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  • What Makes Ruby On Rails Special?

    Thursday, October 29, 2015 by
    What Makes Ruby on Rails Special
    Ruby on Rails (ROR) was first released on December 12, 2005. Since then, it has been a hot commodity for developers and users alike. It’s an open-source web application and full-stack framework using the programming language called “Ruby,” hence the name. What are some of the engineering patterns it uses? Here are just a few:
    • Convention Over Configuration (CoC)
    • Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY)
    • Active Record Pattern
    • Modern View Controller (MVC) –organizes application programming
    Why do developers choose to use ROR? For the most part, it can take hundreds or thousands of hours to create the app of your dreams. ROR cuts down on work with faster development time. Additionally, it has an extensive library of what are called “Gems,” that can add a bevy of functionality. Moreover, automated testing is available to let you test code as you write it.  

    What Ruby Offers

    With Ruby On Rails, the learning curve is relatively short. Its’ syntax makes the constructs stream logically, and with vibrancy. Currently there are over 200,000 sites supported by Ruby On Rails. There is also the benefit if offers with its modular design. For instance, the gems library is similar to that of a WordPress plugin. You can use gems to perform actions such as creating PDF files, displaying map data, and social media interactions. Additionally, you are given login/logout options as well as integrations with email and/or text messages.  

    What Can It Do?

    The depth that comes along with using Ruby is mind-boggling. Here are some of the features available:
    • URL – You can adapt or develop search engine adaptive URLs
    • Active Records – This development program includes database active library and will automatically map tables to rows and also classes in objects.
    • Debug Applications – Ruby on Rails gives you specific and detailed error logs so you can easily debug all your applications.
    • Tightened Security – Ruby takes away the burden of having to use the ‘h’ method. It now escapes all input by default and if you want to ‘un-escape’ data you simply use the ‘RAW’ method.
    • Bundler – This is a useful new feature to Ruby and helps you manage your dependencies. Just add a line for the gems you need within your gem file, and it will download & configure all gems you need for the project.
    • Action Mailer – This function has been simplified to send mail with ease. Default settings can now be optionally overwritten. It comes with cleaner APIs, and you can also retrieve and manipulate ‘mail’ objects before their delivery.
    • Store Components – Create modularized templates and add components or store your reusable code.

    Quicker Development

    Convention over Configuration does exactly as it states. With other programing languages, developers need to spend an extensive amount of time on how their code will communicate with the database. This is also true for the exact file structure for the project, and the wide variety settings needed for configuration files. However, CoC offers what is called “sensible defaults.” These are conventions that already work with a number of applications. This means you spend less time setting up the project and can focus more on any possible issues. Moreover, with the DRY feature, you no longer have to worry about replicating code over and over again. Instead, you write the code once and can use it where needed. It also makes things more convenient for future code changes.  

    What You Need To Know

    If you already have basic or advanced knowledge of HTML and CSS, then learning ROR should not be an issue for you. If you don't, then you should start learning those two languages first. The good news is that they are also quite easy to comprehend and practice. Once you learn the ins and outs of ROR, it might start feel like second nature. Not to mention, it is quite enjoyable. There are a wide variety of resources available, whether it be taking online courses or reading instructional books. Most tools offer straightforward approaches to learning the structure of this dynamic language. In addition to its many advantages, ROR can make it more cost-effective to create and maintain a site and/or application. You will be able to create feature-rich constructions without as much output as one might have expected. Then, if you want additional features, they can be added rather quickly and conveniently. When you consider the power and convenience of ROR, it’s no wonder why they were chosen in the development of platforms such Twitter, Shopify and Basecamp. Their active community is helpful for those new to ROR, making it even more enticing for intrigued developers to test out.  
    Natalie Lehrer is a senior contributor for CloudWedge. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys exploring all things cloud and is a music enthusiast. Follow Natalie’s daily posts on Twitter: @Cloudwedge, or on Facebook.  
    Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nez/177722693/
  • 5 Reasons Your Website Is Turning Off Your Customers

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015 by
    5 Reasons Your Website Is Turning Off Your Customers
    You know that having a website is an important asset for your business. However, if you have very low conversion rates, or have been seeing a steady decrease in traffic it might be time to fix your website. The web is constantly evolving, and your site needs to be up to the current web standards and user preferences if you want to keep your visitors happy. Below you’ll find a series of problems that a lot of websites currently fall victim to. If you’re committing any of the following mistakes it’s important to fix them as soon as possible.  

    1. Slow Loading Speeds

    Most web users are becoming more and more accustomed to fast loading speeds. This means that when your site loads slowly you’re testing your visitor’s patience. In most cases they’ll hit the back button, instead of waiting for the site to load. Having a website that loads slowly can also lead to lowered search engines rankings, as Google factors in page loading speed into their search engine rankings algorithm. Put simply, your website must load quickly and cater to the fastest internet connections.  

    2. No Mobile Optimization

    Our world is becoming increasingly mobile. Mobile Internet usage is only continuing to increase and it shows no sign of slowing down. So, if your site isn’t optimized for the mobile web your users aren’t even going to attempt to navigate your website. When creating a separate mobile website, or are optimizing your current website it’s important that you consider every possible interactive element and piece of your website. For instance, some ads may not display properly, so you’ll want to ensure they won’t display on certain screen sizes.  

    3. Poor Photography

    Stock photography is dead. If you’re using dated stock photos your visitors will be able to tell and it will make your website feel cheesy. However, keep in mind that not all stock photography will have a negative impact on your website. Using images is a great way to create a more emotional experience for your user, but just make sure they’re high quality, unique, and showcase your actual business or products.  

    4. Keyword Stuffed Copy

    Over a decade ago you could get away with having walls of keyword stuffed text across your website. Most web copy was written for the search engine robots, not human beings. However, those times are long gone and your copy needs to reflect this. If your web copy speaks to the search engines more than your readers, you’ll actually see your rankings start to decline. Keywords are still important, but even more important is making a connection to your visitors. The only way to do this is to write copy that’s geared towards your visitors and their needs.  

    5. Too Much Clutter

    When it comes to your website less is always better than more. Even though it can be tempting to hit your visitors with everything at once, and embed interactive widgets, this will lead to nothing but overwhelm. Think about your visitor every step of the way, and engineer your site towards the best user experience for them. By taking time to fix the mistakes above, your site will start to see higher levels of traffic, and increased levels of engagement across the board.
  • 9 Best Practices For Social Based Customer Care

    Wednesday, October 14, 2015 by
    9 best practices for social based customer care
    It is no question that social channels can be an extremely valuable tool for a business. It not only increases brand awareness and connects you to potential users, but gives you a direct channel to your current users as well. Yet, as the saying goes, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ Now that you are talking to your users, know that your users are talking to you, and it is not always positive. Using social media as a tool for customer care not only let users feel heard in a medium they feel comfortable with, but it also sends the right signals to potential customers about how you treat your users. Here are some best practices to doing this properly.  

    1. Don’t Disregard The Issue

    Everyone wants to be heard, and a generic, “take a look at our FAQ’s page for answers to most of your issues,” is just useless enough for your user to look elsewhere. Put a pinned comment at the top of your Facebook page, or in your twitter bio, that sends user to try your customer care channels first. Many may ignore it, but a number will listen and be dealt with there, only coming back if the problem persists. You may need to try harder to keep them happy after the process but at least it isn’t clogging up your social feed.  

    2. Treat Your Users As People Not Problems

    Don’t be afraid to banter and have an informal chat, as long as you don’t make it inappropriate or too personal for a public forum. Users respond to the human element and will have a more positive impression than if they receive generic, robotic answers. Look at your user’s basic information. The instructions you give to a tech-savvy teen, would not be appropriate for someone with less technology experience. Adapt your support accordingly.  

    3. Keep It Short And Sweet

    You need to keep you user engaged, the worst kind of service is one that is met by the sound of crickets because you have lost your audience 4 tweets ago. Make sure your answers are informative but do not drag on longer than necessary. If you can be as effective with three words as using a paragraph, opt for the three. You will maintain your audience’s attention span and not make them feel that their time has been wasted with superfluous information.  

    4. Don’t Be Afraid To Take It Elsewhere

    Some issues are universal and your reply could be of value to all users, if this is not the case, then you should carry on the conversation in a direct message or through email. If they have opened a support ticket before contacting you, take their ticket number and flag it up with your support staff to be prioritized.  

    5. Give Clear Answers

    Try to make your post, tweet or Facebook message as informative as possible. Be aware that talking on your Facebook homepage or through main twitter channels means that anyone can see your interaction. Both current and potential users can be listening, and your decorum can be a make or break for some of them. Make sure not only that you are patient and helpful, but also that you are using proper grammar and punctuation. When someone’s account is frozen, it is not the time to bombard them with emojis.  

    6. Look Out For The Little Guy

    There will always be that shy user that will post once, oftentimes as part of an unrelated thread that will get lost unless you are actively looking out for them. Signaling them out and answering their issues or concerns sets you apart from much of the competition, and lets the user feel important which could result in lifelong loyalty.  

    7. Deal With Complaints

    Some users are out for blood, ignoring a negative comment can be more disastrous than you realize. Be warned that some users may use their social following to bombard you page or ‘trash’ your brand. They can do this by creating inflammatory hashtags or posting multiple comments across all of your social channels. Early intervention is key here.  

    8. Separate The Wheat From The Chaff

    Not all users on your social channels are what they seem. Keep a sharp eye out for competitors looking to harm your brand, and destroy your service’s reputation. If you are sure a user is not what they seem, and they are becoming more hassle than their worth, don’t be afraid to block them from your account. You should only do this as a last resort! A perfect page looks fake, and will cause you to loose trust from potential users.  

    9. Manage Expectations

    If you are a small business, no one expects you to have a large social media support team. Be honest with your audience and don’t spread yourself too thin. If users know that it could take up to a few days to have their complaint attended to, their expectations will be better managed and they are less likely to be fed-up and leave. Just be sure to keep your promises, if you say it will be up to two days, make sure it is.  
    Natalie Lehrer is a senior contributor for CloudWedge. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys exploring all things cloud and is a music enthusiast. Follow Natalie’s daily posts on Twitter: @Cloudwedge, or on Facebook.  
    Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3256859352/in/photolist-5XNfPs-dUmKE4-amC4jN-6mYWTq-aFy3bt-dZxNRq-6u2DBs-5XJ1Qc-9eVCSc-99BVQZ-9MoWtb-9hNywz-9x7H6Z-8bspY4-4oUWXS-6DtPYC-axnKy3-6u2Dkq-7rY7do-6qPE85-7YNkeA-7YNkh5-8Q7LKc-8Q7LSH-8Q7LZ4-8QaSeA-9yMPBV-71ZNv4-8NyVNa-yv3t2-6tXvgR-6qPE89-7oytoK-8H6Z3P-6qPE8f-aucWr1-dU7Cn1-9iAUEF-9iAVoa-9iAVf2-9iE4fm-9iATSR-9iE2eb-9iE3uw-9iAWvP-9iATHv-9iAUmz-9iAUY2-9iE4od-9iE47b
  • 10 Beginner Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015 by
    Top 10 Beginner Website Mistakes You're Probably Making
    If you run a business online or off then you understand the importance of having a website and online presence. However, if it’s your first website, or you designed your website yourself then you might have made mistakes. Luckily, a lot of these mistakes are easy to correct. If you’re relying on your website to drive traffic your way, then you’ll want your website to be a well-oiled machine. Below we highlight the ten mistakes that most beginners make, and what you can do to fix these issues.  

    1. Lack Of Vision

    Your website needs to exist for a definite reason, not simply because you think you should have an online presence. You need to decide upon the purpose of your website before you even begin building. Your website must have a definite purpose, as every page on your website will work to fulfill this purpose. For example, your website could be used to build authority, source new leads, sell a product or service, give information about your business, and much more. You’ll want your user to land on your website and immediately know what your website is all about.  

    2. Rushing To Market

    Instead of getting your website up as soon as possible it’s important you take time to research your market first. For example, if you have an older target market you’ll need to make sure your website is easy to read, digest, and navigate. By having an understanding of your market first you’ll be able to build a website that actually serves them, instead of simply taking up space.  

    3. Complicated Design

    In order to have a successful website it needs to be simple, not flashy. Having an overcomplicated design will only lead to confusion. The goal of your design should be to create the best possible user experience across your website.  

    4. Design Is Too Trendy

    Trends come and go, but timeless design lasts forever. By building your website on the back of solid design principles you’ll be able to create a website that outlasts certain trends and fads. Websites that rely on trends will become outdated very quickly.  

    5. Out-Of-Date Content

    If you haven’t updated your content in years then chances are it’s not up to date with your current business, or the latest web standards. If you have older content your site your visitors may assume you’re out of business, or aren’t as innovative as your competition. If you have a blog make sure you update it on a regular basis, as nothing looks worse than a vacant blog.  

    6. Poor Quality Photography

    Low-quality photography, or outdated stock photography gives your website an amateur feel and won’t do a lot to draw your visitor into your website. Images can help you build a connection with your audience, but only if they’re aligned with your message and business. Make sure you either hire a professional photographer, or use high-quality stock photos that aren’t cheesy.  

    7. Having Broken Elements/Links

    Every element of your website needs to be working. This means you need to test all of your links and pages, so your users don’t end up with the dreaded 404 page. You’ll also want to check all of your internal links to make sure you’re not leading your users to a dead end.  

    8. Poorly Designed Logo

    Your logo is a central piece of your branding. By designing your logo yourself, or getting a cheap logo designed, you won’t do much to further your branding or website. Although your logo is a subtle part of your design it can communicate a lot about your business.  

    9. Poor Font Choice

    Font choice is another subtle element that most business owners neglect. The font you choose needs to compliment your design and increase the readability of your content. This is when it can be helpful to consult the opinion of a professional designer. But, if you’re choosing your own font choice the simpler font is often the better choice.  

    10. No Call-To-Action

    You must lead your visitors somewhere. A website without a call-to-action is akin to nothing more than a virtual business card. Once you’ve proven yourself valuable to your visitors you need to direct them to take action. That action can be signing up for your email list, giving your business a call, or a multitude of other options. Getting your website into tip top shape can take a lot of work. But, it’s time well spent because a well functioning website will help your business grow for the long-term.