Darkstar Media: Blog Categories

Category Archives: E-Commerce

New eCommerce website for my Artwork

justin blayney fine art shopI am happy to announce the launch of my upgraded website www.justinblayney.com. What is different from my old site is that I have now included an eCommerce component to my website where you can buy my hand made silk screen prints online in a few easy steps. These prints are a great way to acquire affordable fine art. Please check it out, share with your friends and I am open to all feedback about my website.

This website was created using WordPress and WooCommerce. I custom made the theme using twitter bootstrap.



10 Social Media Networks to help Drive Traffic to your Website

By now you’ve probably realized how important social media can be to your internet marketing campaign but may have some questions as to which are the best sites to use and just how to utilize which site to its fullest potential.

Back in June, I wrote a blog post on why social media was so important to internet marketing however, I did not really get too much into which sites were the best or most frequented or the ways you could use each individual site to drive traffic to your website or blog. Today I’ll discuss the top ten social media sites and some interesting ways to use them to your benefit.

#10. Flickr

socia media Flickr
Flicker is an image hosting site created in 2004 and now run by Yahoo. Though it isn’t as widely utilized and some other image hosting sites, with a reported 87 million users and 3.5 million images uploaded daily, Flickr has a lot of potential for growth.

Though you don’t need an account to browse images, you will need one to upload them and this is where Flickr can really help you out. As mentioned earlier, Flickr boasts an online community of 87 million members, the majority of them researchers and bloggers. Once you’ve uploaded your images, you can then tag and imbed the images with your web site address thus creating valuable link backs. If people choose to use your images in their blog posts (with permission and credit), visitors to their site can click the image and be directed to yours.

To give permission to use your images and give credit back to your site, you would add a description to the image which gives the blogger the right to use the image in exchange for a photo credit back to yourself or your site.

#9. StumbleUpon

social media StumbleUpon
Founded in 2002, StumbleUpon is still relatively new to a lot of users and although it’s more of a discovery engine (search engine), it finds and recommends web pages, images, blogs, tailored to the users’ interests based on peer-sourcing and social-networking ideals. It creates a virtual network of like-minded visitors that are linked by common interests.

StumbleUpon boasts more than a million and a half users creating a significant community and valuable resource for driving traffic to your blog or website. The very nature of Stumble Upon allows for content to spread very quickly.

The key to using StumbleUpon is creating great content that can be shared by users. The more it is shared, the more your brand gets out there and gets noticed.

#8. LinkedIn

social media LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a business oriented social media platform launched in 2003 and claims 259 million users in more than 200 countries. LinkedIn basically allows its users to create a profile and network with other users creating real world professional contacts.

LinkedIn also allows users to invite other potential users via email as well as provide status updates much like Facebook or Twitter.

They key to using LinkedIn to promote your brand and drive traffic to your site is to create a profile that is inviting and post your blog articles or relevant links to your site as status updates. Posting during high traffic times such as lunch time or early afternoon aids in your effort as does engaging with comments left on your status updates.

#7. YouTube

social media YouTube
YouTube is a very popular video sharing website that allows users and corporations to upload video content, post comments, “like”, and share appealing content.
As with most social media sites, YouTube allows unregistered users to browse and watch video, as well as share content but you will need an account to upload media, comment or “like” videos. It’s free and takes only a few minutes.

One great thing about using YouTube to promote your brand is that Google likes to list YouTube results among its normal search results. If your blog is about home maintenance and you do a video series and tag the content correctly, it will typically be among the first few hits on a Google search. Also, there are millions of bloggers out there but not quite as many video bloggers or “vloggers”. Something to keep in mind if you’re good at producing great videos

#6. Instagram

social media instagram
Instagram is an image hosting site similar to Flickr but is by far more popular.
Instagram allows users to take images, upload them to the site, add filters, hash tags and has recently added video. The site also allows you to share your images or video across many social media outlets, increasing the saturation of your material onto the web.

Properly tagged and shared, images on Instagram can be a leading source of traffic to your blog or website. You can even add your web or blog address to the description in your profile. You can interact with other users via comments and tag individual users when you upload images.

#5 Tumblr

socia media Tumblr
Tumblr uses a microblogging platform and social networking to up its social media power. Users can post multimedia and other content to a short form blog of sorts.

Tumblr users can follow each other via a news feed similar to that of Facebook. They can “like”, reblog, and comment on content which is a great way to interact with your (hopefully) consumers and get your brand noticed.

Using Tumblr to drive traffic to your site is pretty easy. After making an account (it’s free), select a theme for your Tumblr blog. After that, you simply start creating content and tagging posts. Tagging is key, Tumblr has an inbuilt feature that allows you to add your blog or site address to your tags thus getting your brand out there and pushing traffic to your site.

#4. Pinterest

social media Pinterest
Pinterest is a virtual discovery tool that is used to save ideas, pictures, DIY lessons, virtually anything, to a virtual bulletin board. Users can follow particular boards or “pinners” (members) and receive all the followed material in a home feed. There is also a search and messaging option available now. A visual image is “pinned” from the web as a visual bookmark, with a link back to the original source.

Many business owners are just now starting to see the value of Pinterest in driving traffic to their website or blog. With millions of users and the capability of linking your account to Facebook; it’s a social networking resource not to be taken lightly.

Using the site is simple. You simply make a free account, create some virtual boards and begin pinning. You can pin links to your blogs, items of interest to your target audience, and even humorous images or quotes to draw users in. The more your pins are pinned, the more they are shared, the more they are shared, the more your brand is put into the spotlight.

#3. Twitter

social media Twitter
Twitter is an online social networking service that uses short, 140 character messages, which users can post or read. When you make a free account you can post, follow, and “re-tweet” messages from other users.

Twitter utilizes hashtags as its tagging service. With 100 million users posting an average of 340 million tweets a day, it is an advertising powerhouse. Most major corporations are using Twitter from everything to announcing sales, product launches, and blog posts.

After making a free Twitter account, you should begin by browsing Twitter and finding posters similar to your target audience and following them. Twitter is all about gaining followers so many users will do what’s called a “follow for a follow” which means they will follow you in return for you following them. Once you start tweeting your content, your followers will pick them up and retweet giving your brand a spotlight but remember, good content is still key.

#2. Google +

social media google+
Google + is the second largest social media site behind Facebook and as such, is a powerful tool for getting your brand out there and recognized.

Described as a social layer, it is not simply a social networking site but holds the ability to credit authorship to multimedia directly to its author. It can be connected with all things Google and most social media, particularly YouTube.

Chances are if you’re an android user, you already have a Google+ account just waiting to be utilized. Google+ allows you to share content, follow other users and in turn be followed via social groups so not only are you spotlighting your content but you’re targeting your specific audience.

#1. Facebook

social media Facebook
Now we come to the mother of all social media sites … Facebook. With an estimated 500 million users globally, Facebook has some serious reach when it comes to social media networking.

Founded in 2004, Facebook allows you to create a profile, add and categorize friends, private message, upload multi-media, create business pages and groups, as well as advertise for a fee. Setting up your profile and using Facebook is free.

By creating a business page for your site or blog and posting links to content on the page, you can drive an amazing amount of traffic to your site but only if your content is fresh and current. Creating a group around your brand is a great way to encourage sharing of your content as well as knowing what your specific target audience is. Advertising on Facebook is typically cost effective and place ads on the news feeds of those who have performed web searches of either your brand or anything close to it. You can also pay a small fee to be sure that followers of your business pages see all of the content you post. Facebook has changed their algorithm a bit to encourage this.

 

As you can see, using social media to drive traffic to your website or blog is not only a great idea but also relatively easy. All of these sites now have mobile apps so you could conceivably work on your various social media site right from your phone. As great as all of these sites are though, keep in mind that content still and always will be key!

 



What your website can do for your business

More and more people are turning to the internet to search for goods and services for obvious reasons; the internet is fast, convenient, and always “open”. Consumers no longer have to wait for regular business hours to find the answers they need, or to buy the products they want.

It’s pretty safe to say that if you want to compete in today’s business world, you’re going to need strong internet presence and for that, you’ll need a website.

By not having a website, you miss out on countless marketing and business opportunities as well. Your business simply isn’t seen and you end up losing a multitude of potential clients. In today’s post, I’ve compiled a small list of opportunities you could miss out on by not building a website for your business.

Credibility

Having a functional, responsive, professional looking website, lends credibility to your small business, particularly if you happen to run a home based business and lack a storefront.

It can be difficult to have clients or customers take you seriously when you’re running your business from home. A professional looking website instills a greater level of confidence in your abilities on the part of the consumer. It also shows potential customers you aren’t stuck in the past, and are able to change with changing times.

Marketing Opportunities

The internet offers a massive platform for marketing. A lot of these opportunities are often low cost to free. Obviously, as with anything else, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it but the web offers so much more output for your input. Some examples include:

  • 24/7 Advertising – your website is available for viewing twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. By adding an image gallery and/or portfolio, your site becomes an online “brochure” of sorts, where your work is displayed at all times and offers convenient, any time access for your customers to gain information regarding your business.
  • Blogging – by creating and posting engaging content frequently, your site will rise in the search engine rankings. This allows your business to be located more effectively when consumers use keywords to search for goods or services they may need.
  • Social Media – social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., provide a low to no cost platform for posting and sharing content. By writing engaging content on your blog then sharing it to social media sites, you allow other users to read your content and share on their own pages … reaching thousands of potential consumers at practically no cost to you.

Ecommerce

If you’re selling actual products, your website can become your storefront. A virtual store where your customers can shop your merchandise, order, pay, and have their items shipped to them, all from the comfort of their homes.

With the help of easy to install plug-ins, you can place PayPal buttons for payment, information forms to get to know your customers better, and there are even plug-ins that allow your visitors to sign up for email newsletters; keeping them informed of new products, special deals, and sales.

Customer Service

Providing great customer service is the cornerstone of any successful business. Being able to engage with customers and provide a level of warmth to that communication via keyboard and screen, can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be.

Writing a FAQ’s page, adding a comments section to a blog, and providing simple email forms are a great way to start a dialogue and furnish information to your customers both current and potential.

A FAQ’s page allows consumers to access information they need quickly and in an organized manner, while a comments section on say your blog, allows visitors to your site to post questions or comments and provides an easy format for you to reply. It’s a bit warmer than email and your responses are on display for other users to read and judge how you interact with clients. Email forms on certain pages provide a convenient way for consumers to get in touch with you without having to search for an email address.

Expanding Your Market

The internet allows you to expand your market in a way that wasn’t possible before, without setting up an actual brick and mortar store front in various locations.

By creating a website for your business, you can harness that power and expand your customer base miles and miles from your current location; opening up unlimited opportunities to sell goods and services that may not be desirable in the area you live, but highly desirable in another. Your website is the store front you may not be able to provide in that desirable location.

Now that I’ve given you a taste of what you could be missing out on by not having a website for your business, I hope you’ll see the value and power of the internet. By simply setting up a website, you could open up a whole new market, spend less on marketing, and get to know your clients on a level you would not be able to unless you had an actual store front.

Setting up your own site is easy and cost effective. You can do it yourself or hire a professional web designer to handle it for you. It really is that easy!

 



Pros and Cons of Using Magento for your eCommerce Website

magento logoMagento is an open source e-commerce web application for online businesses. If you are seeking eCommerce software that allows for efficient scalability, then Magento could be it. This software serves both high end and low end online businesses, it has a free version as well as costly premium versions of the application.

Online businesses are universally regarded as thriving enterprises and Magneto is considered one of the fastest growing e-commerce platforms. The following are pros and cons of Magneto.

 

Pros

 

Unique features

Magento software comes with unique features not found in other e-commerce software. Some of these features include its ability to manage multiple store fronts. It also supports multi-language and multi-currency capabilities allowing it to be used anywhere in the world. This frees you from the need for a translator or a calculator when converting your currency. Magento is optimized for mobile devices which means it is accessible while you’re on the move. Best of all, it was designed to be search engine (SEO) friendly. These unique features are a plus in terms of gaining added advantage for your business from competitors.

User friendly

This software is user friendly in all aspects, especially when it comes to administrative navigation. Technical jargon is kept to a minimum with an emphasis on clarity and ease of use. The home page is well organized and straight forward. This allows users a convenient environment in which they can work efficiently.

Cost relations

The best part of using Magneto is that the community version of comes free of charge. Being an open source web application software, this version needs no investment on your part. This is the version designed for tight or nonexistent budgets.

Community coverage

Magento software comes with access to a wide community of users across the world. These users have developed many extensions and plugins. These are essential as they act as support features that will grow your business. This global community also creates a link between businesses.

Customizable and flexibility features

Magento software allows for extensive customization. As such Magnetos allows different businesses to individualize processes despite using similar software. Your site will therefore look exactly as you want it. This gives a business full control over the codes necessary to develop and design their desired business related platform. Such customization is advantageous in that it allows you to design the application to fit your specific preferences.

Built to scale

Magento has the capability to handle a variety of capacities and a wide range of products. It takes into account both small-scale and large scale businesses. This is why it is also preferred by global brands.

 

Cons

 

Lack of suitable developers

Due to the complexity of developing a Magento system, it is difficult to find good and qualified developers. This system has over 20,000 files and 200 database table. Due to this level of complexity, expertise is required in its execution.

Cost prohibitive versions

While the community version of the application does come for free, other, more complex versions do come at escalating costs. The Enterprise version has a starting price of US$ 14,420 per year. The Premium Enterprise version has a start price of US$ 49,990 per year and is designed for large businesses. The price will also be affected by the developer installing it. The better the developer, the more Magento is likely to cost.

Limit to hosting

Magento is suitable for even large scale e-commerce enterprises. Due to its size and complexity, it is best hosted on dedicated servers that can be configured by you. Using Magento within a shared hosting structure will make slow which in turn will unfortunately result in a cumbersome and congested user experience.

Time consuming

Given Magneto’s various applications, complexity and variations, setting it up also requires that quite some time due to its complexity.

 

It is evident that even with all these limitations, Magneto’s compelling pros outweigh its few minor cons. Depending on the needs and preferences of your business and the aforementioned pros and cons, you are now empowered with the data necessary to decide if Magento is the right solution for your business’s e-commerce objectives and goals.

 



Creating An Effective, Lead Generating Call To Action

There is a wealth of information and advertising happening on the internet. One only need do a simple Google search and they are bombarded with a barrage of goods and services offered by many, many businesses.

As internet searches have become the primary way people locate goods or services they are looking for; it’s become paramount that your business sites stand out from those of your competitors and, deliver conversion rates higher than theirs. This is where call to actions come in.

A call to action is a ‚”button‚” or banner placed on your website which urges a potential client or customer to do something ‚- whether it’s to fill out a form, buy a product or download and eBook – call to actions lead to conversions.

Conversions are the technical term for leads generated from users clicking on your call to action. These conversions lead, hopefully, to sales. To generate these conversions to sales, your call to action needs to not only catch the eye but compel the user to click them.

Making your call to action pay is one of the most important things you should be focusing on when designing your business’ website. Some key points to follow during your web design for making your call to action it’s most effective follow below:

Recognizing Need

Call to action - recognise needThe first step to take when designing your call to action or CTA, is to help your readers recognize the need to click on it. Define the problem or need and design your text and graphics around the idea that if users click on your call to action, the problem will be resolved.

For example: you’ve written an eBook on dog training you are trying to sell. Start with some text outlining common behavior problems and design your call to action so that users believe all the answers to their training problems will be solved by clicking your call to action.

 

Placement

call to action - placementThe placement of your call to action is quite important. Typically CTAs are placed on the left side near the top or midline.

In the English language, we read left to right and top to bottom. You wouldn’t want to place your CTA too close to the bottom of your landing page because often visitors to your site will not read all the way down your page and if they do, you should try to avoid having them scroll back up to find it again. This is a key lesson in web design.

 

Warm vs Cold Colors

Call to action warm colour buttonColors such as red, orange and yellow denote warmth and give an illusion that they are closer than they really are while colors such as blues and greens denote cold and appear more distant.

Calls to action - cool colour buttonStudies have shown users will be more likely to click a warmer color than a colder one so use the warmer colors whenever you can.

Contrasting Colors

Call to action - contrasting coloursGetting your call to action noticed is half the battle but using contrasting colors aid in this.

Put your colder blues and greens in the background graphics and use the warmer colors for your call to action. The contrast between the colorings will help your CTA to further stand out.

 

Compelling Incentives and Social Proof

When designing your CTAs another great idea is to include an incentive or show proof that others have enjoyed the product as well.

Call to action - offersAn incentive is something you would include in your CTA text or graphic such as ‚”50% off!‚” or ‚”Sign Up for Free Today!‚” Make your users think they are getting a deal of some kind when they click your CTA.

Social proof or influence is akin to peer pressure. There have been many studies in advertising indicating the value of social pressure. By including button which displays your pages Facebook ‚”likes‚” and other social media shares, you create a sense that many people love this product and so should your user.

 

Showing your Product

Call to action - show productDesigning your call to action in such a way that it highlights your product or service in the actual call to action is brilliant.

Users get a small taste of what they’re searching for and that small taste will compel them to click your CTA to see more.

Great Text

Call to action - great textAs important as placement, great text can mean the difference between a user clicking on your call to action or scrolling past. You want to inform, create a sense of urgency and tease using the least amount of text possible but in such a way that visitors cannot help but click your CTA leading to a conversion and a brand new lead.

Be exciting and urgent but straight to the point without giving everything away at first glance. Your text should clearly show what you want users to do using urgent yet effective language.

 

Spatial Effect

Call  to action - spacial effectWhite space is important! You need to highlight your call to action in your graphic design by utilizing white space around it.

Users will not click your CTA if there are too many things cluttered around it, or it will simply be hidden by the clutter. Set your call to actions apart by surrounding them with an equal amount of white space on all sides so it is set apart from the page but still included.

 

 A Sense of Direction

Call to action - sense of directionUsing directional graphics and arrows highlighting your call to action give users a sense of what direction you want them to take.

Since a call to action is the first step in getting consumers to take the path you want them to take, you should make use of directional graphics such as arrows or sign shapes in your graphic design and call to action buttons.

 

The final step in an effective call to action is to give some thought to what happens after a consumer clicks your CTA. If your intention is to gather information, resist the temptation to gather demographics and request only the minimum amount of information needed to follow through with this potential new lead. Consumers are turned off if they have to enter too much information and will likely not finish the fields and you have lost a potential client.

In conclusion, your call to action is the cornerstone to a successful business website. By utilizing the above principles, you will have a CTA that is not only attractive and easily located but one which will generate conversions which will lead to new clients and the success of your business.

 



10 User Experience (UX) Design Techniques for your Website

The job of a graphic designer and a web designer has many facets. There is more than just the creation of a product that looks good. Function is also a crucial aspect as any interface friction for the user will lead to dissatisfaction. This means there is a need to think about how people will be using the website when beginning a new project. A website or app requires a user experience design that is simple to use on any device. The following are some design techniques that can be applied to any eCommerce, brochure, or lead generating websites.

Minimalism

google ux designMany websites today are employing minimalism for a user interface. The first website to use a minimalistic approach is Google. Many websites with a minimalistic user interface will not have fancy graphics and other elements that may distract the user. Many apps have a design that typically has minimal features. Websites and applications that incorporate minimalism will replace a basic menu with icons that have solid colors with less clutter. The idea is to use elements that take up less of an area on a user’s screen. Minimalism is good for any websites where users post content.

Skeuomorphism

The imitation of familiar objects to make a user interface more intuitive is the premise for an approach based on skeuomorphism. A wooden bookshelf with various book covers is as great way to represent a variety of digital content. Another example is using icons that look like real world objects that perform a specific function. Many mobile applications can incorporate skeuomorphism into a UX design. Most screens are not touch screen and makes this a good option that can be incorporated with minimalism.

Laser Focus

ux design tumblrThe focus on a certain feature or task when opening a web page or app means focus for a user is not on a variety of options. This is beneficial as a user will know immediately a suggested action. Google and other similar website designs incorporate a laser focus when viewed by a user. The use of a laser focus design is beneficial with a website or application that has one important function. A user interface may have a search function or other feature that is the most important to present to the user. The focus of the tumblr page seen here is the login screen.

Context Sensitive Navigation

The introduction of the dynamic user interface led to the use of context sensitive navigation. This will be a great way to remove the clutter for any web page design. A design will need to include elements a user will be most likely to use. This may include presenting a menu of options when using any mouse-over action. A toolbar is a common element that is displayed to a user. Functions and elements needed on a website can be hidden until a user has performed a specific action.

Collapsed Content

Drop down menus and other web page elements that are non-essential for a user can be hidden until an action is performed. This is typically clicking to display a list of options. Many websites have included this button to display extra options to users. Facebook and Google+ are two sites that have more buttons for users. This is a great option to in corporate into a design for navigational purposes. The use of collapsed content will be beneficial as a minimalistic approach.

Content Chunking

Content being displayed in similar visual chunks is a design option for sites which have a large amount of content. This will allow users to read and digest information without being overwhelmed. Interfaces using content chucking techniques will often have several sections with different headings. There are a variety of product review websites that have this type of user interface design. Splitting content will be a great way to present users with navigational options without using menu selections.

Icons Instead of Text

Many websites with a clean-looking user interface can replace text links with icons. This is an option a web developer can use to create a simplistic design. Many apps on mobile devices use icons instead of text for navigation and certain actions. Users may be presented with the icon of a camera when there is an option to upload an image file. Another benefit of using icons is reducing the labels or links that are displayed on a page.

Context-Based Controls

A user interface design that incorporates context-based controls may have a static menu which stays at the top of a page. Another option is to add a vertical menu that stays on the screen when scrolling. One basic design aspect to keep in mind is to make sure controls are consistent throughout all the pages of a website and the screens within an application.

Expanding Forms

Sites that have a form that is used to upload a file may have users that need to select multiple files. The use of an expanding form is a great option to when another selection is necessary. This is often used on pages where users submit their own content. Expanding forms can be used for applications that require a user to complete various sections. This will often involve using a “+” or” –” sign to expand and to collapse sections of a form. A user will be able to display any relevant section.

Long Pages

ux long pages pintrestApps that are available on mobile devices have incorporated long pages into the user design. This is an ideal technique for sites that display pictures and various content chunks to users. A good example of sites with long pages include Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram. Another way to think about long pages is in terms of vertical scrolling. Many users are already used to this type of design and splitting pages of content is often a bad decision.

 

A good user interface design is important when designing an application or a website. There will typically be an assortment of options available based on the type of design that is preferred. The goal is to decide on the UX options that will be suitable for the majority of users. This means taking into account elements which are used for minimalism, focus, and navigation. These are a few ways to create a unique user experience.



Is an eCommerce website right for your business?

eCommerce checkoutAre you a retailer who is not yet selling online? According to Stats Can, over half of the internet users in Canada have made online purchases. Statistics Canada also did a survey revealing that “Canadians spent over $18.9 billion online for goods and services in 2012, (which was) a 24% jump from 2010” (CBCnews). Canadians are now shopping online in very large numbers.

It does not matter if you live in Thunder Bay or Pembroke, you will be able to sell in Toronto, Vancouver, or anywhere on the planet. An online presence can help you even the odds, and expand your business to compete where you never have before.  In the online marketing world only 10% (Stats Can) of Canadian small businesses are actually selling online. However, Canadians themselves spent approximately $19 billion online last year. This is not a trend; this is an ever growing reality where the other 90% of spending is going to companies from the USA and other countries. You have the capability to compete and market your goods and services far beyond your street corner.

An online presence and an eCommerce website is a “virtually living” electronic storefront. If you create your eCommerce web design and maintain it with professionalism, diligence and patience, you can then reap the rewards. After all, this is just another way of marketing and getting your goods to potential customers. Professionalism and customer service is mandatory, and this is especially critical for an online presence. New users to your website will leave in less than ten seconds (and very likely never return) if they cannot determine what your offer is and easily find what they want.

A few of the reliable and proven self-starter eCommerce platforms are Magento, Shopify, Volusion, and WP e-commerce for WordPress users. These platforms have a wide range of costs, requirements, functionalities and benefits. Some are free and some have monthly fees, some have limited design capability, and some require hosting accounts, but they are all focused eCommerce platforms that will help you get your goods to the internet market. They may not be perfect for you out of the box, but they can help you get started in the eCommerce direction. In other situations, a custom eCommerce web design may be needed to deliver unique goods and services.

It is important from a business and internet development point of view that you can expand your website as your online business grows. It is highly recommended that you start with a responsive web design system that can help you test the online waters, then learn what is working and what is not. It will not necessarily be readily apparent, and our assumptions are often wrong. Be prepared for ongoing testing and analyzing data. A web development or internet marketing professional can prepare and optimize your website in a multitude of advantageous ways, beyond what came included in your platforms package.

Sixty-seven percent of young Canadians between ages 25 and 34 have made online purchases. The future is online. If you offer goods and services, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and much to gain by expanding your business with an online presence and an eCommerce website.



Content Management Systems’ (CMS) have become the norm for web design

wordpress dashboard12 years ago, when I started in the web design business I spent a lot of time building static web sites. Most of my time was spent in Photoshop at the design stage of web development. Here, I would export my design as slices in a table layout. From there I would designate a few spots for HTML copy, then add in my Flash and JavaScript elements. For these websites I would usually do any number of requested updates to the site on a certain day of the week and invoice my clients monthly for these changes.

I would also get projects which required having an image gallery, press feed, bulletin board or an e-commerce component. For these I would build a dynamic database driven content management component which would allow the client to manage this content.  For these projects I would integrate my static HTML code with the dynamic PHP and MySQL components. On other occasions I would get projects which were company intranets/extranets and all the content was database driven.

Let’s define a content management system. As per Wikipedia a CMS is described as:

“A content management system (CMS) is a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface. Such systems of content management provide procedures to manage workflow in a collaborative environment.[4] These procedures can be manual steps or an automated cascade. CMSs have been available since the late 1990s.”

CMS websites are typically used for content control, user management and tracking, searching and editing data, creating reports, eCommerce, blogging, and publishing a news feed among other functions. There are thousands of CMS systems out there for a variety of website sizes and requirements, and on top of those developers would need to develop plug-ins or an entire custom CMS system.

For websites which were a fusion of database driven content and static HTML code, the Content Management Systems (CMS) component was always an extra item, one that was specifically asked for based on an estimation of how often the content would have to change.

What has changed in the last few years is the emergence of open source projects, sites such as WordPress, Magento, Drupal, and Joomla, to name a few.  These sites are free and developed by countless web developers worldwide. I think because of the combination of cost (free) and the input from many developers working towards making the systems easy to use and update, these CMS systems have now become the standard. They are what is expected by web site owners.

This works best for both the developer and the owner. Content updates in the past, which were critical to the website owner to promote or showcase new goods or services, were sometimes inconvenient for a web designer to do immediately, as they were usually in the midst of another project. It makes sense to use a CMS such as WordPress for a small to medium sized website because

  1. Doing so allows the customer to manage all the text, image, press, products updates themselves
  2. Website owners have started to expect and reply on this content control.

The critical benefits which Content Management Systems (CMS) offer are greater content control and superior flexibility. Not only do they allow you to update content information on your website more efficiently, they also free you from being tied to a specific developer. With an open source CMS, you can get almost any developer to add functionality to your website.



Shopify E-Commerce website finished for In Your Face Swag Inc.

In Your Face Swag Inc.We recently developed a shopping cart website using Shopify, which is fully developed E-Commerce CMS website tool (a ready to use shopping cart).  Where we came in was to help customize the design and modify some of the cart features to be more in line with the customers products. We also consulted on how to use Shopify and added most of the content. One advantage of  Shopify is the plug and play features for shipping with UPS and accepting credit cards.

Shopify is a great tool for developing an E-Commerce website with fairly standard shopping features, please contact us today to help you set up and develop either a Shopify or fully customized E-Commerce website.



Custom WordPress eCommerce website launched

custom kids booksThis week Darkstar Media is pleased to announce the launch of MyCustomKidsBooks.com. The website is a fully customized WordPress website and we added custom eCommerce features.

The challenge the client had involved the nature of their business which was creating custom books where the customer need to upload photos and enter specific details related to what they wanted to appear in their custom book. Out of the box shopping carts do not provide this kind of functionality which is where we came in. Working with the client we customized the shopping cart experience to the clients specific needs as well as consulting on user experience, SEO, WordPress content management, and built a custom WordPress theme.



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