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Introducing Drupal Development

Oct 8, 2015   //   by mandla   //   Blog, Drupal 7, Drupal 8, e-commerce, Online shopping, Web Development  //  No Comments

11 reasons why Drupal + Drupal Commerce is the best solution for an integrated ecommerce platform

Drupal Commerce is built from the ground up to integrate with Drupal, which makes it hard to beat when comparing it with dedicated ecommerce platforms such as Magento or Prestashop.

Why? Because changes to Google’s algorithms over the past 18 months (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) have placed Content Marketing front and centre of your online marketing strategy. This means that any serious ecommerce solution must incorporate a robust content management system if it is to provide a platform for ongoing success.

Going forward, standalone platforms such as Magento or Prestashop are simply not going to cut it unless you can somehow integrate them with a decent content management system.

The problem with trying to integrate two separate platforms in this way is that any extensions to these platforms tend to be bolt-ons rather than fully-fledged content management systems. As a result, they aren’t as functional as they need to be, and you end up having to do a lot of work to get the two platforms to look the same and play nicely together.

What you really need is a platform where the CMS and the ecommerce platform are on an equal footing. For this reason, I always recommend Drupal plus Drupal Commerce as the best solution for any ecommerce platform I’m asked to work develop.

With that in mind, here are ten reasons why you should be shortlisting Drupal Commerce for your new ecommerce development, or ecommerce re-platform:

  1. Drupal is an awesome content management and online marketing platform. Drupal Commerce is integrated into Drupal at the deepest level and takes advantage of all the power that Drupal has to offer. This ensures that both users and customers have a seamless experience when using your ecommerce website.
  2. Development time is less (compared to a two-platform system) since there is no need to develop and maintain a custom integration between two separate systems.
  3. There is also no need to develop two separate versions of your visual templates, and no need to manually configure the CMS with information about products held in the ecommerce store, such as you might need to do when building a landing page on the site that should feature both content and featured products.
  4. Ongoing management and maintenance of a Drupal Commerce site is easier since there is only one set of tools for your team to learn (not to mention that Drupal’s management tools are flexible and highly configurable for just about any administration task you might have in mind).
  5. SEO, CRO (conversion rate optimization) and website analytics are much easier to control because you only have to work with one system, not two. Optimizing the customer journey is much easier because it’s all one journey, not two journeys with a bridge.
  6. Drupal Commerce’s order management tools are part of the same administration toolset found in the CMS, so you can view, manage and update orders on the website, and send update notifications via the website (so that the correspondence relating to the order is all kept in once place, which allows an audit trail to be created).
  7. Reporting and analytics tools that allow you to view how many visitors the website is receiving, the rate at which those visitors convert into paying customers, and statistics relating to order value and frequency.
  8. Drupal offers granular user and role management which you can use to control access to functionality within both the CMS and the online store, as well as controlling the features available to your customers.
  9. Drupal offers a range of powerful community features that allow you to engage more deeply with your customers, which can help drive repeat sales and higher lifetime customer value.
  10. Drupal is able to integrate with external systems via a RESTful API, meaning that you can complement or extend the functionality found in Drupal and Drupal Commerce with third-party systems. Drupal’s Feeds module also allows you to import content from external systems.
  11. Drupal Commerce is free. Unlike the Magento and WordPress communities, the concept of “premium” plugins or modules that you have to pay for doesn’t really exist in the Drupal community. That doesn’t mean that Drupal modules aren’t well supported – quite the opposite. The Drupal community is one of the best we’ve participated in.

It’s difficult to do justice to Drupal in only ten points (or eleven – I couldn’t resist sneaking an extra point in), but these should give you an idea of why Drupal is the best solution when developing an integrated ecommerce platform.

4 Common Mistakes You are Making on Your Website and How to Fix Them

Mar 11, 2014   //   by mandla   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Your website is your most vital online tool. When visitors click on your homepage, it’s often their first opportunity to interact with your brand. If you’re not getting results, you’ve probably made some major—and pretty common—mistakes on your site. Fortunately, it’s often easy to correct such problems. By employing a few simple measures, you can turn a website misfire into a recipe for higher conversions and enhanced brand awareness. Here are 4 common mistakes you are making on your website–and how to fix them.

1. Information Overload

Information Overload

Information Overload

Deluging visitors with data, especially on your homepage, doesn’t help pitch your products or your brand. People get overwhelmed by too much detail, and the more of it you cram into one space, the more your call to action gets buried under minutia the consumer doesn’t need to know.

How to Fix It: Less is more. Provide simple bullet points of information that get the point across and make an impact. Lead quickly into a clear call to action. Make it easy for your visitors to see what you’re about, what you’re offering and why they need to act now.

2. Your Design Doesn’t Reflect Your Brand

You had the best of intentions when you asked your cousin to splash slick, globule-like designs all over your homepage. It’s artsy and cool—and that draws a crowd, right? Sure it does, if you’ve got an art display on the sidewalk. People will stop and glance at it, but they won’t know what it means and they won’t really care.

How to Fix It: Hire a professional service to design a site that’s simple, concise and makes every element cohesive and reflective of your brand. Design is the most powerful element on your site. To make an effective first impression you need to make an impact. Work with a design professional to paint a picture of your company that ties into your brand and resonates with your audience.

3. Your Content is Stale

Search engines love fresh content. Why? Because users flock to it. If you’re not updating your content, people have nothing new to look at. Stale content can drop your site to the bottom of the SERPS, and your visitors will stop caring, because they’ll assume you stopped caring, too.

Your Content is Stale

Your Content is Stale

How to Fix It: Updating site content is a simple and inexpensive fix. Host a blog or post fresh articles daily or at least twice a week. SEO is important and should be incorporated, but don’t stuff content with keywords until it’s unreadable. Keep your content interesting, relevant and tied to your brand—and keep adding more. People will read it, grow familiar with your company and care more about your brand and your offerings.

4. You Missed Your Target Market

 

Web Garden - Missed target

You Missed Your Target Market

 

The Internet is the only venue that grants you immediate exposure to virtually the entire world. So it may be tempting to try to reach everyone with an unfocused site that targets…no one. By being too broad, you’ll miss the mark, miss your target market and miss out on conversions and business growth.

How to Fix It: You need to cater to your audience. If you’re an apparel store that sells clothes targeted at women in their late 20’s to early 40’s, that’s the market you need to appeal to by using all the elements of your site, including design and content.

Making mistakes on your website can hamper business growth and drive away visitors. Fortunately, the most common errors are easy to fix. Build a site that delivers on brand awareness, clean, focused design and relevant content, and watch your business and consumer base grow.

Flat design threatens tablet usability

Sep 10, 2013   //   by mandla   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Jakob Nielsen’s usability tests find the flat design trend threatens tablet usability due to unclear UI element functions.

Flat design and improperly re-scaled interfaces are the main threats to usability, according to web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen’s latest tablet usability study.

Nielsen said flat design is the main threat to usability as it makes it difficult for users to “see what they can do”, calling for a “golden middle ground between skeuomorphism and a dearth of distinguishing signifiers for UI elements”.

The study identified greater problems with apps rather than websites, with most websites being “fairly usable” on tablets. He recommended companies don’t bother with apps at all unless they can offer “value-added functionality over a website”.

In addition, he said too many designs for tablets were badly-rescaled versions of layouts that had originally been created for bigger or smaller screens. This was mainly an issue on Android tablets due to device diversity.

Living dead designs

Nielsen recalled the use of frames on the web in the 90s, and noted that “like zombies, certain bad designs come back from the dead to haunt users”. He found instances of “frames-like concepts” such as split-screen designs and temporary frames for search results. He warned: “Every time you split off part of the screen, less remains to show content.”

The studies found that people expect to use tablet apps as they use the web; they often want to search, be able to return to their search results, and they want a back button to undo the last action. Search results were often difficult to return to, and back buttons were sometimes absent or didn’t work as expected.

In reaction to the study, designer and author Oli Studholme said: “In general I agree with the article: content must work on your device to be usable. The principles underlying the web are well-suited to making content usable on many devices. With the zombie apocalypse of devices in full stagger, we stray from fundamentals like responsive web design at our peril. I also strongly agree that active elements need to be obviously active to avoid mystery meat navigation. The surface design I currently find both usable and appealing is in [Nielsen’s] ‘golden middle ground’.

Content first

“I suspect some will perceive ‘the naïve idea that a single design is good enough’ as a snub to RWD, but I don’t think it is. Start ‘content first’ and ensure you have a solid content strategy. Larger projects and budgets can have greater platform customisation, but even platform-specific content should adapt. As John Allsopp said in A Dao of Web Design, ‘It is the nature of the web to be flexible’,” added Studholme.

UX designer and content strategist Tim Tucker stressed the importance of user testing: “This is an important reminder that changes to visual design elements should always be tested with users. It’s also clear that many tablet apps feature non-intuitive navigation, and lack basic functionality like back buttons and a proper SERP (search engine results page).

“I’ve seen users in tests rely on their experience of the web to navigate tablet apps, often with disappointing results. It seems clear from this research that we’d benefit from more web-type UX on apps.”

One in three claims to be suffering from social media fatigue

Sep 10, 2013   //   by mandla   //   Blog  //  No Comments

…but 43 per cent say checking for updates is the last thing they do every night.

Multimedia multi-tasking is growing amongst people in Ireland, with as many as one in three saying they post content online while watching TV.

This number rises to almost three quarters in the 16-24 year-old age group.
The latest eircom Household Sentiment Survey also shows one in three people claim to be growing tired of social media.
However, 43 per cent still say that checking social media sites is the last thing they did every night while one in two of this cohort are described as having “ultra” personalities – defined as a tendency to fanatically check social networking sites for updates.

People may use social networks with ever greater frequency but 39 per cent of them admit to being economical with the truth on such platforms.

The survey points to the increasing influence of technology on our lives and puts the number of people over 16 with a smartphone at 1.7 million, with 1.3 million set to have access to a tablet computer by Christmas.

Irish people have an average of 21 apps on their smart devices but use only seven regularly. The most commonly used apps cover news, transport, maps and exercise.

TV habits are also changing in line with technology with two thirds of respondents admitting to skipping through recorded ads since the option has been made available.

Some TV habits are perennial, however, with almost half of those polled saying they thought men still like to retain possession of the remote control and it’s 38 per cent of the younger generation admitting to having purposely hidden a remote control in the past.

However, the survey also shows that despite living in a digital age, 33 per cent of the population does not understand new technology, with the trend particularly acute amongst the older generation.

All told 49 per cent of those aged between 50 and 64 and three quarters of those in the older age bracket are struggling to understand new technology.

“Over the last 12 months we have seen how, we are becoming increasingly reliant on technology in our everyday lives, with apps playing an increasingly important role,” said eircom spokeswoman Lisa Comerford.

“However, while the latest survey concludes that there is increased reliance on digital devices nationwide, there is also a “generational gap” emerging where, it seems, almost one third of the nation is being left behind in this digital age.”

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Outsourcing

Aug 30, 2013   //   by mandla   //   Blog  //  No Comments

We’ve heard it all before. Your in-house IT people keep missing deadlines, exceeding cost estimates, taking maternity and paternity leaves, and generally whining about working too much, not getting paid enough, blah, blah, blah. They come and go like the seasons.

Or, here’s another one…you hired this really cheap overseas outsourcing company who does great design work. That’s what they said, anyway. They delivered a package that would give road rage to a Tibetan monk.

Enough. Here’s an alternative idea. Whether your business employs thousands or just you, we will take you from where you are to where you want to be; affordable, honestly and with a grin on your face.

We suggest you hire a “next door” outsourcing company that has proven time and again that expectations can and will be met. We don’t just say it. We back it with a quality assurance commitment and a record of success. You will come to realize that when all is said and done, when your demands have been exceeded, when the work is flawless, silent, and has come in under budget, the best move you ever made was to engage us to assist.

But, is it cost-effective? It must be more expensive than your in-house team, right? Wrong. The cost/benefit ratio swings in your favor every time. Imagine simply describing your goals, outlining your expectations, and setting budget and time performance parameters. Imagine being able to devote your time to your work and not spending half of it babysitting.

It should not be unreasonable to expect top-level execution with no attachments. Our passion for developing optimum applications that unfailingly deliver brand awareness, drive traffic to your organization, and build Everest sales slopes is rather remarkable, actually.

We do it well because we love what we do. And, why wouldn’t we? We have that supreme confidence that is derived from repetitive success stories.

Success is not an option. It is a given.

Feel free to email us if you have any questions.

SEO Explained

Aug 30, 2013   //   by mandla   //   Blog  //  1 Comment

With so much talk about getting into search engines, and achieving high rankings on a particular search engine, it may seem crazy to do anything which would prevent this from happening. However, there are times when you have a web site or page(s) within a web site which you don’t want to end up in a search engine.

It might be a resource page for a professor to give his/her students additional information. Or, it might be a temporary page to provide information, such as a list of links, but one which you don’t want to include as part of your site, for fear of adversely impacting your page rank.

You may say you don’t have to worry about this because you haven’t submitted your site to any search engines. However, if someone else has put a link on their site to your site, the spiders that crawl their site will eventually end up crawling your site.

There is code you can put into your HTML which will prevent the bots from spidering your page(s). This code is put in the header of your web page(s) (meaning between theandtags), in the form of a meta tag (and you thought meta tags were for keywords only).

Here are four examples of how this code will look;

<meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow” />

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow” />

<meta name=”robots” content=”index,nofollow” />

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow” />

There are two parameters; “index” and “follow”. “Index” refers to whether or not you want that particular page to be indexed. “Follow” refers to whether or not you want the spider to follow the links on that page. You would decide whether you wanted the page indexed, and whether you wanted the links followed. Based on that decision, you would chose one of the above options. The final code would look something like this:

 
New Page

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow” / >

That’s all there is to it!

Hope this helps!
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.