About the Canada Anti-Spam Law

July 2, 2014

July 1, 2014:  The Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL) went into affect. If you run any type of newsletter or email list, hopefully you have heard about already, if not, here is a primer on it.

To Whom Does CASL Apply?

CASL, first of all, is a Canadian law, which means that we are talking about Canadian citizens, computers, mobile phones and tablets. Mostly, it’s about email, but also includes text messages and some social media items (like direct messages). Also it’s only applicable to messages that are about commerce, marketing and promotion, but not personal communications.

Given that Canada is our friendly neighbor to the North, chances are,  you have a Canadian somewhere in your subscriber list. Unless you know for sure that you have no Canadian subscribers, assume that you do. It’s super hard to tell if an email address is Canadian and virtually impossible to via email domain alone, unless it ends in “.ca” of course.  But many Canadian companies have .com addresses.

Getting Consent

You need to get consent to email to people/devices covered by CASL. “Consent,” by definition in CASL, is as follows:

  • You need to state the reason you are asking for their information and provide a description of the content that they will be receiving.
  • Your full contact information needs to be on the page, as well as your promise that they can unsubscribe at any time.
  • A record of this consent needs to be recorded. Also, all forms on your website need to have a positive action to subscribe somebody. Meaning things like checkboxes can’t be pre-checked.

Here are the times that you don’t need to get consent or it’s considered implied consent:

  • Messages to an employee, consultant, or people associated with your business
  • Responses to a current customer, or someone who has inquired of in the last six months
  • Messages from a charity or political organization for soliciting contributions
  • Messages that provide warranty, recall, safety, or security information about a purchase by the recipient
  • Messages that provide information about a purchase, subscription, service or other ongoing relationship
  • A single message to a recipient without an existing relationship on the basis of a referral with the full name of the referring person in the message
  • A recipient has purchased a product, service contract, or membership with your organization in the past 24 months
  • You are a registered charity or political organization, and the recipient has made a donation or gift, has volunteered or attended a function
  • A professional message is sent to someone whose email address was given to you, or is conspicuously published, and who hasn’t published or told you that they don’t want unsolicited messages

More Requirements

In addition to getting and recording consent, there are few more requirements to be in full compliance. You need to put your name and contact information (such as mailing address, website and/or phone) in all of your communications. All messages sent must also include an unsubscribe mechanism/link.

This post is just a brief introduction, if you need more information, you can read the Canadian law directly or see their FAQ.

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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.

Lessons in User Interface from a Toddler

June 27, 2014

Libby robbing somebody, looking for their phone.I have the good pleasure of being the dad of a vibrant 21 month old toddler. My daughter Libby has taught me many things about life from the mundane to the monumental stuff. In this blog post, we are going to talk about how she has educated me on user experience.

A Developers Goal

One of the things that web developers strive to achieve is a clean user interface with a consistent user experience. Simply put, we want users to be able to use our software. We make buttons that have a common look and placement and have certain important elements that are every page in the same spot, among other things. The goal is so the end user can quickly do their work, stress-free.

Bedtime Routine

Back to my daughter, Libby occasionally uses a kindle fire. Actually, almost everyday, before bed for about 10 minutes. She is very demanding of user interface of both the kindle itself and the apps installed. Here are a few examples. One day, while flipping through photos, she came to a picture of a fire and started backing up saying “hot”, like she has been taught with a real fire. Another time, she saw a picture of a dozen roses in my facebook feed and brought the kindle to her nose to smell them.

I have a great affinity for the outdoors and that was rubbed off on my little girl via way of animal calls. While looking at my facebook feed again, there was a picture of a moose, taken quickly with a cell phone. It was a little blurry and a little too far away.  She started laying down a mean cow moose call while expecting the moose to come closer in the photo.

Lessons Learned

While some of the stories above may be slightly entertaining, I have observed a few constant things from Libby. Of the things that I have learned from her, none are new to me. All are things I have known for quite some time, but now feel as though I understand them better.

So here is my list, most important user experience considerations, according to a toddler:

  • Speed, ability to do stuff before Dad sees.
  • Immediate feedback on actions, to know if it’s working or not
  • Lots of buttons and/or actions will just provoke a user to use them all in vain
  • The most commonly used feature on the screen should be the easiest to engage with

Another benefit of thinking of user interface design from a toddler’s point of view, young kids can’t read. Adults can, but seldom will while navigating through the interface of an application. They want it to work easily and quickly.

Keeping it simple, is not only what a toddler expects out a user experience is actually inline with what an average user expects.

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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.

You Can Buy “Stuff” Anywhere

June 20, 2014

Why Relationships Are Paramount to Success

Often left to our own devices, we think that we know what we want. But once we get it, it isn’t right.  We end up not using it and we become frustrated and wasted our money.  Sometimes, we think we know what the problem is so the solution is easy. Of course most of the time, we don’t end up with the right solution because we haven’t worked through what the real problem is in the first place!  This is why we need trusting relationships to help us dig into the details, we actually figure out how to fix the real problem the first time.  Isn’t this true with our doctors and car mechanics?  It is pretty simple when we look at it this way, the foundation is trust.

160 Years Of Experience

N.H. Bragg and Sons had an Open House today.  The company has been in business for 160 years.

2014-06-19 12.44.15

Jon Eames and John Bragg

N.H. Bragg sells Industrial, Safety equipment and supplies.  They are good at it.  They began their business as a blacksmith supply company.

I believe that N.H. Bragg and Sons is still in business today and thriving is because of their strong relationships with their customers and their vendors. Their customers can ask them for advice and can trust that they will be treated fairly and honestly.  And as time marched on, they adapted, they grew and changed, never forgetting their core values of trust and integrity.

 

 

“Back In the Day,” 2005

Sephone’s relationship with N.H.Bragg started in 2005 when they needed an eCommerce solution to handle the needs of some of their largest clients. They also wanted website they could update themselves. Sephone’s content management system, datAvenger   fit the bill for keeping the website fresh and a custom eCommerce cart that could look up inventory, place orders and notify the Accounting Department for billing, Shipping Department for shipping.

Since then, more bells and whistles were added including rewrites to increase accessibility and usability for the N.H. Bragg customer in 2007 and 2012.  N.H.Bragg allowed Sephone access to their process so we could help them maintain the same level of customer service, increase efficiencies as the world moved even faster.  All on the foundation of  TRUST.

The Same “Stuff”

We have so many choices on where to get the “same thing.” But is it really the “Same Thing?”  Many products N.H. Bragg sells are available elsewhere.  But if you can’t find your way to your real problem, how do you know what to buy? Do you know how much to buy?

“Free” Stuff

Many things are Free on the web, Facebook, blog platforms and even websites.  And Sephone can build them too.  Many of the “FREE” and “CHEAP” may work out ok, but some need to be yours. Look like you. Integrate with “your stuff.”  Then grow with you as the internet, your customers and devices (like mobile) changes. You need to be easy to buy from,  give your customers what they need or they will go to someone else who will.

This isn’t a game. This is your business. Your life .

Does it all come down to “Who can you TRUST?”

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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!

Help a Search Engine Out

June 13, 2014

The internet is such an integrated part of lives that we forget all the behind the scenes processes that take place in order for something like a web search to take place.  Search engines are indexing websites 24 hours a day with complex algorithms and they do their best to understand the data that they come across.

As website owners, managers, editors, designers, developers, etc., we can help search engines better understand the data we present them by using Microdata.

What is Microdata?

Microdata is made up of specialized attributes that can be added to a website’s source code as long as we follow the guidelines made available at schema.org.

For example: If you are a business owner with a website, chances are you have made your contact information available somewhere on your site.  Most of the time, if you are using a WYSIWYG editor, you would type in your information like this:

Sephone Interactive Media
P.O. Box 2357
Bangor, ME 04402
Phone: 207-262-5040

This is a good start , but we can make this better by adding some Microdata.  This involves a little bit of HTML markup and requires you to be comfortable working in source code.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Organization">
<span itemprop="name">Sephone Interactive Media</span>
<div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
P.O. Box <span itemprop="postOfficeBoxNumber">2357</span>,
<span itemprop="addressLocality">Bangor</span>,
<span itemprop="addressRegion">ME</span>.
</div>
Phone: <span itemprop="telephone">207-262-5040</span>
</div>

Looking closely, you’ll still see the original data from the address, but we have surrounded the data with special attributes.  These special attributes, such as itemprop, itemscope and itemtype, help search engines understand the data they indexing and better know what to do with that data.

Another Example

Chances are, you have seen Microdata in use but not aware of it.  If I do a search for “Lady Antebellum Bangor Waterfront” in Google, one of the search results that appear is from Waterfront Concerts.

You’ll notice in a light gray text “Sat, Aug 30 – Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion”.  Since the Waterfront Concerts website is using Microdata to help search engines better understand its event data, the search engine is able to display additional information about the event within the results.

You’re not limited to just using Microdata for events and addresses.  You can also use it for recipes, people, real estate, products and more.

For more information on using Microdata, I encourage you to check out schema.org.  If you’d like to add Microdata to your website and need some help, feel free to give our office a call at 207.262.5040 or email us!

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John is a designer at Sephone.

iOS 8 from a Business Perspective

June 3, 2014

iOS 8We watch a lot of product launches here at Sephone. It’s part of the life of a tech worker; it’s great to know what will be coming in the future. Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is one of the most interesting for us, because often the announcements made there let us know what new things we’ll be able to do on the iOS side of mobile development when the next operating system is released.

It’s always tough to guess what exactly will catch on and gain mainstream usage. After the launch of the iPhone 5 a couple of years ago, we wrote about new features like Passbook and Smart App Banners and how could change how people used mobile sites and apps. Sometimes these features rise to popularity; sometimes they don’t. Whether or not they do, we love to know what’s out there – a little-used feature could be a perfect solution for a specific app or company.

Here’s a look at a couple of the announcements that caught our eyes during the preview of iOS 8 yesterday.

Extensibility

Extensibility is a fancy developer word for saying “letting developers build onto iOS 8 itself”. One of the ways to extend iOS is to build in ways to let apps talk to each other and extend what you can do in apps like Safari and Mail. During the presentation Apple showed that iOS 8 will allow Safari users to translate a web page’s content with a service like Bing or allow sharing on sites like Pinterest.

It will be really interesting to see how apps and companies use this kind of extensibility within iOS. Which sites would you like to share to from apps like Safari, or what services would you like to see available when you’re viewing a site?

HealthKit and the Health app

Health is becoming a huge area of focus for development, between fitness tracking apps, sleep analytics devices, and even blood pressure or glucose monitoring and tracking. Apple’s new HealthKit platform will let developers use a standardized platform for this kind of information in a way that keeps that data secure. The new Health app will be a dashboard showing graphs and statistics about a person’s health history. There’s a lot of possibility for innovation in this space.

iOS 8 will be released in the fall, and it will likely be adopted quickly by many of today’s current iOS users. It’s another step forward in the long road of new possibilities in iOS and Android development.

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Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

Time Management and Social Media

May 30, 2014

“SOCIAL MEDIA TAKES TOO MUCH TIME!!”
I understand.

But is the real challenge the learning of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.? Or does it take too much time to find content to put on a platform like Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, all of which presents your content, in a very different style to often a different target market?

Or even better, is it when you open up Facebook to go to your business page you wander around Facebook to your friends pages and a half hour later, you realize you haven’t done what you have set out to do and there is something else that needs doing to keep your businesses doors open?

Talk to Me- I Get It

I hear about it all the time and as I have mentioned in other blog posts, people get frustrated and say they “HATE Facebook.” Or they think “Twitter is STUPID.”  It’s okay, you can say it, but we also understand that you don’t need something else to think about and to figure out. Is the frustration the fact that the amount of time in a day does not allow for something else?

Last things First, A Little Self Control

Getting lost in Facebook is common.  Mostly because it is a fun place to go, though Facebook can be the ultimate Frenemy  when it comes to getting work done.  So try this.  Use your “cruising time” through Facebook as a reward for posting to your business page first.  Be mindful about it.  Give yourself :15 minutes each day and the earlier part of the day works best – use a kitchen time or a timer on your phone if you need it. It helps keep you from getting lulled into the arms of Facebook procrastination.  AND get yourself a whiteboard, put it in the break room or in a common area with a dry erase marker attached.  In big letters write “FACEBOOK CONTENT”  ask for everyone to write ideas there.  Then as they are posted to Facebook, erase them or put the date next to them so people know they are helping you with Facebook posts.  If you work alone and at home, put a pad on your fridge and as you think of things write them there.

Call Me Crazy

You wouldn’t be the first person.  But making a new thing painless makes it easier to become part of your routine.  White boards are part of our lives, allowing others in your company to have a voice or perspective is fun and a great moral booster. It helps you as the “poster” feel like you are not alone.  It helps with the guilt of spacing out on Facebook, hoping to think of something witty only to be lost in Facebook purgatory.

Try it for a month, what do you have to lose?

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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!

Website Usage and Holidays

May 23, 2014

arlingtonMemorial Day is upon us. The time to remember the few that laid down their lives for the freedom of the many, and to fly flags, have parades, and barbecue. To seasonal businesses, it’s often the start of the season.

Have you ever wondered it web traffic goes up or down during certain holidays? I have. So I picked Sephone sites at random, one geared towards people looking for a home, one for media professionals, one for people looking for something to eat and a few other small business sites. Just normal sites. Additional I added some server bandwidth usage into the mix. And here are my results.

  • New Years: Web traffic down 9%
  • Memorial Day: Web traffic down 10%
  • Thanksgiving: Web traffic down 50%
  • Christmas: Web traffic down 42%

And just for reference, our busiest times of traffic are June, July and August.

 

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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.

“Just Gimme Three Steps…” when it comes to Social Media

May 13, 2014

I have heard many times the plight of the business owner, just wanting to run his/her own business.  That is hard enough. But like having insurance, you need to make sure you are marketing your own business.  And Social Media is the rage so “pile it on!”  But, where do you start?

Before you grab the “tiger by the tail” there are 3 things you need to be clear about before you decide which platform(s) (facebook, twitter, a blog etc.) will reach your potential customer.

1.  Who is my Target?  

Who am I trying to get my message for my product and service in front of?  Where are these people on Social Media? Demographics are important but just as important is which platform creates a mindset in the reader that allows them to get your message?  Quick example: Pinterest’s  design and characteristics are different than Facebook,  Twitter and Facebook have similar demographics but the behavior of the site viewer  is different as well as the psychographics (lifestyle choices.) So which one or ones?

2.  Who is “in charge?”

Please think about this. Would you give the keys or the alarm code to your business to just anybody off the street? This person is representing your company, this person has your passwords and your company name to do with as he/she chooses. Do you have any control of it at all?  It certainly may be convenient to give it to someone working with you for the summer or an intern but don’t completely walk away from it.  Check in regularly, look at what is posted, be aware of what “YOUR COMPANY” is saying and how your customers are being treated with the responses from these accounts.  The voice is “YOURS” as far as your customer is concerned.

3. Don’t throw the “baby out with the bath water”

Social media is not a silver bullet. With all of today’s distractions, it is even more important to remember that social media of any type can support your other efforts.  For example: Radio spots can invite people to “Follow” you, or “Like” you, each supports the other and delivers exponential results when used together rather than instead of.

Keep in mind that we have multiple senses and they need to be engaged and repeated in order to be remembered and acted upon.  Think about your own purchase decisions?

 

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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!