Handling Email for your Business: Part 2

December 4, 2015

Read Part 1

A lot of people use GMail for personal use – as of May 2015, the number of users stands at around 900 million, more than double the amount just three years ago. As of this post, that number is likely nearing 1 billion.

1 million seconds is about 11 and a half days, whereas 1 billion seconds is roughly 31.69 years.

What draws so many people toward using Google Apps, and why is the platform so useful for your business? read more

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Gary is a team member at Sephone, helping to design, build and maintain websites. He is also a web design student at the New England School of Communications of Husson University.

Using Google Web Services APIs?

November 30, 2015

If you’re using Google’s Web Services Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) with a “Browser Key,” chances are you’ll need to switch to a “Server Key.” Failure to update will result in your API to potentially stop working.

If you’re a developer:

Google has provided instructions on how to change from a Browser Key to a Server Key. These instructions are made available here: https://developers.google.com/maps/faq#switch-key-type

If you’re a client of a developer:

It may be best to contact them and inquire on the Browser Key to Server Key switch.

If you’re a Sephone client:

We’ve received an email from Google notifying us of this change and the timeline involved to comply with these updates. We will be switching to Server Keys to avoid disruptions to our clients.

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John is a designer at Sephone.

Handling Email for your Business: Part 1

November 20, 2015

Small Mailservers vs. Google Apps for Work

Even with the advent of cellphones and other means of mobile communication, one thing remains true: email is still a vital part of running a business. Whether visitors of your website are submitting a form, leaving feedback or just trying to contact your office with questions, having a dedicated email address to handle work-related emails is a must. Of course, if you have multiple employees, giving them each an email address can help keep everyone connected.

Here at Sephone, we use Google’s business services, Google Apps for Work. In fact, we’re a Google Apps Authorized Reseller, and Brady has written about the subject before. The subject is still highly relevant today, so we’re going to take a look at the difference between using a small mailserver (such as one of the services we offer) versus paying for Google Apps for Work. read more

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Gary is a team member at Sephone, helping to design, build and maintain websites. He is also a web design student at the New England School of Communications of Husson University.

“Tending the Garden” ~ When was the Last Time You Managed Your Profiles?

November 11, 2015

If you have a brick and mortar business, did you paint the building one time and walk away? How does it look after a few years?  A little tired?  What about your sign, has someone moved in next store and put up their shiny sign, bigger and more prominent than your sign?

Physical things are easy to see,  though you have to still be objective and look at how your place of business looks from the outside to get people inside.

Online is Ever-Changing

Like keeping your physical property looking inviting, it is important to keep your online presence inviting also.  A pretty website for your customer is one thing, but you need to be pretty for Google and the other search bots out there, too.  It is what is on the “inside” that really matters.  But that is a topic for another post!

First Things First

We have talked about Google-ing yourself, back in 2010. When was the last time you looked online to see what is listed?  Be careful that the address and phone number is consistent across Google and other directories?  If you are in an association or have a link to your website on an outside directory, this is especially true. Lawyers, CPA’s and health care professionals.  If you Google yourself or your office, these should appear in the search results.  And they need to be correct.

WRITE IT DOWN

This may seem “old school” but create a list of places you find yourself or your business that list your name and address, along with the link that you found the listing on.  If it is too long to write, copy and paste it in a file and print off the list with the links.  You may be surprised to find you are still on a Rotary or Kiwanis website- make sure it is accurate, or removed.  It matters.

Make Necessary Changes

See something incorrect?  Usually, there is a contact link with a name for the webmaster to make the change that needs to be made and follow-up to see that it is corrected.

Maps, So 2008…

Joe had a great post in 2008, about how to add your business to Google Maps.  The information is still accurate.  This is also important to check as GPS and mobile apps integrate, this information needs to be checked also.  And again, write it down and keep a Google Service Tipsrecord. You need to know where to check the next time you go through this exercise, a living record, just like a garden- you plant, weed and replant when necessary.

In doing research for this article, I found other Google tips that you may be interested in – using your phone more efficiently, using Chrome better, lots of “Help” – 133 tips!

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Kelly's been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she's old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!

What 19 Years has Taught Me

November 4, 2015

I have been making websites and apps for about 19 years. 15 years professionally. Here is the short list of things that I have learned.  We are not talking about anything technical, but instead more procedural.

Just “Do it right the first time.”

“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right” is a very true statement. There are several reasons why this is true for developers. Some is just attitude if you are cutting corners, your view towards the project is degraded, it now just a chore to finish instead of an exciting project that needs a triumphant coder to conquer it.

read more

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

A picture is worth a thousand words

October 23, 2015

When designing a new website, the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” holds very true.  One of the first things that we ask for at the beginning of a project is imagery from the client.  If it is an e-commerce site, then that means product photos, a portfolio site, then it is pictures of completed or in progress work.  Having these images up front allows us to see what we are working with and helps us to design to fit what is available to us.

Staging

Staging is a very important part of images for your site.  Whether it is product images, or photos of a construction job, staging the shot will make it more appealing and easier to work with.  Staging would include things like making sure there are no extraneous items in the shot, having people posed in a certain manner, and more.  Really anything that you can control to make the shot better, and more appealing to those viewing it.

Props

The biggest example of where props would come in handy would be product photography.  Instead of just setting your items on a table and taking a picture of them, try adding some props to spice up the photo.  If you have food products, you could place the item of a plate with glass of whatever liquid that goes best with it, and maybe have a bit missing from the item.  This helps people see the product as if they were eating it.

People

People like to see other people using or experiencing things.  Because of this having people in your photos is a great tool to make your products/services more relatable to your current and potential customers.  Some tips for taking photos with people:

  • Depending on the situation, having them interacting, instead of facing the camera, may be more appropriate.
  • Action shots are great, but tend to create blurry photos.  Have the subject hold still as if they were frozen in time for the shot.  This will help with blurring in the photo and allow you to stage the image better.  An alternative to this would be to use a very fast shutter speed on your camera.  This will take the photo faster reducing the chance of blurring.  This is more of an advanced technique though and may require other adjustments to the camera to compensate for lighting.
  • Have the subject dress appropriately for the use of the photo.

Misc

  • Some other things to keep in mind when taking photos for your site.
  • A tripod is a great way to keep the camera still, and help prevent shaky/blurry images.
  • Lighting is important.  Make sure that the subject (people, products, etc) are appropriately lit to help your photos to come up as nice as possible.
  • Large format images are the best for multiple uses.  Taking images in the largest format that you camera allows will allow you to use them in a variety of different marketing avenues (print, web, digital, etc).

Those are somethings that we like to tell people to keep in mind when taking photos for use on their website.  Of course if you don’t have a quality camera, or ability to do the items above, you can always seek a professional photographer to make sure you get the best imagery possible.  Do you have any other tips that might come in handy for those taking their own pictures? Share in the comments below!

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Brady is the voice on the other end of the phone line when you call Sephone. He graduated from the New England School of Communications in 2009 and assists Sephone in building and maintaining our sites.

OMG I Can’t Find My Phone!

October 13, 2015

Last week a friend of mine, who also is a business owner, told me a story about her ripping her car apart looking for her cell phone.  Her heart was pounding.  Then she realized, she was talking on it.

While this seemed amusing to both of us, I certainly could identify with it. It got me to thinking, “When was the last time I disconnected and what did it feel like?”  Most importantly, did I do it on purpose or was I just out of cell service range and had no choice?

Digital Detox

Yes, it is a “Thing.”  Since Sephone started back in 2001, I have managed to grow my connectedness significantly as technology advanced.  Now, my cell phone is a computer that follows me to bed and into the bathroom. I feel lost without it.

When I started doing a little research, I found an incredible library of great articles on Huffington Post on this very subject. Coincidentally, here is an article from one of the writers describing how he disconnected and went to Acadia National Park (which is about 50 miles from here.)

There is a Community of people and corporations with a website called Digital Detox.  They describe themselves: “Digital Detox® is a slow-down, not a start-up…We think deep, work smart and play harder.”

There is real research that shows that disconnecting allows for better focus upon return. Read this Manifesto they put together and see if you nod your head a couple times.  AND if you look over the list of businesses that support it, this is BIG.

As the human race evolves, our kids would rather play video games alone over board games with the family. In the Manifesto, it says 50% of people prefer to communicate digitally than in person. Are we hiding from one another?

Forbes Magazine offers this on “How to Do a Digital Detox.”  This week I am on vacation.  I wrote this article ahead of time and scheduled it to publish while I was gone.  I am trying my own version – sitting in the Western Maine Mountains with nature.  Wish me luck!

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Kelly's been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she's old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!

Keep That Mock-Up Organized! (Part 3)

October 9, 2015

Website design should be catered to the branding of the company that the site is for. This extends into the sketching phase of development, in that certain fonts, shape styles and colors should be used. Visual traits of the brand can actually make a great starting point in this way, as elements that work together have essentially been chosen outright. Keeping track of the specific color values can be a bit of work, though. While copy/pasting a set of hexadecimal or RGB values is an option, it’s a more complicated one than necessary.

So, now that we’ve gotten used to the idea of working with layers and comps, let’s take a look at how Photoshop works with colors and palettes! read more

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Gary is a team member at Sephone, helping to design, build and maintain websites. He is also a web design student at the New England School of Communications of Husson University.