CRI Designs is a proud sponsor of the 2012 Strafe Zombie Run in downtown Fuquay-Varina, a benefit for the High School Technology department. The outrageous 5K event features survivors and walkers moving at their own pace while trying to avoid zombies as they head for the finish line. The race is on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 9:00 AM. Participants are allowed to run or walk and not participate in the game, but we encourage everyone to come out and take your chances against them.
The goal is to raise money for Fuquay-Varina High School Technology in the Classroom Initiative. One of our goals at CRI Designs is to continue promoting advances in technology, and with NC schools facing constant budget cuts, this was our chance to help with education while having some fun.
Strafe Gaming Lounge is hosting an after-race party with plenty of food, giveaways, gaming and specials. Find complete details about this event at www.strafezombierun.com.
Veteran smartphone and iPhone users usually know about the most popular apps, but it still amazes me how many people I run into with smart phones and tablets that are still wondering how they can use apps or other programs in the most productive ways. These three popular apps are very useful, available for computers, pads and smartphones, and best of all, they are free.
1. Evernote As a very popular and useful app, Evernote allows you to store notes of every type in your account and organize them in notebooks and groups. Notes can be lists, screenshots, handwritten notes on a pad, photos, audio and more and are all accessible from computers or smart devices. You can even email or forward something straight into your Evernote account. We often create shopping lists or copy notes from a website about an event in our computer’s Evernote app, and then later can access the information anywhere with the phone app. Conversely, you can be anywhere with your phone and take a picture or think of a great idea and quickly add it to your Evernote notebook and find it later on your pad device. Notebooks can also be shared among friends or family members. This program is a great freeform tool and can be useful for anyone.
2. Dropbox Dropbox is a free app for storing files in the cloud, and is great for transferring pictures or work files between computers, pad devices, or smartphones. Take pictures with your phone and easily add them to your Dropbox folders and they will appear on your computer by the time you can turn it on.
3. Cozi Cozi is an online organizer built to help you manage your family life by providing a family calendar, to do lists, shopping lists, meal planning, and a family journal in a free app for both computers and smart devices. The account can give access to all family members, and like Evernote and Dropbox, is free.
These are not the only solutions available. Microsoft offers cloud storage in their skydrive website that also allows sharing and storing office documents as well as an app for their OneNote notebook software.
If you feel like you are not getting much from your expensive phones and pads, check out these programs and you will experience a new level of convenience and organization.
In working with many different types of businesses and professionals, it always amazes me how little priority is placed on a backup solution. It usually takes one episode with hard drive failure or a related malfunction to forever wake someone to the horror of extreme data loss...not to mention the ensuing aggravation and associated suicidal behavior.
An effective and popular backup strategy is to use external hard drives and backup software. With the availability of inexpensive external hard drives, this method has made backups of large amounts of data much easier. The best practice is to use more than one disk, and keep one of the copies in a separate location in case of theft or fire (fingers crossed).
With Windows 7, Microsoft has finally included a useful backup utility that provides both incremental backups of data files a well as the ability to create a complete system image of one or more hard drives. The recommendation is to do both types of backups. The data backup will allow you to restore single or selected files to your computer and because it stores only changes with each regular backup, space needed on external drives is saved. The system image backup is for completely restoring your drive, and does not allow for selected file recovery. If you choose to run both regularly, the system image file will replace a previous image on your backup disk. Just remember to swap your disk out regularly and keep one in a different location.
For MAC users, Time Machine is a flashy program built in to handle your data backups, and can be used similarly with an external hard drive to keep data safe.
Another popular solution is to use an online backup service. Norton Online Backup and Carbonite are two popular online services, but there are many others to choose from. Depending on your setup, and how much space you use, this can be an easy and safe solution that requires little attention and works seamlessly with your system.
As I read recently, there are two types of hard drives: one that has crashed, and one that will crash. While our firm has had good luck in terms of data loss, there is no way to over-emphasize how important it is to have a bulletproof backup strategy.
Many small businesses have caught onto the value of adding a blog to their business websites. A lot of people have come to us lately wanting to add blogs to their site or build a site with a blog in mind. Adding a blog can bring traffic to your website and give your website visitors valuable information that will show them your knowledge in your field. Here are some tips from morebusiness.com to help you write blog posts that are engaging and interesting to your readers.
Keep it interesting. What topics and content is meaningful to both you and your audience? Remember your small business blog should fit a special niche in order to attract an audience. Keep your posts meaningful and interesting to your overall theme and passion.
Be honest. Your readers and customers want to know you are human, not some blog post robot production machine. It is normal to express your thoughts and opinions about your business and industry.
Be consistent. Remember to post at least three times each week. Avoid posting five articles one week and waiting another three weeks for your next blog post. Keep your posts evenly consistent.
Be brief. Attention spans are short on the web. Keep your posts between 350 – 500 words or under, but feel free to create a few 750-word comprehensive resources too (which not only are helpful for the reader, but SEO as well).
Include photos or graphics. You can enhance your blog marketing with appropriate images. Use a photos and graphics, but only when they complement your content.
Include links. In your small business blog, you may reference another website. Include a link and even additional resources to help educate your audience.
Thinking of trying your hand at managing your site's content or trusting Cousin Joe's amatuer web design skills? Take our advice and proceed with caution. Here's what not to do!
The Yoga Connection of Smithfield, NC has been a long-standing client of ours who we've enjoyed working with for years. Owner and head instructor Martha Katz decided she had been using the same website and logo for long enough and came to our team for a modern redesign and an updated look.
We brainstormed with Martha to create a modern take on her logo. The new colors complement the website redesign and create a unified look for her brand. The new fonts and other changes update the look of the logo.
During the needs analysis of this project, we found that The Yoga Connection needed a way to communicate events, class dates and general yoga tips and news to its customers. Martha also wanted to make sure the new site was directed toward a wider audience and was gender-neutral. Armed with these goals, we delivered the following key updates:
Check out the new The Yoga Connection website and see for yourself!
CRI Designs President David Castranio is joining Dan Matthys of the Town of Cary's Planning Department in presenting a conference session at the 2011 Transforming Local Government/FCCMA Conference in Clearwater, Florida on June 2, 2011. The national conference on government innovation goes from May 31st to June 3rd.
The session title is "Innovative Communication in a Tech-Savvy Town" and is centered on the design and implementation of the Town of Cary's Virtual Interactive Planner (VIP), a website application developed by CRI Designs to support the planning department and the public. The VIP website has won three awards for its innovative approach and use of technology. The session was selected as one of the 17 out of 85 submitted from all over the US and Canada.
Read more about the VIP System that CRI Designs developed for the Town of Cary Planning Department by visiting our featured project page.
In working with different companies and databases, we have encountered many situations where companies are having trouble getting custom data into their accounting systems. A custom database solution will save hours of work and help in tracking a large variety of products and services, but when the time comes to create invoices or move other financial information into accounting, many places have to double enter their data.
QuickBooks, a popular accounting software for small and medium businesses, supports a direct connection from custom applications, and investing in the programming necessary to automate this transfer results in some serious savings in worker hours. The direct connection also alleviates errors when double entering, and allows for better synchronization between custom data systems and accounting.
The direct connection can be made from Microsoft’s COM interface, which means that with both Windows .Net and MS Office VBA environments, some custom programming code can transfer data directly into QuickBooks, whether you use the in-house or online edition.
So, whether you are using MS Excel, MS Access, larger database systems, or Web technology as part of your data systems, the option to interface with your QuickBooks files will increase efficiency and save valuable time.
For most of us, search engine optimization (SEO) can be more than a little confusing. The main idea is to increase traffic to your site through optimizing pages for search engines, but how does it work? In plain English, how do you get the pages within your site “read” by the search engines and stored in the database of existing pages? In SEO terms, how do you get your site crawled and indexed?
Search engines use two major areas of assessment to produce search engine result pages (SERPs) most relevant to a specific search: document analysis and link analysis.
Document analysis comprises several factors. The search engine crawls pages for keywords related to the search while taking both quantity and location into account. Keywords in more important places carry more weight. For example, a search engine assumes keywords in your domain name, title tag and H1 tags (headings) as more likely to convey subject matter than page content and captions. Search engines also surmise that pages with multiple instances of a keyword are more relevant to the query, the word or phrase entered in a search engine.
Actual page content is another factor that search engines are able to recognize and use to rank pages. Search engines use semantics and lexical analysis to “read” text and judge its quality. Other factors are also measured, such as how long a viewer spends on your page. How do you keep a viewer on your page longer? You can compel them to stay with unique, intelligent content.
Search engines not only strive to produce relevant SERPs, but also quality SERPs, a process which is achieved through link analysis. Search engines assume that the more sites there are that link to your site (called backlinking), the more authoritative your site is. Popularity equals importance.
Search engines also “read” what the backlinking site says about your site. The anchor text (the actual text being linked) and the text directly surrounding the link are both considered. If the anchor text for the backlink is “this is a terrible site,” search engines take that text into account. Therefore, you wouldn’t want another site to link to yours with the anchor text “click here,” but something more relevant, such as your company name or descriptive keywords.
Links from any old site won’t do either. The more trusted or authoritative the site is that backlinks to your site, the more weight that backlink will carry. This being said, backlinks from poorly coded sites with inferior content can actually hurt your ranking. Link farms, sites that exist solely to house links for the purpose of influencing rank, are an example of this type of harmful spam. Sites that participate in link farms are penalized by search engines and given a lower ranking.
Most importantly, for your site to be crawled and properly indexed, you need a site worthy of traffic. This means having a site with good usability, professional design and high-quality content. A site with good usability is easily crawled because it has clear navigation and organizational hierarchy, making subject matter easily assessed. Professional design conveys authority and trust, making viewers more likely to visit and backlink to your site. Finally, high-quality content will bring links and invite viewers to spend more time on your site.
Even professional search engine optimizers are unaware of the exact procedure search engines use to rank pages. If all the secrets were released, the process could be cheated, rendering search engines less effective at returning relevant information. The bottom line is that high rankings come from high-quality pages with professional design and great content. Follow that mantra and you have taken the biggest step toward obtaining a high ranking.
Summary: In order to successfully use social media as a marketing platform, businesses first have to change the way they interact with their audiences. Listen to your audience, then give them the information they need, not the information you need them to hear.
Many people are quick to hop on the social media wagon without any foresight or planning. The plethora of social media sites can easily send some businesses into a state of panic—a frenzy to be visible and have presence on every possible avenue. But this manner of thinking is reminiscent of the same worn-out, doesn’t-work, out-dated marketing strategy that spam emailing utilizes: “Bombard your audience with your message! Beat it into anyone and everyone!” This strategy results only in frustration and a deaf ear from your consumers.
There’s a new strategy in town, and it involves stepping back to analyze your audience, listen to what they’re saying and, in return, give them the information that they need. This strategy might be visualized in the following way:
Unfortunately, the abuse of social media sites for marketing purposes is fostering a regression to the old, out-dated way of thinking about marketing. Blasting a message through every possible avenue without considering your audience is a step backwards. Ask yourself “Why?” before you act. Consider these questions:
1. What are the goals you hope to accomplish by using social media?
2. What kind of return are you hoping to get?
3. Which social media are your audience already using?
4. What kinds of information do they want?
Your audience is already participating in one or more online communities. Find out where they are and listen to what they are saying. Don’t just toss out the message or information that you think should be heard. If you listen, your audience will tell you what they want from you and what it will take to engage them in a positive relationship.
Here’s an awesome tool to help you start listening: StartPR. This application searches across social media for a keyword or phrase to see what people are saying about it.