Archive for the ‘Useful Internet tools’ Category

Quizzes, weddings & fancy men's shoes

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Today we launched a new application at Pure Incubation. It’s an assessment/quiz tool. The application allows us to create multi-page quizzes or assessments with a wide range of question types, point values and responses, and then build results based on the answers that were given by the person taking the test. It’s exciting to launch something new, and I can’t wait to start publishing quizzes, assessments and Websites in a whole range of markets to take advantage of the application’s capabilities.

Like I said, the app launched today and the first quiz is out – What Style Wedding Gown is Right for You? Although this quiz will clearly be the most useful for anyone planning a wedding (and I hope that you’ll forward the link to any bride-to-be that you know), I would love for anyone vigrx reviews reading this post to take the quiz and send me feedback. You can find my contact details here or post your comments to the bottom of this post. Seriously – I want to know what you think about the whole thing, specifically the application, but also about the content of the quiz. All comments, both positive and negative, are welcome.

Since I’m talking about the wedding Websites, here’s one more random bit. On the March 12 episode of The Office, Michael Scott (the show’s “hero”) is talking about a business idea that he has planned. Although his imaginary company is called “shoe-la-la,” I couldn’t help but find it humorous that I actually HAVE a site called Shoella. The names are eerily similar. Here’s the clip – enjoy.

And please send me your comments and feedback!

Two sites where you can get great free images for your blog

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

People ask me all the time where I get the images that I use on my blog. There are two sources – and one tool – that I use to find and manipulate the images.

1. Flickr – This is by far my favorite site for free images because of the wide variety and types of images that are available. The community of users that upload their pictures to Flickr – from all over the world – ensures that there is a vast collection of images of varying quality (some are incredibly good). The trick with using Flickr images, however, is that you need to use images that are governed by the Creative Commons license that fits with what you’re doing.

Attribution licenseHere is a list of Flickr’s Creative Common licensing policies. Basically, the “Attribution License” is the most liberal, and allows you to use anyone’s image, manipulate it how you want to, and do most things that you would want to do with it – as long as you give the author of the image credit. My suggestion if you don’t want to get into the intricacies of Creative Commons licensing is to stick with these images. As of today, there are more than 7.5 million images with this license on Flickr, which is certainly a big pool of images to choose from.

Here’s the link to the images with that license.

Just make sure that whatever you do, you give credit back to the photographer. I use “Photo by photographer” with a link to the Flickr page at the bottom of posts. You can do that attribution any way that you want, however. (Hat tip to Skelliewag.org)

Young photographer
Photo by muha…

2. stock.xchg - This site has a database of very good free images that you can use for your blog. Just type in your search, and look to see what you can find. You will have to register to download images, and make sure that you check the “Availability” of each photo. If it says that “standard restrictions apply,” you can use the image. Sometimes, however, the photographer must be notified or approve the use of the image before you post it. So be careful to check this out.

BONUS- A great cheap tool for screenshots and minor editing of photos

If you have Photoshop or another major image editing tool, use that. But if you don’t have a great image editing tool, consider using SnagIt from TechSmith. There is a free 30-day trial and the tool is only $39.95 for a single-user license. I use this tool ALL THE TIME and it’s been really helpful. The learning curve is short and it can handle all the simple editing tasks that I do on my blog.

Do any of you have any other great free image sites that you use? If so, please post them in the comments.

What SkyMall can teach you about user testing

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I’m on the plane right now, on the way to Jamaica with Chris, who is going to a conference (I’m tagging along), and we just spent about half an hour looking through SkyMall, the catalog of often-quirky products that they have in the seat-backs on the plane. I love looking through SkyMall, mostly because it makes me laugh the things that people come up with and actually sell. Some of our favorites from this issue:

  • Gravity Defyer shoes (page 13) – Really Alexander the Innovation Wizard that is the best part of these shoes. Chris’ title is “Chief Innovation Officer” so I was trying to get him to change it to “Chief Innovation Wizard” after seeing this picture of Alexander.
    Alexander the Innovation Wizard
  • Spring Flex UX (page 66) – This ad features a man wearing nothing but white – shorts? underpants? – working out at his desk. Ummm…
    SpringFlex UX
  • CD case(page 79) – This case holds 2,262 CDs – they better sell these fast before people stop buying CDs (does anyone own 2,262?) and the music industry implodes!
    2262 CD rack
  • Caddie Cooler (page 80) – “Cleverly disguised as a 3-wood,” I sincerely doubt that my dad or brother will be bringing this out on the course anytime soon.
    Caddie Cooler
  • The Neckpro Traction Device (page 108) – The picture speaks for itself, but there must be a very limited market for this device.
    Neckpro traction device
  • Big Foot the Garden Yeti Sculpture (Page 161) – Definitely not something to welcome the neighbors
    Big foot the garden yeti
  • Basho the Sumo Wrestler table(page 160) – Will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it…
    Basho sumo wrestler table

And these were just the products that made us laugh the most. Every page of the catalog we were pointing at things and commenting and talking about the good ideas, the bad ideas and how to improve some of the products that had a nugget of a good idea, but executed it poorly.

This made me wonder if the SkyMall people do user testing. Do they have consumers come to the SkyMall offices, give them the most recent copies of the catalog, and watch them interact with it? It is impossible to watch every person read and use their product, but how much testing do they do, and how much do they use the data they collect to make changes and to help them pick what will be included in the catalog in the future?

There is a really good correlation to the Web here. Any business that has a Web site (and every business should have a Web site) should also have some kind of analytics tool running on their site. I use Google Analytics on my Web sites, but I have used Omnitureand others in the past as well – any of them work (but I whole-heartedly recommend Google Analytics – it is free and very easy to set up).

Once you have analytics set up on your site, you should be able to do some user testing – you will be able to check out, among many other things, what pages people visit on your Web site, their navigation path, what pages they linger on, what are the most and least popular sections of the site. And if you sell things on your Web site, you can easily evaluate how appealing various products are to your market.

Along with this day-to-day evaluation, it is also a good idea to occasionally do user experience testing. It is incredibly illuminating to be able to watch your users interact with your Web site. When we ran such tests at Ziff Davis Media, we used software called Morae, which worked well. When we ran the tests, we had two computers set up; one in the user testing area, the other in a viewing area where everyone else could watch the users go through a set of tasks. (Our stations were actually set up in two different states.) The users are taken through a series of tasks by a tester (a guide of sorts) who asks questions and gives the users various tasks to complete. The users are instructed to talk out loud about what they’re thinking when they are navigating the site, and the software on the testing computer records all the various motions that the user makes, their facial expressions and their voices. The viewing computer has a split screen, which allows the observers to watch both the users’ faces (which are recorded via a Webcam) and the users’ desktop displays at the same time. It’s amazing the things that you can learn in just a few short viewing sessions.

Do you do any user testing on your Web site? If not, start somewhere. Make sure that you have an analytics system installed, and begin checking it and learning what all the numbers mean. It won’t be long until you can make simple changes that will lead to vast improvements to your site.

How to embed a YouTube video into your WordPress blog

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

This may seem like a beginner tip to many of you long-time WordPress bloggers, but the first time that I tried to embed a YouTube video into my WordPress blog, I couldn’t figure it out. (If you don’t want the back story, just skip to the end of this post for the how to.)

Here’s what I did. I am sure that many first-time video posters can relate. I went to YouTube, found the video that I wanted to include, pulled the code from the “embed” area, switched to “code” from “visual” mode in the WordPress editor, and pasted the code. This didn’t work. It displayed an empty box where the video should be, with the broken link x. Broken image

I then proceeded to search through the WordPress manual and help forums for about an hour and still had no luck. I finally found this site, which provided me with the answer.

HOW TO EMBED A YOUTUBE VIDEO INTO YOUR WORDPRESS BLOG:

  1. Click on the “Users” link in the Admin area of your WordPress blog.
  2. If you have multiple users, click “edit” next to your profile.
  3. Turn off the “Use the visual rich editor when writing” feature.
  4. Write your post. You’ll see that the options for “visual” and “code” are gone. You can now paste the YouTube embed code into the post and it will display perfectly.

One word of caution – you can’t switch back to using the visual rich editor after you paste the YouTube code or you’ll have the same problem. You need to publish your post before switching back to the visual editor.

Just for fun, here’s a video about blogging that I found thanks to Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog.

 

Halloween and the Internet

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

For some reason, people love Halloween. I’m not sure if it’s just that creative people like Halloween because they can let their inspiration flow, or if it’s something else, but I know a lot of people who LOVE LOVE LOVE the holiday. It’s not my favorite, personally. But my sister-in-law Michele loves it. And she and my brother Matt throw the best Halloween party every year. I dressed up this year as Princess Fiona, the wife of Shrek. I picked the costume purposely because I have a Halloween day event that a lot of little kids will be at, and I wanted them to be able to recognize who I was and not run away. I’m not sure if I will be successful because I scared Matt and Cara with my green makeup – Matt kept looking at me and saying that I was freaking him out because I didn’t look like myself.

Anyway, I didn’t really know exactly what Fiona looked like before I dressed up, so I found pictures on the Internet to model my costume after. A good way to find image of the person or thing that you’re dressing up as is to use Google image search. That’s how I found my model. But there are a lot of other tools that you can use if you’re looking to create a last-minute Halloween costume. This post from Lifehacker gives a list of places that you can go to print your own mask. If you have the clothes that your character would wear, but just can’t make yourself look like that person, it’s an easy (and low-cost) way to “disguise” yourself. There are also a number of sites that help with inspiration if yours is lacking – two that I came across are Costumzee and Costume Idea Zone, which also provides some handy idea for the reluctant party-goer.

This is the best font directory I've ever used

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Idiot font
Hands down, dafont.com is the most fun, cool, and (as far as I can tell at first glance) free font directory I’ve ever used. I honestly can’t believe that I never came across it until today. The font I used for this rendition of 16thLetter is “idiot.” Go figure.

How to become an Internet advertiser for $5.05 (but why you should spend more!)

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007


Google AdWordsThanks to Google AdWords, it is possible to become an Internet advertiser for the incredibly low cost of $5.05 – provided you have a Web site, that is. All you have to do is to sign up for a Google AdWords account 
(there is an initial registration fee of $5.00). After you select your keywords, set the minimum spend per click to $0.05. You’ll serve your first ad – and get your first click – for a grand total of $5.05. Voila! You’re an Internet advertiser.

Of course, I’m simplifying things.

 You could technically be an Internet advertiser for that cost, but the real benefits of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising come with scale and conversion. If the # of clicks x cost-per-click = less than $ earned from conversion – you’re laughing all the way to the bank. In non-math terms, the more individuals you can get to click on your ad, at the lowest cost per click, who you then convert into customers… the more money you’re making.

The recently released IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report analyzes the Internet advertising market for the first six months of 2007 and shows that approximately 50% of second-quarter revenues were priced on a performance basis, up from 47% reported for the second quarter of 2006. Companies are increasing spend on PPC (and other forms of performance-based) advertising programs because they are measurable.

So, while Google AdWords (and its PPC sibling Yahoo Search Marketing) are a low-cost way to enter the Internet advertising market, the companies that are making a serious impact – and significant profits – from PPC advertising are those that are willing to scale and that are able to convert their visitors to customers.

(By the way, if you are looking for a play-by-play of how to set up a Google AdWords account, there is a good post at the Tech Savvy Marketer.)

~ Red Burst ~ 

How to generate customer devotion

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

I read a blog post today that caught my eye because of the title: “Turn your customers into raving fans.”

CustomInk logoI am a raving fan, and CustomInk.com is the object of my affection. I recently used their services to make t-shirts for a charity walk that I organized. Going into it, I had a few issues to overcome with the t-shirts:

1)      I had a deadline of less than 2 weeks to get the t-shirts printed and delivered

2)      I am not a designer and had to design the t-shirts

3)      I was trying to create something that would appeal to men, women and children

4)      I wanted to be able to get input from someone else on my team to help me make the final decision, but we don’t live in the same city

I did a search on Google for “t-shirt design” and customink.com was the first listing. (Another testimony to the power and importance of SEO, but I’ll save that discussion for another blog post.)

t-shirt frontSo there are a lot of reasons that I love this company. The first thing I discovered is that they are able to rush-deliver an order in less than 7 days. Perfect! Second, their online tool is really user-friendly and fun to use. You pick the item to design (they have shirts, pants, hats, etc.) and the color. Then you head to the “design online lab.” The tool starts you off with a blank t-shirt and then lets you add text, graphics (you can upload your own or choose from their clip art library), change colors, layouts, put effects on the text…there are wide range of options. Then, to top it all off, you can save the design, email it to people to get their opinions and then start again with t-shirt backa new design if you aren’t totally satisfied. This tool managed to help me overcome all four of the issues that I was having with designing these t-shirts. That was enough to make me love the service.

But there was more. I placed my order, got my final proofs, talked to someone at the company to answer a few questions that they had about tricky parts of the design. Great. Everyone was pleasant, I felt a high degree of confidence that my t-shirts would be done on-time and that they would look great. Then came the kicker. I got the following email:

Hi Melissa,I noticed that you have designed shirts that could possibly be for a charity event. If that’s the case, CustomInk would love to donate to your team or to the charity itself on your behalf! Please let me know if your order is for one of these events. If you  would like us to pitch in and support your cause, please include information about your charity event, a link if you have one or the organization’s name if there is no link to a team web page.Warmest Regards,
Lori Mayfield
CustomInk.com

I immediately sent them a note back with the instructions about how to donate with a comment like “wow, I really love you” or something hero-worshipping like that. To which, Lori, my personal, human contact, sends me this delightful note back:

Thank you for the information, the link worked perfectly!

We try to donate to every charity event that our customers hold close to their hearts, so we are delighted to help with this event. Of course, we wish we could offer a large sponsorship, but because we do so many, I’m limited to small donations ($30). I just want to make sure you know that, even though we know every bit counts.

This is outstanding customer service and a fantastic policy for retention. Plus, it’s just really smart. I spent more than $500 with this company. The likelihood of me doing so again is high. I ordered 33 t-shirts – this means that I will tell all 33 of the people who are getting the t-shirts the story about this company (and I did!) because the company donated to our common cause. And finally, they know that they are reaching someone who has influence – the person who is in charge of the t-shirt ordering is likely someone who is making decisions for a large group of people and probably has other areas of responsibility and influence. This is really smart business. This article from Dosh Dosh talks about 9 great ways to dominate your niche, such as focusing on your reputation and developing retention equity, and CustomInk.com is doing all of these things.

See? I have become a raving fan.

 

~Today’s view:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1471632095/

Global news gives a global perspective

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

I had dinner with my friend Cara tonight, and she mentioned that she occasionally visits the Yahoo international page and looks at the news sections from around the world to see what the top stories are in other countries compared to the top story in the U.S.  She does it, she says, because it is interesting to see what other countries do and don’t care about vs. what we read about in the United States.

babelfishIt seemed like it would be an interesting thing to look at, plus, since many of the sites are in foreign languages, it was also a good way to use the Babelfish translation service (I’ve been curious to see how good a job it does). So here are the top news stories in 10 countries (plus the U.S.). All translations were done using Babelfish.

U.S.: Troops take back control in Myanmar  

U.K. & Ireland: U.N. envoy heads into Myanmar maelstrom  

Australia: Crowds taunt soldiers in Burma’s Rangoon  

Brazil: Gripe aviária pode ser transmitida de mãe para filho  
Translation: “Aviária grippe can be transmitted of mother for son”
Melissa’s translation: Mothers can pass bird flu to their children

Italy:  Iraq, cominciato il ritiro dei primi soldati Usa
Translation: “Iraq, begun the withdrawal of the first USA soldiers”

China: ??????????????
Translation: “China official gazette commercial bribe leading case”

Netherlands: Rij groener!
Translation: “File Greener!”
Melissa’s Translation: I have absolutely no idea what this means, but there was a picture of a car with the heading “Green Center” next to this headline if that helps at all.

France: Huit ans de prison dans le procès du bus incendié à Marseille
Translation: “Eight years of prison in the lawsuit of the bus set fire to in Marseilles”

Korea: ??? ????? ?? “6??? ??? ???? ???
Translation: “Song the pure Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade minister “6 person conversation written agreements which it pushes oneself who is possible $$ln”

Melissa’s Translation: Again, I have no idea what this means except possibly that Babelfish doesn’t do such a good job with translations of Korean to English?

Spain: Las potencias demoran hasta noviembre nuevas sanciones a Irán
Translation: “The powers delay until November new sanctions to Iran”

Russia: ????? ?? ????? ???????????
Translation: “Pressure in Burma is strengthened”

When I originally copied and pasted into the system that publishes my blog (WordPress) the Chinese, Korean and Russian characters displayed properly. But when I tried to save, they changed to question marks…I left it that way here on purpose to illustrate just how far we still need to go with international compatibility.

~Today’s view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1455852395/ 

Start the process of globalization today

Thursday, September 27th, 2007


If you want to grow your business, I can’t think of a reason to put globalization off any longer. Pick a country, any country (other than the one in which you’re currently doing business), and take a step forward. There are ways to pick what country to start with, such as determining which countries already send a lot of visitors to your site, or finding a country that has a market in which your product has a lot of appeal. Then just start.

One of my clients is starting by re-writing all of the code for its primary application in Unicode, which has the “potential to cope with over one million unique characters.” Or you could start by examining how companies like Yahoo are managing their multilingual content. Or just subscribe to a blog that focuses on the day-to-day process of globalization. Or maybe your first step is simply trying to feel comfortable working on a project with someone in another country. My suggestion is to just try it. One site I’ve used in the past for outsourcing is eLance. The online service allows you to bid out projects of many types (including translation). All you have to do is register for an account (you’ll need an active credit card or bank account to qualify to use the service, although it’s free), then post your project. You’ll get bids from all over the world. This week, via eLance I’ve worked with contractors in Argentina, Russia and India (as well as my U.S.-based contractors – this isn’t a post about outsourcing all your work overseas!) This experience alone might open you up to the possibility of exploring other markets. Just start.

~Today’s view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1450092271/