Editorial

By April 5, 2014 Read More →

Website Trends That Improve Your ROI

shutterstock_183682943 copyFacebook is king when it comes to user engagement and return on investment. Brand engagement on the social networking site continues to grow, up 438 percent in 2012, notes Econsultancy. Along with having an engaging, consistent social presence, your business must catch up with website trends to boost your ROI.

These four website trends will not only improve the user experience, they will improve your ROI by making it easier for users to convert. They work best with a clean, fresh website design. If your website has a clunky or stale design, or it does not match your branding, start from scratch to have the best chance of increasing your return on investment. Implement these trends and use analytics to regularly track your progress and refine your approach.

Conversion optimization

Conversion optimization boosts your ROI by making it easier to convert the traffic your website already captures instead of focusing on driving more traffic to your website. Paid conversion optimization tools include Crazy Egg (which offers a 30-day free trial and plans from $9) or Optimizely (which offers a 30-day free trial and pricing plans from $17 per month). Google Analytics offers some free conversion optimization tools that can help you get started.

Bounce prevention

Similar to conversion optimization, this trend targets the traffic you already get. Bounce prevention measures intend to stop the user who visits your site from leaving and forgetting about you. They might include remarketing ads that target users who have left, or targeting users with a pop up offering a free ebook download or an opt-in newsletter option. You’ll get direct feedback on how effective many of your bounce prevention measures are by seeing how many users opt in.

Tell your story

Your website should tell your story in a clear and compelling manner to really engage the user. Elements that help you tell your story include clear writing, crisp images, engaging videos, and a rich social media promotion strategy that continuously puts your message out there. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or videographer to do this. Take advantage of resources like Shutterstock, a stock photo database where you can purchase images for your website, and freelance marketplaces like Elance or oDesk to connect to freelance writers, videographers, or web marketers.

Focus on perceived value

Increasingly, it isn’t just about putting your product out there but about finding ways to demonstrate value. Blog regularly about ways to use your product (or service), create tutorial videos, or use targeted email marketing to show value. If you create shareable content that will demonstrate perceived value, you’ll also gain an organic traffic boost when users share your content. Social shares will continue to be an extremely important, relevant way to increase your return on investment. Getting out in front and being active in promoting your brand socially can benefit your ROI.

Posted in: Editorial
By March 28, 2014 Read More →

Futuristic Business Cards

Business-Card-CatapultBusiness cards might not sound like the cutting edge of graphic design, but you’d be surprised at how adventurous people are being. Some of today’s designs look like they belong in the far future, for example the ingenious card for a cargo company that folds into a cardboard box.

For more examples of incredible business card designs, look at these examples of innovative design. The business card printed on paper money is especially maverick, as is the dog trainer’s card printed on actual dog biscuits.

Until now business cards were just a way of swapping contact details, but it makes sense that they have the potential to communicate so much more to a customer or colleague. If first impressions are everything, then why are so many professionals happy to give out bog-standard, uninspiring business cards?

Potential clients could look at these cards and make a quick judgement based on design, without even realising it. As the current job climate is so harsh, no wonder more and more people are thinking of unusual and clever ideas to make their business cards stand out from the crowd.

Your business card is an opportunity to tell people about you in a few seconds. Follow the example of the creative mechanical engineer who designed his business card to transform into a mini paper catapult, or the hair and make-up artists who gave out cards with Kirby grips slotted in them to look like the hair of a cartoon girl.

Perhaps the future of business cards lies in cards becoming more technologically advanced. Cards will become less about the material and more about the virtual. Technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper: perhaps one day businesses will give out tiny screens that switch on to reveal contact details or sound recording devices that relay important information by way of a voice message.

It sounds gimmicky, but in this challenging job market gimmicks might just work. You don’t have to go over the top, but you should make sure your business card is well-designed. Potential clients will judge you and your business on the quality of your business card, so make you use a professional to print off your design. Some print companies will even let you upload you own design, for example Instantprint have a design and print function. That way you know you’ll be using a unique design that will look fresh and interesting.

Posted in: Editorial
By March 27, 2014 Read More →

The increasing cost of smartphone contracts

contractsIn November 2007, the first iPhone was launched in Europe. Since that time, smartphones have seen staggering success in all regions of the world. In the United Kingdom, it’s estimated that 60% of mobile device users own a smartphone. With such a significant portion of the market share, this is clear evidence of the impact that smartphones have had on our lives.

Downsides to Smartphones

Although there have been extensive benefits from the introduction of the smartphone, users have observed their contract costs slowly increasing. The National Debtline conducted a study that discovered that since the iPhone’s initial launch, there has been a 261% increase in the number of calls received regarding mobile phone debts. In 2012 alone there was a 15% increase in the number of debt calls to the hotline. From January to August of 2013, the hotline received slightly less than 13,500 callers for debt advice. Additionally, in 2006, 3.9% of the calls were mobile phone related whereas in 2013, that number swelled to 11%.

Costs

A family of four consisting of two parents and two teenagers could be paying close to £140 per month if all have smartphones – more than the average energy bill in the UK. The rising costs are said to offset the ever-increasing costs of providing web access and mobile video to smartphones. Faster networks, equipment upgrades and additional improvements all contribute to the increase in cost. Unfortunately these costs are being passed along to the customer. To make matters worse, many customers are overpaying on plans which they don’t make full use of or underpaying and being charged for exceeding the caps. Not surprisingly, many of those who are paying more than needed for a contract were formerly those who continually went over their cap.

Finding the Right Plan

Prior to signing into a one-year or two-year contract, it’s critical to determine the number of minutes, texts and data that you’ll use each month. This will help you to decide exactly what you need each month. Since there are a multitude of mobile phone contracts on the market to suit all needs and budgets, there should be no excuse for exceeding monthly allowances. After calculating the amount needed, find the right network that can accommodate those needs while providing a competitive price.

It’s important for customers to remember that smartphone contracts are essentially loans for their handset devices. While the price of smartphones can be significant, when entered into a contract, consumers typically receive a deal with a monthly fee requirement that includes expenses. Those who are unable to maintain those expenses can fall into serious financial debt, especially if the phone needs to be replaced and they don’t have insurance. Like any other loan, customers should only enter into contacts which they can afford on a monthly basis.

 

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
By March 26, 2014 Read More →

Facebook Announces $2 Billion Deal with Oculus VR

OculusVRSocial networking giant, Facebook has announced a $2 billion deal to acquire the virtual reality company Oculus VR. The company is best known for their development of the Oculus Rift headset, which was originally funded on Kickstarter and was targeted at innovating gaming experiences.

However, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that he believed the virtual reality technology had wider implications. During a conference call with analysts, he stated: “Oculus has the potential to be the most social platform ever. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

Oculus VR founder, Palmer Lucky previously recognised the social potential of the Oculus Rift in an interview with PC Gamer. He said: “Think of Facebook. People interact on Facebook a lot and in real life a lot. But right now Facebook is largely a tool to organize meeting up with people in real life. And that’s because even though we talk to people online, it’s a very crippled experience to actually doing things and spending time with people in real life. It’s more convenient, but you lose a lot.”

“We’re in a similar situation with VR. Right now, VR is kind of a crippled version of reality where there are reasons to use it, but you wouldn’t use it for everything. When VR is going to be exciting is when it gets as good as real life at everything, and you start to say, well, why would I travel on a business meeting across the world just to go sit face-to-face with people, if we can just plug in Rifts and get all of the same nuance of communication we could have gotten otherwise.”

 

 

The news of the acquisition raised concerns among the gaming community, who saw the possibility for Oculus to not only become a gaming platform of its own, but one that could pioneer VR technology for other social gaming sites. The worry was that the deal could limit companies like Social Gaming Network and Full Tilt Poker who may not be able connect users from multiple social platforms or will be charged high rates to be able to use the technology on their own networks.

However, the deal will see the Oculus team work independently within Facebook and remain focused on creating other gaming experiences. There are also plans to create other experiences, opening up the possibilities of enjoying a court side seat at an NBA game, studying in a classroom of students from around the world or consulting face to face with specialist doctors for a fraction of the cost.

Despite this, the development community has been hit hard by the news. “I never would have backed them if I thought this was even a remote possibility. I’m literally sad because I feel like a promising future was really just a hopeless dream,” said programmer Chip Collier. “VR has just been set back another 20-30 years.”

George Buckingham, a developer with Die Gute Fabrik studio, mirrored these sentiments, saying: “I’m irritated. The FB acquisition of Oculus seems 80% likely to kill their momentum… It’s probably going to get locked down in annoying ways and stop being a cool, weird tech you can freely hack on. I hope someone else comes and makes basically the same thing. Though I guess, that’s Sony, now.”

However, others are taking a more optimistic perspective, feeling that Facebook can provide opportunities for Oculus Rift to move forward. Head of Games at IHS Technology, Piers Harding-Rolls concluded: “Reaction from the gaming industry will fall into two major camps. There will be independent developers that will feel alienated by this move and may shift their priorities to other platforms. Others will see the advantages of having a much bigger entity behind the platform with deeper pockets alongside a massive audience of potential consumers across Facebook.

“Judging by Zuckerberg’s comments, Facebook is keen to accelerate the development of Oculus’ gaming capabilities, but I sense this is more about proving the concept and driving early adoption for a much broader set of applications many years down the road.”

Posted in: Editorial, News
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By March 26, 2014 Read More →

Increase Productivity With a Small Business Technology Makeover

Depositphotos_38612687_xsMore than 80 percent of small businesses responding to a recent j2 Global survey said they are ready to retire their old systems in favor of new technology. Look at your company’s equipment and processes for those areas taking up too much of your time and money. Consider the following technology as a way to put new life, and efficiency, back into your business:

Small Business in the Cloud

Entrepreneur magazine sees the migration of small business practices to the cloud as a natural growth step. Once used primarily as a place to store information, the cloud now offers a variety of services, such as:

  • data backup and recovery
  • applications
  • testing and production platforms
  • networking services
  • disaster recovery

Some companies offer entire office environments in the cloud. Intermedia’s Office in the Cloud provides file storage, syncing and collaboration, office tools, voice and email services. All of these services are through secure connections and can be accessed by all desktop, laptop and mobile devices.

Back Office Processing Revamped

Many vendors have moved their standard business software offerings to the cloud, enabling customers to get rid of cumbersome and expensive desktop-based software, licenses and support fees. CRM, sales force management, marketing tools, accounting and payroll are all available in the cloud. For example, Intuit’s invoice application is now cloud-based, and like most products in the cloud, it includes mobile interfaces.

These cloud-based tools save you money and are accessible whenever you need them and wherever you can get a network connection. This makes your sales force on the road more productive or lets you look up current customer data quickly before an offsite meeting. It also opens up more outsourcing opportunities since it’s easy to give a remote worker access to these tools.

Updated Cash Registers

Point-of-sale (POS) solutions have altered the way payments are taken. Entire POS systems now run on tablet computers. Small card readers plug into tablets or smartphones and let you swipe credit cards. The smallest of retailers can now take a variety of forms of payments with these tools. Many of them interface with cloud-based accounting systems making reconciliation and reporting easier.

Phone, Netbook and Tablet in One

Fox Business predicts phablets will be adopted by small businesses in 2014. These phone/tablet devices have been on the market for a few years, but have not been well received in the UK and US. They are popular in countries where people want to save money by buying this all-in-one device versus a separate smartphone and tablet.

The larger screens are easier to work on and browse the Internet. With smartphones becoming even larger, phablets may have already filled the niche of people who want to do real work on their mobile phones.

A Cloud on Your Desk

Businesses are concerned about storing data in the cloud until a high-level of safety and security is proven. But they still want the ease of getting to it as if it were in the cloud. Western Digital’s My Cloud is a network drive that sits in your office but can be accessed by you and your staff over the network. Up to 4GB can be stored on the drive fully encrypted. Software lets you control who has access to certain areas. You can use any laptop or mobile device to get to the secured data. With devices such as this and cloud data storage, you’ll have access to all of your business information when working away from the office.

Posted in: Editorial
By March 21, 2014 Read More →

Do you know how much your mobile is actually worth?

is-developing-a-mobile-app-worth-the-cost--ec618bf2b6More and more people these days are trading their mobile phones in for cash and many of us, especially when we are in dire need of that cash won’t stop and think about how much our phone is worth. Instead we will simply just post it off, or hand it in to our nearest store and take whatever cash they’ll hand over. Have you ever stopped to think about how much your phone is actually worth? What metals are involved in the making of it?

There are three main metals that can be found in mobile phones, lead, nickel and cadmium and the use of each of these three makes recycling a phone all the more important. Cadmium is an especially toxic metal, and when a phone is dumped or sent to a landfill somewhere, trace elements can potentially find their way into food and water supplies. Recycling a phone means that you remove the chance for contamination. Lead and nickel are similarly bad for you, making recycling ever more important.

In reality, around 90% of a mobile phone can be recycled and reused, an amazingly high statistic compared with other electronics, and due to the turnaround of technology (most mobile phone contracts now last two years), it is certainly worth trading in and recycling your phone when you upgrade to a brand new one.

Often, it isn’t even mobile phones that the recycling phones wind up becoming. You can find the materials from recycled phones in everything from copper roofs on buildings, to ski-lifts, winding their way up the side of mountains to get you to your destination. It’s amazing how much variety there is in the use of these materials, and even the plastic is used, often going into benches.

Trading in a phone will even get you a bit of money, where dumping it won’t, and after a few years of use, being paid to get rid of a phone is a blessing, and certainly won’t make you feel ripped off. You’ll be able to see the effect of your recycling all over the world.

If you want to find out a good price for your phone, you can always check out a website like Albemarle Bond who value metals of many different varieties. It can interesting to see how much a phone’s metals is really worth.

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
By March 11, 2014 Read More →

What is the Best eReader?

ebooks-664x442In 2007, we all found out about eReaders that grabbed our attention. We saw the invention of the first major eBooks that was sold to the masses across the US and internationally markets.

7 years on, there is a wide variety of different types of eReaders available on the market, from a variety of brands on a variety of platforms. Originally, the benefits of the eReader included the ability to store thousands of books digitally, without the need to have a large space in your home, or in your suitcase, to store or transport a variety of books. Now, however, with the variety of different models and brands available, the features and benefits of each eReader continues to dazzle us. But how do you choose which eReader is best?

Here, we will look at the different features, their benefits and finally the problem or need they solve, to empower you to choose the best eReader for you.

 

Kindle

  • Major features

The Kindle is the original popular eReader and is the cheapest on this list. Developed by Amazon, the Kindle provides you with the ability to store thousands of books available from the Amazon eBook collections. It is light at 5.98 oz. meaning the Kindle is a good, no-nonsense, and economical reader.

  • Benefits and Drawbacks

As we have said, the Kindle is the cheapest available on this list, and so its major benefit is its simplicity and price. However, it is not possible to do a lot more other than read, and the appearance is basic. You can’t use this Kindle in the dark, particularly on the go.

  • Problem Solved

Bookworms no longer have to carry around heavy paper books, and books are sold at a much cheaper price in electronic form on Amazon than they are as hardbacks or paperbacks.

 

Kindle PaperWhite

  • Features

The majorly different feature of the Kindle PaperWhite is in the screen. Mainly, the lightness, and paper-like white screen that you read the words on, as the name suggests, could be considered by many as an improvement in appearance and functionality.

  • Benefits and Drawback

The main reason why the Kindle PaperWhite gets a mention on this list is it addresses the issue of reading in the dark and on the go that its older brother the 5th generation original Kindle model doesn’t. As a result, however, the price increases, and there is little more to do with the eReader other than shop for and read a library of books. However, you’ll need to be able to logon to Wi-Fi, as 3G is not possible with this model.

  • Problem Solved

For loyal Kindle users, who already have a wide collection of Amazon eBooks and still want to access them will find the PaperWhite helps to solve the issue of usability in the dark. It may also be more attractive for many readers, depending on taste.

Nook SimpleTouch

  • Features

The eReader from Barnes and Noble is most affordable to read, ultra-light as well as comfortable to hold. It’s battery lasts over 2 months and you can access over 3 million books. You can also have access to free Wi-Fi if you purchase at a B&N Store, which you can use to buy new books, access Free Sample Books, and borrow and lend books to and from others.

  • Benefits and Drawbacks

For the bookworm, or just book lovers of all kinds, looking to focus on the pure enjoyment of reading, rather than having an all-singing gadget. Its lower price also makes it the best value option on this list for reading thousands of books. Much like the Kindle, it does not offer any light, so it can be tricky to read this in the dark and on the go during long travel.

  • Problem Solved

Simplicity is the key, allowing any type of reader to get access to the wonderful world of books at the cheapest price. If you are happy to venture from Amazon, this is a fantastic option.

Nook GlowLight

  • Features

The Nook GlowLight provides readers with a truly unique feature – its innovative lit-screen feature. Unlike the Kindle PaperWhite, you have the option to adjust the level of brightness the screen emits. Along with the variety of features available with all of the above eReaders, it is the added feature that makes the Nook GlowLight stand out.

  • Benefits and Drawbacks

For nighttime reading, this is a fantastic option. With the versatility of the light brightness, and the power of the reader to change this according to their needs, it is a convenient and pleasurable option for nighttime and travelling readers.

  • Problem Solved

The Mayo Clinic suggests reading as an optimal evening activity to promote a good night’s sleep. They suggest being wary of using bright screens, however, as this can trigger your mind to wake up and be out of sync with your body clock. This feature therefore makes your evening time reading practical and healthier. At an expected higher price, it’s for reader’s to see for themselves the illuminating value of this eReader.

Posted in: Editorial
By March 9, 2014 Read More →

eBay launches new Collections feature

eBay CollectionseBay announced that it would introduce a new ‘Collections’ feature last year and since then we at tracyandmatt.co.uk have been working with eBay to create our own curated Collections via our eBay account.

The Collections feature, which can be likened to Pintrest for eBay items, is now live on the UK eBay site and members can now start their own collections by going to ‘My Collections’ in their user account or by clicking the ‘Add To Collection’ link when looking at specific eBay items.

The great thing about the new eBay Collections feature is that you can create as many Collections as you want, they can have any number of items in them and not only can the Collection itself be annotated but individual items can be too.

Another cool feature of Collections is that you can promote all of your collections, just one collection or a single item with the sharing feature. Other eBay members can then choose to follow all, some or just one of your collections and can also re-share what you have there.

This new feature could be a real boon for eBay members with popular shops or for those that want to show others what new and hot…

In our Collections right now you can find our selection of the best phones from each mainstream manufacturer, top tablet choices, and all the items we use in MBED, Arduino and Raspberry Pi development. Check out our Collections on eBay.co.uk and follow to see what else we do with them going forward.

 

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By March 8, 2014 Read More →

Preparing your digital legacy for when you’re gone

legacyThere can be no doubt that the internet has revolutionised our daily lives, making things like paying bills, shopping, as well as communications so much easier, and in many cases cheaper. This can be achieved with a simple click of a button and all without leaving the house. Yet, as many families of those who die are discovering, the internet can also make things more difficult.

Digital legacy

This is a relatively new development that has been created by the very things that were meant to – and indeed do – make our lives easier. Many people conduct all of their financial affairs online, whether filing their taxes, paying debts or managing their accounts, and any standing orders or direct debits continue to be paid until you take steps to stop them. People are rightly told by the different institutions and/or websites with which they hold accounts not to share sensitive information such as passwords and pin numbers with anyone else.

With this in mind, settling your affairs can be a big problem for your family members after your death, because they are unable to gain access to your accounts, and in the absence of paper documentation are unable to determine with whom these accounts are kept. Even things like closing down email accounts or social media profiles will be difficult in the absence of the correct log-in information.

The internet is great, but not yet that great

As stated in Saga Legal’s exhaustive Digital Legal Guide, the ‘internet is not yet intuitive enough’ to realise that someone has died and many surviving family members and friends will have experienced a heartbreaking reminder of this as Facebook implores them to wish the deceased a happy birthday. The same is true for online shopping sites until they are no longer able to debit a bank account that has been frozen upon the provision of a death certificate. 

Solution

The aforementioned Saga Digital Legal Guide advises that you should treat your digital legal in much the same way that you should treat your Will. Many do not pay digital information with the same heed because of the developing nature of the laws governing internet usage, but this is perhaps an even greater reason to ensure that your loved ones have access, as it will overcome such legal ambiguities. 

This can be achieved by creating a secure online directory, which gives details all of your active internet accounts along with how you wish for them to be dealt with.

Posted in: Editorial
By March 5, 2014 Read More →

Voice Activation

voice-600x372The hands free control (voice activation) allows you to wave your hand over the screen to change pages and you can even scroll up and down web pages with your eyes.

The Moto X has a crystal clear 4.7-inch AMOLED display, a 10 megapixel camera with Quick Capture so that you never miss a moment and an impressive Intuitive Android KitKat operating system to name a few. The camera on this phone is excellent and able to take fantastic shots quickly without blurring the images. The interface is slick and it shoots quickly, making taking photographs with the Moto X simple and easy, it’s a great phone if you’re a fan of photography for blogging, social networking or just for the fun of it.

The Moto X’s touchless control is perhaps the most outstanding feature and is sure to be a favourite choice amongst consumers. The Moto X is always ready so that you don’t have to wait around for it to catch up with your busy lifestyle. The touchless control responds to your voice instantly and opens up your device without the need for hands. The Moto X can search for anything you want on Google, set an alarm or get you directions or the weather in an instant and all with simple voice commands. The phone responds clearly so it is easy for you to hear and comprehend the responding voice. The phone is capable of understanding you, no matter what your accent is so you can enjoy this feature without speaking like a robot in order to be understood.

Following the release of the Moto X the overall industry reaction has been very positive with the industry largely handing out 4 star reviews:

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