Category Archives: Web Design

Quite Elemental

Today video plays a key role in the promotion of any organization. With this in mind we have added an exciting new course to our Adobe Elements series which focuses on the more advanced video editing tools of Premiere Elements.

As is our tradition, our courses are project-based. So in this course we show how Dandy Daffodils created a video for their website using Adobe Premiere Elements. This program s has really powerful video editing features and yet is easy to use and affordable which makes it an ideal tool for smaller organizations.

Building on our introductory course, Adobe Elements for Small Business, this new course takes you step-by-step through the process of planning and editing a promotional video.

pe screenPremiere Elements in action – creating a picture in picture (PIP)

You will be harnessing tracks, keyframes, picture in picture (PIP) and animation features of Premiere Elements – giving you the tools you need to tackle the most demanding video for your organization.

Click here to visit the course home page today…

Photoshop Elements and WordPress

worpressandphotoshopWe still maintain the best way to learn is by doing a real project. This is particularly true for this new course, Photoshop Elements and WordPress.

Some of the photo editing concepts can be a bit esoteric. Therefore, in this course we have selected 8 common graphics projects that you come across while working on the Dandy Daffodils Inc. website (Dandy Daffodils is a typical, but fictitious small business).


The Dandy Daffodils website

Not only will this help you with working with your website – the Photoshop Elements skills learned will be applicable for many other projects as well.

We are excited about this course, and we are sure you will enjoy it too.
Visit the course home page for more information.

The Internet of Things

Picture by WikiPedia

IoT or Internet of Things—is it real? One reads about coffee machines automatically starting your toaster, and warming your car so it is ready when you leave for work. Is that what the IoT is all about?

Let’s take a closer look at where the IoT is really at.

An Overview
The IoT is certainly real and major companies are investing in it. It is too big a subject to cover in a blog post—please do read the overview paper in Wikipedia. It is a heavy read but not too technical, and gives comprehensive references.

Traditionally it has been we humans who have communicated over the internet. By contrast, the foundation of the IoT is “machine-to-machine” communication. Wherever there are a lot of electronic “things”, there is a potential for IoT. So for example, around a patient in hospital we have a lot of electronic equipment. It is not surprising to see IoT applications in healthcare with caregivers being informed of a patient’s condition via smartphones. For the same reason, we are increasingly seeing IoT applications in motor vehicles. Retail locations too are also increasingly applying IoT to improve our shopping experience.

Data Processing
It is the small applications like the tongue-in-cheek smart toaster/coffee maker example, that we normally read about in the press. But it is the large-scale applications that I find really exciting. A good example is the Underground system in London which allows operators to monitor the state of the system in real time and even spot potential problems before they occur.

The video below gives an overview of the New Orleans 911 system:

The key to making such large IoT systems work is cloud data processing and artificial intelligence technology. Large amounts of information are collected from IoT devices. This information needs to be processed and presented so that we humans can make sensible decisions. It is only logical that Microsoft is one of the leading companies in this field (see the Fast report).

Smart Cities
Like the London underground and the New Orleans 911 systems, there are many applications of IoT at the city level. Be sure to view the videos on Microsoft’s CityNext website of innovative examples worldwide.

The Takeaway
The IoT is real and is growing exponentially. It has the potential of enhancing our lives at all levels. But it also introduces vulnerabilities. Concerns include security and privacy intrusion.

A search on Google or Bing will return many thousand articles on the IoT and there are already many books available on Amazon.

If you are technical and like to tinker with things, then take a look at “The Internet of Things: Do-It-Yourself at Home Projects for Arduino, Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Blacknow available on Amazon.

Exciting New Word Course

From posts to whitepaperWe have created an exciting new Word online course From Posts to Whitepaper.

As we have been discussing , using an email newsletter is an important part of promoting a website. To enable this, one adds a sign-up form on your website. On the form one has to offer some free incentive to encourage the viewer to sign up.

Many Useful Techniques
In this Word course we show how to create pdf whitepaper to be used as the sign-up form incentive.

In addition, the seven lesson course covers a wide range of Word techniques that will be useful for other projects as well.

Leveraging Articles
The course covers a second aspect. Over time one writes many useful articles on your website news or blog. If they deal with the same subject, one could collate them into a whitepaper and so leverage the work that has gone into writing the articles. In this course we copy blog posts from this website into a Word document to create a whitepaper entitled Practical Website Promotion.

Click here to go to the course page to learn more.

The course will be followed up with a companion WordPress course Email Marketing for your Website (coming soon).

Article Writing Tools

toolsWe have covered different aspects about writing articles as a way of promoting your website. Up until now we looked at the structure to follow, how to find topic ideas, and the importance of scheduling. Sure, it is still WORK but really rewarding.

In this post we will consider four tools you could use to make the task easier.

1 Create Folders
In no time you will have written several articles, and will be working on new ones. Soon there will be files everywhere!

It is useful to start with at least one folder called, for example, Website Articles. I tend to create subfolders for each article as well.

You might have more than one draft of an article, as well as several images that you are considering. It is helpful to keep all these together in its own folder.

2 Write Off-line
Develop your article in your favourite word processor first. That gives you powerful spelling and grammar tools and an easy way to move things around. Don’t worry too much about formatting at this stage.

Once you are happy with the article, you can copy and paste the text into WordPress’ post editor. Then you can do the final formatting and upload and place the images.

3 Take Notes
There are useful apps like OneNote and Evernote that you can use to take notes for articles that you are working on. However, I find having a small old fashioned notebook like a Moleskine, to work just fine.

So when you sit in Starbucks and you get an idea, create a note straight away. Often doing that will lead you to the next idea.

4 Collect Images
When you are working on an article, use the Images feature of Bing or Google to look for suitable images. When you find something you like, save it into the corresponding article folder.

Typically I collect several images and then often create my own using ideas from the images I have downloaded. One can easily create interesting graphics using the graphic tools included in Word.

Writing articles is key to promoting your website or blog. In this series of articles we have discussed points to keep in mind to make the task easier and to save you time.

We cover the topics in more detail in our many online courses so be sure to visit

Finding Article Topics

Being a SleuthIn our previous post in our series on promoting your website through articles, we considered the structure of an article. Knowing how to lay out an article correctly is half the battle. The other half of the battle is deciding what to write about. Most writers struggle with writer’s block. So it really can be a battle at times.

In this post we will look at four tips to help you find topics for your articles.

Tip #1 – Write a Book
well, not really. But imagine you had to write a book on the subject of your website. Start by creating an outline or table of contents for the book. Be sure to write out the outline in your favorite word processor.

One starts with the main “chapter headings”. If you think a particular chapter is a big subject, break it down into sub headings.

Each of these headings is a potential article for your website.

For example, suppose your website’s objective is to help new authors. The “chapters” could be something like this:

– Writing a Novel
– Types of novel
– Need for a plot
– Create Vague Outline
– Develop Characters

Each of these could then be an article. You may want to break each down into subsections is the subject is too broad.

Tip #2 – Be a Spy
Visit the websites of your competition, or that are simply roughly in the same area of interest of your website. You are bound to find ideas that you can use. There are always more than one way to approach a topic so you would not be plagiarizing.

Often you will find that reading someone else’s article will sow seeds of new article ideas in your mind. You might rewrite an article to suit your specific target audience or your specific location.

Tip #3 – Ask Your Clients
If you have opportunity ask your clients what kind of articles they would be interested in or would find helpful.

They don’t even have to be clients, get a group of friends and colleagues and have a brainstorming session. If you have teenaged kids, include them too. Such a “mastermind” group can be very helpful in identifying article topics.

Tip #4 – Use Your Search Engine
This one is really obvious. When using your search engine (e.g. Bing or Google) start by searching using your main topic as the key search term first. Then use your “chapters” and slowly drill down.

If you follow our four tips, you will build up a structured list of topics that you can use to guide your article writing. Be sure to save it in a convenient location where you can get at it easily. More about using the list in a later post.

In the next post in this series we will look at scheduling your writing activities.

Using a search engine to find topics on how to find topics:

article topics

Writing an Informative Article with Ease

IllustrationPart 1 – The Structure

In the first post of this series on promoting a website, we stated that having good, informative content was the key strategy. Writing articles can be time consuming, so one wants to minimize the work needed and to make it go further.

When discussing how to write articles for your website, one must consider 4 main points:

  1.  Structure
  2. Finding Topics
  3. Scheduling
  4. Tools

In the post we will focus on the Structure of an article. (On a side note, we will refer to articles and posts interchangeably as we assume you will be using a tool like WordPress where your articles will be posts. However, you could equally well write your articles as traditional web pages.)

The following diagram describes a good structure to follow:

Article Structure

The Title
The title of the article is the first key element. It will appear in the article url and in search engine listings and is often the first thing people will see. SEO gurus will tell you it needs to contain as many of your keywords as possible. Personally I think it is sufficient that it honestly reflects the contents of the article.

The image
It is good to use an image or graphic to illustrate the article. For one, it catches the eye faster than the title, which still has to be read.

This is where you introduce the issue, or problem that will be discussed in the article. It sets the scene as it were.

Specific Purpose Statement
This paragraph often is what makes a person decide to read your article or not. It should be a statement like “here are three easy steps to solving the problem”, or “here are four reasons why you should do xyz”. So basically it is a promise of what the reader will get when the read the article.

The Content
The content section will depend on the topic being addressed. Keep in mind, people are put off by large blocks of text. So keep your paragraphs, and sentences short.

It is particularly helpful to use subheadings in the content. We have learned to scan the subheadings to see what the article is about. If they subheadings make sense, that too will encourage people to read the article.

This is also an important part of the article. Mostly it can be a summary of the points made in the article. However, depending on the nature of the article, you can state clearly the action that you want the reader to take as a result of your article.

It is also an opportunity to promote upcoming articles and other services that you offer. In our case we will discuss where to get article topics in our next post.

Best Ways to Promote Your Website

SEOSo you have a great new website for your organization or business. There are so many good websites these days, how will people find yours?

I regularly get emails from all over the world offering search engine optimization (SEO) services. They typically guarantee that you will get top ranking in search engines like Bing and Google. Is that your answer, the best investment for your scarce resources?

In this post I will discuss three effective ways of promoting your websites.

1 – Useful Information
The most effective technique to promote your website is to have good, useful information on your website. It must be worthwhile for people to visit your website. Search engines LOVE good, new, fresh content. There is no point in promoting a website that is not worth visiting.

This is therefore the number one area where you should allocate your scarce resources!

2 – Print Media
The next most important technique is to use print media. Make sure that your website address (URL) is on absolutely ALL your print materials. This includes your letterheads, business cards, catalogs,  on your car and trucks, and so on. For most of us our target audience is local.

So print media is a very cost-effective way of bringing you website address to the attention of your target audience.

3 – Email
Email is still a very powerful way of promoting your website. As a minimum you should have your website address in your email signature.

You should build up an opt-in mailing list so that you can send people who have opted in, regular informative email newsletters. People cannot ignore an email as it is sitting there in their inbox. If well designed, and useful you will get people’s attention.

Main Obstacle
The main obstacle preventing most of us from using these techniques to promote our websites is that it involves a certain amount of work. In an upcoming post I will address ways of minimizing the work and to stretch your resources.





Understanding WordPress Posts

understanding wordpressLately most of our clients request that we use WordPress to develop their websites. In the process we discovered that people struggle with WordPress because they think in terms of traditional web pages.

But WordPress does not do web pages. It only uses entries in a database. And this requires a new way of thinking.

With this in mind we have created a new free course, Understanding WordPress Posts. It builds on the previous two introductory courses where we built

In this course we discuss the concepts of WordPress way of working with content and then illustrate it with real life practical applications.

What Does It Cost?

dollar signI am often asked, how much does a “small”  or “basic” website cost? This seems to be a valid question. I know I would to know the cost of something before spending my hard-earned money!

But it is in fact an incorrect question to ask and it is symptomatic of an underlying omission as I will try and explain in more detail in this post.

Show me da money!
This is a quote from a famous movie where the football player says to the agent “show me da money!” I usually follow up the question with “show me da business plan!” – and so often there is none. That is the omission, The real question should be “what will the website do for your business/organization?” If the website will enable you to earn $100 000, does it matter if you have paid $100, $1000, or $10,000 for a website!

But a website is not a commodity with a fixed price, but rather it is a solution designed to meet a business need. Any new venture should start with a business plan in which you identify your target audience for your products or services, and includes an implementation plan, a financial plan and a marketing plan.

The website component is but one component of the project, marketing is an even bigger component. This involves a wide range of technologies including video, email marketing and social media.

Content creation is another huge component of an Internet-based project. A thorough knowledge of the target audience, the desired outcomes, and available resources all have a role to play as we discussed in a previous post.

I want to charge a lot!
That is why I can never answer the question, “how much does a website cost?” I would like to charge you much more than what you think a website should cost! No, I am not trying to be funny, it is true. I would like to use my skills as a designer to make your venture successful. This takes more than just building a website. I would like to be involved early on in the planning of your venture.

It is actually free!
In a strange way it is mostly free, as the costs incurred in your project for graphic design is largely a tax write-off.