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Insights into the Online World

Five web design trends you can't afford to ignore - Modern Earth Web Design - Search Engine Optimization WinnipegWhen creating this list, I wanted to focus on ways which a small or medium-sized business can enhance their online presence during their next website design project.  The items are all tried and true trends which will boost your business' appearance online. Things you won't find mentioned on this list: virtual reality, flash websites, splash pages, specific technologies, programming languages or content management systems – now let's get started.

 

Card-style interfaces for content organization

Your new website is receiving an influx of new content and data – how do you organize all of this information, so it doesn't become a sea of lost words? First introduced by the social media platform Pinterest, a card-style website layout is best utilized when you have related information but need the information separated into different pieces. When using this technique to create the interface, it allows the website user to scan the page easily to find what they want. Also, the format lends itself well, allowing the website designer to easily re-arrange or modify the size of the blocks – perfect for creating responsive (mobile-friendly) website layouts.

 

Videos used to explain complex information

More likely than not, your business and industry have many complexities the typical online visitor doesn't know about or think about when visiting your website. Sometimes, these complexities can stand in the way of a potential customer from taking the next step – whether a call, email or purchase. Having a large volume of content on the page, likely isn't the answer, as the average user will merely scan the page. A more efficient way to push your point is through video. A short 1 to 2-minute video hosted from your home page or another visible area of your website, explaining your service, product and value proposition will not only entertain the viewer – but also teach them. The video you create can extend beyond your website – becoming shareable content on YouTube and Vimeo.

 

Long scrolling pages, smooth scrolling and storytelling

The year is now 2016 and through the emergence of mobile devices your online visitors are very familiar with the "scroll" technique – there is no need to attempt at fitting all content above the fold. "Above the fold" is a method which all of your essential website elements appear on the page in space before the user has to scroll downwards. The use of your user's scrolling behavior pairs well with a great story – and every company or organization has a story to tell. Enhance your story with graphics and imagery supporting your words, add other visual components, make use of white space as you have infinite canvas. Adding smooth scrolling pages will only polish the results.

 

Videos as website background elements

In addition to the previous use of video – this method of video use is meant to add motion graphical enhancements more than explain complexities. Often the video is presented without audio and is likely to have on-page elements (buttons, links, text) placed on top of it, so giving thought to art direction, lighting, composition, and cinematography are all vital to the success of this trend. In use, the video pushes your brand and messaging enhancements an image or series of images just can't compete. 

 

Motion, animation and interactions

In addition to the other user interface items already mentioned, using this trend in a subtle fashion can increase overall user experience. Questions we ask ourselves during the website project – What does it look like when I hover onto the navigation with the mouse? How does the button interact when I press down on it? Could there be the motion to peak visual interest with blocks of content animating in as I scroll down the page? The style and amount used will be dependent on your audience types, who your target market is and what the website is hoping to achieve. It is crucial the motion doesn't become a distraction from the end goal.

 

When you’re ready to start your next website project, get in touch with us to discuss how some of these trends could be used to enhance your space online – reach our sales team at sales@modernearth.net.

Mar282016

On Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 Modern Earth Web Design is participating in the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) hosted virtual career fair.  

Canadian Employers will be connecting with Internationally Educated ICT Professionals (IEPs) in the final stage of their immigration to Canada.  This event has been planned to connect Canadian companies and international talent with the aim of filling several available positions across the nation, through the use of virtual technology.  The use of this technology enables Candidates and companies to have live conversations from across the globe!

The event is broken into two separate time slots, between 8-11 AM and 7-10 PM EST, to accommodate Canadian companies in Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Halifax, and attendees in locations across France, London, India, South Korea, and China/Taiwan/Philippines.

  • Interested candidates can securely upload and submit a resume for job positions they have discussed with companies, and connect with other attendees via an online networking lounge.  Learn more about the event on the ICTC website
  • Companies participating in the event are given a virtual career fair booth.  Recruiters can connect with candidates to chat privately either via instant messaging or webcam.   

Companies interested in participating in the event can register at www.careeradvantage-avantagecarriere.com or contact talent@ictc-ctic.ca

 Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) - Modern Earth Web Design - Winnipeg Online Marketing

Web development can be a complicated process, especially for beginners. It is hard to decide what to start with, how to achieve your personal goals or what is the best way to learn. Luckily, the Internet provides some free resources where you can learn from others, practice for yourself and have fun.

1.Codecademy

Codecademy is one of the best places to learn web programming online. Rather than give video lectures, it concentrates on practical experience. By building your project, you will learn code structure, HTML, and CSS. Once you master the basics, you can proceed to PHP, JavaScript, Python or Ruby. It may be a bit confusing without theoretical video lectures, but you will type your code directly into the browser and get instant feedback. The interactive experience of Codecademy allows you to learn whenever and wherever you want while making the process fast and fun.

2. W3Schools

W3Schools provides a vast number of web development tutorials. The tutorials cover various topics from the very basics to more advanced technologies. To help you not to get lost, all the tutorials are neatly organized and will help you to follow your process. Here you can learn the syntax and implementation of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other essential web development tools.

3. Udacity

If you are more comfortable watching video lectures before proceeding to practice, Udacity may be the right place for you to start. While providing videos that explain materials, it also gives you an opportunity to practice your skills by doing assignments and projects. Rather than concentrating on web development only, Udacity has an abundance of different topics including machine learning and software engineering. The project has partners such as Google, Twitter and Facebook and concentrates on developing a career. With the help of this project, you can master your computer skills and start your professional path.

4. HTML Dog

As the name says it, the project is focusing on mastering HTML skills. Here you can find a range of tutorials that will help you to go through the very basics to advanced level. The resource provides useful examples and explains how to deal with specific tasks in a clear easy to read way. Although the top priority of the resource is HTML, here you can also learn CSS and JavaScript.

5. CSS Tricks

While many resources concentrate on HTML, this page provides a variety of valuable information on CSS. You can read the blog, watch videos or find a particular topic you want to pay special attention to. While it does not have the fanciest interactive interface or lectures like in university, it gives you access to real practical experience that you can learn from. Understanding how professionals do it will improve your development skills a lot. With all the hands-on experience provided, here you can learn the basics and a lot of more advanced and precise topics.

The Internet gives virtually endless opportunities to learn web development. These resources are just a hint on where to start from. Once you begin with these, you can proceed further and remember, that practice is the key to mastering web development!

Digital Spring Cleaning

Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Mar212016

The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and the streets are filled with gravel and dirt; it's spring in Winnipeg!  Around this time of year, many of us start thinking about spring cleaning our homes and offices.  Rarely does spring cleaning our digital lives cross our minds.  Now is the perfect time to go through your files, contacts, documents, and profiles to clean up anything that is "collecting dust" so to speak.  Here are a few easy ways to clean up your digital footprint.

Email and Contacts

  • Archive all emails older than three months.  Odds are if you haven't needed them recently you won't in the coming months.
  • Unsubscribe from any email newsletter you no longer bother to open; save yourself the time of deleting them as soon as they're received.  Doing so frees up storage space in your inbox and makes it far easier to see the important message as they come through.
  • Reorganize and purge any folders you've created within your inbox.  These have the tendency to become a "catch all" for any messages that you don't want to keep in your inbox but don't want to delete right away either.
  • Review your contacts for relevant details like job title or company, old phone numbers or email addresses, and check physical addresses are up to date.

Documents and Photos

  • Go through saved photos on your various devices and shared storage.  We all have a tendency to take 3+ pictures of the same shot, just to make sure we "got a good one" - the curse of mainstream digital photography.  Create a backup of the important ones on an external hard drive or another storage platform.  Print copies of the best ones to display where you can enjoy them every day.  
  • Clean out document folders and archive or get rid of duplicates or revisions that you no longer need.  Combine documents when you can. Use collaborative documents (like Google Docs) to avoid multiple versions of the same work floating around.

  Social Profiles

  • Search your name.  Find all your embarrassing old social profiles (Myspace anyone?), reset the password if you can, and delete the profile.  Get rid of any profile you haven't used in the last six months.  
  • Your connections curate the content you see on social networks; if you're not enjoying the network, or find you're scrolling past a lot of negativity, there's a reason it's there.  Clean up your friends lists - no need to post and tell everyone you're doing it.  Many social platforms now offer the option to "hide" updates from individual connections, if you're not ready to cut ties completely.
  • Audit your profiles - do the photos you posted five years ago reflect the person you are now?  Would you want a potential employer or client to see them?  On professional networks like LinkedIn confirm that your job title, company and the description of your position are updated.
  • Go through messaging inboxes and get rid of old conversations.

Website and Blog

  • Check for and fix any internal broken links, these can be caused when a page or image in unintentionally moved.
  • Freshen up evergreen content, and promote it across your social media profiles.
  • Replace any out of date photos and written content.  Make sure your About and Team pages are up to date. 

Since so much of our time is spent online it's important to remember to spring clean your online world!  Reducing clutter, both physical and digital opens up space for new ideas, plans, and can stimulate creativity.  What are you doing to keep your digital life tidy?

Beware of Common Bugs and How to Spot them

Bugs.  Those nasty, parasitic glitches that take away your efficiency, productivity, and even potentially sales!  What can you possibly do to attack these vicious intruders of the unwanted?

First of all, it’s best to know exactly what is a bug.  A bug, or glitch, is a failure in the code which produces an undesired effect within a computer program or website.  They can range from being a button not submitting to a form to producing inaccurate calculations.  There are many reasons why bugs occur, such as logic that was not designed correctly or changes to the website where the logic was handled differently.  Other times it is beyond the developer’s control, like when a browser changes how they display a webpage.

A few common mistakes are syntax errors.  This is when the developer accidentally adds a character like a comma or a semicolon, into a place where it shouldn’t belong.  The system doesn’t know how to communicate with the code because the developer didn’t “speak the proper language” to the system, so as a result the system stops and says something is wrong.  For websites, you can usually find these errors by opening up your “console” in “Developer Tools” (or by pressing F12).  Most of the time the system will tell you exactly where to look in your code to resolve.

Race conditions are more challenging to resolve.  These are when the code is working correctly most of the time, but sometimes a part of the code gets completed sooner/later than expected.  This can cause dependant code to stop working because they didn’t get the results in time.  These bugs need to have the exact conditions to be met in order to reproduce the result and resolve it.  Usually these are caught when the server the system is on is having high traffic, and needs to catch up.

The most common of all bugs are logical errors.  Let’s say you have an ecommerce website, and you want to offer a discount if a certain two products are being purchased.  When the user finally gets to the checkout, they find that all of their products are discounted because they have the two products in the cart!  In some situations, this is actually acceptable because perhaps you were wanting to entice the users to buy two specific items to get a discount everywhere, but another case you had wanted only those two products to be discounted.  Either way is correct, but based on the business logic, only one is the “right” answer.

At Modern Earth, we keep our bug swatters on hand to take out any of those nasty critters.  Contact us today to see how we can help you with your website bug problems!

The What? – let’s go beyond the SEO acronym

One Thing Every Web Designer Must Understand About SEO - Modern Earth Web Design - Search Engine Optimization WinnipegAccording to Wikipedia, the term SEO (Search Engine Optimization) likely came into use in 1997, popularized by Bruce Clay among others. Since, SEO has grown into an industry of its own - with many firms grasping onto this new form of marketing.

So... what is SEO?

The definition offered by Wikipedia is “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s non-paid results”. [1]

While we have a sound definition above, I want to dig a little deeper - perhaps the best place to start to help us define what SEO is, is to identify what it isn’t. SEO isn’t a [2]:

  • dark art, black magic, science-based, or some complex process
  • way to assure your website will appear in the number one spot for all of your targeted keywords
  • guaranteed you will increase sales and qualified leads
  • static, one-time investment – should you be serious about your website ranking it should be considered a continual investment
  • human looking for something online; the device used to index  your web property is a robot mirroring how a person behaves

With the list above we can start looking at what SEO is about – we can define SEO to include things like:

  • keyword research for your organization’s top phrases – what terms are Internet users searching to find you
  • page optimization to ensure those keywords are part of your content in a way that makes sense to human understanding
  • creation of technical components to help search engines find your content; XML sitemaps, Google+ page authorship, Facebook Open Graph meta tags, canonical links [3]
  • measurement and reporting of success and failures of the performance of keywords
  • changes based on the information found in the analysis and reporting
  • that SEO is merely a method to assist in improving search engine ranking – there is no guarantee of results

 

The Why? – important facts to remember 

Now that we have a clear understanding as to what SEO is, we can learn about why this facet of online marketing should matter to you and your website. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since the early 2000’s – you’ve likely heard facts like [4]:

  • Google estimates it has indexed all but 0.04% of the Internet (5 million terabytes of data)
  • A well-formed PPC campaign and robust organic SEO strategy can typically increase profits by 25% or more
  • Organic search drives 51% of visitors to websites in most industries
  • Page titles and descriptions need to be near-perfect – search result viewers spend 1.17 seconds before making their first click
  • 89% of customers begin their buying process with a search engine
  • Mobile searching will, is close to, and possibly already does, outpace desktop searches in some industries

Although, the growth of mobile searching isn’t shrinking desktop searching – they are both increasing in volume, year after year. Simply put, mobile searching – grew by 394% from 2010 to 2014, tablet growth – 1,721% from 2010 to 2014 is increasing exponentially faster than desktop – which seen 37% over the same period. [5]

I could go on for hours – consider this list as the tip of the iceberg regarding why you should want to improve and continue the SEO on your website.

With all of the information above – here is the one thing every web designer should understand about SEO. It adds value to what you create by making sure it fits within the framework of the Web in a way which makes it more likely that it will reach the people that you want it was seen by when they are looking for it. [3]

Due to the importance, all Modern Earth employees have completed a course on Search Engine Optimization and are knowledgeable about the process we follow. Should you want to improve your own website’s SEO, give us a shout!

 

Sources:

Web forms are one of the most frequent elements of web pages. Since they provide the interactivity, they can make sites more interesting and useful for visitors. Nowadays almost every project has some registration form, order form or a survey. Understanding the process of creating a web form is a must for both developers and designers. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be confusing, especially within more complicated projects. Here are some simple rules you can follow to easily build an excellent web form.

First of all, it is important to understand how web forms work. After a user fills the form the input should be validated. If this step is successful, the data is submitted and transferred to the server. Now it is processed by a script and, depending on the result, the script sends a report back to the user. This algorithm may seem obvious, but thorough planning and implementing of each step is the key to a good web form.

The part of the code seen by a user should be clear, friendly and logical. Try to think of the purpose of your form, what will be the use cases and who are your users? It is important to make your form as simple as possible. Remember; users are impatient and if the form's structure is too complicated or if the user can’t understand what data should be submitted, he can simply leave your page. To avoid that:

  • try not to make forms too large
  • labels should be logical and clearly state what type of data should be entered
  • for survey forms, ask easier questions first and make the question sequence consistent
  • imagine a real conversation with the expected user and write all the restrictions, such as date format or password requirements
  • mark fields that can be left blank and which are required

While validating the form think of possible mistakes and design error messages that will make it easy to understand the problem. After the form is validated, it should be submitted. However, you can think of other options. For example, if the form is too long, there can be an option to save the current progress. A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Validating the input data must be designed carefully. Try to validate only the most critical fields, such as username availability or password.
  • Check how real the input data is; for example, you can limit age to 100.

Web forms are not the only important aspect of your project, but are one of the most essential.  Good web forms will help you to keep existing users and attract new ones. Remember that a good web form will make an overall user experience more pleasant, while a poorly implemented one will be remembered and the web page will be avoided. Create web forms with your users in mind.

As designers, we should always be looking for new ways to improve ourselves and learn new skills. Developing daily habits that help grow your talents is a great way to ensure that your abilities will only get better. Here are a few daily habits that you can use to help improve your designs.

Feed your creative mind.

Find time for yourself to browse through your favourite inspirational sites, look through some articles or read a book. You can only expect to draw out from something as much energy as you put into it. 

Be sure to share.

Sharing your work doesn’t have to scary. It can even be motivating when your handicraft inspires others and have encouragement and feedback for you. Look for a friend or colleague to bounce ideas off of or join an online artist forum to connect with others around the world.

Find a reset button.

Every artist has experienced a creative block in their career, but masters know how to work their way out of it. Explore new music, find a new location, look for something that helps boost your energy and flips the switch to get your artistic mood back.

Be prepared to find inspiration.

Great design is everywhere, and you never know what might inspire your next project. Keep a notebook or a sketching app on your phone on hand so that you can quickly write down new ideas to experiment with later. Not every concept is going to be your greatest, but when you start looking for inspiration you open yourself up to a world of possibilities. 

 

Sharing advice is a great way for us to thrive as a community. Do you have any daily habits that help you to grow your skills? Let us know in the comments.

Mar082016

So you’ve got a client who’s interested in web design, but they don’t want any SEO services added to their website. The client most likely isn’t familiar with SEO and is probably thinking it’s just you trying to upsell them to make more money off of them. They might be thinking it’s a cost and not an investment. SEO isn’t a service that should require much selling; it should only entail educating so your client understands why their website will need it.

I’d like to look at SEO as an investment with a high return. You can have the most dynamic website in the world, but was good is it if no one can find it?  Here is where SEO comes in handy and can get your website more exposure.  SEO that's effectively embedded into your website can contribute to showcasing your business on search engines in the best possible light. 

If you’re providing your client with a new website; they should understand how crucial SEO is.  If the website is for business purpose in a competitive market and your customer isn’t interested in SEO; I’d imagine they don’t know what SEO is.  Here is your chance to fully engage and educate them about the benefits of SEO and where it can take their business.  Remember that you’re selling the sizzle not the steak and that SEO will help build your client’s brand and lead to more users checking out their website.

If you’ve tried implementing SEO on your own or felt it wasn’t successful in the past; then you may have executed your strategy incorrectly.  We can measure every element of your SEO, evaluate it, and then correct it.  By doing this consistently, we can report your return on every dollar invested into SEO.

 

 

As a developer, I have been introduced to the wondrous world of SEO.  Initially, I felt that it was not worth my time and effort, but I could not have been so wrong!  SEO is actually EVERYBODY’s job, because without it, you will go out of business quickly!

Here are three reasons why Web Developers should embrace SEO, instead of considering it an afterthought:

Giant Logic Puzzle

Search engines continuously change, so there is a challenge of getting to the top spot.  Developers love to determine how things work and generate unique solutions, so why not put them to this challenge?  They can come up with new and exciting ways to remain top dog.  As a side note, it is important for them to realize the significance of SEO and the purpose of doing so.

If you build it, they will come

No matter how amazing your developers’ programming skills are, no matter what type of cool code techniques they use, if users can’t find the site, they won’t see it.  You could have the best website in the entire world wide web, but if no one can find it, does it matter?  

Recognition

If more and more people come to your site because of the developer’s success with getting your site top ranking, the more likely they will be contacted for additional work in the future.  Therefore, it would be in the developer’s best interest to get you ranking as high as possible too.  Everything is connected.

 

When I program, I sometimes stop and think how my actions could improve the search results for my website.  Keeping this near the top of your list is important.  Your clients will thank you.

Tags SEO  Developers 

Asking for Referrals

Modern Earth

Mar012016

“You only miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” is a quote by Wayne Gretzky that I still relate sales to today.  Winning in sports and sales means taking risks.  Networking with other businesses and professionals allows for new professional relationships and opens the door to new clients.

One of the more common ways is having your customer provide you with any prospects they might know after you’ve closed the deal and have provided them with the product or service they needed.  In some instances, they may have already spoken with the prospect and put in a good word for you.  If you feel you provided top-notch service and that this customer was happy with your service, then you shouldn’t shy away from asking for referrals.  Remember that word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools you can have.

Networking with other business owners can lead to great success.  If Joe’s Construction is one of your customer’s and you know someone in need of their service, it’d be great to refer them to Joe, and he’d be more likely to refer someone to you when they need your service.  If you aren’t networking with other businesses and professionals, there’s a good a chance you’re missing out on a pool of potential customers.

It may also help including a testimonial page on your website so customers can see what other clients have to say about your work.  Asking for referrals shouldn’t be a difficult task.  If you’re doing so with confidence and at the right time, then you shouldn’t have to worry.