Mobile Apps and Mobile-Friendly Websites for Business: 
The Next Big Thing in Internet Marketing?

Shortly after Internet accessibility via mobile phones started to take off, marketers started to encourage businesses to build mobile versions of their websites. But there is always a gap between innovations and those who follow up in order to take advantage of the latest technologies.

mobile-friendly website with responsive WordPress theme

ComBridges’ new mobile-friendly website design uses a responsive WordPress theme

But, now that there is a meaningful volume of web visitors checking out every website (yes, even yours!) via mobile devices, spanning this gap is becoming more of a requirement. And yet, there are still a very significant number of businesses who don’t have mobile-friendly websites. The really bad news, particularly for those who are falling behind, is that the gap is widening between those who are meeting the demand for mobile-friendly web communications and those who are not. The good news is that there are a new generation of business communication tools arising in the form of apps and new kinds of websites that make meeting this need increasingly accessible. Illuminating these trends with specific examples is the purpose of this blog post.

The Mobile Web is Exploding

These changes are unquestionably dramatic. While the Web was born on desktop computers, it is obviously no longer simply a desktop medium. By May 2012, fully one tenth of the world’s web traffic was arriving on your digital doorstep via mobile phones and tablets. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the “developing” world that is truly leading the charge. In those countries where cell phones have long outnumbered landlines, more than one-half of web use is now coming via mobile devices. This demand for mobile delivery is now forcing the issue and providing further fuel for the shift in how websites are designed. In this environment, for a company to ignore the need for the mobile-friendly delivery of its Web content not only limits that company’s engagement opportunities because they are essentially “dissing” a significant segment of their audience. In the US alone, mobile is now estimated to be about 15% of web traffic. Bottom line, this form of resistance to change (or upgrades) will also exclude that company from a significant component of how the next billion people will get online.

Chinese woman with iPad

Photo by Robert May, April, 2013

Not Your Father’s Website Design

Web development for the mobile age itself is advancing quickly. One of the latest innovations is called responsive website designs. Because responsive designs automatically adjust their layout to suit the device being used, they offer a relatively simple solution that can eliminate the complexity of having to create a separate mobile-friendly version of your website. But this means that those—like my company recently—must invest in a redesign in order to keep pace with the mobile revolution. But that’s not all. The pace of change does not slow down. It accelerates.

Span the Gap with an App

Now, at least for marketers who are committed to the leading edge of engagement with social media savvy users who love their mobile devices, a responsive design may not be enough. Mobile apps are yet another important innovation because they combine the emergence of ever-expanding Web access via mobile devices with the ability to communicate directly, in a native form (i.e. within the mobile medium) via customized business-specific functionalities from Facebook feeds, to special offers, to location-based components.

A recent article by SmartMediaTips on mobile statistics points out that over 50% of an individual’s time spent on a smartphone is spent using apps. In 2011, smartphone users downloaded 17.7 billion apps, and this number is expected to increase to 108 billion by 2015. As a result, more than 300,000 apps were developed in the last 3 years. In a sense, apps are the new websites (just like “60 is the new 40.”)

The good news is that some newly developed Web-based SaaS (software as service) resources are make building basic apps far more accessible and affordable than previously imagined. The result is a new trend in mobile marketing: the development of business apps that can be used by companies of virtually any size. Of course, many large, enterprise-level businesses have already jumped on the app bandwagon, including banks, Starbucks, Google, and even Walmart’s new checkout app. Now, there are mobile apps for the rest of us.

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites

A business mobile app means that your website can be programmed to offer mobile users an interface for your website and social media content that is all the more friendly, not only with a vertical layout that fits a smartphone screen, but with an interface that features icons (rather than web-style text links) that are also a natural for the touch of a screen. Thus, an app offers more than a responsive website design. An app gives your business a mobile presence that can put local or social media interactivity in a more prominent position. In particular, an app allows your loyal customers and followers to retrieve content, like audio podcasts or video commentaries for example, that are more conveniently accessed while on the move. Likewise, Facebook posts and tweets, which are commonly accessed via mobile, can become part of your business app’s featured content.

One logical strategy is use the app to make your social media marketing and content marketing outreach more accessible. For example, when individuals are standing in line at the bank or at the grocery store, with an app at their fingertips, they will much more easily be able browse through your Facebook posts. In fact, they are certainly more likely to visit your Facebook Page while on your app rather than from Facebook’s own app where they are far more than likely to be distracted by their family’s photos, etc.

Likewise, if you host a contest, offer a coupon or some other form of promotion, those who get involved with your app can much more quickly check contest updates from an app and receive automated notifications (with permission of course). The app makes waiting for your responsive website to load, asking the user to find the contest page, then wait for that page to load, etc. seem prosaic. An app simply makes any interaction with your web content immediately available with a simple touch of an icon, rather than forcing a web page and more complex navigation through the smaller screen.

Learning from Experience

Small Business mobile app example

ComBridges’ Facebook Feed in our test mobile app

By way of example, as a boutique web design and marketing agency, our company, ComBridges used to have a mobile-friendly version of our website that was visible via smartphones. This was developed using a WordPress plug-in called WPTouch Pro. Recently, we have redesigned and relaunched our own site with a responsive WordPress theme.

What opens up the opportunity for a small business like ours (and so many others) to have its own app is online software services like Conduit.com’s Mobile. While these apps do require a small, additional monthly hosting fee, they are easy for developers like us to implement. So much so that some do-it-yourselfer small businesses could even build apps on their own. It’s a work in progress, but if you have a smartphone, you can preview our first generation mobile app via any mobile device at combridges.conduitapps.com.

You will notice that what you see on our app looks very different than what you see on our website. It’s designed for mobile interaction. In fact, thanks to Conduit, much of the content is automatically derived from our Facebook Page, Twitter feed and more. As you can see, many of our social media pages are featured along with easy options for contacting us, including click to call functionality.

Greeting the Mobile Future

According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of individuals who own smart phones keep their phone within reach 24/7. And 5.1 billion of the 7 billion people on earth own a mobile phone. With these numbers in mind, why wouldn’t every business want to make it easier for their customers, blog readers, Twitter or Facebook followers to engage with them via a mobile app?

Another benefit is that if you develop your business app now, before the gap widens further, you may well be seen as an innovator. At the very least, you will prove yourself smart enough to get an early jump on the next wave of mobile marketing strategies, rather than letting the gap widen between you and your competitors, as well as between you and your customers.


Jon Leland is author of “Internet Marketing: 8 Key Concepts that Every Business MUST Know” and is the president of the boutique web design, video and Internet marketing agency, ComBridges.com. He was assisted in this article by Tara Hornor who also writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company.

 

The Visual Web Demands New Video Presentation Tools & Techniques

One of my ‘mantras’ is that “It’s not about the technology. It’s about the communication.” 

Quick infographic, presentation image

This image took about 5 minutes to create

Both the good news and the bad news is that online communication is becoming more and more visual. So much so that I’ve begun calling it “The Visual Web” and wrote this blog post about the trend.

The first is about the style of visual communications and the continuing “epidemic” of bullet-point list laden presentations, such as those created in PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote programs. (And given the increasing value of sharing presentations via SlideShare, presentation style is more important than ever.)

The second is a new tool that can be applied to both online videos (which I now consider a “must have”) as well as to the increasingly important content marketing strategy of creating infographics.

1. Presentations Done Right

Authenticity in online communications is an important key, and that means you have to walk your talk. Here’s a presentation that does just that. It illustrates what I agree are some of the most important techniques and style points about presentations using PowerPoint or Keynote, and it does so without bullet point lists. In fact, it not only makes a good case against all that text and bullet lists that we all see in far too many presentations, but it also offers some valuable resources. (New to me were Pictalicious for color palettes and PowToon, see below. I already love and recommend the iPad app, Haiku Deck.)

 

2. The Best and Easiest Online Video & Infographic Tool I’ve Seen (ever?)

 I will have to return to the subject of PowToon with a more complete review. For now, I’ll give it one of my highest recommendations which is, “I want to learn this app.”

It’s an online application designed for the creation of all kinds of online videos with an impressive array of built-in animation effects. Their site is full of examples, so I’ll just embed their excellent introductory video. If you are interested in this kind of production, ComBridges can do it for you, and more cost effectively than ever thanks to this tool. Check it out!

 

What do you think?

 

Social Media Goes Visual: Why Pinterest is More Than You Think

NextGen Social Media

Pinterest is much more than the latest and greatest “hot” new social network. Because of it’s visual nature, I believe that this upstart social network reflects the next generation of socially networked communication. In the current and coming stages of the evolution of the Web’s social revolution, the written word is no longer sufficient.

In case you haven’t tried it yet, Pinterest is essentially an online vision board. It lets people “pin” images that they find inspiring, useful or beautiful and then share their collections of images—called “Boards”—with others. When people “re-pin” the images, they are essentially “retweeting” or sharing visual communications in a state-of-the-art social media style.

This naturally compliments the ways that video and photo sharing have become majorly important. In fact, the array of visual communication innovation that we are seeing right now is indicative of the dawn of a new age. The web has quickly become a more dynamic visual medium. Text and hyperlinks were a foundation, but only a beginning. And we are still in the early stages.

Let’s Get Visual!

This trend isn’t new, but it does make a big difference. For example, Facebook power users know that when you share pictures, not just text updates, it fuels increased engagement in a big way. In other words, you get more “Likes” and comments when there’s a visual component to what you post.

Elsewhere, Tumblr has extended the Twitter-powered popularity of micro-blogging in a much more visual direction, and the popularity of using Instagram to share and talk about photographs is also surging (and is poised for major new expansion when the Android version of the Instagram app is released soon). ReadWriteWeb even reminds us that it is this mobile-phone-powered digital photography trend that slew the former photo corporate dragon: Death by Smartphone: How Mobile Photography Helped Kill Kodak.”

And then there’s YouTube which recently announced that 24 hours of video is uploaded to their site every twenty-four seconds. The video visual media explosion is so dramatic that YouTube itself produced this quick little 45-second video in an attempt to make its mind-boggling growth comprehendible:

If doesn’t clarify this explosion for you, Time Magazine recently ran an article, The Beast with a Billion Eyes, which characterizes YouTube as “the most rapidly growing force in human history.”

Blogger/consultant/author Jay Baer  says: 

“This is the year that photos challenge writing as the lingua franca of the social webIf you’re not taking and posting pictures to dedicated photo networks and cross-posting (when appropriate) to Twitter and Facebook, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your network and see the world through the eyes (or cell phone cameras) of thousands of new friends.”

The fact that the verb “pinning” has been showing up in conversations that aren’t even specific to Pinterest is a huge testament to the fact that people are captivated. If you think about how many times a day the verb to “google” is used to mean “search,” you can see that we’re on to something.

Why Is This Important for Business?

According to the Wall Street Journal, traffic to the Pinterest website has grown tenfold over the past six months. In January, the number of visitors on Pinterest was already almost a third of that on Twitter.

But Pinterest’s impact of web traffic may be even greater than Twitter’s. Based on a recent study conducted by Sharaholic, Pinterest drove more referral traffic to sites in January than Google+ (with 100 million users!), Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn and MySpace all combined. Those are big-time numbers for the new kid on the block.

But, is there really room for another player in the social media VIP room? New York Times technology columnist David Pogue in his review, A Scrapbook on the Web Catches Fire, gives three good reasons why there definitely is:

  1. It’s clean. No ads, no pop ups, no blinking anything. It’s a pure and relatively simple rest for the eyes.
  2. It’s personal. Broadcasting isn’t the focus, rather your own interests take center stage in an authentic way.
  3. It’s humble. Pinterest Boards are about beauty, inspiration, information, passion, not self-absorbtion. It’s not, “Look at how great I am!” It’s, “Isn’t this GREAT!”

The blogger Beth Hayden sums it up well when she says Pinterest can  “…start making your social media strategy more beautiful, one little pin at a time.” When you add to this the fact that the early research seems to show that it will also make your social media marketing more engaging; and, when done appropriately, it will also help connect you to your constituencies at a deeper level: What’s not to like?

——

Our Other Pinterest Post:

Luscious Links to Unlock Pinterest: Free Resources Show How to Pin Your Marketing

The App Year in Review: My Favorite Apps from 2011

“Hello, my name is Jon, and…

I’m an App-aholic.”

Apps is me. I love ’em and I love to share ’em. And, just for the record, I consider my obsessive behavior with apps of all kinds, especially iPhone apps, iPad apps and small business productivity-oriented web apps to be a healthy addiction. Well mostly healthy. At least I’m learning about the future of mobile computing… and I’m definitely having fun.

Here are my mini-reviews of my favorite apps from 2011 (more to come in 2012). I look forward to your comments and to hearing your recommendations via the comments below.

Note Taker HD: Hand-Written Notes Come to the iPad
This is the app that changed my life. It’s a powerful tool for writing on the iPad in a totally hand-written natural way. I used to prefer using yellow-lined paper writing pads for meetings, and would journal in notebooks, but Note Taker HD has shown me that I can write almost as fast on my iPad tablet (using a stylus) and I’m eliminating the clutter of scraps of paper all over the place.  I use it now for meeting notes, journal entries and brainstorming sessions; and I just love the natural feel, especially the way that Note Taker HD’s window system lets me write nice and big while my writing is automatically resized into a page-sized virtual sheet. This app is so easy and just plain fun that I find myself swiftly moving into the promised land of an (almost) paperless and less cluttered office.

The Hit List: To-Do List Nirvana
In the incessant quest for the holy grail of an Organized Life, I’ve taken more than a few laps around the track with various to-do list programs. Now, I think I’ve finally found the one I’ll stick with forever because, for me at least, this to-do list offers the right balance between features and simplicity. It’s snappy name is The Hit List.  It’s Mac-only (via the Mac App Store), but I also use it on my iPhone and iPad. I can organize lists into categories by client, by project, or by any number of other categories. It’s very intuitive with due dates and priority settings as well as a space for notes on each item. I also like the way that it synchs between platforms and the few dollars I pay per year for that service is well worth it. I’m really pleased I’ve found something that works for me, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

Zite: The Future of News Reading
My new favorite news reader is an iPad app that trumps Flipboard. Zite is personalized news at its finest. It’s infinitely customizable in a very effortless and seamless way. Zite filters what I like according to my initial preferences, and then I continue to let it know what I like and why as I go along. As I interact with it, the app gets smarter and gives me an increasingly better fit for my interests and sensibilities in a clear, interactive, easy-to-read format. The results in terms of valuable articles is the ultimate value, but it’s also easy to share what I read, which is certainly a requirement for me in this social media world of ours.

Google Docs: My New Standard in Groupware
More and more of my clients and team members are now collaborating with me via Google Docs. I gotta believe that that’s because it works. One previous concern of mine was the lack of change-tracking features that are frequently required and available in MS Word. Now I’m enthralled with the newish “See revision history” feature in Google Docs which I like even better than the “Track Changes” equivalent in Word. I am also surprised by the ease of the collaboration process. If you haven’t seen this, you need to try it: When I’m working with someone and we’re both updating a document at the same time, it’s just seamless. You can even see what the other person is doing, in a distinct color, while you are also editing—all via the Web, of course. All the value of sharing and online collaboration is built in. Google Docs is now a standard part of my workflow.

Summify: Socially Aggregated News Delivered Daily
Facebook coined the term “social graph” to describe the mapping of social relationships online. There are clear advantages to extending these virtual relationships via other websites in order to create new kinds of information collections. Summify is just this kind of real time source of aggregated news and blog posts. What I read, pretty much every day at some point, is being sourced by Summify from my own social graph (my online relationships) via their neato web app (a web browser-based app). Summify leverages my network by sending me daily emails containing a linked list of news articles that have been referenced (linked to via Facebook or Twitter) by multiple people from within my social graph. When multiple people from my networks share the same information, that clearly increases the likelihood that I’ll find it interesting. And it works. The consistent quality of what Summify delivers has been impressive. And I like that it can be delivered by email too. I don’t have to go to the app or website to see what they’ve found for me. This is a useful and, to me at least, a valuable preview of the growing power of our social media matrix.

Nimble: Cross Social Network Messaging Power
This start-up company is a recent investment of Mark Cuban and a definite app to watch. Nimble is a new breed of virtual CRM software that connects your contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail and Twitter into a single interface. From within Nimble’s web-based interface, I can message people on different social networks from within one platform and that message, along with all the others that may have been sent from other sites, is available in one place. Note, these aren’t post or status updates, but the embedded messages from within the particular sites themselves. This is very convenient because you don’t have to go to LinkedIn, for example, to send a LinkedIn message to someone whose regular email address you may not have otherwise. Thus, Nimble is also a great way to keep track of the increasing number of online conversations, all in one place.

Scrivener: Larger Written Documents at Another Level
I want to give an “honorable mention” to Scrivener, a marvelous and powerful writing/document management program. I’ve used it to organize references and new resources by subject area for the social media workshops that I’ve been developing and delivering. But I’m only scratching the surface of this feature rich program. It’s powerfully sophisticated, so there’s a real learning curve involved. However, I’ve heard from multiple, reliable sources that this program has been enthusiastically received by authors and others who work with king-sized pieces of content and/or research. If you’re one of them, I think Scrivener is definitely worth checking out.

iPhone Photography
My app review of the year would not be complete without talking about iPhone photography apps. Taking photographs and playing with the images on the iPhone is a source of great pleasure and fun to me. My favorite app so far is Camera+ by Lisa Bettany. I can crop and I can process with a very creative set of presets. It’s got some great filters and I can also put all kinds of artsy frames on my images, plus it easily posts to the social networks (although I’ve recently started using Instagram for that because it also connects to Tumblr). I’m just starting to explore Camera+’s actual camera features…

ProHDR makes a big improvement over the built-in HDR on my  iPhone. If you haven’t checked out HDR (Higher Dynamic Range) photography via the apps, you must do.  It just makes a huge difference and I can’t imagine doing iPhoneography without it.

Finally, I’m a fan of Auto Painter, which I use on both my iPad and iPhone to create very cool painterly effects on my photos. It’s been a big source of creative delight. And recently I’ve had some fun with SketchMee which turned a picture of my newly-wed son and his bride into a lovely pencil sketch, if I do say so myself.

Bonus List
I had the pleasure of catching up with my favorite uber-geek, Brett Terpstra (@ttscoff) at MacWorld and noticed he posted an awesome 2011 Favorite Mac Apps list. Click to discover more cool stuff.

Thanks for app-ing with me – I’m really happy to share all of this with you. Like I said, more to come (subscribe to this blog above if you want to be notified). I wish you happy app-ing in the year ahead, and I hope you have as much fun checking out these recommendations as I have had exploring them. Please let me know what you think.

Google TV Ads, Cisco Feeds MSNBC, & Interactive Marketing Agencies: A Fresh Perspective

Another week, another Tuesday segment on TheTVNews.tv. This week, I aggregated three new online video news stories that I think merit your attention. My video segment is below, and below that are the Google TV Ads video demo, more comments, and links to all the sources. Please let me know what you think.

1. Great Video Demo of Google TV Ads

Seth Stevenson of SlateV.com did a wonderful job of demoing Google TV Ads for the rest of us. I’m sure you will agree that he proves his point that, yes, anyone with the technical chops to produce a 30-second TV spot and set up a Google AdWords account, also now has the opportunity to be a media buyer and place those TV spots on carefully targeted cable TV networks in the time slots of your choice.

I’m impressed and ready for a client who wants me to do this for them. I’m highly qualified. Are you reading?

Here’s the SlateV Google TV Ads demo for your viewing pleasure:

By the way, for those of you doing the math, not familiar with Google AdWords campaigns, and figuring that, hey, that’s about $1.30 per website visitor… please keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for AdWords customers to pay $4, $5 and up PER click. And the visitors he “acquired” via this campaign were coming to a strange website URL with no identified service or product being offered.

2. Cisco Feeds Its High-End Teleconferencing System to Rachel Maddow and MSNBC

In what is said to be “a news media industry first,” Cisco has partnered with MSNBC to provide  The Rachel Maddow Show’s New York and Washington D.C. studios with its branded TelePresence technology. According to Cisco, “TelePresence offers what traditional broadcast interviewing technology often lacks: a truly two-way, visual connection between the studio host and remote guest with virtually no audio lag time.”

To me, that’s an interesting tech story, not only because of the “no audio time lag,” but also because of further in-roads being made by a traditionally IT industry player providing hardware services to the broadcast TV industry.

Click here to see for yourself.

For more details and illuminations of the interactive benefits of TelePresence, Beet.tv has a video interview with Charles Stucki, VP & GM of the Cisco’s TelePresence unit.

3. Forrester Research Predicts the Future of Marketing Agency Relationships

Anyone in the marketing or advertising business knows that all marketing agencies are being forced to cross “boundaries” that traditionally defined specific niches. Now, Forrester’s latest report, “The Future Of Agency Relationships: Marketers Need To Lead Agency Change In The Adaptive Marketing Era” sets the stage for overlapping, multi-discipline agencies and the ways we all will be doing battle (or not) in the future.

But if you don’t feel like plopping down $499 for the report, I highly recommend Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim coverage of the report, Forrester Predicts the Interactive Agency of Record Will Die. Beal reveals the main types of agencies discussed and some of the top level data including this quote which gives you a flavor of the sophistication being required in today’s marketing agency market:

It is not enough for adaptive agencies to understand market research, ethnographic, or behavioral data. To fully understand customers, and to leverage that knowledge to improve customer experience, requires agencies to understand the interplay between the various types of data, and crucially, demands the ability to turn the data into actionable intelligence.

Stay tuned. The landscape continues to morph at a record-setting pace. Keep on dancing… and keep your seat belt fastened. 😉

The Truth About WordPress

by Sallie Goetsch of the Podcast Asylum and Jon Leland of ComBridges

istock_000006783097xsmall2Recently, in a WordPress group on LinkedIn, the question was asked “Is WordPress the answer to all our prayers?” The writer was extending the conversation about his own blog post which objected vehemently to crazy claims that complete novices could build “killer websites” in minutes if they just used WordPress. It seems that the world of technology is filled with these kinds of false promises and unrealistic expectations.

For those of us who have hand-coded HTML back before tools like Dreamweaver were invented, and who have experimented and had learning experiences with creating web pages in a wide variety of ways, WordPress is an important new platform for website development. Compared to anything we’ve seen before, WordPress is amazingly simple and intuitive, especially given its array of powerful features. It lets you change your design without affecting your content, it has great built-in SEO (search engine optimization) features, and it’s free.

WordPress also has advantages over competing website publishing systems like Drupal and Joomla. For one thing, you can use easy offline editors (like Windows Live Writer and Ecto) to update content on WordPress sites. WordPress also began as a blogging platform, and as a result, it’s “natural” for WordPress websites to include blogs. For many website designers, even those who have never learned Java, never learned Flash, never learned PHP, and don’t know a single programming language, WordPress does answer many prayers.

But, that’s very different from saying that anyone can use WordPress to design and implement a sophisticated website. If you try to take advantage of WordPress’ full capabilities as a content management system without knowing anything about HTML, CSS, or PHP — or about WordPress itself — you are simply asking for trouble. Yes, you can set up a basic blog using WordPress.com without knowing much, but to really make WordPress (or any other new software) sit up and do tricks, you have to put some time into learning how to use it. (More advanced users download WordPress from WordPress.org. The supply of tricks available at WordPress.com is limited.)

When you think about it, most people only know how to use the most basic features of the software that they use every day. They treat Microsoft Word like a glorified typewriter and don’t even know most of its tools and options exist, much less how to use them. They pay hundreds of dollars for Photoshop and only use the functions they could have gotten for free with Picasa. (Photoshop is so sophisticated that even advanced users can spend hours studying DVD tutorials to learn new things.)

So why should WordPress be any different? It’s not, but people get excited and apparently WordPress’ many benefits give birth to irrationally exuberant expectations. Either that, or there are some people out there who think that because WordPress is easy for them, it must seem that easy to everyone else.

For example, if you hear that there are 5,000 free plugins that extend WordPress’ platform, and hundreds of free themes in the theme repository, shouldn’t you expect that just looking through them and testing them to see which ones would be best for you might take quite some time? And then there’s the fact that new versions of WordPress come out a lot more often than new versions of Photoshop. So you have to stay up to date, by doing things like attending meetups and Wordcamps, reading blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts, or even reading books. (There are several good books on WordPress, but it is hard for print books to keep up with the rapid developments in the platform and its plugins.)

Because WordPress is a web-based platform, it’s much easier for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate on websites. But due to its popularity, WordPress sites are also open to server hacks and blog spam attacks–as ComBridges discovered first hand recently.

While it doesn’t necessarily take a programmer to learn WordPress, if you want to create a sophisticated WordPress site, skills like PHP will come in handy. And, if you want to learn your way around, study the WordPress Codex and be sure to allow some time to learn important fundamentals such as, for example, which plugins make it easier to use WordPress as a CMS (content management system). For professional website developers like us, that’s part of our job.

Even though WordPress is easy enough for Sallie’s hairdresser to update, Sallie was the one to create the site, and had to provide more than one tutorial on posting to the blog and editing pages.

WordPress deserves to be praised for many reasons, but exaggerated claims about its ease of use for the complete novice does everyone a disservice. Let’s practice a little expectation management, people.

JotSpot Wiki App for the Rest of Us

The techno dweebs among us (and apparently I’m in that category) know that a “wiki” is a kind of free form web-based collaboration environment. The only limitation that I know of is that they have required a certain degree of techno savvy, perhaps even a programmer’s aptitude, in order to make good use of them. I’ve been interested, but intimidated.

Then, I saw a ZDNet whiteboard video, “What is a Wiki?” with JotSpot CEO, Joe Kraus; and I checked out JotSpot. What I discovered was an ASP (application service provider) or what the company calls “The Application Wiki.” It’s extremely user friendly, totally web based (no downloads), comes complete with a WYSIWYG page editor, and all kinds of plug-in modules from a blog to a calendar, the ability to email pages, as well as to email content TO a page, etc. I’m impressed, pleased and having fun using it (already) as a collaboration tool for my team with virtually no start up learning curve. VERY useful!

If you’re new to wikis, the whiteboard video above is a good intro. For more info, JotSpot has an online tour (another reflection of their user-friendliness), and there’s also a good interview with Kraus on C|Net.

Constant Contact Keeps Getting Better… Our preferred tool for email newsletters etc.

At last count, we have set up about 20 Constant Contact accounts for ourselves and our clients. It’s the best, most cost effective email newsletter and opt-in user friendly email promotion application out there. We recommend it frequently and have taught even non-techie clients to use it themselves. Besides other features that I’ve described on Media Mall’s email newsletter page, they’ve just announced a bunch of new enhancements including upgraded list management features such as the abilities to segment your list by behaviors and to merge interest categories, plus easier to use one-step bounce management and the capability to import lists directly from Excel (rather than needing to export a .CSV file first). If you have the commitment to write valuable content for your constituency’s interest, I know no better way to keep visitors coming back to your web site. And, yes, there’s a free trial so that you can explore it without any cost whatsoever. Click here to learn more >>

Adobe-Macromedia vs Microsoft in Web App Dev

While my first thought when I heard about the Adobe-Macromedia merger was about Dreamweaver, the reality is that Flash has more to do with it. And, it’s not really about us “creative professionals” who are the primary market for the obvious Adobe and Macromedia products. Rather, this merger is all about the enterprise market. That’s where the big money is for software companies; and on that mission critical battlefield, Macromedia will help Adobe wage war against the evil empire, Microsoft. Silicon.com explains it well.

Google Maps’ Satellite View: Even Better!

I forgot to mention (because I missed it originally), that Google Maps also has a satellite view with the same zoom and drag/pan functionalities as the map view. In fact, you can toggle directly between the map view and the satellite view. Awesome! http://maps.google.com