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digital marketing

4 Winning Digital Marketing Tactics For The Holidays

With the holidays right around the corner it is the start to the most wonderful time of the year but it is also a tricky time for any business, retail or service, to keep engagement up and try to reach out to customers. The fourth quarter of the year can be make or break for retailers with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the rush of the December Holidays. After all consumers can hardly resist the attractive displays, the tempting discounts and the urge to shop when everyone around is doing the same. This is why you need strong, timely and effective digital marketing tactics to make your brand stand out during the holiday rush and get a piece of the holiday shopping season pie. According to the benchmarking report from Cuebiq, there was a significant uplift in physical store visits due to digital campaigns in the last quarter of 2016.

  1. Begin Your Holiday Marketing Campaign Early To Stay Top of Mind

Even though consumers don’t begin purchasing until November and December, they do start browsing and thinking about what to buy much earlier. According to AYTM Market Research, 47% of shoppers in the U.S. admitted that holiday promotions before Nov. 4 were effective in pushing them to make purchases. When it comes to making marketing strategies for this time of the year, the sooner you start the better as it is quite difficult for businesses to make themselves heard through all the holiday noise.

Running non-holiday related messaging a few months before November helps people recognize your brand and creates immediate recall when you do make the switch to holiday messages and promotions. And if your holiday advertising isn’t running by November, then it should be made a priority so that consumers know what you have to offer them.  Planning and starting your digital marketing efforts early will help your business will be top of mind when consumers are starting their holiday shopping.

  1. Spread Season’s Greetings On Social Media

If you want to be noticed by the feel-good audience on social then you need to blast promotions on social media. But there is a fine line between successful social content to create a buzz around your brand and pushing cheesy and annoying messages, especially during the holidays. Social media can be a great channel for promoting your brand to consumers active on different social media networks, without being too heavy on the “sell”, and getting the word out about exclusive holiday deals and sales to your target audience.

If you establish yourself as a recognizable brand early on in the buying cycle then consumers will be more comfortable seeing your post or ad in their news feed later on in the purchasing process. For instance, Most major social media platform’s have great targeting capabilities and with the number of engaged users rising paid social ads can help your brand reach an audience in your area and be found online. For instance, with Facebook ads you can promote your ads to targeted audiences of a certain age or demographic based on who your business want to focus on. Nearly a third of consumers go on to make purchases based on a Facebook ad they see.

  1. Generate Holly-Jolly Sales Through A Pay-Per-Click Campaign

Pay-per-click can help bring in targeted holiday traffic to your website. A vast majority of people use search engines as their primary product/services research tool for holiday shopping by typing keywords or search terms. When users perform searches using the target keywords on your PPC campaign, your ads appear on top, below, or alongside organic search results, depending on your bid and quality score. Obviously search and pay-per-click campaign is the best place to start so that people looking for your products can find your business.

Planning for a strong PPC strategy has to start long before the holiday season so that you have a bid schedule for the entire season and enough in your budget to cover the cost of bids through this hectic time. It is necessary to have a clear idea on which offerings, promotions, messages and ad copy you’ll be sending out this holiday season and days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday so that your message can reach a wider audience. Leverage extensions such as sitelink extensions, location extensions, review extensions, product listings and landing pages with holiday-specific terminology to attract credible customers.

  1. Send Personalized Emails To Promote Holiday Sales

It is true that email inboxes become crowded with holiday marketing messages around this time of the year and users become particularly picky about the ones they open. But email remains a great channel to share your marketing message and keep your business top of mind when customers shop. In fact studies show that many people actually prefer email promotions over any other platform and are more likely to visit a local establishment after receiving a holiday themed email message from them.  To maximize your holiday revenue, consider promoting holiday sales in email messages and include specifics about products or services on sale or special offers. It is important to schedule your email messages carefully and send reminders closer to the key dates.  Based on a study by email vendor Yesmail, Thanksgiving-themed messages are received better early in November, whereas Black Friday-themed offers get better responses when sent last minute. For Christmas, emails should preferably be sent in the 10 days leading up to the holiday, with a countdown to the 25th.

To get online shoppers trying to find the best holiday deals on your website, put in place some of these digital marketing practices and see your business grow. To gain more insights about your holiday marketing get in touch with DirectiveGroup. Let us help you prepare your marketing plan for this season.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at DirectiveGroup, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact them today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

Ecommerce Website

10 Inspirational Ecommerce Website Designs

10 Inspirational Ecommerce Website Designs

Every business entrepreneur with products and services to sell online relies on an ecommerce website. A successful ecommerce website gives customers a better buying experience, where they can choose products, scroll and checkout easily, and this can potentially lead to more sales. Whereas bad site design and poor navigation has been found to be a major reason for abandoning a cart or deciding not to check out with an individual retailer. Moreover in the current digital retail environment, independent online stores are losing out on mindshare by not creating unique online shopping experiences. Besides acting as your brand’s digital checkout, your ecommerce site also has to sell the value and essence of the brand.

First Impression Is A Lasting Impression

Most people judge your business by the design and layout of your website. And you only get one chance to make a first impression, so it better be good. Turns out you have about two seconds to make a favorable impression, according to Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling book “Blink.”  So it goes without saying that the design of your ecommerce site has to be spectacular and visually appealing to visitors at the very first glance for it to gain popularity. Using high-resolution, quality photos and good graphics can help grab eyeballs.

  1. Paul Valentine

The site opens with minimal text and hero image of a striking model drawing attention to their new collection of watches and prompting the shopper to scroll. The ecommerce design choices work to enhance the visuals of the product and enhance the quality of the stylish, high-end fashion brand.

  1. Mollusk Surf Shop

Mollusk showcases the best of what a surf company / brand represents through the high quality imagery of their chillout style of clothing line. The imagery catalog display of the ecommerce site draws the attention of shoppers to the items and clicking on any product opens up a full-scale image, along with a simple choice to change size and buy right away.

  1. Homer Hudson

Besides images, motion graphic demos, 360 videos of products and animations can be used to spellbind visitors. In the Homer Hudson site, animations and cinemagraphs have been used to good effect to highlight the different product choices, without being boring.

User Experience Design

Would you like to hang around a store with a messy, disorganized shop floor? Probably not! The same goes for an online store. If customers land on your webpage and are left confused by the cluttered layout and poor navigation, they will not know where they are going. The design of an ecommerce website should flow naturally so that everything is accessible and easy to find, simple navigate, CTAs to guide a customer, clear links for FAQs and contact page, and above all else easy to purchase. So keep this in mind when laying things out in web design.

  1. Lunet Eyewear

The ecommerce store for Lunet Eyewear consists of a clean navigation header and product placements with clear product descriptions of their latest version of sunglasses and simple call to action buttons, which makes the UX of the website so much better

  1. Shun Cutlery

The Shun Cutlery ecommerce site incorporates old school design patterns in a new and unique way. The Home page displays a full-screen photo carousel against a white background, along with a minimalist navigation menu which gives it a modern appearance. But the design elements such as the horizontal navigation menu are classic with familiar functionality.

Search Functionality

You want to make sure that customers browsing your store can refine and search for products on your site through a search feature, which is traditionally displayed prominently in the header section of the page. Laying the search feature in a clean and professional way, allows a customer to go on your website and search for anything they want.

  1. Bouguessa 

The Bouguessa site offers a modern twist on the search function by using the more relaxed mad-lib UI pattern. The customer gets to choose their preferred category from a drop-down in the context of the mad lib phrase around it. This search feature cues shoppers and helps them figure out how to navigate the site. But once on the product page, the layout is pretty traditional and familiar.

Mobile-friendly Design Elements

Most users browse websites on their mobile and tablet devices, so it must look good on a smaller screen. A mobile-friendly design with easy to click large CTAs, clear type, and condensed menu to save space (hamburger menu) and recognizable icons for cart and account pages go a long way in improving usability.

  1. Bill Blass

This trendy website incorporates beautiful product images, and a neat product menu on top center and a shopping cart and search icon on the top right corner, all of which makes it easy for mobile users to navigate the site.

  1. The Soap Co. 

This soap brand uses minimal design all the way to list the actual products right away and get the visitors shopping. It places the hamburger menu to the left corner to ensure that it is the first thing a user finds on the page and also to save space on a relatively small mobile screen.

  1. Whitmans New York 

Whitmans uses long page scroll design to give you more information about the restaurant site in a single product page. The navigation sticks to the top right and can be used to jump to different sections of the page to quickly access any information. Users certainly don’t want to keep clicking when browsing through mobile devices.

Stand Out From The Rest

Your ecommerce store should aim to look unique and stand out from your competition. This can be achieved by experimenting with different design elements like a playful color scheme, a fun logo or cool videos; anything that improves recall factor among your customers.

  1. Fotonaut

The design choices in this site from the bright yellow color scheme to the astronaut imagery and the creative copy work wonderfully well to present the product (party photo booth) as progressive.

Avoid every day, run-of-the-mill ecommerce website designs and embed high-quality content around the traditional shopping cart experience to keep your brand top of mind. We hope the above-mentioned list of ecommerce sites can inspire the design and marketing of your website.

animated gifs

How To Create Awesome Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs may not be a new digital trend as they have been around since 1987, but they are on the rise as they seem to have pervaded everything from popular culture to news to marketing campaigns. Anyone browsing the web will most definitely run into funny animated animal images, video clips of celebrities with funny quotes and jaw-dropping moments caught on tape. Some things do look better in motion. Think of an animated GIF as a hybrid between a still image and a video. They are soundless micro video clips that loop without a play button. In fact, GIFs have evolved into something of an art now because of their ability to convey emotion and information in an entertaining way. No wonder GIFs have become one of the most widely shared image formats via social network sites, messaging applications, and even text messages.

What Is A GIF?

A GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, which is essentially a digital image format that supports both static and animated images. You can create GIFs from a series of images that run on a loop, which makes it seem like a moving image. It is possible to create the images separately and then combine them together into the GIF.

GIF also lets you play a short video clip stripped of sound, in a far more condensed image format.

The trick to an eye-catching GIF is to create a dynamic visual that matches the mood of the message. The best thing about GIFs is that with a few minutes to spare, you can easily create an amazing animated GIF.

How To Create An Animated GIF In Photoshop

Most designers prefer using Photoshop for making their own GIFs. Learn how to make an animated GIF in Photoshop in just one-minute with this video tutorial from Adobe.

Sites and Software Tools to Create Animated GIFs

Create Animated GIFs With Image

There are tons of free online software tools available that allow users to create a GIF by customizing picture size and GIF speed. Check out Gickr, Makeagif, or GIPHY GIF Maker (free).

You can even produce a GIF using free software, such as The GIMP or Pixlr and Unfreez by simply selecting your images in their desired order of appearance and specifying the frame rate you’d like to apply. Then you can save your image using the .gif extension.

Create Animated GIFs With Video

You can create GIFs from video clips in Bloggif, ImgFlip and Gifsoup, either by importing videos or even from a YouTube URL. You can also use programs like Format Factory or QGifer to create video GIFs.  You will need to import or enter the URL of the desired video, set the beginning and end of your sequence, and then toggle your size, color, and loop option settings before clicking ‘Save.’

Experiment With Animated GIFs

For more complex GIFs, After Effects is the preferred choice of designers because it allows greater control over movement and timing functions. Check out the GIF making masterclass by James Curran.

GIFs resonate with many people because they are easy to consume and are a fun way to communicate. Animated GIFs have immense potential as they are limited only by your own imagination. Get creating and implementing GIFs!

cascading style sheets

Web Design with CSS3: The Next Generation

Cascading Style Sheets, commonly referred to as CSS, is a design language intended to simplify the process of designing web pages. Simply put, its a mechanism for adding style (e.g., fonts, colors, spacing) to Web documents. CSS3 is the latest version creating a buzz with web developers and designers and its important for business owners to understand the basics of Web Design with CSS3 and how it impacts their website.

The term cascading in Cascading Style Sheets refers to how browsers determine which styles to apply to a specific part of a web page. As web applications and technologies used to enhance websites advanced, users of the first two CSS generations found that the mark-up language couldn’t handle the complex requirements of more intricate websites.

To fix this problem CSS3 works in a module system, allowing separate components to be updated and edited gradually and individually, instead of all at once. Some of the most important CSS3 modules are:

  • Selectors
  • Box Model
  • Backgrounds and Borders
  • Text Effects
  • 2D/3D Transformations
  • Animations
  • Multiple Column Layout
  • User Interface

Web designers can build content-rich pages while using relatively lightweight coding requirements for things such as making 3D objects, rotating objects, maximize minimize with the help of hover, active links, and much more. Such an update can save a lot of time and energy, particularly for overworked designers and developers using Web Design with CSS3.

Using Web Design with CSS3, developers can now use impressive visual effects while building interfaces that are user-friendlier. As important, using CSS3 allows for cleaner, more professional looking sites that load faster, even with multiple effects and plugins. Not only is that important to keeping visitors on your website, but site speed is a ranking factor that major search engines take into account when indexing a page.

If you are considering building a new website make sure your web development team is using all the latest and greatest optimization techniques and technologies, including CSS3. By using modern standards like Web Design with CSS3 and HTML5, you can dramatically reduce the cost of building and maintaining a website when compared to legacy HTML-only pages. You can also greatly reduce the amount of physical bandwidth and hard disk space required, resulting in immediate long-term benefits for business.

Web Design with CSS3 is the way to go get started today pick your domain name and get online today with a real responsive design!

google search console

Getting Started with Google Search Console

Most website owners have heard of Google Webmaster Tools, which was renamed Google Search Console (GSC) in May 2015 but many still don’t use it. With most of the organic traffic coming from this search giant, Google Search Console has become ever more important in providing a wealth of search performance data about websites and mobile applications to webmasters, site owners, internet marketers and search engine optimization professionals. Let’s take a deeper look into what Google Search Console can do for you and how do you get started on it.

Importance Of Google Search Console

According to Google, there are best practices you can follow to improve how your site is indexed and ranked in search results. For anyone interested in monitoring and maintaining high rankings in the SERPs, Google Search Console is what you should be reviewing regularly. Along with Google Analytics, adding Google Search Console is one of the first things to do when starting a new site in order to optimize your website for search engines so that you can get an insight into how web visitors found you and other useful details about user behavior on your site.

GSC provides information about your sites performance for specific search phrases and queries. You can find out which of your posts get the most visitors from search or monitor the sites linking to you. It is also possible to detect any page not found errors, other HTML, or security issues that Google has discovered on your site. These are key indicators of the overall indexability of your site.

How to Start Using Google Search Console

Setting up GSC is fairly simple, once you have a Google account. Go to the Google Search Console page and sign in.

Step 1: Add a Property

Google Search Console needs you to add something to track, which it calls a property, and it can be a website or an Android app. For today example, we are going to proceed as though we are working with websites.

Once you have logged in, you will see an Add Property button on the homepage. Type in the name of the property and click the Add button.

Step 2: Verify Your Site

To prove ownership of your site, you get a number of verification options. Choose one. When the verification process is complete, you will see a big green check mark. Google recommends that you use more than one verification method for more resilient ownership.

Step 3: Link Google Analytics

You need to link your Google Search Console to your Google Analytics account so that they can seamlessly share information to provide you with even more meaningful data and reports to analyze your site performance. To do this, go into the site you want to link in the search console dashboard and from the drop-down menu click on the Settings icon to select Google Analytics property. Opt for the appropriate Google Analytics profile on the next screen, and click save.

Step 4: Generate a Sitemap

To ensure that Google is crawling your site properly and indexing all the relevant pages, you need to add a sitemap in any format supported by Google. Whatever method you choose, the end result will be a sitemap where you can point at the file (eg yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml) in Google Search Console.

Step 5: Submit Your Site to Google

You may already have submitted your site to Google when you set it up so that search bots can crawl your site but Google Search Console offers you another way to do this. To register a sitemap in Google Search Console, go to the Crawl menu on the left hand side of the main dashboard and Fetch as Google, then select the Fetch button. When complete, click on the Submit to Index button. Once done, you will get a report that the URL and linked pages have been submitted to Googles index.

The first time you add your website to the Google Search Console account, you will receive a notification from Google with a checklist of actions to Improve the search presence of yourdomain.com and links to other help resources within Google.

Exploring Google Search Console

The dashboard of the Search Console gives you a quick overview of any significant or critical messages that Google has sent you. You can get to know the current status of your site regarding Crawl Errors, Search Queries, and Sitemaps. You will also be notified via email.

The Search Console can be segregated into 6 main sections:

1. Messages – You will get mostly automated messages about your site to alert you to things such as an increase in the number of page not found  occurrences or a drop in rankings. You may also find information regarding manual penalties or other actions too.

2. Search Appearance– You get access to details on how your site and pages appear in the search results, including information about Structured Data (your schema.org data), Data Highlighter, Sitelinks, HTML Improvements (specifically titles and tags of your pages) and errors regarding Accelerated Mobile Pages, which allows you to easily fix any outstanding issues.

3. Search Traffic– Search Analytics allows you to sort and filter information about how well your site is performing in the search results based on queries, pages, countries, devices, search type and dates. You can view clicks, impressions, click-through rate and average position details for each query. You can also find information on backlinks and anchor texts, internal links and mobile-usability issues within the Search Traffic tab.

4. Google index– It provides information on how many of your pages are indexed and what keywords you are using the most. You can also remove URLs from Googles index in here, if you don’t want them to display any longer.

5. Crawl  This section gives you details on Errors (such as 404 page not found) found on your site. You can fix or redirect missing pages to improve the user experience on your site. You will also find Crawl stats on how frequently Googlebot crawls your content

6. Security Issues– If Google detects any suspicious activity within your site, such as malware infection or hacking, you will get a report in this section. It works as a potential warning system and is not a foolproof security system.

Final Thoughts

This brief introduction to the Google Search Console will hopefully have given you an idea about how you can access many powerful tools built into this console to monitor your sites performance in search results and improve content accessibility, detect malware and spam issues too. Google Search Console may lack the flash of Google Analytics, with no nifty charts or real-time data but a little quality time with GSC can vastly improve how your site performs in Googles index.

For a novice, this can be a bit overwhelming. Let us help. At DirectiveGroup we can help you set up and manage your Google Search Console so that you get the most out of it.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at DirectiveGroup, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact them today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524

The Best Blogging Sites On The Internet

Internet-powered blogs first made its appearance in the late 1990s as a platform to share knowledge, ideas, thoughts, opinions or experiences. What used to be an online journal or diary, with a few followers is now the biggest innovation in the digital publishing industry. Blogging today is a social phenomenon successfully used by millions of individuals and businesses the world over. There are established companies, entrepreneurs, marketers and millionaires all in the blogging business, primarily to boost business growth and make money. Everyone knows that a company blog can improve your sites search engine optimization and herd swarms of traffic to your site through inbound links. But blogging really shines when it is used to promote your brand and also when garnering feedback and opinions through comments within the blog. Besides being a great customer service tool, blogging sites also create advertising revenue, promotes services and helps generate sales.

But first you must identify a blogging platform that is easy to use and has the required customization tools for your needs. Ultimately the goal is for your audience to be able to read and interact with your blog effortlessly.

Popular Blogging Sites

The choice of your blogging platform will ultimately depend on the focus of your blog and whether you want to make money from the blog itself. Here are four of the best blogging sites that you can turn to for creating winning blogs of your own.

Blogger.com

Googles blogger.com is one of the most trustworthy and reliable free blogging platforms in the blogosphere, with tons of features. Blogger supports drag-and-drop template editing, dynamic updating and geo-tagging too. This blogging site has an easy to use control interface and it takes you step-by-step through creating your site within minutes, which is why it is highly recommended for all beginners. You can create multi user blogs (supports up to 100 users), private blogs and blog posts with images and videos easily and can even monetize your blog with Google Adsense, Amazon and other monetization programs. Since Google runs this service, Blogger supported blogs are by default search engine friendly too and very secure. The only downside is limited support.

WordPress.com And WordPress.org

WordPress is a massively popular open source blogging site for hosting and running your blog. Blogs that are part of the WordPress network publish an astounding 2.13 million posts per day. With WordPress.org it is possible to either setup up a WordPress blog on your own server (you will need to sign up with a WordPress hosting provider) or create a WordPress-hosted blog at WordPress.com for free. WordPress is widely supported by most hosting companies. Though it isnt as simple to set up and configure, there are a variety of customizations and options available on this blogging site. WordPress.org has added extra features such as forums, online store, and membership options that can help grow your blog. Besides being highly flexible, there are limitless tools, over 45,000 free plug-ins and thousands of themes to help create a standout website. It boasts of unique features, such as the ability to customize your permalinks. You can use WordPress to manage a single person personal blog, online portfolios to multiple user blogs managed by an administrator or even large eCommerce sites. Thanks to its army of developers, WordPress is constantly improving and being updated. The limitation with WordPress.com is that users are not allowed to add java Script or PHP code into their blog so they cannot use Google Adsense, Amazon or other programs to monetize their blogs. If you wish to place ads and sell affiliate products, then look beyond WordPress.com.

Tumblr

Out of all the blogging sites, Tumblr is the most popular with younger audiences and visual bloggers, hosting over 339.5 million blogs currently. The platform is rather simple to use and focuses on creating a clutter free site based on photos, GIFs and videos, instead of text content. Tumblr supports its community of bloggers through a variety of options for sharing, reposting and reblogging content. You can gain more Tumblr followers and exposure, without spending as much time on original content creation. Bloggers prefer Tumblr because it has hundreds of ready to use themes and lots of ready to use third-party apps. You can even create your own theme and use your own custom domain. It is possible to schedule your blog posts or even post on your blog directly from your email box. You can also publish automatic updates on Twitter and Facebook about your latest blog posts. There is no limit to the number of people who can contribute to your blog on this micro blogging site. Find out more about why you should choose Tumblr over other blogging platforms. Tumblr is not a good choice for those who want complete control over copyright.

SquareSpace

Squarespace has a built-in mobile website, easy to use style editor, free Typekit fonts and appealing templates. It is possible to change everything from colors, to font, to spacing and sidebar width, without knowing how to code. You can add custom CSS on this platform for everything except theme and plugins. It lets you expand your services easily, which is awesome if you are using your blog for your business. Among all the other blogging sites, it is the preferred choice for photographers, online retail store owners, and musicians because their templates can make a site look professional and exclusive.

Your Blog Is Your Home On The Net

Not all blogging platforms are built equal and all of them have their unique advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you post a lot of images then Tumblr should be your pick, whereas for a small business owner, WordPress may be the ideal choice, as you will get full control over your site and also be able to increase your website visibility in search engines. Now that you know more about the best blogging sites available online, you can choose any one according to your blogging needs and embark on your blogging journey.

Best Background Ideas For Your Website

Along with ever increasing Internet speed and advancements in browser technology, the rules for website design also keep changing to be more effective and user-friendly. Today we consume things visually first and then by the content. It is the same for websites too. To get many clicks and visitors, your website design has to be simple, effective and responsive for every device (personal computer, mobile phone or tablet).

But when developing websites, most of the focus remains concentrated on the content and layout, whereas the website background is largely ignored. A background is the first impression that the visitor gets of your website and is the real differentiator between a boring and an interesting site. Choosing the right background patterns, colors, tones, and fonts does not just improve the aesthetics of your site but it can also help grab the audience attention to keep them interested in browsing for longer.

In this article we look at some latest website background trends that can give your website a quick refresh.

Images

Emotional branding through the use of high quality images as website background can help visitors make an emotional connection or positive associations with your brand.  Using background images associated with your brand, products or web content can add visual appeal to your website and also leave a lasting impression on visitors.

For instance, in the menu section of the French restaurant, Le Duc, a large hero background image is used to create a fun parallax effect and to deliver their brand message more effectively.

You can choose any type of image for your website background such as a photograph, painting, vectors, abstract art, etc, as long as it is coherent with other design elements.

You can opt for a full width image or pick a tiled layout. Just make sure that the image is not too busy and does not distract the visitors from the main message you are trying to convey.

For best results, make sure the image you added to your site is responsive and that it takes up 100% of the containing element.

Preferably you should be using your own images on your website, but if not make sure to always use copyright free high-quality stock photos.

Geometric Elements

Cool geometric patterns from swirls, lines, circles to polygons and rectangles are now preferred by designers for creating more tactile website backgrounds. Layering full width photos with basic shapes can give the website an awesome and creative feeling.

Shapes similar to your logo can also be used to establish brand identity.  Geometric elements should be used with a purpose to catch the eye of the visitor or to lead them to perform a certain action.

Colors

Designers are making bright website background color choices to add visual interest to a dull space in the website and to draw users into the design. Whether you use single color blocks or a combination of multiple colors the effect is for a fun and loud statement.

Besides solid colors, you can also try out gradients, textures and color fades.

Depending on the theme of your site and the impression you want to create about your business, you can even opt for a plain white or light gray background or a subtle color, as long as the colors match your industry. Whatever you do, the website background color should not match your text color as it will be difficult for your visitors to read the site content.

Asymmetry

Website background elements or patterns do not have to line up perfectly. It most certainly does not have to be a solid color or image. All of these elements can come together to create perfect balance that is far from cookie-cutter and certainly cannot be cut right down the middle. Designers can use asymmetry to create bold and visually interesting balance and harmony even though two sides of the design do not mirror one another. Using asymmetrical patterns as background is an interesting and thought provoking technique.

For instance, asymmetrical balance can be achieved using asymmetrical color blocks or the use of a hero image with large call-to-action that forces you to look at the text.

Video

With the increasing speed of internet and larger support systems now, you can now use video backgrounds to pique interest and prolong audience visits. Whether it is an introductory video of your business or motion video clips relevant to your business, adding video backgrounds can definitely make your overall website design look impressive and help in website branding. Backnegative’s website uses clean and engaging video backgrounds really well to tell brand stories.

Push the Boundaries with Your Website Background

Hope this article helps you find inspiration to try something different. Sometimes it pays to take an unorthodox approach with background designs for your website. Are you ready to push some website background boundaries with bright colors, cool geometry, minimal styles, asymmetrical patterns, motion background and abstract art?

plesk wordpress toolkit

Plesk WordPress Toolkit

While Plesk offers many potential benefits to website administrators, including compatibility with Windows Server and other leading technologies, the company has also been working to differentiate it from other control panels for content management system (CMS) users. The headline product of those efforts is the Plesk WordPress Toolkit, a comprehensive integration which organizes and simplifies many processes for setting up and maintaining WordPress websites. The toolkit is widely used, and is installed on almost two-thirds of Plesk servers, according to a ZNetLive blog post.

WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS, and powers a staggering 28.5 percent of all sites on the internet, for a market share of nearly 60 percent according to w3techs. It is used by bloggers, entrepreneurs, small businesses, media companies, and enterprises to grow their audiences and engage with customers.

There are two versions of the Plesk WordPress Toolkit available. The SE (Special Edition) version is included with Plesk Web Admin Edition, and meant for use by site and server administrators. The full version is included with Plesk Web Pro Edition and Plesk Web Host Edition. The difference is that some of the advanced features in the full edition, such as cloning and syncing instances and staging environments are not included in WordPress Toolkit SE. With the special edition, updates are manual rather than automatic, and while the Toolkit does include 1-click hardening (more on that below), it only does so for instances which it has been used to install.

The Plesk WordPress Toolkit is designed for easy installation and use. It takes two clicks to install WordPress; one to choose the “Domains” menu under “Hosting Services,” and one on “Install WordPress,” toward the left side of the Domains options. The Toolkit is found on the “Extensions” page, which is seen under “Server Management” on the menu.  There it is the first option among the “Featured” extensions on the right side of the window.

Security

There are several key security features of the toolkit, including 1-click hardening through the security check feature. Hardening is defined by the University of Colorado’s Office of Information Technology as a process which “works to eliminate means of attack by patching vulnerabilities and turning off inessential services. Hardening a computer involves several steps to form layers of protection.”

In the Plesk WordPress Toolkit, hardening improves security by applying concepts like the “least privilege principle” and “defense in depth,” testing a number of known and potential attack vectors, reducing risks and attack surface, and layering controls.

To check WordPress security in Plesk Onyx Web Pro Edition, click “WordPress” under “Server Management” in the menu on the left side of the screen, and then from the “Installations” tab selecting those instances that should be checked, or all. When the user clicks “Check Security,” Plesk scans for the WordPress characteristics that hackers most often use in attacks on websites, such as a label indicating which release of WordPress the website uses, the default “wp_” prefix for database tables, and the privileged default “admin” username.

In addition to assessing each element as secure or in need of attention, the tool also identifies those changes that can be rolled back, and those that may affect plugin performance.

The security check can also be activated from the “Domains” page under “Hosting Services” in the side menu. Clicking on a domain name brings up the option in the “My CMS” section of the window.

Auto-Updates

Updating WordPress versions and plug-ins is critical to maintaining website performance and security, but can be time consuming and sometimes difficult to keep up with for administrators.

Like “Check Security,” “Auto-Update” is found toward the top of the “Installations” tab on the WordPress toolkit page. This brings up a page with options for setting up automated major and minor updates, only minor updates, or turning off auto-update for each or every WordPress instance.

Management Features

The Plesk WordPress Toolkit also integrates most common management functions.

Just like “Installations,” the Toolkit simplifies management of plugins and themes by giving them their own tab, with each allowing administrators to install and uninstall, activate, deactivate, and update them.

The full version also includes several advanced management functions. Websites can be switched to maintenance mode to make changes, debugging tools are available for testing and development, and search engine indexing can be turned off or limited.

Many Other Features

There are numerous other tools and integrations in the Plesk WordPress Toolkit. Along with the quick and easy installation of WordPress instances described above, migrating and cloning instances is simplified, with buttons found by scrolling to the far right of each installation. Administrators can choose to synch files, databases, or both.

Other advanced functions in the full version of the toolkit include a staging environment for testing and development in an exact copy of your production environment.

Reducing Problems, Saving Time

The same motivations that lead website owners and administrators to choose WordPress are reasons to use the Plesk WordPress Toolkit. WordPress allows its users to present their content in an attractive, effective, secure and customized way without developing it from scratch, providing a high level of functionality. Site changes are made according to business needs, rather than according to IT production cycles and capability.

Administrators, resellers and customers love the wide range of sites they can create, and plugins they can customize them with. Making changes that are simple for a single site may be time consuming and complex for those running multiple sites, however. Managing WordPress functions from within the control panel with the Plesk WordPress Toolkit extends the ease of use it is famous for, and provides Plesk hosting customers with the tools to make the most of the leading content management system.

Lunarpages provides plesk licensing for Windows shared, VPS Cloud, and Dedicated servers.

best web hosting

Choosing The Best Web Hosting For Small Business

The Internet has opened up access to global and local markets. We live in a highly connected world today, where people discover brands, products and services by searching on the web. Businesses without an online presence have a daunting task to keep up with competitors who do.  Small businesses simply cannot afford to miss this lucrative opportunity of reaching potential customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through their website. Setting up a website requires proper planning, creativity and execution but it should be pretty painless provided you have the right tools at your disposal. The most critical tool in creating your business website is having the right Web hosting service to publish your site online.

What Is A Web Host?

web host is a business that provides the technologies and servers to store and deliver the audio, video, documents, and other files that make up your website and its content so that it can be viewed by anyone on the web.

You can opt for shared, virtual or dedicated servers.

  1. Shared– As the name suggests, your website gets stored on a server with hundreds of other websites.

 

  1. Virtual Private Server– You are still sharing the server but with far fewer websites therefore, your site gets allocated more of the server’s power, memory, and storage space.

 

  1. Dedicated hosting- if your website gets a ton of traffic and it requires maximum data privacy then dedicated hosting is the way to go. You can lease your own server that hosts only your website.

Small Business Hosting Basics

Besides publishing websites, strong hosting companies will take on all technical responsibilities of running and updating your website so that you can focus on business-critical functions. Good web hosting services will also provide businesses with an integrated control panel for easy site management, top notch support and many more useful features such as custom domain names, email functionality, rich website creation tools, one-click installation of supported apps and database support.

Features You Definitely Need From Your Web Host

Before pulling out your credit card and signing up with a web hosting service, it is important to understand the resources you will need based on the type of website you will be running. Though different sites have different needs, here are some factors you must consider when looking for the best web Host for your small business.

  1. Reliability

It is important for small businesses to have reliable web hosting partners so that your site does not experience any downtime. The last thing you need to be worrying about is whether potential customers can access your web page. While most web hosting companies will have the occasional outage, the real differentiator is the recovery speed. Selecting a good web host that can handle a lot of traffic and guarantee high uptime will fetch you the most return on your website investment.

  1. Speed

The difference between visitors landing on your site and backing out or staying on to convert may depend on their web experience. Page load speed and performance rates matter to online users. If a web host is slowing down the speed of your website you definitely need to make changes. What you need is a robust host that can handle large files easily and deliver the performance your visitors expect.

  1. Support

Small businesses often do not have an on-site IT team. When something goes wrong with the site, you need Web hosting services to provide helpful and friendly technical support. Ideally you are looking to get an immediate response from your hosting company when you need help the most. A good host should offer 24/7 phone support, and have options for help through email and live chats so that you find a solution to your problem very quickly. Select web hosts that have active user forums, video tutorials and blogs for additional customer support.

  1. Price

Do not fall for the cheapest web hosting plans. Instead try to get the best services and features for your money.  Shared hosting deals are often sold very cheap on signup prices but are significantly hiked on renewals. So do check the terms of service and go over the renewal prices before signing up.

  1. Security

Web hosting services must have highly secure servers to keep your data safe from frauds and cybercriminals. The best Web hosting companies will offer precise security features to protect against the latest malware or virus trying to affect computers accessing your site. Good web hosting companies will have multiple data centers, offer regular data backups, provide free domain privacy and even have servers with RAID pre-installed  to keep your files safe even if the server crashes. For e-commerce sites that accept payment transactions, choosing a web host that lets you set up Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to secure the data being transmitted to and from the website is a must.

Get Started Now

Pick a web hosting company with the most features that best align with your website-building goals. Instead of finding the best in the world, your focus should be on finding the RIGHT web host for YOU.

Lunarpages hosting service offers an array of plans for small businesses with robust features at wallet-friendly prices. Try our Lunarpages Business Web Hosting for reliable services, higher resource limits and faster server hardware.

Web Applications

Understanding Web Applications

Without even knowing it, most of us are using web applications on a daily basis.  In fact, Gmail and Yahoo email, Twitter, Facebook, and eBay are used by most of us daily—and they are web applications. We generally confuse these web applications tools for websites.  So, what is a web application and how is it different from a website? What are some different types of web applications?  We will help you decipher which is best for the business functions you want to achieve- a website or a web application.

Website vs. Web Application

The best way to elucidate the difference between websites and web applications is to think in terms of purpose.  Do you want to provide information or do you want to get it?

Websites are simple, static, single page sites or marketing websites for distributing information. Websites generally feature and promote products, services, and organizations through articles, images, video, and files. A site informs the world about who you are and what you offer. For instance, you can check your local Italian restaurant website as a customer to check out the ‘Day’s Special,’ or hours of operation without giving away any information about yourself.

Web applications on the other hand are less focused on marketing and more on functionality to fulfill specific business purpose (submitting, storing, searching, and retrieving data). Web applications are software that runs on the web to provide some kind of service or to improve efficiency. Web applications generally always use databases, and are therefore called dynamic. It requires user interaction, as in the user has to provide information in order for the application to work. The big advantage of a web application is that it does not need the developer to build a client for a specific type of computer or a specific operating system because it runs in a web browser. Users can even be using Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox, though some web applications may require a specific Web browser.

An Example:

Think of the website of your bank, which promotes the brand and provides customers vital information about their services, and security features. Any member of the public can view the bank’s website but for account holders, the bank also offers web application tools focused on providing specific functionalities. For instance, to help check the balance on their account, submit an online loan application form, or pay bills online.

Technical Foundation

Websites and web applications both are collections of programming code for delivery of content and functionality on the web. The software run on web servers and is accessed through web browsers on a variety of devices.  Both use the same coding languages and tools (HTML, JavaScript, CSS and others) to develop the software. Web applications commonly use a combination of server-side script (ASP, PHP, or Python etc) to deal with databases, storing and retrieving information and client-side script (HTML, Javascript, CSS and others etc.) to present that information, along with frameworks like Rails, Django, etc. to develop and maintain the application.

Types Of Web Applications

There are three different types of web-based applications depending on the roles performed and logic placed and distributed by the server and the client browser.

Server-side HTML Web Application- In this type of web development architecture, the server generates HTML content and sends it to the client as a full-fledged HTML-page.

JS Generation Widgets (AJAX)- The page displayed in the browser shows widgets, where data is uploaded through AJAX query from the server into the content of the page. Any updates from the server show up only for the part of the page requested by the client.

Service-oriented Single-page Web Apps– An HTML-page is downloaded from the server, which acts as a container for JavaScript code to address a particular web service and retrieve business data only. The data is used by the self-sufficient JavaScript application, which generates the HTML content of the page.

It’s also possible to implement hybrid architecture to meet specific business requirements. The architecture of this collection of logically related interactive functions can consist of a number of components, including-

  • Business application functionality
  • Security
  • Browsers such as Internet Explorer
  • E-Mail functionality
  • Forums or bulletin boards
  • Custom-built Advertising

Web Applications Are The Future

Web apps can be customized and tailored for business purposes, like accounting software, reminder systems, order forms, and sales tracking for time saving efficiencies. Web applications can also be designed to strengthen both internal and external communication and improve data delivery and distribution. Advanced web applications are now available as online portals and eCommerce, which delivers content and the functionality of searching, adding to cart, and online financial transaction.

Most business owners understand the value of websites in their marketing plan but not many know the benefits of web applications and how they can offer stronger products and services, improve SEO, reduce cost significantly and help expand their business. Ultimately, whether you choose a website or a web application depends on your assessment of what you want to achieve.

Unscrambling Bandwidth

Unscrambling The Bandwidth Puzzle

We often hear- “You can never have enough bandwidth.” But how much truth is there to that? Our internet usage patterns have changed drastically since the late ’90s, when Yahoo messenger was the hottest communication channel, and email a nice novelty and not a necessity yet. Consumers now have come to expect a rich multimedia web experience with streaming video, music and social media updates. Residential users are heavy bandwidth users too. Thanks to Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Pandora and online gaming services from Playstation to Xbox. Today bandwidth needs for business is complex too, with more juice required for cloud-based services, VoIP telephone systems, video conferencing, Google Apps, Office 365 for email and collaboration platforms. Let’s try to make sense of what all this means for businesses.

How Does Bandwidth and Data Transfer Affect Internet Browsing?

Almost every action a user takes online involves downloading some amount of data. The bandwidth and data transfer rate mostly affect the speed at which we browse websites or download files for personal or office use. For instance, your bandwidth would directly affect speed when you download images, songs, videos, movies or access any file across the Internet. The larger the bandwidth, the faster a given file can transfer across the network at any given time. Internet users with more bandwidth also find that web pages load faster and there are no lags when video streaming.

How Does Bandwidth Affect Your Website?

It is also especially important for website owners to understand bandwidth allocations in their hosting accounts. Failure to find the right bandwidth offer can result in an underperforming slow website and additional charges.  Websites and apps require different bandwidths depending on how complicated their design is and how content-rich they are. When someone arrives on your site, all of the assets that are required to display the requested webpage in a person’s browser are downloaded from the server to their computer, which takes up bandwidth allocation. Even if anyone downloads or sends emails through your hosted domain then the size of those emails counts towards your bandwidth usage too.  For example, if your website contains a 1MB picture, which 3,000 visitors view, it uses 3,000MB (3GB) of bandwidth.

As your site begins to attract more visitors, the traffic between the web server and local computer slows down the loading time of your site for visitors, regardless of their internet connection speed. Your hosting company cycles through each user request and transfers a small portion of the data at a time, as visitors are forced to line up in a queue. And if there is a huge spurt in visitors at the same time, you may well find that your site is unavailable because the server has transferred the maximum amount of data for the allowed bandwidth.

Bandwidth And Web Hosting

When picking a web host to run your website, you should look for the best server resources available to keep your site online and consider factors such as bandwidth, data transfer, and disk space. Imagine you’re moving goods from your warehouse across a highway using trucks for delivery to customers. Bandwidth can be likened to the number of lanes on the highway and the volume of goods your trucks transfer across that highway would be data transfer rate. And disk space could be compared to the space your goods take up in the warehouse. With high bandwidth, your site will cope better because more people can visit your site at the same time and fully enjoy the optimum web experience you created for them. So, understanding traffic patterns is extremely important when choosing a bandwidth option.

Most web hosting companies offer a variety of bandwidth options for their tiers of hosting packages from 1 G to 100 G, with some even offering unlimited bandwidth. Lunarpages can provide the maximum bandwidth you need within its cheapest hosting account too. It is also easy to upgrade should you need to.

For businesses that have “bandwidth-heavy” content such as video, online apps, large images, audio files and those with a lot of traffic, a dedicated server with about 1TB of monthly bandwidth allotment should be enough to handle the data moving in and out of the network. Feel free to discuss with us about which web hosting option would be best for your bandwidth needs.