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Insights into the Online World

Jan282016

Being a web developer is like being an architect and a builder at the same time. All fun and responsibility come to you. Everything is clear with the fun part; I’d like to talk about responsibilities.

The ability to develop code that does its job is great. When a developer not only knows how to develop code to solve a specific task but also understands what’s going on behind the scenes while their code is running is even better. This knowledge usually helps in developing efficient, error proof applications. What is valued most is an ability to write code that other developers can read. Here are three simple tips to ensure your code will be understandable not only for you but even for those lucky ones who decide to read it.

Styling.

In the early days, computers had an 80 character limit for every line to display. Lines that were longer were trailing off out of sight. Nowadays screens can display much longer lines, but there are still advantages to limiting maximum line length to 80 symbols. The shorter your code line is, the less your eye has to travel to read it. Do not forget to tabulate nested blocks of code, keep all operators of the same nest level at the same distance from the left border. There are many widely used styles of programming, but I prefer to use Mr. Cay Horstmann style.

Naming.

Use descriptive names for your variables and functions/methods. Otherwise, in 2 weeks after you’ve completed your code it might be hard to remember what the “p” variable stands for and what function “action1()” does.  Admit that “printResults()” gives you a much clearer idea of what to expect from this function, or what value “countryPopulation” variable contains. Instead of using dashes and underscores use CamelCase to concatenate several words in your functions/variables names.

Repetitive usage.

Once you’ve developed a chunk of code that solves the specific task and you realize that you need this functionality somewhere else - create a function. Instead of copying and pasting that block of code in multiple places it is almost always better to create a separate method with developed code inside. This will make your code shorter, you will not have to update your code in several places in future, and that will exclude a bunch of possible issues from your future work.

Following these simple rules will significantly help you not only with a readability of your code, but will also simplify further development and make your code more error protected.

Jan262016

Earlier in my professional career; I’d frequently attend wine and cheese nights, trade shows, and other social gatherings in hopes of networking with other professionals.  If you were interested in someone; you’d exchange business cards in hopes of staying in touch or possibly working with them one day.  These events are still common, but now it’s much easier to network with professionals or colleagues thanks to LinkedIn.  Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is a professional platform that emphasizes on business-oriented social network sharing.  Whether it’s for personal use, professional, or networking; there are several different ways we can use LinkedIn to our advantage.

Earlier this week, the salesperson who sold me my vehicle last month added me on LinkedIn and then proceeded to message me to see how I was and how I’ve liked my new car.  He didn’t go above or beyond during the sale, but just to know that he cared enough to find me on LinkedIn and send me a personal message; I feel more inclined to recommending his service to others and buying from him again.  LinkedIn has made it easy for us to network with our clientele and it’s something we should be using to our advantage.

 LinkedIn isn’t limited to just networking with other professionals.  Their user interface is quite interactive, and it’s become easier than ever to apply for a job in a particular field.  Before you even apply for a job; you can check out the employer, see what the current employees are like, and see if you think it’d be a good fit for you.  Joining groups that focus on the industry you’re looking to work in will increase the amount of jobs suggested to you in the Jobs Discussion section.  

LinkedIn also significantly benefits employers.  A business page helps LiinkedIn members learn about your business, brand, and career opportunities.  Employers have the capability to screen a candidate before they make a recruitment decision.

LinkedIn has revolutionized how we connect with other professionals.  If it’s something you haven’t used yet or don’t use quite frequently; I highly recommend you try it out for a bit and realize how easy it is to network with people you know and make new connections.  You might not be looking for a job or might not be recruiting for one, but there’s a possibility that one day it’ll come in handy.

Marketing and Design Go Hand-in-hand

Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Jan252016

Designing a website for your business should be about more than just the look and feel you get as you move through the pages.   Many businesses have websites, or are on social media because they’ve heard “they should”.  Strong visuals and an active online presence are important, but a website proves its real value when it can generate more business.

Including the perspective of a marketer when updating the design of your website can help create a more cohesive feel, as far as marketing specific elements go.  Experienced designers are capable of doing this on their own, but having a second set of eyes can help see additional opportunities for lead generation. A good marketer knows which pages should include lead generation forms, and which pages should have the strongest call to action - and what that should be - helps those elements feel like they were always part of the design, and not added in as an afterthought.

Web design also influences user experience; text needs to be easily readable, buttons and links should be easily distinguished from the rest of the page, and mobile usability is an absolute must!  These elements directly influence the effectiveness of marketing efforts.  Your marketing team does everything they can to get potential clients to your website, but if the user experience doesn’t align with the expectation that was set by the marketing that brought them there, you can bet users will “bounce” as quickly as they came.

The perspective of a web designer also benefits your marketing efforts.  It is easy to get caught up creating landing pages, call-to-action buttons and links, and lead generation forms; working with a designer on these aspects of your marketing can help increase their effectiveness.  Designers focus on making these elements as visually appealing as possible and including them in the overall look and feel of your website or online presence.  It’s then up to marketers to slightly modify and tweak these things to find their most compelling variation through A/B testing. 

Overall, your design team (in-house or not) should work together with your marketing team to ensure your website not only accurately portrays your business and your value proposition, but also generates more business for you.

Jan212016

When I was a kid, I saw my uncle program in Basic, moving buttons around and putting the code behind it to work.  I thought at the time that was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and it still is to this day.  As a web developer, being able to rapidly create a product that users can use instantly brings joy to my heart.  No other programming style will allow you to reach such a large audience so quickly.

With web development, you can expand your business as far as you want without any limits.  You do not need to worry about any kind of distribution outlets or expensive licenses to build your application.  You can simply create your application on your own machine using a simple text editor like notepad.  Once you are done, you can apply for a domain and web hosting company, and your website will be accessible across the world within hours!

Need help with any of the above-mentioned steps?  From web design, web development, hosting, domain control, to content writing, SEO, marketing, and everything in between, Modern Earth’s specialties have you covered!  Contact us today for more information.

The Internet’s original intent wasn’t to become a tool for business. In its early stages, the Internet was used as a system to communicate and connect government resources. Let’s take a look at how the Internet evolved into the business-focused tool we use today.

Commercial Online Access

Up to the point of the late 1980’s commercial use was forbidden on the government-run Internet. As a result, ISP (Internet Service Providers) companies created alternate network access, which wasn’t restricted. A short time after, web browsers were introduced, allowing users to browse the various pages which populated the early Internet landscape.

e-Commerce, Online Shopping, Websites & Blogs

As the popularity of the Internet continued, pioneers for online shopping (Amazon and eBay), along with user submitted content, the form of forums, bulletins, websites, and blogs drove this growth. Technology advanced at a rapid pace, allowing web applications to be written and web forms to capture user data. The growth happened so quickly; it brought along the “dot-com bubble” - caused by the fierce competition for domain names with the .com suffix.

The Internet’s First Search Tool & Google’s Popularity

As late as 1993, the entire Internet was still indexed by hand, however, by September of that year the first tool used for searching the Internet’s contents was created by a trio of students enrolled at McGill University’s computer science program. The tool was named “Archie” (after the word archive, by omitting the ‘v’). Fast forward to 1996, Netscape wanted to ink a deal with a single search engine to run as the default engine for their web browser. The interest was so great five engines were selected and used for a year each over the span of five years (Yahoo!, Magellan, Lycos, Infoseek, Excite).

Close to the same time, Google.com was registered as a domain from the play on the word ‘googol’  – and the definition of ‘googol’ is 1 x 10 to the power of 100 or a 1 with 100 zeros following it. The founders of Google focused, first and foremost, on returning search results which helped their users find the things they were looking for. Due to this approach, they quickly grew to be the largest and most valuable search engine company on the Internet.

The Decline of Yellow Pages

At this point, users began turning to the Internet to search out businesses they wanted to purchase a product or service from. The process was easy, and the results were improved upon continually – more and more businesses were recognizing the importance of being found online. As advertising budgets renewed annually, there was a shift to fewer companies appearing in the yellow pages, and more putting their budget towards some form of digital advertising.

Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing - Online Marketing

Along with search engines, other types of marketing became popularized through the use of the Internet – and while I could write a post about each of these topics themselves, in short, users of the Internet dictated the growth and use of these online marketing platforms. Entire companies exist around  email marketing platforms which allow users to create and send information to subscribers and contain automated tools for communicating with recurring customers. For social media platforms, they are enormous networks with millions of participating users. Each network has its own potential use for businesses, depending on who their target audience is. Reaching customers in a place or space they are already accessing is essentially the core foundation of this new type of marketing through the Internet.

When we think of salespeople, one of the unpleasant characteristics that come to mind is them being pushy or overly-aggressive.  At some point, we’ve all been approached by a pushy salesperson who was trying a bit too hard to make a sale.  In rare instances, it may work, but we usually end up leaving and avoid having to deal with them again.  Being pushy will rarely get you the sale.  There are multiple ways you can have an effective sales pitch without sounding pushy.

As salespeople, I find that we often get comfortable with our sales pitch and start pitching the same way with each customer.  We tend to forget that every client is distinct from one another and will have different needs.  Getting to know your customer on a personal level not only will help you build rapport with them, but it’ll also build trust and confidence in them wanting to do business with you.  When we don’t know much about them and we’re trying to make a sale; we tend to sound desperate when they have an objection, and that’s when our pushiness starts to form.  When we’re getting personal with the customer; it’s always best to be transparent and giving your honest feedback when they ask for your opinion.  Being their friend will build trust in your relationship and make them feel more comfortable working with you.

Focus on what they need, not what you want.  Your end goal is to make the sale but to do so without being pushy.  Pay attention to what they’re saying, share your personal stories, and offer good solutions that’ll meet your client’s need.  If they’re objecting, then maybe ask questions to confirm they aren’t missing any information in regards to the product.  If they’re still not interested in your rebuttal and are trying to distance themselves away from you; it might be time to stop.  They might want to shop around or may come back to you at a later time so don’t risk ruining the relationship you’ve built with them.

Being pushy, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can affect your salesmanship.  Forcing your will onto the buyer rarely works and it’ll do more harm than good in the long run if they end up having buyer’s remorse or aren’t satisfied with the product.

New Client Testimonials

Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Jan182016

One of the greatest parts of working with Modern Earth Web Design is the variety of projects our team gets to work on, and the different industries we are able to work with.  Each day is different, and we are given the opportunity to work with clients who are truly passionate about what they do.  This allows our team to expand and further develop our skill sets related to web design, web development, and online marketing.

Thank you to the following clients who chose us to bring their project to the web, and for taking the time to provide us with a testimonial:

Heartland International Travel and Tours Testimonial

Project Details: Mobile Friendly Website Design and Construction, Search Engine Optimization

Milne Well Dressed Homes Testimonial

Project Details: Mobile Friendly Website Design and Construction, Search Engine Optimization, Content Development

Pollock and Company Lawyers Testimonial

Project Details: Mobile Friendly Website Design and Construction, Search Engine Optimization, Content Development, Video Creation

Wallis Agencies Testimonial

Project Details: Website Design and Construction, Search Engine Optimization

Windeck Ltd. Testimonial

Project Details: Mobile Friendly Website Design and Construction, Search Engine Optimization

Workplace Engineering Solutions Inc. Testimonial

Project Details: Website Design and Construction, Search Engine Optimization

Jan142016

As I have said in the past, Java is a powerful tool that in experienced hands can help to solve a broad list of tasks. Java code can be used everywhere. Programs of any complexity will run the same on your Mac or PC. It does not matter if you are a Unix person, Windows geek or prefer to work with hardware. With Java, you can develop a Windows or Unix application, create websites or even develop a robot.

Because of a high diversity of spheres where you can apply it, its popularity grows every year. Developer societies all over the world keep working on open source libraries that drastically simplify the development process. That is one of its main principles “written once can be used everywhere”.

So what can happen with Java in next ten years? Despite it is already one of the top recognized programming languages, we can not expect, and we would like it not to push all its competitors out of the market. Healthy competition is always good for everyone. Having competitors keeps you focused on being better, it makes you improve yourself, and raises your bar.

It is easy to believe that Java, C, Python or Ruby will become much faster, but there is no chance that they will ever compete with Assembler in performance. While Assembler is an absolute champion in performance, it is also an absolute nightmare to write even a simple program using it;so developing real life applications using only Assembler sounds like something unreal. The good news is that you do not need to write whole your application on Assembler. Some languages already support Assembler code injections, such solutions allow rewriting the most critical and frequently called parts of the heavy code, making the code much lighter and increasing its performance. Sounds great right? Unfortunately, Java is not in this lucky list. And with its current architecture, it is impossible in principle. But remember - dreamers are those who change the world! Maybe it sounds impossible nowadays though tomorrow everything can change!

Another advantage that Java might get would be various converters that can automatically translate code written in other languages into Java so that the code immediately becomes platform independent. Such solutions might already exist for some languages with limited functionality, but full support of the majority of popular languages would be nice to have.

Scientists are not sitting on their hands but pushing technologies forward, inventing new types of hardware such as quantum computers. These types of computers theoretically could run an exponential number of times faster than computers nowadays. New types of hardware will require new algorithms to use their power resources. And that is what we at Modern Earth expect from Java in 10 years - to keep supporting modern technologies and be a leader among champions.

Happy programming to everyone!

Being an account manager can get quite overwhelming and stressful at times.  You need to coordinate with your clientele, team members, and your manager. Though the tasks vary between industries and companies; account managers work in a fast paced environment and need to ensure they’re always on top of their game.  No two days are the same for an account manager, but there are a few daily habits an account manager can adopt that’ll lead to more success.

One thing that successful account managers do is plan ahead.  Checking your voicemail, reading unread emails, coordinating with other departments, and updating any CRM tool you use before you even start your day will help in ensuring you’re aware of any outstanding tasks.  Your clients trust you with their business, so it’s crucial that you and your team collaborate on meeting their needs.

Even though staying organized correlates with planning your day; it is something we should be doing throughout our day.  Cleaning your email inbox, organizing your files, labeling documents, and making sticky notes as you go about your day are all simple tasks that can help you stay on your game.

It’s very crucial as an account manager that you’re always communicating with everyone.  I can’t stress how important asking questions, answering questions, and routine follow-ups are for account managers.  Whether it’s with team members, clients, or your boss; keeping everyone in the loop will ensure you’re all on the right page and meeting the customer’s needs.

Lastly, take pride and be passionate about your work.  Business owners are experts in their field, and it’s your job to be their go-to expert for yours.  You have the capacity to influence what they need, and you can do so by showcasing that you also are passionate about what you’re offering.

These are just a few of the things you can do to strive for your role as an account manager.  By developing these habits, you’ll be on the road to success to becoming an excellent account manager!

Jan112016

Running a pay per click (PPC) advertising campaign, when executed properly, can be the most effective use of marketing budget.  Unfortunately, PPC campaigns are often configured without proper targeting in place.  There are several ways to target a PPC advertising campaign.  One of the most important targeting methods is keywords.  One of the most commonly overlooked targeting tools that can help you get the most out of your budget is negative keywords.      

 

Negative keywords work similarly to their positive counterparts, but instead of triggering the ad to show when a particular keyword is used as part of the search term, an ad will not be shown specifically when that keyword is used.  They can be set as broad match, exact match, and phrase match - the same as regular PPC keywords.     

 

Setting a range of negative keywords prevent your ads showing when a user is obviously searching for something not related to your offering.   For example, you may be targeting the keyword "BMI calculator".  If a user is searching for "scientific calculator" you wouldn't want to show them your ad because they are not likely to convert.  By adding "scientific" as a broad match negative keyword, or "scientific calculator" as an exact or phrase match negative keyword you prevent your ad being shown to those users, and limit unnecessary ad spend.  

 

The search terms report in Adwords shows the search queries that triggered your ad to appear in search results.  Regularly reviewing this report during the course of your campaign gives insight into how users search, and terms that are seen as related by search engines - which can also help when focusing on increasing your organic search results! From the search terms report you are able to add keywords, both negative and targeted.  You can also monitor the cost per click, click-through rate (CTR) and other related metrics. 

 

The next time you run a PPC advertising campaign or contract a professional provider to manage the campaign for you, do not ignore negative keywords.

When building custom systems, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be arranged in such a fashion to keep the machine running.  A lot of the times projects fall apart because they are built in a rush with no solid foundation.  Here are a few tips to help you solve your custom programming problems:

Plan early, plan ahead

You want to make sure your project is well thought out before doing any kind of programming.  For example, you wouldn’t build a house without first doing the research on where to build, what materials you need, measuring, and finally starting from a solid foundation.  A well-defined blueprint or functional specification goes a long way.

Plan for the future

Ideally no matter what the situation, think about the ability to expand your code, so it fulfils future needs.  You can’t account for everything, but think about what the client’s needs may be in the future, and see if you can build it with that in mind.  This depends on your client's budget of course.  A little seed to start can help grow the application further down the road.
 

Documentation

Document your code.  The next person to work on the code will thank you.

Communication

Keep your client, project manager, team leader, and manager informed of your progress.  They will be able to help guide you into a proper path that you may have otherwise gone down incorrectly.

Be Flexible

Project requirements will change.  There is no getting around this.  Your code must be flexible enough to handle the majority of change requests.  You do not want to program yourself into a corner.

 

Every project comes with its own unique set of issues and challenges, but if you can learn from your previous mistakes and successes, you will become a better programmer.  We have quite a lot of experience working in all sorts of applications that we are more than happy to help you!  Contact us today!

Jan062016

Finding the perfect WordPress plugin can seem like an easy task. You search for one on Google, download and install it. But there are a few things you should always check first to see if the plugin you chose is the correct one. This post will outline five tips that I think you will benefit from so you can find the right plugin and know exactly how to use it.

1. How to Download a WordPress Plugin

When logged into your site in the backend there will be a menu item on the left-hand side of the page called “Plugins.” You can manage currently installed plugins here, or you can find new plugins to install. Alternatively, you can search for them online as well.

Once you have picked out a plugin, I suggest installing it directly from the backend of your site in the plugins section. Downloading it directly from WordPress can take time since you will need to upload the plugin files to your website manually.

2. Check the Reviews

When searching for a plugin, the reviews that users leave are incredibly valuable. They are from users just like yourself looking for a solution to a problem. I recommend sticking to plugins with 4-5 star reviews however you should still read through most of the reviews just to make sure the plugin will work.

3. Check the Compatibility

With every new WordPress Core update, there is a list of changes that can sometimes make certain plugins all of a sudden not work or create new bugs. This can be frustrating, but it’s considered a rare issue that doesn’t happen too often.

Alternatively, when downloading a plugin, it will say something like ‘Compatible up to: 4.4.” This refers to the version number of WordPress meaning the plugin has been confirmed to work up to WordPress Version 4.4. You can find your current WordPress version on the dashboard of your site so you can see if the plugin is compatible. If a plugin hasn't been confirmed for the latest version of WordPress, you can probably still get away with installing it and most of the time it will still work. It’s when the plugin hasn't been updated in 2 years is when you want to stay away and find another.

4. Find the Plugin Settings

Once you have installed the plugin, you need to configure it, so the settings are just right. Most plugins have a settings page (but not all!), and they are implemented different ways. Almost always it’s somewhere within the menu in the admin section on your website. Sometimes it’s in the “Settings” menu item or the “Tools” menu item. If it’s a large plugin then most of the time the developers will create a new menu item near the top or bottom titled with the name of the plugin.

5. Read the Instructions

Every plugin is different, and you can’t expect them to work out of the box. On the page where you download the plugin, there will be instructions or an FAQ within the tabs that you should always read. Sometimes they will paste the instructions directly in there, or they will link to an external dedicated site to the plugin where instructions are located. This will help you more than anything else will. If you’re still stuck, try using the support forms on of the plugin tabs. If the plugin is active and frequently updated, then someone or even the author of the plugin will help you.

At the End of the Day

With these five simple tips, you should be able to find a plugin to solve an issue on your site and make sure it’s the right plugin for the job. Also, don’t be afraid to use premium plugins if it’s an option. The support and documentation on almost all premium plugins can help lots. If you cannot find the right plugin and need a more custom solution, feel free to contact us at Modern Earth Web Design, and we can help you no matter what you need.

Jan052016

Over the past decade, there’s been an increase in startups.  Many different reasons may attribute to why a startup failed.  For a startup to launch, they need to offer a product that would be of use to the consumer.  The startup needs vision, direction, and to be spearheaded by the right team.


A major reason startups fail is because the product they’re offering isn’t in demand.  Many factors can go into why a product isn’t in demand.  It could be because of a poor business model, the market timing may be off, or perhaps you’re offering an inferior product that no one has any use for.   Oversaturation in a market can also be a key contributor to a startup failing.  In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in food delivery networks where we see a startup replicating a competitor’s business model in hopes of seeing similar results.  This hasn’t been quite successful in markets where there’s already an existing presence, like in Toronto where TasteAway closed it’s doors earlier this year, and Orderit saw itself get bought out by JustEat.com.


A second reason startups fail might be because of the team leading it.  This can be due to many different factors.  The team could be lacking experience; the founder might not have a clear vision of what direction they want to go with the company.  The founder might be really good with the technical aspects of the product but is indecisive with the funding and may spend the majority of the capital funding on the wrong stream.  In a situation like this, it’d be good to have a diverse team with different skills sets and also to seek a successful startup founder for advice and guidance when you need it.


A startup can revolutionize the world.  Over the past decade, we’ve seen Facebook grow from a small startup to a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  Even though timing and product demand play a critical role in how your startup does; ensuring you have the right team spearheading your business is just as crucial.

5 Tips For Local SEO Success

Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Jan042016

SEO is all about ranking well in search engine results pages.  Local SEO is exactly that; it focuses on ranking well in local search results.  There are a number of ways you can do this, here are a few quick tips for local SEO success.

  1. Claim, verify and update your Google My Business page.  I have found that businesses with a verified Google My Business page have a tendency to rank higher than their unverified and out of date competitors.  
  2. Curate reviews on your Google My Business page.  If nothing else, pages with multiple reviews stand out in local search results.  The bright yellow star rating next to your business name can’t hurt!
  3. Focus on keywords you know are used locally.  If you know people in your area search for “cheap” instead of “affordable” take advantage of that knowledge!
  4. A mobile friendly website is absolutely vital to ranking well in local search results.  The majority of searches are done on a mobile device.  If your website is difficult to maneuver or hard to read on a mobile device users will bounce quicker than you can say “SEO.”
  5. Use rich snippets.  Highlighting relevant information on your website, like upcoming events, makes them stand out in search results.  Search engines, like Google, will display this information under your business name in the results page, further enticing users to select your link.

Users search because they have a problem, and all searches fall into one of three categories: “do”, “know”, or “go.”  Users searching on mobile are more often than not looking for directions to a location; the nearest, most convenient, provider of the solution to their problem.  While you can’t control the proximity of the searcher to your location (unless you’re a food truck!), you have some control over how your website appears in search results through local SEO. Don’t miss out on these easy wins!