Automatic Internet Explorer Upgrades in 2012

Internet Explorer has been a staple of many users since it’s often the stock browser that most PC’s are shipped with, much to web designers’ and developers’ dismay.  The complications involved in designing for a dinosaur of a web browser and ensuring relatively standard cross-browser results has created extra work and in many cases, eliminated the ability to design for the future.

Some companies that have a new website designed (or redesigned) have been limited based on what their average website visitor uses for a browser.  It has really held up the forward motion of web design and cross-browser / cross-platform functionality.  With the percentage of tablets and smart phones accounting for such a large portion of website visitors, it’s a shame not to bring the two opposite ends of the spectrum closer together.

In addition to website functionality, there is also a major security risk involved in using an older browser.

If you would prefer a non-technical analogy, imagine having to teach a group of people that range from kindergarten to high school.  The teacher has to ensure that everyone understands, so the high school students would be vastly unchallenged and their hungry little brains would be under-utilized.  At the same time, while the middle group could take advantage of some or most of the lesson, many of the kindergarten students would simply be left behind (that’s IE6).

Internet Explorer has so many versions and has such a wide range of capabilities (or lack of) that it has really held things up.  Some of that blame lies with corporations using out-of-date proprietary software that works best when playing in the sandbox, some of that blame lies with under-educated users not knowing that they should be updating to newer versions, and much of that blame lies with IE not making the updates more user friendly and automatic.  Until now…

Microsoft will begin to automatically update its Internet Explorer browser starting in 2012. The upgrade will come together with the automatic Windows update if it’s enabled.  According to Microsoft the reason for this change is security as the newer versions of IE have proven to deliver consistent security improvements.

Read more… 

How is technology affecting your shopping this season?

Design Lab 10 Web Design York ME Portsmouth NH

Retail stores are really stepping it up this year and taking full advantage of technology.  But are consumers taking advantage of the information and discounts available?

Mannequins are holding QR codes in stores offering specials and discounts…QR codes are displayed randomly throughout malls…Store-fronts have signs asking their customers to “check in” using foursquare and Facebook Places and receive a discount.  You can even download an app to comparison shop!

.:: QR CODES ::.

Sears and Kmart deployed mobile shopping walls in high-traffic areas including airports, malls, movie theaters and bus shelters across the country. The walls, which feature top toys from Sears and Kmart, provide quick response (QR) codes for each item so that customers can make purchases directly from their smartphones, giving customers an innovative and efficient way to accomplish their holiday shopping. (http://dl10.co/vu2UqL)

Need a QR Reader for your mobile phone? Click Here

.:: foursquare ::.

Last year was the first year for the big Black Friday foursquare specials. There were 12 specials that ran nationwide. This year, that number’s up to at least 20, proving again the growing popularity of foursquare.

What is foursquare?

“Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges. Foursquare guides real-world experiences by allowing users to bookmark information about venues that they want to visit and surfacing relevant suggestions about nearby venues. Merchants and brands leverage the foursquare platform by utilizing a wide set of tools to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences.”

Here are some of the nationwide deals that were offered on Black Friday (many of which will also last through the holidays), just by checking in on foursquare:

  • jcpenney: Check in to unlock $10 off a $50 purchase. They’re also donating $25 to the Salvation Army for each Black Friday checkin between 4 am and 1 pm.
  • Sports Authority: Spend $100 and get a $25 cash card. Twenty people who check in (nationwide) will win a $500 gift card.
  • Brookstone: Check in to receive $10 off a $70 purchase.

Facebook Places works pretty much the same way that fourquare does.

.:: USING APPS TO COMPARISON SHOP ::.

In today’s economy, comparison shopping is important to most consumers.  There’s an app for that!  Check out this video to see how you using technology can save you money…even when you’re already in the store!

Using Technology to Shop and Save

 

(Happy Holidays from Design Lab 10!)

 

Marathon Training Spreadsheet

If you would like a copy of the marathon training spreadsheet that I created, please click here.

The numbers and training schedule are based on Jeff Galloway’s marathon training schedule.  It’s worked out pretty well for me (though I always run 60 min, never 30 and I cross-train for an hour on cross-training days).  I’m up to 19 miles on my long run and loving it.  Also, I have several mileage columns in the sheet, but they all are formatted to total in the weekly column and at the bottom.  I have 2 pairs of shoes that I am tracking mileage on and I cross-train barefoot (lunges, etc) – that’s why I have the separate mileage columns.

Happy running!

Charitable Contributions – Make A Difference

Charitable Donations

Does your company make charitable contributions or give back to the community?

Kinds of Charity Donations

Charity donations come in many forms. Cash donations are the most common but donations of time, skill and items are also much needed. You can donate clothes, food, water and tents to disaster relief operations. Many charities accept used clothing, knitted items and shoes and distribute them to the needy. Orphanages and shelters would greatly appreciate your toy donations.

You can also donate vehicles, furniture, computers, books, old cell phones and practically anything that you may no longer have a use for but others can certainly benefit from. Additionally, giving your time through volunteer charity work is extremely valuable.

For me, I have chosen to donate my skills and time and to benefit charitable causes.  I have also chosen to run for various charities.  A charity in many ways is like a business so having a professional image allows the charity to hit the ground running.  I have created logos and letterhead for one charity, designed t-shirts to be sold to raise money and donated gift certificates to be auctioned off to raise money for a charity.

Speaking of hitting the ground running, I ran a 5K (sponsored by a client) to benefit the Maine Cancer Foundation and I am currently training for a marathon to benefit the Red Cross and the Health Ministry of the Southern Tier (benefiting those without health insurance).

In January, I will be running the Disney Marathon to benefit Caleb’s Crusade, a charity established by my friends to provide funds for childhood cancer research and to help children and families affected with childhood cancers to cope with their everyday expenses incurred during treatment and relocation.

Reasons for Giving to Charity

Big natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Cuba, and the tsunami in Japan can compel individuals to give what they can to affected communities. Others encounter eye-opening experiences that lead them to start giving to charity.

Many  businesses are motivated to give because of tax deductions associated with charitable donations. In addition, charitable giving is also a good way for a company to strengthen its brand and develop good relations with the community. Giving to charity can also help drive business as many customers are likely to buy from a company that gives back to society.

For individuals, tax breaks are also a top reason for donating to charity. On the other hand, there are also many individuals who give solely out of their desire to help people in need. Others support a cause that they can identify with, they believe is important, or has personally affected their lives. For instance, friends and families of cancer patients or survivors may donate to charity to help fund research, provide treatment, or create awareness about the disease.

For me, it was watching my friends 4 year old son, Caleb, fight a losing battle with leukemia in less than a year.  I witnessed a strong family get stronger but still not have the strength to overcome that terrible disease, even after many forms of treatment including chemo and a bone marrow transplant.

Shortly afterward, my ex-husband, the father of my two older sons, was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He is an active, otherwise healthy Little League coach and father of 4 (remarried with 2 more boys).  Three years post-diagnosis, he is maintaining his quality of life after having undergone chemo, radiation, numerous surgeries and trial medication.

Two years ago, a lifetime family friend was diagnosed with liver cancer and at the age of 33 and after less than a year of fighting, lost her battle with cancer.

Whether the donation comes from an individual or a business organization, giving to charity – for whatever reason, in any form, whether a big or small amount – will help make a difference in the lives of many people who are in need.

I hope that you will join me, in your own way, in helping the cause of your choice, so that together we can make a better world.

QR Codes: What are they and what do they do?

QR Codes - Design Lab 10

Have you heard of QR codes or QR Code Readers (or the mobile apps that read them)?  Maybe you’ve just seen some weird looking images start popping up in magazine advertisements, t-shirts, flyers or posters?

Whatever the case, if you’ve wondered what they are and why you’ve started to see them, read on!

QR (stands for Quick Response) codes are two-dimensional images that can be scanned by smart phones and that can contain text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the phone’s browser by encoding the information in the image.  They can even contain pre-formatted text messages!  This makes it possible for people to link a print ad (or any other print material) to the internet and their mobile device.

While all of this may seem strange and even a little unbelievable, QR codes have actually been around for a while.  They were originally created in Japan in 1994 and used to keep track of inventory.  In the last several years creative uses for the QR codes began to emerge…

In 2007, the Pet Shop Boys released a single criticizing the British national identity card concept. The single came complete with a QR code linked to the critique.

In 2009, QR codes were created for character design and promotional materials in the Shane Acker film 9.

Within the last year, QR codes have emerged as a possible mainstream marketing trend, but it’s still in the early stages of popularity.  You can expect this to be a growing trend!

A standard QR code can contain up to 7089 characters!  The possibilities are endless…

  • a link to your website
  • real estate flyers
  • a vCard
  • coupons
  • “secret” store front sales
  • pre-printed / formatted text messages from your clients phone requesting you contact them
  • an easy way to “check-in” to social media site
  • and the list goes on!

Free QR Readers are available for almost every mobile device. You can find one by clicking on the Application Store icon on your mobile device or follow the link below to access the application store for your specific device online.  Once you arrive at the App Store search for “Free QR Code Reader” and download the application.

Android App Market

Apple App Store

Blackberry App World

Windows App Marketplace


Now, try out the reader on the image below:

 

qrcode

 

 

qrcode

 

 

Branding Your Business – Logos and Image

In order to establish a strong business brand, you also need to create a strong business image. This will be used by potential customers or consumers to assess their own expectations about the company. There is a crucial moment in every marketing strategy that is aimed at attracting the customers’ attention to your product and you achieve this through your company image and brand, which is also why it is of extreme importance.

More than any type of impression, you want to create a positive image for your customers. This will help ensure that you are at the top of their list when considering buying a product similar to yours. This is just the initial phase and eventually your customers’ confidence in your brand will soon come into play.

Creating a Professional Logo

In the world of business, the logo represents who you are as a business. Hence, it should be able to capture and reflect the nature of your business at its most basic level. Identity and reputation should follow.

As a reflection of your company, your objective is to design a logo with a professional touch because it is what creates the initial impression in the mind of the consumer. These first impressions are almost always impossible to undo, so you cannot risk coming up with a mediocre design. If you are unsure how to execute a design, it is always best to hire a professional to do it for you. This will help you attain a more consistent design for your logo that reinforces the message that your company is trying to convey. In fact, most businesses (big or small) allot an investment for this and you should as well.

As simple as it may sound, designing a logo is an intricate process, which is why you need a professional to help realize your vision and visualize your business concepts. Among the elements that must be considered and combined effectively are colors, shapes, light, space, and so much more. Make sure to include this in your brand planning process.

Business Input Into The Design

Although you leave the designing job to the hands of a professional logo designer, this does not mean that you (the business owner) are eliminated from the formula. This is your business and it is your vision, therefore it is the most essential element in the logo creation process.

The logo design process involves gathering information and producing creative ideas that will be utilized by the designer in coming up with the design. Careful planning, competitive analysis and brainstorming of ideas is an essential step to take before jumping into the actual design process. You and the designer must work in a symbiotic manner – you can share your business input with the designer for them to translate a graphic representation of your ideas, while they can propose designing elements that will jive with your business identity.

Where To Get Creative Ideas?

When dealing with the technical aspect of marketing strategy, often the challenge is to produce creative ideas for your design. The key here is to stimulate your brain to arouse creative thoughts that will make your brand stand out and still maintain that professional image.

Here are great tips you can try to squeeze out those creative juices:

1.) Spend time reading to be able to get inspiration from various reading materials.

2.) Search the web and observe various sites you visit. Look at how the designs are produced and what kind of reaction it elicits from you.

3.) Ask your employees or other staff members for ideas. You can take a small idea and develop it into a valid design concept.

Image is such a vital element in the business brand, which is why it is your main objective to create a professional design that is going to last.

 

Social Media – Facebook in 15 Minutes a Day

With over 500 million active users who spend more than 700 billion minutes per month
online, Facebook is a natural first stop for marketers looking to reach an online audience.

The biggest benefits of Facebook include:

• Reach (Nearly everyone is there!)
• Ease of use (If my dad can figure it out, anyone can)
• Ability to add numerous media, including audio, images, and video to your page
• Ability to email entire groups of fans at a time

If you decide to go the Facebook route, your first step is to create a “Like” page for
your business. This is basically a profile for your business. Until recently, these pages
used to be called “Fan” pages. Personal profiles limit the number of people you can be
friends with, while “Like” pages do not. Also, “Like” pages enable you to create an RSS
feed and build custom applications. There are a number of tutorials online with stepby-
step instructions for creating a “Like” page.

However, if that’s overwhelming, I recommend you outsource this. You should be able
to find someone affordable who can set this up for you. Be careful though, there are
lots of people jumping on the Facebook bandwagon who want to make a name for
themselves as social media experts.

Once you have created your Facebook “Like” page, your daily 15-minute to-do list
includes the following:

1. Update your status. Be sure to make it relevant to your audience. Skip the
“breakfast” posts unless you’re a chef! (1 minute)

2. Add new blog posts, videos, photos, etc. to your wall. Many other social media
sites like Twitter as well as your blog can be set up to add these updates
automatically to your wall. (2 minutes)

3. Review comments on your wall and respond to them. (4 minutes)

4. Review your news feed and spend a few minutes commenting on posts and
updates from your contacts. (4 minutes)

5. Respond to invitations and messages in your inbox. (2 minutes)

6. Locate new people to invite to your “Like” page by checking out the friends of
current page fans (2 minutes)

This timeframe may seem ambitious, and it is! You may also need a very fast internet
connection to pull it off. Depending on how many messages and posts you actually
get, and how quickly you want to add new friends, you might choose to be a bit more
flexible.

Still, the idea is to focus on the most important activities and stop when you’re done.
Sure, you could easily spend the whole day puttering around on Facebook, but your
goal is to set a time limit and use it to the max. If you have extra time, you can go back
and play Farmville or challenge a friend to a game of Text Twist. Or you could decide
to add more friends or get more involved in a conversation. In the meantime, though,
get in, get out, and get customers!

Fast Solutions To Drive Traffic to Your Website

SEO and Website Traffic

Website traffic is for many business models, the key to profits. The more traffic you have, the bigger your bottom line. Whether you’re launching a new product or just want a quick influx of cash, sometimes you need tons of traffic quickly. Here are 5 fast solutions to drive traffic to your website.

#1 Social media.

Social media works quickly and if you have a large following on any of the social media sites, you can generate a ton of traffic to your website quickly. The key is to create attention grabbing posts that arouse curiosity, make people laugh or stir up a controversy. You want to generate click throughs to your website.

Make the most of your social networking tactics and use technology to get the job done. For example, one StumbleUpon post can be integrated with both Facebook and Twitter profiles so you’re making waves on all three social sites at once.

#2 Article marketing.

Article marketing works well when you concentrate your efforts on quality article marketing sites with large audiences. One well written and informative article, rewritten a few times, and submitted to a handful of directories can generate the traffic you’re looking for. Be sure to include a bio box that includes a call to action and a link to your website to motivate click-throughs.

#3 Blogging.

Post on your own blog or be a guest blogger on a blog with a large number of subscribers. Like social networking, if you offer an informative, controversial or entertaining post, you’ll have people clicking through to your website like mad. Of course, if you also promote this wonderful blog post(s) via social media, you can double your traffic results.

#4 Video content.

It’s amazing how quickly a video can go viral. Like print content, videos that entertain, stir up a bit of controversy or offer tremendous value cause a buzz. They’re forwarded to friends and downloaded on laptops and mobile devices around the globe. A good video can generate all the traffic you need. Again, integrate a bit of social media to promote your video, blog about it too, and you can multiply your traffic results.

#5 Partnerships.

Partnering with a relevant or compatible business can work quite well to generate traffic fast. The key is to come up with a mutually beneficial agreement. Find people in your industry that are willing to work with you and help each other drive traffic. A partnership may include guest blogging on each other’s sites, swapping advertisements or even promoting one another in your ezine.

It’s possible to drive a ton of traffic to your website fast. The trick is to have a plan in place, know your audience and your goals, and take action. To your success!

Microsoft Word Printing Issue


From time to time, clients will have issues with computer programs not usually associated with a graphic or web design service, but still, we are asked if we might know the solution. Our expertise in small business success, is backed by a wide variety of skills – one of them is troubleshooting.

In this case, a client was having trouble printing from Microsoft Office – specifically a protected form. I tinkered around looking for some obvious answers and then turned to the internet to research. I came across a blog that described the problem perfectly: “When the form was printed, the text within the form would overlap on top of each other and create a single hieroglyphic character per line. We discovered they were normal characters, they had just stacked on top of each other.” I knew this person had experienced the same problem.

***If you have Office 2007, then follow these instructions:

STEP 1:
Close out of Microsoft Word

STEP 2:
Open up Microsoft Word. There is no need to open the document you want to print.

STEP 3:
Click the Office Button at the top left of the page (it’s the one with the MS Office logo on it),

STEP 4:
Click “Word Options” at the bottom of that drop down box,

STEP 5:
Choose “Advanced” from the menu on the left,

STEP 6:
Scroll down through the categories in the body of the window until you get to “Print”,

STEP 7:
Uncheck the second option “Print in Background”,

STEP 8:
Choose Ok at bottom of page.

STEP 9:
Open and Print your document!

If you have an older version of Office, the solution to the problem is shown below.

STEP 1:

Close out of Microsoft Word

STEP 2:
Open up Microsoft Word. There is no need to open the document you want to print.

STEP 3:
Go to: Tools > Options > Print (Tab) >

STEP 4:
Uncheck “Background printing”

Click OK

STEP 5:
Close out of Microsoft Word

STEP 6:
Browse to the document you want to print and double click it or open Microsoft Word and do a File > Open

STEP 7:
PRINT!

Hope this helps!