April 13th, 2010

Google Docs: Improvements make it easier to move into the cloud.

With the latest revisions of Google Docs to HTML5, it’s now easier than ever to move your important documents to the cloud.

See the full article at Mashable: http://mashable.com/2010/04/12/google-docs-editor-features/

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April 9th, 2010

4 Web-Based Meeting Schedulers Reviewed

Read the full article here:

http://mashable.com/2010/04/07/meeting-schedulers/


4 Web-Based Meeting Schedulers Reviewed

Calendar ImageA slew of online applications are attempting to eliminate the headache of scheduling meetings. And, unlike their proprietary older brothers, such as Outlook and iCal, these new entrants into the scheduling market are completely web-based, compatible with Google Calendar, and best of all, don’t require your invitees to install software or register on their site.

After giving all of these a test-drive, I have not found one service I would use exclusively — each one seems to have some attractive features. Here is the run down of the four applications that just might make the logistics of scheduling a little easier.


1. Doodle


Doodle Image

Doodle is a pleasantly light, quick-and-dirty scheduler with the most intuitive interface of the four services I reviewed.

Step 1: Name the meeting. Step 2: Propose up to five possible times for said meeting. And… that’s it. Invitees are given a link to a spreadsheet-like interface where they check each one of their availability times. Everyone’s availability is neatly delineated with bright green and red squares on a calendar, and there’s a clear tally of the number of people available per time. The admin scheduler picks a time and e-mails it to the invitees. Done! In all, it takes only a few minutes, and neither the scheduler nor the invitees have to register on Doodle.

Notable Features: Like all of the services we sampled, Doodle integrates with Google Calendar (Google Calendar) and popular desktop schedulers. It also has an iPhone app (for $2.99). Additionally, Doodle has a cool option to canvass attendees on options for a meeting, like what type of cuisine they’d prefer.


2. Tungle (Tungle)


Tungle Image

Tungle is more feature-rich, and is designed for those of us who have so many meetings that it’s difficult to remember all the factors and people being considered. Scheduling is a 3-step process:

1) Name the meeting and give it a duration; 2) Invite participants (with e-mail addresses); and 3) Propose a time. Unlike Doodle, Tungle has a graphical calendar interface where the mouse pointer can be scrolled over large swaths of days and times. Invitees receive an e-mail which links to a similar graphical interface that denotes other users’ activities. The final meeting time is e-mailed to all participants.

Notable Features: Tungle has a brand new feature (exclusively launched with this post) that allows groups of registered individuals to see their overlapping availability. Simply type in something like tungle.me/greg,josh,wolverine, and my, my editor’s, and my comic book hero’s availability is displayed. Tungle, too, has an iPhone app, which is available for free.


3. ScheduleOnce


ScheduleOnce Image

ScheduleOnce’s graphical user interface and scheduler is very similar to Tungle’s, and requires about the same amount of time to schedule a meeting. As far as I could tell, schedulers will need to send the link via e-mail, and this could make it more difficult to keep track of invitees. Additionally, unlike Tungle, meeting times are selected on a horizontal time line. This seems more intuitive if the meeting time being considered is only for a single day, but more confusing if multiple days are up in the air.

Notable Features: ScheduleOnce has an integrated plugin for Google Calendar and Gmail (Gmail), which places a box (in Gmail) right above the chat window that displays upcoming meetings. It can also find group availability like Tungle.


4. TimeBridge


TimeBridge Image

TimeBridge has a similar graphical user interface to Tungle and ScheduleOnce, but there is a limit to five proposed times (at least in the free version). Time Bridge, like ScheduleOnce, allows invitees to show their preference for a favorite meeting time by selecting “Best” from a list of “Yes,” “No,” and “Best.”

It should be noted that TimeBridge is more than just a scheduler. It offers phone conferencing, online meetings, and to-do lists. Additionally, TimeBridge was by far the most aggressive advertiser. I was offered a coupon for free coffee (twice) and got multiple pop-ups to try new features and sign up for premium membership.

Notable Features: Instead of the scheduler playing king, TimeBridge allows invitees to propose meeting times, which might be the most convenient way to corral a busy team in some cases. TimeBridge also has a free iPhone app.


Conclusion


First, for those concerned with privacy, each one of the online applications is subject to OAuth protocol, which masks sensitive information from service providers.

Second, I would recommend trying out each service. Below is a comparison chart of features, but each app has its own unique interface, and it’s ultimately up to you to decide which one works best for your team.

Scheduler Comparison Chart




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April 9th, 2010

Ditch Mobile Apps, Invest in the Mobile Web | Dan Costa | PCMag.com

Ditch Mobile Apps, Invest in the Mobile Web | Dan Costa | PCMag.com.

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April 5th, 2010

It’s In the Way That They Use It

Full article here:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/entrepreneur/2010/april/205548.html

Website design and usability are critical to converting eyeballs to sales.

The Internet offers a wealth of new opportunity for small businesses, but web surfers are a sensitive bunch. One wrong move and your new customers could be forever lost in the ether. Keep them happy by following these website usability guidelines.

Get organized. Most Internet users appreciate a familiar website layout and can become confused when presented with nontraditional formats. Give them what they want. Visitors typically start scanning a web page at the top left corner and move diagonally down to the bottom right, so it makes sense to place your logo and navigation at the top of the page. The main content and teasers to deeper information should be in the center of the page.

Easier = better. Visitors should be able to find any content on your site within a few clicks. Arrange your navigation in descending order of popularity with concise and obvious labels. Be wary of fancy drop-down or pop-out menus, as they can be cumbersome and annoying to use (but effective if executed properly).

All the news that fits. The age-old newspaper term “above the fold” is also applicable to website content. Most visitors should never have to scroll horizontally. If it’s not possible to fit the contents of your homepage in one screen (requiring no scrolling whatsoever), be sure to make the most important content the most visible.

Ask for the sale. The call to action is one of the most vital and often-overlooked components in small-business websites. Don’t forget why you have a website in the first place. Your new potential customer visited your beautifully designed, highly usable website and read your well-crafted marketing literature… but then what? You should have a line of copy at the end of every page with a brief but convincing sales pitch that includes your contact information. Better yet, include a lead form on every page that utilizes a hook to get users to submit their information. Free consultations and whitepapers are good resources and provide incentives to visitors to submit their contact information.

1) Users scan your website starting at the top left corner and move diagonally down to the bottom right of the page.

2) A deliberately placed navigation with clear labels helps visitors quickly find the content they’re perusing.

3) Always place the most important content “above the fold” so that visitors don’t have to scroll to find it.

4) Create a clear call to action and offer a simple lead form for potential customers to make initial contact.

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April 4th, 2010

Put Your Business on the Map with Google Maps

Read the full article here:
http://blog.entrepreneur.com/2010/03/putting-your-business-on-the-map-with-google-maps.php

google-maps.jpgIf you’ve ever googled a geographical area looking for a specific product or service, you know that local business listings pop up near the top of the search results. Google “dentist” followed by the name of your city and state or your ZIP code, and Google presents you with a list of dentists in the vicinity.

If you do business locally, try googling your business in the area you serve. If your company doesn’t appear in the list, click the “Local business results for…” link above the Google Map results to see if your business is listed there. Based on what you discover, you have two possible next steps:

  1. Add your business
  2. Improve your listing

Adding Your Business Listing to Google Maps

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To add your business listing to Google Maps, head to Google Maps and click the link for putting your business on Google Maps.
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Follow the onscreen instructions to sign in or create a Google account, and then complete the steps required to add your business. The process is really simple–it’s just a matter of entering information about your business on a series of forms.
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Add as much detailed and relevant information as possible to make your listing a bigger target and more helpful for consumers. Be sure to include a photo and your website or blog address! At the end of the process, Google informs you that it must verify your business before your listing will appear. You can choose to obtain a PIN to verify your listing via the U.S. Postal Service or have Google call the business phone number.
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Following are a couple important things to remember about the verification process:

  • I’ve personally had problems with the phone call option, so you may want to opt for snail mail, which can take up to ten days (but it’s typically less).
  • Don’t get impatient and try to verify your site again, because every time you do, Google changes the verification PIN.
  • If you choose the mail option and someone else handles incoming mail, give the person a heads up that you’re expecting something important from Google.

After receiving the PIN, log into Google Maps and enter it in the appropriate field. Within a day, your listing should be indexed on Google Maps.
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Editing Your Google Maps Listing
Having a local business listing on Google Maps is great, but even better is having a detailed listing. To edit your listing, first click the “More info” or “# reviews” link next to your listing in the Google Map search results. Then, click the “Edit this place” link and use the resulting form to edit your listing. (You must have a Google account and be signed in to edit your listing.)

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The first time you claim your listing, you must go through the verification process by obtaining and then entering a Google verification PIN, as described in the previous section.

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