract new business and keep old clients in a downturn economy.

Customers are falling off of maintenance contracts and smaller businesses may not be looking to start a website right away.

Enterprise level clients are becoming more price-conscious. What can we do to make sure our collective heads stay above water in this tough climate?

Here are 10 tips to survive the economic downturn.

 

1. Contact Your Clients

Some businesses are actually afraid to contact their clients in a downturn because they don’t want to be the next casualty on their cost-cutting lists.

If someone is going to jump the boat, they’re going to do it anyway and a phone call from you may actually stop them from leaving rather than encouraging them. Call your past clients up, ask how their businesses are doing and ask them if you can help them out with anything that they may be considering on the web front.

Reinforce that your business is stable and you’ll be there for them.

2. Reinforce Your Value

When your potential clients sit down and plug in the math to justify an in-house designer versus an outsourced designer, the outsourced one will win every time.

No employment premiums, no benefits and no major ongoing costs once the project is done. If they are relying on in-house staff in other roles to maintain the website, chances are good that updates aren’t being done on time if at all.

Your services don’t cost your customers money, they save them money in the long run.

3. Look at Your Pricing

If you are noticing a lot of clients dropping off your roster and not a significant amount of new business, reevaluate your pricing plans and packages. Are they clear? Do they fall in line with what other web design companies are charging in your area? A quick market survey of other businesses in your area will tell you what you need to know.

While you should never compete on price, you should check once in a while just to make sure that your pricing isn’t way out of line with the competition.

Don’t make your pricing the lowest on the block either. You don’t want the clients that are looking for the cheapest game out there. Somewhere in the middle is where you want to be in order to attract clients and still make money.

4. Stay Profitable

It is just as important to make sure that you are making money as it is to ensure that your services are priced in line with the market. This rate calculator is an excellent gauge of how much you should personally be making based on your expenses.

If you aren’t there yet, or don’t think you will be there at your current rates, it’s time to reevaluate.

5. Choose the Right Add-On Services

We can all agree that add-ons are a great moneymaker regardless of economic times.

Make sure that you add services that you know you can provide; for example, you don’t want to turn yourself into a web hosting service if you only have very basic knowledge of web hosting.

Client pressure can often push us into business decisions like this that we just aren’t ready for. Outsource anything that you aren’t 100% comfortable with.

This is the time to consider adding social media to your roster. You can read more about it in our article here.

6. Don’t Use the Recession in Your Marketing

Not only will your message be dated when there is an upswing, this kind of marketing just reinforces the “don’t buy anything” reflex that businesses have during economic downturns.

People who want web design services base their buying decision on a combination of reputation, service, and price. Throwing extra concerns in just confuses the message.

7. Go after Larger Companies

Smaller businesses that aren’t financially viable to start with are the first casualties in a downturn.

You have to retool your model to go after, and keep, larger customers. Designing a site for a mid-sized company is the same as doing a site for a small business, with only some minor exceptions.

Upper management requires metrics to show the performance of the site, an easy enough thing to do since most of you are already set up with web analytics programs. Include the fact that you have reporting tools in your marketing message and larger companies will jump on board.

Keep in mind that larger companies will require more of your time in the design process than smaller companies and quote accordingly. Ask the company to appoint a project manager to deal with your company during site creation and maintenance so that their message isn’t diluted by various stakeholders.  This way you spend less time defending project decisions and more time designing.

8. Form Strategic Alliances

Competition between web design businesses is usually friendly.

Call up a bunch of web design companies in your area and see if you can help each other out. You may have Flash skills that another company can hire you for. They may have more SEO experience than you do and they may be able to handle your SEO requests.

Just make sure that you bring something to the table so that the references aren’t all one-way.

9. Reduce Your Overhead

Make a list of the stuff that you currently pay for that isn’t 100% necessary for your business.

Ongoing costs like magazine subscriptions should be the first on the chopping block. After them, focus on items that save you money and help the environment, like going with a printer cartridge recycling service instead of buying new cartridges.

10. Focus on Staff

Reducing staff should be a measure that you only take if you think your business is in serious trouble.

While layoffs may be the order of the day for large businesses, smaller web design businesses should be focused on reassuring their staff and contractors that there will be continuing work for them. Talk to them and see if they want to work different hours, take classes to upgrade their skills or anything else.

While you probably can’t offer huge raises right now, flexible hours and free courses are great incentives for your staff that will keep them happy and working hard for you.

If you are the only “staff” at your business, don’t forget to take some time off yourself. A lot of web designers are in “panic mode” right now, trying to get as much work as they can. When you take on too much, your efforts are diluted and the quality of your work suffers.

Summary

There are a million small things that you can do to save money and stay viable in an economic downturn.

The most important thing that you can do is use this opportunity to develop good business habits, like paying attention to customer retention and keeping your expenses lean.

The things that you can do to help yourself and others out during a recession are usually the things that you should be doing in business all along – it’s just easy to forget about them when times are good.

How To Debug PHP Using Firefox With FirePHP

July 15th, 2009 No comments

Typically, there are two main ways of debugging server-side code: you can utilize an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) with a built-in debugger or log and perform your debugging processes in a web browser.

10-01_debug_firephp_leading_image

This article shares an elegant, simple, and more maintainable way of debugging Ajax apps via the web browser (more specifically for the Mozilla Firefox browser). You’ll learn the basics of leveraging Firefox in conjunction with Firebug and FirePHP to implement FirePHP libraries on web apps and logging messages in the Firebug console.

A Brief Introduction

When Ajax techniques became popular, developers faced a new problem: how can we debug Ajax requests and responses efficiently for complex web applications? If using a debugger was hard enough with the RESTful model, triggering an Ajax-specific request is a pain and a bit more difficult; dumping logs and information pertaining to those Ajax operations had to be done using JSON or XML.

This is where FirePHP helps, allowing you to log your debugging messages to the Firebug console. FirePHP doesn’t mess with your code (and it doesn’t require you to modify anything to trap errors): the messages you print are sent to the browser in the HTTP response headers, which is great when you’re using JSON or XML since it won’t break their encoding.

This makes FirePHP ideal not only for debugging your Ajax requests, but also your entire PHP codebase.

So, what is FirePHP?

FirePHP is an add-on for an add-on: it extends the popular in-browser web development tool called Firebug with an API for PHP web application developers. FirePHP is free and easily attainable via the Mozilla Add-Ons section on the official Mozilla site. The official FirePHP site can be found via this web address: www.firephp.org. Christoph Dorn is the person responsible for creating FirePHP.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

As you might have guessed, you need three things to get up and running with FirePHP, they are:

  1. Firefox
  2. Firebug
  3. FirePHP

If you don’t have all of the above applications installed on your machine, click on their link to learn about how to download them for your particular system.

Installation of the three things above is a straightforward process. FirePHP can be a little tricky to install if you’ve just recently started learning about web development, but there’s good documentation out there about it.

This article is about using FirePHP, so I’ll let you handle the installation part (though feel free to ask in the comments – we’d be happy to help if you encounter issues).

A Couple of Tips

Once you’ve installed FirePHP, and included it in your web application, you are ready to debug and log data. But first, I’d like to share two helpful tips I’ve learned:

Tip #1: call ob_start()

Because the information is sent to Firebug in the HTTP Headers, you should activate the output buffering or you might get the "headers already sent error". It may sound complicated, but all you have to do is write ob_start() on the first line of your PHP script that you’re debugging.

Tip #2: don’t forget to disable FirePHP Logging when you go live

You have to disable FirePHP when the site goes live or you will risk exposing sensitive information to anyone that has Firebug/FirePHP installed (we’ll talk about how to do this later down the article).

And then just a general tip for Firebug/FirePHP users: it’s also a good idea to disable or suspend Firebug and FirePHP when you’re just browsing the web because they can really slow down some websites and web applications (such as Gmail, for example).

Getting Started with FirePHP Logging

This is the fun part where we start logging messages and reviewing the basic logging functions.

One thing to note is that, just like PHP, which (at least for PHP4 and PHP5) is a "pseudo object-oriented" language, you can use FirePHP in a procedural or object-oriented (abbreviated OO from now on) manner.

I prefer the object-oriented techniques and I encourage you to use the same pattern as it is considered the most popular and most modern approach to building apps.

The OO API allows you to instantiate a Firebug object to use it or to call its static methods directly. I’m a lazy guy and because static methods are more terse and require less typing, that’s what I use.

Instantiating the OO API Object

In your script, you can use the following code block to create the FirePHP object ($firephp).

require_once('FirePHPCore/FirePHP.class.PHP');
$firephp = FirePHP::getInstance(true);
$firephp -> [classmethod]
OO API with Static Methods

This is the format for calling static methods in your scripts.

require_once('FirePHPCore/fb.PHP');
FB::[nameofmethod]
The Procedural API

Here’s how to use FirePHP’s Procedural API:

require_once('FirePHPCore/fb.PHP');
fb($var)
fb($var, 'Label')
fb($var, FirePHP::[nameofmethod])

We will not get into any detail about the benefits and coding style of each API, I’ve included them here only so you see what options are available for you. In other words, I don’t want to start a flame war about which procedure is better – it’s up to you to decide and I’ve noted my preference.

Logging Messages and Information in the Firebug Console

Let’s talk about logging messages in the Firebug console (remember, this will only work if you’ve configured your app for FirePHP).

Examples of Basic Logging Calls

If you are ad-hoc debugging a bug, the following examples are what you’ll be interested in utilizing.

Fb::log("log message")

This will print a string that you pass to it onto the Firebug console. Using the above example results in the following message:

Log message.

Fb::log($array, "dumping an array")

Passing an array (no more for loops or print_r() in your scripts) outputs the content of your array. The above example will result in the following message in the Firebug console:

Dump message array

Tip: when you hover your mouse on logged variables in the Firebug console, an info window will appear in the web page containing all of its elements. It’s a nifty feature, don’t you agree?

10-05_variable-viewer

Logging an Information Message

Here is an example of logging information messages using the info method.

Fb::info("information")

This is the message it logs in your Firebug console:

          10-06_info-msg

Logging a Warning Message

Here is an example of logging a warning message.

Fb::warn("this is a warning")

This is the message it logs in your Firebug console:

          10-07_warning-msg

Logging an Error Message

Here is an example of logging a warning message using the info method.

Fb::error("error message")

Here’s what an error message looks like in the Firebug console:

          10-08_error-msg

Enabling or Disabling FirePHP Logging

When your site goes live, you can (and should) disable FirePHP logging. Call the following line of code on the first lines of your script.

FB::setEnabled(false);

What’s great about this is that you can leave all of your FirePHP code in your scripts for later use – just pass either true or false when you want to turn logging on or off.

If your application uses a "config file" to keep track of global settings, it is advisable to set a configuration option to enable or disable it.

Conclusion

First, here’s a screen capture showing all of our messages in Firebug all at once (I ran it sequentially).

10-09_console-demo

In this article, we covered the very basics of using FirePHP to help you debug and gain information about your PHP/Ajax applications easier and through the web browser. I hope that this results in you becoming convinced that you should explore your debugging options outside of "old-school" techniques such as using echo or print on top of your web page layout to see what a variable or array contains. Using FirePHP is so easy and convenient, and gives you much more options and data for debugging purposes.

In a future article, I’ll be covering more complex features of FirePHP and using Firebug to make this simple debugging tool a more robust and fully-featured logging framework.

Concept Feedback: Get Your Designs Reviewed By Esigners

July 14th, 2009 No comments

conceptfeedback

If you are working alone, chances are that you have a hard time to get a honest feedback from other professionals. Concept Feedback is here for that, it’s a social network for designers that allows you to upload some design you are working on to get a feedback from other designers. They can vote on the design and leave a review of the design, then other members can rate these reviews and discuss them.

The website is quite straightforward and useful, and so far it seems that people using it are designers, so why don’t you give it a try?

Google Chrome OS: Web Developers Rule!

July 11th, 2009 No comments

 

google

Google is getting into the operating system business (again) with Google Chrome OS. Palm put WebKit at the heart of a device with webOS, the Crunchpad talked about it for the netbook, and there have long been desktop-boot-to-browser devices out there.

Google Chrome OS goes deeper:

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

It is interesting that Google pre-announced this so far in advance. Google is very different from other companies, that normally hold back for a release. They instead come out and tell you what they are doing (sometimes) and promise to open source it :)

This is great news for Web developers of course. The Web as a platform continues to push outwards, and we can use our skills to reach more and more folks out there.

There is a reason that we won’t see the fruit of this labour for awhile though, and that is because there is a ton of work to be done. I am excited to see us all come together to push the Open Web platform further and get to a point where it can do everything we need to create compelling user experiences!

Some will say that Android and Chrome OS are totally different beasts, but Jim Pick does have a point:

Google now has two competing open source in-house Linux-based operating systems with Webkit browsers. This won’t end well.

Competition baybee.

HTML 5 Parser Lands In Gecko

July 11th, 2009 No comments

John Resig has blogged about HTML 5 parsing and the news that Henri Sivonen (the chap who did the HTML 5 validator) has landed a massive commit to the trunk of Firefox that includes an HTML 5 parser.

The method is quite interesting:

    What’s interesting about this particular implementation is that it’s actually an automated conversion of Henri’s Java HTML 5 parser to C++. This conversion happens automatically and changes will be pushed upstream to the Mozilla codebase.

    Normally I would balk at the mention of a wholesale, programmatic, conversion of a Java codebase over to C++ but the results have been very surprising: A 3% boost in pageload performance.  

  And this is on top of the litany of bug fixes and compliance checks that this code base will be providing. You can examine some of the progress that went into the constructing the patch in the Mozilla bug.

   If you’re interested in giving the new parser a try (it’s doubtful that you’ll see many obvious changes – but any help in hunting down bugs would be appreciated) you can download a nightly of Firefox, open about:config, and set html5.enable to true.

For extra fun, throw in some inline SVG and see it just work! Bye bye namespaces!

Pithy HTML5/XHTML comments

Dan Morill (Android and formerly GWT fame and al-round good guy) had some funny remarks on the XHTML/HTML5 kerfuffle:

    An exercise: I can easily summarize HTML5 in a single Tweet. I can’t think of a way to do that for XHTML. “HTML5 codifies existing behaviors and is a practitioner’s roadmap for the future of browser capabilities.”

    This “death of XHTML” meme is awesome, it’s soooo easy to bust out with pithy zingers. 

   Here’s one: “The web *itself* is content soup, why should we expect HTML to be more than tag soup?” 

   Another: “XHTML was the Edsel of the web: painstakingly designed, proudly touted, and utterly missing the point.”   

“They finally closed the tag on XHTML, and now the web is validated.”

Registry Easy: The Ultimate Registry Cleaner?

July 9th, 2009 No comments

When it comes to registry cleaners, it can be a daunting task of epic proportions finding exactly what your computer needs. Constantly bombarded with advertisements for new and supposedly advanced speed increasing registry cleaners, it becomes difficult for one to see any difference between them. Riding on a proven track record of satisfied customers, the Registry Easy program appeared to have everything customers could want. But is the Registry Easy software as really powerful as they claim?

Registry Easy

To find out, our investigation began from the perspective of any regular client in need of registry cleaning or system optimization. Upon visiting RegistryEasy.com, certain attributes of this software were quite appealing, including its listed benefits. It is time to find out how well it actually performs – here’s a Registry Easy review.

After download and installation, which were quite simple, the program needed to be put to the test. Loaded on an ever increasingly slow computer, the first glance at Registry Easy was encouraging. Its options were laid out simple enough for even a child to figure out, while still concealing the immense options it possessed.

Before starting the scan, the software was used to create a backup point just in case of any unmonitored deletion that might affect overall functionality. With the click of the auto scan button, the program went straight to work collecting a long list of problems with the registry, not to mention a slew of other issues. At first count, nearly 1,200 separate problems were found and corrected. The whole process was done in just a few minutes, and the backup was deemed unnecessary this time.

Ease of use was a major concern for most users, and the Registry Easy software compensated with a simple yet effective layout. Although the basic scans were easy to perform, it did take a minute or two to figure out the more advanced features. The new registry optimization feature worked seamlessly, although its overall affect seems miniscule compared with the registry cleaning itself.

To lay out our review as easily as possible for those too lazy to read through everything, here are the main pros and cons found with Registry Easy.

Pros:

  • A very user friendly interface that defines ‘ease of use’.
  • The scan itself is quite fast, normally finishing within minutes and providing a comprehensive list that states whether the entries are increasingly dangerous or just a small unnecessary file.
  • Provides a backup point that can reverse the hands of time from any accidental deletion.
  • Most importantly, it actually worked to increase computer speed.

Cons:

  • During the short duration of the scan, system resources are focused on the software and can cause slowed performance of other programs.
  • Although there is a ticket system on their website for support, there is no live person support that is often offered by other registry cleaners.

For those that are still on the wall about making a purchase, remember that the Registry Easy program offers a free scan on their website. If you find that there are numerous problems currently housed on your computer, it is time to take the plunge. With a 60-day money back guarantee, you have nothing but your registry problems to lose.

Categories: Webmasters Resources Tags: ,

5 WordPress Plugins for July

July 9th, 2009 No comments

A new month, a new set of WordPress plugins that add nice features to your WP blog.

1. Sociable – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/sociable/

This plugin adds social bookmarking and networking image/links to your posts, which allows your visitors and readers to submit them to their favorite one. Gives you a nice list of ~100 social bookmarking sites.

2. Broken Link Checker – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/broken-link-checker/

I found this plugin the other day, and I must say it’s a must have. It will scan your ENTIRE blog detecting every single outgoing link and will put them in a work queue which will test them to see if they are broken or not, and then alert you to broken links/images and redirect URLs. It’s a great way to clean up your blog of links that lead to dead sites.

3. All in One SEO Pack – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/

A must have plugin for any blog that wants to excel in the search engines. It will automatically rewrite your meta description and keywords fitting each post giving you the best SEO gains. The best and most downloaded plugin for WordPress to date.

4. CommentLuv – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/commentluv/

A great way to give back to your readers, by allowing the ability for a commenters recent post to appear under their comment. I’ve been using this plugin for awhile now, and I’m proud to support it. You can signup on the official site at http://www.commentluv.com/ to get even more great features. This plugin is suggested to use with the DoFollow plugin for even more luv.

5. Akismet – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/akismet/

Packaged with the default WordPress core files, this plugin serves as protection against the thousands of bots and people that like to spam comments on blogs on the internet. It will cross check  a persons comment against their database to determine if it’s spam or not, and will automatically place detected spam into your Spam comments section where you can review each comment to make sure it’s really spam. The accuracy rate is pretty good, as of right now I am getting a 95.67% accuracy rate for my Akismet.

Categories: Others, Webmasters Resources Tags:

Manage Your Business on Your Mac & iPhone Giveaway

July 8th, 2009 No comments
Comments are now disabled. Stay tuned for the follow-up post announcing the winners.

Marketcircle, a company who won an Apple Design Award this year in WWDC09, has teamed up with Six Revisions to give away three packages of the Daylite 3 productivity suite bundled with the Daylite Touch.

03-01_daylite_giveaway_leading

For those unfamiliar with Daylite, it is a business productivity suite designed to help you manage your business and your team: project collaboration, shared calendars, task delegation, and sales tracking, you can do it all from within Daylite’s super intuitive interface. With the award-winning Daylite Touch iPhone app (which won a Macworld Best of Show award), you can do all of this from within your iPhone.

Three randomly selected lucky winners will win a full license of Daylite 3 AND a one-year subscription to Daylite Touch.
How to Participate

To participate, leave a comment about one of the following topics:

    * How do you manage your business and schedule?
    * What tips do you have for being more productive?
    * What kind of hardware/software do you need in order to be productive?

Make sure to leave a valid email address when filling out the comment form because this is how we will contact you once you’ve won.
Giveaway Details

This giveaway will end on July 6, 2009 after which commenting on this post will be disabled. You can only participate once. Please don’t forget to put a valid email address in the comment form email field so that we can contact you if you’ve won.
About Marketcircle Inc.

Marketcircle Inc. develops award-winning business applications for Mac OS X and the iPhone, including Daylite business productivity management software, and Billings, a practical time-billing and invoicing application. Incorporated in 1999, Marketcircle Inc. is located in Toronto, Canada, with partners worldwide.

Categories: Webmasters Resources Tags: ,

Instant iPhone Compatible Websites: iWebKit

July 3rd, 2009 No comments

iWebKit is an open source toolkit for creating iPhone / iPod compatible websites very easily & quickly.

It is simplicity lies under the usage of basic html that anyone can edit rather than more complicated Ajaxed solutions.

today4

The toolkit has support for:

  • iPhone-style form elements (like on/off checkboxes)
  • pop-ups
  • fullscreen
  • & more..
       
  • It is possible to theme the interface besides the standard iPhone theme & the download package comes with various ready-to-use themes.

And, websites created with iWebKit are compatible with the latest iPhone OS 3.0.