A WordPress Gallery for some favourite SMMbc images

Here we demonstrate a standard WordPress Gallery to show some favourite images that have been displayed over the years on the SMMbc blogs.  You can see the full-size images by clicking on any of them.  From that full-size image, you can move forward or backwards to see other full-size images.

Note that this gallery is produced simply with the WordPress Visual Editor using the shortcode for gallery.  There are many possible layouts for galleries using this approach.  You can even arrange to have an automatic slideshow that displays the images automatically in whatever order you wish.  Or you can have them appear in a random order. Further details on this are covered in the BPWrap article, Should I use a Drag and Drop theme with WordPress. Continue reading “A WordPress Gallery for some favourite SMMbc images”

Marketing For Business Success

pulse marketingEvery business owner dreams of experiencing ultimate success within their business. However, very few business owners or operators possess the necessary marketing and advertising skills necessary for achieving their goals. Instead of hiring your own personal in-house team of professionals, companies such as Pulse Marketing are available to help get you the most exposure available. Continue reading “Marketing For Business Success”

Online Store Websites

confusing navigation

2012 will have seen the biggest volume ever in online sales at Christmas and this strong growth trend will continue.  Retailers must therefore ensure that their online stores give a pleasing shopping experience to potential purchasers.  The most obvious criteria is that it should be easy to get around with a minimum of confusion. Continue reading “Online Store Websites”

Can Infographics Boost SEO Efforts?

This article is contributed by Angelita Williams.

Traditionally internet marketers use the power of key words in articles, titles, and metadata descriptions in order to get high search engine rankings. But there is now a fresher, more attractive and most importantly not as “obvious” SEO technique that is making its way in cyberspace—infographics. Just like the name sounds, infographics are illustrations (graphics) that artistically display a set of data or statistics (info). Because they’re fun and manage to showcase what some may consider a “boring” set of stats in a new light, they often go viral.

Continue reading “Can Infographics Boost SEO Efforts?”

Five Seconds In The Blink Of An Eye

Ann Smarty  offered some Fun Tools to Check Your Website Usability today and I was somewhat delighted to notice that one of these was the five second test.   The irony is that this was mentioned on the day when Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, was to launch another book, Outliers: the Story of Success. Blink introduced the notion that our impression of a webpage may be fixed within a matter of seconds.  The five second test can check this out.

The test comes in a number of versions.  The classic five second test is that devised by Jared Spool, the very well-known usability expert.  This asks people to list the things they can recall after viewing your interface for five seconds.

If you would like to test it out here are five second tests for the four SMM online properties:

For something a little easier, the sentiment five second test asks people to choose their most and least favorite elements after viewing your interface for five seconds.  This test is suitable for identifying strengths and weaknesses in the design of your interfaces.

I encourage you to try out a few of these to see how this goes.  Then think of your own website and consider how others may see your website in that first few seconds.  That blink of an eye test may determine just how many visitors are inspired to explore your website.

Pension Parity For UK Pensioners

It is somewhat ironic that a Google search for pension parity in the UK turns up an exchange of letters in the Times Online. Rosemary Bennett had written an article entitled We’ll have to work until we’re 70, just as it was in Lloyd George’s day. She was commenting on the 100th anniversary of the creation of the state pension on August 1, 1908. Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the architect of radical reforms in which the retirement age will rise to 68 by 2046, suggested that it will be at 70 by the end of the century. The final paragraph of the article stood in sharp contrast to this.

Anyone working for central or local government, the NHS, the police, the fire service and the associated regulators is still entitled to a generous final salary pension and most can retire at 60. Taxpayers are paying £21billion a year to fund these pensions.

A few days later, Bernard Keeffe then commented that Lloyd George’s pension would be a luxury to the modern OAP if you compare it to the general level of salaries. Stephen O’Loughlin responded that Compared to those in the 1900s, our pensions seem rather handsome. He cited the various items such as the single person pension credit, the housing and council tax benefit and the winter fuel allowance and is additionally entitled to free bus travel, prescriptions etc.

Pension Parity UK
Pension Parity UK

.. and why is this exchange on pension parity in the UK so ironic? Well that happens to be the title of a new website which has just gone online. The International Consortium Of British Pensioners (ICBP) is taking the case for pension parity to the European Court of Human Rights. It is supported internationally by a number of British State Age Pensioner Groups.

The pensioners it represents have two strikes against them. Firstly they do not benefit from all those extra credits that Stephen O’Loughlin mentioned. Secondly and much more importantly, they have non-indexed pensions which are frozen at the levels set at retirement. If these pensioners had emigrated to Europe or to the USA, they would be receiving fully indexed pensions just as if they were resident in the UK. However the pensioners represented by this website chose to emigrate to countries in the Commonwealth. There is no logic nor equity in what is happening.

These pensioners seem to be the forgotten people in the discussion on pension parity. Even recent petitions to 10 Downing Street go unanswered. A petition from Canada drew 1,518 signatures but no response. A petition from New Zealand drew 1,631 signatures but no response.

Apparently the government has no time to redress this profound inequity against basic human rights. The Pension Parity website details how you can help British Pensioners who have had their pensions frozen at rates ruling 20 years ago or more and are now in their 80’s or even 90’s, and living on a pittance. The only recourse seems to be to go outside the UK to bring international pressure. It’s certainly not one of the UK’s finest hours.

Follow-up Frozen UK Pensions – Should Legality, Equity or Morality Apply?

Twitter Beats Second Brain For Brainstorming

Twitter is not just for the birds.

Decisions. Decisions. How to stay in touch with the exponential growth of the technical information being developed by our exponentially growing network of contacts. The Internet is a fertile field for all this growth but how do we poor humans stay on top of it.

The simplicity of Twitter has been very seductive. With only a maximum of 140 characters and spaces, you can only deliver the meat. To an extent its overwhelming attraction has been its undoing. So often in recent days quite frequently all the Twitter site is showing is the following:

Twitter Off

Twitter has now come clean on its technical problems. Roland Hachmann is surprised that we complain about Twitter’s failures when it’s free. However it might appear that powerful competitors offering free services will benefit from Twitter’s problems. FriendFeed seems to be picking up momentum as it offers the ability via RSS news feeds to be aware of what your friends find interesting. You can also comment and converse easily about these in an almost Twitter-like way. I can understand why some say they are migrating from Twitter to FriendFeed given the current problems. Another elegant solution with some similarities is SecondBrain. Here you can store all the online properties that are important to you and your contacts can check them out too. That name SecondBrain suggests all sorts of possibilities in terms of improved thinking.

However when it comes to brainstorming, I think Twitter in all its simplicity beats the complexities of SecondBrain. A little reflection on this will show why.

Why does Twitter work?

JD Rucker has an interesting post on all the things you can do with Twitter, based on a survey he did on Twitter.

In a recent inquiry to dozens of online friends, I discovered one truth about Twitter. People either love it and use it daily (even hourly) or they absolutely hate it. Few people fit into the ‘moderate feelings’…

Mark Evans has also come to the defense of Twitter in suggesting that Lorne Feldman Is Wrong About Twitter. In a video included in the post, the only point that Feldman seems to make is that if you appreciate the instant feedback from Twitter, it probably means you’re a loser. Without realizing it, I believe that Feldman has focused on the one most important strength of Twitter – instant feedback.

Your TwitterSphere Can Be Your Extended Brain

Perhaps Twitter can act as your central nervous system on the Internet. If you have a few hundred people following you on Twitter, then it can act almost like your subconscious. You may only check it a few times a day. Perhaps those few hundred people also check it only a few times a day. But at any moment you may be able to contact randomly a handful of people from your network. So if you’re trying to think of new solutions, check with your subconscious. If it’s important, you could ask the same question half a dozen times at fifteen minute intervals.

A Small Example Of Twitter Brainstorming

A small example yesterday confirmed the efficacy of this approach. I was doing research for a blog post on Free Website Reviews and wanted to be sure I was covering all the angles on this. The item was at the same time announcing a new SMM service for Website Mini-Reviews. My question on Twitter produced a most useful response from David Mihm in Portland, Oregon, who is someone you may find it useful to follow on Twitter. He suggested a new line of thought that I had completely overlooked. This new thought triggered in my TwitterSphere seems so analogous to the way a new thought may be fired in your brain’s synaptic circuits. That is why the notion of Twitter as an extended (and subconscious) brain seems a very useful concept.

Whither Twitter?

Presumably Twitter will put behind it this horrendous period of inferior service and emerge strengthened. Its competitors have been given a real opportunity for a period. We also now have Jaiku, recently acquired by Google, slowly building up its membership on an invitation-only basis. It has some similarities with Twitter but will inevitably edge out and add on other gadgets.

Twitter is the supreme example of a KISS-based tool. It really is just Instant Messaging to the nth degree. I for one hope that it continues to keep that focus.

You Don’t Need To Read The Instructions

Something only a man could write – at least that’s what many women might say. However I speak it from the heart. It’s the highest praise I could give to any product or service. That’s how I feel about the latest upgrade for WordPress: that’s Version 2.5. If you are blogging with WordPress and haven’t upgraded, then stop what you’re doing and go immediately to the upgrade.
WordPress Version 2.5
Although I tend to be enthusiastic, my normal British reserve means that I do not often give such glowing recommendations. However in this case I think the product itself is worth talking about and it provides a striking example on this subject of instructions. As Nick Usborne has written Site Visitors Don’t Read Instructions. It’s true that most websites do not have instructions provided. Nor should they need them. A product is well designed when you can use it to the full without reading the instructions.

In writing about this, I am only repeating what others have often mentioned. Garrett Dimon has suggested that Instructions not needed should be the watchword. Indeed he feels that If It Needs Instructions, It Doesn’t Work.

Simply put, the length of your instructional text is almost always inversely proportionate to the usability of your product. .. Whether it’s a VCR, iPod, code, web site, or web application, if the product’s interface needs extensive explanation, there’s probably something wrong.

Paul Markillie more recently has pushed the same idea in looking at the iPhone – again he encourages the theme, Instructions not needed. I think it’s a slogan that every designer of whatever stripe, industrial, graphic or Web, should always have clearly before them.

The latest WordPress upgrade certainly benefits from that thinking. You can now use the automatic upgrade process and it takes only minutes. You just follow the instructions on the screen. I did it three times in a row without incident. The real beauty comes in using this new version of WordPress. It’s all very intuitive. Things work as you guess they will work. It’s a supreme example of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Simon) principle.

Perhaps in the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that all the above is 99.9% true. One commenter on one of the blogs had two small typos. Where on earth is the Edit Comment link? I could not see it anywhere. So I checked through the instructions. I had missed one guiding principle in this upgrade. Basically if you want to change anything, you click on the thing to be changed. It then opens in Edit Mode. Is that intuitive? Well not to this writer until it was explained to me, and then it was blindingly obvious. So in case you might be like me, that’s the only instruction you will need.

Bell Canada Website Problems

Rather surprisingly in a Google search that should have pointed to the Bell Canada website, the following page was at the top of the listings.

Bell Canada website browser detection web page

Who knows why this should rank so well in the Google rankings? It seems somewhat ineffective to allow such a web page to be the top marker. What is more of a worry is the attitude that such a message signals. For up to 1 in 20 of the visitors to the website, it’s the visitor who will have to make the extra effort to enjoy their experience in visiting the Bell Canada website. It seems that the shopping section of the website will work fine, but after logging in you may have problems. Does that signal as usual that customer service may not match the attention you’ll get as they try to sell you something?

Whether by switching browsers such visitors will enjoy their experience more is open to question. Kate Trgovac seems to have had some issues with the usability of the Bell Canada website in trying to solve her telephone problems. Of course big websites do require extra efforts to make them work well. Usability doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It requires a customer-centric attitude and unfortunately the Canadian telecom companies have somewhat shaky customer-service records.