Vital Pieces of Online Marketing

online marketing

You can begin by searching for legitimate ways of making money on the internet. Earning money online isn’t as hard as it looks. You can begin making money on the internet without an item, for instance, with online affiliate marketing. Clearly, you’ll need to be cautious and you have to locate the easiest means to earn money on the internet. Finding out how to make more money online isn’t as difficult as it might seem.

The Appeal of Online Marketing

The organization gains lots of new distributors and in return you become paid not just on your own sales, but in addition on the new distributor’s sales also. First of all, it does not have to hire additional staff members and train them. The marketing company may also monitor sponsored content influence on the market. Several online affiliate marketing businesses make it possible for you to sell more than only one product.

Their marketing and advertising methods have emerged and it is not possible for them to fail. Digital marketing surely can help to bridge the gap when providing more job opportunities within this booming industry. Internet affiliate marketing is when you develop into a seller of a particular item, and you make a commission for each product that you sell. It is a way to help other people or companies sell their products and in return, you are given some share of the profit. Marketing, as all of us know, makes a major difference in the success of a firm. Network marketing has turned out to be a far better way generally, both for the businesses and their product distributors or salespeople. If you’re just beginning or considering getting into network marketing then this report is for you.

Marketing is quite an important concept that must be followed by all companies to be able to let their potential consumers know about their goods and services. If you select internet marketing, you will discover an abundance of cheap online courses out there. Online Marketing is quite trendy since it’s a simple approach to earn money online from home. It primarily depends on the prevailing trends in the market. So consider the product you currently offer at this time in multi level advertising.

How to Find Online Marketing

You cannot do this with other kinds of businesses. If you’re in the online business then you ought to strongly consider and learn more about the opportunities that multiple sites offer. You can begin building your online marketing business when working part moment, till you’re prepared to get into it full moment. People eligible for an online internet affiliate marketing business are people who are prepared to be involved with internet advertising and marketing companies simply by promoting and advertising their merchandise.

Top Choices of Online Marketing

Employing smart advertising strategies, it is possible to vastly extend your company and reach numerously more customers. You’re able to venture in the work of marketing dental hygiene goods, equipment, etc.. Many don’t understand what is needed to create a prosperous small business. The quickest and painless means is to start your internet business. There are lots of things to think about when it regards starting a web business and the success of it depends upon how prepared you are as an online marketer.

A Easy Trick for Adwords Uncovered

adwords

Please bear in mind that as soon as you open an account and choose the nickname, the nickname for this account may not be changed. Then, you’ll need to get in touch with us to let us know that the account ought to be fully closed. From the viewpoint of the publisher, graphic advertising paid per impression in the place of per click is obviously a whole lot and it might work nicely for an advertiser trying to publicise their brand instead of a particular item. In addition, if you are not that certain of what you’re doing, you will eliminate money on advertising instead of making money. You can earn cash with this system even when you do not generate any sales in any way. It will help save you a little fortune in wasted clicks.

You are going to see that it is possible to create campaigns. Now you have to know the 2 kinds of campaigns you may set up. Say a new advertising campaign might result in a great deal of new visitors to your website.

The ads should be on pages with content. So many men and women become obsessed about receiving their ad into the top spot. You also need to consist of image ads since it will stick out. Because text advertisements are not as intrusive there’s a danger they won’t be noticed whatsoever. Your ad should spell out why your service or product differs or better from your competition. These ads won’t be displayed in other nations. It is wise to find somebody who is aware of what they’re doing to assist you with your very first ad on Google Adwords.

The commissions can be somewhat low in contrast to pay every sale, but it converts at a significantly higher conversion rate and doesn’t take a while to begin seeing income. By following below steps, it is simple to create your internet marketing plan which can be put into place immediately and begin receiving sales success. You will locate special exercising programs online where professionals can find out how to more effectively utilize adwords.

Making money on the internet isn’t easy and therefore don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The next thing to do is to have a website. Niche site can earn over a site that describe various topics. It’s easy and you may monetize the web site almost instantly. Say as an example you have an internet dating website and you wished to advertise with Google Adwords. So it’s more difficult to begin on both sites. Every site using Adwords is conscious of the issue with click fraud.

Life, Death, and Adwords

Marketing automation denotes the software which exists with the purpose of automating marketing actions. You may use any keyword search tools which are available online as a way to figure out the keywords which do not have an excessive amount of competition, and yet have plenty of searches. Using Google adwords could be extremely advantageous to any websites out there seeking to obtain some profits. If you prefer to grab the actual benefit of advertisement get it done in an expert way. Do not have any means to really compare HubPages use of AdSense to your own because do not have any meaningful data available to you.Then there’s how you are attempting to compare different content anyway. Why use adwords Individuals who have to advertise online turn to Google adwords to market their site. Even when you would know every small little bit of Google AdWords, it is sti wouldn’t succeed within this game so long as you don’t understand the essentials and basics of marketing and building a company on the Internet.

The Most Disregarded Solution for SEO Company

seo company

Using Seo Company

SEO plays a crucial role inside this research and buying cycle. Search engine optimisation is an effective means to find this ball rolling, by ranking your site high and attracting a flood of internet traffic. If you prefer to find out more about YouTube SEO, have a look at this step-by-step guide.

Their search engine optimization methods ought to be transparent and clear. SEO alone can’t help you accomplish your greatest marketing potential. SEO let’s you dictate the way your company needs to be featured on search outcomes. Good SEO is similar to a fine-tuned engine. Fantastic SEO will be able to help you make the most of these weaknesses.

Search engine optimization isn’t virtually building search engine-friendly sites. SEO may appear very simple, but you shouldn’t think this hype for a single second. Search engine optimization is a continuous course of action. Sometimes SEO is only a matter of ensuring your website is structured in a means that search engines understand. Costly’ SEO is similar to buying a vehicle. Black Hat SEO may supply you with instant ranking but you’re on the greater chance of being penalized by search engines.Thirdly, you need to know from where the business collects backlinks.

The key phrases you give us will serve as anchor texts within your article. You must get the best keywords to select to be able to bring the most suitable quantity of profits to your internet business or website. If organic search is trustworthy for over half of your site’s traffic, SEO lies at the center of your organization. You must do little search and you’ll find yourself with many site offering that.

If you’re not very web or computer-savvy, you can employ a search engine optimization company to do the crucial optimization for your website. You’ve got a web site and you’ve got for long been dealing with its optimization by yourself. You also ought to submit your site to different search engine directories such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and others. Because you can see, there are a number of ways ship websites may benefit from hiring a search engine optimization company.

The earlier you employ a search engine optimization agency to work on your ship site, the better. This approach may not operate for every single firm. When you employ a search engine optimisation company, they are planning to to offer you this tracking and monitoring on a continuous basis, as they already have all the suitable tools to do it. There are tons of businesses that offer SEO services, but, unfortunately, in addition, there are many that skirt established rules and utilize unfair and frequently illegal techniques to stick out in the crowd. No matter how long you’ve spent in online marketing or how much you know about SEO, you’re conscious of precisely how important it’s to carry out keyword research and locate the most prosperous niche markets to work with. SEO strategy eradicates these surprises and offers constant, reliable outcomes.

The Fight Against Seo Company

A search engine optimisation strategist will allow you to manage this process, in collaboration by means of your marketing and communications department. A professional search engine marketing consultant is going to be a terrific asset in developing your company. First of all, a search engine optimization specialist is able to help you determine the best keywords to target. Food safety experts say this isn’t recommended. You could also discover some practical suggestions for running your organization in groups devoted to accounting. With the assistance of SEnuke, you can procure the support you require for your Internet advertising. If you require professional assistance with optimization, it is necessary to employ a business which provides ethical services.

Kids, Work and Google Adwords

Google will provide your advert a score dependent on the keywords and phrases you provide in your adverts. Google has a huge network and commands an enormous percentage of internet traffic. Google has a completely free tool known as the External Keyword Tool. Google realized that the more a site receives links from related websites, the more probable it is a good website. Google is among the biggest Internet businesses in the world and among the top players in the digital marketing and advertising world. Google, however, does not permit you to market the referral program through such advertising efforts. If you understand what you’re doing, Google is where to advertise.

google adwords

When you’re ready to set your ads, you’ll want to locate the keywords regarding the product that you’re selling. Your ads are going to be on hold till they are accepted. You also need to always split-test your ads.

AdWords has a rather clever feature which enables you to specify a daily budget. Though AdWords cannot enhance the rank of your site still it can help in grabbing the interest of a huge number of internet visitors. Using this method also, Google AdWords is going to be guided accordingly and wouldn’t go above the sum you have specified. Now Google AdWords is perhaps the very best and quickest way to get targeted visitors to your website. Google Adwords and Adsense represents a considerable change from the internet advertising employed in past online advertising campaigns.

The Foolproof Google Adwords Strategy

You click the ad to visit the site. If your ad is quite effective, it is possible to decrease the pay-per-click amount you pay. By doing this, you can rest assured that the men and women who read or click your ads are the people who are really interested in your trade. At that point your ads will begin to appear on sites which are associated with the search terms which you are using. Don’t forget to prevent generic key terms, which can cause less-relevant ads.

If you’re likely to be using AdWords, you must be acquainted with each one of these terms. Google AdWords is pay-per-click advertising. Clearly, Google AdWords holds lots of possibilities. Google AdWords is a rather very good service for individuals to promote their products or services on the web. Google AdWords is a very affordable and popular advertising technique offered by Google through which advertisers have the ability to display their goods on the site and its allied sites. Google AdWords is an established lead generator. Don’t worry since there’s a remedy to that, Google AdWords.

AdWords isn’t a guided missile to riches which you can simply fire and forget. You may use Google AdWords for advertising along with testing. Therefore it may not always be useful to utilize Google AdWords. Google AdWords is a best way of earning a considerable income through the resources of an internet business. You may go to your Google AdWords account home page and search for the link known as `Placement Targeted’ then just comply with the directions in making your advertisement. Therefore the mixture of both of these sites… Google AdWords to bring in traffic and ClickBank to send visitors to your affiliate links is surely one of the quickest and best means of earning money online.

Markov Model for English Text (a.k.a automatic article/essay/blog writer)

in a nutshell: This experiment used the Markov model for analyzing text. Sounds complicated, but really isn’t. However it does have some pretty awesome results. Basically, this model analyzes the probability of a character following some fragment of characters and then uses these probabilities to create some text.

penny scale: The penny scale denotes the difficulty and the time commitment needed for the project. The closer to 100 cents the rating it is, the more difficult or more time consuming the project is.

Difficulty: 27 cents
Time: 10 cents

results:  I made a quick python script to read in all the articles on the New York Times politics homepage and then store the content in a file. I then ran the Markov model on all that content and here’s a snip-it of what it spat out:

“To do all the things that the state hoped that the United Farm Workers: “Sí, Se Puede!”
“Who the hell is Ken Dahlberg?” President Obama’s Cairo speech, and see what the administration. “None of those things in most places comes from local control.”Ms. Cortes did not respond to the threat of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the Democratic senator and former inmates also sharply shrink government that all the Republican candidates have been most effectiveness in the crowd groaned heartily.In what they do when they have hardly discussed his own faith. Mr. Jeffress said he emphatically believed that Mr. Obama has been the historical position of perceived important end in itself. It is also the first consumer products to use transistors. He sold the company in 1994 for $139 million.Mr. Perry participated in a news conference by Mr. Perry and had no idea what he thinks.
Counties across the state has not given her consent to run.
He had been a dirty trick.

And here’s a small portion of the output using the technology page of the New York times:

Mr. Jobs was a far more complex figure. As executive only weeks earlier.

On Tuesday, will fix 64 flaws (Computerworld) Sony explains the new features Intel® Solid-State Drive 320 Series enhanced power-loss data protection Center blog Symantec Cybercrime Frontline blog Sophos Naked Security Managers” (PCMag.com) Two Mexicans deny terrorism, face 30 years getting those who already feel overwhelmed by the merger of AT&T and Verizon Wireless Voice Mail help AT&T: How do I use the Problem Steps Recorder (Microsoft) Mac 101: How to tell if an older app will run on OS X Lion Mac 101: Time Machine (Apple) Last.fm Radio becomes a premium feature on mobile technology exists, easy-to-use smart-home systems run from a few thousand to tens or even hundreds of thousands of people who see themselves were ads.

But Sprint also failed to offer until now.

how to do it: Alright, so how does this thing work? I’ll break it down in a few tasks.

  1. Get some text – This is pretty easy. Get some test files of different lengths. Preferably one really short one to do testing on and the others can be as long as you want (you could even read in an entire book).
  2. Process the text – Start with the first 10 characters of the text and record the the following character. Then, starting with the 2nd character take 10 more characters and record the following character. Repeat until you are done with the data. This however is best demonstrated with an example:Stars are very bright and the earth is where people live and is not very bright.Take the first 10 characters: ‘Stars are ‘
    Record the following character: ‘v’

    On the second iteration:
    10 characters: ‘tars are v’ following character: ‘e’

    In this example ‘very brigh’ occurs twice and ‘t’ has a 100% chance of following that sequence. However ‘ery bright’ occurs twice and has a 50% chance to be a ‘.’ and a 50% chance to be a ‘ ‘. This is all information you need to keep track of, so it’s probably best to store the following character in a tuple like this: (following_character, occurrences).

  3. Create new text – Now that you have all that data stored up in a nice map, it’s time to create your new text. First find the most frequently occurring 10 character sequence (in the example above it was ‘very brigh’), and you can break ties arbitrarily. Have that 10 character sequence be the start of your new text and then create a new 10 character sequence by calculating the probability of a certain character following it. For example the fragment ‘very brigh’ would have to be followed by a ‘t’ and your new fragment is now ‘ery bright’. Repeat until the fragment isn’t found in your map or, for very large texts, a max number of iterations.
  4. Have fun with it – Try it on a whole bunch of stuff. It’s pretty neat.
Feel free to ask me questions if you’re stuck.

what does this mean: Probably nothing, but it is pretty cool. Who knows though, use it to write those god forsaken English essays. If you’re anything like me, it’ll probably make just as much sense.

Web Scraping for your Mom

in a nutshell: This post will be a little different in nature as I’m still working on a couple hacks that will require a few more weeks of work. In the interim I’ll explain the very basics of web scraping/crawling. This is a great skill to have as it will open the doors to the limitless amounts of data from the web.

what you need:

  1. Python
  2. HTML Parser (PyQuery, BeautifulSoup, etc) Note that this is optional, you can do the parsing yourself with regexps
implementation: To start we’ll go over the very basic idea. The goal is to have a few starter links, and either scrape more links off of them or scrape the data and store it into a database. To do this we’ll use the Python module urllib2. Here’s is a sample starter script:
 
#!/usr/bin/env python
import sys
 
import os 
import urllib2 #Python module for making web requests
import re #Python module for using regular expressions
 

Easy so far? Now you’re all set up to start the fun stuff. For sake of example, we’ll be scraping Hacker News:

 
BASE_SITE = 'http://news.ycombinator.com/'
 
TIMEOUT = 15 request = urllib2.Request(BASE_SITE) #Create a request object
page = None
 
try:
    handler = urllib2.urlopen(request, timeout=TIMEOUT) #Make the http request
    page = handler.read() #Get the huge glob of html
    handler.close() 
except IOError: 
    print 'Failure to open site' #Handle failure 
    sys.exit(0)
 

To start, the Python request object can specify a ton more stuff and it is also how you would spoof your header. You can read about it here. Then we make the http request which will timeout after TIMEOUT seconds. If we’re successful in opening the page we can read all the html by calling read(). There are also other functions supplied that allow you to get the website status code and other fun things. Now that we have this blob, (this is where it is nice to have a html parser) we’ll use a regex to extract the data we want.

 
linkPattern = r'href="(.*?)"' #Regex for grabbing all the links on the page 
linkRe = re.compile(linkPattern) 
matchLinks = linkRe.findall(page) #Finding all the links on the page 
print matchLinks 

Bam. There you go, you now have a whole list of links in which the possibilities are endless. You can repeat the same process on each of these links to scrape their data and so on. This is a super basic example of web scraping but it can help you get off the ground.

areas to explore: Now that you know the basics you can do so much more

  • Set up a cron job to run your scraper monthly, daily, or even every second (easily save every article on Hacker News)
  • Try using an html parser to pull more information from a page
  • Gather data to use a machine learning algorithm on

Get the script here

Google, the Almighty


As I finish up my hack (largely based on searching and natural language processing), I wanted to step back and praise Google for their amazing search. Much of what they do is taken for granted, but over the course of the last two weeks I’ve really dived into the inner workings of Google’s search. I have renewed appreciation. Consider the fact that there are approximately 25 billion web pages contained in the Internet. Then consider that Google is able to not only come up with the most relevant articles but also do it in less than half a second. 25 billion web pages! Even naively, by taking the search query and just looking for matches, that’s a whole a data to go through.

But let’s take it a little further. Before you have even typed your second letter Google is already guessing what you are searching with, to the best of my guesses, some sort of Markov chaining. Alright so what? They are smart dudes after all and this should be expected. Now take a look under one of the resultant links. A nice little description of the relevant sentences pertaining to your query. As I looked to add this to my website, I began to wonder how they did this. First, they must store all that text from the articles somewhere (which was a deal breaker for me since I’m using one server that’s sitting under my bed). Then they have to sift through the text to find what’s relevant to the query using some natural language processing. It’s pretty neat when you think about it. Further, when I was building my search function I ran into the issue of stemmed words. If you stem a query (which is usually a good idea) you must also stem the text you’re searching in. So Google probably has 2 copies of every article, stemmed and unstemmed. Then what? Do you search the stemmed query in the stemmed text and then somehow relate that to the unstemmed text that needs to be displayed as a description? By this point, my mind is blown. But on top of all that, Google has to handle 400 million queries a day. That’s a lot of queries.

I could go on forever talking about all the stuff that needs to be done in that half of a second (advanced searches, etc), but I thought this was a good list to start with. Just to recap, here’s what goes on in just a day of searches:

for (int i = 0; i < 400 million; i++) {

  1. Process query and predict what the user is going to query for
  2. Handle funky searches and advanced searches
  3. Find relevant articles out of the 25 billions pages indexed
  4. Search articles for relevant description
  5. Output unstemmed description
  6. Finish in under half a second
}
I hope that next time you type a search in on Google you take a second to think about the crazy technology that must be behind it. For that matter take a second to think about any site you go to, consider how painstakingly long it took the developer just to churn out one simple feature. How many bugs and how many times he or she had to hit the refresh button on the browser in order to get that site working like a well oiled machine. Thank you to all those brilliant developers out there creating amazing things everyday.

Introducing HNInstant

Hacker News Instant logo

I recently launched my new site HNInstant, and these are the nuggets of knowledge that I picked up.

What I learned

All that I learned in this project is beyond the scope of this article cause it’s just way too much so I’ll hit the key non-technical points.

Build something and show it to the world

This is key. This is the first time I’ve ever gone all the way through on a project and put it up on Hacker News. Watching the points and feedback stream was indescribable. Nothing could take my eyes away from the screen as I watched the points and comments rack up on HN. Even the stinging comments from British people bashing the “colour” of my website felt amazing (nothing against British people, pretty much everyone bashed the color of my website). The 4 weeks of hard work paid off in those 2 hours. This is why it is great to be an engineer. Find a need and fill it.

Bust through the lulls

Every project has these, and I’ve hit them many times. It’s right when you finish coding all the “fun” stuff and you have start the “boring” stuff. It reminds of the days when I had gymnastics practice 6 times a week and my dad would tell me it’s the days you don’t want to go that you get stronger. In the same vein, pushing through all the boring and monotonous days of making uninteresting changes will open the door to success. For me, it was making small design changes, writing the about page (always extremely painful to write these), making the webpage compatible on all devices, and last but definitely not least, fixing darn’d bugs. Whatever it is though, push through it! I like writing a list of all the boring stuff that needs to get done and sticking it to my monitor. This way when I have a spare moment or two, I’ll be able to knock a few things off the list.

Make sure your website is pristine before posting to HN

I learned this one the hard way. People have no shame digging into the flaws of your project (as it should be). You have one shot on HN so do it right.

Appreciate

Bask in the glory of your hard work. There is nothing more satisfying. Then fix the site.

What I used:

Host – Me

I wiped my old desktop and installed Ubuntu server on it. This is nice because I didn’t have to pay ridiculous amounts to keep the site up. I’ll write about getting a server up and running in a later post since it wasn’t too trivial, but here’s a good guide to get you started.

Framework – Django

Easy choice for me since I was already familiar with it. Django is very easy to setup and quick for development which was what I was looking for.

Database – MongoDB

This was a tough call since I’d never used it before and after reading this, I was unsure. However, I clearly wasn’t going to stress MongoDB as much as other sites, so I ultimately  decided  that I was looking to store a tree as a backend and this was the obvious choice.

How I did it:

The scraper

The scraper was most essential to my site since it was the program that analyzed the data and organized it properly.

The parsing and discovering the relevance of the article was the most difficult part for me. I’ve had limited exposure to natural language processing in my career at Stanford (thank goodness I found python’s nltk package). After opening a link scraped off the site (which I did using PyQuery to grab the score, link, title), I used a simple parser to give me content rather than side bar information and such. To do this you can read this article here. Simply put, it measures the text to html tag ratio to decide whether the text is important or not (more text than html mark-up usually means it’s content rather than navigation bars).

Once I had all the text I used the nltk package to tag all the words by their part of speech. After tagging all the words, I only took the ones that were nouns. Then I stored the stemmed version of the word along with the original word and the frequency in a dictionary. I repeated this same process with the title of the articles.This part I could definitely use some guidance on, so any suggestions would be welcomed.

Once I had parsed all my data, I constructed a suffix tree to store it in. The node structure was as follows:

//node structure
node = {
‘_id’:< auto-generated id from mongodb> //this was -1 for all root nodes
‘_char’:<the character of the node>
‘_parent’:<the parent node’s id>
‘_children’:<array of tuples (child_character, id)>
‘_docs’:<array of doc dictionaries>
}
//doc dictionary
doc = {<title>:[<link>,<score>,<word>,<timestamp>]}

Then to store a word I’d simply walk down the tree. For example, suppose I was storing the word ‘web’:

‘w’ – search for character ‘e’ in the children array of ‘w’ if it exists, load it, if it doesn’t, create a new child node ‘e’
‘e’ – search for character ‘b’ in the children array of ‘e’ if it exists, load it, if it doesn’t, create a new child node ‘b’
‘b’ – no more letters in query, if node exists, add the doc dictionary to the _docs, if it doesn’t exists create a new node and add the doc dictionary to the _docs

In addition to using a suffix tree, I also used another table that was a collection of nodes containing the title, score, link, and timestamp. This was used for the “what’s hot” button to quickly get the highest scoring articles.

The server side code

The server side code would simply handle two types of requests. An ajax call from a search, and an ajax call from the “what’s hot” button.

To handle the search, I would first break up the query and stem all the words. Then for each word, traverse the suffix tree. If nothing was found, return nothing, if I was on a node with no docs, I would find the nearest node using a BFS search (this was how I got my suggestions). I’d repeat this so I’d have a resultant set of docs for each word in the query. After processing all the words, I’d take the intersection of all the sets to get the set of titles that match all the query terms. Then simply hand over the data to the front end. This is convenient since it takes O(n), where n is the length of the query, to look up all the words, and then it takes O(1) to intersect a set which must be done for each word. Thus, it made for a very quick lookup, but I fear that it’ll scale badly. I have to return all the results since it’s hard to return a minimal set and keep track of what articles have already been displayed. In other words, it’s really hard to do pagination since I’m working with sets and not an iterable data structure.

The “what’s hot” button utilized the other table where the nodes only contained the title, link, score, and timestamp. This made it is easy to do a simple query to grab the highest scoring articles from the past two weeks and limit it to 100 results. This feature proved to be pivotal since it provides a function for the site if the user doesn’t know what to search for.

The front end

This was easy thanks to jQuery. All that was needed was an ajax request to the server when someone typed a letter or hit the “what’s hot” button. It was also necessary to limit the number requests in a certain time period in case the user typed quickly. It would only send an ajax request every .3 seconds, anything less than that, it would wait until the typing slowed or stopped. I also did a few cool tricks with css by looking at a few blogs here and there.

Future plans:

  • Have options to switch the orange to white and the white to orange (many complaints on this)
  • Add link to the comment thread
  • Find more relevant articles when a user searches
  • Fix various bugs

Take a break

If you’re anything like me then pumping out 12-hour-a-day programming sessions are not out of the ordinary. It almost feels natural to sit for hours at a time staring into the terminal. This is actually quite an astonishing feat – it takes time to build up the endurance to pull this off 3,4,5,6 and 7 (hopefully not 7) times a week. After all, it’s not everyone that has the dexterous fingers of a programmer and the mighty reach of the pinky finger to hit that esc key in all those vim sessions. If I am not programming, then I’m usually thinking of what I can program next – a vicious cycle that never seems to end. However, with all those hours spent typing away, the novelty and sheer joy of programming had begun to slip away without me noticing.

With the approach of Thanksgiving break, a spark of joy ran through me – 7 whole days of uninterrupted, purposeful programming. No dumb school programming assignments to do, just my own ideas projected onto the screen. Yet, when break came, I had no drive. Believe me, I tried. I felt like a monkey who no longer liked bananas. So I picked up a book and read my break away. Not a programming book, just a pure fantasy – dragons, dwarves, elves, humans and all things inbetween.

And man did it feel good! It was like wiping away the condensation that has slowly built up unnoticed on the windshield. Life had new meaning! Well maybe I won’t go that far, but it sure did re-energize me. Perhaps this was just a newbie programmer mistake and most know the wonders of a nice break. However, for those, like the old me, who believe that they are immune to the slow and eventual decay of motivation or even those who do know but have forgotten the benefits, then I implore you to take advantage of the upcoming winter break. And when you take a break, really take a break. It’s easy to take a small vacation physically and have your mind still coursing over the same-old-same-old.

This is very important to all, but especially the programmer. Computers are everywhere now and it is getting increasingly harder to unplug yourself. Every small inconvenience can be seen as the potential for a new app or new website. This kind of thinking has its place, but not when you’re on break. Let everything go and you’ll be amazed by the effects it has. For me, I got right back into the programming groove without missing a beat and had renewed appreciation. So do yourself a favor and with Christmas, Hanukkah, and <insert your winter holiday here> coming quickly, give yourself a real break.

God dammit, I bought a WordPress theme

I caved. I bought a WordPress theme. $45 I swore I would never spend, and what’s more, against the advice of my girlfriend (and she always gives good advice). I don’t know what overtook me, perhaps it was that ad that I have to look at everytime I log into WordPress, perhaps I was bored with the old theme. Whatever it was, it beat my resolve. I feel like the guy who buys the Snuggie because “if you call now, we’ll give you another for free!”.

While purchasing the WordPress theme was probably an impulse buy, it does bring up an interesting question. Does the look of your site make that much difference? Unfortunately, much to the chagrin of hard-core techie programmers, the wrapper often matters almost as much (if not more) than the content itself. People learn best by example right? So let’s look at one.

Hipmunk vs. Expedia

In case you’re not familiar with Expedia or Hipmunk, they’re basically services that allow you search for the lowest airfare. Both sites give roughly the same results back. Here’s a picture of the two homepages side-by-side:

Clutter

This is immediately obvious when you look at the two sites. When visiting Expedia my eyes seem to glaze over, darting from box to box trying to sift through the ads to find the actual product. I guess Expedia is hoping that by the time I actually find it, I’ll be convinced that if I buy a flight from Expedia I’ll have more money in my bank account (who wouldn’t after reading the word ‘save’ 17 times). In contrast, Hipmunk does away with all the useless ads (do people actually click those things?). The only thing that seems to distract me from finding a flight is the little chipmunk holding a slingshot. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy looking at the chipmunk? You can lose your audience in the few seconds it takes them to find your product, so although it’s tempting to rack in all  that money from ads, refrain from having more space devoted to ads than content. I understand ads can be an important revenue source for websites, but do it in more inconspicuous ways.

Simplicity

If your site is easy and simple to use, people will come back. Think of Chipotle, they make burritos, but so does every other Mexican restaurant. Chipotle beats them on simplicity, there’s no easier way to pick out a burrito than to simply walk down a line of ingredients and point at an intriguing looking salsa. Other restaurants will often bombard you with menu choices where you’re forced to read the fine print of every item, only to be foiled when mushrooms somehow slip into your burrito. The same idea applies to products. Sometimes choices overwhelm the user rather than aid in the decision process. Expedia presents you with a sea of radio buttons. To be exact there are 12 radio buttons and 1 check box – not to mention that the form changes every time you select a different radio button. Comparatively, Hipmunk has the 4 essentials for planning a flight. They offer more complicated features but don’t force them on you unless you need them. If most of your users only need a subset of your available features, then by all means, only present them with such.

Pizzazz

That extra somethin’ somethin’. Every site can more or less do away with clutter and make their site simple, but to really stand out you need something extra. Hipmunk accomplishes this with its friendly and inviting chipmunk. Apple accomplishes this with their sleek and slender products. Expedia doesn’t accomplish this. There’s no intangible force guiding me back to Expedia. Apple can captivate crowds of people in their stores, produce unwavering fanboys and sell ridiculously priced products all because they have pizzazz. Despite all the banter about Mac vs PC, for the lay user, Mac and PC provide very similar products. They both edit text, browse the internet and save photos. But they are sold for dramatically different prices. Having pizzazz is difficult to obtain, but creating a product that has it will elevate you above your competitors. This post talks all about how to give your product pizzazz.

So what can you do?

Cover your bases

Take care of the easy ones first. Make sure your site is simple, direct and to the point. Often this is difficult when you’re the one making the site. Feedback is critical during this stage.

Discover your inner product

Finding that pizzazz in your website or product is often the hardest thing to do. Obviously it takes a little creativity, but there are good methodical ways to help you through.

  • Create a word cloud – One good tactic that works for me is to create a word cloud. Mapping out a nice web of all the words that are related to your website can help you understand what your website it really about. Sometimes staring at your web long enough will reveal a common theme. Use that theme to make design choices in your product.
  • Take a shower – It’s no surprise that some of the best ideas are discovered during a nice hot shower. There are no facebook notifications or text messages to disrupt your shower time – use the time to brainstorm how you want your product to feel (will it be clean and crisp? friendly?)
  • Don’t stop until you get enough – It’s not enough to simply brainstorm one idea for your product. Maybe your first idea will be your best idea, but many times it is not. Keep thinking of how you want your product to feel. After you come up with 2 or 3 ideas, you’ll have more perspective and be able to choose the best.
  • Be bold – Some crazy ideas work well, some don’t, but either way you’ll get yourself noticed. Play with something bold and new. The Hipmunk chipmunk is a perfect example. A chipmunk as a logo isn’t usually one’s first idea for a airfare finder website, but it was bold, and it succeeded in creating a new feel for the product.
These tips will by no means guarantee success, but it can help you get on the right path.

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As hard as it is to swallow, design is important. So do what it takes to make an awesome website – grab those CSS stylesheets by the throat and wrestle them into submission and curse Internet Explorer all the while. You have one shot at impressing the user, so use it wisely.